Adonis, while relatively unknown amongst English-speaking audiences, is perhaps the most acclaimed modern poet in the Arab world. The Syrian-born octogenarian, also an important critic, is widely considered a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize. Prior to this collection, very little of Adonis's poetry has been available in English. Selected Poems, however, may well come to be the definitive edition of his works in translation. Spanning some 50 years, this collection features poems from 14 distinct works, beginning with First Poems in 1957 and concluding with Printer of the Planets' Books in 2008.
Translated from Arabic by Khaled Mattawa (himself an award-winning poet), Selected Poems exemplifies the many disparate styles Adonis has employed over the decades. As the collection spans his entire literary career, it provides the appropriate context to witness his (often bewildering) range of poetry. Mattawa's introduction is an indispensable resource for anyone new to the Syrian poet's work, and it serves as an invaluable guide to understanding not only Adonis as a person but also the many themes and cultural references that inform and shape his poetry. Mattawa expounds at great length on the traditions of Arabic poetry and situates Adonis's work within its appropriate background, contrasting his many innovative and experimental styles against the more conventional forms of the genre. Mattawa also outlines the progression of Adonis's poetry, going book by book to illustrate the evolution of format and content that has characterized his writing.
Adonis explores a wide range of subjects within his poetry, with recurring motifs to be found throughout. Poems ruminating on the concept of identity proliferate, though Adonis also considers love, nature, religion, and war amongst other topics. Of the more notable (and lengthy) poems included in the collection are "Season of Tears," "Body" (excerpted from the 400-page Singular in a Plural Form), "This Is My Name," and "Candlelight." Selected Poems will most likely serve not only as an introduction to Adonis's poetry for many but also as the decisive English translation to which readers, critics, and scholars will return for years and, perhaps, decades to come. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Born in Syria in 1930, Adonis is one of the most celebrated poets of the Arabic-speaking world. His poems have earned international acclaim, and his influence on Arabic literature has been likened to that of T. S. Eliots on English-language verse. This volume serves as the first comprehensive survey of Adoniss work, allowing English readers to admire the arc of a remarkable literary career through the labors of the poets own handpicked translator, Khaled Mattawa.
Experimental in form and prophetic in tone, Adoniss poetry sings exultantly of both the sweet promise of eros and the lingering problems of the self. Steeped in the anguish of exile and the uncertainty of existence, Adonis demonstrates the poets profound affection for Arabic and European lyrical traditions even as his poems work to destabilize those very aesthetic and moral sensibilities. This collection positions the work of Adonis within the pantheon of the great poets of exile, including César Vallejo, Joseph Brodsky, and Paul Celan, providing for English readers the most complete vision yet of the work of the man whom the cultural critic Edward Said called “todays most daring and provocative Arab poet.”
About the Author
(born Ali Ahmad Said Esber) is a Syrian poet and essayist who led the modernist movement in Arabic poetry in the second half of the 20th century. He has written more than 20 books in his native Arabic, including the pioneering work An Introduction to Arab Poetics
. Adonis received the Bjørnson Prize in 2007. Other awards and honors include the first International Nâzim Hikmet Poetry Award, the Syria-Lebanon Best Poet Award, and the highest award of the International Poem Biennial in Brussels. He was elected a member of the Stéphane Mallarmé Academy in 1983. He lives in Paris.
Khaled Mattawa is assistant professor of language and literature at the University of Michigan. He is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Tocqueville (2010), and is the recipient of the PEN award for literary translation, a Guggenheim fellowship, and two Pushcart prizes. He was born in Benghazi, Libya, and emigrated to the United States when he was a teenager.