translated by Michael Bazzett
Special Guest Judge Alana Marie Levinson LaBrosse
These translations are a cutting English in celebration of Akabal’s striking and bitter original. They show more allegiance in their confident and fluid departures than in their fidelity, demonstrating, as the poet himself says, “that god and justice / live in the soul.” There is a fierce and light freedom in these translations, reflected in their simplicity, that also lives in Akabal’s blackbirds, buzzards, and doves who perch and shit the same on cathedrals, palaces, rocks, trees, and fenceposts. Just as the only living prayer to rise in church comes from the trees we hewed into pews, so poetry lives with the tongues of translators who commit to their individual reading of a work. We can try to meet Akabal in English, but what might that mean? Translating an indigenous poet who spurned mainstream accolades from dominant, oppressive languages into yet one more dominant, oppressive language? We can only meet this translator’s Akabal and appreciate how much abides in these translations.
Alana Marie Levinson LaBrosse Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse is a poet, translator, and assistant professor at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS). She earned her PhD in Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter, specializing in nineteenth-century poetry, and holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College as well as an MEd from the University of Virginia. Her writing has appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation, World Literature Today, In Other Words, Plume, Epiphany, Sewanee Review, The Iowa Review, and Words Without Borders. Her book-length works include Kajal Ahmed’s Handful of Salt (2016), Abdulla Pashew’s Dictionary of Midnight (2019), Nali’s My Moon Is the Only Moon (2021) and Farhad Pirbal’s The Potato Eaters (2023). She serves as the Director of Kashkul and was the Founding Director of the Slemani UNESCO City of Literature. She is a 2022 NEA Fellow, the first ever working from the Kurdish.
by Raquel Abend van Dalen, translated by Dillon Scalzo