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.”
“There is no doubt this selection will prove to be the standard by which all translations, readings, and studies of Adoniss poetry in English will be judged. The sweeping canopy of his lifes achievement is astonishing in Khaled Mattawas vision. Mattawas lyrical rendition of Adoniss intensely musical Arabic is unparalleled by any available translation, old or recent, of Adoniss work in English.”—Fady Joudah, translator of If I Were Another: Poems by Mahmoud Darwish
“Adonis, born Ali Ahmad Said Esber in the Alaouite village of Qassabin in western Syria in 1930, is recognized as one of the most important poets and theorists of literature in the Arab world, and one of the most important contemporary poets and poetic thinkers in any language or context. His influence on Arabic poetry can be compared with that of Pound or Eliot on poetry in English, combined, however, with a radical and secular critique of his society. His poetry is widely known and available in Europe, in many languages and multiple translations. Khaled Mattawa , one of the best and most audacious younger American poets, also a brilliant, knowledgeable translator, has worked for two decades, latterly with the collaboration of Adonis, on a collection that will represent his scope, his thought , his linguistic daring and innovation to Anglophone readers. This magisterial anthology, covering more than fifty years of work, marked with the poets epic scope and lyrical precision, will indelibly mark his presence alongside world poets like Milosz, Akhmatova, Darwish, Neruda, Amichai and Bonnefoy.”—Marilyn Hacker
"This new selection and translation . . . is certainly needed. . . . [Adoniss] Concerto for 11th September/2001 B.C. . . . is nothing short of brilliant."--Kel Munger, Sacramento News & Review Kel Munger
"Adonis is one of the great luminaries in contemporary world poetry, and with this impressive and entrancing volume of selected poems in English, superbly translated by Khaled Mattawa, his pool of admirers here in America is bound to increase."—Spencer Dew, Rain Taxi Griffin Poetry Prize - The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry
Selected as a finalist for the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize sponsored by the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry Spencer Dew - Rain Taxi Review of Books
Khaled Mattawa was chosen as a MacArthur Fellow. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effecive institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defent human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. (prestige/important)
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.