Meanderings & mawqifs of poetry, poetics, translations y mas. Travelogue too.

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Human-made climate change suppresses the next ice age

January 18th, 2016 · Climate Change, Uncategorized

iceagePress release by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)


Humanity has become a geological force that is able to suppress the beginning of the next ice age, a study now published in the renowned scientific journal Nature shows. Cracking the code of glacial inception, scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found the relation of insolation and CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to be the key criterion to explain the last eight glacial cycles in Earth history.  At the same time their results illustrate that even moderate human interference with the planet’s natural carbon balance might postpone the next glacial inception by 100.000 years.

“Even without man-made climate change we would expect the beginning of a new ice age no earlier than in 50.000 years from now – which makes the Holocene as the present geological epoch an unusually long period in between ice ages,” explains lead author Andrey Ganopolski. “However, our study also shows that relatively moderate additional anthropogenic CO2-emissions from burning oil, coal and gas are already sufficient to postpone the next ice age for another 50.000 years. The bottom line is that we are basically skipping a whole glacial cycle, which is unprecedented. It is mind-boggling that humankind is able to interfere with a mechanism that shaped the world as we know it.”

For the first time, research can explain the onset of the past eight ice ages by quantifying several key factors that preceded the formation of each glacial cycle. “Our results indicate a unique functional relationship between summer insolation and atmospheric CO2 for the beginning of a large-scale ice-sheet growth which does not only explain the past, but also enables us to anticipate future periods when glacial inception might occur again,” Ganopolski says.

Humanity as a geological force

Using an elaborate Earth system model simulating atmosphere, ocean, ice sheets and global carbon cycle at the same time, the scientists analyzed the effects of further human-made CO2-emissions on the ice volume on the Northern Hemisphere.  “Due to the extremely long life-time of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, past and future emissions have a significant impact on the timing of the next glacial inception,” co-author Ricarda Winkelmann says. “Our analysis shows that even small additional carbon emissions will most likely affect the evolution of the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets over tens of thousands of years, and moderate future anthropogenic CO2-emissions of 1000 to 1500 Gigatons of Carbon are bound to  postpone the next ice age by at least 100.000 years.”

The quest for the drivers of glacial cycles remains one of the most fascinating questions of Earth system analysis and especially paleoclimatology, the study of climate changes throughout the entire history of our planet. Usually, the beginning of a new ice age is marked by periods of very low solar radiation in the summer, like at current times. However, at present there is no evidence for the beginning of a new ice age: “This is the motivation for our study. Unravelling the mystery of the mechanisms driving past glacial cycles also facilitates our ability to predict the next glacial inception,” Winkelmann says.

“Like no other force on the planet, ice ages have shaped the global environment and thereby determined the development of human civilization. For instance, we owe our fertile soil to the last ice age that also carved out today’s landscapes, leaving glaciers and rivers behind, forming fjords, moraines and lakes. However, today it is humankind with its emissions from burning fossil fuels that determines the future development of the planet,” co-author and PIK-Director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber says. “This illustrates very clearly that we have long entered a new era, and that in the Anthropocene humanity itself has become a geological force. In fact, an epoch could be ushered in which might be dubbed the Deglacial.”

Article: Ganopolski, A., Winkelmann, R., Schellnhuber, H.J. (2016): Critical insolation-CO2 relation for diagnosing past and future glacial inception. Nature [DOI:10.1038/nature16494]

Weblink to the article:


For further information please contact:

PIK press office

Phone: +49 331 288 25 07


Twitter: @PIK_Climate

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January 16th, 2016 · "Arab Spring", Egypt

Earlier this week, Omar Hazek was prevented from leaving Egypt to receive the 2016 Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression:

What follows is a transcript of the talk he would’ve given, in translation, if he’d been there to receive his free-speech award:


PEN International and Oxfam Novib, Ladies & Gentlemen:

I would like to thank you for your great efforts in supporting the persecuted writers worldwide, and I would like to express my great gratitude for being here with you.

