Translated by Susanna Lang
My Soul Has No Corners
(October, 2023) (Pre-order pricing through September.)
Souad Labbize is a poet of love and exile. Born in Algeria, she lived for years in Tunisia before crossing the Mediterranean to France, where she can live as she chooses and speak in the name of all women who leave their homelands in order to affirm their independence. This introduction to the poet’s work brings together two of the collections she has published in France: Drafts of Love is a linked sequence of love poems that together form the narrative of a relationship between two women, not from the beginning to the end but to a pause, while Bindle of Exile tells us “how to leave the country/lightweight.” In her brief but concise poems, Souad Labbize has condensed great passion and an unyielding commitment to truth, freedom and justice.
Front cover art: Annie Kurkdjian
Praise for Souad Labbize and My Soul Has No Corners
I set up/the playing field/of my silence. So many of the poems in Souad Labbize’s important work are about words. Not in that meta way, or that poetry lab way, but in the ways of love, silence, daring. And Susanna Lang’s words play on the same field, own it, by cajoling some knotty French syntax. Labbize is often called a writer “d’expression française.” Now—and we’re lucky, with this beautiful collection—she’s a writer expressed in English.
—Peter Thompson, translator of Abdellatif Laâbi’s Hope on the Fly
Although many of the central motifs of this collection—love, exile, desires unfulfilled—might seem quotidian, Souad Labbize’s poetry is anything but. The sparseness and concision of this verse belie a remarkable psychological profundity and aphoristic incisiveness. Susanna Lang’s deft translation allows the intimacy, irreverence, and acuity of Labbize’s verse to shine through.
—Kareem James Abu-Zeid, translator of Olivia Elias’ Chaos, Crossing
“I believe that the poem belongs to the poet rather than to me as a translator,” translator Susanna Lang writes in the notes to My Soul Has No Corners. And Lang brings us Souad Labizze’s poems as if Labizze were handing them to us herself, perfectly at home in English. With no punctuation and distilled language, these poems are quietly surreal and intimate, domestic in all senses of the word—especially in opposition to the idea of “foreign.” Many of the poems show the speaker finding and making a home/s in exile, especially in language, even if that home is complicated: “neither Hugo nor Éluard/wrote a single word/for us the others/the dust the colonized.” We English speakers are lucky to have these poems.
—Andy Young, author of All Night It Is Morning