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Khaled Mattawa is assistant professor of language and literature at the University of Michigan. Born in Benghazi, Libya, he emigrated to the United States as a teenager. He is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Tocqueville, and has translated five books of Arab poetry. Mattawa has received a PEN award for literary translation, a Guggenheim fellowship, and two Pushcart Prizes. He was selected by the Academy of American Poets as the recipient of the 2010 Academy Fellowship.

Adonis: Selected Poems

Yale University Press
2011 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

From the swooping, Whitmanesque, epic voice of the early Songs of Mihyar of Damascus, to the erotic mysticism of the long poem ‘Body’ and the subdued meditations of Beginnings of the Body, Ends of the Sea, we are in the presence of a poet of global importance.

Adonis, along with Saadi Yousef and Mahmoud Darwish, has helped to bring into being modern Arabic poetry. Masterfully translated by Khaled Mattawa, his Selected Poems show a range comparable to Lorca’s, stretching from the sensuous to the political. When he left the Syrian socialist party in the early Sixties, Adonis left all traditional politics behind only to become committed to deep cultural transformation through the creative energies of poetry, in a quest for what could be called an Arabic modernism. In the case of his poetry, this new mode takes the form of a combination of metaphysics, interiority and solidarity, a hybrid present as well in the poetry of Rumi and the thought of Ibn Arabi. ‘I sang of gardens and a towering palace/while in wretchedness, in attics hid./Tell him who used to sleep on soft cushions/that the heights are being punished by a star.’ From the swooping, Whitmanesque, epic voice of the early Songs of Mihyar of Damascus, to the erotic mysticism of the long poem ‘Body’ and the subdued meditations of Beginnings of the Body, Ends of the Sea, we are in the presence of a poet of global importance.