book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

Language for a new century: contemporary poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and beyond

Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar

Chang, Tina; Nathalie Handal; Ravi Shankar; Carolyn Forché (intro);

Language for a new century: contemporary poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and beyond

W.W. Norton, 2008, 734 pages

ISBN 0393332381, 9780393332384

topics: |  poetry | anthology | world

poetry anthologies: what works and what doesn't?

poetry - indeed, all art - thrives on novelty. you buy a poetry anthology because you want to discover fresh, unseen voices.

in many cultures across the world, poetry has high prestige. poetry is read by the common people, snatches from poems lubricate conversation. this is true for the middle east, south asia, and much of the far east and latin america. one would imagine that these cultures may have a thriving poetry tradition. this is why a surprisingly large percentage of poetry is published and consumed in languages other than english.

so it stands to reason that there are many fresh voices lurking in these unknown literatures, and that is the premise behind this book. and this anthology fulfills the promise of novelty to the hilt - not more than one in ten poets will be familiar, even to erudite readers. and the voices are often fresh, so that you yearn for more - which is of course part of the objective of the book.

at the same time, you also want to enjoy flipping through the book, find more poems that are stimulating than those that are not. by this measure, there are few anthologies strong enough that i really like if i were to rank the various anthologies on my shelf (there are about 50), by my where-the-page-falls-open-test (most random pages have an excellent poem), i would rate this anthology quite highly.

to provide some perspective - here are some of my ratings in the very highest category:

the three poetry anthologies that i go back to again and again

  1. Carolyn Forché's Against Forgetting : These poems
	of suffering and protest and courage invariably rouse a spark.

  2. Arvind Mehrotra's Twelve Modern Indian Poets:
	An amazing ability to hold the reader.  The intro's are superbly
	acerbic.  (OK, parochialism at work also!!)

  3. Michael Roberts / Donald Hall's Faber book of modern verse : This is a bit dated
	now, but you sense a world in ferment, what with cubism, modernism,
	and the shadow of war.

and these i sort of like

  4. Jeffrey Paine's Poetry of our World : Manages to be surprisingly good,
	given the breadth, benefiting from an exceptional set of sub-editors.
  5. J Paul Hunter's Norton Introduction to Poetry : Amazingly
	slick collection, especially given it's textbook nature!
  6. Pritish Nandy's strangertime : works through the sheer visceral cultural
	passionate Indian poetry in English, born in the Calcutta of the 1970s.
  7. Ramazani and Ellman and O'Clair's Norton Anthology v.2 Contemporary Poetry
	a comprehensive coverage of modern poetry.  Though US-centered,
	it tries to reach out, especially to the Caribbean and other poets
	with US connections.
  8. Czeslaw Milosz's Book of luminous things:
	Just a selection of favourite poems, not much coherence, but most of
	the poems work.

good; but some of the selections don't work for me

In contrast to the books I like - my shelf of poetry is nearly four meters
most anthologies simply fail to inspire.
Most anthologies fail simply because in their eagerness to cover a broad
spectrum of poets, they give up on an attempt to hold interest.  This list
is large, but for me, it includes:
   - Jeet Thayil's 60 Indian poets (too sketchy, many of the selections
	rather patchy)
   - Dharwadker and Ramanujan's Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry
	(some languages like Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, are good, scrapes the
	bottom in others).
   - JD Mcclatchy's Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry
	(too shrill in its ambition)

[the above list was from may 2009.  within one year i had forgotten i had
this, and while making a list of my poetry anthology shelf, i made
another top-ten list and everything changed (it could have happened
sooner as well, so fluid are these subjective judgments)...  forche remains at
the head of the list, but mehrotra has fallen from no. 2 to 6, faber modern
has gone from no. 3 to 5.  a new book i bought, meena alexander's indian love poems
is at no. 4, and pritish nandy's infectious strangertime climbs to no. 2.
Ramazani is too staid and boring and has fallen off the top ten.
Another Norton anthology, J Paul Hunter's Introduction to Poetry
comes in at number 3.

as of 2011, LfaNC is growing on me.  i find myself picking it up more
often, and turning pages.  there are poems that fail to work, but many
others do... it still isn't there in the top ten. [jul 2015: but the
more i flip through it, the more it goes up in my regard. ]

book review: LfaNC

the attempt, as stated in the preface is "to include as many crucial voices
as possible".  this put me in a negative frame of mind, and in my initial
flip-through, i classified LfaNC, owing to this eagerness to cover
everything, in the less impressive group (as detailed above).

on the whole, this anthology does not do very well on my
where-the-page-falls-open test.  going through the poems, roller-coasting
between iran and sichuan and maharashtra and lebanon, the themes running
from broad universals of lyrical experience - rafiq raaz's seven sparks,
with a hint of a riot, to the naivete of al-faituri's scream, to
satchidanandan's stammer - which wonders if the hiatus - the pregnant
pause - may be more significant than the sounds of language.  and then
into specifics - ilhan berk's istanbul, where a body on the gallows
swings to and fro in the rain, or where the pecan leaves of maya bejerano
form a backdrop to korsakov and bach.  en route, i started feeling that
many of the translations, were more vivid, more gripping, than much of the
writing that was original english.

there is much that is excellent about this book - in fact, the very
effort is a worthy one - but the execution is faulty in parts.  let me give
you this bad news first...

difficulties of the pan-everything urge

in setting out to compile such an anthology, there is inevitably a fierce
urge, a desperation almost, to try to create a global, pan-asian,
pan-everything coverage, so much so that perhaps one starts to play a game
of numbers - there is only so much of "good poetry" you can select if you
set out to choose 400 poets from 55 countries from 40 literatures, none of
which you can know much of (the editors, though connected to different
continents, are all english writers, hardly steeped in the literatures that
they seek to represent).

flipping throught the book, running into a few good poems, some mediore
ones, and quite a few that were in-between, i felt that there was too much
compromise in the interest of geographical variation.  without informed
correspondents on the regional literatures being represented, it is hard to
do justice in the primary selection of poets.  second, the urge for numbers
makes for further compromises, e.g. some of the translations are completely
mediocre (e.g. infelicities like the line "trifle is my demand" in rAfiq
AzAd's "bhAt de, hArAmjAdA" - see comments by khademul islam
below on this very poem).  further, the need to show up a large number of
"countries" puts large swathes of the world counted as one country (china,
india) at a disadvantage.

the first group of poets i looked at were the bengali - and fortunately
this was well represented since bangladesh is a separate nation.  what
irritated me, and led to a lot of negative feeling, were the inept
translations for the bengali poems, e.g. nirmalendu goon's _firearm_ ("surveillant eyes"),
or shAmsul haq's poem 240, or nazrul islAm's equality (wooden
translation, reads almost like a treatise).  jibananda dAs' banalata sen
has her visiting the king vimsivar, instead of vimbisar (ok,
a typo, perhaps, but annoying in an otherwise well-edited, well-produced
book like this).  sankha ghosh is one of the few poets who is
translated well (by nandini ghosh).

i also did not like the attempt to thematize the anthology.  in the
preface, the editors make the point that a regional classification tends to
"separate person from person", and that they chose to let the universality
of human experience be exposed by engaging one voice with another.  but i
am afraid this attempt does not succeed too much - going through the pages,
i wonder about the merits of interposing bimal nibha's poem on a bicycle theft
(excellent, otherwise) between meena alexander's bland ruminations on fifth
avenue pigeons and lilac bushes, and gieve patel on the friendly squirrels
of US cities, and all this right after nazik al-malaika's moving lyrical
elegy on the death of an insignificant woman.  it does not seem that
these voices are engaging one another; unless there are serious
similarities of theme (e.g. milosz tries much harder in his
luminous things, it leaves the reader wondering what keeps these poems
together on the same page.

poetry breathes in arrogance.  it demands space.  margins at right,
empty pages leave room for thought.  jumbling up diverse themes like
this leaves the reader tossing and turning - i know this is unfair, for the
book is much more reasonabily priced than let's say NAMCP, but still, it
can be bothersome.  perhaps smaller sections - or even short intros for
each poem - would have helped, instead of the ultra-personal narratives
that serve to introduce each section.  though some of these hold
considerable interest on their own, e.g. when ravishankar as a child comes
to india from the us, and has his head shaven in the temple:

   i was relieved to discover that, under the sandalwood paste my scalp was
   smeared with, i had no scars or odd prtuberances. - 381

but these are not as relevant to the poetry.

also, the absence of any markers of origin / time for the poets in their
thematic dispensation makes it harder to relate to the poems...

on the whole, it might have been simpler to simply follow geographical

what's good about LfaNC

harumph!!  now that my grumps are out, let's come to the good parts.

some of the poets are really very good, and i am glad i met them through this
collection.  i hadn't heard of the iraqi poets nazik al-mala'ika, and hatif janabi,
the azeri poet firuza mammadli.  The nepali poet bimal nibha, whose poem
cycle, focuses on the dilapilidated bicycle -- a very south asian
experience, but when he equates its theft with the sense of violation one
feels, relating it ultimately to his identity, one can feel in it an
universal emotion.  the poem carries on its meaning (_artha rIti
, the translation is
simple, direct, and effective.

page after page, the parade of completely unfamiliar names continues.  i
must say, that just collecting these names is a task of enormous magnitude.
the poetry is uneven, true, but even finding a few gems, and a few more
worth further exploration, is never a trivial enterprise.

and while i have been critical of the bAngla translations, many others,
particularly arabic translations by khaled mattawa (noted poet on his own
right), and also many of the chinese translations, work rather well
(e.g. wang zioni, hung hung).  some others work (including banalata sen)
because of the powerful content.  translation that's simple and direct
often works best, as in kunwar narain's "the rest of the poem".
the superbly crafted elegance of rachida madani's poem - an elegy of
departure and loss, where her man "is leaving for a piece of white bread" -
stands on its own as a superb english work; you never realize it's a
translation - again marilyn hacker is a superb english poet on her own.

on re-visiting this book after a hiatus of almost a year, most of all i am
grateful for its wide canvas, the urge that also causes its pitfalls.  some
translations still irk - e.g. i am sure tada chimako's haiku or takahashi
mutsuo ("a boy not knowing love") would be a lot more interesting in
japanese than they come out in translation, and most of the diasporic
authors somehow fail to ignite (jenny boully's blank pages with footnotes
is completely incomprehensible; ketaki kushari dyson).

every time i revisit the book i discover more new voices and learn more
about where they come from, the more i realize how much a volume like lafnc
is actually a celebration of the unity of human experience.

why poetry is more important to the rest of the world

growing up in bengal, i came to realize that society feels the heartbeat of
poetry.  i get the same sense when i visit croatia, or in mexico or japan,
or when i meet people from the arab world.  but i rarely get this sense in
the west.  yes, there are people who read poetry, but it seems that this
happens in organized conclaves, that people who read poetry are mostly
those who also write poetry.  the man on the street reads poetry if at all,
to their children. only to put his child to sleep...

on the other hand, poetry is the language of discourse in many of the lands covered in
this book.  in palestine, they declared a three-day state mourning for
mahmoud darwish; i can't see this happening across most of the west.
in bengal, poetry remains a vibrant, every day enterprise, but
is under attack.  even a decade or so back, poetry recitation contests -
where the children congregate to show off their elocution (from memory, of
course) - were a regular event.  today, forces of depersonalization have
reduced these events.  meanwhile, they are a growing niche in the
west, under the rubric of "poetry performance".

something about prosperity turns you away from poetry.  perhaps one's
emotions are dulled in the daily struggle to get ahead.  perhaps one
doesn't need poetry to affirm one's identity.

whatever it may be, the love of poetry runs deep among the distant reaches
of the world.  and by gathering these strands into one book, this volume
does sterling service, not available in comparable volumes of world

in the end, i must say, i enjoyed many many hours with the book (and expect
to spend many more) - turning pages at random and meeting completely
unknown voices.  then i would often look them up on the web, and some of
these are excerpted below from online sources, others were typed in...

here are some of the less common voices, many of them stalwarts in their
own cultures, that can be found here.


mostly some of the unfamiliar voices in the book...

