Berikut ini adalah puisi dari Naomi Shihab Nye yang disertakan dalam proyek Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools. Sekadar info, Poetry 180 adalah proyek yang digagas penyair Billy Collins saat dia menjadi Poet Laureate Amerika Serikat pada tahun 2002 silam. Tentang penyairnya sendiri, Naomi Shihab Nye, beliau adalah seorang penyair Arab-Amerika yang lahir dan besar di kota St. Louis, Missouri. Banyak puisi-puisinya menggarap tema imigran Arab di Amerika ataupun tentang tema orang Arab di perantauan yang kembali ke Timur Tengah mengunjungi sanak kerabatnya; tapi, sebagai orang yang menghabiskan hampir seluruh hidupnya di Amerikat Serikat, tentu saja Nye punya lebih banyak lagi puisi yang “ngamerikani” atau mungkin universal (bagi orang Amerika), seperti misalnya tentang kehidupan dan kepindahannya dari satu bagian di Amerika ke bagian yang lain. Puisi yang disertakan dalam Poetry 180 ini, berjudul asli “The Rider,” adalah puisi yang termasuk dalam kelompok universal itu. Silakan menikmati upaya penerjemahan ini, dan kalau ingin merujuk ke puisi aslinya, silakan meluncur ke sini.
Seorang bocah berkata
bila dia meluncur bersepatu roda cukup kencang
kesepian tidak akan bisa mengejarnya,
alasan terbaik yg pernah kudengar
di balik usaha menjadi juara.
Malam ini, saat mengayuh sepeda sekuat tenaga
di sepanjang Jalan King William,
kubayangkan menerjemahkan alasannya untuk bersepeda.
Kemenangan! Meninggalkan kesepianmu
terengah-engah di ujung jalan di belakang sana
saat kau melayang bebas menerobos hamburan azalea
yang tiba-tiba muncul, dengan kelopak merah muda
yang tidak pernah merasa kesepian
betapapun pelan mereka jatuh.
Sekali lagi, kalau ingin merujuk ke puisi aslinya, silakan menunggangi komputer Anda dan meluncur ke sini.
Sitt Marie-Rose by Etel Adnan is an in-depth, if brief, look into the first year of the Lebanese Civil War. While the novel’s conflict centers on the plight of a Lebanese Christian woman whose revolutionary vision brings her to serve the Palestinian refugees in Beirut, its exploration through many characters from both sides of the conflict makes it possible for the reader to glean the psychological atmosphere during the first year of the bloody civil war. In short, Sitt Marie-Rose confirms the common wisdom that the plight of one person is the plight of all humanity.
Despite its shortness, and the narrow focus on the death of one person, the novel is rich with in-depth ruminations on the roots of the conflict. This is possible because the person in question, Marie-Rose (“Sitt” is a title equal to Mrs in English) is involved in both sides of the conflict and is against the very behavior that leads to the conflict: the notion that Muslim Palestinians and Christian Lebanese are two different peoples. Hailing from a respectable Christian family, Marie-Rose is determined to help with the education of the deaf-mute Palestinian refugee children. People from both sides of the conflict says what they think of her. Also important in this respect is the presentation of the story surrounding Marie-Rose’s demise: many people give their accounts on the life and death of Marie-Rose.
If Rabih Alameddine’s Koolaids gives a significant amount of discussion on the Lebanese Civil War in relation to the involvement of the Israelis and Syrians, Sitt Marie-Rose highlights the enmity between the Lebanese Christians and the Palestinian refugees that they consider corrupt their cities. The Lebanese Muslims are seen as almost only an ally to the Palestinian refugees because of their shared religion.
Marie-Rose stands out in this scene because instead of buying into the spreading enmity between the Palestinians and the Lebanese Christians, she still holds that both are actually the same people and have been so even long before the births of Christianity and Islam. She strongly criticizes the attitude of her friends and relatives from the Christian section of the town, saying that what they do is totally the opposite of what Christianity teaches. While most Lebanese see the Palestinians in Beirut as less civilized, Marie-Rose, along with a few people from her community, still sees the tie between the Lebanese and the Palestinians. Her respect for the Palestinians as her equal is indicated in a statement by her Palestinian lover: “We need more people like you [Marie-Rose] … who know what we’re not wolves.” Unfortunately not everybody can judge a person more wisely than by the religion that s/he follows, especially when rage is already in play.
