The Tahrir of Poems:
Seven Contemporary Egyptian Poets

edited and translated by Maged Zaher

Translation is a generous act — in an instant our world expands. Maged Zaher, who divides his time between Seattle and his native Cairo, here opens a door into recent Egyptian poetry, and it is a pleasure to follow him over the threshold. “These are poets from the generation of the revolution,” he writes in his introduction. “And this is revolutionary poetry, which exactly means that this poetry has nothing to do with sloganeering. Most of these poets participated in the demonstrations and sit-ins in Tahrir against Mubarak in 2011. But they also had their own aesthetic revolution against the bareness of the cultural life under Mubarak.” The seven writers included here are vividly inventive, their voices sometimes humorous, sometimes searing. This collection marks the first full-length volume from Seattle press Alice Blue Books. And now, a sample —

“A slaughtered chicken a few minutes before death”

I thought
To stand up and organize the room,
And cut my nails
Or put on lipstick
That no one will see.
I wash the dishes
Or break them for a change.
I pace around myself,
Do some crunches,
Or go out to the balcony cheapened by voyeurism.
I smoke two cigarettes without feeling them
Or flirt with a mouse on the opposing roof.
I write and erase…
My feet are swollen.
My fingers are numb.
I double-check the acne on my face
Before I throw my sixth cigarette
At the serpentine souls,
The werewolves of the streets
And go inside to die a little…

      — Malaka Badr

Posted by Christine