String theory : Alvin Pang p.16

Scientists are still trying to find out what makes the cosmos tick.
I don’t even know what makes my dad work, bright thwarted man
that he is, would have outdone us all had he the funds at eighteen,
not been sucked instead into the singularity of the rest of his life,
all that space and nothing to fill it with, no choice but to walk
from here to there the long way round. One theory suggests
there are several secret dimensions curled up in every particle of nature,
these incredible long vibrating strings at the heart of everything.
Everything: an endless, restless riff, a violent concerto in a minor key
beyond the range of hearing, a song that pulls at the world, is gravity.
Staying still was never an option for beings made of such manic stuff.
I read this in a paper, but dad doesn’t, he falls into orbit between the TV
and the fridge, a satellite relaying any kind of noise but hope. Give or take
a few decades, he’ll fall back into the quantum soup lab-coats go on about,
the kind without any memory of what it once might have been. I think of
what's wound in him, in us, tighter than DNA, less understood than that
which impels us one slow day forward at a time. The old yarn about
sons worshipping fathers, the way folks thought the sun
revolved around the earth, not vice versa? Well it ended the day he wrote
Do what I couldn’t on my birthday card. I was in college. Outside
my bay window the world was a wide unstudied sky, not these
small coiled realities we now think is all we have. I’d not even grasped
the dynamics of colliding lives, fissive trails I wander blindly down.
Dark matter clouds the universe and uncertainty rules it? Could’ve said that
years ago. I have a theory we become our fathers, however hard we try,
as if this would explain everything. It’ll be a while yet before I arrive
at the way he's letting himself loose now, though not quite the same way
time unspools from the reel of physics, more like a shedding of paths,
all possible futures fusing into a grand unified inevitability.
I couldn’t either, I’d tell him, when I catch up finally, out of breath,
as we stand laughing, wonder why we ever bothered, on some
long and distant shore on the other side of nowhere else to go.

Shukrulla (Uzbekistan, 1922-): The Age of My Father 45

			[from Uzbek; tr. William Dirks]

I haven’t yet reached the age of my father
Still I feel surprisingly sick.
My father at my age
Knew not what a staff was.

I hate inclement weather
My veins are constrained by the piercing autumn wind,
Only the crows enjoy such weather,
Chasing each other, unable to share a nut.

My childhood reminiscences are still alive,
The crows threw nuts on the roof with a terrible noise.
Maybe those are the same crows.
Crows live longer than men.

I watch them bustle and play and chase each other.
Still, a crow will never peck out the eye of a crow.
Perhaps that is why they live so long,
Perhaps that is why their days are so long.
	(source: World Literature Today, Vol. 70, 1996)

Nirmalendu Goon (Bangladesh, 1945-) : Firearm 74

		          [tr. from Bengali, Sajed Kamal]

    The police station is crowded
    with people surrendering their firearms
    under the surveillant eyes of the soldiers.
    The shot guns, rifles, pistols and cartridges
    from the people -- fearful of the military order -- are
    piling up like the promised offering of flowers
    at a holy shrine
    Only I, disobeying the military order,
    am openly returning home a rebel,
    carrying with me
    the most lethal firearm of all - my heart.

    I didn't surrender it.
	(online source:

links bio:

Hatif Janabi (Iraq, 1952-): Stags and Soldiers 108

	(tr. from Arabic Khaled Mattawa)

I am content with bitter words,
 with a fluttering spike of wheat.
  I am content with broken branches;
   I say someday this wooden space will disappear,
    Sometimes I am content with, and with the water of grapes.
     I am content with the hope that the echo of a storm
      will swing between me and peace.
       I am content with the chirpings of the dark.
        I say soon, soon they will come
         To wash my face with dregs of dew.
          I am content with faucets and afterthoughts,
           with the stones that cover autumn´s bare back,
            with a snake flicking its tongue behind my ribs. I say
             maybe the loved one will come
              To me in a dream and she arrives,
               I am content with the gushing of seasons, the stutters of
               with the dazzle of stars, the flutter of a feeble heart, with
              whispering and caressing and dance,
             with him who does not achieve his mischief,
            I am content and I brag about the wings of a crow,
           something to bless my steps
          and to heap on my grief a mountain of dirt.
         I am content with the talk of rebel boys, sayings
        of lunatics, soothsayers, and the prophet-like poor,
       I am content with the one who does not reach his desolation.
      (They stretch out to the flow of his shock.)
     I am content with paradises in their cradles,
    with stags lisping flames,
   Cunning soldiers shrinking
  without leniency
  and a creaking past.
  I am content with dew as a bird stings the pistil where it lay.
  I am content when a dream pricks my night with its beak
    or reveals that the beginning will be a further strain
     and that winter is the whistling of stones.
  I am content with my grandmother´s cane, the courtyard, a pot of tea,
     a jug of water,
  my mother´s cloak, my neighbor´s prayer beads, and the palm
    fronds hidden in the victim´s rib cage.
  I am content with the little that is much,
 but in the end I will accept nothing less
than to clutch the impossible's throat.
      (online source:

links: see many more poems at
bio at

Arundhathi Subramaniam: Strategist

The trick to deal
with a body under siege
is to keep things moving,

to be juggler
at the moment
when all the balls are up in the air,
a whirling polka of asteroids and moons,

to be metrician of the innards,
calibrating the jostle
and squelch of commerce
in those places where blood
meets feeling.

Chill in the joints,
primal rheumatism.

The marrow igloos
into windowlessness.

Time stops in the throat.
A piercing fishbone recollection
of the sea.

Old friend.
Ambassador to the world
that I am.

The trick is not to noun
yourself into corners.
Water the plants.
Go for a walk.
Inhabit the verb.

Baha Zain (Malaysia, b.1939):

	Baha Zain (shortened from Baharuddin Zainal) is a prominent Malay
	poet from Perak state, whose poem "Topeng-Topeng" (about a man
	thrown into crisis after his wife meets his mistress), won the
	national Literary Award for Poetry (1971).  He is also the Vice
	President of the National Writers Association (PENA).
		(adapted from

	Baha Zain is a slight man, bespectacled, whose hands flutter, clasp,
	clench in the air - he is a man who measures and weighs his words
	carefully. He is truly a thinking writer, unlike some who are so
	caught up with verbal symbols and ideologies that they rat-a-tat
	their opinions, leaving the listener dazed" --Dina Zaman, New Straits
	Times, November,28, 2001.

	" his early days as a new bard (60s), was regarded as 'the angry
	young man', w the temperament of a student leader on campus -
	reporting indulgently about poetry, injustices, social harmony, the
	gap and the ethnic prejudices, etc.  His voice full of vengeance,
	socialistic and dialectical. Baha was not only direct in his 'words'
	and his poetic expressions about the establishment but also to the
	ugly bureaucracies, snobbish aristocrats, decadent artists etc." --
	Dr. Ahmad Kamal Abdullah in English and Islam: Creative Encounters 96.
		(from bahazain.blogspot - mostly in Malay)

	After all this, I felt that the poem chosen here simply does not
	convey his potential.

Language 171

	[from Malay, tr. Muhammad Haji Salleh]

How hard
to accommodate the word to the meaning
such trouble
to wrap decorum with language
the emotions of old bards;
a fish flashing in water
you already know its gender.
     (online source: independence day project )

Nadia Anjuman (Afghanistan woman poet, b. 1980, killed 2005)

	young Afghan poet from Herat, whose book of poetry, Gul-e-dudi 2005,
	("dark flower"), written in he literary Dari (a language related to
	Persian), became popular in Afghanistan and parts of Iran (these
	languages are mutually intelligible, like Danish and Swedish).  The
	book describes the anguish of womanhood under the repressive Afghan
	culture, both under the Taliban and in recent years.  She
	was married and had a six-month child, but her literary activity
	allegedly shamed the family - presumably her husband's family -
	and a few months after the book, she was brutally beaten up
	by her husband, and died of head injuries in Nov 05.

	However, her husband, himself a literature graduate, said in a
	statement from prison: "I have not killed Nadia. How could I kill
	someone I loved? We had a small argument and I only slapped her on
	the face once.
	    "She went to another room and when she returned she told me she
	had swallowed poison. She said she had forgiven me for slapping her
	and pleaded, ‘Don’t tell anyone I have swallowed poison. Tell them I
	died from a heart attack’." - Christina Lamb, in The Times
	Today her death is classified by the courts as "suicide."

	The incident gathered a lot of attention in blogspace.
	     "I loved poetry, but the chains with which six years of
	     captivity under Taliban rule bound my feet led me to haltingly
	     enter the arena of poetry with the foot of my pen. The
	     encouragement of like-minded friends gave me the confidence to
	     pursue this path, but even now when I take the first step, the
	     tip of my pen trembles, as do I, because I do not feel safe from
	     stumbling on this path, when the way ahead is difficult, and my
	     steps unsteady." (quoted at
	Her story became known in the West through journalists like
	Christina Lamb, author of
	Sewing Circles of Herat (2004), who quotes her friends as saying
	"her family was furious, believing that the publication of poetry by
	a woman about love and beauty had brought shame" on the family.

	After discovering her in LfaNC, I dug up a lot about her, but most
	blogs were full of the tragedy, but I did find a few translations at
	several sites (see links below).  I am not sure if it is the
	translation or the poems, but most of her work, including the
	selection here, appear lackluster (the poem A Voiceless Cry
	i thought was more deserving of an anthology, but it may be a later
	translation).   On the whole, though, much of her work seems not
	nearly as poignant as her own life story.

The Silenced 230

 		[from Dari, tr. Abdul Salam Shayek]

I have no desire for talking, my tongue is tied up.
Now that I am abhorred by my time, do I sing or not?
What could I say about honey, when my mouth is as bitter as poison.
Alas! The group of tyrants has muffled my mouth.
This corner of imprisonment, grief, failure and regrets—
I was born for nothing that my mouth should stay sealed.
I know O! my heart, It is springtime and the time for joy.
What could I, a bound bird, do without flight.
Although, I have been silent for long, I have not forgotten to sing,
Because my songs whispered in the solitude of my heart.
Oh, I will love the day when I break out of this cage,
Escape this solitary exile and sing wildly.
I am not that weak willow twisted by every breeze.
I am an Afghan girl and known to the whole world.
     (online source: independence day project )


* poems: bio and poems
* news:  new york times
         Times: killed for her poetry?
         CBC - honour killing?
         AFP: official category of death: suicide
         blog "Thousands attended her funeral"
* bio:   wikipedia

Nazik al-Malaika (1922-2007): Iraqi woman poet

	Iraqi woman poet, who played a leading role in the Iraqi free-verse
	movement along with Badr Shakir al-Sayyab.

	al-Malaika is a powerful voice, speaking courageously in a period of
	social and political turmoil, comparable perhaps to her contemporary
	in Egypt, Latifa Al-Zayyat
	(see The open door).  the translation
	here  is a bit problematic in some places, (e.g. "settled in secluded
	den") - but it still manages to convey the power.

