Reception: Diwan: A Forum for the Arts- Entertainment and Poetry Reading by Khaled Mattawa

Fri, March 25, 2011 8:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Free and Open to the Public

In celebration of Diwan: A Forum for the Arts taking place on March 25-26, Alwan will host a cocktail reception and an evening of music and entertainment for all conference participants and artists, and will feature the prominent Libyan poet Khaled Mattawa, who will read from his own poetry as well as that of other Libyan and Arab poets.

It is fortuitous to host Khaled Mattawa, especially as we are witnessing the Libyan revolution before us, for what augments this revolution, what is particularly noticeable, is the oratory and eloquence that are a mark of every ordinary Libyan. In spite of the unending meandering psychotic episode of Gaddafi's criminal regime, there is an understated spontaneity about the way the Arabic tongue is articulated by Libyans. Theirs is a proper language that transcends the specificity of dialects-fundamentally an expansive identity whose multiple currents flow rather seamlessly. Perhaps it is poetic injustice that such an elegantly expressive people are lorded-over by the inarticulate rumblings and stammerings of an eccentric despot. The joke is that while the slogan on the revolting Arab street is that "the people want to bring down the regime," in Libya the chant is that "the people want to understand Gaddafi's speech".

Khaled Mattawa
has published several collections of poetry, including Tocqueville (2010), Amorisco (2008), Zodiac of Echoes (2003), and Ismailia Eclipse (1995). He has translated numerous volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry, including Shepherd of Solitude: Selected Poems of Amjad Nasser (2009) and Miracle Maker: Selected Poems of Fadhil Al-Azzawi (2004), in addition to co-editing the anthologies Dinarzad’s Children: An Anthology of Arab American Fiction (2004) and Post Gibran: Anthology of New Arab American Writing (1999).

Mattawa has been awarded several Pushcart Prizes and the PEN Award for Literary Translation, in addition to a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, and the Alfred Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. He has taught at Indiana University; California State University, Northridge; and the University of Michigan. He is a Ford/United States Artist for 2011 and recipient of the 2010 Academy of American Poets Fellowship Prize, Mattawa has been a frequent commentator on the current situation in Libya in recent weeks.


Now that we have come out of hiding,
Why would we live again in the tombs we’d made out of our souls?

And the sundered bodies that we’ve reassembled with prayers and consolations,
What would their torn parts be other than flesh?

Now that we have tasted hope
And dressed each other’s wounds with the legends of our oneness
Would we not prefer to close our mouths forever shut on the wine
That swilled inside them?

Having dreamed the same dream,
Having found the water that gushed behind a thousand mirages,
Why would we hide from the sun again
Or fear the night sky after we’ve reached the ends of darkness,
Live in death again after all the life our dead have given us?

Listen to me Zow'ya, Beida, Ajdabya, Tobruk, Nalut, Derna, Musrata, Benghazi, Zintan,
Listen to me houses, alleys, courtyards, and streets that throng my veins,
Some day soon
In your freed light and in the shade of your proud trees,
Your excavated heroes will return to their thrones in your martyrs’ squares,
Lovers will hold each other’s hands.

I need not look far to imagine the nerves dying rejecting the life that blood sends them.
I need not look deep into my past to seek a thousand hopeless vistas.
But now that I have tasted hope
I have fallen into the embrace of my own rugged innocence.

How long were my ancient days?
I no longer care to count.
How high were the mountains in my ocean’s fathoms?
I no longer care to measure.
How bitter was the bread of bitterness?
I no longer care to recall.

Now that we have tasted hope,
Now that we have lived on this hard-earned crust,
We would sooner die than seek any other taste to life,
Any other way of being human.- Khaled Mattawa

Last updated: 2011-03-24 01:04:39

Khaled Mattawa
Khaled Mattawa

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(646) 732-3261

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