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Tilda Swinton’s Top Ten Favorite Books for T: The New York Times Style Magazine

Mahmoud Darwish is a literary rarity: at once critically acclaimed as one of the most important poets in the Arabic language, and beloved as the voice of his people. A legend in Palestine, his lyrics are sung by fieldworkers and schoolchildren. He has assimilated some of the world's oldest literary traditions while simultaneously struggling to open new possibilities for poetry. This collection spans Darwish's entire career, nearly four decades, revealing an impressive range of expression and form. A splendid team of translators has collaborated with the poet on these new translations, which capture Darwish's distinctive voice and spirit. Fady Joudah’s foreword, new to this edition, addresses Darwish’s enduring legacy following his death in 2008.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520273030
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 04/15/2013
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 377,269
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Mahmoud Darwish (1941 - 2008) was the author of over thirty books of poems, including Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982 (California, 1995), The Adam of Two Edens (2001), and Psalms (1994). He received the 2001 Prize for Cultural Freedom from the Lannan Foundation.

Munir Akash is a founding editor of Jusoor, The Arab American Journal of Cultural Exchange, and coeditor of The Adam of Two Edens (2001) and Post Gibran: Anthropology of New Arab American Writing (2000). Carolyn Forché is Professor of English at George Mason University and author of The Angel of History (1994). Sinan Antoon is coeditor of Arab Studies Journal. Amira El-Zein is the author of Bedouin of Hell (1992) and The Book of Palm Trees (1973).

Fady Joudah is a prize-winning poet, translator, and physician. He is the author of The Earth in the Attic (2008) and Alight (2013), and the translator of two volumes of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry, The Butterfly’s Burden (2007) and If I Were Another (2009).

Read an Excerpt

Unfortunately, It Was Paradise

Selected Poems

By Mahmoud Darwish, Munir Akash, Carolyn Forché, Sinan Antoon, Amira El-Zein


Copyright © 2013 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-95460-1


    I Will Slog over This Road

    I will slog over this endless road to its end.
    Until my heart stops, I will slog over this endless, endless road
    with nothing to lose but the dust, what has died in me, and a row of palms
    pointing toward what vanishes. I will pass the row of palms.
    The wound does not need its poet to paint the blood of death like a pomegranate!
    On the roof of neighing, I will cut thirty openings for meaning
    so that you may end one trail only so as to begin another.
    Whether this earth comes to an end or not, we'll slog over this endless road.
    More tense than a bow. Our steps, be arrows. Where were we a moment ago?
    Shall we join, in a while, the first arrow? The spinning wind whirled us.
    So, what do you say?

    I say: I will slog over this endless road to its end and my own.

    Another Road in the Road

    There is yet another road in the road, another chance for migration.
    To cross over we will throw many roses in the river.
    No widow wants to return to us, there we have to go, north of the
    neighing horses.
    Have yet we forgotten something, both simple and worthy of our new ideas?
    When you talk about yesterday, friend, I see my face reflected in the song
    of doves.
    I touch the dove's ring and hear flute-song in the abandoned fig tree.
    My longing weeps for everything. My longing shoots back at me, to kill or
    be killed.
    Yet there is another road in the road, and on and on. So where are the
    questions taking me?
    I am from here, I am from there, yet am neither here nor there.
    I will have to throw many roses before I reach a rose in Galilee.

    Were It Up to Me to Begin Again

    Were it up to me to begin again, I would make the same choice. Roses on
    the fence.
    I would travel the same roads that might or might not lead to Cordoba.
    I would lay my shadow down on two rocks, so that birds could nest on one of
    the boughs.
    I would break open my shadow for the scent of almond to float in a cloud of dust
    and grow tired on the slopes. Come closer, and listen.
    Share my bread, drink my wine, don't leave me alone like a tired willow.
    I love lands not trod over by songs of migration, or become subject to
    passions of blood and desire.
    I love women whose hidden desires make horses put an end to their lives at
    the threshold.
    If I return, I will return to the same rose and follow the same steps.
    But never to Cordoba.

    On This Earth

    We have on this earth what makes life worth living: April's hesitation, the
    aroma of bread
    at dawn, a woman's point of view about men, the works of Aeschylus, the
    of love, grass on a stone, mothers living on a flute's sigh and the invaders' fear
    of memories.

    We have on this earth what makes life worth living: the final days of
    September, a woman
    keeping her apricots ripe after forty, the hour of sunlight in prison, a cloud
    reflecting a swarm
    of creatures, the peoples' applause for those who face death with a smile,
    a tyrant's fear of songs.

