Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2 Arabic & 2 Persian love poems

(2 translations from the Arabic by Michael A. Sells)

from Ibn Arabi's TRANSLATOR OF DESIRES (Ibis Editions, 2000)

"Lords Of Love"

I wish I knew if they knew
whose heart they have taken

Or my heart knew
which high-ridge track they follow.

Do you picture them safe
or do you picture them perished?

The lords of love in love
are ensnared, bewildered.

from "Bid Hurayra Farewell" by Al-A'sha (Desert Tracings - Six Classic Arabian Odes -Wesleyan, 1989)

Bid Hurayra farewell.
The riders are departing.
Can you, man that you are,
bear bidding farewell?

Brow aglow, hair flowing,
a gleam from the side teeth as she smiles,
she walks gently as a gazelle,
tender-hoofed in wet soil,

As if her walk
from the tent of a neighbor
were the gliding of a cloud
neither slow nor hurried.

You hear her anklets whisper
as she turns away
like cassia rustling
suppliant in the breeze.

She's not one of those
whose neighbors hate to see her face.
You won't find her,
ear to their secrets, listening.

She braces herself
or she'd be thrown back flat
when rising to visit a neighbor,
by languor.

She entertains her companion awhile,
then slackens,
lower back and buttocks

Full at the bodice
at the waist sash nil,
a belle, seeming as she comes near
to divide in two.

How sweet a bedmate
on a cloudy afternoon,
not for some unbathed rude
to lay and take some pleasure,

Wide-hipped, delicate,
elbows soft, walk tender,
as if a thorn were caught
in the arch of her sandal.

As she rises
a fragrance of musk trails,
her sleeve-cuffs with the scent
of rose jasmine brimming over.

No meadow of the meadows
of the roughland plateau,
luxuriant and green, blessed
by dark-trailing big-dropped clouds,

When the sun is teased
by a blosssom in full flower,
drenched in color,
mantled deep in rushes and greens,

Is ever more fragrant,
more redolent
than she, or more beautiful
when evening shadows fall.

Rumi (from THE MASNAVI - Book One)

translated by Jawid Mojaddedi (OUP, 2004)

(from "The Healing Of The Sick Slave Girl")

Being a lover means your heart must ache,
No sickness hurts as much as when hearts break,
The lover's ailment's totally unique,
Love is the astrolabe of all we seek,
Whether you feel divine or earthly love,
Ultimately we're destined for above.
To capture love whatever words I say
Make me ashamed when love arrives my way,
While explanation sometimes makes things clear
True love through silence only one can hear:
The pen would smoothly write the things it knew
But when it came to love it split in two,
A donkey stuck in mud is logic's fate,
Love's nature only love can demonstrate:

(from "The Song Of The Reed")

Love's fire is what makes every reed-flute pine,
Love's fervour thus lends potency to wine;
The reed consoles those forced to be apart,
Its notes will lift the veil upon your heart,
Where's antidote or poison like its song,
Or confidant, or one who's pined so long?
This reed relates a tortuous path ahead,
Recalls the love with which Majnun's heart bled:
The few who hear the truths the reed has sung
Have lost their wits so they can speak this tongue.
The day is wasted if it's spent in grief,
Consumed by burning aches without relief -
Good times have long passed, but we couldn't care
When you're with us, our friend beyond compare!
While ordinary men on drops can thrive
A fish needs oceans daily to survive:
The way the ripe must feel the raw can't tell,
My speech must be concise, and so farewell!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Homage to Tony Judt

