Friday, April 01, 2005

National Poetry Month (NourbeSe Philip & Adonis)

Today opens the 10th annual National Poetry Month (NPM), initiated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, a formerly incorrigibly élitist organization that has transformed itself in the last few years.

NPM aims to advance the case and cause of poetry, and has done so by helping to create poetry book clubs, foster public discussions about poetry, promote and sponsor readings, and focus the mainstream media's grossly short, spectacle-focused attention spans on this ancient literary art. According to the National Endowment for the Art's 2004 "Reading at Risk" report, reading poetry remains a minority pursuit, however. In addition, I personally find the American fixation with the month-long identitarian catchall measure problematic, but at least there is one for poetry. I mean, we could certainly use American history, world history, mathematics, public etiquette, English grammar, and countless other topics. Including reading itself.

To get things going, here are poems by two poets whose work I return to, the M. NourbeSe Philip (a Canadian poet born in Tobago), and Adonis (native of Syria).


by M. NourbeSe Philip

If no one listens and cries
is it still poetry
if no one sings the note between the silences
if the voice doesn't founder on the edge of the air
is it still music
if there is no one to hear
is it love
or does the sea always roar
in the shell at the ear?

Copyright (c) 2005, by M. NourbeSe Philip. All rights reserved.


by Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said)

My banner is an end.
it neither fraternizes
nor meets half-way.
An end are my songs.
Here I am,
amassing the flowers,
alerting the trees,
erecting the sky as a colonnade,
loving, living and getting born
in my words.
Here I am,
gathering the butterflies
under the morning's banner,
nurturing the fruits,
and dwelling with rain
in the clouds and their bells,
in the seas.
Here I am,
sailing the stars
and anchoring them,
and crowning myself
king of the winds.

Copyright (c) 2005, Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said). All rights reserved.
Translation from the Arabic by Kamal Abu-Deeb.

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