    We have on this earth what makes life worth living: on this earth, the Lady
    of Earth,
    mother of all beginnings and ends. She was called Palestine. Her name
    later became
    Palestine. My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life.

    I Belong There

    I belong there. I have many memories. I was born as everyone is born.
    I have a mother, a house with many windows, brothers, friends, and a prison cell
    with a chilly window! I have a wave snatched by seagulls, a panorama of my own.
    I have a saturated meadow. In the deep horizon of my word, I have a moon,
    a bird's sustenance, and an immortal olive tree.
    I have lived on the land long before swords turned man into prey.
    I belong there. When heaven mourns for her mother, I return heaven to
    her mother.
    And I cry so that a returning cloud might carry my tears.
    To break the rules, I have learned all the words needed for a trial by blood.
    I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a
    single word: Home.

    Addresses for the Soul, outside This Place

    I love to travel ...
    to a village that never hangs my last evening on its cypresses. I love the trees
    that witnessed how two birds suffered at our hands, how we raised the stones.
    Wouldn't it be better if we raised our days
    to grow slowly and embrace this greenness? I love the rainfall
    on the women of distant meadows. I love the glittering water and the scent
    of stone.
    Wouldn't it be better if we defied our ages
    and gazed much longer at the last sky before moonset?
    Addresses for the soul, outside this place. I love to travel
    to any wind ... But I don't love to arrive.

    Earth Presses against Us

    Earth is pressing against us, trapping us in the final passage.
    To pass through, we pull off our limbs.
    Earth is squeezing us. If only we were its wheat, we might die and yet live.
    If only it were our mother so that she might temper us with mercy.
    If only we were pictures of rocks held in our dreams like mirrors.
    We glimpse faces in their final battle for the soul, of those who will be killed
    by the last living among us. We mourn their children's feast.
    We saw the faces of those who would throw our children out of the windows
    of this last space. A star to burnish our mirrors.
    Where should we go after the last border? Where should birds fly after the
    last sky?
    Where should plants sleep after the last breath of air?
    We write our names with crimson mist!
    We end the hymn with our flesh.
    Here we will die. Here, in the final passage.
    Here or there, our blood will plant olive trees.

    We Journey towards a Home

    We journey towards a home not of our flesh. Its chestnut trees are not of
    our bones.
    Its rocks are not like goats in the mountain hymn. The pebbles' eyes are
    not lilies.
    We journey towards a home that does not halo our heads with a special sun.
    Mythical women applaud us. A sea for us, a sea against us.
    When water and wheat are not at hand, eat our love and drink our tears ...
    There are mourning scarves for poets. A row of marble statues will lift our voice.
    And an urn to keep the dust of time away from our souls. Roses for us and
    against us.
    You have your glory, we have ours. Of our home we see only the unseen:
    our mystery.
    Glory is ours: a throne carried on feet torn by roads that led to every home
    but our own!
    l'he soul must recognize itself in its very soul, or die here.

    We Travel Like All People

    We travel like everyone else, but we return to nothing. As if travel were
    a path of clouds. We buried our loved ones in the shade of clouds and
    between roots of trees.
    We said to our wives: Give birth for hundreds of years, so that we may end
    this journey
    within an hour of a country, within a meter of the impossible!

    We travel in the chariots of the Psalms, sleep in the tents of the prophets,
    and are born again in the language of Gypsies.
    We measure space with a hoopoe's beak, and sing so that distance may forget us.
    We cleanse the moonlight. Your road is long, so dream of seven women to bear
    this long journey on your shoulders. Shake the trunks of palm trees for them.
    You know the names, and which one will give birth to the Son of Galilee.
    Ours is a country of words: Talk. Talk. Let me rest my road against a stone.
    Ours is a country of words: Talk. Talk. Let me see an end to this journey.

    Athens Airport

    Athens airport disperses us to other airports. Where can I fight? asks the fighter.
    Where can I deliver your child? a pregnant woman shouts back.
    Where can I invest my money? asks the officer.
    This is none of my business, the intellectual says.
    Where did you come from? asks the customs' official.
    And we answer: From the sea!
    Where are you going?
    To the sea,
we answer.
    What is your address?
    A woman of our group says: My village is the bundle on my back.
    We have waited in the Athens airport for years.
    A young man marries a girl but they have no place for their wedding night.
    He asks: Where can I make love to her?
    We laugh and say: This is not the right time for that question.
    The analyst says: In order to live, they die by mistake.
    The literary man says: Our camp will certainly fall.
    What do they want from us?