Another important theme in the novel is the critique of women’s position in the Arab societies. Before going further, I need to make it clear that by this I don’t imply that non-Arab societies show better treatment of women (patriarchy is prevalent and comes in various shapes, even in Euro-American societies). To her community, Marie-Rose is a threat because is a liberated woman who thinks beyond the walls that the dominant male structure has erected for her. It is apparent in the final pages of the book, and explicitly stated in the following lines: “Every feminine act, even charitable and seemingly unpolitical ones, were regarded as rebellion in this world where women had always played servile roles. Marie-Rose inspired scorn and hate long before the fateful day of her arrest” (Adnan 101). Her insistence on following her own judgement of the conflict, an attitude that doesn’t support the men in her society, is a threat to the male domination of her society. If we take the sentence out of context, and use it to discuss other societies around the world, we can do so easily and we can find justification for it as easily.
I don’t mean to write an abrupt conclusion, but indeed Sitt Marie-Rose clearly confirms that one person’s tragedy is a tragedy of all mankind.
Koolaids: The Art of War (1999) by Rabih Alameddine is not an easy read, to say the least. Unlike most prose works that give their readers narratives designed to enable the readers jump conveniently into the world of their characters, Koolaids presents its readers with vignettes that are not immediately correlated. In the first pages, the reader can sense some vague connections among the vignettes; the vignettes only give off strong impressions thanks to their subject matters of death, AIDS and war. As the reader barges through, the connections become more and more apparent, although the book still doesn’t “come out of the closet” as to what it wants to say with those vignettes. Eventually, despite its lack of lucidity, the reader will most likely find Koolaids a strong narrative of sexuality, identity and war presented in an appropriately unconventional manner.
The book promises death from the first page–as if to follow a rule of thumb of writing a novel proposed by a prominent novelist. The story opens with the imaginary scene of three figures–probably angels of death–discussing among themselves whether our protagonist is ready to die. After a while, the reader finds that this imminent death is associated with HIV/AIDS. Having said that death is apparent from the first page, I by no means say that the beginning of the novel only talks about death; I’m here discussing the major themes of the novel individually only for convenience, in order to do justice to each important theme. The vignette about AIDS-related death is side by side with other vignettes that discuss a character’s childhood in pre-Civil War Lebanon and the (homo)sexuality of another character living in the West Coast. In this early part of the book–the book only has vignettes, no chapters, no sections–the reader starts to be curious whether this is a collection of deathbed hallucinations. Of course, nothing is clear yet.
Another important theme in this book is the character’s coming of age and his realization of his homosexuality. Hailing from a Muslim family in Lebanon, the protagonist studied in France and then the United States. He had a number of homoerotic experiences as a young boy in pre-Civil War Lebanon, where homosexuality is not to be mentioned in public, and as a teenager in Paris. He came out of the closet for the first when he was in the United States, only to find out that the person wanted to tell about his homosexuality had just died in a brutal accident. Within in theme also, the reader finds vignettes narrated by various characters who are all gay men in the circle of our protagonist who, as the story opens, is on his deathbed. From these vignettes–remember, they are scattered and by no means aggregated in a particular section of the novel–the reader can see that the protagonist is a major painter with an unconventional background. He is Lebanese by origin, American by citizenship, a homosexual, and from a Muslim background–although “Muslim” here only means that he is of Muslim parentage. This miss-mass of identity makes him at one point question whether his fame as a painter is because he has such a peculiar background. We also find along this theme, a frequently quoted line that is related to the protagonist alienation as a Lebanese homosexual: “In America, I fit, but I do not belong. In Lebanon I belong, but I do not fit” (Alameddine 40)
Also a very important theme in this book is the Lebanese Civil War, which takes up a significant portion of the book. Vignettes about the bloody war mostly appears after the parts that talk about the childhood of several characters. The novels presents snippets of the brutality of the war that divides Beirut into East Beirut (for the Christians) and West Beirut (for mostly Muslims, with a number of Christian). The reader can find a number of scenes that depict the massacre of Palestinian(refugee)s (they are a significant element in the Lebanese Civil War, FYI) by the Phalangists (the Christian party in Lebanon). It also brings up the Sadra and Shattila massacre, which is also the main incident in the animation movie and graphic novel Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman. The closest tie between the Lebanese Civil War and our protagonist who is France and the United States during that time is the story about a mother who gets a slap in the face as she finds out that her husband is a homosexual who gets an offering of young boys every so often. What makes it worse is how she finds about it: when she goes to the Christian part of Beirut and meets a militia leader who then becomes her lover.
