Three Egyptian poets

Cairo collage by Maged Zaher

In early 2006, Maged Zaher emailed me at Jacket and asked to have one of his  poems considered for publication. As often happens, he forgot to attach the poem. A pithy correspondence ensued and it continued between us even after the poem, my software mission, was published in Jacket issue 29. At some stage in our email exchange Maged asked me if I’d be interested in writing a poem in collaboration with him. So began a project that continued over a year or so and resulted in twenty-one poems that can be read as a continuing long poem.  Susan Schultz published the poems that we’d assembled and titled  farout_library_software as a Tinfish Press chapbook in  2007.

farout_library_software cover by Chae Ho Lee
cover by Chae Ho Lee

Maged Zaher, as Leonard Schwartz told us in a recent Jacket 2 commentary, “as a Coptic Christian living in Seattle but going back and forth to Egypt, has an intriguingly refracted positionality on recent events and his own poetry.” Leonard goes on to provide links to radio interviews with Maged on his poetry program, Cross-Cultural Poetics, including a conversation about Maged’s most recent collection, Portrait of the Poet as an Engineer, published by Pressed Wafer in 2009.

         Maged Zaher in 2008 (photo by Pam Brown)

Here I want to highlight a feature that Maged edited for Jacket in late 2008.  It showcased the translation of three Egyptian poets into English - Ahmed Taha, Osama El-Dinasouri and Mohamed Metwalli.  Maged's percipient introduction outlines the problems and differences in getting from Arabic into English, as well as canvassing tradition in Arabic poetries.

Here is the link to the feature in Jacket #36: