“In Golan Haji’s poems and prose-poems, fable and myth are incised into history and contemporanaeity, al-Ma’arri’s verses are re-inscribed upon the Odyssey, made to reflect on the ongoing tragedy of the Kurdish people, and of each individual exile. A young Syrian poet now living in France, Haji, polyglot and humanist, is a luminous arrival for world poetry. Is there a word for “saudade” in Arabic? His poems, in Stephen Watts’ fine-honed translations, are imbued with it.”—Marilyn Hacker
“I met Golan Haji at the Al-Sendian (Al-Mallajeh) Festival in Syria in 2010, a beautiful gathering of poets, artists, photographers, children, and villagers, and the last of its kind before the appalling years of rupture exploded in 2011. We’ve translated these poems across the intervening years whenever there was an opportunity to snatch time to sit, or walk, together—this shared space being vital because it gives the scope to directly test and coax the fluency, physicality, verve and edge of the poetry into something not too dissimilar in English. When it works (and intuitively we feel it often does) then ‘a happy journey’ is perhaps the most appropriate description of this dialogue of translation, and one that may afford a more life-giving take on the meaning of migration.”—Stephen Watts
Golan Haji is a Kurdish Syrian poet writing in Arabic. He has published three poetry books, most recently Scale Of Injury(2016), as well as a bilingual collection with Italian translation in 2013. He trained as a pathologist and practiced as a doctor in Damascus until 2010. At the end of 2011 he left for Jordan and in 2012 came to Paris where he currently lives with his wife, the French writer and Arabic scholar Nathalie Bontemps, and their daughter. In 2016 with Estayqazat, a Syrian feminist movement, he published a collection of women’s voices from the Syrian Uprising that he edited from a series of interviews. In addition to his own writing, he is also an energetic translator into Arabic, mainly of prose, including works by Alberto Manguel and Robert Louis Stevenson. This is the first book of his poetry in English translation.
Stephen Watts is a poet, editor, and translator who lives in London. Recent co-translations include Adnan al-Sayegh’s Pages From The Biography Of An Exile (Arc Publications, 2016) and contributions to the anthology Six Georgian Poets (Arc Publications, 2016). His own poetry collections include Ancient Sunlight (Enitharmon, 2014) and Republic Of Dogs/Republic Of Birds (Test Centre, 2016). He has just co-edited the anthology British Bangladeshi Poetry published for the Dhaka Book Fair 2017. He is completing a series of short essays on his friend W.G. Sebald and co-translating the poetry of Tonino Guerra with Cristina Viti. He is also a bibliographer of modern world poetry in English translation.
A Tree Whose Name I Don’t Know
by Golan Haji
translated by Stephen Watts & Golan Haji
A Midsummer Night’s Press
64 pages/paperback with French flaps
Published: October 2017
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