FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lawful Magic: Why I will have a poem of the week

Lawful Magic:  Why I will have a Poet of the week
Poet of the Week from Morocco: Hassan El Ouazzani

There is no reason each regional specialist should not be reading a regional poem each week.  The study of a country's  history and government, yes all that is necessary, but the poetry, the poetry cuts to the heart of its countrymen.

"No people in the world manifest such enthusiastic admiration for literary expression and are so moved by the word, spoken or written, as the Arabs. Modern audiences in Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo can be stirred to the highest degree by the recital of poems, only vaguely comprehended, and by the delivery of orations in the classical tongue, though it be only partially understood. The rhythm, the rhyme, the music, produce on them the effect of what they call "lawful magic" (sihr halal). "
Philip K Hitti, History of the Arabs

by Hassan El Ouazzani

The cloud
did not regain its nest. Amazement
did not depart from its shadow. The star
did not enjoy its evening.
The master
did not abandon his death.

They all opened wide
a gate to death, a gate to the night
and a thousand gates to war

friends, drinking
companions, stop this desolation.

I do not like women
who paint my steps with the wind

I like
all women.

I don’t like the mountains
that reach closer to the sky of speech. I like the paths
that lead secretly to the heart, pull
the soul back to its retraced steps, and take me
to the limits of the earth.

I don’t mean
the earth
I mean a woman’s lips, or a bunch of grapes
or a glass, or a moon, or a lap that shelters me
from August’s sun, or from rain pouring on my hands.

I don’t mean
the night, I mean the following morning.

I don’t remember anything.
I remember that his face was calm,
his body cold. I remember
my own amazement. When I die, where will
the women hiding inside my heart go?

Will Leila keep to her silence?
Butaynah might appear in the hall.
Jocelyn might embrace Elsa.
They might gather around me,
for a little chat.

He was a friend of war,
says Leila.
A pal to the air,
adds Jocelyn.
He didn’t depart from his shadow,
he was a wise man,
and a Friend
to all
-Hassan El Ouazzani
Some of my favorite poetry books:

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