A Babylonian once told me:
When my name bores me,
I throw it in the river
And return renewed!
* * * * * *
Even before al-Sayyab* viewed its streets
Bathed in poetry
As verdant as
A poet’s heart when her
Prince pauses trustfully to sing
While sublime maidens dance–
Brown like mud in the orchards
Soft like mud in the orchards
Scented with henna like mud in the orchards—
And a poem punctuates each of their pirouettes as
They walk straight to the river.
I’ve discovered no place in the city broader than Five Mile.
I used to visit there night and day,
When sun and moon were locked in intimate embrace.
Then they quarreled.
The Gulf’s water was sweet,
Each ship would unload its cargo,
And crew members enjoyed a bite of an apple
And some honey.
The women were radiant;
So men’s necks swiveled each time ladies’ shadows
Moved beneath the palms’ fronds.
These women needed no adornment;
Translated by William Hutchins
*Basra, also written Basrah is the capital of Basra Governorate, located on the Shatt al-Arab river in southern Iraq between Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of 1.5 million of 2012.
Basra is also Iraq’s main port, although it does not have deep water access, which is handled at the port of Umm Qasr.
The city is part of the historic location of Sumer, the home of Sinbad the Sailor, and a proposed location of the Garden of Eden. It played an important role in early Islamic history and was built in 636 AD or 14 AH. It is Iraq’s second largest and most populous city after Baghdad.
Basra is consistently one of the hottest cities on the planet, with summer temperatures regularly exceeding 50 °C (122 °F)
*Badr Shakir al Sayyab (December 24, 1926 – 1964) was an Iraqi and Arab poet. Born in Jekor, a town south of Basra in Iraq, he was the eldest child of a date grower and shepherd.
He graduated from the Higher teachers training college of Baghdad in 1948
Badr Shakir was dismissed from his teaching post for being a member of the Iraqi Communist Party.
Badr Shakir al-Sayyab was one of the greatest poets in Arabic literature, whose experiments helped to change the course of modern Arabic
poetry. At the end of the 1940s he launched, with Nazik al-Mala’ika,and shortly followed by ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī and Shathel Taqa, the free verse movement and gave it credibility with the many fine poems he published in the fifties.
These included the famous “Rain Song,” which was instrumental in drawing attention to the use of myth in poetry. He revolutionized all the elements of the poem and wrote highly involved political and social poetry, along with many personal poems.