Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs

Adonis, Author, Adnan Haydar, Translator, Michael Beard, Translator , trans. from the Arabic by Adnan Haydar and Michael Beard. BOA $21 (120p) ISBN 978-1-934414-09-5 ISBN 978-1-934414-08-8

The availability in English of this seminal, startling, volatile, founding work of Arabic-language modernism is a welcome literary event. Adonis, born in Syria in 1930, is likely the most original Arabic poet of his generation; “Mihar” is Adonis's sometimes ecstatic, often despairing alter ego, named for an 11th-century Persian poet, but reminiscent (to Western ears) of Arthur Rimbaud or Cesar Vallejo. Adonis excels both in stately free verse and in the prose poems he calls “Psalms”: “I find refuge in night's childhood,” he writes, “leaving my head on the morning's knees.” Exile and displacement (Adonis fled Syria for political reasons), and awareness of death and disappointment pervade the book's seven groups of lyric works: “Dear Grave: you mark where I end/ and spring begins”; “Falling is my natural condition, paradise my contrary... I announce the attraction of death.” Adonis also commemorates individuals, attacks evil (“It is for my land that I bleed”) and begs heavenly help (“I call on you, green thunderbolt”). Despite occasional snags, translators Haydar and Beard have brought into English Adonis's paradox-laden, confidently defiant voice, which has already taken its place in the strong currents of world verse. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/16/2008
Release date: 07/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 120 pages - 978-1-934414-08-8
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