Allow me to dedicate my thanking speech to tell of some of the oppressed voices behind Egyptian bars. For almost two years, I went through this cruel ordeal and experienced firsthand what it means to be deprived of one’s freedom, like thousands of political & criminal prisoners, without having a voice that can speak your words of suffering. For them and about them, let me speak for a few minutes.

Let me tell you of the Egyptian poetess Shimaa El Sabbagh, a young woman killed in a peaceful march and wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the martyrs of 25 of January Revolution.

Let me tell you of the Egyptian poet Ahmed Doma, who was detained 18 times during Mubarak and SCAF’s regimes, and is currently sentenced for 31 years of imprisonment! Doma was part of the most influential political youth movements that fueled the 25th of January Revolution. He is also known as the Butterflies Hunter as he, during demonstrations, caught with his hands a large number of tear gas bombs and threw them away from demonstrators.

Let me tell you of the blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, co-recipient, with his wife Manal, of the “Reporters without Borders” Award. Alaa decided to return with his wife to Egypt, leaving behind his prospering future abroad, to participate in the January Revolution. Today he stand as one of its icons as he has suffered torture, persecution and imprisonment under successive regimes.

Let me tell you of the photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zaid who was assaulted in the line of duty, arrested while covering the Dismissal of Rabaa in August 2013. Till the present day, he is held without trial despite the appeals made by many international journalism institutions.

Let me tell you of the poet Ahmed Said, the vascular surgeon in Germany who was arrested for participating in a silent rally during his holiday, and about the poet Mohamed Fawzy, a university student who received a life sentence: both are in prison at present, writing poetry on their love for Egypt.

Let me tell you of the lawyer Mahinour El Masry, the youngAlexandrian  woman who led along with other activists the protests against the brutal murder of the Alexandrian Khaled Saeed, the Icon of the Egyptian revolution. Later on she was at the heart of the demonstrations of the January revolution in Alexandria where she has become one of its icons. In 2014, she was awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux Award, given before to Mandela, in recognition of her efforts and for being detained repeatedly by the Egyptian regimes.

Let me tell you of another detained writer, Ismaiel El-Eskandrani the researcher, columnist and reporter. He is a winner of the fellowships of Woodrow Wilson Center’s Visiting Arab Journalist Program and Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. He has also won the Open Eye-Hany Darweesh Award for exceptional essay (Germany, 2014) and the Global Youth Essay on Democracy Contest (2009).

Let me tell of the journalist Youssef Shabaan who is infected by Hepatitis C and who is deprived of medications in prison despite the deterioration of his health. Youssef has shared the revolutionary dream with Mahinour and the rest of the Alexandrian activists and participated with them in the protests against the regime. He was previously framed by Moubarak’s regime in a falsified drug case during his coverage of labor protests.

It was behind the former three; Mahinour, Shabaan and El Eskandranin, that I stood cheering during Khaled Saeed’s protests in 2010 in Alexandria. And if I feel obliged to anyone beside my family for helping me endure my imprisonment ordeal; I will always be in debt to those three who taught me along with others my first lessons of freedom and dreaming of a better Egypt. Those three in particular, although they are younger than me, they have always inspired and taught me how to conquer fear and defend our dreams until the last minute in our lives.

Dear friends, I am really sorry for being out free while you are held there, but we will always remain Comrades of Dream and Freedom.

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Categories: Egypt

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  1. My heart aches for these people.

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Thoughts on Osip Mandelstam’s Birthday

January 15th, 2016 · Poetry, Translation

osip-mandelstam5A birthday that happened 125 years ago today… & still I can’t find an English translation that satisfies me completely. Most of them feel more or less flat, with Mandelstam turned into a most salon-fähig lyrical poet of medium to low intensity. (Oddly enough this is true especially of those translations extolled by Joseph Brodsky, someone who should have know, as he was a native Russian who wound up writing in English, but I guess my judgment here may be tainted as I find Brodsky’s English work très fade…) Clarence Brown’s versions may still be the least problematic, but I can’t wait for John High’s complete Mandelstam (his collaborative versions with Matvei Yankelevich are lovely indeed) — John, we need these! I have not yet been able to get Andrew Davis’ just published versions of the Voronezh Notebooks, out earlier this month from NYRB Poets. Way back when — late sixties — my Bard College co-student Bruce McClelland published a translation of Tristia, which I found useful and quite readable back then. I wish he had continued to work on Mandelstam, but unhappily his interests wandered elsewhere.

