Short reviews: poetry
I used to read a lot of poetry in French, but I’m extremely picky in English and can only appreciate very short verses. Recently, I read 2 very interesting books of poems:
Arabian Love Poems, by Nizar Kabbani, or Qabbani
As some of you may know, among other things I teach French on line, through Skype. I have students from all over the world, from all walks or life, which makes me discover lots of fascinating things in areas I would not discover by myself.
One of my students who has a very wide culture and is learning many languages, spoke to me about Nizar Kabbani. He was actually appalled I had never heard about him. When I read more about him, I was indeed quite ashamed.
I was fortunate to be able to find this bilingual edition in my library –even though alas I cannot understand the original.
Anyway the English translation is beautiful, and there’s a fascinating introduction presenting this famous Syrian poet, one of the most revered contemporary poets in the Arab world, and his ideas.
I like how Goodreads presents him:
Kabbani was a poet of great simplicity – direct, spontaneous, musical, using the language of everyday life. He was a ceaseless campaigner for women’s rights, and his verses praise the beauty of the female body, and of love. He was an Arab nationalist, yet he criticized Arab dictators and the lack of freedom in the Arab world.
And here is a perfect example:
In the summer
I stretch out on the shore
And think of you
Had I told the sea
What I felt for you,
It would have left its shores,
And followed me.
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
I discovered this year that I could watch the National Book Award Ceremony in free online live streaming. It was very interesting, I enjoyed Gaiman’s speech honoring Ursula K. Le Guin and her own speech. And I discovered new authors. I was impressed by Jacqueline Woodson and decided to read her book who won the Award in the category Young People’s Literature.
It is really a unique book, as Woodson uses the poetry genre to tell her own story: how it was like to grow up as an African American in between South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Her poems are very easy to understand, giving voice to her young self. They feel deeply authentic and moving, as they deal of course with the hot social and racial issues, but also her growing love of words and her dreams of becoming a writer one day.
This is really a beautiful book.
Here are 2 short passages: