Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
A sudden storm:
Winds carry the screen from someone's sliding glass door into our back yard.
The sky's the color of taupe, filled with dust and sand.
The birds have all gone now.
The rain rains down as mud.
Officials shut down the Dead Sea's Highway. Temperatures continue to drop.
The dog won't go out.
Power goes off and on, on and off. The internet comes and goes. What are satellites are saying?
I keep thinking of sod dugouts in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas. Of quick static and the dust flu.
They say snow is coming; that frost is forming as we speak.
Last week, it was 80 degrees.
All people should avoid the valleys. There's a danger of flash floods.
Still, southwesterly winds from the Sinai keep blowing.
What are the satellites saying?
Even the seaports are closed.
Friday, December 10, 2010
|Mawadda Nour from Saudi Arabia: Miss Arab World 2009|
Nesreen Mohamed, 24, a young Palestinian woman studying in Egypt, said the fact that the competition accepted veiled women helped motivate her to enter and made her parents feel safe. But when her mother phoned in to reprimand her for letting a man apply her makeup, she cried for an entire day and said she felt that she had compromised her values. She considered withdrawing until she was promised a female makeup artist.
“We are trying to live the Western experience and at the same time modify it to suit our Middle Eastern values,” said Sara El Selousy, 24, who participated as Miss Egypt. “We are dressed in loose clothes, we move around in T-shirts, we’re not wearing anything revealing, and we are still good looking.”
But what some of the girls, including Ms. Selousy, did was find other ways to compensate for the loose tops. They wore their long-sleeve T-shirts on skin-tight pants and seemed to relish being followed by the cameras. The confusion and challenges to Arab female identity thrown up by the pageant eventually pushed two of the original 20 participants to withdraw.
Al Zahraa Al Maleki, 21, had been representing Oman before pulling out. “For me, this was wrong, especially as a woman from an Arab Gulf society,” she said. “I joined with the understanding that this was a cultural event, but after three days of wearing full makeup, standing for photo shoots and learning to walk on stage, I chose to go back to my classes.”
Thursday, December 9, 2010
...What interests me is not only the genius of the poet translated but also the genius of what is possible in English as it bends to accommodate or digest various new forms. By translating, we learn how the limits of our minds can be stretched to absorb the foreign, and how thereby we are able to make our language beautiful in a new way.
(from "Various Tongues," an exchange by Ilya Kaminsky and Adam Kirsch via The Poetry Foundation)
(from "Various Tongues," an exchange by Ilya Kaminsky and Adam Kirsch via The Poetry Foundation)
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Among foreign cultural institutes and publishers, the traditional American aversion to literature in translation is known as “the 3 percent problem.”
I recently met a woman who speaks five languages. She told me this:
While grocery shopping in Amman I was chatting on the phone with my mother who lives in Munich. Somewhere near the potatoes, I noticed people had started to stare. Apparently, a woman and her husband heard my German and thought I was speaking Arabic. "Shame," the man said. "Shame." It was then I realized there's a word in German that sounds like "vagina" in Arabic. And so there I was pushing my cart, saying "vagina, vagina, vagina" all down the produce stand.
But how important is this book to Adonis; is he much concerned that he is read in English?
"I'm interested in all readers," he says. "The reader is such that what he does is a part of me, and English readers are no different from Arab readers in that regard.
"The reader is the 'other', the person I am trying to reach. And that 'otherness' is also a part of me. I'm interested in the perception of non-Arab readers because they may allow me a clearer perception of myself...."Unfortunately, western readers continue to see Arab culture as marginal. Arab politics has little weight; this is accepted; but we musn't conflate politics and culture, which unfortunately is what western readers tend to do."
While in Chile, my husband attempted to express his embarrassment. Estoy embarazada, he told a room filled with his hosts, meaning I am pregnant. In some ways, he was successful. For the rest of his stay, a five-year-old referred to him as payaso -- or clown.
I hope to translate Arabic poetry before I leave the Middle East. A lofty ambition, for sure. Still, I'm beginning to read the language, although my vocabulary is so limited that I'll often sound out a word whose meaning leaves me at a loss. For example, I don't know the Arabic word for "vagina."
Open Letter Books is a small press that publishes nothing but literature in translation.
“There’s a set of readers out there that’s very interested in translations and international literature and is not getting what it wants,” said Chad W. Post, Open Letter’s director. “American literature has a lot of great works. But English-speaking readers don’t have full access to voices and viewpoints from around the world, and we’re trying to rectify that.”
Thanks to K-the-G, I'm reading this.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
I was more upset with myself than anyone else, and not at all surprised, when the rejection letters started trickling in. What did catch me off guard was their content. My writing was called “riveting,” my story heartfelt and best wishes were offered for the placement of “this talented writer.” This was disorienting and I began to wonder if publishers had lower standards for the quality of writing when the topic itself, in this case “Iran”, was supposed to be enough to sell a book. The reasons these editors gave for passing on my book seemed to have nothing to do with me, my story or my writing. One of the editors cited the “Middle East fatigue” reported by her sales force, another expressed the “worry that too many related books have been published in recent years” and still another was doubtful that the book would “break through to commercial success in this market. I wish I felt otherwise,” she added, “and I wish more than that that it didn’t matter.”
