04 August 2016

Poetry Thursday - Love Song for Words by Nazik Al-Malaika

See below* for the story behind the image

Love Song for Words

Why do we fear words
when they have been rose-palmed hands,
fragrant, passing gently over our cheeks,
and glasses of heartening wine
sipped, one summer, by thirsty lips?
Why do we fear words
when among them are words like unseen bells,
whose echo announces in our troubled lives
the coming of a period of enchanted dawn,
drenched in love, and life?
So why do we fear words?
We took pleasure in silence.
We became still, fearing the secret might part our lips.
We thought that in words laid an unseen ghoul,
crouching, hidden by the letters from the ear of time.
We shackled the thirsty letters,
we forbade them to spread the night for us
as a cushion, dripping with music, dreams,
and warm cups.
Why do we fear words?
Among them are words of smooth sweetness
whose letters have drawn the warmth of hope from two lips,
and others that, rejoicing in pleasure
have waded through momentary joy with two drunk eyes.
Words, poetry, tenderly
turned to caress our cheeks, sounds
that, asleep in their echo, lies a rich color, a rustling,
a secret ardor, a hidden longing.
Why do we fear words?
If their thorns have once wounded us,
then they have also wrapped their arms around our necks
and shed their sweet scent upon our desires.
If their letters have pierced us
and their face turned callously from us
Then they have also left us with an oud in our hands
And tomorrow they will shower us with life.
So pour us two full glasses of words!
Tomorrow we will build ourselves a dream-nest of words,
high, with ivy trailing from its letters.
We will nourish its buds with poetry
and water its flowers with words.
We will build a balcony for the timid rose
with pillars made of words,
and a cool hall flooded with deep shade,
guarded by words.
Our life we have dedicated as a prayer
To whom will we pray . . . but to words?

Translated from the Arabic by Rebecca Carol Johnson 
Influential Iraqi poet Nazik Al-Malaika (1923-2007) is credited with being the first to use free verse in Arabic poetry. Her poem Cholera, written in 1947, is considered to be a revolution in the Arabic poem.

Born in Baghdad, she wrote poetry even in childhood. After a first degree in Arabic literature, she went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and took further degrees, in comparative literature and inmusic. She taught at a number of schools and universities, living in Iraq until 1970 and then in Kuwait and finally Cairo.

"One Evening", transcribed 
*The Tuesday Drawing group was introduced to this poet by Najlaa, who had been to the Etel Adnan exhibition twice before we went to draw there, and used Adnan's poetry books as a springboard for making her own book. She chose to incorporate "One Evening", written by Al-Malaika in 1946. Sitting in the sun beside the waters of the Serpentine, we were curious about what the writing said, and Najlaa immediately translated the poem, part of Al-Malaika's romantic output. Unfortunately I couldn't find it on the internet, so have substituted another


ErikaM said...

Thank you

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