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

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On Paul Verlaine’s 172nd birthday…

March 31st, 2016 · Paul Celan, Poem, Poet, Translation

imagesselma_portrait…here — via the very useful Lyrikzeitung & Poetry News — is a translation of Verlaine’s most famous (& famously untranslatable) poem Chanson d’automne into Yiddish by Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger.
Born in Czernowitz in 1924, this young woman, a cousin of Paul Celan’s (they would on occasion meet and sing together & talk poetry at Celan’s grandfather’s brother house on Sabbat evenings), wrote poetry in German and died at 18 of typhus in Michailovka on the Bug river, in the same labor-camp, in which Paul’s parents were held and also died. As recounted here, “poignantly, in 1968, Paul Celan would permit a German press to include his masterpiece “‘Todesfugue” in an anthology only if Selma’s “Poem” was published next to his. Thus Celan paid tribute to his cousin and was responsible for Selma’s first published verse.”

Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger


(lid fun pol verlen ibergesezt funem franzejsischn*)

a lang gewejn,
fidlen alejn
s’gejt scho noch scho
fun benkschaft blo
un fartracht.

derschtikt das glik
kuk ich zurik —
schohen gejn
ch’se jene teg,
sunike teg —
un ich wejn.

ich loß sich gejn
in wint, alejn —
schwer un mat.
a mide asa
asoj wi a
tojt blat.

*) Poem by Paul Verlaine, translted from the French F.

Paul Verlaine

Chanson d’automne

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

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Uri Avnery: What Happened to the Jews?

March 30th, 2016 · Israel, Palestine

UriavneryMarch 26, 2016

SUDDENLY I remembered where I had seen it before.

The same kind of face. The same chin thrust forward, to produce an impression of force and determination.

The same way of speaking. One sentence and then a pause, waiting for the mob to shout approval.

The same combination of monster and clown.

Yes. Unmistakable. I saw it in my early childhood. On newsreels.

Benito Mussolini. Rome. Piazza Venezia. The Duce on a balcony, The huge mob down below in the piazza. Delirious. Applauding. Shouting until they were hoarse. A mass orgy of mindlessness.

This week I saw and heard it again. This time on TV.

THERE WERE differences, of course.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump was speaking in Washington DC, the modern successor to ancient Rome.

The Duce was bald, and therefore always wore a fanciful hat especially designed for him. The Trump wore his trademark orange hair, very carefully arranged by himself (according to his butler).

Mussolini spoke Italian, one of the world’s most beautiful languages, even coming from the mouth of a dictator. Trump spoke American English, a language that even its most ardent admirers would not call melodious.

But the largest difference was the character of the audience. The Duce spoke to a Roman mob, a late successor to the ancient Roman plebs who, not far from there, had cried for blood in the arena.

Trump spoke – unbelievably! – to an assembly of mostly elderly, wealthy and well educated Jews.

Jews, for God’s sake! People who secretly believe that they are the most intelligent on earth! Delirious Jews, shouting, clapping, jumping up and down after every sentence, as if possessed.

WHAT HAS happened to these Jews?

It’s a sad story. During World War II, when the Holocaust was in full swing, American Jews kept quiet. They did not use their already considerable political might to induce the President to do something significant to save the Jews. They were cowed. They were afraid of being accused of war mongering.

Once somebody brought me a Nazi leaflet dropped by the German Luftwaffe over American lines in Italy. It showed a fat, ugly Jew embracing a blond American girl. It said something like: “While you are shedding your blood here, the rich Jew at home is seducing your girlfriend!”

The Jews were afraid to do anything that could be seen as a confirmation of the Nazi propaganda slogan that this was a war instigated by the Jews and their stooge, “President Rosenfeld”, to destroy the Aryan race. So they kept quiet.

These Jews had come to America one or two generations earlier. The victims of the Holocaust were their close relatives. The remorse for their inactivity during the Holocaust is haunting them – especially the elderly among them – to this very day.

Their blind allegiance to the “Jewish State” is a result of this remorse. Many American Jews – especially the elderly – feel more attached to Israel than to the US. The British slogan “My country, right or wrong” is applied by them to Israel.

This was the audience of Trump at the AIPAC mass meeting.

AIPAC IS the embodiment of Jewish might and Jewish complexes.

In a way, it is the late actualization of that famous Russian forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, about the Jews ruling the world. By many accounts, it is the second most powerful lobby in the US (after the lobby of the gun crazies).

