Gilgamesh’s Snake and Other Poems
Translated from the Arabic by John Glenday and Ghareeb Iskander
Winner of the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies Translation of Arabic Literature Award 2015
"The Epic of Gilgamesh forms the core field of reference in Iskander’s own epic of exile and loss. There, among the great eternal symbols of lamentation and vain entreaty which are parts of the troubled stream of the poem, we find perfectly contemporary pieces of debris such as ‘the old photograph album’ and ‘the sad bicycle’....The book is a majestic achievement for both poet and translator."—George Szirtes, author of Reel, winner of the 2004 T. S. Eliot Prize
From "Gilgamesh’s Snake" . . .
He’s alone now.
Snow covers him.
He’s all at sea.
Swaddled in lushness,
he looks to the grass of life for help
but there’s no one there
to hear him.
Uruk is an empty ruin,
all its people fled.
Such devastation; the streets
shimmer in a caul of silence.
He wanders alone—
not a single tree shades his scorched soul,
no wine to quench his longing.
All alone, he cries,
and because victory for him is a defeat that never ends
till the ends of his life, he must
ride the magic palm frond.
Ghareeb Iskander is an Iraqi poet living in London. He has published numerous collections
of poems, including A Chariot of Illusion. His critical work includes Semiotic Trends in the
Critique of Arab Poetry.
John Glenday is an award-winning Scottish poet and translator. He is the author of several
poetry collections, including Grain and Undark.
Book Description »[Close »]
The Epic of Gilgamesh is perhaps the greatest surviving work of early Mesopotamian
literature. According to legend, Gilgamesh built the city walls of Uruk,
modern-day Iraq, to protect his people from external threats. Although the epic
records events from more than four thousand years ago, those events echo
many of the social and cultural concerns of Iraq today.
In this luminous bilingual collection of poems, Ghareeb Iskander offers a
personal response to the epic. Iskander’s modern-day Gilgamesh is a nameless
Iraqi citizen who witnessed the fall of the dictatorship, who exists in a constant
state of threat, and who dreams, not about eternity, but simply about life. While
Gilgamesh was searching for the elixir of life, Iskander’s hero is searching for
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5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 144 pages