In this hybrid talk/reading, Kareem James Abu-Zeid will take us on a whirlwind journey through Arab poetry, using his own recent translations as stopping points. We will begin with what is often considered the very first Arabic text: the pre-Islamic “Hanging Poem” of Imru al-Qays (6th century CE). Following this, we will take a huge leap forward in time, with a short reading from the Syrian-born Adonis’s iconoclastic classic from the 1960s, "Songs of Mihyar the Damascene," often considered the high point of Arab modernist poetry. We will then transition to more contemporary work, taking the Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish as our focal point. The journey will conclude with a few remarks about Arab diaspora poets in general, and a poem or two from Olivia Elias, a contemporary French-language writer of the Palestinian diaspora.
Kareem James Abu-Zeid, PhD, is an award-winning translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world who translates from Arabic, French, and German. His work has earned him an NEA translation grant, PEN Center USA's Translation Award, Poetry magazine's translation prize, residencies from the Lannan Foundation and the Banff Centre, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany, and a CASA Fellowship in Egypt, among other honors. His most recent translation is the Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish's "Exhausted on the Cross" (NYRB Poets, 2021). He is also the author of "The Poetics of Adonis and Yves Bonnefoy: Poetry as Spiritual Practice" (Lockwood Press, 2021).