How did a small political organization, some 60 years ago, reach these dizzy heights? The Jews are far from being the most numerous ethnic community in the US. But, as a result of the inbuilt fear of anti-Semitism, they stick together. And, far more importantly, they donate money. Lots and lots of money. In both respects, they outdo much larger communities, like the Arab one.

The American political process, once the envy of democrats around the world, is by now basically corrupt. Political advertising is both necessary and expensive. Anyone running for office needs heaps of money. Looking for money is now the main job of an American politician.

In today’s America, almost every politician can be bought. Literally. So can entire party organizations. The sums are not even very impressive. AIPAC has pushed this corruption to a climax.

To demonstrate their power, AIPAC has produced some glaring examples. They are not satisfied with denying money to politicians that have criticized Israel in any way. They have actively put an end to the political careers of critics by taking competing nobodies, stuffing them with money and getting them elected in their place.

If there were such a thing as political terrorism, AIPAC would take the crown.

WHAT IS this immense power used for?

The Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote an article this week that shocked many, claiming that AIPAC is in fact an anti-Israeli organization. If I had written that article, it would have been even more extreme.

If, God forbid, the State of Israel does not survive the next 100 years, historians will put a lot of the blame on American Jewry, headed by AIPAC.

Since 1967, Israel has faced a simple but fateful choice: Give up the occupied Palestinian territories and make peace with Palestine and the entire Arab and Muslim world – or cling to the territories, build settlements and go on with an endless war.

This is not a political opinion. It is a historical fact.

Any true friend of Israel will do everything possible to push Israel in the first direction. Every dollar, every ounce of political influence, should be used for this purpose. In the end, the two states – Israel and Palestine – will live side by side, perhaps in some kind of confederation.

An anti-Semite pushes Israel in the other direction. Within the next 100 years Israel would turn into a bigoted, nationalist, even fascist, isolated apartheid state with a growing Arab majority, and the entire country would eventually become an Arab state with a shrinking Jewish minority.

Everything else is a pipedream.

SO WHAT is AIPAC doing?

In his monumental work “Faust”, Goethe describes the devil, Mephisto, as a force that always wills the bad and always achieves the good. AIPAC is the exact opposite.

It supports the existence of a “Jewish State” but pushes it forcefully along the road to another of the huge disasters in Jewish history.

They have an excuse, of course: it’s the Israelis themselves who have chosen this course. AIPAC only supports whoever the Israelis elect in democratic elections. Israel is the Only Democracy in the Middle East.

Nonsense. AIPAC and its sister groups are deeply involved in Israeli elections. They support Binyamin Netanyahu, the far-far-right Prime Minister, and the entire ultra-right spectrum of Israeli parties.

Perhaps I should put the blame on American Jewry in general. It’s not just AIPAC, but millions of other Jews. They all support Israel, wrong or worse.

But that may be out of date. I am told that a new generation of Jews in America is turning their backs on Israel altogether, even supporting Israel-haters. That would be a pity. They could play a role in resurrecting the Israeli peace camp instead, doing their bit for an enlightened Israel, upholding the old Jewish values of peace and justice.

I don’t see that happening. What I see is young and progressive American Jews quietly disappearing from the stage, leaving it to the new American Mussolini and his delirious, shouting up-and-down-jumping Jews.

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Homage to Jim Harrison

March 29th, 2016 · Homage, Poem

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 6.43.51 AM

Seeing the above headline of the cover story in the French daily Libération, I thought I’d offer a poem I wrote some years ago, after lunch, in Paris, in honor of having just eaten an excellent tête de veau, a calf’s head, as homage to the excellent poeta, prosateur, culinary commentator, dégustateur of all things edible, fisher of trout and readers, that was Jim Harrison. May he eat well wherever he is:

Lunch at La Grille (1.30 p.m.

