Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Poem: Abdel-ilah Salhi

I'm procrastinating about writing/finishing a talk I have to deliver later this week, so in my tours through the web, I came across this poem, by the Moroccan poet Abdel-ilah Salhi (1968-), amid Poetry International's online mini-anthology of Moroccan poetry, translated by Norddine Zouitni. The translator says this about Saleh:

Since 1987, Salhi has been published widely in several magazines. Two collections of his poems, one in French and the other in Arabic will be published shortly.

Although the poetry of Abdel-ilah Salhi has varied extensively over the past years, it has kept some of its main characteristics, such as the celebration of everyday experience, the tone of humor which turns desperate situations into brilliant poetic moments, and the narrative tendency which dominates most of his poems. Indeed, Salhi is a brilliant storyteller whose friendship and hospitality are highly recommended. He is considered by many as the mouthpiece of the Moroccan “new poetry” in France, and Europe as a whole.

Salhi earns his living as a journalist and radio correspondent in France.

Here's one that stood out. (You can go to this page, where the long lines aren't cut off.)


They were quoting you
Murmuring your name like a prophet coming from afar
From whose mouth a unique music issues

My own French was not good enough even to purchase
bread decently
But the ring of your name
In the sidewise discussions had a special magic
Which for long put my extreme ignorance to shame

Migration is a sacred right, you said once
Nobody said that before you, and no one dared say it after
In this country which we married for love
I, Mohamed, Abdelkader, and Fatima
And other Arabs whose dusty names this poem is too narrow
to contain.
Until now I haven’t met anyone who could explain the mysteries
of your obscure expression
Laws say the opposite from one government to the other
And the caretaker is French of Portuguese origin
Yet he looks down on philosophers

I was in the subway stealing glances at a newspaper
someone was reading
When I saw your name printed in bold, and the headline
your death
It seems you threw yourself from the window
But why all those who love you to blindness
Love life more than anything else
I felt ashamed of my ignorance once again
And hated myself in plain Arabic
Despite the grumblings of the coloured owner of the newspaper

Migration is a sacred right
An expression which is enough it was once said
For me every morning to pursue my own sacred right
Seeking your protection O Gilles Deleuze

© Translation: 2004, Norddine Zouitni

The Arabic:

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