“My language is a constellation of poets.” –Samira Negrouche
In this stunning addition to the Pleiades Press Translation Series, rendered in Marilyn Hacker’s innovative translation from the original French, Samira Negrouche confronts a war-torn Algeria, amidst the Arab Spring, cataloguing, in her luminary genre-bending poetry, grief, exile, and revolution. Philip Metres writes, “A poetic descendant of Etel Adnan, Negrouche deftly moves from poems to prose, from coasts to caravans, from surrealist landscapes to erotic interiors. Writing in the empire’s language, Negrouche casts her poems into the “‘complex structure of silences’” that French can’t follow: “‘I would like / in a faraway language / to tell you what I don’t / understand.’” These are imporant poems, and Hacker gives us the gift of reading them in English for the first time in a collected volume.
Praise for The Olive Trees’ Jazz and Samira Negrouche:
“Tell me—Who are you? When you speak in someone else’s language?” writes Samira Negrouche, a poet who speaks out of oppression into the large, green, joyous conversation with the world. She is fully aware that “poets land in the public squares like timid phantoms and disappear on silent soles / sometimes a trembling hand sketches a few feverish words,” and also aware of the magical smell of jasmine, which is everywhere in these pages. It is a beautiful book, one that bears knowledge of grief and yet (or, perhaps, because of it) embraces the world. My special gratitude to Marilyn Hacker for her vivid, crisp translation.
This work from Samira Negrouche is surprising and extremely moving, because it belongs to the initiatic domain of real and absolute poetry.
“My ancestors know no borders,” Samira Negrouche observes, and this holds true for the entire book; it’s an extended query on the nature of dividing lines and mechanisms of exclusion—and inclusion—physical, cultural, linguistic, political, and personal. “Give your doubt back its soul,” she says: there’s the great courage of tenderness and of hope here, and Marilyn Hacker has caught all her surprising phrasing, striking juxtapositions, and subtle syntactical legerdemain in an English that rings with the music of the original, not missing a beat, or an echo, or a bell.
Samira Negrouche’s poems—rendered in Marilyn Hacker’s lapidary translation from French—glimmer, facet-bedazzled, imagistic, and mysterious. In The Olive Trees’ Jazz, a vision of Algeria rises up, of shores and jasmine, of “unaesthetic terraces that smell of sweat and fried potatoes.” A poetic descendant of Etel Adnan, Negrouche deftly moves from poems to prose, from coasts to caravans, from surrealist landscapes to erotic interiors. Writing in the empire’s language, Negrouche writes into the “complex structure of silences” that French can’t follow: “I would like / in a faraway language / to tell you what I don’t / understand.”
In this stunning book, Negrouche and Hacker bring us poems that are exquisite in the American language to which they have been translated, but are ineffably of Maghrebi provenance, and more particularly of exile. These are poems of history and geography—in ribbons, in shreds, torn from the Algerian War of Independence and from the Arab Spring. At the center are poems of transgressive love. “What workout could I have done,” the poet asks, “not to fall on my knees at your threshold?” Let the reader be advised: one may easily fall in love with these harsh and magical poems.