poetry in action #11 | From You Are Not a Poet in Granada | Najwan Darwish translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid


poetry in action features work by poets from around the world, translated into English.

It has three rallying cries:

Poets of the world, unite and take over!

Resist the oppressive constraints of good, publishable poetry established by mainstream literary venues!

Only poetry in translation, all the time!

Coming at you every 10th and 20th of each month.








تُقَطِّعُ الأَيامَ وتُفكِّر بـ”ليلى”

رسالتُها تُثْقِلُ قلبَكَ


.وتَجْعَلُ سِجْنَكَ مَرئيّاً





A Letter

You carve up the days and think of Leila:
The letter weighs on your heart
on your window
and makes your prison











في المُستعمَرة

كيف ننفق أعمارنا في المُستعمَرة؟
كلّ ما أَلمَحهُ حولي “بلوكات” من الإسمنت وغربان عطشانة

الحرّية تمثالٌ طينيّ يتشقّق تحت شمس الساحل
والأَغاني لا تَعْرِف
أَفضل شيء أَلّا تعرف المُنتظِرة في الرّواق
.أَنّ صغيرها ميّتٌ في غرفة العناية الفائقة

ماذا نفعل في بلادنا التي أَصبحت مستعمرة؟











In the Colony

How do we spend our lives in the colony?
Cement blocks and thirsty crows
are the only things I see.

Freedom’s a statue made of clay
cracking beneath the coastal sun
and the songs do not know it.
It’s best that the woman waiting in the hall
not know
that her child is dead now
in the ICU.

What should we do in this country of ours
which has become a colony?











أُقلّبُ أيامي

أُقلِّبُ أَيامي السبع
فأَجدها ناقصةً يوماً
وأَحياناً أَكثرَ
حتّى أَني هذا الأُسبوع
.قَلَّبتُ فَلَمْ أَجِد











Whenever I inspect my seven days
I always find a day is missing,
and sometimes more than a single day—
so much so that this week
I inspected them
and found nothing at all.











في قطار

صهيونيةٌ تتمتّع بالشَّمْس
وتَنْظُرُ مِنَ النافذة
صهيونيةٌ تَضَعُ أَمامَها كعكةً في كيس
صهيونيةٌ تخمش تفّاحة
بكسَلٍ شديد
صهيونيةٌ أُخرى “تتمارى” في الموبايل.

القطار يتجاوزُ الطنطورة
ويَتْرُكُ وراءَه تِلالاً مِنْ شَوْكِ الصّيف.

التي تتمتّع بالشّمس
أَتعبتها الشّمس
التي تخمش التفّاحة أَصبحتْ أَنشط

صهيونيةٌ أَخيرة
تمشي متلفّتةً
تتجاوزُ العربات
وتَقِفُ قُربي
!مِنْ كلِّ القِطار أَعجبها مقعدي











On a Train

A Zionist woman is enjoying the sun
and looking out the window.
A Zionist woman puts a piece of cake
in front of her.
A Zionist woman bites into an apple
in slow motion
while another uses her cell phone as a mirror.

The train goes by Tantoura
leaving hills of summer thorns in its wake.

The woman enjoying the sun
is exhausted by the sun.
The one biting into the apple
has become more active now.

A final Zionist woman
walks through the cars,
turning her head this way and that,
and comes to a stop beside me:
An entire train, and my seat
is the one she likes.










فليمرّ بهدوء

إِذا كان لا بدَّ مِنْ أَملٍ
فَلْيَكُن صامتاً مثل يوم الأربعاء
مُتَحَفِّظاً كصباح الخميس
ومَضْروباً على رأسِهِ كنهار الجمعة
إذا كان لا بدَّ مِنْ أَملٍ
.فَلْيَمُرَّ بهدوء











Let It Pass in Peace

If hope is necessary
then let it be as silent
as Wednesday,
as reserved
as Thursday morning,
as beaten into the mind
as Friday afternoon.
If hope is necessary
then let it pass in peace.











Najwan Darwish is one of the foremost contemporary Arab poets. Since the publication of his first collection in 2000, his poetry has been hailed across the Arab world and beyond as a singular expression of the Palestinian struggle. He has published eight books in Arabic, and his work has been translated into over twenty languages. His first book in English, Nothing More to Lose (NYRB Poets, 2014, trans. Abu-Zeid) was picked as one of the best books of the year by NPR and nominated for several awards. His second book in English, Exhausted on the Cross, is forthcoming with NYRB Poets (Feb. 2021, trans. Abu-Zeid), with a Foreword by Raúl Zurita. Darwish lives between Haifa and his birthplace, Jerusalem.


Kareem James Abu-Zeid is a translator, editor, writer, and scholar who works across multiple languages. Abu-Zeid has received numerous awards, fellowships, honors, and residencies for his work as a translator from Arabic and as a scholar, including PEN Center USA’s 2017 Translation Prize and a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts translation grant. Abu-Zeid is also the author of the forthcoming book The Poetics of Adonis and Yves Bonnefoy: Poetry as Spiritual Practice (Lockwood Press, 2021). He lives in the countryside just outside of Santa Fe, NM. The online hub for his work is www.kareemjamesabuzeid.com.


poetry in action is an Action Books blog feature curated and edited by Katherine M. Hedeen (@kmhedeenwith web editing by Paul Cunningham.

October 20th, 2020|
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