In the previous blog post, I gave an update on Ahmed Mansoor’s current situation and asked you to take action for him to mark the third anniversary of his arrest on 20 March. In this post I want to introduce you to Ahmed Mansoor, the poet and will also share some of Ahmed Mansoor’s poems in English translation.
Ahmed Mansoor is a very well know human rights activist. Not so many people probably know that he is also a poet and has a keen interest in literature. In an interview with the researcher, activist and film maker Manu Luksch in May 2016 he described the connection between his interest in human rights activism and literature as follows:
“Of course, throughout this history I was involved in many different things. The first was literature—I’d been writing in almost all the newspapers in the UAE about literature and specifically about poetry, and later I published a book on poetry. That’s where the value of freedom of expression became of great importance for me, and I started my involvement in human rights driven by the great respect that I have for freedom of expression.”
The book Ahmed Mansoor mentioned in this quote is called “Beyond the Failure”. It is a collection of poetry in Arabic and was published in 2007. The collection was never published in English, but Manu Luksch got a few of these poems translated into English. You can find them on a wonderful publication which also include the 3,159 most recent tweets from Ahmed Mansoor’s Twitter feed (in the original and in an English machine translation).
I will share the English translations of the poems here and I am very grateful to Manu Luksch for giving me her permission to do so.
1. “Final Choice”
At the beginning of this post has to be Ahmed Mansoor’s best known poem “Final Choice”. It is a very powerful poem and I am not surprised that people go back to this poem again and again and use it to campaign for Ahmed Mansoor.
I have read this poem a few times at vigils and protests and also other people read it at vigils and other events.
It was also part of a display last year at the Peoples History Museum in Manchester (in the Protest Lab).
At the Human Rights & Poetry Event “Word’s for the Silenced” last March Drewery Dyke chose to read “Final Choice”. You can listen to him reading it in this tweet which I tweeted last year.
I have no other means now
but a tight-lipped silence in the square and through corridors
Since I have tried everything
screams, chants, signboards
and lying on the ground in front of the queues
Cutting through the procession with eggs, tomatoes, and
Hurling burning bottles and stones
Stripped naked in front of the public
Carving statements in the flesh
Walking masked in front of cameras
Dressed in shackles
Tied and chained to garden fences
Swallowing rusty razor blades and splintered glass
Hacking of fingers with a machete
and hanging myself from the lampposts
Dousing the body with kerosene
and setting it aflame
I have tried all this, but you didn’t even turn to look
This time, I swear
I won’t utter a word, or move
I will stay the way I am
until you turn to look
or until I am petrified
The person who translated “Final Choice” wants to stay anonymous.
2. “What are all the stars for” and “How did you not see me”
There were two other poems by Ahmed Mansoor which also featured in the Human Rights & Poetry Event “Words for the Silenced” and which were used in other similar events. The first poem is “What are all those stars for”. It was translated into English by Tony Calderbeck.
What are all those stars for?
And the night
And the clouds
And the sky erected like a tent in the desert.
In a place like this
Listen to this short clip in which the journalist Bill Law reads the poem. It is again a tweet I send last year to mark the anniversary of Ahmed Mansoor’s arrest and World Poetry Day.
And here is the poem “How did you not see me” which was also translated by someone who wants to stay anonymous.
How did you not see me
As if I were hiding behind a mountain
And how did I see you then
Passing in a distance of two leagues
Curving the moon with a gaze
And pulling the stars
To the field.
3. More poems translated by Tony Calderbeck
Tony Calderback translated two more poems by Ahmed Mansoor. The first one is a very short one “They’ve gone”.
And I am left alone
Poking about in the ashtray
Trying to find a pulse.
The second poem “Like a celestial body” reminds me almost of surreal poetry.
Like a celestial body we burned bright
And went out like a jellyfish
Just for you
All these waves hidden like a wreath or a bomb
Just for you
A blend of the spirit and annihilation
Just for you
4. More poems translated by an anonymous translator
There are eight further poems who were translated into English by someone who prefers to stay anonymous. Many of these poems are quite short and succinct.
Time does not gore my wounds anymore
For I have no wound and there is no such thing as time
And no consolation.
He didn’t finish the whole glass,
If he had, and had left the table,
the sky outside would have rained.
How would he have crossed the street.
when he had forgotten his umbrella!
Quite a number of the poems are love poems.
A deep bow to you
You, the heart that died twice
and never grew jaded
to what approaches with its dagger
From the horizon.
The flower of the door
This morning I greeted the flower at the door by lifting my hat
She surprised me
when my lover passed by
in the evening.
The love we buried together,
we’ve lost its location,
so we dug the whole desert,
when we felt the first prick
I fell in love with you
without any regret directed at you or the grave
I fell in love with you
I forgot the shoes in the dream
and the keys
in the coffin.
When will you come?
My insides froze on the barrow
and the coat melted in the wind.
I blew the whistle
I nodded with my heart one million times
and one million times the galaxy fell.
Did not come
All that is
A hair from your braid
Fell into the dream
And I found it
How much time has passed,
And you are ticking ?!
Is beating as well,
But the tear had dried
And the bullet,
I hope you like the poems. Please share them, in particular please join English PEN’s call for action, make short video clips of you reading these poems and share this clips to campaign for Ahmed Mansoor.
As always please continue to be Ahmed Mansoor’s voice.