Slow Jazz, Recklessness, Nightmares, and Void by Ashraf Zaghal

Transference, Aug 2018

Translated from Arabic by Ghada Mourad

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Slow Jazz, Recklessness, Nightmares, and Void by Ashraf Zaghal

Slow Jazz, Recklessness, Nightmares, and Void by Ashraf Zaghal Ghada Mourad 0 1 0 Part of the Near Eastern Languages and Societies Commons, Poetry Commons, and the Translation Studies Commons 1 University of California , Irvine , USA Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/transference - Article 3 The camel stopped at the old tavern’s door And asked for water and sand We gave him a bucket of water and a tequila shot And we recommended that he follow the Silk Road Where the sands do not end And where the she-camels are pure gold Ashraf Zaghal ¡wDÐ “Uł The camel is a jovial animal In some sense He walks as if he is dancing He moves his nose as if he has just swallowed a whole garden of cocaine The camel is a respectable animal You can see a bit of villainy in his eyes And a bit of pain But at the end of the day he is an esteemed and elegant Animal And a fitting theme for a poem written in an old tavern W1bI ö Ú5¹U u ÓWI¹ tOMOŽ w  1 Ghada Mourad Recklessness Ashraf Zaghal ‚ÓeÓ½ -2The woman in her forties who visited me at midnight Could not leave the bed Her heart was tender As a snail in early spring My heart was dried up Like a passing shoe -3It was a few days After Christmas When I was thinking about what to do with the Christmas tree And the Christmas things Then this idea surprised me: Why does Santa bring all this fun But never comes back to collect his garbage? Nightmare 1 Patriotic poets Are eating a child In my bedroom Nightmares: ﺲﯿﻴﺑاﺍﻮﻛ Ashraf Zaghal Nightmares: ﺲﯿﻴﺑاﺍﻮﻛ Nightmare 2 The grass on the riverbanks Ate the river’s frogs Not a single frog is left The grass is now a big frog That will devour me because I resemble the prophet’s horse Nightmare 3 There are five poems in my head And on the highway there are Five hundred cars The five poems are now left on the edge of the road Like squirrels with their stomachs ripped out Nightmare 4 Jerusalem’s demons Play Hamlet On the doorsteps of my house in Canada I am Hamlet Nightmare 5 Because the street is narrower than a girl’s waist I made love to the street Transfec Ghada Mourad Void Ashraf Zaghal ⁄«d Ashraf Zaghal belongs to a generation of Palestinian poets that has decided to be a voice of everyday life with its ups and downs, away from the serious and combative tone of poetry of the previous generation. Zaghal’s collection, A Desert in the Metro, brings many motifs from traditional Arabic poetry written in or about the desert into a modern city setting—symbolized in the title by metro. Hence, this collection mingles the ancient with the modern without claiming to root itself in the tradition of desert poetry. Rather, the presence of the traditional motifs signals at the same time a distance from them, afforded by the sarcastic tone as well as the playful, seemingly lighthearted diction. Furthermore, as Zaghal’s poetry claims to—and in fact does— distance itself from the previous generation of politically committed poetry, Palestine seeps through the poems in the form of fragments or snippets that illustrate the irreducible presence of the experience of displacement and landlessness that cannot be ignored or repressed, as in “Nightmare 6,” which represents one of the nightmares continually experienced by any Palestinian. Zaghal’s deceptively simple diction and his ironic tone constitute the main features of his poetry, and I tried to preserve the diction level as well as the irony. And of course the rhythm of the Arabic matches the tone and the themes. I did my best to maintain the rhythm in the poems. For the most part, translating Ashraf Zaghal’s poems has been a pleasurable process, particularly when felicitous alliterations or unexpected rhymes occur in the English, as in “Slow Jazz” where “sand, road, end, gold” have a slant rhyme that provides a kind of cohesion to the stanza. The main challenge for the translator comes from the fact that Zaghal’s diction in Arabic can be easily distinguished from Darwish’s or Zaptan’s, but in English the distinction is much subtler, mainly because English does not allow as much space for this diversity as Arabic does. Hence, a translator needs to be aware of the necessity to bring to the Anglophone reader this peculiar aspect of Zaghal’s poems.


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Ghada Mourad. Slow Jazz, Recklessness, Nightmares, and Void by Ashraf Zaghal, Transference, 2018,