A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor: Selected Poems

Overview

“Maram al-Massri comes as a shock. She writes about all the taboo subjects—physical passion, faithlessness, adultery, loneliness, despair—with candor and intensity that would mark her out even to Westerners.”—The Times (London)

“Her direct, unadorned writing, with its emphasis on the quotidian, and utilization of simple, almost child-like metaphors, contrast sharply with the conventions of traditional Arabic love poetry.”—Banipal: Magazine of ...

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Overview

“Maram al-Massri comes as a shock. She writes about all the taboo subjects—physical passion, faithlessness, adultery, loneliness, despair—with candor and intensity that would mark her out even to Westerners.”—The Times (London)

“Her direct, unadorned writing, with its emphasis on the quotidian, and utilization of simple, almost child-like metaphors, contrast sharply with the conventions of traditional Arabic love poetry.”—Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature

"The spare emotive verse of A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor reflects definite bravery on the part of Syrian poet Maram Al-Massri."
ForeWord

"Sexy, mischievous and utterly delightful, (al-Massri's) poems are epigrammatic, seductively clever and at their best, unforgettable."—San Diego Union-Tribune

"Short, vivid, frankly erotic and remarkable for their emotional intelligence, Syrian poet Al-Massri's poems are as startling in English as they must have been to their first Arabic readers." —Publishers Weekly

Syrian poet Maram al-Massri writes of love and the place of women in the modern age with striking candor and intensity. “I am this mix between the submissive and rebellious woman,” she writes, “my freedom is so difficult and so desired.” Her poems invoke a world where women are trapped and men flow freely, of the intoxicating power of seduction and the intensity of lust, of the security of relationships and muffled explosions of emotion.

Like grains of salt
they shone
then melted.
This is how they disappeared,
those men
who did not love me.

Al-Massri herself straddles racial, religious, and cultural worlds. Born in Latakia, Syria, she moved to Paris in 1984 and has since refused to return: “I divorced from my past, my religion, my land, and even from my language.” Despite being fluent in French and English, she writes in Arabic, following traditional forms.

A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor is al-Massri’s first book published in the United States, and appears in a bilingual Arabic-English edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Short, vivid, frankly erotic and remarkable for their emotional intelligence, Syrian poet Al-Massri's poems are as startling in English as they must have been to their first Arabic readers. Her acute renditions of pain and pleasure are more than a bit suggestive of Catullus-or rather a female Catullus, whose mix of the familial and the bodily, of worries about motherhood with expression of lust, first shock, then draw admiration for their concise artistry: "Before you fell asleep," a one-sentence poem asks a lover or husband, "why did you forget/ to switch off/ the lamp/ of my burning desires?" A lover appears "in his old cotton clothes/ and his torn socks," "the way the need for love/ strips naked." A woman with unconsummated yearnings compares herself to a fruit tree the birds leave alone. A happier woman, at the end of a tryst, will "search for pieces/ of my clothes/ to wear me," leaving only "tears/ of pleasure" behind. Mattawa renders the traditional Middle Eastern forms of Al-Massri's lyric sequences into brief English free verse. The results sound just familiar enough to draw Americans in, just strange enough to keep them in memory. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In this tender Arabic/English collection, Mattawa carefully renders over 160 selected poems from al-Massri's A Red Cherry on a White-Tiled Floorand I Look to You. Clear, direct, and conversational in tone, these short works peer through the window of love and examine private passion. "What/beautiful crime/have I committed?" one lover asks, then replies with ardor, "I enjoyed/a body." Poems focus on physicality (touches, kisses, burning caresses) and lust ("With my delicious fruit/I light/the way leading to me"); here readers will find seduction, courtship, lonely hearts ("Melancholy,/a crazed cow,/devours/the green and dry/shoots of my ecstasy"), and failing marriages ("a man and a woman,/boredom their third companion"). Al-Massri's characters experience the duality of love. Women feast in their ecstasy, then later carry with them the pungent "smell of regret," while once potent men suddenly find themselves disquieted and "wound up in illusions." This translation introduces American audiences to an important new voice in Syrian poetry. Recommended for all libraries.
—Miriam Tuliao

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556592645
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Series: Lannan Literary Selections Series
  • Pages: 114
  • Sales rank: 1,252,122
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Maram al-Massri was born in Latakia, Syria, in 1962, and has lived in France since 1982. She has published three collections in Arabic, and her poems have been translated into many languages, with books published in French and Spanish. Khaled Mattawa was born in Libya and came to the United States in his teens. He is the author of Zodiac of Echoes and Ismailia Eclipse, and the translator of three volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the Alfred Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and an NEA translation grant.

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