Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs

Overview

Born in Syria in 1930, Adonis later moved to Lebanon and became a pivotal figure in the new poetry of the late 1960s. With the publication of Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs in 1963—widely viewed as a watershed moment in Arabic poetry—Adonis forged a new set of possibilities for Arabic poetry, writing in traditional meters but infusing them with modernist rhythms, styles, and conceptual complexities.

Translators Adnan Haydar (University of Arkansas in Fayetteville) and Michael ...

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Overview

Born in Syria in 1930, Adonis later moved to Lebanon and became a pivotal figure in the new poetry of the late 1960s. With the publication of Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs in 1963—widely viewed as a watershed moment in Arabic poetry—Adonis forged a new set of possibilities for Arabic poetry, writing in traditional meters but infusing them with modernist rhythms, styles, and conceptual complexities.

Translators Adnan Haydar (University of Arkansas in Fayetteville) and Michael Beard (University of North Dakota) co-edit a series of books, Middle East Literature in Translation, for Syracuse University Press.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The availability in English of this seminal, startling, volatile, founding work of Arabic-language modernism is a welcome literary event. Adonis, born in Syria in 1930, is likely the most original Arabic poet of his generation; "Mihar" is Adonis's sometimes ecstatic, often despairing alter ego, named for an 11th-century Persian poet, but reminiscent (to Western ears) of Arthur Rimbaud or Cesar Vallejo. Adonis excels both in stately free verse and in the prose poems he calls "Psalms": "I find refuge in night's childhood," he writes, "leaving my head on the morning's knees." Exile and displacement (Adonis fled Syria for political reasons), and awareness of death and disappointment pervade the book's seven groups of lyric works: "Dear Grave: you mark where I end/ and spring begins"; "Falling is my natural condition, paradise my contrary... I announce the attraction of death." Adonis also commemorates individuals, attacks evil ("It is for my land that I bleed") and begs heavenly help ("I call on you, green thunderbolt"). Despite occasional snags, translators Haydar and Beard have brought into English Adonis's paradox-laden, confidently defiant voice, which has already taken its place in the strong currents of world verse. (July)

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Product Details

Meet the Author


Adonis is arguably the leading Arabic poet in the world. Born in Qassabin, Syria, Adonis studied philosophy in Beirut, where he obtained his Doctorat d'Etat in 1973. After his arbitrary imprisonment for six months in 1955 for political activities and membership of the Syrian National Socialist Party, he settled in Lebanon in 1956, later becoming a Lebanese national. Adnan Haydar is head of the Arabic section in the department of foreign languages and professor of Arabic and comparative literature at the University of Arkansas, where he also directed the King Fahd Middle East Studies Program from 1993 to 1999. He has edited numerous modern Arabic novels in translation for Syracuse University Press. Michael Beard has been a member of the University of North Dakota faculty since 1979. He is a regular consultant to the NEH. In 1996 he received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach at University of Jordan. He has been a visiting professor at American University in Cairo, Egypt, and published nearly 100 articles and reviews on Middle Eastern literature.
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Table of Contents

I The Knight of Strange Words

Psalm 23

Neither a Star 23

Mihyar Becomes King 24

His Voice 24

Another Voice 25

Birth of Eyes 25

The Days 26

Death Call (Voices 1) 26

Voice 26

Mask of Songs 27

In the City of the Partisans 27

New Testament 28

Between Echo and Call 28

Bell 29

Where the Sky Ends 29

Mihyar's Face 29

Indecision (Voices 2) 30

He Sleeps in His Own Arms 30

He Carries in His Eyes 31

Day's Twin 31

The Others 32

Barbarian Saint 32

II The Sorcerer of Dust

Psalm 37

The Wound 38

A God Has Died 40

Loss 41

Stone 42

The Fall 42

Dialogue 42

The Language of Sin 43

King over the Winds 43

The Rock 44

Precipice 44

With My Own Secrets 45

Your Eyes Never Saw Me 45

Dialogue 46

Presence 46

The Seven Days 47

Orpheus 47

Land of Magic 47

A Vision 48

Voyage 48

Leave for Us What's Behind You 49

I Surrendered My Days 49

Bridge of Tears 50

I Have No Limits 50

Dams 50

The Solitary Land 51

Wish 51

I Said to You 52

Defeat 52

Enough for You to See 53

Chair (A Dream) 53

The Lamp 54

I Search for Odysseus 54

Old Country 55

Land with No Return 55

Today I Have My Own Language 55

The Earth 56

A Language for the Distances 57

Lightning 57

My Shadow and the Earth's 58

Odysseus 58

III The Dead God

Psalm 63

Stone's Mirror 64

Song 64

One Time Only 65

The Second Land 65

Confession 65

Prayer 66

Traveler 66

Thunderbolt 67

After the Silence 67

The Godly Wolf 68

Children's Footsteps 68

The Thunderbolt's Stone 68

Lost Face 69

I Create a Land 69

Betrayal 69

Seashell 70

The Dead God 70

Sacrifice 70

To Sisyphus 71

A God Who Loves to Suffer 71

The Spectacle (ADream) 72

Winds of Madness 72

You Have No Choice 73

IV Iram of the Pillars

Psalm 77

Vision 78

City (Voices) 79

Innocence 79

Prostitute 80

Spell 80

Two Corpses 80

The Golden Age 81

Things 81

Dress Up in Sand 82

The City 82

It May Become My Country 83

For My Land 83

The Rapture of Madness 83

Homeland 84

Distant Face 84

Voice 85

Vision 85

Shaddad 87

V These Petty Times

Psalm 91

Day 92

Road 92

No Words Between Us 92

Farewell 93

Death 93

Luminous Winds 93

Shell 94

Land of Absence 94

Letter 95

The Lost Ones 95

Loss 95

The Sun Returns 96

The Stone in Love 96

Flags 97

Flood 97

These Petty Times 98

City 98

VI Edge of the World

Psalm 103

Journey 103

Edge of the World 103

Adam 104

Island of Stone 104

Crow's Feather 104

Dawn Cuts Its Own Thread 106

The Door 106

Who Are You? 107

The New Noah 107

VII Persistent Death

Elegy Without Death 111

Elegy for Omar ibn al-Khattab 111

Elegy for Abu Nuwas 111

Elegy for al-Hallaj 112

Elegy for Bashshar 113

Elegy 113

Elegy 114

Notes on the Poems 115

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