Insignificant woman 96

	[from Arabic; tr. Kamal Boullata]

When she closed her eyes
No face faded, no lips quivered.
Doors heard no retelling of her death.
No curtain was lifted to air the room of grief.
No eyes followed her coffin
To the end of the road.
Only a memory of a lifeless form
    passing in some lane.

The word echoed in alleyways,
Hushed sounds, finding no shelter,
Settled in secluded den.
A moon mourned
In silence.

Night, unconcerned, gave way to morning.
Daylight crept in with the milk cart
   and a call to fasting.
A meager cat mewing
Amidst the shrill of vendor's cries.
Boys squabbling
   throwing stones.
Muddy waters spilling
   along the gutters
As the wind carried foul smells
To rooftops.
	(no online source; see for a competent,
	alternate translation, "Lament for a worthless woman".)


   * poems:    tr. Rebecca Carol Johnson
      tr. unknown
		 tr. unknown
   * prose:    short stories 

   * obituary: new york times
     	         al-ahram, cairo
 AFP and others
   * criticism Nazik al-Mala'ika's poetry and its critical reception in the West

Bimal Nibha : Cycle 98

	  (tr. Manjushree Thapa)

	It's been a few days since
	my bicycle has vanished
	Do you know where I might find it?

	It's true that my cycle is small
	its tires are bald
	they have too little air
	the colour is faded
	the stand is broken
	the kinetic light is faulty
	the bell trills softly
	the pedals move slowly
	the chain is old
	the handlebars are askew
	the wheel is bent and
	it has no carrier or lock

	Yet no matter what
	even if it's flawed and defective
	even if it's shabby
	no matter what, that cycle is mine
	THe weight of my body lies on its seat
	The measure of my feet fills its pedals
	The print of my hands marks its handlebars
	My breath rests in each part of that cycle
	I am there
	That cycle is my life

	(What kind of place is this
	not unknown to me, my own village
	where in the bright light of midday
	a whole life can vanish?
	Do you know where I might find it? )

	It's been a few days since
	my bicycle has vanished
	Do you know where I might find it?
		(no online source)

Kunwar Narain: The rest of the poem 285

	[Hindi poet, tr. Lucy Rosenstein]

Water falling on leaves means one thing.
Leaves falling on water another.
Between gaining life fully

and giving it away fully
stands a full death-mark.

The rest of the poem
is written not with words --
Drawing the whole of existence, like a full stop,
it is complete at any point.

Sankha Ghosh (1932-) : Four Poems from Panjore DanRer Shabda ('Oars in My Ribs')

	 [Bengali poet, b. Bangladesh, tr. from Bengali, Nandini Ghosh]

Oars in my ribs, waters splash in my blood,
The waxing moon emerges from the boat's hull,
Mosses and reeds weigh my body down,
I have no past--- no future either.

Storm-uprooted, the lamp-post lies lonely in the fields,
Fireflies at its head, and above, Orion's sword,
The battle is done, the hour still, all around
The night looms like an immense, opaque sea.

He who had been bent small with insults and injuries,
Whose days had dropped away with each hour, each tide,
To him when you came, your touch feather to his ribs,
In your fingers, last night, I witnessed god.

The ground lies very still. But within fires rage,
A sudden explosion has shattered the rocks.
Fling to the insensible dust words that will not
Throb with fever, with lava, or with curse.

Rachida Madani (Morocco, 1953-): Tales of a Severed Head, I 286

		      [tr. from French Marilyn Hacker]

What city and what night
since it's night in the city
when a woman and a train-station argue over
the same half of a man who is leaving.
He is young, handsome
he is leaving for a piece of white bread.
She is young, beautiful as a springtime
trying to flower for the last time
for her man who is leaving.
But the train arrives
but the branch breaks
but suddenly it's raining in the station
in the midst of spring.
And the train emerges from all directions
It whistles and goes right through the woman
the whole length of her.
Where the woman bleeds, there will never be spring
in the night, in her head, under the pillow
trains pass filled with men
filled with mud
and they all go through her
the whole length of them.
How many winters will pass, how many snowfalls
before the first bleeding letter
before the first mouthful of white bread?

    (online source:;
     also includes several of the followup sections of this superb sequence.)

Rachida Madani (b. Tangiers, Morocco 1951?3), writes on the male-dominated
society of today; this poem, from her Contes d’une tête tranchée (Tales
of a severed head) revisits the insane misogyny of king Shahryar in the
1001 nights.
see bio at

A K Ramanujan : The black hen 307

            It must come as leaves
            to a tree
            or not at all

            yet it comes sometimes
            as the black hen
            with the red round eye

            on the embroidery
            stitch by stitch
            dropped and found again

            and when it's all there
            the black hen stares
            with its round red eye

            and you're afraid.

Mammad Araz (azerbaijan, 1933-2004): If There Were No War p.367

		tr. from Azeri by Aytan Aliyeva

If There Were No War
If there were no war,
We could construct a bridge between Earth and Mars,
melting weapons in an open-hearth furnace.

If there were no war,
The harvest of a thousand years could grow in one day.
Scientists could bring the moon and stars to Earth.

The eyes of the general also say:
" I would be chairman in a small village
If there were no war!"

If there were no war,
We could avoid untimely deaths,
Our hair would gray very late.

If there were no war,
We would face
Neither grief, nor parting.

If there were no war,
The bullet of mankind would be his word,
And the word of mankind would be love.

Samih Al-Qasim : Excerpt from "An Inquest" p.395

	—And what do you call this country?
	—My country.
	—So you admit it?
	—Yes, sir. I admit it.
	I'm not a professional tourist.
	—Do you say "my country"?
	—I say "my country."
	—And where is my country?
	—Your country.
	—And where is your country?
	—My country.
	—And the claps of thunder?
	—My horses neighing.
	—And the gusts of wind?
	—My extension.
	—And the plains' fertility?
	—My exertion.
	—And the mountains' size?
	—My pride.
	—And what do you call the country?
	—My country.
	—And what should I call my country?
	—My country

		(tr. from Arabic, Nazih Kassis)

Nazim Hikmet (Turkey, 1902-1963): Angina Pectoris 330

If half my heart is here, doctor,
      the other half is in China
with the army flowing
     toward the Yellow River.
And, every morning, doctor,
every morning at sunrise my heart
     is shot in Greece.
And every night,c doctor,
when the prisoners are asleep and the infirmary is deserted,
my heart stops at a run-down old house
                                       in Istanbul.
And then after ten years
all i have to offer my poor people
is this apple in my hand, doctor,
one read apple:
               my heart.
And that, doctor, that is the reason
for this angina pectoris--
not nicotine, prison, or arteriosclerosis.
I look at the night through the bars,
and despite the weight on my chest
my heart still beats with the most distant stars.

     A formative voice in modern Turkish poetry.  As a communist, was
     repeatedly arrested and spent much of his adult life in prison or in

U Sam Oeur (cambodia, 1936-): The Fall of Culture p.366

				tr. from Khmer by Ken McCullough

	I hid the precious wealth,
	packed the suitcases with milled rice,
	packed old clothes, a small scrap-metal oven,
	pots, pans, plates, spoons, an ax, a hoe,
	some preserved fish in small plastic containers—
	loaded it all in a cart and towed it eastward
	under the full moon, May ’75,

	"O home! Home! The sacred ground where we lived happily,
	the heritage built, bit by bit, by my father.
	O, the Naga fountain with its seven heads,
	preserving our tradition from days gone by.
	O, Monument of Independence! O, library! O, books of poetry!
	I can never chant the divine poems again!
	O, quintessential words of poets!
	O, artifacts I can never touch or see again!

	O, Phnom Penh! O, pagoda where we worship!
	O, Angkor Wat, sublime monument to the
	aspirations of our ancient Khmer forefathers.
	Ah, I can’t see across those three wildernesses:"

	I’ll be nowhere,
	I’ll have no night,
	I’ll have no day anymore:
	I shall be a man without identity.

	"Sorrow for the Cambodian women
	who were faithful to their lovers;
	now they wander without sleep,
	any piece of ground their home.
	O, rang trees, the spawning grounds,
	turned to charred stilts by the Pot-Sary conflagration.
	Annihilate the rang trees, the sugar palms
	the Khmer Republic!"

	There are no more intellectuals, no more professors—
	all have departed Phnom Penh, leading children,
	bereft, deceived to the last person,
	from coolie to king.

rang trees: riverside mangrove trees;
three wildernesses : killing, starvation, disease

Born a farmer's son in 1936, he began his education as a naked schoolboy in
a country village, and finished with a Master of Fine Arts in creative
writing from the University of Iowa. After living in the US for seven
years, he returned to Cambodia in 1968, married his fiancée who had waited
for him to come home, and put his poetry aside to become a successful
businessman and politician. He served as a delegate to the UN months before
the Khmer Rouge overran the country.  When he eventually returned to his
home in Phnom Penh, all that remained of his was a torn page of Emily
Dickinson. (from bio at

In Water : Amin Kamil

You’re fraught with words, better go sit in water;
For they swell with
meaning and glow more in water.

Look for the heart in the chest and roast it on embers
Look for the blood in the liver and drink it in water.

Tomorrow Kashmir will stretch in the sun like a desert,
The day after Ladakh and Leh will float in water.

Under the hollow banks frightened waves take refuge;
Lord Jaldev is born with fire in water.

At mid day, even the sun gets soaked in sweat;
At the end, even the moon catches fire in water.

Even in excitement, sometimes, people set towns on fire;
Even for fun, sometimes, people pour poison in water.

The lost cow is looking for the elevensome, would someone tell her?
Five drowned in dry land, six are aflame in water.

The peddler of ghazals, this Kamil, makes fiery calls
But the fatefrost people are coldly sleeping in water.

			tr. from Kashmiri by Muneebur Rahman

Gevorg Emin (Armenia 1918-1998) : Small 415

	   [tr. from Armenian Diana Der-Hovanessian]

Yes, we are small
the smallest pebble
in a field of stones.
But have you felt the hurtle
of pebbles pitched
from a mountaintop?

as the smallest mountain stream
storing rapids, currents,
unknown to wide and lazy valley rivers.

like the bullet in the bore
of the rifle;
small as the corn waiting to sprout.

as the pinch of salt
that seasons the table.

Small, yes,
you have compressed us, world,
into a diamond.

you have dispersed us,
scattered us like stars.
We are everywhere in your vision.

but our borders stretch
from Piuragan telescopes to the moon,
from Lousavan back to Urartu.

