Arabology Interviews Syrian Poet Lubna Kayyali

 Listen to the interview at https://soundcloud.com/arabology/lubnakayyali

Stanford Lecturer+ Arabology radio show host Dr. Ramzi Salti interviews Syrian Poet Lubna Kayyali who recites her poem ما زلت لا أنجح [I Still Do Not Succeed] in Arabic + English Translation.
This interview was recorded at KZSU 90.1 FM (Stanford University) in November 2018.
Listen to the interview below or at https://soundcloud.com/arabology/lubnakayyali


For a video excerpt of Lubna Kayyali reciting her poem in Arabic, watch below or go to: https://youtu.be/gTCvVikQDKE



Here is the poem in Arabic + English Translation ©Lubna Kayyali


I have been told
To reap the fruits, you must labor
To prove that the earth rotates,
You must subtract five from ten
and become a scientist
Your ethnic color will dim
And you will raise up your gender

I was told
To reign over the language
You must memorize its alphabet
And chant in rhymes
For only then would you attain civility
Your dialect will fade
And your star will shine bright

I was told
To understand, you must read
And to succeed, you must understand
So I labored, memorized, recited, read, understood
But I did not succeed
I dared to inquire: why?
They replied:
Your star is still dim
So I seized a golden thunderbolt and struck my star
It tilted, straightened, then shone bright
In the sky of defeated stars
But, still, I do not succeed
So, again, I asked: why?
They answered:
Your dialect is Aleppian and you exude Damascene jasmine and lilies
So, I stole a foreign tongue
Chewed on it for hours, days, and decades
But my mouth swelled and my ​Dadd* transformed to a broken, frail Ghain**
But, still, I am not succeeding
Perplexed, I asked: why?
They answered:
Your gender is feeble and contemptible
It was, after all, created from a rib
Doomed to live in life’s margins
With bread and meat at its very core
And countless children as its ultimate end
So I skinned my soft flesh
Replaced it with scales of steel
Ripped out my perfumed hair
And wore my grandfather’s ancient fez instead
I plucked out my rosy nails
And affixed, in their place, tyrannical claws
But, still, I was not succeeding…
Baffled, I asked: why?
They answered:
Your color remains Arabic
Its shadow is Syrian
And you are now in the land of Giants
They hate the Arab
And loathe the Syrian
So I scurried to the box of crayons
And painted myself in white, green, and blonde
I spoke and walked my colors
Until I mastered them
Until I forgot the land of my ancestors
Until I forgot my father’s Kufic​*** pen
Until I forgot my grandmother’s Rifa’i cuisine

Then they spoke to me again
But to whom were they speaking?
They said: you!
But who am I?
...
And I still do not succeed




*​Dadd (الضاد     ): a letter unique to the Arabic language.
** Ghain (الغين    ): a soft-sounding letter in
Arabic.  

*** Kufic (كوفي    ): the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts.

قد قیل لي
 إن اجتهدتِ حصدتِ
 إن طَرَحْتِ خمسة من عشرة أثَبتِ أن الأرض تدور
  وغدوت عالمة
 لونك یشُف وجِنْسكِ یرقى

  قد قیل لي
 إن حفظتِ الأبجدیة ونشدتِ القافیة تمَلَّكْتِ اللغة
 وأصبحت راقیة
 لهجتُكِ تبْهَت ونجمكِ یسطع


 قد قیل لي
  إن قرأت فهمت وإن فهمت نجحت
 فاجتهدت وحفظت ونشدت وقرأت وفهمت
  ولكنني لم أنجح
 استقصیت: لماذا؟
 أجابوني
  مازال نجمك خافت
 فأخذت صاعقة ذهبیة وضربت نجمي
 فمال واعتدل وسطع في سماء النجوم الخاسرة
 ولكنني مازلت لا أنجح
 سألت: لماذا؟

أجابوني
 لهجتك حلبیة وریحك تفوح یاسمین دمشقي وریحانا
 فسرقت لسان أعجمي
 ولكْتُهُ ساعةً ویومًا وعقودا
 فتهیج فمي وتبدلت الضاد إلى غیْنْ لینة مكسورة
 ولكنني مازلت لا أنجح
 تعجبت: لماذا؟
  أجابوني
 جنسك خسیس واهن
  قد خلق من ضلع مهشم
 وهاهو یعیش حیاة مهمشة
 محورها خبز ولحم ومآلها أطفال معددة
 فسلخت جلدي الناعم
 وركبت حراشف فولاذیة
 واقتلعت شعري المعطر
 وارتدیت طربوش جدي المعتق
 ونزعت أظافري الزهریة
 وثَّبتُ مخالب مُسَتِّبدة
 ولكنني مازلت لا أنجح
 ذهلت: لماذا؟
 أجابوني
 مازال لونك عربي
وظله سوري
 وأنت على أرض العمالقة
 یكرهون العربي
 ویحتقرون السوري
  فهرعت إلى علبة الألوان
 وتلونت بالأخضر والأبیض والأشقر
  وأتقنت ألواني فنسیت أرض أجدادي
 ونسیت قلم أبي الكوفي
 ونسیت مطبخ جدتي الرفاعي
 فكلموني
 ولم أعرف من یكلمون
 قالوا لي: أنت
 فقلت: ومن أنا؟
….
 ومازلت لا أنجح


 ©Lubna Kayyali

Listen to the full interview below or at https://soundcloud.com/arabology/lubnakayyali










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