Maram al-Massri is an Arab love poet for the modern age. She writes short, seductive lyrics of astonishing clarity and piercing candour, stringing them together like pearls in a story chain. This first English translation of her work draws together poems from two sequences. Her red cherry is like red lips, a fruit or drop of blood offered for the reader to taste in the poems, but abandoned to the coldness of the white-tiled floor, the white paper of the page. Her lines are anguished but tightly reined, breaking completely with traditional Arab love poetry to draw on everyday language as well as images and metaphors remembered and reinvented from childhood and the Koran.
‘Arabic poetry…has developed an artificial code of rarified, unattainable longing that resembles the courtly love poetry of the European Middle Ages. To such a tradition, Maram al-Massri comes as a shock. She writes about all the taboo subjects – physical passion, faithlessness, adultery, loneliness, despair – with candour and intensity that would mark her out even to Westerners… Al-Massri recalls moments of violence and intensity in a clever mixture of dreaminess and half-light pierced by hard, precise detail. The lines sometimes suggest the old tradition… But elsewhere the modern world and contemporary imagery cut in…it is the combination of her modern, feminine individuality and the older Arab tradition that is so striking and wrenching’ – Michael Binyon, The Times
‘A selection of beautiful poetry from a Syrian writer. It is simply stunning’ – Clare McKeon, Sunday Independent (Dublin)
Maram al-Massri reading her poems in Arabic (with translations in French read by Dominique Laganne) at La Maison de la Culture in Bourges on 19 December 2008.
Bilingual Arabic-English edition
North America: Copper Canyon Press