Despite the structure that is non-chronological and the juxtaposition that doesn’t appear to be logical, the novel demands the reader to finish it mostly thanks to the gravity of its subject matter, its wittiness and its peculiar combination of themes. Although some readers might find it hard to pinpoint who narrates a certain vignette (apparently, the vignettes don’t show distinctive language although they are narrated by different characters–and this is something to be elaborated further) or they might find it hard to build the connection between the numerous characters, it is not at all difficult to build a rough connection–logically as well as chronologically–between the incidents in the story. As the reader goes on deeper into the book, she can even decide whether a vignette is an actual part of the story or just a scene that the protagonist imagines. Every so often, the reader will meet again a variation of the scene that opens the book (the one with three angels of death), as if to reorient the reader who might get lost in the jungle that is Koolaids.
As the reader approaches the closure of the book, she will have found several vignettes that appear like confessions by the protagonist of his intention to write a novel, a story or a narrative about various things, such as love, war, Lebanese immigrants, etc. His intention never really materializes into a full-fledged story or play or biography as he is so fragmented and haunted by the imminent death. With all this, it is valid for the reader to see that this novel that doesn’t look like any conventional novel–by the way, is there such a thing as “convention” for this genre? Bakhtin would say no–is actually fragments of impressions and, probably, bits of written materials collected from a person who is dying from AIDS. Of course, this is argument is made possible by the last vignette of the story that is also a variation of the opening death scene; the difference is that in this last vignette, all the three angels are in agreement that it’s time for the protagonist to die: “I die,” affirms the protagonist.
To conclude, after reading the end of the book, I began to understand why this novel dons “The Art of War” as its subtitle. Of course, the standard “Art of War” belongs to Sun Tzu’s treatise. It’s also possible to apply that sense of “Art of War” to this book. However, it will be more fitting if we understand “the art of war” in this subtitle as the craft of presenting a story during a difficult situation. In other words, this chaotic jumble of vignettes is the most appropriate manner (the art) of presenting the story of someone battling a terminal condition (the war) of the late stage of HIV infection. This is the art amidst a war.
Puisi ini saya temukan dari buku antologi para penulis Arab-Amerika berjudul A Different Path: an Anthology of the Radius of Arab American Writers. Buku ini berisi puisi, prosa pendek, maupun esai singkat dari penulis-penulis Arab Amerika, baik itu yang lahir di Amerika maupun yang bermigrasi ke Amerika Serikat waktu masih kecil atau remaja. Inilah puisi “Half-and-half” dari halaman 60 buku tersebut, oleh penyair Naomi Shihab Nye. Sekadar informasi, meskipun half-and-half adalah istilah yang artinya “setengah-setengah,” untuk konteks Amerika Serikat istilah “half-and-half” ini memiliki asosiasi unik dengan produk susu separuh susu separuh krim, atau susu yang tidak terlalu banyak lemak. Maka, nikmatilah hidangan rendah kalori ini.
Tak bisa kau begitu, kata pemeluk Kristen
asli Palestina pada hari Idul Fitri.
Jadi, setengah-setengah setengah-setengah.
Dia jualan gelas. Dia tahu soal pecahan kecil,
serpihan kaca. Kalau cinta Yesus kau tak bisa
mencintai yang lain. Begitu katanya.
Di lapaknya yang memajang teko-teko biru di Via Dolorosa,
dia menyapu. Bebatuan yang tergosok terasa kudus.
Gula bubuk melaburi permukaan kue mamool isi korma.
Pagi ini kami nyalakan lilin putih ramping
yang siang nanti akan membengkok.
Tumben, di gereja para pendeta tidak bertengkar
berebut tempat paling mulia. Ketika masih bocah,
ayah selalu dengar mereka bertengkar
Inilah antara lain kenapa dia tak sudi berdoa
selain memakai bahasanya sendiri.
Kenapa aku mencibir setiap pengecualian.
Ada perempuan membuka jendela – sini sini sini.
Ada perempuan meletakkan vas bunga biru
di atas kain jingga. Aku pun ikuti dia.
Dia memasak sup dari bahan sisa-sisa di mangkuk,
bawang putih kisut dan buncis bengkok-bengkok.
Tak sedikit pun dia sisakan.