Small as the grain of marvelous Uranium which
cannot be broken down, put out or consumed.
	(online source:

Bei Dao (China): Black Map 418

in the end, cold crows piece together
the night: a black map
I've come home — the way back
longer than the wrong road long as a life

bring the heart of winter
when spring water and horse pills
become the words of night
when memory barks
a rainbow haunts the black market

my father's life-spark small as a pea
I am his echo
turning the corner of encounters
a former lover hides in a wind
swirling with letters

Beijing, let me
toast your lamplights
let my white hair lead
the way through the black map
as though a storm were taking you to fly

I wait in line until the small window
shuts: O the bright moon
I've come home — reunions
are less than goodbyes
only one less
     (online at

Elmaz Abinader : This House, My Bones 451

Enter the house,
Sit at the table covered in gold
A cloth, Sitt embroidered
For the third child=s birth.
Take the tea, strong and minty,
Hold the glass warm
Against your palms, fragrances
Of centuries fill you, sweetness
Rises up to meet you. The youngest boy
Fuad, shows you a drawing
He has made of a horse
You touch his shoulder, stroke
His hair, he loves to talk to strangers
Show them his room filled with posters
Of extinct and mythical animals: dinosaurs,
Unicorns; dragons. You want to linger
In the music of his voice, afraid his disappearance
Is inscribed on shell cases stockpiling in the Gulf.

Enter the mosque,
Admire the arches
Inlaid with sea-colored pebbles,
Follow the carpets, long runners
Of miracles in thread, your feet still damp
Slip against the marble floor.
Spines of men curl into seashells
In the room ahead. Echoes
Of the muezzin shoot around you
Fireworks of speeches and prayers.
Don=t be afraid because they worship
Unlike you. Be afraid that worship
Becomes the fight, faith the enemy;
And yours the only one left standing.

Some one asks, what should we do
While we wait for the bombs, promised
And prepared? How can we ready ourselves?
Do we gather our jewelry and books,
And bury them in the ground? Do we dig
Escape tunnels in case our village is invaded?
Do we send our children across the border
To live in refugee camps remembering us
Only in dreams, ghostly voices calling their names?
What do we pack? The coffee urn father
Brought from Turkey? The pair of earrings
Specially chosen for the wedding day?
How can we ever pack anything if not everything?
If not the tick on the wall marking
The children=s growth, if not the groan
Of the washing machine in the kitchen,
If not the bare spot on the rug
Where Jidd put his feet when he read
The Friday paper?
Help them gather things: brass doorknobs,
Enamel trays, blue glasses made in Egypt,
Journals of poetry, scraps of newspapers, recipes
They meant to try. And what about the things
They cannot hold. The beginning of life and all
The memories that follow. The end of life
And all that is left to do.

Enter the heart
Read the walls and all the inscriptions
The love of lovers, of children and spouses,
The love of stars, and cardamom and long eye lashes.
Tour the compartments telling
The story: that life was begun with faith,
That life may end with folly. See it heave
In fear that threats, predictions and actions
Are a history already written, spiraling,
Loose and out of control. No amount of hope
Can save it. No amount of words can stop it.
Hold the heart. Imagine it is yours.
		(online at
	This poem, reminded me of Sipho Sepamla's "The odyssey",
	which also sets off the visitors experience against a dark present,
	in that case the South African apartheid experience.

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa (Tibet) One more say 464


Think on this when prayers fall like thick
paint on dry asphalt.

Think on this when the face is fading.

Think on this and be decisive in your motions.
The breathing. The utterance.

No Eastern star leading conch shells and a rainbow at dusk. Those
who must believe, so.

Who dares to question the accuracy of a direction when the journey
was not theirs.

The moment of birth. Before the father extended his arm toward
the mother.

Here is a location. Here it is scattering like mustard seeds.
		(online at

Agyeya (Hindi, 1911-1987)

   		Pen name of influential poet-editor Sacchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayan
		One of the modernist pioneers of 20th c. Hindi literature.
		Sahitya Akademi award 1964, Jnanpith 1978.

Quietly : Agyeya : p.469

		[tr. Lucy Rosenstein]

	may the murmur of water falling
	fill us,

	may the autumn moon
	float on the ripples of the lake,

	may life's unspoken mystery
	deepen in our still eyes,

	may we, ecstatic, be immersed in the expanse
	yet find it in ourselves--
		(online source:

bio: sachidananda hirananda vatsyayan 'agyeya', 1911-1986.  born kasia, deoria in
      UP.  jailed 1930-4 for revolutionary activity, and served in the WW2
      in 1942-6.  worked as journalist, editor and taught at Jodhpur U and
      visited UC Berkeley.  Edited magazines pratik (1946-52); dinmAn
      (1964-9); nayA pratik (1973-7); and navbhArat times (1977-9).
      more than two dozen works include novels, plays, travelogues,
      collections of short stories and travelogues.  Sahitya Akademi award
      1964; jnanpiTh 1978.  (from bio in Dharwadker and Ramanujan's
	The Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry

link:	wikipedia

Liu Kexiang (1957-): Natural Science Teacher 474

	[劉克襄, Taiwan poet and naturalist, known as a nature poet
	 tr. from Chinese Nicholas A. Kaldis]

	Finally I spy that bundle of light, slowly flowing into the
	woods. Like a silent stream, leaving a waterfall, myriad specks of
	dust, like spores, float among the beams, exploring, or aimlessly
	wander off.

	They enter the woods. There's a child fascinated by insects, going on
	and on about plants with me. There's a youngster who loves climbing
	mountains and fording streams, who will someday trace every range
	I've crossed. As for that girl who writes like a poem, she's never
	grown up, still that same likeness of an eleven-year old I dote on.

	They’ll come across my death, in different places.It might be like
	the shards of a beetle shell, or possibly a rotting, withered tree.

	And, by chance, they’ll encounter my birth, a kind of essence even
	more concrete than tender shoots and new leaves, sitting by their
	side in lonesome moments.

	They continue going into the woods.Inside my aged sea-turtle's body
	they squirm about, vexing me, tiring me, harassing me.It's always
	been my living question mark, my uncertainty.
		(no online source)

links : 4 other poems at

Viswanatha Satyanarayana (1895-1976): Song of Krishna (5) 478

	[Telugu poet, known as kavi samrAT (emperor of poetry), Jnanpith
	 1970, Padma Bhushan 1970 ]
	[ tr. from Telugu by Velcheru Narayana Rao]

You come when I'm taking my bath.
You come when my sari gets wet, and I change into a dry one.
When, unnoticed, my sari falls from my shoulder — you are there.
Almost as if you had planned it.
As if you knew all such slippery moments.
You sit right in front of me.

Some kids are like this from the start, in the womb.
You're a true jewel among them, the eye on a peacock's feather. Really,
you're spoiled. No one disciplines you.
Everyone loves you and no one speaks to you harshly.
Any time they begin to get mad,
you do something or other and they laugh,
and everything is lost in that laughter.
For years and years, your mother longed to have
a tiny boy in her womb, and you came, so now
she lets you do just as you please.

What's a game for the cat is death for the mouse.
We can't even talk about these things.
We can't face them unless we give up all shame.
Sometimes I tell myself firmly: he's only a child,
why get so stirred up?  But that's how women are made.
I can't help myself.  If you, young man,
are the wone to take away my shame,
I will take you for my God.

When a woman is getting dressed, you should leave.
If you happen to catch a glimpse, you should
bite your tongue, go away, and come back after a while.
You should ask if you can come in.
That's the proper way.  It's not as if
this is your own house and I'm your wife.
Even my husband doesn't come in when I'm dressing.

Along with being so brash, you're also angry.
Don't be.
Never mind what I said.
Come, Krishna, eyes dark
as the lotus.
		(no online source)

Suyunbay Eraliev : Beginning 481

		[from Russian, tr. Yuri Vidov Karageorge]
	 Kyrgyz poet (b. 1921), lived in Soviet times and wrote in Russian.
	 hails from peasant stock in the Talkog region and served on the
	 front lines in World War II.  first poetry collections appeared in
	 the late 1940s, but his best-known work came during the next four
	 decades, including the long poems Ak-Moor (1958), To the Stars
	 (1965), and The Testament of Djalil Mirza. He is President of the
	 Kitep Society of the Kyrgyz Republic.

    From the green meadows of Altai
    I brought back a miraculous new wine
    to the great summit of Tyan'-Shan'ya,
    so that it might regenerate our self-esteem,
    strengthen our people's spirit
    amid the devastation,
    amid the battles,
    amid our wanderings,
    so that it might invigorate our spirit from year to year,
    amid our legendary traditions.
    In the firmament,
    on the vaulted slopes
    where flow the crystal waters,
    in the villages so highly protected
    by the endless stream of years gone by,
    One could almost hear the strains of "Manas"
    as time suddenly released the reins,
    even the rain,
    like the glance of an evil eye,
    gave up its place to that weather.

  	   (online source:

Seven Sparks, Rafiq Raaz

			tr. Muneebur Rahman

		[one needs to read this poem -in the context of
		 the militancy that scarred Kashmir in the 1990s]

At the midnight’s hour a sage’s soul came afire.
In splendor he began to dance, a frenzied dance.

I was still in awe and fear when he bestowed
A folded paper on my undeserving self!

Suddenly I looked at the gift and trembled,
For I saw seven sparks wrapped in a silken paper.

Then rapture overcame me and I dosed.
I dreamed the dancing sage came to rest.

With folded hands I humbly asked what gift is this?
Pray, make me aware of this secret tonight!

For God’s sake what will I do with the sparks?
For if I keep them, they will burn the silken paper!

The silken paper will burn, he said, the sparks will vanish.
Seven spots will burn for years on the subcontinent.

K. Satchidanandan : Stammer


A stammer is no handicap.
It is a mode of speech.

A stammer is the silence that falls
between the word and its meaning,
just as lameness is the
silence that falls between
the word and the deed.

Did the stammer precede language
or succeed it?
Is it only a dialect or a
language itself? These questions
make linguists stammer.

Each time we stammer
we are offering a sacrifice
to the God of Meanings.

When a whole people stammer
stammer becomes their mother tongue:
as it is with us now.

God too must have stammered
when He created Man.
That is why all the words of man
carry different meanings.
That is why everything he utters
from his prayers to his commands
like poetry.

Muhammed Hasan ’Awwad : Secret of Life and Nature 534

 	   [Saudi Arabia, tr. from Arabic Laith al-Husain and Alan Brownjohn]

What secret lies in the winds
blowing north and south
bringing rains

What secret lies in the sea
one day calm, another day tumultuous

Chasing the full moon, and the stars
in its ebb and flow

Why does the earth revolve around the
sun, forever and ever going

Why do the stars shine at the night
and the sun at day, dazzling the eyes

Why does the eclipse of sun and moon
appear one day, and other days hides away

Why is Neptune inscrutable to us
We cannot see the stars around it?

Why are we willed to live on earth
Not choosing, and spend our lives
uncertain of the world

Why is death, like life, decreed upon us
it robs the soul of its potency and grandeur

Have philosophies, science and religion
been a minaret for people?

Did they awaken our minds from slumber?
Have we torn out the curtains of uncertainty?

Like the ancients we live our course
Then others come after us to do the same

And life, sun and stars and night and day
Revolve as ever before
Life's secret must remain inscrutable.
	(online source:


Bozor Sobir (Tajikstan 1938-): Letters 569

	[tr. from Tajik, Judith M. Wilks]
	Major Tajik poet, rustic background,
	politically sensitive, often
	opposed soviets and corruption
	under apparatchiks.

I opened your letters
And I have them up to the air,
That they might become spring clouds,
That letters of memories
Might weep over the hills,
That they might weep springs and rivers.
That the letters might weep over us.

Last night I told a story
Of you to the wild wind.
In memory of you I recited from memory
A verse to the streams,
That the water might bear it away
And tell it to the rivers,
That the wind might bear it away
And sing it to the plains.