    Athens airport welcomes its visitors without end.
    Yet, like the benches in the terminal, we remain, impatiently waiting for
    the sea.
    How many more years longer, O Athens airport?

    I Talk Too Much

    I talk too much about the slightest nuance between women and trees,
    about the earth's enchantment, about a country with no passport stamp.
    I ask: Is it true, good ladies and gentlemen, that the earth of Man is for all
    human beings
    as you say? In that case, where is my little cottage, and where am I?
    The conference audiences applaud me for another three minutes,
    three minutes of freedom and recognition.
    The conference approves our right of return,
    like all chickens and horses, to a dream made of stone.
    I shake hands with them, one by one. I bow to them. Then I continue my journey
    to another country and talk about the difference between a mirage and the rain.
    I ask: Is it true, good ladies and gentlemen, that the earth of Man is for all
    human beings?

    We Have the Right to Love Autumn

    And we, too, have the right to love the last days of autumn and ask:
    Is there room in the field for a new autumn, so we may lie down like coals?
    An autumn that blights its leaves with gold.
    If only we were leaves on a fig tree, or even neglected meadow plants
    that we may observe the seasons change!
    If only we never said goodbye to the fundamentals
    and questioned our fathers when they fled at knife point. May poetry and
    God's name have mercy on us!
    We have the right to warm the nights of beautiful women, and talk about
    what might shorten the night of two strangers waiting for the North to reach
    the compass.
    It's autumn. We have the right to smell autumn's fragrances and ask the night
    for a dream.
    Does the dream, like the dreamers themselves, sicken? Autumn. Autumn.
    Can a people be born on a guillotine?
    We have the right to die any way we wish.
    May the earth hide itself away in an ear of wheat!

    The Last Train Has Stopped

    The last train has stopped at the last platform. No one is there
    to save the roses, no doves to alight on a woman made of words.
    Time has ended. The ode fares no better than the foam.
    Don't put faith in our trains, love. Don't wait for anyone in the crowd.
    The last train has stopped at the last platform. But no one
    can cast the reflection of Narcissus back on the mirrors of night.
    Where can I write my latest account of the body's incarnation?
    It's the end of what was bound to end! Where is that which ends?
    Where can I free myself of the homeland in my body?
    Don't put faith in our trains, love. The last dove flew away.
    The last train has stopped at the last platform. And no one was there.


Excerpted from Unfortunately, It Was Paradise by Mahmoud Darwish, Munir Akash, Carolyn Forché, Sinan Antoon, Amira El-Zein. Copyright © 2013 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Munir Akash
Introduction Munir Akash and Carolyn Forché

FROM Fewer Roses (1986)
I Will Slog over This Road
Another Road in the Road
Were It Up to Me to Begin Again
On This Earth
I Belong There
Addresses for the Soul, outside This Place
Earth Presses against Us
We Journey towards a Home
We Travel Like All People
Athens Airport
I Talk Too Much
We Have the Right to Love Autumn
The Last Train Has Stopped
On the Slope, Higher Than the Sea, They Slept
He Embraces His Murderer
Winds Shift against Us
Neighing on the Slope
Other Barbarians Will Come
They Would Love to See Me Dead
When the Martyrs Go to Sleep
The Night There
We Went to Aden
Another Damascus in Damascus
The Flute Cried
In This Hymn

FROM I See What I Want to See (1993)
The Hoopoe

FROM Why Have You Left the Horse Alone? (1995)
I See My Ghost Coming from Afar
A Cloud in My Hands
The Kindhearted Villagers
The Owl’s Night
The Everlasting Indian Fig
The Lute of Ismael
The Strangers’ Picnic
The Raven’s Ink
Like the Letter "N" in the Qur’an
Ivory Combs
The Death of the Phoenix
Poetic Regulations
Excerpts from the Byzantine Odes of Abu Firas
The Dreamers Pass from One Sky to Another
A Rhyme for the Odes (Mu‘allaqat)
Night That Overflows My Body
The Gypsy Woman Has a Tame Sky

FROM A Bed for the Stranger (1999)
We Were without a Present
Sonnet II
The Stranger Finds Himself in the Stranger
The Land of the Stranger, the Serene Land
Inanna’s Milk
Who Am I, without Exile?
Lesson from the Kama Sutra
Mural (2000)
Three Poems (before 1986)
A Soldier Dreams of White Tulips
As Fate Would Have It
Four Personal Addresses


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