Sunday Jul 14

Jubouri Amal Al-Jubouri was born in Iraq, and is the author of five collections of poetry, including This Body is Yours, Do Not Fear for My Sake, which received the prize for best Arabic book at the Beirut book fair.  She has also translated many plays and collections of poetry into Arabic.  In 1997, she fled Iraq for Europe and settled in Münich.  She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of al-Diwan, the Arab-German literary magazine, and since 2001, has presided as Chairman of the Board for the East-West gathering for Arabic-German cultural exchange, in Berlin.  Her most recent book, Hagar Before the Occupation/Hagar After the Occupation, translated by Rebecca Gayle Howell and Husam Qaisi, will be her first collection in English.


Howell Rebecca Gayle Howell is a poet, translator, and documentarian.  Her poems have appeared in such journals as Ecotone, The Connecticut Review, Numinous, and the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.  Her documentary work has been collected in the anthologies Plundering Appalachia (EarthWise) and The Artist as Activist in Appalachia (U of North Georgia P), and she was the photographer for Arwen Donahue’s This is Home Now: Kentucky’s Holocaust Survivors Speak (UP of Kentucky).  Currently, she is an MFA candidate at Drew University and is co-translating, with Husam Qaisi, Amal Al-Jubouri’s Hagar Before the Occupation/Hagar After the Occupation.  She sits on the faculty for the BFA in creative writing at Morehead State University, in Eastern Kentucky.


Husam Husam Qaisi was born in Amman, Jordan, and moved to the United States in 2004. While In Jordan, Qaisi was a successful businessman and tradesman of electronics and had sustained a love for poetry and literature since childhood.  Currently, he is co-translating, with poet Rebecca Gayle Howell, Amal Al-Jubouri's Hagar Before the Occupation/Hagar After the Occupation.


Six poems by Amal Al-Jubouri translated from Arabic by Rebecca Gayle Howell and Husam Qaisi:

My daughter before the occupation

used to ask me why we were here
I called it exile She called it my country

She says If we're in the majority, why did you abandon our home?
All my answers dropped into her questions
until her country was squandered and mine, deported

ابنتي قبل الاحتلال

كانت تسألني عن سبب ِ وجودنا في بلد أُسمـّيه منفى
و تـُسمـّيه بلادي

تقول إذا كان السـَّوادُ بلادنا فلماذا هـَجَـرْتِ بلادي
سقطت كلّ أجوبتي في
أسئلتها حتى ضاعت بلادها و هـُجـِّرت بلادي

My daughter after the occupation

knows no one but her grandmother
whose face has more wrinkles than the city's face

And that's all she wants to know

ابنتي بعد الاحتلال

لا تعرف غير جدّتها التي تجعّدت أكثر مما تجعّد وجه

و لا تريد أن تعرف أكثر من ذلك

My husband before the occupation

He stumbled between his fear and his fire
I was slave but his mistress, lady

His name, a tattoo of my pain
His past, a crematorium for my poetry

Once upon a time, my husband—

زوجي قبل الاحتلال

كان متردّداً بين رعبه و قلبه
كان يسمّيني أمـَة ً
و يـُسمّي غريمتي السيّدة
كان أسمه وشماً لمحنتي
كان تاريخه محرقة لقصائدي
كان يا ما كان
كان زوجي قبل الاحتلال.

My husband after the occupation

I said to my husband—
Be like a brother to me
Let's not wet our marriage bed with even one drop of happiness

The Mujahideen, now in our house,
would smell love's musk, our sweat

They'd behead anyone
who had both love and breath

زوجي بعد الاحتلال

قلت لزوجي الذي كان من قبل أخي
لن نحتفلَ بالحبّ و لن نضمّخَ سرير زواجنا بالفرح
لأن "المجاهدين" الذين دخلوا حياتنا
سوف يشمّون رائحة الحب
ويقرّرون قطع رؤوس كلّ الأزواج الذين يشبهوننا

My heart before the occupation

— A spider
Her web, appearing so old across my door
the informants pass by, confused

She seduced me into this cold cave
but kept me alive with her warm unknown

قلبي قبل الاحتلال

عنكبوت ضلّـل المخبرين عن المعنى
ودثـَّرني بغوايةِ الغموض

My heart after the occupation

—A prisoner, an escapee teasing
and laughing at the shackled rest of me

She flies into her new freedom
while I choke

while even my gift to breathe is bound

قلبي بعد الاحتلال

هربَ من أَسْـرِ روحي، شامتاً بسجنِ أنفاسي
فرحاً بحرّيته
التي غصـَّت و تقّيـأت موتي