Last night under the rain
I walked road by road in my thoughts.
Your tresses strand by strand
In my thoughts I walked, braiding strands.
The kisses that had not been planted on your lips
—Along, all along the road,
Along the edge, the edge of the stream—
I walked, planting them in the ground.
So that, ever following in my footsteps
—Along, all along the road,
On the edge, the edge of the stream—
Kisses might grow like daisies,
Kisses might grow like wild mint.

Last night it rained and rained.
The water was too much for the river to hold.
Last night my loneliness
Was too much for me alone to hold . . . .

Last night the April rain
Washed the footprints from the ground.
The wound in my heart grew worse,
Because it washed away the imprint of your foot.
Last night I wandered the streets in vain,
Like a hunter who has lost the trail I searched . . . .

Last night the world was all water,
The sky was refreshed,
The ground was refreshed,
But I, with your name on my lips,
All alone like the parched land
I burned up under the rain.
	(online source:


Hong Yun-Suk (Korea): Ways of Living 4 573

You have to wait.
At the crossroads’ red traffic light,
you have to stop going along, pause for breath,
look up for once at the forgotten sky,
hoist up and fasten the slipping pack.
A scrap of pink cloud on a remote mountainside,
inky darkness, on the corner you turn,
on the road left ahead cold rain pouring down
we are all being soaked as we pass through this age
for see, this is destiny's winter
and no one can escape from this rain.
Frozen, we rub one another's flesh,
we sparingly share and kindle the remaining fire.
In the darkness our roots twine together.
	(online source

Bassam Hajjar (Lebanon): Hatred, p.590

Had this heart been a tree trunk
it would have loved me.
Had this tree trunk been a heart
it would have awaited the woodcutter

   	 (tr. from Arabic by Shariv S. Elmusa)
links :  bio and one poem

Forugh Farrokhzad (Iran, 1935-1967)

	The Iranian poetess Forugh (Forough) Farrokhzad died young but left a
	lasting imprint on Iranian poetry, and you can get a whiff of the
	power of her writing even in translation.  She left her husband after
	three years and had a series of affairs in conventional Iran, and
	died in a car crash at 32.

	See biography and poems at
	which also includes links to much Iranian poetry.

Forugh Farrokhzad : Sin, 561

I have sinned a rapturous sin
in a warm enflamed embrace,
sinned in a pair of vindictive arms,
arms violent and ablaze.

In that quiet vacant dark
I looked into his mystic eyes,
found such longing that my heart
fluttered impatient in my breast.

In that quiet vacant dark
I sat beside him punch-drunk,
his lips released desire on mine,
grief unclenched my crazy heart.

I poured in his ears lyrics of love:
O my life, my lover it's you I want.
Life-giving arms, it's you I crave.
Crazed lover, for you I thirst.

Lust enflamed his eyes,
red wine trembled in the cup,
my body, naked and drunk,
quivered softly on his breast.

I have sinned a rapturous sin
beside a body quivering and spent.
I do not know what I did O God,
in that quiet vacant dark.
       (tr. from Persian by Sholeh Wolpé)
	 (online source

Kishwar Naheed: Non-Communication 563

	Kishwar Naheed is a powerful feminist voice from Pakistan, and I
	became aware of her poems after reading her in Meena Alexander's
	excellent anthology, Indian Love Poems.

Like the body peeping through a muslin dress
now all the taut veins of my brain are evident.
Separation's first day was easier than the second
for the first day's first night
was spent telling stories like Sheherzade.
A night like one thousand one nights,
white like unwritten paper,
this creaseless brightness
is like the image formed in the mind
before a word comes to the lips.
In the crowded era of my days and nights
like a comb passing through hair
keep announcing your existence
but passion and love
like my unkempt hair
keep knitting a web inside me.
Like broken, diffused clouds in the sky
the termite-ridden page of life
will not even sell at the price of scrap.
Thundering like clouds you,
cascading like the rain I,
like two deaf singers
are singing each other a song.

	(tr. from the Urdu by Mawash Shoaib)
	(online source
			each webpage on this blog is a poem from a different
			nation, posted on their independence day. )

the red grapefruit : Agnes Lam 592

        [ Agnes Lam Iok Fong lives in Macao; besides poetry, writes
        two newspaper columns]

you cut open the grapefruit
cutting carefully
like tearing down my cocoon
the grapefruit is opened
into two red suns
I feel so free

flying out from the cocoon like the summer butterfly
flowers are full of my eyes
sweet as the grapefruit's red
the two pieces of the fruit stay firm together
plentiful like the smile of first love
it's thus I fall in love with red

you cut the grapefruit into eight pieces
red mouthful by mouthful
it's like eating my sweetest memories
I take up the last segment
and kissing this last piece of red
my heart becomes pale

the taste of a grapefruit
like your love to me
sweet and plump to see
bitter to the taste
like sorrow

when there is no more flesh in the grapefruit
the inner skin of the fruit is
so pale as to make me cherish
that sugary smile of the red fruit that was

I hold the pale skins in my hand
mind and eye bringing back the original
it's like letting the cocoon wrap my body
and now I can see
the outer skin of the grapefruit
was never red at all
		(tr. Christopher Kelen, Agnes Vong and the poet)
	(online source

Nabila Az-zubair (Yemen): The closed game 595

	 [tr. Najwan Darwish; anti-establishment woman author; her novel
	 "It's my body won the Naguib Mahfouz prize 2002. ]

And now
there are two boxes
we will throw to the sea
My box, the sea entered
because it was open
Your box, the beach buried
because you never got out
  	   (no online source)


Foreword                                           xxvii
Preface                                            xxxiv
Acknowledgments                                    xlviii

In the grasp of childhood fields

  Joseph O. Legaspi, Ode to My Mother's Hair       	9   Phillippines -> US
  Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Elegy for Pure Music        	11 Korea -> US
  Tenzin Tsundue, Exile House                      	14  Tibet -> India
	(read his poetry at
  Nick Carbo, Directions to My Imaginary Childhood    	15  Phillippines -> US

  Ha Jin, Homework                                 	16
  Alvin Pang, String Theory                               17  Singapore
  Tanikawa Shuntaro, In Praise of Goldberg         	18  Japan
  Venus Khoury-Ghata, "Our cries, she used to say"     	19  Lebanon--> France [French]
  Pak Chaesam, The Road Back                       	20  Korea [1933-1937]
  Xuan Quynh, The Blue Flower                      	20
  Vikram Seth, Suzhou Park                         	21
  Hamid Ismailov, The Shaping Clay                 	22  Uzbekistan -> UK
  Mong-Lan [Mông], Overhearing Water              	23  Vietnam -> US 1970
  Romesh Gunesekera, Turning Point                 	25  Sri Lanka -> UK 1954 [English]
  Rajinderpal S. Pal, proof                        	27
  Kyi May Kaung, Eskimo Paradise                   	29
  Cyril Wong, Practical Aim                        	32
  Chin Won Ping, In My Mother's Dream              	33
  Dilawar Karadaghi, A Child Who Returned from There Told Us	37
  Nguyen Quang Thieu, The Habit of Hunger          	39
  Aku Wuwu, tiger skins                            	40
  Jon Pineda, My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up The Task     	41
  Kimiko Hahn, Things That Are Full of Pleasure・  		42
  Leong Liew Geok, Dismantling the Wayang Stage    		43
  Rajendra Kishore Panda, from Bodhinabha: The Sky Vision    	44  India [Oriya]
  Abdellatif Laabi, "The portrait of the father"   	44
  Shukrulla, The Age of My Father                  	45  Uzbekistan 1921
  Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Walk             	45  India -> USA F [English]
  Luis Cabalquinto, Depths of Field                	47  Phillippines 1935

Parsed Into Colors 49

  David Avidan, Dance Music                        	58
  Xue Di, The Wanderer                             	58  China -> US 1957
  Diana Der-Hovanessian, Two Voices                	61
  Jessica Hagedorn, Motown/Smokey Robinson         	63
  Mamdouh Adwan, Tired of Soliloquies              	64
  Kamaran Mukri, Star, Bird & Autumn               	65
  Noozar Elias, Stars and the Dawn                 	65
  Manju Kanchuli, The Way of a River, The Forest, Night   	66  Nepal 1951 F
  Fazil Husnu Daglarca, Dead                       	67
  Kitamura Taro, excerpts from "A Man of the Port"     	68
  Leung Ping-Kwan, Postcards of Old Hong Kong      	70
  Ravi Shankar, Exile                              	71
  Taha Muhammad Ali, Postoperative Complications Following the Extraction of Memory  72
  Yan Li, Warm Inspiration                         	73
  Nirmalendu Goon, Firearm                         	74  Bangladesh 1945
  Patrick Rosal, About the White Boys Who Drove By a Second Time    	75
		  to Throw a Bucket of Water on Me
  Gregory Djanikian, The Boy Who Had Eleven Toes   	76
  Cesar Ruiz Aquino, She Comes with Horns and Tail      	78
  Ishigaki Rin, Plucking Flowers                   	78
  Kazi Nazrul Islam, I Sing of Equality            	79
  Firuza Mammadli, Leaning My Shoulder to the Sun     	81
  Xie Ye, At Last I Turn My Back                   	81
  Mohan Koirala, It's a Mineral, the Mind          	82  Nepal 1934
  Tsuji Yukio, Rum and Snow                        	83
  K. Dhondup, Exile                                	84
  Mohja Kahf, Lifting the Hagar Heel               	84
  Purna Bahadur Vaidya, Water Is Water             	85
  Wadih Sa'adeh, Genesis                           	86
  Yong Shu Hoong, Chicago                          	86
  Boey Kim Cheng, Wanton with James                	87
  Issa Makhlouf, We Travel                         	88
  Saqi Farooqi, An Injured Tomcat in an Empty Sack     	89
  Zakariyya Muhammad, Everything                   	90
  Muhammed Al-Acha'ari, excerpt from "Little Wars"     	91
  Syed Shamsul Haq, Poem 240                       	92
  Unsi Al-Haj, is This You or the Tale?            	93
  Yi Sha, excerpt from "Wonders Never Cease"       	95
  Nazik Al-Mala'ika, Insignificant Woman           	96
  Meena Alexander, Floating on Fifth               	97  India -> US F [English]
  Bimal Nibha, Cycle                               	98  Nepal
  Gieve Patel, Squirrels in Washington             	99  India [English]
  Sa'adyya Muffareh, excerpt from "The Spell of Blazing Trees"    	100
  Nurit Zarhi, "For they are at the center of my life"     	101
  Wing Tek Lum, The Butcher                        	103
  Ahmad 'Abd Al-Mu'ti Hijazi, The Lonely  Woman's Room           	106
  Hatif Janabi, Paradises, Soldiers, and Stags     	108  Iraq -> Poland
  Li-Young Lee, Immigrant Blues                    	109
  Barouyr Sevag, The Analysis of Yearning (Garod)          	110
  Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Scavenging on Double Bluff       	112

