Poetry Travels with Anna Blasiak and Lisa Kalloo: PATIENCE by Ziba Karbassi, translated by Stephen Watts

They say patience can turn a stone into a jewel.
No !
It didn't turn into a jewel
It isn't a jewel, not at all
It never will be

No !
It was a stone : patience
A stone through & through

The split through my forehead
The gash across my face
The blood oozing down behind my ear
Well, patience

And he with his whip
A woman with hair on the soles of her feet
Hair sprouting from the soles of a beaten woman
Have patience

And he with his sharp nails
That rip and slash skin to pieces
And he who swallows & swallows

Always he carries with him his toothbrush
Because butterfly wings get stuck in his teeth
Patience, hey patience

And he has  no hugs
Has no smiles
Knows nothing of dancing
Is hopeless at kissing

Always stashing love under the table
Such a proper pretty-pretty  such a true lady
So sure she knows how to hold herself
See how she bears patience

And always she's begging : beat me ! (O Yes)
And when she's been beaten : again, again ! (O Yes)
Such a gamine for a pretty game ! (O Yes)

And handfulls
Handfulls of stones
She'd throw at me
Throw at you
O she bears herself so well

If you're beautiful she'll say : you brute !
If tall, then it's : o how short !
Strange lady
A know made of patience

No !
It didn't become a jewel
Not at all, no way
But a live tortioned knot
That of a sudden snap-died
Of its own high fever
& feverishly died
Of patience

Ziba Karbassi

Translated by Stephen Watts

Poem from Ziba Karbassi. Poesie / Poems published by Poesia Presente in 2011.

Ziba Karbassi was born in Tabriz, north western Iran. She has been writing poems from an early age. Her first book in Farsi was published in her early twenties. Since then she has published more than ten books, both in her mother tongue and internationally, and she is widely regarded as the leading Iranian poet of her generation. She has read poetry across Europe and America. She was chairperson of the Iranian Writers Association (in exile) from 2002 to 2004 and editor of Asar and Exiled Ink literature magazines in London. In 2009, she won the Golden Apple poetry prize in Azerbaijan. She was chair of Exiled Writers Ink in the United Kingdom between 2012 and 2014. Her poetry has been translated into more than ten languages. More than one hundred of the best critics and artists all over the world have written about her poetry. In 2012, she was chosen by Contemporary Poetics Research Centre, Birkbeck, University of London, as one of the fifteen revolutionary poets in the world. She has served as a director of PEN international relations (Iran in exile) from 2019 to the beginning of 2021. She lives in the UK.

Stephen Watts was born in 1952. His father was from Stoke-on-Trent and his mother’s family from villages high in the Italian & Swiss Alps. Since 1977 has lived mainly in the richly multilingual communities of the Whitechapel area of East London. Geographies & location (as also their negative theologies) are urgent to his life and his work. Recent books include Ancient Sunlight (Enitharmon, 2014; repr. 2020) and Republic Of Dogs/Republic Of Birds (Test Centre, 2016; Prototype, 2020) & a b/w 16mm 70-minute experimental film The Republics was made from the latter by Huw Wahl in 2019. He’s also a translator working closely with exiled poets & inter alia has co-translated Pages from the Biography of an Exile by the Iraqi poet Adnan al-Sayegh (Arc Publications, 2014) & Syrian poet Golan Haji’s A Tree Whose Name I Don’t Know (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2017). A book by the Iranian poet Ziba Karbassi awaits publication & co-translations of two other Iranian writers, Esmail Khoi & Reza Baraheni, are forthcoming from Tenement Press. His translation research was the subject of two recent exhibitions : ‘Swirl Of Words/Swirl Of Worlds’ at PEER Gallery, Hoxton, for which he edited a book of that title and ‘Explosion Of Words’ with the Swiss artist Hannes Schüpbach, which celebrated his 2,000-page Bibliography of Modern Poetry in English Translation. His own poetry has been translated into many languages, with full collections in Italian, Czech, Arabic, German & Spanish. Last year Prototype Publishing published his Journeys Across Breath. Poems 1975-2005. A second volume, including further early and later work, is planned to follow.

