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Alphabets of Sand

Selected Poems

Venus Khoury-Ghata

Translated by Marilyn Hacker

Alphabets of Sand by Vénus Khouri-Ghata
RRP: GBP 12.95
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ISBN: 978 1 857549 77 5
Categories: 21st Century, Arabic, French, Translation, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: May 2009
216 x 155 x 13 mm
232 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • Where do words come from?
    from what rubbing of sounds are they born
    on what flint do they light their wicks
    what winds brought them into our mouths
                                                     from 'Words' by Venus Khoury-Ghata
    Translated by notable American poet Marilyn Hacker, Lebanese-French poet and novelist Venus Khoury-Ghata explores the formal and mythic attractions, congruencies and incompatibilities of the French and Arabic imaginations and poetic traditions in poems that open like 'a suitcase filled with alphabets.' Sex, barrenness, exile, grief, and death - the backdrop of a war-ravaged country - are always at the edges, made increasingly urgent in lines varying from sinuous length to jagged and spare, their music unfettered, their metaphors lively, multilayered and unpredictable. But humour, the demotic voice, the storyteller's enchantments and an anecdotal sense of quotidian life are also omnipresent. Khoury-Ghata's is a vital voice in French and Francophone literature.


    Translator's Preface

    The Darkened Ones
    The Seven Honeysuckle Sprigs of Wisdom
    from Early Childhood
    The Cherry Tree's Journey
    Venus Khoury-Ghata
    Venus Khoury Ghata is a Lebanese poet and novelist, resident in France since 1973, the author of sixteen collections of poems and twenty novels. She received the Prix Mallarme in 1987 for Monologue du mort, and the Grand Prix de la Societe des Gens de Lettres for Fables pour un ... read more
    Marilyn Hacker
    Marilyn Hacker was born in New York City in 1942. She is the author of several books including Essays on Departure (Carcanet, 2006) and the following books of poetry, First Cities: Collected Early Poems 1960-1979 (2003); Squares and Courtyards (2000); Winter Numbers (1994), which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and ... read more
    'Hacker opens for English-language readers a veritable 'suitcase filled with alphabets' - the perfectly blended French and Arabic imagination of Lebanese native and French emigree writer Venus Khoury-Ghata, who evokes in sinuous lines and multivalent imagery the richness of her experiences of a multi-ethnic traditional culture.'
    The Women's Review of Books
    'Venus Khoury-Ghata's poems are striking for their combined innocence and wisdom. In Marilyn Hacker's pristine translations, the poems are dreamlike and real, mysterious and utterly true. Here Khoury-Ghata envisions the beginnings of the world and modern tragedy simultaneously and with a heightened clarity. Language shines in a new light as she searches for its origin: 'How to find the name of the fisherman who hooked the first word / of the woman who warmed it in her armpit / or of the one who mistook it for a pebble and threw it at a stray dog. 'And she takes us to a time when 'Everything that frequented water had a soul / clay jug, gourd, basin 'buckets fished out the ones stagnating in the wells' indifference.' I am enchanted.'
    Grace Schulman
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