Saturday, April 14, 2007

Poem: Vénus Khoury-Ghata

Here's a poem by a poet I learned about a few years back, mainly because of her translator, the great poet Marilyn Hacker. The poet, Vénus Khoury-Ghata (1937-), is one of the giants of Lebanese literature, a literature marked by the often troubled, sometimes tragic, divided history of that country and the surrounding region. Khoury-Ghata's poetry, in French but strongly flavored by the Arabic she learned from her mother, reflect this tumultuous history, as well as the rich vein of her own personal experiences, which has encompassed a wide array of themes, including religion, village and more cosmopolitan life, cross-cultural exchange, and death and loss. I am posting both the French and Marilyn Hacker's translation; both are from the Poetry International Web site.

Pour Noha Al Hegelan

Si haute était la terre en ce temps-là
les femmes suspendaient linge et nuages à la meme corde
des anges s’accrochaient à leurs jupes pour les empecher de suivre les âmes égarées

Tout ce qui faisait commerce avec l’eau avait une âme
jarre calebasse bassine
les seaux repechaient celles qui végétaient dans l’indifférence des puits

Toute ombre mouvante était esquisse de revenant
tout chant de coq se transformait en présage
l’annonceur des naissances parlait plus haut que la cascade
mais plus bas que le vent qui avait mainmise sur le dedans et le dehors
dilatant les champs pauvres
repoussant l’horizon d’un arpent lorsque les maisons s’étrécissaient aux dimensions des cages

Le sage évitait de croiser son chemin
il vous cassait un homme sur son genou comme une paille

Copyright © 1999, Vénus Khoury-Ghata

For Noha al Hegelan

At that time the earth was so high up
women hung out clouds and laundry on the same line
angels gripped their skirts to keep them from following stray souls

Everything that frequented water had a soul
clay jug, gourd, basin
buckets fished out the ones stagnating in the wells’ indifference

Every moving shadow sketched a phantom
every cock-crow became an omen
the announcer of births spoke louder than the waterfall
but more softly than the wind which had taken over the indoors and the outdoors
swelling the paltry fields
pushing back the horizon of an acre as soon as the houses shrank to the size of cages

The wise man tried not to cross its path
it would break a man for you over its knee like a straw

Copyright © Translation: 2001, Marilyn Hacker

No comments:

Post a Comment