Customer Review

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New and improved, July 19, 2007
This review is from: So What: New and Selected Poems, 1971-2005 (Arabic Edition) (Paperback)
This Copper Canyon Press edition of Taha Muhammad Ali's poems is a greatly enhanced update of his earlier, Ibis Press "Never Mind" through which much of the wider reading public most likely first encountered this remarkable voice. The enhancements are significant, not the least of which is the Arabic/English en face presentation of the poems. The temptation to learn at least enough Arabic to get closer to the actual sound of Taha's poems is powerful. Even the wonderful introduction, by Israeli poet and translator Gabriel Levin is updated, adding, along with the additional poems, more pearls to the necklace.

The other translators, Peter Cole and Yahya Hijazi, complete a team of translators whose product illustrates the thesis of "Found In Translation", (another recent publication, from Toby Press, of Hebrew poetry, also introduced by Levin (establishing Levin as linchpin in this esoteric literary congregation of the very few humans who live in a truly multi-linguistic artistic arena)): poetry translated by poets able to enable monoglot readers to access the poetry itself, that which lies above and behind the forms. The translations by Cole, Hijazi, and Levin are of a quality with which readers of John Elwolde's incredible translation of "A History of the Hebrew Language" by Sa'enz-Badillos will be familiar; that is, themselves works of art.

The importance of this phenomenon cannot be allowed to go unnoticed: the Middle East in the voices of poets translated into English, thank God, by people who know the poets, speak, read, and write in their languages, and for whom English is a parent Tongue (Levin's father was the American writer Meyer Levin) may create the forum in which the people, whose voices they are, can hear and be heard.

"Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower"

In his life
he neither wrote nor read.
In his life he
didn't cut down a single tree,
didn't slit the throat
of a single calf.
In his life he did not speak
of the New York Times
behind its back,
didn't raise
his voice to a soul
except in his saying:
"Come in, please,
by God, you can't refuse."

_

Nevertheless -
his case is hopeless,
his situation
desperate.
His God-given rights are a grain of salt
tossed into the sea.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:
about his enemies
my client knows not a thing.
And I can assure you,
were he to encounter
the entire crew
of the aircraft carrier Enterprise,
he'd serve them eggs
sunny-side up,
and labneh
fresh from the bag.

VII. 1973

Don't you yearn to hear these words in Arabic? Perhaps there will be a DVD.

A Palestinian is finally being heard who does not just speak for the silent majority but is one of them, and Israelis and Americans helped make it happen. Peter Cole traveled with Taha on tour. Gabriel Levin, who, and this cannot be overnoticed, is literate to the artistic level in English, French (his mother is the celebrated French writer Tereska Szwarc), and Hebrew. These are artists performing Nabokovian linguistic feats.

Readers! We are so lucky to be audience to this. "Come in, please, by God you can't refuse."
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 8, 2008 12:50:51 PM PDT
I heard Taha and Peter Cole reading last night. I couldn't agree more with the review. To hear the poems in Arabic was unbelievable and Peter Cole's statement that Taha is the Thelonius Monk of Arabic poetry is right on.

Posted on Apr 8, 2008 12:52:37 PM PDT
I heard Taha and Peter Cole reading last night. I couldn't agree more with the review. To hear the poems in Arabic was unbelievable and Peter Cole's statement that Taha is the Thelonius Monk of Arabic poetry is right on.
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