And Other Weary Geographies

Photo by author, who thinks honey and mint are still the best flavors.

There has been nothing quiet about Lebanon since I arrived in December for a one-month artist residency: two deadly car bombs spaced less than a week apart, and more personally, enough car horns to fill up my sound anxiety quota for years. So instead of slipping away quietly to the airport I am delivering a reading/musical performance at Mansion from two new books. I invited Istanbul-based musician Nicolas Royer-Artuso to join me, and he’s structuring his half-composed, half-improvised delivery on one of the translated poems.

An evening of reading and music based on travel, anti-travel, epistles, history, and other weary geographies. Maryam Monalisa Gharavi will read from two forthcoming books: epistolary fiction from American Letters (Zer0, 2014) and poetry in translation from Syrian-Brazilian poet Waly Salomão’s book Algaravias. Nicolas Royer-Artuso will deliver a musical performance based on Salomão’s “Jet-Lagged Poem.”

Reading will be in English, with poetry accompaniment in Portuguese.

American Letters started in this very space, and based on those early texts (now chapters) I signed a contract with Zer0 in July 2013. (Is this how you “do” a book announcement? I am learning things as I go.) This will be the first reading from the unfinished book since making the publication commitment. That remove from the United States feels appropriate, at the same time that the absence is heavily inscribed.

I finished translating’s Waly Salomão’s Algaravias in August of the same year. Being so close here to Syria (his ancestral home) compels me to start sharing those translations more widely and urgently. (Speaking of sharing, here is Carlos Nader’s stirring cinematic portrait of Salomão, his close friend. And here’s “Travel and Anti-Travel,” an early attempt to grapple with his poetics.) The translation of “Jet-Lagged Poem” is forthcoming from Asymptote in July 2014, and the publication of the entire book will follow in 2015. Waly’s son Omar graciously sent me “Lebanons” (“Líbanos”), a poem Waly wrote in Beirut in 1999. The unexpected experience of translating that poem in Beirut has enriched the trip beyond belief.