What I have come to realize over the years is that the translation of truly major poets (of which Mandelstam is one) cannot be approached as an occasional occupation, i.e. as either a quick way to learn the tricks of a master (translating is the closest reading you can give a poem, so indeed the most useful activity in learning to write, as I have been telling my students for many years) or as a way to locate possibilities of publication by associating one’s (as yet unknown) name with that of a well-known poet (though that too can be useful for a serious young poet). Looking at such multiple scatter-shot translations, in magazines, chapbooks or single volumes of major poets by numerous translators, gives me at times the impression of a haphazard gaggle of young (or not so young) poet-translators cutting their teeth by feeding on the giant corpse of a dead beached whale.  At the same time, I’d like to add, having several translations of a great poem can also be of good comparative use.

Just as one does not become a poet by absolving a 2-year MFA (even if the institution would seem to suggest this by giving the MFA graduate the legal right to teach his or her craft once the diploma has been framed), it would be better to approach such a major foreign poet not only with the humbleness of the beginner but also with the desire for an open-ended apprenticeship that may even turn out to be be life-long. Exemplary for me, in that sense, is Clayton Eshleman’s decades-long translation work on César Vallejo — a work Eshleman has linked to Charles Olson’s proposal in “A Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn” for a “saturation job” that would get the young poet “in” once and for all. (A saturation job, Olson explains, consists in learning everything that can be learned & known about something — a man, an event, a thing, so that you know more than anyone else about this.)

Another man who has spent his life working in such a way is the Swiss poet, translator, essayist Ralph Dutli, who besides his own work (which also includes an excellent novel on the painter Chaim Soutine’s last days) has edited, translated & published  a 10-volume edition of Mandelstam’s works (the poems in both languages) as well as writing four volumes of essays on OM, plus the best biography of Mandelstam we have. A major oeuvre of which the essays and the biography should be translated into English!

Now, despite the fact that I do admire and use Dutli’s German translations, I tend to read Mandelstam’s poetry in Paul Celan’s German versions — for me, who doesn’t have Russian, the best and richest versions. Celan also wrote a radioplay on Mandelstam for two voices — a version of which with Charles Bernstein & me “doing the voices” was recorded late last year & should be available this spring as a podcast (the text can be found in The Meridian, published a few years back by Stanford University Press). It contains several poems by Mandelstam in Celan’s translations — & which I thus had to translate from Celan’s German into English. Let me close this meditation on translation on Mandelstam’s birthday with the last of those poems framed by Celan’s speakers:

Speaker 1: In 1928 a further volume of poems appears – the last one. A new collection joins the two previous ones also gathered in it. “No more breath – the firmament swarms with maggots!”: this line opens the cycle. The question about the where-from becomes more urgent, more desperate – the poetry – in one of his essays he calls it a plough – tears open the abyssal strata of time, the “black earth of time” appears on the surface. The eye, talking with the perceived, and pained, develops a new ability: it becomes visionary: it accompanies the poem into its underground. The poem writes itself toward an other, a “strangest” time.


Whoever kisses time’s sore brow
will often, like a son, think tenderly
how she, time, laid down to sleep outside
in high heaped wheat drifts, in the corn.

Whoever has raised the century’s eyelid
– both slumber-apples, large and heavy – ,
hears noise, hears the streams roar
the lying times, relentlessly

Imperious century, with loam-beautiful mouth
and two apples, asleep – yet
before it dies: to the son’s hand, so shrunken,
it bends down its lip.

Life’s breath, I know, ebbs away each day,
one more small one, a small one – and
deceased is the song of mortification, loam and plague,
with lead they seal your mouth.

Oh loam-and-life! Oh century’s death!
Only to the one, I’m afraid, does its meaning reveal itself,
in whom there was a smile, helpless – to the inheritor,
the man who lost himself.

Oh pain, oh to search for the lost word.
oh lid and lid to raise, sick and weak,
for generations, the strangest, with lime in your blood
to gather the grass and the weed of night!

Time. The lime in the blood of the sick son
turns hard. Moscow, that wooden coffer, sleeps.
Time, the sovereign. And no escape anywhere…
The snow’s apple-scent, as always.

The sill here: I wish I could leave it.
Whereto? The street – darkness.
And, as if it were salt, so white, there on the pavement
lies my conscience, spread out before me.

Through winding lanes, through slipways
the journey goes, somehow:
a bad passenger sits in a sled
pulls a blanket over the knees.

The lanes, the shimmering lanes, the by-lanes
the runners crunch’s like apples under the tooth.
The strap, I can’t grab it,
it doesn’t want me to, and the hand is clammy.

Night, cartwoman, with what scrap and iron
are you rolling through Moscow?
Fish thud here, and there, from pink houses,
it steams toward you – scalegold!

Moscow, anew. Ah, I greet you, once more!
Forgive, excuse – my misery wasn’t very great.
I like to call them, as always, my brethren:
the pike’s saying and the hard frost!

The snow in the pharmacy’s raspberry light…
A clattering, from afar, an Underwood…
The coachman’s back… the roadway, blown away…
What more do you want? They won’t kill you.

Winter – beauty. And skyward the white,
the starmilk – it streams, streams away and blinks.
The horsehair blanket crunches along the icy
runners – the horsehair blanket sings!

The little lanes, smoking, the petroleum, always – :
swallowed by snow, raspberry colored.
They hear the Soviet-sonatina jingle,
remember the year twenty.

Does it make me swear and damn?
– The frost’s apple-scent, again –
Oh oath that I swore to the fourth estate!
Oh my promise, heavy with tears!

Oh whom will you kill? Whom will you praise?
And what lie, tell me, are you going to make up?
Tear off this cartilage, the keys of the machine:
the pike’s bones you lay open.

The lime in the blood of the sick son: it fades.
A laughter, blissful, frees itself –
Sonatas, powerful… The little sonatina
of the typewriter – : only its shadow!

2. Speaker: That’s how to escape contingency: through laughter. Through what we know as the poet’s “senseless” laughter – through the absurd. And on the way there what does appear –mankind is absent – has answered: the horsehair blanket has sung. Poems are sketches for Being: the poet lives according to them. In the thirties Osip Mandelstam is caught in the “purges.” The road leads to Siberia, where we lose his trace. In “Journey to Armenia,” one of his last proses published in 1932 in the Leningrad magazine “Swesda,” we also find notes on the matters of poetry. In one of these notes Mandelstam remembers his preference for the Latin Gerund.

The Gerund ! that is the present participle of the passive form of the future.

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Reading For Ashraf Fayadh at BSU in Boise Today

January 14th, 2016 · Reading

Be numerous, today, 14 January at 3p.m. at Boise State University (SUB Farnsworth Room) for the gathering & poetry reading demanding LIFE AND FREEDOM for poet Ashraf Fayadh, sentenced to death by a Saudi Court for the trumped-up “crime” of “apostasy.”

Poster Worldwide Reading Ashraf Fayadh

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Carolee Schneemann Fuses in Salzburg

January 13th, 2016 · Art Exhibition, Performances, Video

Fuses from jackie wang on Vimeo.

& here the description of her retrospective at the Salzburger Museum der Moderne:

Museum der Moderne > Ausstellungen > Aktuell >

Carolee Schneemann

Kinetic Painting

Around 350 works spanning six decades on 18,300 square feet of exhibition space spread across two floors: the highlight of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg’s exhibition programming this fall is a grand retrospective dedicated to the oeuvre of the influential artist, choreographer, performer, and writer Carolee Schneemann (b. Fox Chase, PA, 1939; lives and works in New Paltz, NY). The show illuminates a genealogy of new forms of art that emerge as painting set in motion and eventually evolves into expansive installations in multiple media.

