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Finding English words to match Arabic words is a very difficult task, but when you add the factor of poetry, with it’s thought, feeling and nuance, the mental athleticism becomes near Olympian. Khaled Mattawa – my favorite  Arabic-to-English translator – has brought the poems of Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser into the first English collection of his work. Shepherd of Solitude: Selected Poems is a recent book from Banipal Press, 2009. I like this book, and say, “Good Work, Khaled!

 Alfred Corn comments: “…Nasser has developed an unusually wide expressive range… Khaled Mattawa’s finely calibrated translations open a door onto poetry that is a pleasure to read…”  Here is a taste:

A Rose of Black Lace

…Night

is a train pulled by tired bulls,

and the woman spreads her whiteness on the stranger.

Amjad Nasser, poet

Amjad Nasser, poet

White this black-hearted night,

white

treacherous

costly and tall

wearing a pair of black pumps,

white, and blond

guarded by sleepless grass….

White

with a birthmark,

Khaled Mattawa, poet and translator

Khaled Mattawa, poet and translator

with marble,

the white of sapphire,

the white of her turn…

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You finally belong to another generation when 
you read the works of younger poets and grieve about the poetry,/
voices of offspring singers remind you of adamant cicadas in sleepless nights,/ you can count with your fingers the number of people walking the streets/
that are dressed like you and have the same haircut/
looking long and hard before they cross the street. Amjad Nasser

from the website “Lettre Ulysses Award” http://www.lettre-ulysses-award.org/jury04/bio_nasser.html

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