Disclaimer: Sebenarnya tulisan singkat ini adalah salah satu tugas bikin lema ensiklopedia tentang penulis perempuan Arab. Tapi, mengingat ketenaran Khalil Gibran (atau Kahlil Gibran) di Indonesia, dan pernah diterjemahkannya buku surat cinta Gibran kepada Mai Ziadeh, maka saya pikir perlu juga dishare di sini, meskipun belum sempat saya terjemahkan. Semoga yang saya pelajari juga bisa jadi bahan belajar orang lain:
Mai Ziadeh (1886 – 1941). Mai Ziadeh was born in Palestine to a Lebanese teacher and a well-educated Palestinian mother. As a young girl, she went to a Roman Catholic convent in Lebanon where she learned to speak French. With her family, teenage Ziadeh moved to Egypt where her father eventually acquired a newspaper company called Al-Mahrousa. Her love for poetry was accommodated by her father’s newspaper company and the intellectual circle that came with it. In 1913, this same newspaper published Ziadeh’s first article in Arabic, in which she espouses her concerns for the emancipation of women. Around this time, Ziadeh published her poems in French under the pseudonym “Isis Copia.” While Ziadeh had the competence to speak and write in several languages, including French and Italian, her later intellectual career saw her increased used of mostly Arabic in her literary works.
Turn of the century Egypt gave her the much-needed intellectual atmosphere thanks the presence of writers, journalists and men-of-letters from throughout the Arab World who migrated to Egypt. The dynamic intellectual and literary zeitgeist is now known as Al-Nahda or the cultural renaissance. Ziadeh started a literary salon that hosted discussions which included the likes of Taha Husayn, Abbas el-Akkad, as well as a number of scholars from the Azhar University. This wide range of audience suggests the tolerant atmosphere of this circle, which Antje Ziegler ascribes to Ziadeh’s being “a woman and Syrian-Christian immigrant in Egyptian-Muslim society [who] … was strongly dependent on integration and throughout her life and throughout her life advocated the reconciliation of conflicting views” (Ziegler 115). Her active role among the literati is complemented with the articles that she published in various newspapers and magazines in, among others, Egypt, Lebanon, and Italy.
While she was a prominent figure among the Nahda generation of Arab authors, albeit as “the lady” of the cultural scene, her popularity in the West was mostly due to her association with the immigrant Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran. According to Khalil Gibran’s biography Khalil Gibran, the Man and His World, Ziadeh’s relationship with the poet started sometime in 1913 after the publication of the poet’s book The Broken Wings in 1913. Khalil Gibran admired Ziadeh’s intellectual prowess when she sent him a thorough critique of Gibran’s later work. While they never physically met, Ziadeh’s and Gibran’s relationship was undoubtedly special; Gibran describes this relationship as “stronger than blood and racial bond … [that] can exist between two people who have never been together in the past and in the present and whom the future will not bring together” (Gibran and Gibran 368). Indeed they never really met in person throughout their 19 years correspondence. The letters from Gibran were later published through the translation of editing work of Suheil Bushrui and Salma Haffar al-Kuzbari in Love Letters: The Love Letter of Khalil Gibran and Mai Ziadah. When later in life Mai Ziadeh was sent to a mental hospital by her cousin, it was rumored that “she lost control when her love letters to Gibran were stolen” (Samman).
Ghada Samman, in “The Victim of Beauty: Reviving the Literary Legacy of Mai Ziadeh,” highlights Ziadeh’s suffering from the harmful admiration and lack of appreciation from male literary figures who were members of her literary circle. Citing Abbas el-Akkad as a “typical example” of how Ziadeh’s male contemporaries saw her, Samman puts an emphasis on how “[el-Akkad] wrote of her elegance and beauty, yet overlooked her significance in the literary movement.” Samman sees this as an instance of “a renunciation … of all women writers capable of rising to the standard of men.” Another instance of this attitude, as Samman finds, is lines from a poem by Ismail Sabri, himself also a member of Ziadeh’s literary salon: “If I do not delight my eyes by Mai, I will deny your morning, O Tuesday.” This ironic lack of appreciation from what was supposed to be Ziadeh’s audience tells a lot about her attachment to Gibran. Instead of receiving her due respect as a writer and thinker, she was dubbed the “Bride of Feminine Literature.”
