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.

Tahar Bekri

Jun 4, 2021 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the French by Patrick Williamson
Translator’s note

Tahar Bekri’s rhythms, haunting and deliberately repetitive, marry the motion of the sea that laps the shores of Africa, as he moves from Saint Louis, Senegal, to the coasts of America where he, the universal poet, defies the skyscrapers while remembering his childhood among the palm groves that bordered the ports and called for eternal departures. His inner voice is deeply rooted in individual and collective memory, on a quest for new horizons, at the crossroads of tradition and modernity. His work seeks, above all, to be a song for brotherhood, a land without frontiers.

Impatient Dreams (Extracts from Book I)

He loved the swallows flying over the sea,
but did not know why,
rain and wind hoisted his sails, from war to
war, he told wild roses of his fits
of anger, horizons carried his footsteps away
towards oblivion, bruised sands destroyed
his lost steps.

***

Fisherman of stars, he discovered satellites,
the sky as a motorway, humans as mad
seagulls, here the planet shakes its volcanoes,
over there it rouses its rivers for help,
in vain the ocean answered the call.

***

Old ocean, you said, Lautréamont,
if I’d listened to you, he cried out to the lost
sun, heart like a swidden, desert that advances,
he raised dikes against the ephemeral, seaweed
stole his dreams, there on the quay
of his suffering.

***

And the earth torn by its wounds
bent the light, he roamed along oak
copses walks of unrelenting memories,
sometimes spiders overcast his sight,
cemeteries full of their dead leaves,
merciless.

***

The days carried his silences off
into sonorous woods, words wrenched
from storms, this country is mine, he said
to mist-filled mornings, yes, Jalāl ad-Dīn Rûmi,
the world is like a foam-flake!

***

Birch tree bark hardened his knots,
a thousand dried grasses for a spark, all
these wasps are not worth a bee, sea
lyme grass for offerings, evening waits
hastened his peace, night already
in the midst of the turmoil.

***

Like flocks of indifferent birds, the voices
returned interminably, the echo in the masts
stifled his zeal, oars thrust against walls,
to err,
he remembered is ivy climbing up
to the windows, one by one, the doors closed
in on themselves…

***

He opened the book of the sea, unflagging,
the words came and died on the shores,
wave after wave, he awakened their races
horses of fire, letters galloping, there are, said
the friend, orange trees that die of sorrow.

__

Artwork by Sohini Ghose
Tahar Bekri

Tahar Bekri

Tahar Bekri was born at Gabès in Tunisia in 1951. Writes in French and Arabic. Has lived in Paris since 1976. He has published about thirty works (poetry, journals, essays, art books). His poetry has been translated into various languages and is the subject of academic works and artistic creations. Honorary Maître de Conférences at Université de Paris X-Nanterre. Benjamin Fondane International Award for Francophone literature, 2018; Prix de Rayonnement de la langue et de la littérature françaises, the Académie Française, 2019.

Patrick Williamson

Patrick Williamson

Patrick Williamson is an English poet and translator. Most recent poetry collections: Traversi (English-Italian, Samuele Editore, 2018), Beneficato (SE, 2015), Gifted (Corrupt Press, 2014), Nel Santuario (SE, 2013; Menzione speciale della Giuria in the XV Concorso Guido Gozzano, 2014). Editor and translator of The Parley Tree, Poets from French-speaking Africa and the Arab World (Arc Publications, 2012) and translator notably of Max Alhau (France), Tahar Bekri (Tunisia), Gilles Cyr (Quebec), as well as Italian poets Guido Cupani and Erri de Luca. Recent translations in Transference, Metamorphoses, The Tupelo Quarterly, and poems in The Black Bough, The Fortnightly Review notably. Longstanding collaborator with artists’ book publisher Transignum, member of the editorial committee of La Traductière, and founding member of transnational literary agency Linguafranca.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ongoing Event

Ongoing Event

Upcoming Books

Ongoing Events

Antonym Bookshelf

You have Successfully Subscribed!