Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Arabic Poems in Translation – Will Pewitt

Sep 24, 2021 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Arabic by Will Pewitt 

Rābiʿa al-ʿAdawiyya

Rābiʿa al-ʿAdawiyya was sold into slavery as a young girl who, according to legend, was freed by her master due to her piety, which eventually led to her veneration as a Sufi saint. Often known as Rābiʿa of Basra, her verses such as these lyricize the sensuality of the divine.

Two Loves

Mine is one love atop another:
        One, a love of dutiful submission,
              The other, of desirous ignition.
As for that love that is appetite,
        let Your Memory busy me—
              an occupation colonizing me fully.
Thus settled, love folds me into revelation
              for you are no thing unveiled
                      but Unveiling Itself.
So, what particulars can be seen by me,
              possessed as I am
                      by Sight?
In the Abyss

I found you in the abyss
           of these men. And I liberated my desperate body            as their greed devoured it. So this husk you hold is not me            but from me, and the lover of its heart            is the heart of the sky.


Umm al-Ala bint Yusuf

Little is known of the poet Umm al-Ala bint Yusuf other than that she was from Wadi al-Hijara (today known as Guadalajara) roughly one thousand years ago.

From You
Everything from You
      is gifted its richness
             by ripening in time
      against Your eternity.
Each eye gets its sympathy
      godded from Your vision,
             each ear finds its comfort
      recalling Your harmony.
To live below the reach
       of Your touch
             is to be a wish
       that’s gotten lost.
My Gardener

God is my gardener
whose breeze sends a song through the ripe reeds,
as if even the script scrying words on the water
were eloquently articulated, clause by clause.

Translator Will Pewitt teaches global literature at the University of North Florida and publishes in a variety of genres, from poetry and fiction to history and philosophy. More of his work can be found at


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