Slips And Atmospherics 115

  Yang Lian, Knowing                               	124
  Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Genderole                    	126
  Cathy Park Hong, Ontology of Chang and Eng, the Original Siamese Twins	127
  Che Qianzi, Sentences                            	129
  Jose Garcia Villa, The Anchored Angel            	130
  Fatima Mahmoud, excerpt from "What Was Not Conceivable"      	132
  Arun Kolatkar, The Alphabet                      	133
  Lawrence Joseph, Then                            	134
  Brian Kim Stefans, from The Screens              	135
  Habib Tengour, The River of the Cyclops          	137
  Prageeta Sharma, A Brazen State                  	138
  Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Safety                    	138
  Sarah Gambito, Scene: a Loom                     	140
  Katayoon Zandvakili, The Eglantine Deal          	140
  Aimee Nezhukumatathil, By the Light of a Single Worm      	142
  Marilyn Chin, Tonight While the Stars are Shimmering (New World Duet)      	143
  John Yau, In the Fourth Year of The Plague       	144
  Ahmad Dahbour, The Hands Again                   	146
  Lale Muldur, 311 SERIES 2 (TURKISH RED)*         	146
  Tada Chimako, Haiku                              	148
  Taufiq Rafat, Lights                             	150
  Yeow Kai Chat, Quarterly Report No. 7: Epiphytes And Vetiver Control       	151
  Kitasono Katue, Oval Ghost                       	152
  Tan Lin, excerpt from BlipSoak01                 	153
  Wafaa' Lamrani, A Talisman                       	155
  Monica Youn, Stereoscopes                        	156
  Bahtiyar Vahapzade, Pauses                       	157
  Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, The World's a Printing House       	157
  Etel Adnan, Insomnia                             	159
  Alamgir Hashmi, Snow                             	161
  Abed Ismael, The Poem The Mirage                 	163
  Arundhathi Subramaniam, Strategist                  164
  Marjorie Evasco, Dreamweavers                    	165
  Khaled Mattawa, Texas in the Afternoon           	166
  Tsai Yim Pui, enchantress                        	167
  Yu Jian, excerpts from "Anthology of Notes"      	168
  Baha Zain, Language                              	171  Malaysia
  Vidhu Aggarwal, Customs House                    	171
  Ouyang Yu, A poem, long overdue                  	173
  Jalal El-Hakmaoui, You Hear Me Jim Morrison?     	174
  B.S. Mardhekar, The Forests of Yellow Bamboo Trees   	175
  Paolo Javier, DJ Cam 1                           	176
  Salim Barakat, Index of Creatures                	177
  Ricardo M. De Ungria, Notations on the Prospects For Peace	179
  Srikanth Reddy, Loose Strife with Apiary         	182
  Jenny Boully, from The Body                      	182
  Michael Ondaatje, Proust in the Waters           	187

Earth Of Drowned Gods 189

  Saadi Youssef, America, America                   	197
  Latif Nazemi, A Word for Freedom                 	201
    %   Sesshu Foster, Gigante                           	202
  R. Cheran, I Could Forget All This               	204
  Muhammad Al-Maghut, After Long Thinking          	205
  Jeet Thayil, Spiritus Mundi                      	206
  Kedarnath Singh, An Argument About Horses        	208
  Fadwa Tuqan, My Freedom                          	210
  Pham Tien Duat, In the Labor Market at Giang Vo     	211
  Shang Qin, Flying Garbage                        	212
  Aharon Shabtai, Our Land                         	213
  Abbas Beydoun, White Lie                         	215
  Hsien Min Toh, Crow-Shooters                     	215
  Suheir Hammad, nothin to waste                   	216
  Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Amazing Grace                 	217
  Marne L. Kilates, Python in the Mall             	219
  S. Sivasegaram, Ahalya                           	220
  Mohammad Kazem Kazemi, excerpt from "Return"     	221
  Rafiq Azad, Give me Bhaat, Bastard               	222
  Linh Dinh, Eating Fried Chicken                  	224
  'Abd-Allah Al-Baraduni, From Exile to Exile      	224
  Pireeni Sundaralingam, Letters from Exile        	225
  Carolyn Marie Souaid, Apology to Orhan Pamuk     	226
  Meng Lang, Facing a Nation                       	227
  Walid Bitar, A Moral Climate                     	228
  Monzer Masri, A Dusty Skull                      	229
  Nadia Anjuman, The Silenced                      	230  Afghanistan [Dari]
  Xiong Hong, Dark Associations                    	231
  Hayan Charara, Thinking American                 	731
  Hilmy Salem, Trembling                           	232
  Hasab Al-Shaikh Ja'far, Signature                	233
  Ketaki Kushari Dyson, A Woman Reflects on Mutability       	234
  Ashur Etwebi, Politics                           	236
  Taslima Nasrin, At the Back of Progress          	237  Bangladesh F
  Khalil Reza Uluturk, The Poet's Voice            	238
  Luisa A. Igloria, Hill Station                   	239  Phillippines -> US 1961-
  Duo Duo, When People Rise from Cheese, Statement #1          	241  China (Li Shizheng) -> Holland 1951-
  Prathibha Nandakumar, At the Staircase           	241
  Yang Mu, Fallen Leaves                           	242
  Mahmoud Darwish, In Jerusalem                    	245
  Vijay Seshadri, The Disappearances               	246

Buffaloes Under Dark Water 249

  Fatma Kandil, The Islands                        	259
  Lisa Asagi, Physics                              	259
  Kim Sung-Hui, Sun Mass                           	262
  Mani Rao, ァ                                      	262
  Rick Barot, Many Are Called                      	263
  Zhang Er, Blue                                   	265
  Eileen Tabios, Tercets from The Book of Revelation  	266
  C. Dale Young, Proximity                         	271
  Buddhadeva Bose, Rain and Storm                  	272
  Chogyam Trungpa, Haiku                           	273
  Eva Ranaweera, The Poson Moon                    	274
  Paul Tan, The Sentry at Munanyu Speaks to the Astronaut 	275
  Muhammad Al-Ghuzzi, A Dream                      	276
  Melih Cevdet Anday, Vertigo                      	276
  Qasim Haddad, All of Them                        	277
  Moniza Alvi, The Wedding                         	277
  Arthur Sze, Labrador Tea                         	279
  Angkarn Kalayanaphong, Scoop Up the Sea          	280
  Luis H. Francia, Gathering Storm                 	280
  Takahashi Mutsuo, The Dead Boy                   	282
  Taher Riyad, excerpt from "Signs"                	283
  Wang Xiaoni, White Moon                          	283
  Tamura Ryuichi, A Thin Line                         284
  Yao Feng, The Poet's Lunch                       	285
  Kunwar Narain, The Rest of the Poem              	285  India: Hindi
  Sajjad Sharif, Horse                             	285  Bangladesh
  Rachida Madani, excerpt from "Tales of a Severed Head"         	286
  Monica Ferrell, Mohn Des Gedachtnis              	287
  Nacera Mohammadi, Weeping                        	288
  Hung Hung, Woman Translating, or La Belle Infidele    289
  Arthur Yap, Night Scene                          	290
  Shiraishi Kazuko, Travel Again -- The Time I Am  Heading For Is May	291

  Joy Kogawa, To Scuttle the Moon                  	292
  Erkin Vahidov, Blue Bays                         	292
  Sherko Bekes, excerpt from "Butterfly Valley"    	294
  To Thuy Yen, The Deserted Cafe                   	295
  Suerkul Turgunbayev, Night                       	296
  Tina Chang, Origin & Ash                         	296
  Anjum Hasan, A Place Like Water                  	298
  Edgar B. Maranan, Climbing Mt. fraya             	299
  Ziba Karbassi, Carpet Garden                     	301
  Bhanu Kapil, from The Wolf Girls of Midnapure    	302
  Chuan Sha, The Wolves Are Roaring                	304
  Adrian A. Husain, Crocodiles                     	305
  Sankha Ghosh, Four Poems from Panjore DanRer Shabda (Oars In My Ribs)     	306
  Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, Song                         	307
  A.K. Ramanujan, The Black Hen                    	307  India -> US [English]
  Montri Umavijani, A Revisit                      	308
  Manjul, Sky                                      	308
  Ranjit Hoskote, Moth                             	309
  Rajee Seth, It Can't Ever See The Sky            	310
  Roy Miki, About                                  	311
  Ling Yu, excerpts from "Turtle Island Aria II"   	312
  Esmail Khoi, Of Sea Wayfarers                    	313
  Manohar Shetty, Spider                           	314
  Malathi Maitri, She Who Threads the Skies        	315
  Amal Dunqul, The City of Wrecked Ships           	315
  Koike Masayo, Antelope                           	316
  Atamurad Atabayev, Depth: A Sonnet               	317
  Nathalie Handal (Haiti/Palestine b. 1969), Autobiography of Night          	318
  R. Zamora Linmark, excerpt from "What Some Are Saying About The Body"     	318
		...  some say you shall remain on exhibit
		your death running on electricity. ...

Apostrophe In The Scripture 321

  Nazim Hikmet, Angina Pectoris                    	330 *
  Keki N. Daruwalla, Gujarat 2002                  	331
  Adonis, excerpts from "Diary of Beirut Uoder Siege, 1982"    	331
  Gu Cheng, excerpts from "Eulogy World"           	333
  Jean Arasanayagam, Nallur, 1982                  	334
  Granaz Moussavi, Camouflage Costumes             	336
  Bryan Thao Worra, Burning Eden One Branch at a Time   337
  Jam Ismail, Casa Blanca 1991                     	338
  Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Once Again the Mind             	340
  Yehuda Amichai, I Was Not One of the Six Million   	341
		And What Is the Span of My Life? Open Shut Open
  To Hu'u, Pham Hong Thai				344  Vietnam
  Jayanta Mahapatra, A Kind of Happiness           	344  India English/OOriya
  Maya Bejerano, The Pecan Leaves                  	345
  Ghassan Zaqtan, Black Horses                     	347
  Barbara Tran, Lineup                             	349
  Muhammad 'Afifi Matar, Recital                   	350
  Kim Kwang-Kyu, North South East West             	353
  Y Nhi, excerpts from 'Letter in Winter"          	354  Vietnam 1944
  D.H. Melhem, Mindful Breathing                   	357  USA (lebanese parents) F
  Joko Pinurbo, Coming Home at Night               	358
  Amir Or, Blow Job                                	359
  Waleed Khazindar, At Least                       	359
  Saniyya Saleh, Blind Boats                       	360
  Ahmad Shamlu, Greatest Wish Song                 	361
  Amjad Nasser, One Evening in a Cafe              	362
  Bejan Matur, Time Consoled in the Stone          	363
  H.S. Shiva Prakash, Eleven Rudras                	364
  U Sam Oeur (cambodia) The Fall of Culture       366
  Mammad Araz (azerbaijan), If There Were No War           367
  Shamsur Rahman, Into Olive Leaves                	368
  	[thinking of his mother, from a trench in a war]
  Sitor Situmorang, In Answer to Father's Letter   	370
  Kadhim Jihad, South                              	371
  Sholeh Wolpe, One Morning, in the LA Times       	373
  Shin Kyong-Nim, Ssitkim Kut-A wandering spirit's song 374
  Naomi Shihab Nye, The Word PEACE                 	375
  Chen Li, War Symphony                            	376