It was only later that Ziyadeh’s works saw the light of day and enjoyed appreciation. Antje Ziegler narrates the re-discovery of Ziadeh’s works which started half a century after the tragic end of Ziyadeh’s life. Kuzbari collected her scattered works in a “Complete Works of May Ziyadeh.” Kuzbari was also credited for dispelling “the tale of [May Ziadeh’s] insanity” through her perusal of documents and facts such as reports from Ziadeh’s doctor and the fact that she still published during her stay in the mental hospital. Joseph Zeydan of Ohio State University edited Ziadeh’s works. Zeigler points out that “with the late rediscovery of Mayy Ziyada’s works, creative power seems to finally triumph over the power of myths” and she relates this rediscovery to the tendency among the Arab intellectual the “recall the liberal-secular concepts of the nahda in the face of the spreading Islamist ideology” in the 1980s (15).
Google search engine, in its frequently modified logo in commemoration of holidays and events (popularly known as Google Doodle), displayed a Mai Ziadeh edition in February 2012 to commemorate her 126th birthday. Interestingly, the logo was tagged “thinking, birthday, literature, writer.” Her popularity in the English-speaking world was mostly associated with her intellectually erotic relationship with Khalil Gibran. None of Mai Ziadeh’s full collections of works have been translated into English.
____, “The Mirror of Mai.” Al-Ahram Weekly. No. 451. 14 – 20 October 1999. Web. 14 Mar 2014.
Ghada al-Samman, “The Victim of Beauty: Reviving the Literary Legacy of Mai Ziadeh.” Al Jadid. 5. 28 (Summer 1999). Web. 12 Mar 2014.
Gibran, Jean and Kahlil Gibran. Kahlil Gibran, His Life and World. United States: Interlink Publishing: 1981, 1991, 1998. Print.
Safenah Kazem, “Introducing Miss Mai,” Al-Ahram Weekly. No. 451. 14 – 20 October 1999. Web. 14 Mar 2014.
Ziegler, Antje. “Al-Haraka Baraka! The Late Rediscovery of Mayy Ziyada’s Works.” Die Welt des Islams, New Ser. 39. 1 (March 1999): 103-115. JSTOR. Web. 12 Mar 2014.
I was swerving into the parking lot when I heard the radio broadcaster talk about the image of Arabs in the American cinema. I kept listening until it confirmed my suspicion–that it would eventually lead to Jack Shaheen, the scholar of media studies who visited our campus a few weeks ago to give a lecture on the image of Arabs in the American cinema and whom I wrote about on this blog. It turned out that what the broadcaster said was an introduction to an interview with Jack Shaheen, and the interview itself was recorded during Shaheen’s stay in Fayetteville. So I decided to spend some 20 minutes inside my car, in the parking lot, looking at the beads of water race down my windshield, listening to the interview until Jack Shaheen said good bye to the interviewer.
One thing that really attracted my attention from this interview is Jack Shaheen’s finding from his visit to Beirut: that some people in the Arab world don’t really feel bothered by the vilification of the Arab that Shaheen finds in more than 1,200 Hollywood movies he included in his research for his books Reel Bad Arabs and TV Arab. Those people he talked with in Beirut only said, “It’s just a movie.” This is contrary to what Shaheen himself believes what this vilification can potentially lead to, such as, being used by certain people–with certain agendas–to raise hatred against the United States.
Another important thing he says in this interview is that the 100+ years of negative portrayals of the Arabs have made many young Arab movie makers feel bothered and come up with their own portrayals of the Arabs that are far from the stereotypical ones. There are movie makers who grew up in the 80s and 90s who are now making good, mostly independent, movies that either include or consist mainly of Arab-American characters living their American lives with their own problems. Among the films Shaheen mentions in this interview are Amreeka and The Visitor.
Here is the information about the author, a piece of information that is far from being comprehensive. The page doesn’t include information about Ms. Abu-Jaber’s second, third and fourth novels. It gives an inaccurate account of the novelist’s second and third novels. According to this piece, Ms. Abu-Jaber plans to write a second novel called Memories of Birth, while she never actually published any novel with that title. As a matter of fact, her second novel is Crescent, which was published in 2004 and her third novel is Origin, published in 2007 (which, strangely enough, the web page lists as one of her novels–probably upon request from the author herself, or the author’s agent, long after the original publication of this page).Basically, this web page needs a lot of revision–a total revision, not just updating certain details but forgetting to correct plans from the past that might have taken unexpected turns. Regardless, this webpage is valuable for giving a quote from Jean Grant’s on Abu-Jaber’s potential to enlighten the reader about the Arab Culture. In addition to that, the page also provides a number of reviews of Abu-Jaber’s first novel Arabian Jazz.