I crossed the borders accidentally

Translated by Abbas El Sheikh
Edited by Mark Pirie

The only loser of the wars was me.
So, I hung them up reluctantly,
And went searching for myself
And destruction was whinnying in my shoulder.

The smell of splinters
Is a prolonged nausea;
I pull the repeated defeats
And line them up on the table
So that they will wound the decorations.
I hang up a long history on the window
And hang up my life on a bullet
Suspended from a far away heaven;
My fingers are remnants of ancient cities
And the seal of the dead are my steps.

Oh Sun wait for me,
To pick up my mornings from a pavement;
There is nothing on it but my body
And remnants of skulls decayed by alienation.
Depart away not,
To let me gather my splinters
From a hole in the clouds.
I distribute my years among the newspapers and journals;
My years are dried like sultanas.

Those ashes of wars suffocated my soul
And dried the oil of childhood at my door.
The door released me
Stinging my mornings,
And countries escaped between my fingers.

I crossed the borders accidentally -
My decorations are question marks,
Distances are whinnying
And their coldness kneels on our lives
Crushing our days,
And my dust is covering the walls and windows
But does not come near to my stature.

Since the stroll of the first war -
I mean the foolishness of the General -
I have entered the city
Like a dog
In whose face the houses are barking.

My mother arranges the stars, which are mixed
With her hair,
And drinks tea in which she dissolves her sadness.
Roads are streaming on my feet
And the fruits of the trees are dangling
On the horizon.

Horizon is an illusion for the eye -
Who can hold its shadow?
Our mistakes are a homeland leaning on a spear
And our dreams are growing on balconies.

Honey is fermenting on your tongue
Translated by Abbas El Sheikh Edited by Mark Pirie

I am trying to restrain my shooting stars in vain;
My neighing is flowing and you are my desired one.
It is just in vain ... deliriums!

How did you leave the doors and roads spinning around
And not take notice of the stars falling between your fingers?
At that moment I was nowhere,
But suddenly you whetted my soul.
For you I draw on the passages of estrangement from other homelands
And the heaven between my fingers is forlorn.
I cover it with mewing poems
And head to you, hearing the forests singing
And the seas stay aloof.
I see a desert moistening
And head to you, listening to silence,
Taking with me nothing but the geography of pain -
And I never arrive...

Will the rest of my life be enough
And a little of dreams?

You are my holy soil,
Your eternal morning is budding with poems.
You are the wave,
We crown your childhood with your glamour.
You are our mirror;
In your hands are the keys of wisdom,
And on your tongue honey is fermenting.



Infinitely South

And I say: In the far away
There is something calling for remembrance
In the cities exhausted by the sea
I dump my dreams
I have souvenirs from wars
And from cities’ wounds
I have the tears of reeds,
The sighs of date trees,
The revelation of oranges
The blood of myrtle
There on the map of my childhood
I left an innocence pierced
By the rot of the military
The barracks stole from home
And threw me to exile

God and I are alone
There is an eternity seeking shelter in me
And forgetfulness abandons me
Leaving the smell of bombardment in the corridors of my life
And in the far away I say:
War takes me by surprise and sweeps away my happiness
All I catch is a mirage
Without a passport
The Euphrates ignites its waves for me
All things point to you
But nothing reminds me of you
The heaven bends for you to cross
A thread of butterflies awaits at your door
Far-reaching singing of birds
And a transparent coo touches the paper
And in the whiteness of it all there’s a long revelation
And I say: in the south there is a south

The woman of forty ignores that
My father was the most cheerful of all the murdered
His bravery left us with hunger and the gloating of others
And through thirty lunar years my mother waited
Until she herself became waiting
Childhood that was darkened by poverty and orphanage
Is here scoffing at me
At my life now darkened by war and exile
Wherever I lie, I find the Euphrates lying beside me
Extending its dreams to me
Dreams crammed with bombs and sirens
I wake up and roam the streets
Weakened by memories
Exchanging bombs’ splinters with roses and poems
The aggression of bombardment with Mulla Othman Al Mousilly’s lute
And the Maqams of al Gubbanchi