It opens with Schneemann’s early landscapes and portraits from the mid-1950s. The artist soon started setting her paintings in motion using simple mechanisms and integrating photographs and everyday objects into her pictures. The exhibition features numerous examples of this genre that have rarely or never been on public display. Aiming to take painting beyond the canvas and be “both image and image-maker,” she also employed media such as performance, photography and film.

Many of Schneemann’s works and texts focus on the female body in its social and historical contexts and explore eroticism and sexual pleasure from a female perspective. Key works in this connection include the film Fuses (1965), for which she manipulated the exposed film stock with paint, fire, acid and pasted footage together in a sort of collage, and the legendary performance Interior Scroll (1975). In a critical look back on the paintings of the abstract expressionists, she developed Up to and Including Her Limits (1973–1977), a performance installation that highlights the artist’s body as a medium of artistic mark-making. The exhibition will also feature recent works that demonstrate that Schneemann’s creative energy remains undiminished.

The retrospective focuses on both canonic pieces and performances, and previously unpublished and rarely-seen works that showcase lesser-known aspects of Schneemann’s prolific output. Based on a thorough scholarly review, it presents her oeuvre in unprecedented breadth and depth, embedding it in the context of painting and encouraging a wider audience to explore her art.

Curators: Sabine Breitwieser, Director, Museum der Moderne Salzburg; Consulting Curator: Branden W. Joseph, Frank Gallipolli Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, Columbia University, New York; with Tina Teufel, Museum der Moderne Salzburg; Exhibition architecture: Kuehn Malvezzi

A catalogue accompanying the exhibition, edited by Sabine Breitwieser for the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, will by published by Prestel. It will include essays by Sabine Breitwieser, Branden W. Joseph, Mignon Nixon, Ara Osterweil, and Judith Rodenbeck, as well as writings by Carolee Schneemann.

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Boulez Conducts: An Homage poem from 1974

January 12th, 2016 · Music, Poetry

AmericanSuiteOver the last few days I have been listening to what Boulez compositions (for ex. his Répons) I have been able to gain access too, various talks & interviews while thinking back on the many years during which he has been a major composer, conductor, thinker & writer for me. As chance would have it, an advance copy of my new collection of poems, An American Suite, to be published in March by inpatient press arrived yesterday. These are poems picked by Tamas Panitz from old sheaths of typescripts he helped me convert to e-versions two years ago. As he was doing this, he noticed poems I had published only in magazines if at all), but had never gathered in book-form. I suggested that he should put together what he thought was still useful among these works — which he did, adding an introduction & finding the publisher. Among the works in this book there is a poem recording what was my first live encounter with Boulez as a conductor at the Roundhouse in London in 1974. I’ll reproduce the poem here below as an homage.
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Where are we now — with Bowie Gone?

January 11th, 2016 · Uncategorized

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Hyperion Mallarmé

January 11th, 2016 · Aesthetics, Experimental Writing, Intellectuals, Language, Literary Magazines & Reviews, Philosophy, Poetry, Translation


A new issue of Hyperion, the first of a two-part issue on Mallarmé curated by guest editor Kari Hukkila, was released at the end of last year. It features new texts written expressly for this occasion, as well as the first-ever English translation of Alain Badiou’s Perroquet text from 1986, “Est-il exact que toute pensée émet un coup de dés?” Badiou reads Mallarmé’s Coup de dés as “the greatest theoretical text that exists on the conditions for thinking the event.”

 Featured essayists include: Robert Boncardo, Alain Badiou, Jean-Claude Milner, Liesl Yamaguchi, Jean-Nicolas Illouz, Jean-Francois Puff, Kuisma Korhonen, and Mary Shaw. The issue closes with Claude Mouchard’s dialogic long poems, as harrowing as they are soft-spoken. The second issue is due out in late February or early March. 

Access the issue here.

All previous issues of Hyperion are available on ISSUU.COM. Hyperion was founded by Rainer J. Hanshe and Mark Daniel Cohen and is edited by Hanshe & Erika Mihálycsa and other guest and contributing editors.