All organized religion is either evil or leads to evil.  I used to think that after a millenia or two, religious leaders and their faithful followers might settle down some and we wouldn't have something like the Inquisition or Holocaust repeated, but I was disabused of this notion when Israel turned to institutional terror, and Jewish people, especially in the U.S., became blinkered about Zionism.  It is true in my opinion, as Alan Sillitoe had noted, that too often anti-Israeli pro Palestinian mouthings are anti-Semitism by the back door, but that does not excuse the ugliness of things when an oppressed people become the oppressor, as here in the U.S., the early settlers, after achieving Independence, began to systematically attempt to eliminate Indian tribes.  Fueled by a strangely quick and for the most part unanticipated economic meltdown, white liberal guilt, a monolithic black vote, and the righteous disgust with years of Republican domination, Obama became our President.  Despite his primary skill, sophism, and a quick intelligence easily mistaken for intellectualism due to the fact that the U.S. is controlled on all levels by lawyers ("laws written by lawbreakers"), the military and police, investment banking honchos/dishonest business entrepreneurs and others of that cultureless ilk, many did believe that a more humane country would emerge.  With eight years of Bush and Cheney and cohorts no one expected anything other than crony capitalism favoring wealth, oil, and war-mongering.  But even a slight amelioration, which is what Zizek said was the best we could hope for, has in no way occurred.  The latest wrongheadedness on the part of the President is his approval of the mosque complex.  I for one do not believe that Islam is a religion of peace.  The Koran is filled with vicious anti-Semitism which cannot be excused as something merely historical.  Leaving aside similarites with evangelical Christianity, with both Moslems and Christians slaughtering each other for centuries in the name of holiness, what we have today is a continued incursion of Arab oil money moving West adjacent to the very spot in New York where so many were killed. Non-Muslims cannot even visit Mecca; what would Islamic leaders say if President Obama asked for a church or synagogue or inter-faith complex to be built there? It is the duty of every Muslim, as stated in the Koran, to convert unbelievers, by the sword if necessary.  More oppressive of women than any other religion in history, the mad mullahs, ignorant imams and their lackeys, especially in Iran, desire to Torquemada the world.  Obama's approving the mosque is another one of his errors in the name of a more forgiving country.  Perhaps he would like to have al-Megrahi dedicate the mosque?  A year now since his release at the behest of Scots nationalists (betraying the ideals of Wallace) working with New Labour corrupt Blairites (indistinguishable from Tories, really), and BP, and their deals in Libya dependent on said release.  As one blogger put it: "Of course there is freedom of religion in the U.S. and the idea of discriminating against a particular religion offends our fundamental values.  But it is a separate question whether the plan to build a mosque is a good one that persons of good will should choose to pursue as they exercise the freedom they are most assuredly guaranteed."  The problem is not simply the wishy-washyness of Obama and centrist republicrats, nor the greed-laden legacies of the Clintons, but the continued lowering of consciousness in America.  There was hue and cry raised by people when Obama called for a moratorium on drilling for six months.  Gulf residents have become dependent on the filth of oil revenue. Health care scams, millionaire doctors, billions for bloated research leading nowhere, big pharma, and insurance companies continue unabated despite the illusion of progress generated by the self-congratulatory smugness of the self-serving congress and their Uriah Heeps.  I don't believe there is an answer.  "There is a plague called man."  To use a convenient myth, we were chucked out of Eden and a return to a pre-lapsarian state is not possible.  We could, of course, be a little kinder to each other.                           

PS & N.B. ... (August 16th).....Even the name "Cordoba Initiative" shows disrespect and intolerance to all who are not of Islam. It is deception (and self-deception on the part of Muslims) to believe that the Muslim army hordes who invaded and conquered and occupied the Iberian peninsula in the Middle Ages for several centuries before finally being driven out, had established some sort of "golden age" in Spain. The "conviviencia" as it is sometimes called was a golden age only for Muslims, everyone else being a second-class citizen at best. The leading Judaic thinker (Maimonides) and the leading poet (Halevi) both were forced to flee Islamic Spain in fear of their lives. Scholars and historians today disagree as to the extent of the oppression in Cordoba, but there is general agreement that towards the end of the occupation it was little more than slaughter of non-believers and a prelude to the horrors of the Inquisition which followed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010



This is a letter sent to Susan Schultz, editor of the poetry journal, Tinfish, which she publishes from Oahu, where she works as a professor at the U. of Hawaii at Manoa.     

dear Susan,
i am sorry to impose on your time yet again, but i was quite dismayed by part of your recent blogpost (july 26th) criticizing as "appropriation" the magisterial, deep, ennobling and great work by W.S. Merwin, THE FOLDING CLIFFS (Knopf, 1998), which i consider a masterpiece not just of late 20th century American poetry, but one which as Ted Hughes noted, is "an original masterpiece on a very big scale"....
i did read with interest the links on your blog, in particular the link to the rather nasty (even jealous) deconstruction of THE FOLDING CLIFFS a decade ago (which i had not seen previously) by Kapalai ula de Silva.  you should note that it is absolutely incorrect of de Silva to say that Merwin does not acknowledge the major source of his meditative narrative.  he clearly states that he read the translation by Frances Frazier of Pi'ilani's story, and of course his poem is dedicated to Olivia Breitha, whose own little-known book, MY LIFE OF EXILE IN KALAUPAPA, (of which i blogposted about 5 years ago - Dec. 2, 2005: www.iprefernotto.blogspot.com), when i read it on Molokai, caused me to weep.  well, i am sentimental; i don't apologize for that. 
nor do i apologize for believing that when Haunani-Kay Trask (whose writing in other contexts (i.e. her book LIGHT IN THE CREVICE NEVER SEEN) and which i also blogposted on @iprefernotto, and like very much) writes (in your other link) that "Hawaiian culture is our culture.  It does not belong to everyone but only to us" that that is cultural fascism which i distrust and resist.  in fact, i think it typical of many Kanaka Maoli in Hawaii, to be so resentful, and in fact this goes completely against the grain of Polynesian sensibility, certainly in the islands south of the equator, which, despite all the horrors inflicted on the people there (far moreso than in Hawaii in point of fact) remains open and warm and sans the xenophobia which seems to exist in Hawaii, sad to say.  
you don't of course speak for the people of Oahu or of Hawaii so it is wrong of you to say that Merwin's extraordinary poem (and i do not know Merwin personally so i have no ax to grind in his defense except a poetic one) "was seen here as an act of appropriation" unless by "here" you simply refer to the academic world of Manoa.  you use the word quite negatively as you must know; would you also say that the lovely short film, KALUAIKOOLAU, made by the Ke Kula Ni'ihau O Kekaha Learning Center, is also an act of "appropriation"?        


be well... aloha.....