sauce gribiche
pour it on
a childhood pleasure
the creamy white brain
a nano haut-le-coeur
(heart rises to brain to speak its mind)
at the circumvolutions (? check
dictionary – months of French
overlay English – instability of
vocabulary – shimmy back & forth –
love your false friends – the words
migrate in all seasons – as word
for all reasons? – spice up your
vagrant vocables – scheinheilige
where does that German word
come from, now, here, at la Grille,
the grille, the lattice work, whispered
through the monkish grate at
back of mind by childhood
prompter, or Celan’s speech-grille?
((Eisheiliger, Eisbein, Eiswein
or is it the ¼, un quart
Pouilly-Fuissé speaking (schein-
the brain, the brain = a childhood taste
on toast with black
butter & capers, fork-mashed mother’s treat
— or medical school shiver, cut
ting into soft tissue, an organ
(ogre) held in — fitting, filling —
both hands, shaky pudding
thumbs on “foramina” (sulcus
is that the word, sulcus terminalis,
a furrow twice explored – slight shiver
helps knife – as if it needed it –
slice through non-resistant tissue,
careful/careless share – to eat
everything (a pig, well-used
is 450 servings snout to tail
a pig is haram in Beirut & Darfur,
I am ashamed as I shiver
through he brain – the one on the
plate, or the one in it’s case, this skull? –
a shiv, romantic twitch
in an imagined zigeuner underground
the blubbery cheek – black skin
(Miles called it green on the
pintade’s armpit, refused to
eat, a shudder bigger, more
intractable than my shiver –
shudder of the unknown as
against shiver of history (personal
repetition) easily overcome by
mouth pleasure, tongue in slomo
crushes soft slice against top of
the mouth, palate palace
roof  & last sip.
lean back.


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Under Siege in Damascus, ‘A Book Becomes A Person’s Best Friend’

March 24th, 2016 · Books

on ( 0 )

The BBC recently published an interview with an activist-librarian working in the suburbs of Damascus, identified only as Ahmed:

librarianThe BBC reporter asked “Ahmed” why — when there is no food, no electricty, and no safety from shelling or barrel bombs — would people want a library.

Ahmed answered:

Even if you are hungry, and you don’t have food, and you don’t have any supplies, you should be able to read, you should be able to learn, you should be able to educate yourself. So that you can develop your skills, develop your personality — and this is why books are very important in this time.

We have a saying that goes: During the seige, during the war, during all these dark times, the best friend for a person is a book. When you don’t have electricty, when you don’t have food, the book becomes a person’s best friend.

But why a library?

“When we started our revolution,” Ahmed told the BBC, “our aim was not to demolish things, our aim was to build things.”

So activists gathered the books for this library, housed in a four-story building, from people around the area. In many cases, they have been able to get permission. But in some cases, such as when a person is detained, they have gone in and harvested books that would otherwise be destroyed.

Yet the owner can always come back and claim the book:

Whenever we take a book, we write the name of that person on the book, so that the people would know that we’ve taken this book from that person, and in case the person wants to come back and take their book, they would know where to find it.

At the moment, Ahmed said, “we have 30,000 books in the central hall of the building, and we have 2,000 other books in the warehouse.” The building, he said, has been shelled several times, “to the extent that the top floor is almost completely destroyed.”

Also, when forces bomb the area, there is a great deal of pressure, such that shelves collapse and there’s dust everywhere. “It happens on a frequent basis.”

The books people read under siege, Ahmed said, are not so different than people read at other times. “We get a lot of requests for the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We get a lot of requests for a book on the art of how to deal with people. And many people love the book The Alchemist.”

The library is open to all, but the hours are not great, Ahmed said. “Unfortunately, because the people who catalog the books are all revolutionaries…and they cannot be present all the time. So at the moment, it opens from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.”

You can listen to the whole interview at the BBC website. Thanks to librarian Isabella Rowan for passing it along.

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On the Anniversary of Goethe’s Death on this day in 1832

March 22nd, 2016 · Poem, Translation

johann-wolfgang-von-goethe100-_v-img__16__9__l_-1dc0e8f74459dd04c91a0d45af4972b9069f1135Here a poem by Goethe from his West-Östlicher Divan, a poem addressed to the greatness of the Persian poet Hafiz, and that we can now read as addressing the greatness of the poet Goethe. First in the original, then in my translation.


Daß du nicht enden kannst, das macht dich groß,
Und daß du nie beginnst, das ist dein Los.
Dein Lied ist drehend wie das Sterngewölbe,
Anfang und Ende immerfort dasselbe,
Und, was die Mitte bringt, ist offenbar
Das, was zu Ende bleibt und Anfangs war.

Du bist der Freuden echte Dichterquelle
Und ungezählt entfließt dir Well’ auf Welle.
Zum Küssen stets bereiter Mund,
Ein Brustgesang, der lieblich fließet,
Zum Trinken stets gereizter Schlund,
Ein gutes Herz, das sich ergießet.

