At a Poetry Festival
In front of each poet was the name of their country,but in front of methere was only "Jerusalem."How ghastly your name is, my little country,your name is all I have left,I sleep in itand wake with it.Your name's like a ship with no hope of arriving,no hope of returning....It never arrives, and it never returns.It never arrives, and it never goes under.
English Copyright © 2023 by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Najwan Darwish (b. 1978) 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 more than twenty languages. NYRB Poets published Darwish’s Nothing More to Lose, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, in 2014, which was picked as one of the best books of the year by NPR and nominated for several awards. His second major collection in English, Exhausted on the Cross, was published by NYRB Poets in 2021, with a Foreword by Raúl Zurita, and was awarded the Sarah Maguire Prize. His third major collection in English will be a selection from a decade of poetry, forthcoming in fall 2024 from Yale’s Margellos World Republic of Letters. Darwish lives between Haifa and his birthplace, Jerusalem.
Kareem James Abu-Zeid, PhD, is a freelance Egyptian-American translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world who works from Arabic, French, and German. He has received the Sarah Maguire Prize for poetry in translation, an NEA translation grant, PEN Center USA’s translation prize, Poetry Magazine’s translation prize, a Fulbright research fellowship, and residencies from the Lannan Foundation and the Banff International Center for the Arts, among other honors. He has also been a finalist for the PEN America Translation Prize (once in poetry and once in prose), the National Translation Award, the Derek Walcott Prize, and the Banipal Prize for Arabic Translation. His book-length translations include work by Najwan Darwish (Palestine), Adonis (Syria), Dunya Mikhail (Iraq), Rabee Jaber (Lebanon), and Olivia Elias (Palestine). He is also the author of the book The Poetics of Adonis and Yves Bonnefoy: Poetry as Spiritual Practice, and he teaches translation workshops around the world. The online hub for his work is www.kareemjamesabuzeid.com
“Action Books has been filling a gap in American publishing by translating works that are considered avant-garde masterpieces in other parts of the world into English. They’ve introduced Americans to writers from Sweden, Japan, Korea, Argentina, Chile… and the list goes on. They also published Tao Lin in the US before you knew who he was and had some dumb opinion about him, alongside a variety of other singular, shape-defying voices including big guns like Aase Berg, Kim Hyesoon, Don Mee Choi, Raúl Zurita, Hiromi Ito, and countless others.”
—Blake Butler, VICE Magazine