Unsi al-Haj (1937-2014)
Unsi al-Hajj was one of the major avant-garde voices in the Lebanese, and more widely, the Middle East poetry renaissance. He was connected with the major avant-garde journal Shi’ir (Poetry) core to the poetry revival of the 50s & 60s, & is maybe best known for popularizing the prose poem. Adonis wrote in his The Music of the Blue Whale: “I did not write prose poems in the exact sense of the term according to the criteria, especially following French criticism, though I was among the earliest who preached it… I speculate that the poet who wrote prose poems according to these criteria and in terms of its significant exponents, Rimbaud, Artaud and Breton, is Unsi al-Haj. He is the purest amongst us in Shi’ir.” Not much of his has been translated into English (you can read a few poems here). Below a poem of his I translated (via a French version by Edouard Tarabin) this morning for the occasion:
Come here or run away
I’ll save the song
I’ll wash the earth. My lost sheep throat my lamentation ash and psalm hair. I eat the lamp and blow out the ghost. I stretch out on verb hill.
That’s why lightning rises at my signal. Death to the flower she drapes herself in Babel it takes refuge under dew’s claw. Death to the giants band-aided with women they eject the arrows of chemistry and the shooting star they boil the tempest like a chicken. It’s by the teats’ gum arabica they retain their clients they stick to the wax of their descendence.
(Beautiful, despite this
Like a hazard
Agile like knights’ tunics. I’m scared of them and I’m cold.
I lost all my blood!
Who’d lend their ear to unshod words?
Tree of ogres matrix of deserts devouring queen
I ejaculate my nothingness
Grasshoppers of the elements
Our children issued from warts our women are trappers of pulsations they inventory strangers…
Come from afar. Velvet and night? I jumped over the ring. Let someone say I exist for nothing. I dug up the tombs and the grave digger of the word as vengeance for my reason!
The used people
The receptive people
The wind ploughman of ink showcase of the alphabet
The martyr wind
The word, oh waves dust bird flowers colors oh elements and things oh branches of women chambers of the dream and of the eyes visions of gelatine oh tear run to the massacre the cracking of my bone is the hymn of your waking up
Eliminate the poet & his posterity!
I called for a long time put in more than one shell. Who knows my back? Setting and rising chicaneries in a bag. I love you. There where you steal you capture a rendez-de-vous with chance.
I dreamed, fingers in my dream. What friend ignores their shiver? Exhausted around my notebook. My body is lonely. Tip of a beak scratching my palm. I remain on my knees the intention of the screams robs me the gazes turn away from everything that’s happening to me.
The herd passes by
Feast well caravan!
The sorrows hid in the corpse and the truths in their valley they switched off for the veiled one they devoured the jet of mysteries. They came down
The herd stopped to watch
They stopped to contemplate my death and pull their hair out of the drought.