Sudan: 'English Anthology of Sudanese Poetry' Hits Book Shelves

8 December 2019

Modern Sudanese Poetry: An Anthology, that combines a collection of English translations of eminent poets is now in circulation in Western countries and in the nearby region.

Published by the Press of the University of Nebraska (US), the collection gives an excellent text by illustrious Sudanese translator Mr. Adil Babikir who has already translated into English masterpieces from Sudanese novelists and short story writers.

The anthology brings to light the works of renowned Sudanese poets, who though known in their country and in the Arab World, needed to be introduced to non-native English readers.

The paperback, 186 - page book has already been greeted with appreciation from a lot of men of letters in the West as giving good insights into the little known Sudanese poetry outside our region.

Wrote American writer and university administrator Mathew Shenoda about the anthology: "Spanning more than six decades of Sudan's post-independence history, this collection features work by some of Sudan's most renowned modern poets, largely unknown in the United States. Adil Babiker's extensive introduction provides a conceptual framework to help the English reader understand the cultural context. Translated from Arabic, the collection addresses a wide range of themes - identity, love, politics, Sufism, patriotism, war, and philosophy - capturing the evolution of Sudan's modern history and cultural intersections."

"Modern Sudanese Poetry features voices as diverse as the country's ethnic, cultural, and natural composition. By bringing these voices together, Babikir provides a glimpse of Sudan's poetry scene as well as the country's modern history and post-independence trajectory," adds Prof. Shenoda in his request for commentaries from fellow critics to file their reviews of the collection.

For his part, Mr. Salah M. Hassan, Goldwin Smith Professor of Africana Studies and History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University has written that:

"This is an unprecedented accomplishment not only in translation of modern Sudanese poetry but also a scholarship on its history, evolution, poetics, and aesthetics. . . . This book is a great addition to the library of Arab poetry in translation that should appeal to scholars and the general public with interest in Arabic poetry."

Fady Joudah, Palestinian American physician and author of the poetry collection The Earth in the Attic, wrote:

"Sudanese literature has long been a significant contributor to Arabic and world letters and culture. The thoughtful, provocative introduction in this anthology, combined with the clear-eyed lyric transformation of the poems into English, honor poetry everywhere. Just as in Iraq, Yemen, Morocco, or the United States, the weight of collective history and ethnic and linguistic diversity emerges to forge these Sudanese poems into art, both bound to and liberated from the national frame. Details matter, nuance is essential. And yet the story of Sudanese poetry is the story of poetry all over the world. From blaze to breeze, this is a beautiful book."

About the Author

Adil Babikir is a translator and an Arabic content manager at Mubadala Investment Company in Abu Dhabi. He has translated several works, including Mansi: A Rare Man in His Own Way by Tayeb Salih and two novels by Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin, namely: The Jungo, Stakes of the Earth and The Messiah Of Darfur.

It is with great pleasure that Sudanow publishes hereunder a poem from the anthology. The poem, 'My Beloved Aazza was composed by Patriotic Poet Khalil Farah during the early days of the struggle of Sudanese for the country's independence from colonial powers Britain and Egypt. The name Aazza, though widely used as a female name, and Khalil Farah here uses it so, has also later on been used symbolically to refer to the Sudan. The term Aazza literally means 'hard to win", or "very dear."

My Beloved Aazza

By Khalil Farah

Translated by Adil Babikir

Our passion for you, Aazza, is firm and stout.

Like mountains we stand, hard to sway.

Our bowstrings, alert and taut,

keep intruders away.

I never forsook my homeland: the land of ultimate beauty;

I always sought perfection, never rested for less.

My heart never throbbed for someone else;

as to the left I lean, take me in your right hand and embrace.

I can never forget Bilal's orchard

our playgrounds under the shade

like flowers on hilltops

leaping to reach the stars

a palm-frond crescent braided on my forehead.

Your chaste charm is a blessing on my heart;

the flames of your love are healing my wounds;

your conceit is innocent playfulness;

my tears as sweet as pure water;

I grow in awe of you,

as in grandeur every day you grow.

In Khartoum you come out;

from the groves of Shambaat you sprout.

Mountains guarding Omdurman

and deep in my heart I do find you,

a cure to my most stubborn ailment.

Staying all night awake,

counting stars on my camelback,

out of food, and of patience,

I can't wait to reunite with my gazelle-eyed back at home.

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