At the close of the year we also published new translations from German, Turkish, French, and Farsi:

Josef Winkler, Graveyard of Bitter Oranges, tr. by Adrian West

Ferit Edgü, Noone, tr. by Fulya Peker

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Narcissus, tr. by Daniel Boden. Afterword by Simon Critchley

Ahmad Shamlu, Born Upon the Dark Spear, tr. by Jason Mohaghegh

 Click on the links for free samples of each book. Copies can be ordered thru Indiebound, Amazon, or directly thru Contra Mundum. 

If you’ll be in New York City this month, join us at the KGB Bar on January 31 from 7:00–9:00 PM for a night of readings with Mary Ann Caws & Nancy Kline (translators, for us, of Luca and Lorand Gaspar), Genese Grill (tr. of Robert Musil), Jason Mohaghegh (tr. of Ahmad Shamlu), & other possible guests.

85 E. 4th St. (near 2nd Ave)

 Some titles forthcoming this year include:

 A series of six books by Jean-Luc Godard, tr. by Stuart Kendall

Otto Dix, Letters, Vol. 1, tr. by Mark Kanak

Pierre Senges, The Major Refutation, tr. by Jacob Siefring

Maura Del Serra, Ladder of Oaths, tr. by Dominic Siracusa

Hugo Ball, Letters, tr. by Amy Dusenbury

& more!

 Donations and subscriptions to the press are always valued and welcome. Visit here for information on how to donate and here for information on subscribing. Subscribers receive publications before they are released to the general public.


Dedicated to the value and the indispensable importance of the individual voice, to testing the boundaries of thought & experience. 


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Iranian Poet & Activist Sentenced To Prison

January 9th, 2016 · Human rights, Poetry

hqdefaultvia International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

January 8, 2016—The poet and civil activist Hila Sedighi was arrested at Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 7, 2016, as she and her husband returned from a trip to the United Arab Emirates, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned.

Sedighi’s arrest appears to be in connection with a sentence issued against her in absentia by the Culture and Media Court, a court established by the Iranian Judiciary to try media and culture-related crimes. There has been no comment as of yet from government or judicial officials on the reasons for her arrest or where she is being detained.

“Artistic expression is under unprecedented assault in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “The Iranian Judiciary is incapable of tolerating the peaceful expression of its own citizens, seeking instead to intimidate and silence them with arrests and imprisonment.”

Sedighi, 30, co-recipient of the 2012 Hellman/Hammett prize for free expression, was a campaign worker for reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in 2009 and she recited poems in public gatherings in support of the Green Movement.

The Green Movement arose in opposition to the outcome of Iran’s 2009 presidential election, which resulted in the widely disputed victory of the hardline Ahmadinejad presidency. The peaceful protests that swept Iran after the election were violently put down by the state.

On December 9, 2010, Intelligence Ministry agents searched Sedighi’s home and took away a number of her personal belongings. She was then summoned and interrogated numerous times by the Intelligence Ministry. On August 16, 2011, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court condemned Sedighi to four months in prison, and the sentence was suspended for five years.

In recent months there has been a surge in the crackdown on members of the artistic community. In October 2015, poet Fatemeh Ekhtesari was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison and another poet, Mehdi Mousavi, was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Revolutionary Court. In addition, both were sentenced to 99 lashes.

The documentary filmmaker Keywan Karimi was sentenced to six years in prison and 233 lashes for “insulting the sacred” and “illegitimate relations” while three music producers, Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, were sentenced to six years in prison for “propaganda against the state”.

In addition, the poet and lyricist Yaghma Golrouee was arrested at his home on November 30, 2015, and later released on bail, and the poet Mohamadreza Haj Rostambegloo was arrested on December 16, 2015, and bailed out two days later.

The crackdown, which has also targeted journalists and individuals associated with reformist groups in Iran, has intensified as the country approaches critical Parliamentary elections in February 2016. Hardliners are anxious to maintain their dominance in the domestic sphere and beat back any potential political gains of the Rouhani administration and more moderate factions.

