Monthly Archives: March 2012

Poetry of Migration


I have just read an amazing book of poetry, written entirely by migrant writers living in Italy.  The book is called  A New Map: the Poetry of Migrant Writers in Italy edited by Mia Lecomte and Luigi Bonaffini.

In her wonderful introduction to the poems, Mia Lecomte asserts: “When we speak of literature and migration  we adopt a definition borrowed from English, useful for understanding one another, but which in reality downplays  the complexity of the phenomenon.  Many others,could be employed–literature of hybridization, global or worldwide—each equally valid and equally limited.”

I have to admit, when I read the poems, I let myself forget about the labels we tend to need to ascribe to just about everything.  The label of writer.  The label of migrant, the subject of which gets interesting treatment in the introduction by Lecomte.   I read the biographies of each poet, some quite educated, others not, some more prosaic than others, some sentimental, some brutal in their stark depictions of their lives’ in their new homes, a place where they are not entirely wanted.  I tried not to politicize the poems, in the moment that I was reading them.  I do not know what that says about me, a poet myself, or as a person deeply concerned about the realities that migrants face in Italy.  I just know that I wanted to enjoy the words for what they were , in the moment.  Since they are in print, put down for all time, they will, in may ways , last forever.

I will continue to think about them.  This is a book that gives voice to a vital , poignant and often harrowing human experience:  migration.

In this posting I share  a poem called “Full Pitchers”  (Orci Ricolmo) by Hassan  Al Nassar translated by Gil Fagiani.

Hassan Al Nassar was born in Ur, Iraq in 1954.

From what do we come, weak wayfarers? There is the whole globe of the earth over our blankets, our cities are under the lead tent.

Full Pitchers

The country will tell you it is vast.

The Seas will tell you there isn’t a passage that makes the entrance easy.

Not even fire on the borders

If the winds were to bark over your face. ..

Let the days and your sad refuge roll on!

This is the spike of the land,

this is the eternal that sleeps happily

and you don’t resemble any bird:

you don’t know how to fly,

you are the cities that bark ferociously

you are the infinite on the threshold of death.

You are following the wheat without wings

from sidewalk to exile

from paradise to fire

or from fire to fire. . .

Your sky on the table of soldiers

and ten of them waiting

(immigrant you don’t carry women in your Koran,

don’t bring full pitchers)

go away with crossed pieces of wood.

The first day stitched up your whimper,

the Bedouin soldiers sewed you

only some of them excluded.

I didn’t say they are of our blood.

I didn’t say their round helmets are evening’s gift.

I didn’t say a land prohibits its children

from entering in a garden:

it is a land of strangers.

And you are following the grain without wings

from sidewalk to exile

from paradise to fire

and from fire to fire.

Mia, Lecomte, and Luigi Bonaffini. A New Map: The Poetry of Migrant Writers in Italy. New York: Legas, 2011. Print.

Niente e facile per le persone vulnerabili. . .

“In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport; where as Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.”

~Herman Melville, Moby Dick