Four videos of the occasion were posted on YouTube by the makkah88188 channel on 5 June, and I have embedded them here. In the final video Stephen discusses his rewarding experiences in translating poetry from various languages. Below the videos is a selection of the poems read by Stephen in English and Adnan in Arabic.
This was the preview of the event:
Saudi and Arab audience will be on an exciting date with the well known British poet Stephen Watts, in an open evening, poetry recitation and dialogue in the Cultural Cafe at Makkah Cultural and Literary Club, Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Watts will read a selection of his poems in English, and the Arab poet Adnan al-Sayegh will read their Arabic translations.
The poems have been translated by the story-teller Ali Almajnoni , artist Alaa Jumaa and translator Ali Salem. They have been reviewed by Adnan al-Sayegh and Marga Burgui-Artajo. The session will be presented and organized by the critic and translator Musa Al-Halul and the poetry assistant professor at Umm- al-Qura University, Dr. Suzanne wazzan. Later on, there will be time for comments and an open discussion between the poet and his Saudi and Arab audience in the cultural cafe and in other parts of the world through internet.
Watts who lives in the British capital, London; is a poet, editor and translator. He was born in 1952. He published several books including: Gramsci and Caruso (2003) , The blue bag (2004), and Mountain Language (2008). He participated in translating the works of many poets from all over the world. He reviews the online bibliography of world poetry translations into English after 1900.
The layout of lines, combining the words with spatial effects, is an important element in Stephen's work. Unfortunately this architectural element is missing in the left-justified layout that blogspot has imposed on his poems below. I did not even attempt to reproduce the long poem "Birds of East London" in which the design of the lines on the page is particularly esssential. That poem can be read here
A VERY LITTLE LIGHT
Uma pequenina luz
Jorge de Sena
Simply for the breath of staying alive
I should talk to you,
simply to pass some words across a table
as bread or oil,
and not have them die in me. Or
die in you.
And as I
measure by measure slowly toss the crisp
herbs of speech over towards your face,
a very little light will come into my eyes,
a very little light
will glow out at you and enter your eyes
and will be returned to me and calm our
mouths against duplicity.
And when all the bitter fratricides are
piled up about us
this little light, this tiny flame out on the
this wind-shaped tent that is your eye
with its slow torch,
this flickered heart with its ventricles
that beat and pump,
will provoke in us a bonfire and the will
and even from the embers there will glow
a little light, a very little
as we pass some words across the table,
simply for the breath of
THE VERB “TO BE”
i.m. Arshile Gorky
Sun, you dervish in the dancing tree
that glints and points and slowly spins
its fulcrum centred on the will to see.
You are lucid like the panels of light
and flow inside this archaic hall that
language is : you break and scatter and
in the rift, you create yourself anew.
You are the sudden sea-song of starlings
that bursts a tree at the shoreline edge.
You are blue spruce on the rim of frost.
You are a field of gauntly pecking swans
and the first November snow that tricks
the hill – cud of flower and cow’s bell.
You are green, green on the inward lips
of hot night and you are the colour opal
in the human eye of the word. You are
the lucid void between blue mountains
and the eye that sees. You are the falcon
that plunges down coiling gusts of need.
You are my language, you are my speech
and you are a million years old and you
are silent, sun you circling spun dancer
in the still centre of the body’s tree : sun,
you definition in the flesh of the child,
of the verb to be.
POEM OF THE OPEN FIELD
Not that there is a gate to be climbed
through in my lyric ¬-
but what is a poem if not an opening
onto an open field
The white sutra climbed into the sun
o my burning crow,
a slabbed path descended to breath,
a gap to infinity
When magmas rose in circuits toward
the earth’s crust,
red sulphurs burst on the steepled air,
already the open field was swallowing
And in the beautiful discourse of the
physicists, it was
the autistic poet who brought al-gebr
and music to the tongue
Giving to logic its lyric and its lemmas
and opening our eyes to
the most fertile and exacted images of
© Stepehen Watts
MOORLAND WITH FIRE AND SNOW
All the colours of snow imminent in the sky
that is coming,
black and brown obelisks in a dance of light
birds whorling white beaks in front of an
gulls whose backs become white as they spin
against the breaking air,
green flecks that are owl flight in front of
fire when the prayer wheels burn in cartons
of raw light,
crimson flame when mountain tenements go
staggering on singed air.
This is language that is forming in my throat
revolt of burst energies from the skies of my
snows that tossed dead gulls across the moor,
in the perfect circle of dawn they are strewn
about the shorelines,
in the exact geometries of morning they are
bruising my veins.
Remember the tortures and the poetry, and
the fertile crests of the white-out,
the horses of laughter, the nostrils that foam,
the sermons on barbarism, and the struggle
against butchered choice.
This is language that is forming from a clot
in my throat,
a torch of fire out on the wasteland, a tent of
heat beneath the mountain,
a little drinking fountain for those abandoned
a spray of paint on democracy wall, democracy
wall that does not exist.
Moorland with snow and fire : a far-off burnt
headland has stood up in my blood – it is
trickling its crystals down the garnet
© Stephen Watts