Photo by Lisa Kalloo

Check out the Poetry Travels book list on bookshop.org.

Read previous poems in the Poetry Travels series:

HARLEQUIN by Arjola Zadrima, translated by Vlora Konushevci

SIRENS by Victoria Amelina, translated by Anatoly Kudryavitsky

JOB: A WOMAN by Dominika Lewicka-Klucznik, translated by Anna Blasiak

BAGS by Blerina Rogova Gaxha, translated by Vlora Konushevci

TONGUEFISH by Yolanda Castaño, translated by Keith Payne

WHAT DO YOU NEED by Friederike Mayröcker, translated by Christina Daub

A WORK OF BIOGRAPHY by Max Jacob, translated by Ian Seed

UNTITLED POEM by Ivano Fermini, translated by Ian Seed


LIGHT by Vasyl Makhno, translated by Olena Jennings

A MESSAGE FROM THE ISLE OF WIGHT by Wioletta Greg, translated by Maria Jastrzębska and Anna Blasiak

HOME by Nataša Sardžoska, translated by the Author

ONLY THE BEGINNING COUNTS (4) by Jan Baeke, translated by Antoinette Fawcett

*** (RABID WINDS) by Gerður Kristný, translated by Rory McTurk

ANSWER TO THE PRAYERS by Vainius Bakas, translated by Kerry Shawn Keys

AGGRESSOR’S MONOLOGUE by Artūras Valionis, translated by Jura Avizienis

THAT’S ALL by Jurgita Jasponytė, translated by Jura Avizienis

UNTITLED by Linas Umbrasas, translated by Audra Skukauskaitė

FIRST SPRING OF THE WAR by Vytautas Kaziela, translated by Jura Avizienis

A LETTER TO A CHILD by Lina Buidavičiutė, translated by Ada Valaitis

UNTITLED by Aneta Kamińska, translated by Anna Blasiak

TWO LYRICS OF LOVE AND MEMORY by Lina Kostenko, translated by Stephen Komarnyckyj

CROW STUDY by Yuri Andrukhovych, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Ludmila Khersonsky, translated by Maya Chhabra

UNTITLED POEM by Iryna Vikyrchak

From THE ANDROMEDA NEBULA by Anna Gréki, translated by Souheila Haïmiche and Cristina Viti

TEAPOT by Nurduran Duman, translated by Andrew Wessels

IT’S COMING AGAIN by Michael Strunge, translated by Paul Russell Garrett

REPORT FROM ANOTHER CITY by Marcin Niewirowicz, translated by the Author

INTERIOR by Ana Blandiana, translated by Paul Scott Derrick and Viorica Patea

THIS IS LOVE by Joanna Fligiel, translated by Anna Blasiak

REVELATION IN H&M by Menno Wigman, translated by David Colmer

*** (I WANT TO FOLD THIS DAY) by Inga Pizāne, translated by Jayde Will

THE SIEGE by Marcin Świetlicki, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese

FISH by Jana Putrle Srdić, translated by Barbara Jurša

THE WELL by Maarja Pärtna, translated by Jayde Will

THE SHADOW by Pentti Saarikoski, translated by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

A FAREWELL TO MY DEAD CLASS by Irit Amiel, translated by Anna Blasiak and Marta Dziurosz

THE GIRLS IN BERGEN-BELSEN by Nora Gomringer, translated by Annie Rutherford

DECEMBER, by Jaume Subirana, translated by Christopher Whyte

ROSE RED, by Ulrike Almut Sandig, translated by Karen Leeder

*** (I D[R]IPPED MY PEN…) by Mario Martín Gijón, translated by Terence Dooley

WHAT COMES by Magda Cârneci, translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Mădălina Bănucu

TRANSLATION by Justyna Bargielska, translated by Maria Jastrzębska

*** (MY EYES, DENSE NIGHT…) by Gëzim Hajdari, translated by Ian Seed

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