Something Evergreen Called Life
by Rania Mamoun
Translated by Yasmine Seale
ISBN-13: 9780900575181 | $18 | 60 pages | March 1, 2023
behind these walls that cage you
something evergreen called life”
After years of writing and organizing against the regime of Omar al-Bashir, Sudanese writer, journalist, and activist Rania Mamoun was finally forced to leave her country with her young daughters, taking refuge in a US city in the early throes of a pandemic. Confined to her new home, Mamoun embarked on a daily practice of writing out of which emerged these poems of loss, despair, and hope. Brought into English by Yasmine Seale with lyric agility and an ethic of care, Something Evergreen Called Life offers readers nightpiercing songs of exile and intimacy.
REVIEWS OF SOMETHING EVERGREEN CALLED LIFE
There is a steady, unhurried cadence to the collection, achieved through the use of additional spacing, which contributes to the introspective and intimate quality of Mamoun’s writing. Each additional space allows room for breath, resulting in a resolute pace and stillness throughout the collection. Given the personal subject matter, it feels right to read the poems in your head, as they once lived in Mamoun’s. While it could be easy to overly furnish these understated pieces, Yasmine Seale’s translation retains the fluidity and lyricism of Mamoun’s writing, eschewing the confinement of punctuation, capitalization, and justification to reflect the cascades of emotion served by the Arabic language. This is evidenced in the opening poem, which adopts the linguistic composition of the Arabic, the peaks and valleys, differently ordered
—Bridget Peak, Asymptote
Praise for Something Evergreen Called Life
Locked out of her country after the Sudanese revolution and locked down in the United States during the early and most devastating phase of the global pandemic, Rania Mamoun speaks to us from the ledge of fear and unceasing uncertainty caused by genocidal and femicidal patriarchy. Yasmine Seale’s exquisite, crystalline translations of these poems sing out from the soundless cavern of vertiginous depression born from the loss of country, the loss of countless loved ones, and the loss of one’s own body: “a stray cat circling / her bearings lost/ forgotten/ like a margin in a book” […] “I am drowning/ without getting wet.” Documenting the grief of exile at both its tender, melancholic fray and its bladed, revolutionary edge, Raina’s astonishing and minimalist lyric voice enters the narrowest crevasse at the steepest, most sheer face of unrelenting loss and finds in that place the luminance of friendship, the warmth and wetness of maternal fertility, and profound evidence of what life can still grow from stone. I have returned to my purpose as a poet more fully, and with a deeper sense of gratitude for poetry as an aid to survival, because of this book.
— Divya Victor, author of Kith and Curb.
About the Author
Rania Mamoun is a Sudanese writer and activist. She has published two novels in Arabic. Her short story collection, translated into English by Elisabeth Jaquette as Thirteen Months of Sunrise and published by Comma Press, was shortlisted for the 2020 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. Mamoun’s writing has appeared in English translation in Mizna, for which she received a Pushcart Prize nomination, Shenandoah, Banipal, Words Without Borders, and the Fourth River. Her stories have appeared in translation in The Book of Khartoum and Banthology, both with Comma Press, and in Nouvelles du Soudan with Éditions Magellan & Cie. She has worked as an editor and contributor to arts magazines, and was a presenter for the cultural program Silicon Valley on Sudanese television
About the Translator
Yasmine Seale is a British-Syrian writer and translator. Her essays on literature, art and film have been published in Harper’s, Paris Review, the Nation, and elsewhere. Her poetry, visual art and translations from Arabic and French have appeared widely. She is the author, with Robin Moger, of Agitated Air: Poems after Ibn Arabi, published by Tenement Press. Her translations include Aladdin: A New Translation and The Annotated Arabian Nights, both out with W. W. Norton. She has received a PEN American Literary Grant and the Wasafiri New Writing Prize for Poetry. She lives in Paris, where she is currently a fellow at the Columbia Institute of Ideas and Imagination.