Saturday, December 4, 2010
|SF's Dog Eared Books (photo by Thor Swift)|
Of all the places I've lived, San Francisco's is the richest literary culture. The city has an abundance of readings, organizations, bookstores new and used, festivals, celebrations, libraries, blah-dee-blah-blah-blah. As Gregory Dicum describes in The New York Times:
"The Mission may be San Francisco’s current book hub, but it isn’t the only neighborhood where you’ll find one-of-a-kind bookstores. If, for instance, you’re exploring Noe Valley, seek out Omnivore, a tiny, carefully curated shop that fulfills the food-mad city’s appetite for gastronomic literature. On Haight Street, Bound Together is a roughly 30-year-old anarchist collective, a closet of a shop crammed floor to ceiling with the heavy, serious literature of a parallel universe.... The Green Arcade, on Market Street at the edge of Hayes Valley, focuses on the more capitalism-friendly progressive genre of sustainability and eco-living. Even the biggest used bookstore in the city, Green Apple, on Clement Street in the Richmond, maintains a distinctive feel thanks to staff members who know their way around the sprawling shop and around the world of books itself. 'It’s not the kind of thing people could create from scratch these days,' said Pete Mulvilhill, one of the owners."
In a shopping district that borders our neighborhood in Amman, there are several "bookstores" and "libraries." The catch is that such places sell stationary, office supplies, ink cartridges, small toys, and the occasional magazine in Arabic. Today, for example, I took ten-year-old M. to the "library" to purchase a watercolor set, paint brushes, black and red ribbon, double-sided tape, and a foam globe for her upcoming project on Francis Drake. We also found Christmas ornaments, glitter tubes, picture frames, candy, and small lamps among the library's shelves and displays. "I want my mom to take me shopping here next year for school supplies," said M, who's returning to Virginia in the fall. "This place is way cooler than Walmart."
|by Mahmoud Darwish |
translated by Fady Joudah
|In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,|
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing
the history of the holy . . . ascending to heaven
and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love
and peace are holy and are coming to town.
I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How
do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?
Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?
I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see
no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.
All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly
then I become another. Transfigured. Words
sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger
mouth: “If you don’t believe you won’t believe.”
I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white
biblical rose. And my hands like two doves
on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.
I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,
transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?
I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I
think to myself: Alone, the prophet Mohammad
spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”
Then what? A woman soldier shouted:
Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?
I said: You killed me . . . and I forgot, like you, to die.
Friday, December 3, 2010
|Ashley Bouder: NYCB|
"One feeling I do remember is that nervousness of those first Nutcracker performances with the company. And I say nervousness for a couple reasons. One is that it is most likely the first time you are performing multiple roles in one evening. And two, there are 40-something performances you have to perform in under six weeks. At the start it is daunting, to say the least. I also have a very vivid memory of my first big role in The Nutcracker. I was 17 years old and given the opportunity to dance the Dew Drop Fairy. How exciting! It is turning and jumping and bending. All things that I love to do. I had performed this role as a teenager at my home school of CPYB and had watched it for two years in New York. This was my second Nutcracker and I had spent my first performing every show of Chinese and watching every waltz of the flowers wishing I could be dancing Dew Drop. So, of course, my chance comes, as it happened two days before my 18th birthday, and I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. I run out for my first entrance to that beautiful harp, sucking up every moment, and what do I do at the end of the second eight counts of dancing? Fall! I fall on my face on center when no one else is moving on the stage. Embarrassing? Yes! I'm on the ground staring at the gray marley floor, looking up at the conductor, Maurice Kaplow, and he has stopped waving his baton to gape. But embarrassing as this seemed, I got up and laughed. My first feeling was disbelief, then the need to get up, then "screw it." I thought, "well, even if I miss my turns, it can't get much worse." I think this moment became a model for my attitude towards disasters on stage for my career. Slip, fall, forget choreography, it's all part of live ballet. You move on, forget, and trust it will be better. Then later, you have a good laugh. I even have a picture of my now infamous Dew Drop fall. I am dancing Dew Drop on opening night this year. But not a performance of The Nutcracker goes by that I don't think about that moment."
I can think of at least three good falls I had on stage during Nutcracker season: Arabian 2xs and once as a soloist in Waltz of the Flowers when I over-crossed my mark. Hearing an audience's communal gasp is the absolute worst. I can't say I ever had "a good laugh" about my missteps. Photos anyone?
Here (Wislawa Szymborska)
Composing a Life (Mary Catherine Bateson)