October 16, 2011

Taha Muhammad Ali

From Blue Flower Arts, I saw the the announcement: "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Taha Muhammad Ali, poet and person of exceptional powers. We will miss him dearly."

He is best known to an English-speaking audience by a collection of his work in English translation (with facing Arabic), So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971–2005, translated by Peter Cole published in 2006.

Taha Muhammad Ali
at the Dodge Poetry Festival
2006 (photos Lynn Saville)
At the Dodge Poetry Festival in 2006, I heard Taha Muhammad Ali and Peter Cole reading Taha’s powerful (and then unpublished) poem "Revenge" (see video below)

Tea and Sleep
by Taha Muhammad Ali (Palestine)

If, over this world, there’s a ruler
who holds in his hand bestowal and seizure,
at whose command seeds are sewn,
as with his will the harvest ripens,
I turn in prayer, asking him
to decree for the hour of my demise,
when my days draw to an end,
that I’ll be sitting and taking a sip
of weak tea with a little sugar
from my favorite glass
in the gentlest shade of the late afternoon
during the summer.
And if not tea and afternoon,
then let it be the hour
of my sweet sleep just after dawn.

Translator Peter Cole reads "Revenge" in English after Taha reads it in Arabic.

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