With Urgency: A Selection of Poems
Translated by Mbarek Sryfi and Eric Sellin
ISBN: 978-1-944884-95-6 (pbk.)
(November 1, 2021)
In this brief collection by one of Morocco’s most beloved and respected poets, Aicha Bassry, translated and selected by Mbark Sryfi and Eric Sellin, English-speaking readers will find accessible, deceptively simple portraits and snapshots that upon closer reading reveal a depth of emotion and vision that is both psychologically and politically compelling.
Aicha Bassry takes us on a journey of the heart, mapped in deceptively simple language grounded in elemental imagery and sensuous metaphors. The words on the page are also incantation and exorcism, “votive offerings on cold nights,” the last rampart against fear and alienation.
—Hélène Stafford, Oxford University
This is a seductively lyrical poetry opening from an atlal, a ruin, of loss, yet always aware of its means, & able to turn these back on the reader, because, as Aicha Bassry knows, seduction is the “jutting rock [that]/ Gashed the whiteness/ Of the leg that lusted after/ Its own image in the water.”
—Pierre Joris, author of Barzakh
Aicha Bassry is a deep singer who takes you by her soul-crafted words to startling realms of experience you hardly thought possible. Her work is ageless and of our now. Bassry encounters life, the seasons, lost love, death. At one point her scarf is taken by the wind and lands on a grave in Montparnasse Cemetery, and Death apologizes that he wasn’t looking for her: “I was searching for one of my corpses/ Which I had buried inside you.” This artfully resonant translation is attentive to Bassry’s formal acrobatics, the subtle twists and surprises of her evocations. “Fall is a moment,” she utters, “that sneaks between/ The greenness and a withering drought/ without apologizing to the tree.” Death, life, trees, a butterfly, become moments of breathless encounter, and we are irresistibly swept up as readers in these sparkling intense states of “in-between.”
—Sarah Riggs, author of Eavesdrop.