A Handful of Blue Earth
Poems by Vénus Khoury-Ghata
Translated by Marilyn Hacker
Marilyn Hacker is the author of thirteen books of poems, including A Stranger’s Mirror (Norton, 2015), Names (Norton, 2010), Essays on Departure (Carcanet, 2006), an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices (Michigan, 2010), and fourteen collections of translations of French and Francophone poets including Emmanuel Moses, Marie Etienne, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Habib Tengour and Rachida Madani. DiaspoRenga, a collaborative sequence written with the Palestinian-American poet Deema Shehabi, was published by Holland Park Press in 2014. She lives in Paris.
The Lady of Syros
from The Book of Petitions
The Mothers and the Mediterranean
In her preface the distinguished American poet and translator Marilyn Hacker describes the poems included here as 'exploded narratives, re-assembled in a mosaic or labyrinth in which the reader, like Ariadne, finds a connecting thread'. Khoury-Ghata's book, published in her eighty-first year, is testimony to this Lebanese poet's enduring brilliance. Earlier translations by Hacker were described by Alica Ostriker as emerging 'from the embers of loss and death, from childhood and the moon, from villages and cemeteries and forests, geography and God'. In two moving sequences, we find Khoury-Ghata's voice returning to familiar themes of death, intimacy, enforced silence and the surreal horror of war. Rendered faithfully and exquisitely by Hacker's concise eye, the poems mark an important contribution to world poetry in translation.
Marilyn Hacker offers English readers a sequel to her previous translations of Khoury-Ghata’s work, observing in a preface that Khoury-Ghata’s poems are “exploded narratives, re-assembled in a mosaic or labyrinth in which the reader, like Ariadne, finds a connecting thread”. This connecting thread is woven through in recurrent themes such as nature, resistance to time and death, and the triumph of language over silence. Khoury-Ghata reminds the reader that poetry is a gruelling and demanding journey from the darkness of pain and separation to the always resurgent power of language and creation.
Khalid Lyamlahy, Poetry Society
Hacker’s translations are fully alive. It would be hard to ignore this book any time, anywhere. I very strongly recommend it.
Poetry Book Society Bulletin
Publication: April 11, 2017
Series: Pavilion Poetry