Tuesday 1 August 2023

Maram Al-Masri, "The Abduction," translated by Hélène Cardona

Maram Al-Masri was born in Latakia, Syria, and moved to France following the completion of English Literature studies at Damascus University. She is considered one of the most influential voices of her generation. 

Her books include Métropoèmes, Je te regarde, Cerise rouge sur un carrelage blanc, Le Rapt, Elle va nue la liberté, Par la fontaine de ma bouche, La robe froissée  (all Bruno Doucey), A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor (Copper Canyon), Le retour de Wallada (Al Manar), Je te menace d’une colombe blanche (Seghers), and the anthologies L’amour au temps de l’insurrection et de la guerre (Le Temps des Cerises), Femmes poètes du monde arabe (Le Temps des Cerises), and La poésie des femmes kurdes, as well as several children books. 

She is the recipient of a number of prestigious literary prizes, including the Prix d’Automne 2007 de Poésie de la Société des Gens De Lettres, the Adonis Prize of the Lebanese Cultural Forum, the Premio Citta di Calopezzati for the section Poésie de la Mediterranée, Il Fiore d’Argento for cultural excellence, and the Dante Alighieri Prize.

She is a member of the Parlement des écrivaines francophones and was appointed Ambassador of the Secours Populaire in France and citoyenne d’honneur of Vendenheim. In 2017, the Maram Al-Masri Prize was created, which rewards poetry and graphic works.

Hélène Cardona is a poet, actor, translator, and linguist, the author of Life in Suspension (Salmon Poetry), called “a vivid self-portrait as scholar, seer and muse” by John Ashbery, and Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry), described by David Mason as “liminal, mystical and other-worldly,” adding, “this is a poet who writes in a rare light.” Hailed as visionary by Richard Wilbur, Cardona’s luminous poetry explores consciousness, the power of place, and ancestral roots. It is poetry of alchemy and healing, a gateway to the unconscious and the dream world.

She has authored the translations The Abduction (Maram Al-Masri, White Pine Press), Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona, Salmon Poetry), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, White Pine Press), Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux, Éditions du Cygne), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings (University of Iowa).

Hélène is the recipient of over 20 awards & honors, including the Independent Press Award, a Hemingway Grant and an Albertine and FACE Foundation Prize. Her work has been translated into 19 languages. She wrote her thesis on Henry James for her MA in American Literature from the Sorbonne, received fellowships from the Goethe-Institut and Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, worked as a translator/interpreter for the Canadian Embassy, and taught at Hamilton College and Loyola Marymount University. She is a member of the Parlement des écrivaines francophones. Her website is here

About The Abduction by Maram Al-Masri, translated by Hélène Cardona

The Abduction refers to an autobiographical event in Al-Masri’s life. When, as a young Arab woman living in France, she decides to separate from her husband with whom she has a child, the father kidnaps the baby and returns to Syria. The Abduction is the story of a woman who is denied the basic right to raise her child. Al-Masri won’t see her son for thirteen years. 

These are haunting poems of love, despair, and hope in a delicate, profound and powerful book on intimacy, a mother’s rights, war, exile, and freedom. Maram Al-Masri embodies the voice of all parents, who one day, for whatever the reason, have been forcibly separated from their loved ones. She writes about the status of women, seeking to reconcile her role as a mother with her writing work. 

You can read more about The Abduction on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read a sample poem from the collection. 

From The Abduction

Under the bed

Under the bed
I found the teddy bear
you smothered with kisses
the one you talked to, eyes wide open
waiting for the angel of sleep to come

Remember how it stopped
the storm of your cries
when I waved it at you
‘til the night of your eyes glistened
and even the Niagara Falls
stopped falling

You tore it from my hands
clutching it against you
It was your companion
to face the night
your silent friend
the one you neglected when busy
the one you looked for when sad

The teddy bear and angel of sleep
keep looking for you

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