Und mag die ganze Welt versinken,
Hafis mit dir, mit dir allein
Will ich wetteifern! Lust und Pein
Sei uns, den Zwillingen, gemein!
Wie du zu lieben und zu trinken,
Das soll mein Stolz, mein Leben sein.

Nun töne Lied mit eignem Feuer!
Denn du bist älter, du bist neuer.


That you never end is what makes you great.
And that you never begin is your fate.
Your song’s a gyre like heaven’s vault,
Beginning and end are ever the same
And what the middle brings is patently
What stays to the end and was at the beginning.

For joy you are true poet’s source
That  wave after wave ceaselessly spills from you.
A mouth always ready to kiss,
A breast filled with sweet song pouring forth,
A throat always parched for drink,
A good heart, gushing.

And if the whole world should disappear
Hafiz, with you and you alone
Would I compete! Pleasure & pain
As twins we’d share!
To love & to drink like you
That shall be my pride, my life.

May songs now resound with their own fire!
For you are older, you are newer!

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Miles in Vienna, 1973

March 19th, 2016 · Jazz, Music, Uncategorized

For the sheer pleasure of it, this Saturday afternoon, that many years later. Thanks, John. Enjoy.

Miles Davis (tpt, org); Dave Liebman (ss, ts, fl); Pete Cosey (g, perc); Reggie Lucas (g); Michael Henderson (el-b); Al Foster (d); James Mtume Forman (cga, perc)

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Happy 70th, Joachim Sartorius!

March 18th, 2016 · Poet, Poetry, Translator, Uncategorized

sarJoachim Sartorius is one of Germany’s most elegant poets and, besides diplomatic service in New York, Istanbul, Prague and Cyprus, as well as becoming director general of the Goethe Institut in 1996, he also directed the Berliner Festspiele from 2001 to 1011. Sartorius is further the editor of the Collected Works of Malcolm Lowry and William Carlos Williams and has translated, among others, John Ashbery, Wallace Stevens and ee cummings. Below, a poem of his translated by Andrew Shields & borrowed from the Poetry Foundation’s website. Below that, the Perlentaucher’s list of Satorius’ latest books. His work is in dire need of translation.

From here into the north, the ways are
dry. Yellow grass,
thirst in the roots. In the hearts.
It’s all simple, but false.
When I try to think history,
the enormous vertebrae
of the dinosaur behind the purple beeches
in Invalidenstrasse,
Bismarck in marble,
and Benn, a nameplate on Bozener, lifeless.
In the depths of the bunkers
on Potsdamer Platz in Berlin
are the shoes of Hitler’s favorite horse.
Profile of power: armor and helmet.
In our pants pockets, we crumple
the banners. Full of satisfaction
we hear the flags splinter
in the fabric’s darkness.
Don’t forget the poets’ loaded dice.
When iron rules again,
we will have to console ourselves,
adorn stones with smaller stones,
the heart with water.

Joachim Sartorius: Für nichts und wieder alles. Gedichte

Bestellen bei buecher.deCover: Joachim Sartorius. Für nichts und wieder alles - Gedichte. Kiepenheuer und Witsch Verlag, Köln, 2016.

Kiepenheuer und Witsch Verlag, Köln 2016,ISBN 9783462048223, Gebunden, 96 Seiten, 15,00 EUR
Joachim Sartorius bewohnt das zwielichtige und fruchtbare Territorium, wo Orient und Okzident sich begegnen. In seinem neuen, lange erwarteten Gedichtband finden wir seine halb imaginierten, halb realen Städte… mehr lesen

Joachim Sartorius (Hg.): Niemals eine Atempause. Handbuch der politischen Poesie im 20. Jahrhundert

Bestellen bei buecher.deCover: Joachim Sartorius (Hg.). Niemals eine Atempause - Handbuch der politischen Poesie im 20. Jahrhundert. Kiepenheuer und Witsch Verlag, Köln, 2014.

Kiepenheuer und Witsch Verlag, Köln 2014,ISBN 9783462046915, Kartoniert, 348 Seiten, 22,99 EUR
Mit seinem “Handbuch der politischen Poesie” entwirft Joachim Sartorius eine Weltkarte der Katastrophen und Aufbrüche, die das vergangene Jahrhundert prägten – vom armenischen Genozid bis zum Vietnamkrieg, von…mehr lesen

Joachim Sartorius: Die Prinzeninseln.

