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Adonis: Selected Poems (Margellos World Republic of Letters) [Hardcover]

Adonis , Khaled Mattawa

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Book Description

5 Nov 2010 Margellos World Republic of Letters
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 labours 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.

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"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"--Spencer Dew "Rain Taxi "

About the Author

Adonis (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 honours 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.

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adonis must be read - the most complete volume yet 8 Oct 2010
By Publicagent - Published on Amazon.com
I have been waiting for this book and was thrilled to see its release this year. Adonis is one of the all-time greats, and finally, we have a comprehensive volume of his work in English. Adonis worked with Khaled Mattawa for a long time (I heard eleven years) in bringing this volume together. The layout is beautiful, the poems are captivating, and we can finally read Adonis as he matures over the years.

Although not complete, this selection of poems is vast. Most major texts are represented, many very generously. I have only come across three poetry books by Adonis published in English, so for English readers, it doesn't get any better than this. Also, the translations are superb. I compared some lines of translation in this text with a previous publication that I have of Songs of Mihyar of Damascus. This one reads better. I don't read Arabic, and the Arabic version of the poems are not are provided (an asset as the book is a nice size to hold), so I can't pretend to compare it to the original.

One surprise is that "A Grave For New York" is not included. I'm not sure why. This is my favorite of all of Adonis' poems. It could be because it has been translated in several other collections. Or it could be because of personal preference. "A Grave For New York" can be found in A Time Between Ashes and Roses, The Pages of Day and Night, and Modern Arabic Poetry (Salma Khadra Jayyusi); all are excellent volumes. On the flip side, there are plenty of new gems that can't be found elsewhere spanning 1957-2008. And unlike many poets, his early poems do not disappoint.

If you haven't read Adonis, you are missing out, and this would be a wonderful place to start. His poems are surreal, powerful, lyrical, natural, mythic, experimental and a mixture of long and short. (Bob Kaufman, Kenneth Rexroth and Czeslaw Milosz come to mind.) Adonis has won a lot of international poetry awards and was a finalist for the Nobel Prize several times. He changed his name to Adonis when he was in his late teens because editors kept rejecting his works. He was also imprisoned in his early days because of membership with the Syrian National Socialist Party. In addition to poetry, he wrote many books of criticism and translations over the years including the first complete volume of Ovid's Metamorphoses to be translated into Arabic.

"It's necessary that something else comes alive. This is why I open caves under my skin for lightning to charge, and I build nests for it to reside. It's necessary that I cross like thunder through sad lips parched like straw, through autumn and stone, between skin and pores, between thigh and thigh."
-excerpt from "Psalm" from Songs of Mihyar of Damascus.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Arabic language world's most esteemed poet 4 Oct 2011
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
This is the most complete English collection of the poems of the Arabic language poet Adonis. Adonis is considered the dean of Arab poets in the Western world, the one who has made the greatest contribution to Arab poetry as a whole. He is considered an innovator who while knowing well traditional Arab forms pioneered in breaking the mold and moving Arabic Literature to greater freedom. His poetic credo sees poetry as a "leap outside of established concepts, a change in the order of things and in the way we look at them." He is a poet of love and sensual experience but also of mystical life. Ideologically he is known as a fierce secularist who believes the religious domination of Arab culture is to an extent to its detriment. Adonis whose poetry has not been widely known, or until this present translation been extensively translated into English is considered one of the senior poets on the global poetic scene. He has lived in exile for many years mostly in Paris. His work has been strongly influenced by that of Whitman and Baudelaire but above all by the French surrealists. He also combines a deep interest in mystical Sufi thought and his work often reflects this. As I do not know Arabic I cannot possibly speak about the quality of the translation, but as I understand it the translator is considered a close associate and collabator of Adonis, who knows his work very well. Adonis though he has a background as a Syrian nationalist is not considered to be primarily a political poet. He has spoken when asked about the popularity of his poetry of the need for Poetry to be difficult to challenge its reader, and lead the reader to be a co- creator of it.He has been defined as a poet of Exile and has said about this "Every artist is an exile within his own language," he said. "The Other is part of my inner being."
Adonis has had a long career which has moved in different stages. This work opens with a simple poem.
Translator Khaled Mattawa, who selected the poems, sets us on this journey with the relatively simple opening of "Love":

The road and the house love me,
the living and the dead,
and a red clay jug at home
loved by water.

Another stage of his comes with the more poetically difficult 'Songs of Mihyar of Damascaus'
"He lands among oars and rocks,
encounters the lost
in jugs proffered to brides,
in the whispers of seashells.
He declares the birth of our roots,
our weddings, harbors, and singers.
He utters the rebirth of the seas."

Recently he wrote an open letter condemning the oppression of the regime in Syria. One of his most famous poems is a condemnation of New York, the Statue of Liberty, Western culture. He spoke of the Stature of Liberty "lifting in one hand a rag called liberty," while with the other it throttles the earth." This poem of course brings to mind Emma Lazarus poem in which the Statue of Liberty is the great welcoming symbol of the New World, in which are welcomed 'the poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free' In this context Adonis' take on America certainly rankles. Yet though he is a critic of many elements of Western civilization he also celebrates its cultural freedom. But he also has written about Poetry's independence of Politics.

"No, I have no country
except for these clouds rising as a mist from lakes of poetry.
. . . my language, my home --
I hang you like a charm around the throat of this era
and explode my passions in your name
not because you are a temple
not because your are my father or mother
but because I dream of laughter, and I weep through you
so that I translate my insides ." . .

In another poem on the relation of East and West he writes,

"Everything stretches in history's tunnel....
I turn this map around,
for the world is all burned up:
East and West, a heap
of ash gathered
in the self-same grave."

I most often have difficulty appreciating modern poets in translation. Milosz is perhaps for me the greatest exception
in this. I cannot really judge yet in relation to this work which from whatever reading I have done to this point does seem to me richly suggestive and worth further exploration.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Autobiography in poetic form 31 Dec 2013
By Physics Professor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This set of collected works tells the story of a man's life over many decades, though his poems. It is one of the greatest books of poetry I've ever read, out of many hundreds.
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read poet 10 May 2014
By whysee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
These are remarkable poems and a must read. The composer Zaid Jabri has set two of these to music for the Stuttgart Neue Vocalsolisten.
1.0 out of 5 stars horrible 9 Mar 2014
By Ryan Lonergan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
this book made me get a divorce. anyone who loves their spouse should refrain from reading this collection of work.
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