Poetry Depot

October 26, 2011

Khaled Mattawa, contemporary Libya-born poet

Filed under: Arabic, Libya — razvan @ 6:14 pm

Khaled Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya where he had his primary education. In 1979 he emigrated to the United States. He lived in the South for many years, finishing high school in Louisiana and completing bachelors degrees in political science and economics at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He went on to earn an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University where he taught creative writing and won an Academy of American Poets award. (from webdelsol) He translated into English from Arabic contemporary poets like Adonis, Saadi Youssef, Joumana Haddad or Iman Mirsal.
Last week, Khaled Mattawa read his latest piece, entitled “After 42 Years,” performed in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s death.

After 42 years

Five years old when the dictator took over in a coup —

curfew shut our city down

Bloodless coup, they said —

The many who thought this could be good.

The dictator, a young man, a shy recluse assumed the helm, bent in piety,

the dead sun of megalomania hidden in his eyes.

Could not go to the store to buy bread or newspaper,

could not leave home, visit friends,

the radio thundering hatred, retching blood-curdling song —

Signs that went unread

Factories built and filched, houses stolen, newspapers shut down,

decades of people killed, 42 years.

But that’s all over now —

How can you say over when it took 42 years —

I was five when the dictator took my brother away

Over now, 42 years, must look ahead.

His face half blood-covered, half smirking

Like Batman’s Joker,

hands raised, fingers pressed together upward

(full poem at LA Times)

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