Bestellen bei buecher.deCover: Joachim Sartorius. Die Prinzeninseln. Marebuchverlag, Hamburg, 2009.

Marebuchverlag, Hamburg 2009,ISBN 9783866481169, Gebunden, 127 Seiten, 18,00 EUR
Istanbul vorgelagert, entlang der asiatischen Küste des Marmarameers befinden sich die Prinzeninseln: ein Archipel von ungewöhnlicher Schönheit und natürlicher Pracht, der seit jeher als maritimer Vorort der imperialen… mehr lesen

Joachim Sartorius: Hotel des Etrangers. Gedichte

Bestellen bei buecher.deCover: Joachim Sartorius. Hotel des Etrangers - Gedichte. Kiepenheuer und Witsch Verlag, Köln, 2008.

Kiepenheuer und Witsch Verlag, Köln 2008,ISBN 9783462040326, Gebunden, 76 Seiten, 16,95 EUR
Reisen, Erinnern, Meditieren – Gedichte von Joachim Sartorius. Er bleibt darin seinen großen Themen treu. Das sind die Sinnlichkeit und die Vergänglichkeit, die körperliche Liebe und ihr großer… mehr lesen

Joachim Sartorius (Hg.): Zwischen Berlin und Beirut. West-östliche Geschichten

Bestellen bei buecher.deCover: Joachim Sartorius (Hg.). Zwischen Berlin und Beirut - West-östliche Geschichten. C. H. Beck Verlag, München, 2007.

C. H. Beck Verlag, München 2007,ISBN 9783406563683, Gebunden, 288 Seiten, 24,90 EUR
Mit einem Vorwort von Navid Kermani. Autoren aus Deutschland treffen Kollegen in Ländern des Nahen Ostens, dann kommen diese zum Gegenbesuch nach Deutschland, und aus den wechselseitigen Erfahrungen…mehr lesen

Joachim Sartorius: Das Innere der Schiffe. Zwischen Wort und Bild

Bestellen bei buecher.deCover: Joachim Sartorius. Das Innere der Schiffe - Zwischen Wort und Bild. DuMont Verlag, Köln, 2006.

DuMont Verlag, Köln 2006,ISBN 9783832179786, Gebunden, 259 Seiten, 22,90 EUR
Die versammelten Essays des Dichters, Übersetzers, Kulturdiplomaten und Intendanten der Berliner Festspiele Joachim Sartorius umspielen in ihrem Titel die Troerinnen des Euripides: “Nie war ich im Inneren…mehr lesen

Joachim Sartorius: Ich habe die Nacht. Gedichte

Bestellen bei buecher.deCover: Joachim Sartorius. Ich habe die Nacht - Gedichte. DuMont Verlag, Köln, 2003.

DuMont Verlag, Köln 2003,ISBN 9783832178338, Gebunden, 90 Seiten, 17,90 EUR
Seine Reisen zwischen Kontinenten, Kulturen und Epochen, seine Begegnungen, Beobachtungen und Lektüren trägt Joachim Sartorius in “Ich habe die Nacht” zusammen: Ein Museum zeitgenössischer Poesie, dessen Sammlungen die… mehr lesen

Joachim Sartorius (Hg.): Alexandria. Fata Morgana

Bestellen bei buecher.deCover: Joachim Sartorius (Hg.). Alexandria - Fata Morgana. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (DVA), München, 2001.

Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (DVA), Stuttgart 2001,ISBN 9783421054975, Gebunden, 316 Seiten, 34,77 EUR
Von Alexander dem Großen gegründet, zu Zeiten der Ptolemäer ein zweites Athen, wuchs Alexandria im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert zu neuer Größe und wurde zum Fluchtpunkt… mehr lesen

Joachim Sartorius: In den ägyptischen Filmen. Gedichte

Bestellen bei

Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2001,ISBN 9783518397527, Taschenbuch, 101 Seiten, 6,50 EUR
Mit einem Nachwort von Cees Nooteboom. Fast die Hälfte seines Lebens hat Joachim Sartorius im Ausland verbracht, in Nordafrika, Istanbul. Zypern. Mit “In den ägyptischen Filmen” liegt nun… mehr lesen

Joachim Sartorius (Hg.): Minima poetica. Für eine Poetik des zeitgenössischen Gedichts

Bestellen bei

Kiepenheuer und Witsch Verlag, Köln 1999,ISBN 9783462027877, gebunden, 194 Seiten, 19,43 EUR
Es ist paradox: die Lyrik hat sich gegen alle Anfechtungen und alle Versuche, sie für tot zu erklären, als resistent erwiesen. Die Gedichte von Seamus Heaney und Inger… mehr lesen

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“Alice, the Zeta Cat and Climate Change”: A fairytale about the truth

March 17th, 2016 · Book Launch, Climate Change

Alice_2_150Unhappily there isn’t an English edition available yet! Somebody translate it, quick!