For the sea made wet by the songs of sailors
Tears resting on its shores
Keeping lovers and children amused,
Shells falling asleep on the eyelids of the waves
And rocks reclining on its waist
Counting the wishes falling from those passing

War also has its songs
Those that drenched the bosoms of mothers
With wailing and anxiety
Windows wide open for waiting
With no-one approaching
Doors eroded by sadness
And whose steps are crumbling
Dreams dragged along the streets
Oh streets, when will I see . . .
The death procession of my grief?
Pale streetlights exhausted by the frost

And for war . . .
Bombs whose heads rest on
The pillows of our bodies
And sleep inside us
The murdered in their pockets
Sparrows fight the morning
And play with an orphan star forgotten by the night
Letters flow with the dawn

And I say:
Oh gasp of the south
Oh son of the sun
And the rivers whose mouths spit catastrophe
Just as prophets and holy books emanated from you
Wars have always failed you
And you found yourself outside the borders of home
And once you thought of home
You were swallowed by exile
You blow your years and ashes is what you find
And scared that your dignity might be buried
Every night you have a party
For the Tigris in the farthest south
There’s no south behind me so I can say:
Here’s my homeland
Nor is there south in front of me to cut through
I am the absolute south
Equipped with a long history of war and tragedy

Glories polluted by the whips of the governor
And the general’s ribbons of ‘honour’
Stripped me naked in the forbidden land
My night is filled with details of the barracks
The nighttimes password
The officer on duty
And the death squads

All the women I’ve known
And all women
Whose lust I am going to poison
With my foolishness
Have sniffed the neigh of hurdles in my breath
And my hallucinations
Have provoked their femininity
In the night’s darkness

And I say:
Oh gasp of the two rivers
To shake hands with my alienation
Should I set my roots on fire?
And cast thirty years out to the sea
To make a feast for the fish
Do I have to take off my shirt
Which is full of bombs,
Insults and sanctions
To be embraced by …
A sky that doesn’t belong to me
And I say:
Oh gasp of the two rivers
In the far away cities
There is something calling for remembrance
In the distant lands exhausted by the sea
I dump my dreams
I have souvenirs from wars
And from cities wounds.



A Cry to the Gulf: The Poetry of Basim Furat: Exiled Iraqi Poet

Mark Pirie

You did not say farewell
To those who turned your life
Into a cesspool,
Brimming with pain.

You blessed them
And moved on
Without looking back.
So, they followed you.
 (Basim Furat, ‘No Looking Back’)

An exciting new voice in New Zealand and world poetry is the Wellington-based Iraqi poet, Basim Furat. Entering the country as a refugee from Jordan in 1997 he has steadily emerged as one of his adopted country’s most gifted new poets. Since his arrival here his work has appeared in translation in many literary print and on-line journals, including JAAM, Takahe, Poetry Aotearoa, Black Mail Press, Southern Ocean Review, Poetry NZ and brief. As well a major article has been written about him in The Dominion Post and he has read at many poetry venues in Wellington and around New Zealand. In July 2003 he was among the featured poets at the “Poetics of Exile” conference held in Auckland, New Zealand, and later that year he also read at the First Wellington International Poetry Festival.
Furat writes predominantly in a romantic and passionate vein (which is often abstract and Symbolist in its endeavours) and his work stands out for its strong conviction to the sense of struggle — not just of the self in exile — but also of its conviction to the sense of struggle of his homeland, Iraq. HeadworX, a specialist poetry publisher in New Zealand, has recently released his first book translated into English, Here and There, making his work increasingly worthy of extended critical discussion. In this brief introduction to his work so far I have decided it is best discussed by categorising it into three major themes: ‘Love and Loss’, ‘The Poet of Exile’ and ‘The Poem as Protest’.

Love and Loss

I cry aloud to the Gulf:
‘O Gulf,
Giver of coral and death.’
My words return
In the echo of a sob:
‘O Gulf…’
 - Al-Sayyab (1926-64)

Love and loss as with this quotation from one of the great Iraqi poets, Al-Sayyab, is a recurrent theme in Furat’s poems. Usually it is invoked in a number of ways and with several layers of meaning. Furat, instead of writing a simple love lyric addressed to one person i.e. a woman, a mother, a father, or even himself or his childhood, usually addresses two or more things, including and predominantly his homeland, Iraq.
In the Modern era leading Arab poets like Saadi Youssef, Abdulwahab Albayati, Sargon Boulis and Adonis have revolutionized Arabic poetry by introducing what Allen Ginsberg would identify as ‘the revolt of the personal’.1 This is a style that also involves a break with traditional poetic methods, i.e. the use of rhyming lines. It seems that Furat follows this line of thought, maintaining the importance of his homeland in the context of loss to his individual self. His poems therefore can not be read as straightforward love poems in the Western Romantic or Classical Arab sense but as complex and multi-layered poems with a dearth of Arabic meaning. This technique is most striking and original in his first book, The Vehemence of Cooing, published in Madrid, Spain, in 1999.
This book contains several pieces republished in English translation in Here and There that are predominantly written about a beautiful Bedouin woman but at the same time can be read on another level as love poems to his homeland. As such the imagery is rich and passionate in unrequited love and yearning for the person and country he is writing about:

You smile accompanies me like my breath
I smell in it the odour of the sea
And the aroma of the orange
I smell in it the perfume of my sad home
The smile of my home that is hiding deep sadness
And you are hiding under your smile
The sadness of my home
You are my home, are you not?
Oh, you my pain and the pain
Of the bought country
You are the whole of my sadness
And the sadness itself…
 (‘A Cold Lesson at the End of Love’)

You are my holy soil
Your eternal morning is budding with poems.
You are the wave,
We crown your childhood with your glamour…
 (‘Honey is fermenting on your tongue’)

My love…
May the wilderness gather the remains
Of a passion moaning in your hands,
A passion of cooing,
A passion of departure,
A passion of the poem in exile
Which recites a wailing for her roving poet
Between the dust of dating or the rain of memory…

The skill in this poetry is its knowledge, for it is Furat’s considerable reading knowledge that allows his poetry its depth of meaning and complexity. Each line and image he uses must find a symbol, whether of historical, religious or mythological importance2:

The madness of the heart which is astray in your forests
From the Babylonian Joy till the last poem of Al-Sayyab
At the midday of Basrah -
 (‘Probability of Two Rivers’)

You imagined
That my cities were destroyed
My carriages broken in the desert
It seems you have forgotten
That I have been
In love…
 (‘A Cold Lesson at the End of Love’)

It is this knowledge and learning that sets Furat’s poetry apart from many of his Iraqi and New Zealand contemporaries and places him instead in the tradition of the great Modernist poets (whose abstract style and symbolism revolutionized European poetry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries).3
This complexity of meaning shows even in his more simpler lyrics such as ‘Coming to be’, ‘I Love You Not’, or in the poem to his New Zealand wife, ‘Jeanette’ (first published in English in Here and There): ‘All cities are nothing but jawary / Practicing singing / And getting confused before the chants of your lips….’ Here Furat uses an Arabic image to explain the difficulty of communication between the two lovers’ cultures. Such imagery is freshly novel and innovative in New Zealand poetry. The poem, ‘Coming to be’, is short enough to be quoted here in full:

My father:
An ancient sadness;
My mother:
A book of sadness.
When my father opened the book,
I came to be.

Note the careful construction. Two images are conjured up and given their weight by the final two lines. Firstly, the image of the father as ‘an ancient sadness’ and, secondly, the image of the mother as ‘a book of sadness’. Furat uses the words ‘ancient’ and ‘book’ to ascribe to the father and mother the relevance of on-going Arabic traditions and the sense of history, which makes them who they are. Ultimately, of course, his parents’ history and their make-up, their individual symbolism, is how Furat’s life, in the final lines, is formed. His own life becoming: a repetition of mistakes, failures, and sadness. This idea is similarly expressed in his long poem ‘To language of light I lead the candles’:

My mistakes:
I am my mistakes,
The mistakes of my father:
A mistake that is being repeated,
My mother is a mistake awaiting a mistake
Due to a mistake,
I am a mistake counting my steps and
Make a mistake…

Perhaps the most complex of Furat’s poems on love and loss is ‘The Howl of the Fox’. Many Arabic critics have commented on this poem in reviews and articles. It is a poem rich in mythology and religion native to the Southern Iraqi city Karbalaa (also the poet’s city of birth). In this poem Furat uses mythology to evoke the tragic loss of his father. Again, a sense of history being repeated is at the heart of this poem’s meaning. The people of Karbalaa supplicate to Al-Hurr, ‘to give them my father’s handkerchief / That still clasped his arm / To stop the bleeding from the Ommawi sword.’ Here, his father becomes the martyr through his death, not just of his present-day people but of history as well. Furat likens his father to the legendary hero Al-Hurr, a reminder of the past history and tragedy of the place in which he is living. On another level, his father’s death in this poem is also marked by the departure of the Al-’Alqamy River which ‘wipes its tears’ and absconds ‘with two hands glowing with fertility and regret’. In mythology this river diverged from the city of Karbalaa to protest the killing of the Imam Al-Husain Bin Ali Bin Abi-Talib. Once again the poet’s father becomes likened to another martyr — this time a mythological one. It is this use of symbolism that adds the energy, complexity and solidity to Furat’s poetry.

The Poet of Exile

I am overburdened with agonies
My homeland knocks nightly on my door
Should I open it?
I, running away impetuously
From the narcissism of wars
I, a firm believer in day break with no grudges,
As well as that shrivelling tremble before the onset of dusk
 (‘Here and There’)

The second major theme in Furat’s work is one of exile. He often refers to himself as the ‘Exiled Iraqi Poet’ in New Zealand publications and the first and last sections of his book, Here and There, address this predicament, e.g. ‘To language of light I lead the candles’, ‘No Looking Back’, ‘Infinitely South’ and ‘I crossed the borders accidentally’ or his New Zealand poem ‘Here and There’. Most of these poems were originally published in Arabic in his critically acclaimed second book, The Autumn of Minarets.
A newspaper article, in The Dominion Post, 18 October 2003, reveals Furat’s reasons for fleeing Iraq:

In 1993 he read a poem in public that criticised the regime.
“I used a description of the worst prison in Islamic history as an analogy for Iraq under Saddam’s regime. What happened 1000 years ago is the same as now.”
Luckily, a friend with connections to the Ba’ath Party that used to control Iraq warned him that because he had spoken out against the regime his life was in danger.
Furat fled Iraq for Jordan less than a month after his poetry reading.
He spent four years in Jordan working illegally as a photographer. “Life in Jordan is very difficult for Jordanians, not just for outsiders,” he says.
In 1996 he applied for United Nations refugee status. After showing his poetry to the UN officials, he says he was granted refugee status quickly.
Refugees cannot choose where their new home will be and Furat says he cried on the plane to New Zealand.
“It is too far away. I thought, ‘How much money will it cost to come back?’”

This description of Furat’s trauma and reasons for fleeing Iraq are common to many poets of his generation and also of the previous generation that fled the Iraq-Iran war. As the poem ‘My Rank: Defeated’ indicates, Furat ‘Got sick of wars / And found comfort in the shade of exile…’. A glance through the contributor’s notes to the Arabic-English magazines Joussour or Banipal reinforces this. The notes show that many of the contributing poets are exiled in many European countries as well as Australia and the UK where the magazines are respectively published. This fate of the poets has meant that much contemporary Iraqi poetry centres on the theme of exile and displacement from their homeland. The poetry of these exiled poets is often filled with memories, evocations of past lives, lost family, lost childhood, political anger, and homesickness i.e. a yearning for home and a sense of nostalgia.
Writing on exile, the Palestinian critic Edward Said, in his 1993 Reith Lectures, considered that:

…once you leave your home, wherever you end up you cannot simply take up life and become just another citizen of the new place. Or if you do, there is a good deal of awkwardness involved in the effort, which scarcely seems worth it. You can spend a lot of time regretting what you lost, envying those around you who have always been at home, near their loved ones, living in the place where they were born and grew up without ever having to experience not only the loss of what was once theirs, but above all the torturing memory of a life to which they cannot return. 4

Furat’s poetry is no exception to this. His poems mentioned above fit this criterion, and perhaps the centrepieces of his exilic5 poetry are ‘Infinitely South’ and ‘I Paint Baghdad’. The poem ‘Infinitely South’ uses his place of exile in New Zealand as the starting point for a letter home to his family, his people and his homeland:

And I say: In the far away
There is something calling for remembrance
In cities exhausted by the sea
I dump my dreams
I have souvenirs from wars
And from cities: wounds
I have the tears of reeds,
The sighs of date palms,
The revelation of oranges
The blood of myrtle 
There …
On the map of my childhood
I leave my innocence pierced
By the rot of the military
Whose barracks stole me from home
And threw me into exile…

The poem continues to evoke the distance between the two nations, New Zealand and Iraq: ‘All things point to you / But nothing reminds me of you’ or ‘Once you think of home / You are swallowed by exile’. The poem is a way for the poet to reconcile his anger, his personal grief in exile: ‘I exchange the splinters of bombs with roses and poems / The aggression of bombardment / With Mulla Othman Al Mousilly’s lute / And the Maqams of Al Gubbanchi’. The poem uses the symbol of the South of Iraq in its title but now finds itself positioned even further South, infinitely south, in New Zealand, an original idea in the context of Arabic poetry:

There’s no south behind me so I can say:
Here’s my homeland
Nor is there south in front of me to cut through
I am the absolute south
Equipped with a long history of war and tragedy

In ‘I Paint Baghdad’ Furat explores his time in Baghdad before his exile and also evokes childhood memories. This poem depicts the personal pain of his exile through images of childhood innocence destroyed by ongoing wars in his home country. This poem resonates strongly and has been much praised by Arabic critics:

I am without pleasures, or glories
My dreams have all but let me down
Isolated in a most far-flung Diaspora
Elegized by my calamity
And guided by my wreckage
I chase the trails of childhood
And stitch together my aspirations
That have been trampled by tanks
I spot the signs of fear, pouring from my pockets
And as the sea is similarly isolated
It begins to share with the exile its estrangement…

Furat’s dense approach to imagery is nowhere more complex and difficult than in this poem:

Now stars rest on the lap of sea creatures and shine for me
By one hand I mend my heart,
By the other I care for the rose not to fall into delirium
I care for the balconies not to crumple into a swamp flushed with heaven
The ocean clutches me, as it falters with my innocence
Doubts climb the edges of time
Piles of syllables scramble on the sides of words
I made you hear my song, yet you only made me hear my burning
I led rain to your door, its fingertips slipping against my forehead
I set loose my lullabies to the gardens,
As I appeared before an inferno of the butterflies
And my destruction was witnessed by the flowers and by the sparrows…

The imagery and personification used here of flowers, gardens, butterflies, balconies, oceans, roses, has multiple meanings in Arabic and holds religious and mythological resonance in the Arab world that perhaps we, as Western readers, miss at first glance.

The Poem as Protest

The only loser of the wars was me.
So, I hung them up reluctantly
And went searching for myself
And destruction was whinnying in my shoulder…
 (‘I crossed the borders accidentally’)

The final major theme in Furat’s work is the ‘Poem as Protest’. Furat’s poetry is often a cry of protest at the destruction in his homeland and its effects on family members and his people. There are a number of ways he evokes this in his poetry. Whereas in the work of other Iraqi poets the political message is all and directly raised, in Furat’s work it is usually evoked through descriptions of life in Iraq.
A frequent strategy is the symbol of the mother figure. The portrayal of the unhappiness of the mother figure in his exilic poems is a way of forging a criticism of his homeland’s destruction. This image of the mother in Furat’s poems is bleak, sad, and painful:

My mother is
Verses of Henna defeated by love.
She became widowed,
Her lovers’ longing leaning towards the end of the night.
Now, agony empties its wailing upon her bosom,
Her memories run over by wars…
 (‘The Howl of the Fox’)

My mother arranges the stars, which are mixed
With her hair,
And drinks tea in which she dissolves her sadness…
 (‘I crossed the borders accidentally’)

War also has its anthems
Those that drenched the bosoms of mothers
With wailing and anxiety
Its windows wide-open for waiting
With no-one approaching
Its doors eroded by sadness…
 (‘Infinitely South’)

Elsewhere Furat uses childhood memories as a way of evoking the innocence that has been destroyed by ongoing wars and fighting:

Those ashes of wars suffocated my soul
And dried the oil of childhood at my door…
 (‘I crossed the borders accidentally’)

I have stolen the memory of my forgetfulness

I have painted a clear sky through which to escape
Only for it to be robbed by rockets
I have painted a brook and have said: Al-Hussainiyah River it is
But the airbases take me from it 
I have painted a minaret and a palm tree
Lonely, I have been arrested, but still I held onto my mirror…
 (‘I Paint Baghdad’)

This style clearly owes much to his reading of European Modernism translated into Arabic. It is very abstract and expressionistic in its imagery. It reminds one of great Expressionist paintings such as Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1895), e.g.: ‘And the screams of guns have dripped from my chemise (‘I Paint Baghdad’)’.
In another way, the poems ‘Departure’ and ‘Inhabited by bleeding’ introduce a further strategy. In these poems Furat uses his own people’s suffering at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s regime and indeed of previous wars and conflict in Iraqi history as the symbol. The New Zealand poet and social critic James K Baxter has written that: “The poet or prose writer who turns his eyes from the fact of human suffering is involved in human betrayal,”6 and it seems that Furat is of a similar critical disposition. Furat himself has said that, ‘his family suffered under Saddam’, and he can list ‘a frightening number of relatives that were victims of the regime, counting them on his hands’.7 Nearly 50 of his family were martyred and to not address this would be, for Furat, a form of betrayal, hence the strong conviction in his protest poetry:

Those who light my candle
Their departure is emaciated
And their destruction is suspended
In remote regions of life…
 (‘Inhabited by bleeding’)

Friends depart
Followed by dreams
Lighting deep their paths of alienation
Their intimacy is forlorn
Their roads are fading
Their strength is failing
Their wishes taken by surprise
To commit suicide … commit suicide . . . commit suicide …

They draw spring as a patch for them
And never return
Only to find autumn eating into the map of the country
They seek the help of the two rivers, but destruction in its full attire
Is running in an area called home…

A feature of these poems is the recurrence of the word ‘destruction’. Furat is uncompromising in pointing the finger at Saddam’s regime and on a deeper level the way of life in Iraq that has always been violent and savage. Its history has been woven together by complex power struggles and wars not just involving the US or neighbours like Iran but also with civil conflicts between opposing Northern and Southern Iraqi Muslim groups: the Sunni’s and the Shi’ites.
A final strategy of Furat’s is the use of his self as a symbol of protest. Perhaps his most sustained and potent protest is the poem ‘1 March 1967’. This poem is named after his birth date, and the date of birth of the poet was during another war, the Arab-Israel war — a very symbolic gesture.
In this poem as with the use of the mother, his own life becomes the symbol for the pain and suffering of his people and his homeland:

I am Basim Furat … O God!… do you know me?
Police stations are tattooed on my skin, and my mother
Does not see the splinters when she combs my youth.
She dissolves wax and myrtle over my dawning
With her aba that looks like my days,
And sweeps away the warplanes, drawing me as she pleases.
Is this because I carry my nation in my shirt pocket
And beneath my tongue two rivers are rumbling?

I run after my death, and my corpse follows me.
My nation is a long autumn: a flood of nausea…

Here, as with previous quotations, it can be seen that the use of a symbol is the major technique in his poetry. By using this method he creates dense and multi-layered imagery and escapes the trap of proselytizing in much of the simplified political poetry of his Iraqi contemporaries. Perhaps this is why Saadi Youssef considers Furat’s poetry to be ‘the outstanding panorama of exiled Iraqi poetry’. In the late nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century, the evocation and depiction of destruction has always been a stronger way of portraying the human cry of protest. Some of the great European Modernist poets have used this method. One thinks of Apollinaire’s abstract First World War poems or
T S Eliot’s The Waste Land, as precursors to Furat’s style and way of thinking. It is after all, this knowledge of history, mythology and his reading in Arabic of European poetry methods that sets Furat’s work apart from many of his Iraqi contemporaries i.e. their more traditional methodologies and gives Furat’s work greater resonance and power in the context of world poetry, particularly English or French.
Furat is an emerging poet to watch not just in New Zealand poetry but in world poetry, and if he does return to the Arab world, his resettlement in New Zealand has at the very least led to some surprising and innovative poetry. As Edward Said would say, this is the ‘pleasure of exile’:

Because the exile sees things both in terms of what has been left behind and what is actual here and now, there is a double perspective that never sees things in isolation. Every scene or situation in the new country necessarily draws on its counterpart in the old  country… an idea or experience is always counterpoised with another, therefore making them both appear in a sometimes new and unpredictable light…8

This for me is what makes Basim Furat’s poetry a real addition to New Zealand literature. His collection, Here and There, will remain the first book of Arabic poetry to be translated and published here, and possibly will become a defining work of its era in the South Pacific, given the recent surge in refugees into New Zealand due to uprisings and conflicts afflicting many countries in the early twenty-first century.

Mark Pirie
Wellington, New Zealand
May 2005

1 Ginsberg wrote this in his Foreword to the Bengali poet Sunil Gangopadhyay and is probably meaning the movement in American poetry that finds its precursor in the work of Walt Whitman and now spans the breadth of American poetry from the Beats through to the present-day ‘Generation Xers’. See Allen Ginsberg, ‘Foreword’, in City of Memories, selected poems, Sunil Gangopadhyay, translated from the Bengali by Kelyan Ray and Bonnie MacDougall (New Delhi: Viking/Penguin India, 1991), p. xi.
2 Through this method Furat draws further comparisons with Al-Sayyab who revolutionized Arabic poetry from Classical to more Modern ways of thinking.
3 I’m thinking here mainly of Modernist and Symbolist poets such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Arthur Rimbaud, or T S Eliot. These are poets who Furat has said he has read and been influenced by in Arabic translation.
4 Edward Said, The Edward Said Reader, eds. Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin, (London: Granta Books, 2000), p. 379.
5 A term used by Edward Said.
6 James K Baxter, Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry (Christchurch: The Caxton Press, 1951), p. 16.
7 Liz Smith, ‘Poetic Justice’, in The Dominion Post (18 October 2003), p. E21.
8 Edward Said, The Edward Said Reader, eds. Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin, (London: Granta Books, 2000), p. 378.

Al-Sayyab. ‘Song of the Rain’. Translated by Basima Bezirgan and Elizabeth Fernea. Source unknown.
Banipal, Magazine of Modern Arab Literature, No. 1, February 1998.
Baxter, James K. Recent Trends in New Zealand Poetry. Christchurch: The Caxton Press, 1951.
Furat, Basim. Here and There, a selection. Translated from the Arabic by Muhiddein Assaf, Abbas El Sheikh, Abdul Monem Nasser and Yahya Haider. Wellington: HeadworX, 2004.
Joussour, Bridges for Liberty and Creativity, Australian Quarterly Literary Magazine, No. 5, 1998.
Said, Edward. The Edward Said Reader. Eds. Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin. London: Granta Books, 2000.
Smith, Liz. ‘Poetic Justice’. The Dominion Post, 18 October 2003, p. E21.
Youssef, Saadi. Without an Alphabet, Without a Face, selected poems. Translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Gray Wolf Press, 2002.