Monday, March 12, 2007

Nizar Kabbani: Poetry Of Love

Old fashioned love poetry has its own merits, even if love doesn't. we must learn to celebrate love or talk about its blindness. In a world of haste and existential angst, fashionable writers and their avantgarde readers, who pack avantgarde cinema halls showing black and white movies, the odes to love and of love are being forgotten. Thank heavens for the voice of the Syrian Poet Nizar Kabbani. Even though he was not always a poet of love, he took up love poetry as an independent poetic theme.

I love you but I do not play the game of love , writes Kabbani. His love is unselfish, for Love's sake. I am only a poet, all my wealth is in your beautiful eyes. The love he loves attacks me like a wild animal. He suffers thus, drinking the water of his sadness.
If I am asked for papers, I show them your eyes. However much he might suffer, he will not complain. The cups do not complain of holding too much wine. He keeps on loving, because I wrote your name on the notebooks of rain.

Kabbani will not teach us how to love. Love has no notebooks, the greatest lovers in history did not know how to read. He longs for his lover, for a kiss. His love is jealous too. Everyman who kisses you after me will discover above your mouth the small grapevine that I planted. But he does not hunt his lover. He is not a stalker, an obsessive lover. He is the lover.

But he writes, to undress myself. When Kabbani writes, he separates from history. Yet he suffers and pleads release. Let me live, give me a chance, to meet a new woman, to cut the braids of your hair, wrapped around my neck.
My love for you is a law I wrote. your task is to remain my lover. But, he understands that it is poetry that will bring release. Follow him without hesitation, it is not important that you belong to me or him, but that you belong to poetry.

Kabbani is a great poet, a poet who talks in a delectable, artistic and surreal language. There is some Neruda , some Lorca there. One discovers a fantastic gift of expression, of the art of inventing mirages out of dust, of rivers from falling rain.

My poetry and your face are two pieces of gold. I am still confused, who is the prettiest?
Kabbani the political man wrote Bread, hashish and moon, but he hated to be classified into a genre. He liked being called a mixture of freedom.

The excellent translation of his love poems, by Frangieh and Brown help in understanding the voice of this great Arabic poet, one who wrote....
Nothing protects us from death
except woman and writing.

I return time and again to his poems, after I return from a tussle with other words. For those who haven't discovered Kabbani yet, I envy the joy of that first reading.


Alok said...

What a striking first sentence in the post! I had never heard of him, let me see if i can locate a copy here. the lines you excerpted are wonderful.

Kubla Khan said...

Try finding Arabian love poems by Kabbani. The translations are brilliant.
The poems are better than i cd describe them.