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Ghassan ZaqtanGhassan Zaqtan
Palestinian Poet

Fady JoudahFady Joudah
Palestinian-American Poet


NYS Writers Institute, October 16, 2012
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Campus Center Room 375, Uptown Campus
7:00 p.m. Reading [Note early start time] | Campus Center Room 375, Uptown Campus

Ghassan Zaqtan, major Palestinian poet and Director General of the Literature Department of the Palestinian Ministry of Culture and Fady Joudah, Palestinian-American poet and winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, will read from Zaqtan ’s first collection to be published in English, translated by Joudah, on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. [note early start time] in Campus Center Room 375, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Earlier that day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the same location. Free and open to the public, the events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute.

"The Arabic language did not undergo fundamental changes in the manner of so many European languages have undergone. . . " (4:01)

Ghassan Zaqtan,
poet, novelist, journalist, screenwriter and playwright, is a major Palestinian poet and a leading representative of the avant-garde in Arabic literature. His most recent collection— the first to appear in English— is Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me (2012), which was translated by Fady Joudah, a Palestinian-American poet and winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition for his own collection, The Earth in the Attic (2008).

In the newly translated collection, published originally as Ka-tayrin min al-qashsh yatba’uni in Arabic in 2008, Zaqtan departs from the lush aesthetics of such celebrated modern Arabic poets as Mahmoud Darwish and Adonis to define a new aesthetic characterized by delicate narratives, whirling catalogues, and austere descriptive language. The poems mine personal and collective Palestinian experience to address issues of memory, history, exile, and return.

Poet Cole Swensen said in advance praise of the translated collection, “Zaqtan’s poems are uncompromising in their direct engagement with daily life, detailing the way in which the quotidian is, after all, the grand narrative of history. Joudah’s brilliant translations capture not only sense, sound, and rhythm, but also pulse, infusing the English language with a new sensibility.”

The author of ten books of poetry in Arabic, Zaqtan is also a novelist, editor, and filmmaker. Notable earlier collections of poetry include Istidraj al-jabal (Call of the Mountain, 1999), and Sira bi al-fahm (Biography In Charcoal, 2003).

Zaqtan was born in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, and spent part of his youth in refugee camps where his father, a poet, worked as a United Nations official. He resided in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Yemen, and Tunisia before returning to Palestine in 1994. He is the co-founder and director of the literary arts organization, the House of Poetry in Ramallah, and is currently the Director General of the Literature and Publishing Department of the Palestinian Ministry of Culture. He also edits the literature supplement of the Palestinian daily newspaper al-Ayyam.

Award-winning poet and translator Fady Joudah is a practicing physician of internal medicine at a Veteran’s Administration hospital in Houston, Texas. He is also a member of the international relief organization, Doctors Without Borders, performing tours of duty in refugee camps in Sudan and Zambia. Poet Yusef Komunyakaa said that Joudah’s first collection, The Earth in the Attic (2008), underscores “his great talent for exacting naked feelings that engage the age-old mysteries of this world….”

Joudah’s translations include two poetry collections by the late Mahmoud Darwish, If I Were Another (2009), winner of the PEN USA Literary Award for Translation, and The Butterfly’s Burden (2006). Poet Kazim Ali, writing about If I Were Another for the Kenyon Review, said, “[Darwish] has, in Joudah’s startling and tensile English, expanded into us a new vastness.”

NOTE:  This event has been rescheduled from April 10, 2012.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.