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Lannan Translations Selection #12: Mihyar of Damascus, His Songsby Adunis
Synopses & Reviews
Born in Syria in 1930, Adonis later moved to Lebanon and became a pivotal figure in the new poetry of the late 1960s. With the publication of Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs in 1963—widely viewed as a watershed moment in Arabic poetry—Adonis forged a new set of possibilities for Arabic poetry, writing in traditional meters but infusing them with modernist rhythms, styles, and conceptual complexities.
Translators Adnan Haydar (University of Arkansas in Fayetteville) and Michael Beard (University of North Dakota) co-edit a series of books, Middle East Literature in Translation, for Syracuse University Press.
"The availability in English of this seminal, startling, volatile, founding work of Arabic-language modernism is a welcome literary event. Adonis, born in Syria in 1930, is likely the most original Arabic poet of his generation; 'Mihar' is Adonis's sometimes ecstatic, often despairing alter ego, named for an 11th-century Persian poet, but reminiscent (to Western ears) of Arthur Rimbaud or Cesar Vallejo. Adonis excels both in stately free verse and in the prose poems he calls 'Psalms': 'I find refuge in night's childhood,' he writes, 'leaving my head on the morning's knees.' Exile and displacement (Adonis fled Syria for political reasons), and awareness of death and disappointment pervade the book's seven groups of lyric works: 'Dear Grave: you mark where I end/ and spring begins'; 'Falling is my natural condition, paradise my contrary... I announce the attraction of death.' Adonis also commemorates individuals, attacks evil ('It is for my land that I bleed') and begs heavenly help ('I call on you, green thunderbolt'). Despite occasional snags, translators Haydar and Beard have brought into English Adonis's paradox-laden, confidently defiant voice, which has already taken its place in the strong currents of world verse. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This breakthrough collection by a major world poet established a new direction in Arabic poetry.
About the Author
Adonis is arguably the leading Arabic poet in the world. Born in Qassabin, Syria, Adonis studied philosophy in Beirut, where he obtained his Doctorat d'Etat in 1973. After his arbitrary imprisonment for six months in 1955 for political activities and membership of the Syrian National Socialist Party, he settled in Lebanon in 1956, later becoming a Lebanese national. Adnan Haydar is head of the Arabic section in the department of foreign languages and professor of Arabic and comparative literature at the University of Arkansas, where he also directed the King Fahd Middle East Studies Program from 1993 to 1999. He has edited numerous modern Arabic novels in translation for Syracuse University Press. Michael Beard has been a member of the University of North Dakota faculty since 1979. He is a regular consultant to the NEH. In 1996 he received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach at University of Jordan. He has been a visiting professor at American University in Cairo, Egypt, and published nearly 100 articles and reviews on Middle Eastern literature.
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