Monday, April 17, 2006

Abd al-Aziz al-Maqalih


(Abd al-Aziz al-Maqalih)

I've never really understood how he does it. How does one man write so much?

I'm speaking of Yemen's poet laureate, Abd al-Aziz al-Maqalih. He writes a column for al-Thawra, 26th of September, al-Quds al-Arabi and a number of others. Nearly every book I have on Yemeni literature has been edited by him in his role as president of the Yemeni Centre for Studies and Research, and he often contributes the introduction or an article or two as well. He was also instrumental in getting the diwans of prominent Yemeni poets like Muhammad Mahmud al-Zubayri published. And he is extremely prolific in his own poetry. And now he is in English, or at least a translation of him is in English at the Yemen Times.

It is not the article I would prefer to see him introduced to an English-speaking audience, as it is more political than literary, but maybe it is the start of something more. For those interested in his poetry, I recommend a very good translation of his Kitab Sana'a by Bob Holman and Sam Liebhaber, available for sale through the Middle East Studies Association website. The book is quite good, and though it won't compare to his diwan, although the one from Dar al-'Auda in Beirut is horribly out-of-date. (I believe there is an up-dated one in the offing.)

Despite the article above, I would recommend reading al-Maqalih (he was last featured in English in a short interview in Foreign Policy with Elisabeth Eaves - not available on-line). He is an extremely talented poet and very kind man, and although the few times I've chewed qat with him have not been under the best of circumstance - once was in the week after Abu Ghraib when myself and a couple of other were left to be the unwilling voice of US foreign policy - he has always been a gentleman in every sense of the word, and the only contemporary Yemeni poet known throughout the Arab world.

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