“The mounting arrests of young artists in Iran is yet another indication of the suffocating domination of security and intelligence agencies over the Judiciary,” said Ghaemi. “These young artists are national treasures; now they are behind bars.”

Hila Sedighi’s latest poem:

The Wind Blew Your House Away

The wind blew away your house
And, you still worry about the wind blowing in my hair?!
The myth of which cave’s sleepers has you intoxicated so?
Why are you sleeping?
A hundred tribes go to ruins while you sleep
The scandal about the kingdom’s thieves is everywhere
But, with your two hands, you still hold on to the two ends of my shawl

You are asleep behind this worn out curtain, and I,
with this same ‘forbidden’ hair of mine
will weave a ladder as tall as the sunrise
to bring out the sun
And you are asleep and water passes over you

And you never saw
how in the forest, pine trees were cut down, night after night,

in place of poplar trees
And there were no tigers when
mythological Damavand Mountain
was hanged from the loin
And for every grain of rice that had come to our table through hard labor,
in the rice paddies,
they planted iron, bricks, and walls

And you are sleeping,

and water thirsted for Hamoon Lake,
blood of Zayandeh River clotted,
and the breath of Hoor Wetlands’ humid nights
were buried under mud

The wind blew away your house
The scandal about the lootings has broken out
With your claws, you grab on to my night’s hair
Lest the famine-stricken nights of our dinner spread
reveals the emptiness of your fists
Lest anyone sees your temper

I am veiled
but not veiled according to volition of my own free body
I am veiled because of your spoiled body and mind
You are asleep behind this worn out curtain, and I,
with this same ‘forbidden’ hair of mine
will weave a ladder as tall as the sunrise
to bring out the sun

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Finnegan’s List 2016: Anton Shammas and Sinan Antoon on What We Should Translate Now

January 8th, 2016 · Arab Culture, Arabic, Books, Translation

via the always excellent Arab Literature (in English)

The European Society of Authors has released its 2016 “Finnegan’s List.” Launched in 2011, Finnegan’s provides an “annual list of under-translated or forgotten works”:

2016The two authors this year focusing on works in Arabic are the novelists Sinan Antoon and Anton Shammas. These two, along with eight others, have seleceted three titles that make up the committee’s “elective affinities.” In so doing, the Society of Authors hopes to “revive a literary canon encompassing all languages spoken and written in Europe and beyond.”

Sinan Antoon recommendsthree classic works:

Abdelrahman Munif, (A Magian Love Story), Beirut: al-Muʼassasah al-ʻArabīyah lil-Dirāsāt wa-al-Nashr, 1974.

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, (Rain Song), Beirut: Dar Shi’r, 1960.

Ghaib Tu’ma Farman, (The Palm Tree and the Neighbors), Sidon: al-Maktaba al-’Asriyya, 1965.

In his comments, Antoon wrote that A Magian Love Story is a “powerful novella about a visceral and destructive infatuation. While most of Abdelrahman Munif’s later works were concerned with the interplay of history and politics and how they shape individual and collective lives, A Magian Love Story is focused on individual passion and pain, and is written in a poetic language. Badr Shakir al-Sayyab was the pioneer of modern Arabic poetry. He staged a revolt against the form and content of the traditional qasida and changed it irrevocably. His experiments with meter and the new themes he introduced are crystallized in this collection. A milestone in the development of prose fiction in Iraq in the 20th century.The Palm Tree and the Neighbors by Ghaib Tu’ma Farman is a tightly structured and masterfully written novel set in the poorer quarters of Baghdad in the middle of the last century. It is a vivid portrayal of a society on the cusp of change.”

Relatively little of Munif’s work has been translated into English, perhaps in part because of the initial reception of his Cities of Salt quintet by John Updike in The New Yorker. Selections of al-Sayyab’s magical Rain Song have been translated, and were included in the recent 15 Iraqi Poets chapbook edited by Dunya Mikhail. There are many, including Dr. Issa Boullata, who have written on al-Sayyab’s importance to modern poetry. Banipal 29 did a feature on Farman’s work, and Jadaliyya featured a short story of Farman’s in translation, “The Old Man’s Word.