This House, My Bones 377

  Sudeep Sen, A Blank Letter                       	386
  Samuel Hazo, Just Words                          	386
  Jibananda Das, Banalata Sen                      	388
  Xi Chuan, excerpts from "Misfortune"             	389
  Partaw Naderi, Lucky Men                         	392
  Oktay Rifat, Beyond the Seven Hills              	393
  Samih Al-Qasim, Excerpt from "An Inquest"        	395
  Banira Giri, Kathmandu                           	395
  Simin Behbahani, Homeland, Once More, I'll Build You  398
  Nadia Tueni, Cedars                              	399
  Asadullah Habib, The Story of My Country         	400
  	My country is a book of disasters
	or maybe a beautiful poem without end
	never to be completed, nor read to the end
		(tr. from Darsi, Bashir Sakhawarz)
  Garrett Hongo, Chikin Hekka                      	401
  Al Mahmud, Deathsleep [Bangladesh]               	402
  Choman Hardi, Summer Roof                        	404
  Bhupi Sherchan, Cursed House                     	405
  Dilip Chitre, Ode to Bombay                      	406
  Amin Kamil, In Water                             	406
  Ravil Bukharaev, The Wey                         	407
  Luo Zhicheng, On Encountering Sorrow             	408
  Mohammad Rafiq, No One Belonging to Me           	414
  Vivek Narayanan, The Dump                        	415  India [English] 1972-
  Gevorg Emin, Small                               	415  Armenia 1918-1998
  Wong Phui Nam, excerpts from Against the Wilderness         	417
  Bei Dao, Black Map                               	418  China
  Yasmine Gooneratne, Washing the Grain            	419  Sri Lanka [English]
  Louise Ho, POP SONG 1 "At Home in Hong Kong" 1964    	420
  M. Athar Tahir, Carpet Weaver                    	421
  Ilhan Berk, Istanbul                             	422  Turkey 1918-2008
  Bino A. Realuyo, Filipineza                      	423
  Gurbannazar Eziz, The Eastern Poem               	424
  Ard Al-Aziz Al-Maqalih, Ma'reb Speaks            	425
  Kirpal Singh, Two Voices                         	425  Singapore 1949-
  Brian Komei Dempster, Your Hands Guide Me Through Trains        	427
  Hassan Najmi, Train Station                      	428  Morocco 1959-
  Ak Welsapar, Midday                              	429
  Dorji Penjore, I Want My Soil Back               	430
  Nguyen Duy, The Father                           	430
  Dom Moraes, Gondwana Rocks                       	431  India -> US [English]
  Gemino H. Abad, Jeepney                          	432
  G.S. Sharat Chandra, In the Third Country        	434  India -> US [English]
  Edip Cansever, Bedouin                           	435
  Al-Munsif Al-Wahaybi, In the Arab House          	436
  Agnes S.L. Lam, Eighteen Haiku for Xiamen        	437
  Merlie M. Alunan, The Neighbor's Geese           	439
  Bashir Sakhawarz, Kabul Behind My Window         	441
  Sohrab Sepehri, At the Hamlet of Gulestaneh      	442
  Zhai Yongming, The Black Room                    	443
  Salma Khadra Jayyusi, A Tale                     	444
  Peter Balakian, Mandelstam in Armenia, 1930      	445
  U Tin Moe, Desert Years                          	446
  Suji Kwock Kim, The Korean Community Garden      	448
  Gyalpo Tsering, The Nomad III                    	450
  Farah Didi, Dying for a Himalayan Dream          	450
  Elmaz Abinader, This House, My Bones             	451

Bowl Of Air And Shivers 455

  Sarat Kumar Mukhopadhyay, To God                 	464  India [Bangla]
  Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, One more say              	464  Tibet F
  Pimone Triplett, A Vision of St. Glare           	465
  Russell C. Leong, Tian Oiao Sky Bridge           	466
  Sargon Boulus, How Middle-Eastern Singing Was Born    467
  Agyeya, Quietly                                  	469  India [Hindi] 1911-1987
  Goenawan Mohamad, A Tale                      	469  Indonesia 1941-
  Ko Un, excerpts from Flowers of a Moment         	470  Korea
  Liu Kexiang, Natural Science Teacher             	474  Taiwan
  Muhammad Haji Salleh, the forest last day        	474
  Muhammed Al-Faituri, A Scream                    	476
  Behcet Necatigil, Phosphorus                     	477  Turkey
  Viswanatha Satyanarayana, Song of Krishna (5)    	478  India [Telugu] 1895-1976
  Kim Nam-Jo, Foreign Flags                        	479
  Nissim Ezekiel, The Hill                         	480
  Suyunbay Eraliev, Beginning                      	481  Kyrgyzstan 1921 [Russian]
  Lisa Suhair Majaj, Reunion                       	482
  K. Satchidanandan, Stammer                       	484
  Dahlia Ravikovitch, Grand Days Have Gone By Her      	485
  Rafiz Raaz, Seven Sparks                         	486
  Yona Wallach, Tuvia                              	487
  Saksiri Meesomsueb, excerpt from "Tutka Roi Sai (Sand Trace Doll)"      	489
  Eunice De Souza, Sacred River                    	489
  Eric Gamalinda, Valley of Marvels                	490
  Indran Amirthanayagam, Yamoussoukro, With Cathedral   491  UK -> US (b. Sri Lanka 1960)
  Woeser, Midnight, on the Fifth Day of the Fourth Month in the Tibetan Calendar        494
  Cathy Song, Breaking Karma                       	495
  Yusuf Al-Khal, Retaliation                       	496
  Najwan Darwish, Clouds                           	497
  Nazeeh Abu Afash, excerpt from "The Wolfs Hour"       498
  Fehmida Riyaz, Iqleema                           	498
  Amrita Pritam, excerpt from "Creation Poems"     	499
  Abdul Bari Jahani, Messenger                     	500
  Ku Sang, This Year                               	501
  Sujata Bhatt, Black Sails                        	501
  Suresh Parshottamdas Dalal, Prose Poem           	505
  Abdullah Habib Al-Maaini, Noon                   	505
  Sasaki Mikiro, The Procession                    	506
  Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab, Wafiqa's Casement         	507
  Shanta Acharya, Highgate Cemetery                	508
  Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Turbaned One                 	509
  Rahman Rahi, Redemption                          	510
  Toya Gurung, After a Turn Around the Temple      	511
  Saif Al-Rahbi, Clump of Grass                    	512
  Eshqabil Shukur, The Corpse of a Sufi            	513
  Suad Al-Kawari, Comfort for a Lonely Woman       	514
  Debjani Chatterjee, Swanning In                  	515
  Sally Ito, Alert to Glory                        	516
  Ngodup Paljor, Ways of the World                 	517
  Amina Said, on the seventh day of my birth       	517
  Andree Chedid, To Each of the Dead               	518
  Edith L. Tiempo, Rowena, Playing in the Sun      	519
  Phan Nhien Hao, Trivial Details                  	519
  Masud Khan, The Age of Commerce                  	521
  Eugene Gloria, Allegra with Spirit               	522
  Attila Ilhan, The Dead Grow Old                  	523
  Hilary Tham, Mrs. Wei on Piety                   	524
  Abdallah Zrika, excerpt from "Black Candle Drops"     524
  Dan Pagis, Ein Leben                             	526
  Nujoum Al-Ghanim, Sand in Flames                 	526
  Alfred A. Yuson, Dream of Knives                 	528
  Sapardi Djoko Damono, Walking Behind the Body    	529
  Buddhadhasa Bhikkhu, Blind Eyes, Eyes That See   	529
  Oliver De La Paz, Aubade with Bread for the Sparrows  530
  Ayukawa Nobuo, Ina Dilapidated House             	531
  Muhammed Hasan 'Awwad, Secret of Life and Nature      534  Saudi Arabia
  Michelle Yasmine Valladares, Mango               	535
  Du'thi Hoタn, Dhyana Land                         	536

Quivering World 537

  Evelyn Lau, 50 Bedtime Stories                   	546
  Bibhu Padhi, Pictures of the Body                	546
  Qian Xi Teng, three love objects                 	548
  Xi Xi, Sonnet                                    	550
  Ustand Khalilullah Khalili, Quatrains            	550
  Agha Shahid Ali, Ghazal                          	551
  M.A. Sepanlu, The Terrace of Dead Fishermen      	552
  Nathan Zach, As Agreed                           	553
  Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati, Aisha's Profile           	554
  R. Parthasarathy, East Window                    	555
  Ishle Yi Park, Portrait of a Bronx Bedroom       	556
  Justin Chin, Eros in Boystown                    	557
  Timothy Liu, Five Rice Queens                    	558
  Ito Hiromi, Near Kitami Station on the Odakyft Line           	559
  Forugh Farrokhzad, Sin                           	561
  Zheng Danyi, but love                            	562
  Kishwar Naheed, Non-Communication                	563
  Abd El-Monem Ramadan, Preparation for Our Desires        	564
  Salah 'Abd Al-Sabur, The Gist of the Story       	565
  Kazim Ali, Said in the Rain                      	566
  Sufia Kamal, Mother of Pearls                    	567
  Zareh Khrakhouni, Measure                        	568
  Bozor Sobir, Letters                             	569
  Sylva Gaboudikian, What I Notice                 	570
  Perveen Shakir, Consolation                      	571
  Shu Ting, A Night at the Hotel                   	572
  Hong Yun-Suk, Ways of Living 4                   	573
  Thanh Thチo, Adornments                           	573
  Wang Ping, Wild Pheasant                         	574
  Ahmad Reza Ahmadi, I Did Not Expect              	576
  Cecep Syamsul Hari, Wooden Table                 	577
  Laurence Wong, Dawn in the Mid-Levels            	578
  Rishma Dunlop, Saccade                           	579
  Kim Su-Yong, Variations on the Theme of Love     	581
  'Enayat Jaber, Circle                            	583
  Medakse, Envy (Yerance te)                       	584
  Mureed Barghouthy, Desire                        	584
  Priya Sarukkai Chabria, excerpt from "Flight In Silver, Red and Black"    	585
  Fawziyya Abu Khalid, To a Man                    	586
  So Chong-Ju, Barley-Tine Summer                  	586
  Abdullah Goran, Women and Beauty                 	587
  Muhammed Bennis, Lore Is Eternity's River        	588
  Partow Nooriala, Are Fm a Snake?                 	589
  Bassam Hajjar, Hatred                            	590
  Nader Nadebpour, The Sculptor                    	591
  Ooka Makoto, Rocking Horse                       	592
  Agnes Lam, the red grapefruit                    	592
  Reetika Vazirani, Quiet Death in a Red Closet    	594
  Dorothea Rosa Herliany, Saint Rosa, 1            	594
  Zahrad, Who Struck First?                        	595
  Nabila Azzubair, The Closed Game                 	595
  Harris Khalique, She and I                       	596
  Hsia Yワ, Fusion Kitch                            	597
  Hu'u Thinh, Poem Written by the Sea              	597  Vietnam 1942-
  Nizar Qabbani, What Is Love?                     	598

Author Biographies                                 	601
Translator Biographies                             	653
Country Index                                      	675
Language List                                      	682
Editor Biographies                                 	683
Permissions Acknowledgments                        	685
Index                                              	715

Other reviews

Eastern Voices in a Norton Anthology of poetry, Khademul Islam 2008-09-20

The new Norton anthology of poems, titled Language for a New Century:
Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond published in April
of this year casts a wide net. It consists of over 400 poets from 61
countries and/or territories ranging from Afghanistan to Oman, from Sudan to
Korea, as well as in the diaspora in Australia, Canada, Europe, the United
Kingdom, and the United States.

