I stare at the infinite in front of me.
All I see is Nebula and all I hear are faint sounds
That I can’t locate: faith is a mystery, and so is atheism—
Between them, the wealth of our ancestors is lost,
As well as the laughter of my mom.
From “Two Poems for Sadr Eldeen Ameen” (page 4)
Described in the back-of-the-chapbook bio as “one of the most important poets writing in Arabic today,” Salah Faik is a poet I want to know more of, read more of, have within my bookshelves going forward. It’s an urge. An uncanny desire. I had never encountered Faik or his poetry before reading the semi-recent A Winged Horse in a Plane (Tinfish Press 7” Chapbook Series, 2015), which was dutifully translated by Egyptian-American Maged Zaher. The work, in English, is calm, meditative, and concentrated. But it is also exquisitely and rambunctiously personal and undeniably political. The images of time, place, circumstance, and event are a mixture of surreal description and emotional commentary. These styles represent both the Salah Faik as poet and Salah Faik as perspective within a very active, chaotic world.
Sleep now until a train arrives; it’s useless to feel bad
About your expensive watch, stolen by the nurse, or for your poems
That have not been copy-edited yet.
From “I Wait for a Train that Doesn’t Arrive” (page 11)
With the support of Zaher’s translating to English, which often sounds familiar and reminiscent of Zaher’s own poems, Faik’s words come off as contemporary. Faik grew up in Iraq but also spent time in London, and is currently based in the Philippines, which may have influenced such empathetic, relevant writing. Despite his living worlds away from my own current stomping grounds, these poems feel as relevant as my favorite Americans. There is a similarity to my own (and probably the general reader’s) day-to-day existence and problems, and a similarity to the positive and negative energy in the necessary responses to said existence and problems, that fortifies the pieces in this chapbook. These attributes suggest both universal conflict and universal beauty, making this chapbook and Faik in general a keystone in further understanding and adoption of, and respect for, the globalized 21st century.
Trees creep to drink contaminated water
From a river than an autumn escaping from turtles drowned in.
Answer him while laughing.
From “A Fall Drowned in a River” (page 15)
Despite this being a short chapbook of 27 pages, the language is dense and filled with many angles of meaning. There are poetic roots within both pastoral and urban here: a stretch of society, a realm of beyond-society, too, with the intimate and the familial cropping up in suspecting and unsuspecting corners. This chapbook reveals Faik is very capable of covering numerous bases in his poetry. My hope is that in time we will see larger collections rendering further his breadth of insight, rather than a small sampling which at its lowest merely salivates our palates.
Check out the chapbook and/or order a copy from Tinfish Press here.