Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Poet, Fady Joudah

Friend Martha and I went to the Center for the Art of Translation on 10 March 2009 to hear 2007 Yale Younger Poet, Fady Joudah. He read his translations of Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, who died in August 2008. ("His lyrical poems of exile and longing speak eloquently for displaced persons everywhere, at once evoking his Palestinian homeland and transcending national borders." The translations of Darwish combined three of his books as THE BUTTERFLY'S BURDEN, published by Copper Canyon Press. Mr. Joudah also read from his own beautiful verses, THE EARTH IN THE ATTIC (Yale University Press).

It may sound decadent to say so, but I have always felt that esthetics and ethics can be said it to be the same thing. It sounds superficial to say that certain political attitudes and actions show "a lack of taste" or "poor taste," but I think it is as true as to speak of "good" and "evil." And isn't a lack of taste that Hannah Arendt is speaking of when she sees in "the banality of evil."

The usual guidelines for this slide show: After starting the slide show, hit the lower right hand frame of arrows going in all directions to make the slides fill the screen. When you want to escape the slide show, push your ESCape key.

While he was born in Texas in 1971 to Palestinian refugees, Joudah sanely realizes that he is a step away from the plight of the world's oppressed people. He rejects compliments for his work as a field member of Doctors Without Borders, seeing that work as natural responsibility, common decency, not a particular heroism. What he has seen of terrible human conditions around the earth is implicit in his verses, yet he sanely knows he cannot speak with perfect truth about such things, that he lives a step away from the misery he witnesses in the earth's great mass of displaced persons. His attitude toward words, writing poetry, and translating is equally modest. It was a treat to listen to what he said, with a wonderful grace and intelligence, when he paused to make comments between the verses he read.

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