Anton Shammas recommends three newer works:

Iman Mersal, (Until I Give Up the Idea of Houses), Cairo: Dar Sharqiyat, 2013.

Rabee Jaber, (The Druze of Belgrade), Beirut: Dār al-Ādāb lil-Nashr wa-al-Tawzīʻ, 2011.

Salim Barakat, (Delshad), Beirut: al-Muʼassasah al- ʻArabīyah lil-Dirāsāt wa-al-Nashr, 2003.

In his comments, Shammas writes that, “With the publication of her second collection of poems, A Dark Alley Suitable for Dance Lessons, Iman Mersal has established herself as one of the most unique, refreshingly subtle and intriguing voices in modern Arabic poetry. Against the backdrop of a poetic scene dominated mainly by the rhetoric and poetics of the leading male poets of the Arab world with their grand gestures and large-scale itineraries, Mersal’s has been a very low-keyed and minor voice, totally oblivious to the tyrannical heritage of the Arab poetic past.”

He adds that, “Her fifth and most recent collection has a section entitled ‘the side-roads of life,’ which seems to capture the essence of her project: leaving the Main Road of collective loyalties, and following the personal, the intimate, and the mundane. A selection from Mersal’s poetry, These Are Not Oranges, My Love, was published in 2008 (Sheep Meadow). Her poems have been translated into numerous languages, including Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew and Hindi.”

A few weeks ago, ArabLit published A Holiday Gift: Ten Poems from Iman Mersal. However, Shammas is a bit late here: Mersal confirms that Robyn Creswell is at work translating the poems from this collection.

Shammas calls Rabee Jaber, whose Mehlis Report received surprisingly little attention in English, “one of the most talented, prolific, original, yet underrated Arabic novelists. Jaber’s novels have over the years brought to Arab readers ‘news from elsewhere,’ as Walter Benjamin described the task of the storyteller. His subjects include, among many others, the Beirut of the American Protestant Missionaries 22 in the 19th century, Belgrade of the 1860s, and America of the early 20th century. The Druze of Belgrade, winner of the 2012 Arabic Booker Prize [International Prize for Arabic Fiction], tells the heartwrenching story of Hanna, a boiled-eggs vendor who, one early morning in 1860, leaves his young wife and new-born girl, and near the port of Beirut finds himself dragged into a ship to replace a missing convict.”

This year, New Directions is bringing out Jaber’s Confessions, trans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid. This perhaps will spark a wider interest in Jaber’s work.

This is Salim Barakat’s second time being selected for Finnegan’s List, and several publishers have sniffed around translating his dense work. As Shammas writes, Barakat “is a Kurdish-Syrian novelist and poet whose masterly Arabic style has brought back to the modern Arabic language the grandeur of its classical past in a totally unprecedented manner. In this regard, and even though five of his novels have been translated into French, he is probably one of the most difficult writers to translate, especially into English. Yet, I can hardly think of any Arab novelist who’s worth the effort and the challenge more than this astonishing writer.”

Shammas explains why he chose Delshad in particular: “It’s about that elusive, arduous, impossible ‘task of the translator.’ Set against the strangulation of the Kurdish language and identity by the modern Syrian state, the novel tells the tragic story of Delshad, who is commissioned by a Kurdish prince to translate for him a book from Syriac into Kurdish, The Compendium of the Reckoning of the Unknown, for which he has to learn the Syriac language. Delshad is so entranced by the wonders and challenges of translation that he turns the two volumes of the original into fifty-two Kurdish volumes. Over forty years of meticulous rendering culminate in a Syrian police officer cruelly shooting through the volumes to test the velocity of his bullet. It’s a brilliant foreshadowing of what’s been happening in Syria in recent years.”

There are a few Barakat excerpts online:

From Rampaging Geese, trans. Thomas Aplin.

From The Iron Grasshoppertrans. Mona Zaki.

From Jurists of Darknesstrans. Marilyn Booth.

From Caves of Hydrahosetrans. Sawad Hussain.

You can read the whole 2016 “Finnegan’s List” report:

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