Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

SAFAR
- RABI-UL-AWWAL 
1425 H
APRIL
2004
Volume 17-0
4 No : 208
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Book Review


Poems that Ask: Why Do We Cry?

Poems that Ask: Why Do We Cry?

Reviewed by Nigar Ataulla

Love, Death and Exile Poems, Translated from Arabic, By Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati, Translated by Bassam K.Frangieh (Bilingual Edition), Published by: Georgetown University Press Washington D.C

Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati was a renowned contemporary Arab poet and a leader in the free verse Movement which began in Iraq in 1948. Together with Nazik Al Malaika and Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab, Al-Bayati led Arabic poetry beyond the constraints of classical Arabic poetical forms, transcending the traditional rhyme schemes and conventional metric patterns which had prevailed for more than 15 centuries. Yet, even among the pioneers of contemporary Arabic poetry, Al-Bayati is an innovator, for his works depart from classical Arabic poetry in substance as well as structure.

Love, Death and Exile is the first attempt to introduce the English speaking world to the work of this acknowledged master of contemporary Arabic poetry.

" I first met Bayati in 1988 in Hammamet, Tunisia at the Second International Conference on the Dialogue of Cultures and Translation. I spent a few evenings with the poet walking on the shores of the Mediterranean. Then we traveled to Tunis where we spent a week together. This time was of significant personal importance to me. I learned from Bayati far more than I had learned from others during my academic career. I knew I was in the company of a master and a real mentor, both in poetry and in life," says Bassam .K. Frangieh who has meticulously worked on translating Bayati's poetry into English.

Love, Death and Exile comprises 51 poems selected from eight collections written by Bayati over a period of 20 years. Al-Bayati was personally and profoundly affected by the suffering of his fellow Arabs and he himself had been victimised by the injustices of the prevailing political structure of Arab States. It is therefore not surprising that Al-Bayati's poetry is written in a spirit of rejection, that he regards it as the poet's duty to resist oppression and partake actively in the struggle for political freedom and social justice. On August 3, 1999, Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati died in Damascus, Syria, his last haven after long years of continuous exile. He had moved from Amman to Damascus earlier the same year after having lived in Jordan since 1992. He suffered a heart attack combined with an asthma attack.

The book is a fitting tribute to Bayati who associated the lifestyles of his generation and the physical attributes of the modern city, painting both in images of regret as well as disdain. The poet wrote: "My generation has lost its character and its real voice and there was no connection between what we studied and what we needed....such schizophrenia generated a feeling of contradiction between our idealogy and reality...we were in need of a fire to burn our reality to give it purity".

" The night overtook the day," and Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati overtakes the reader with his deeply somber and vivid poems. An added attraction to this excellent book is the printing of the Arabic text facing the English translation. For copies of the book, get in touch with Jenni R. Brewer of Georgetown University Press, Washington on her email: jrb52@georgetown.edu

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