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Yasmine SEALE  
& Robin MOGER


                      A CHAIN OF POEMS
                      FROM A BOOK CALLED

Born in Murcia in 1165, Ibn ARABI was a prolific Muslim philosopher and poet. He travelled extensively before settling in Damascus, where he died in 1240. TARJUMAN al-ASHWAQ, or THE INTERPRETER OF DESIRES, is a cycle of sixty-one Arabic poems. They speak of loss and bewilderment, a spiritual and sensual yearning for the divine, and a hunger for communion in which near and far collapse.

AGITATED AIR—the third title from TENEMENT PRESS—is a correspondence in poems between Istanbul and Cape Town, following the wake of THE INTERPRETER OF DESIRES. Collaborating at a distance, Yasmine SEALE and Robin MOGER work in close counterpoint, making separate translations of each poem, exchanging them, then writing new poems in response to what they receive. The process continues until they are exhausted, and then a new chain begins.

Translated and retranslated, these poems fray and eddy and, their themes of intimacy across distance made various, sing back and forth, circling and never landing. Absence and approach, knowing and unknowing, failure and repetition: Ibn Arabi’s cycle of ecstatic love shimmers with turbulence. SEALE and MOGER move into and against these contending drifts, finding in the play of dissatisfaction and endurance a prompt for new poetry. See below for a chain of poems excerpted from SEALE and MOGER’s collaboration.


Garden of the valley
                                    Give something back
To the one with boundaries
To her name
                                    The one who has
White teeth
Garden of the valley!

Give her something
Of your shade
Longer than her circle
Needs to settle

Her tents to round their backs
                                    And you will have

Your fill of spray to feed the shoots
Your fill of flood
                                    Of cloud suspending
All integrity to keep
Alive the night trees and
                                    The morning

And you will have your fill
Of shelter
                                    And your fill of sweet
Fruit to the picker
To be picked

Your fill of those who seek
Zarud and its sand
                                    Who move
Their flock by singing
Show them the way


Garden in the wadi, if your trees will speak
Their shade for a while, a while only
Over my fever
Until they are gathered there
About her and her tents are raised,
Garden in the wadi, in the heart of you, oh then
You can have what you want
Of fine rain to feed
Your boughs, the downpours you want
And the damp from clouds’ constant
Back and forth above the trees, the shade on shade, the fruit that you want,
Fat in the eye and sagging the trees, and the song
Driving behind, and the line which leads in the front
Which you need.



all those  speak, nature  poems

but you were busy
enclosing   whiting your bones
2x/day for 500 yrs

just hold the line
      till we have built
our capital on her back

now look what you    
                                     she is responding
not what you
                              but here it comes

precipitation           instant river  
just add   water             clouds
high on deregulation          flood
the fruit     market with leaky
dreaming          see      you really
can   of constant growing     have                          
it     but will there be 
                               singing      all



picture such liquidity
your interest,          your eye,           
is in                          

what wells            
in quiet accumulate
or ask for a draw 
and summon lashings

far away high overheads
clouds bounce about the sky

it’s always cool

enough?                 you couldn’t pick
enough to empty the branches

do you have what it takes any more

wet heaven              safe
beyond a pale of teeth
what grew while you guarded the door

is singing
before you and after you
is springing inside of you



Yasmine SEALE is a writer and translator. Her essays, poetry, visual art, and translations from Arabic and French have appeared widely—in Harpers, Poetry Review, WasafiriApollo and elsewhere. Current projects include a new translation of THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS (W. W. Norton) and a translation of the poems of al-KHANSA (NYU Press). After five years in Istanbul, she lives in Paris.

Robin MOGER is a translator of Arabic to English recently moved from Cape Town to Barcelona. His translations of prose and poetry have appeared in Blackbox Manifold, The White Review, Asymptote, Words Without Borders, Seedings, and others. He has translated several novels and prose works, most recently Haytham El Wardany’s THE BOOK of SLEEP (Seagull) and SLIPPING by Mohamed KHEIR (Two Lines Press).


 Hasegawa Tohaku (長谷川 等伯), ‘Pine Trees’
(松林図 屏風, ‘Shorin-zu byobu’),
 circa 1595


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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