It has been edited by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar, all of
them fairly well-known poets themselves. Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar, as is
common among American poets, are also academics, while Nathalie Handal is
active in the theatre. In the Preface the editors say that this anthology was
born out of despair. In the wake of 9/11, Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar were
confronted anew with their hyphenated identities in America, "How could we
respond to the destruction and unjust loss of human lives while protesting
the one-sided and flattened view of the East being showcased in the media?
What was the vantage point we could arrive at in order to respond on a human
level, to generate articulate dialogue, conversations that did not fall into
the rhetorical fallacies of us vs. them?" An answer was to join forces with
Nathalie Handal, who had just then published "the groundbreaking anthology
The Poetry of Arab Women and was herself of Arab descent" and bring out an
anthology of poetry that would reflect "an alternate vision of the new
century" consisting of "voices converg(ing) in the dream of shared

There is a practical side to this collection, too, as explained by Carolyn
Forche, another well-known American poet, in her elegantly written
Preface. Even through the 1980s, she says, "there were very few anthologies
of international poetry available in the United States", and that this new
Norton anthology therefore is one that very much will fill the gap. She
praises it as "imaginatively constructed and . . . sweeping . . . wherein we read through
poetry unknown to us one poem at a time, through nine realms of human
experience: childhood, selfhood, experimentation, oppression, mystery, war,
homeland and exile, spiritual life, love and sexuality."

What she is referring to is the anthology's structure, with the poems
organized not in the conventional anthology manner of alphabetical listing,
or by country and region, but grouped into nine sections according to certain
common themes or threads running through them, allowing them "to speak to
each other." The title of each of these sections (Slips and Atmospherics, or
Buffaloes Under Dark Water, etc.) is a line from a poem within that
section. Each of these nine sections also is headed with a personal essay by
one of the three editors. The latter is a device that may work for some,
while others may find it a little too intrusive, the editorial presence a
little too heavy.

It is natural that most of the poems are translations, though it does
contain, especially in the case of the Indian poets and those living in the
diaspora, original English language poems. Bangladesh is represented by ten
poets through translations, among them Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rafiq Azad, Syed
Shamsul Haq, Al Mahmud, Shamsur Rahman, Taslima Nasrine and Mohammed
Rafiq. It is doubtful whether the editors were aware of, or made aware of,
the fact that poems are written in the original English by Bangladeshis,
which is a major oversight. The translations, excepting the ones of Mohammed
Rafique (reproduced here), Taslima Nasrine, and Syed Shamsul Haq, are not
particularly satisfying. In Al Mahmud's poem 'Deathsleep', the lines -

	My wife though, didn't want
	To reach any decisions about me
	The reliance that grows out of living together fifty years
	She does not have it.

- which, even allowing for the fact that, in Carolyn Forche's words, when
considering "poetry in translation, we consider the transmission of
sensibility and the expressivity of content rather than the music, cadence,
sound and wordplay"-- read like just plain bad prose. If I was Al Mahmud, I
would wince and never open this anthology again.

Another example is Rafiq Azad's famous poem 'Bhaat day, Haramjada’. Here the
title is 'Give me Bhaat, Bastard', which in the Norton anthology looks
ludicrous. One knows that the term 'bhaat’ has no equivalent in English, and
that the translated 'cooked rice' is too cumbersome for poetry, and that just
plain 'rice' does not quite convey the full Bengali meaning. Still, a
compromise should have been made. After all, the word 'bhaat’ here is a
synecdoche, a figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole, as in
the prayer "Give us this day our daily bread", where 'bread' stands not just
for bread alone but for the meals taken each day. So too 'bhaat’ here stands
not for literally cooked rice, but also for food. And so here 'rice' or
'food' or some imaginative variation thereof could have been done instead of
this . . . this . . . well, words fail me! To be shortly followed by these two dead lines
in the body of the poem:

	Given twice a day two fist-full meals;
	demand comes for nothing else

If I was Rafiq Azad, I too would join Al Mahmud in wincing and never open the
damn thing again. But this was Norton's choice, and they have to live with

The range of poems and poets here is admittedly enormous, and it'll take
weeks, months, to really go through the poems and poets, and come to know
them. Or arrive at any definitive conclusion about the anthology as a
whole. What one can say at this point is that nearly all of them are major
poets within their cultures and lands, and it really is a privilege that
Norton is extending to us by providing such easy access to such a
multiplicity of voices and bards. The book is beautifully produced, with a
lovely, clear font and spacious layout accompanied by a thorough indexing of
poets, languages, and countries. Wisely enough, it was published as a
paperback, which lowers the burden of cost and makes for ease of carry.

But (and there's always a but!) there's one thing that needs be said, and
here I have to be careful to try and get it right. It is the persistent
feeling that some of the products of the diaspora poets, especially those
living in the United States, come across as artificial and contrived. It is a
condition akin to what Timothy Brennan labeled as the "new cosmopolitan
writing" in the context of his critique of the postcolonial critical industry
(At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now), where he points out that
postcolonial literary studies, criticism and readings have begun to spawn a
new literary genre (upsetting the natural process of literature first and
criticism later) dictated by the conventions generated by that particular
criticism and reading. As he put it "several younger writers have entered a
genre of third world metropolitan fiction whose conventions have given their
novels the unfortunate feel of ready-mades." Diaspora poetry, too, has by now
evolved certain conventions whose lineaments can be clearly discerned, and
there are poets who readily succumb to it, thereby stripping their po ems of
shock, originality and well . . . .genuine poetry. The editors would have done well
to be more aware of this development.

Other reviews

The preface thoroughly outlines the selection criteria for poems in the
anthology: 1) a broad definition of "the East", 2) representation of a broad
selection of countries and nationalities, 3) the definition of "contemporary
poetry" as post-1946, 4) a broad representation of various schools/styles of
poetry, 5) a balance of emerging and established poets from different
generations, 6) the selection of many different aesthetic sensibilities, 7)
the publication of at least one book, with limited exceptions, and 8) the
inclusion of translations.

the inclusion of just one poem -- as opposed to several poems per poet, as
was done in The Open Boat (ed. Garrett Hongo) and Asian-American Poetry: The
Next Generation (ed. Victoria Chang) anthologies -- may limit our
understanding and appreciation of the work of any particular poet.

Their definition of the East is broad and inclusive enough to include the
ruptures of diasporas, as well as other gaps such as the often-neglected
poetry of Central Asia. Their categories are fluid and unstable, crossing the
boundaries of religion and state, thereby encompassing countries like Sudan
or Tunisia, which are classified as both Asian and African. Undeniably the
process of selection has been mired by challenges and problematic constructs,
such as the balance of representation or indeed the notion of identity, which
becomes framed in a particular way. The decision to publish a single poem by
each of the poets is well intentioned and egalitarian. While this broadens
the scope of the collection, to some extent it limits the depth to which a
reader may engage with an individual poet's work.

"Parsed into Colours" describes Handal's first collisions with racism. She
recalls an incident during a childhood spent in the Caribbean, when she was
asked by a Caucasian neighbour why she was playing with three Haitian
girls. Ravi Shankar's essay "This House, My Bones" brings into lucid focus
the cultural hyphenation experienced by the poet on returning to suburban
America after a year spent in Madras, where he was taken to be blessed by a
Hindu priest and have his head shaved and covered in sandalwood paste.

    I returned nearly bald, to Virginia in the middle of the school year. I
    had been a rare specimen in India, marvelled at for being American, and
    coming back I thought some modicum of magic would remain with me. . . Those
    were unsettled times because I was both literally and metaphorically
    between homes. (381)

Carolyn Forché, in her foreword, describes how the arrangement of the poems
follows "nine realms of human experience". There are obvious thematic
classifications such as childhood, home, identity, exile and war. But the
anthology includes poems which are equally inspired by, or evoke an
understanding of mystery, spirituality, sexuality and love. One is struck, as
ever, by poems about childhood, replete with vital perceptions and vivid
images suggestive of those early encounters with language and
otherness. Joseph O. Legaspi's "Ode to My Mother's Hair" is a lyric
disclosure in which the mother's hair is metonymic of protection,
nourishment, absorbing the domestic scents of "milkfish, garlic, goat;". The
hair becomes an embodiment of nature. Fragile memories and emotions are
evoked, balanced by a lyrical composure, suggesting the poet's trust.

            And in this river
            my mother's wet, swirling hair

            reminds me
            of monsoon seasons
            when our house,
            besieged by wind and water
            teetered and threatened to split open,
            exposing the diorama
            of our barely protected lives (11)

Pak Chaesam's haunting poem "The Road Back", renders the mother as a central, if tireless figure, returning home to her sleeping children, after working all day. Within the domestic context, she is identified with nature's elemental beauty.

            Noone to see, no one
            to comprehend when she unties
            the starlight she carries back on her forehead,
            and shakes loose the moonlight
            that clings to her sleeves. (20)

I was disturbed by the brutality of R. Cheran's "I Could Forget All This"
(204), translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmstrom. It depicts convincingly
detailed images of atrocities committed in the genocide war against Tamils:
"a fragment of a sari/that escaped burning", "a thigh-bone protruding/from an
upturned, burnt-out car." Within the same section, "Earth of Drowned Gods", I
was struck by the starkness of the poem "White Lie" written by the Lebanese
poet Abbas Beydoun and translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah.

            The truth is also blood.
            And it might be a piece of tongue
            or something severed from us.
            We might find it in semen
            or in dust if these two things
            are not simply appearances     (215)

The section titled, "Bowl of Air and Shivers", attests to this spiritual and
philosophical vision. The Tibetan poet Woeser, whose poem is translated from
Tibetan by d dalton, juxtaposes the political and the divine, as a way of
recording resistance.

     But here, in the Tibet that is daily ascending
     daylight nurtured by the gods’ ether
     the devils’ fumes also arrive   (494)

True to the range of styles and forms found in this anthology, there are more
ironic engagements with the divine. Vishwanatha Satyanarayana's "Song of
Krishna" personifies the god as a spoiled lover, undisciplined, announcing
himself inconveniently to the speaker, while she is bathing: Debjani
Chatterjee's whimsical poem "Swanning In" depicts the Hindu goddess of the
arts, Saraswati as a gracious if "unexpected guest". "Even in Fortress
Britain," the poet recognises a pervading presence in absence, an aporia,
reminiscent of home, of Heaven, or "a neighbourhood in India." In "Cycle" the
Nepalese poet, Bimal Nibha, compares a humble and ordinary object with the
self. The lost bicycle with all its imperfections becomes the vehicle of the
poet's body: his "weight", his "measure" and "breath". These poems illustrate
how restraint, humour, or the supple use of metaphor can construct
specificity and culturally-encoded meanings.

--- blurb:
A landmark anthology, providing the most ambitious, far-reaching collection
of contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern poetry available. Language for a New
Century celebrates the artistic and cultural forces flourishing today in the
East, bringing together an unprecedented selection of works by South Asian,
East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian poets as well as poets living
in the Diaspora. Some poets, such as Bei Dao and Mahmoud Darwish, are
acclaimed worldwide, but many more will be new to the reader. The collection
includes 400 unique voices — political and apolitical, monastic and erotic—
represent a wider artistic movement that challenges thousand-year-old
traditions, broadening our notion of contemporary literature. Each section of
the anthology — organized by theme rather than by national affiliation — is
preceded by a personal essay from the editors that introduces the poetry and
exhorts readers to examine their own identities in light of these powerful
poems. In an age of violence and terrorism, often predicated by cultural
ignorance, this anthology is a bold declaration of shared humanity and
devotion to the transformative power of art.

bookexcerptise is maintained by a small group of editors. get in touch with us! bookexcerptise [at] gmail [dot] .com.

This review by Amit Mukerjee was last updated on : 2015 Sep 08