Nathalie Handal on Her First Writing Assignment from Mahmoud Darwish, Her New Collection, and the Role of Translation

Both: Wikimedia Commons. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditTumblrWhatsAppPinterestTelegramPocketSkypeLike this:Like Loading… That can be magical. It is precisely that hope at the core of the poem that is most moving. Allen died a month or so after, in 1997, and it was one of his last interviews—if not the last. And continue to be intrigued by the cosmos he has created in Arabic with my poems.  TM: Do you look at your work differently in another language as it is being rebuilt? Tuğrul   Mende: Can you talk about your journey with Volo? I was moved and honored. Who gets to survive?”; “When we walked away / did the sun’s rays on the bench / bend the beauty of the world?”; “How else can / we liberate / what’s been burning / for centuries?”; “What do we find / at the edge of the last gaze / of the heart?” TM: Can you speak about H.D.’s Bethlehem and your Bethlehem.   TM: The Arabic translation of your   Selected Works 2005-2019   was recently published in a translation by Ahmad M. And if you are lucky enough to have a skilled translator, their art will extend the body of your poems. In a time of amplified wars and religious and national separatism, leading to mass displacement of peoples and an increase in migration, the Mediterranean Sea has become a transit for peoples from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, en route to the shores of southern Europe. Needless to say, the experience had an impact on me. I live each relationship openly. During the height of the pandemic, Alice Quinn asked me to contribute to   Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic   (Knopf, 2020). Later, when I started my journey with literary translation, I realized my earlier experiences translating the other dimensions of language helped me enter the texts differently and more intensely.  I write in English, but I constantly and naturally translate the emotional, cultural, and musical beats of other linguistic landscapes into my work. The chapbook collection is two long poems, in conversation with two North American poets, that interrogate questions of justice:   “Who dies? I wondered what she would create after reading these two poems. Perfect. Obviously, my Bethlehem in Palestine is not H.D.’s Bethlehem in Pennsylvania. NH: I have been translating all my life—the cultures, emotions, and silences between languages. The Mediterranean of medieval and early modern eras was multicultural and religiously plural as Christian, Muslims, Jews, and others interacted at various levels from literary to economic. Ahmad. The wrecked city reminds the speaker of the ancient ruins of Egypt or Greece. TM: You speak many languages—how do you see translation in your creative process? In other words, H.D.’s Bethlehem,   along the Lehigh River, split between Northampton and Lehigh counties. I love the artwork: a woman sitting on a New York City fire-escape with the Mediterranean Sea below. The poem is about war, women, myth, literature and the role of the writer. Poetry is a faithful and generous lover. Or how would you describe the relationship after it’s translated? * Tuğrul   Mende is a regular contributor to ArabLit. A poem is a nomad that never leaves home. NH: Ahmad started translating my work for newspapers and magazines, and later told me he wanted to put together a book of Selected Works. What was it like to ruminate on these two Bethlehems? How did that come into being? The poem begins with the speaker walking through London after a bombing during World War II. A place in the bible, but not made of flesh and bones. NH: Molly is one of the most intriguing and important artists. It’s an extension of   my collection   Poet in Andalucia. TM: How do the poems relate to the title, Volo? Every language carries a world, so a translated work will inevitably experience a transformation. But when one is speaking about H.D., and Bethlehem is uttered, it is difficult not to think of her poem “The Walls Do Not Fall,” which is part of her Trilogy. I always loved Diode Editions chapbooks, and submitted   Volo, which included these two long poems in conversation with two American poets. When I was in the United States, people usually thought I meant the one in Pennsylvania. TM: What other projects are you currently working on?  NH: I am working on a book set in Sicily. Mahmoud admired Allen’s poem   “Kaddish.” I began to write a poem entitled   “After Kaddish,” and finished a draft in February 2012, the same month I had interviewed Ginsberg 15 years earlier. I thought about the first writing assignment he gave me, which was to interview Allen Ginsberg for his magazine   Al Karmel. TM: Why do you choose poems as a vehicle to express yourself, what draws you to this genre?  NH: We chose each other. Nathalie Handal on Her First Writing Assignment from Mahmoud Darwish, Her New Collection, and the Role of Translation November 9, 2022November 8, 2022 by mlynxqualey By Tuğrul Mende This October, poet Nathalie Handal brought out a new collection of poems,   Volo, with Diode Editions. I allow myself to be uncomfortable, transported, surprised, questioned and mesmerized.  TM: Do you think translated poems have the same tone and feeling as the original poem?  NH: As long as the poems have the same heart…. Nathalie Handal:   When Mahmoud Darwish died August 2008, I was in Queens, New York. NH: Growing up, when I said I was from Bethlehem, the only reference people usually had was the little town where Jesus Christ was born. And it reminds me of how hope is weaved in my Bethlehem.  TM: Tell us about the stunning drawing by Molly Crabapple in   Volo. Moving between cities globally, translation became the beating heart of communication and coexistence. Every book a different lover. Ahmad. It is partly inspired by her visit to the ruins of ancient Thebes in 1923, and speaks of what isn’t destroyed. “After Kaddish” was published in August 2018 in   Guernica   magazine, 10 years after Darwish’s death. Obviously, the two places have nothing in common besides their famous name. She selected   “Voyages,” which came from the quartet   “Téssera.” She later suggested I get it published as a chapbook. On one of my trips, while at The University of Naples for the launch of the Italian edition of my poetry book   The Lives of Rain   (translated by Martha Cariello), Professor Marina Vitale made interesting remarks about the views of Bethlehem throughout the world, as well as the American poet H.D.’s Bethlehem. I trusted he could enter the worlds of my work. I see myself in Sicily’s crossroads. Every language a different passion. And of course, I have always explored coesistenza in my work. Who gets to survive?”;   “When we walked away / did the sun’s rays on the bench / bend the beauty of the world?”; “How else can   /   we liberate   /   what’s been burning / for centuries?”; “What do we find / at the edge of the last gaze / of the heart?” This conversation will be joined, tomorrow, by a conversation with Handal’s English-to-Arabic translator, Ahmad M. This exchange triggered the poem   “Téssera,” which is a loosely based conversation with H.D., especially her   Trilogy, addressing mythology, war and love, life and death, and the spirit of women. NH: Every project is a different journey. NH: Volo in Latin means to fly, will, wish, want, and is anchored in the questions the poems ask: “Who dies? To watch her draw is like watching everything come alive—what we can and cannot see. Rome is one of my home cities, and whenever I need the Mediterranean Sea, I take the train to inimitable Naples. What is a poet to say to such generosity! Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Bethlehem, Palestine.

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