Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me: And Other Poemsby Ghassan Zaqtan, Fady Joudah (Translator)
In this inspired translation of Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, Ghassan Zaqtan's tenth and most recent poetry collection, along with selected earlier poems, Fady Joudah brings to English-language readers the best work by one of the most important and original Palestinian poets of our time. With these poems Zaqtan enters new terrain, illuminating/i>/i>
In this inspired translation of Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, Ghassan Zaqtan's tenth and most recent poetry collection, along with selected earlier poems, Fady Joudah brings to English-language readers the best work by one of the most important and original Palestinian poets of our time. With these poems Zaqtan enters new terrain, illuminating the vision of what Arabic poetry in general and Palestinian poetry in particular are capable of. Departing from the lush aesthetics of such celebrated predecessors as Mahmoud Darwish and Adonis, Zaqtan's daily, delicate narrative, whirling catalogues, and at times austere aesthetics represent a new trajectory, a significant leap for young Arabic poets today.
In his preface to the volume, Joudah analyzes and explores the poet's body of work. "Ghassan Zaqtan's poems, in their constant unfolding," Joudah writes, "invite us to enter them, exit them, map and unmap them, code and decode them, fill them up and empty them, with the living and nonliving, the animate and inanimate, toward a true freedom."
“Zaqtan’s poems are uncompromising in their direct engagement with daily life, detailing the way in which the quotidian is, after all, the grand narrative of history. Joudah’s brilliant translations capture not only sense, sound, and rhythm, but also pulse, infusing the English language with a new sensibility.”—Cole Swensen, Iowa Writers’ Workshop
“Reading Fady Joudah’s remarkable translations of Zaqtan, I was thinking of the great poet and mythmaker of Yugoslavia, Vasko Popa, who also saw violence and wrote the dream-time of his nation. Like Popa, Zaqtan is unafraid to claim his roots, but also to see the “secret builders Cavafy had awakened / passing through the hills,” digging by his pillow. For this bravery and lyric skill, I am grateful.”—Ilya Kaminsky
“A beautiful and substantive collection.”—James Tolan, Ploughshares blog
“[Zaqtan] examines states of being in quotidian life with the patience and care of a jeweler.” —Kevin Hong, Arts Fuse
“[A] rare occurrence in the poetry world: a documentary perspective of life in a time of war delivered through lyrical utterance. Zaqtan is not a documentary poet. But his lyric voice sketches in his notebook the bloody events of his country, and the policemen and gunshots become myths, become lyric fire.”—Katie Farris & Ilya Kaminsky, American Book Review
“In Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, [translator] Joudah seamlessly laces the poems together into one fragile assemblage in which themes and images emerge, fade, only to reemerge. No theme is more prevalent and so tightly stitched into the fabric of Zaqtan’s poetry than death. Zaqtan’s obsession with death is the foundation from which life is fostered.”—Dina Omar, Warscapes
Finalist for the 2013 PEN American Center Literary Awards/Translations.
International Winner of the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize sponsored by the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry
Awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation 2014 Fellowship for Creative Arts in the Field of Poetry.
Meet the Author
Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan is the author of ten collections of poetry. He is also a novelist, editor, playwright, and journalist. Fady Joudah is a practicing physician of internal medicine and an award-winning poet and translator. He lives in Houston, TX.
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