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


“Alice, the Zeta Cat and Climate Change”: A fairytale about the truth

On a school field trip to Potsdam’s Telegraph Hill, Alice runs after a white rabbit – and falls into a hole, sliding down the ventilation shaft of a climate research institute’s supercomputer. From here on follows a journey through the virtual world of computer models, from tropical rainforests to the ice of Antarctica. This is the rather unusual beginning of a new publication from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), in very free adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s philosophical children’s book classic “Alice in Wonderland”. More than 50 scientists provided their expertise for this work by Margret Boysen, which is being presented at this year’s Leipzig Book Fair and is now available in book shops.

“This lovely book, which should have the widest possible reach, tells the epic climate-change story in terms of a ‘fairytale about the truth’,” says Lord Martin Rees, former President of the Royal Society and Master of Trinity College in Cambridge.

The story starts with little calculation steps in the snow, culminates in a chaotic climate conference which transmutes into a tribunal, and even lands Alice in prison, where gravitation physics fortunately provides a liberating formula. Never before has the science on human-made global warming and its impacts – from record weather extremes to sea-level rise – been presented in this kind of literary manner. “’Alice, the Zeta Cat and Climate Change’ is an accomplished, highly creative and linguistically sophisticated allegory that contributes to and enriches science communication”, says Joachim Müller-Jung from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a leading German daily newspaper.

Logic and poetry alone do not suffice – compassion is needed

The author, a geologist by training, leads PIK’s Artist in Residence programme which regularly brings writers or artists to Potsdam for a few months’ exchange between the arts and science. “It has been a pleasure to turn the already absurd tale of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ upside down, and to build a bridge from there to some of the most exciting scientific insights of our times,” comments Boysen about her book. “Carroll’s Cheshire Cat only tells Alice that right and left do not matter: wherever the girl turns, she’ll meet lunatics. The mathematical-metaphorical cat Zeta, however, tells Alice about paths that lead out of the catastrophe,” Boysen says, alluding to the cat’s ability to make any scientific fact or phenomenon easy to understand by explaining it in a visual way.

“Since logic and poetry alone do not suffice to avoid dangerous global warming, but can only describe them, my book is also about compassion or indifference. We humans will only choose the right paths if we can empathise with the fate of others – this is what my protagonist does.” Whether it’s about Professor Glazival who drowned in a flood of data, an abducted walrus or the albatros lady Molly Mauk who’s under suspicion of ‘terraism’ – Alice decides to show her colours.

Book: Boysen, M. (2016): Alice, der Klimawandel und die Katze Zeta. Edition Rugerup (ISBN 978-3-942955-52-2, 21,90 Euro)

Weblink to the book:

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al-Hajaya’s Elegy on Rashid az-Zyudi

March 16th, 2016 · Arab Culture, Arabic, Poetry, Poetry readings, Translation


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Elegy on Rashid az-Zyudi

Rest in peace, you who sold your life
And spared it for the homeland’s sake: Zyudi
Rest in peace, Rashid, as many times as the wind blows
I hope you’re in heaven’s peace and eternity
Zyudi, you followed Wasfi, Hazza‘,
Salih Shwe‘ir, and all such noble lions
A brave man, a lion, from a lion’s pride!
Men of noble origin who keep their pledges
Your blood brightens our path
Our borders’ protectors take pride in its glory
Under Hashemite rule, you’ve proven yourself a man
Abu al-Hussein! We’re all his soldiers
It’s a War on Terror—we’re all resolved,
Our people and our army, to spare no effort
Jordan’s stronger than evil men’s aims
With such gallant lads defending its borders
Rest in peace, Rashid, as many times as the wind blows
I hope you’re in heaven’s peace and eternity
We all bleed grief for you, by God
Oh son of cheetahs, the recompense of God will come!


Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 8.58.33 AM

William Tamplin, the translator, comments:

On March 2 in the northern Jordanian city of Irbid, police raided an ISIS cell, and a police captain named Rashid az-Zyudi was killed. Muhammad Fanatil al-Hajaya, a Bedouin poet from a hamlet in the south, started writing poems. His inspiration for writing this poem was twofold. The existence of the ISIS cell and its imminent attack shook Jordan to the core, and as a public figure Hajaya had to respond soon. Moreover, Hajaya saw footage of Jordan’s King Abdullah II burying Zyudi as if he were his own son, and this affected him.
Why did the attack shake Jordan to the core? Hajaya relates that unlike the Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, and refugees from 41 other nationalities Jordan has sheltered, Jordanians would have nowhere to flee if ISIS attacked. So all Jordanians feel targeted, and Hajaya believes that Zyudi thus died for all of them. But if Jordanians feel targeted, Hajaya added, they also feel united. Indeed, even the opposition Muslim Brotherhood called for national unity in the aftermath of the raid.
Hajaya’s elegy on Zyudi follows the conventions of the traditional Bedouin elegy. It calls for God’s peace on Zyudi’s soul, reclaims the manner of Zyudi’s death, promises revenge on Zyudi’s killers, and praises Zyudi for sacrificing his life for his country. Hajaya consequently places Zyudi in the context of fallen Jordanian heroes: Wasfi at-Tal, the Jordanian prime minister assassinated by Black September in 1971; Hazza‘ al-Majali, another Jordanian prime minister assassinated in 1960; and Salih Shwe‘ir, a lieutenant colonel in the Jordanian army who refused to surrender to Israeli forces in 1967 and fought to the death. The poem also lauds Zyudi’s bravery and lineage, praising his leonine qualities and his descent from a pride of lions (lābit isbā‘). As Hajaya did in his elegies on Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Qaddafi and Mu‘ath al-Kasasbeh, he reclaims the manner of Zyudi’s death by writing that his blood brightens Jordan’s path forward. Moreover, Zyudi was endowed with all the manly virtues (wāfī al-bā‘), another praise trope in Bedouin poetry.
In the next line Hajaya refers to Jordan’s war on ISIS as a “War on Terror,” a phrase often derided in the Arab media for Bush’s use of it to justify the American invasion of Iraq. Hajaya used it ironically in a poem he wrote from Bush’s point of view in 2004, but he has apparently reappropriated the phrase now that Jordan is a major ISIS target. Hajaya also goes out of his way in this poem to praise those guarding Jordan’s “borders,” any weak spots that Jordan’s enemies could exploit. He means not only the border guards in the Desert Patrol guarding Jordan’s borders with Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia but also the intelligence officers working in bunkers in Amman.
It would be a mistake to read this poem purely as poetry. To be sure, Hajaya has written many poems that are beautiful as poems, but he also writes poetry that is nationalist, ideological, and reliant on stock tropes from more prosaic Bedouin poetry. Some detractors from this poetry claim that it is merely a collection of political slogans, and that is not untrue. But these poems are also potent conveyors of ideology on a popular level in a country that needs as much national unity as it can get.

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The Murder of Syrian Poet Mohammad Bashir al-Aani

March 15th, 2016 · Obituaries, Poet, Uncategorized


by mlynxqualey

PEN International has condemned the murder of Mohammad Bashir al-Aani and his son Elyas in Deir al-Zour City “by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS)”:

Al-Aani’s death was reported last Thursday. The poet, who published three collections, was reportedly kidnapped last fall.

From the PEN release:

According to media reports, Al-Aani and his son were originally held in an undisclosed locations with 100 others after they attempted to leave an area of the city that was besieged by IS forces. Reports emerged in recent days that both al-Aani and his son were killed after IS accused them of ‘apostasy’.

Al-Aani, the PEN statement continues, was known for his opposition to the Bashar al-Assad government. According to family members, the poet and his son had returned to the area to bury his wife, who had died in Damascus, when they were kidnapped.

Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee:

We are shocked and deeply saddened by reports that Mohammad Bashir al-Aani and his son Elyas were murdered by the militant group Islamic State which had accused them of ‘apostasy’. The deliberate murder of civilians during an armed conflict is a war crime and both those who commit them and those who order them must be brought to justice. We call on all actors involved or with interests in this conflict to use all diplomatic means possible to ensure that no more civilians – including writers – are killed.

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