~ Nationality: Egypt ~

الإدعاء Al Ediâa (The Claim) by Youssef Rakha

Another great film adaptation from Mariam Ferjani of a poem by Youssef Rakha, whose blog post of the video includes an English translation by Robin Moger:

My thinnest girlfriends always complain
Of gaining weight, which confuses me
When I think of fat girls.
But then I remember
That I’ve never suffered from loving my lover,
Except when it provides a good excuse to leave her,
And I reflect that things are less important
Than they seem, if we look at them
Which eases my terror a little.
So I say to myself that the world is really like this:
The thin fear fat,
The fat love food,
Lovers never suffer for the right reasons
And everything does not ride
On everything.

The Vimeo description includes a full list of credits in English:

Text: Youssef Rakha
Screen Adaptation: Mariam Alferjani
Actors: Alaeddine Slim – Mariam Alferjani
Photography: Alaeddine Slim – Mariam Alferjani
Producers: Kamel Laaridhi – Alaeddine Slim
Editing: Mariam Alferjani

شتوي Shatwi/Shitwi (Wintry) by Youssef Rakha

Mariam Ferjani’s “Screen adaptation/reinterpretation of the short poem by Youssef Rakha,” an Egyptian writer and photographer. The description on Vimeo includes a translation, which I’m guessing is by the author:

Woman wants eternity
Man wants heaven
And sometimes, not often
In the meeting of their desires
They become a cloud
And sometimes, even less often
They actually die
Before it rains
So that the world stays dry
And everything is alright

Ochtend (Dawning) by Yahia Lababidi

Swoon re-edited a video he originally posted eight months ago, making it shorter, more visually appealing and I think more effective in the process. I’m not sure why I didn’t share the original, but I love this videopoem now. The poem was written in English by the Egyptian poet Yahia Lababidi, and has been translated into Dutch by Katelijne De Vuyst for the soundrack. Swoon and his wife Arlekeno Anselmo, who reads the translation, are Belgian. This is perhaps an extreme example of a widespread tendency I’ve noticed in the online videopoetry community to ignore national boundaries and strive to overcome linguistic ones, as well — facilitated, I would argue, by the change in focus from written text to audio and visual media. We are no longer quite so locked into our separate linguistic and cultural rooms.

Giddoo by Yahia Lababidi

“Sleepdancing (Giddoo)” is the latest collaboration between Belgian artist and composer Swoon and expatriate Egyptian poet Yahia Lababidi, and is as different from its predecessors as can be (while still remaining recognizably a Swoon video). The decision not to include a reading of the text in the soundtrack seems appropriate for the subject matter.

Words by Yahia Lababidi

I’m having a hard time keeping up with the videos Swoon has been making for Lababidi’s poems. This one incorporates Dutch sign language by Marjan De Cuyper and painting by Arlekeno Anselmo for a truly multimedia and multinational exploration of, and exploring through, language.

What do animals dream? by Yahia Lababidi


Another collaboration between the Belgian artist Swoon (videotreats, editing, music and production) and Egyptian writer Yahia Lababidi (poem and reading). Arlekeno Anselmo provided additional whispering and speaking voice in Dutch.

(Updated version of the video. Selected for and screened at Bideodromo, Bilbao (Spain), 2011; selected for and screened at Visible Verse, Vancouver, 2011; and screened at the Neustadt Festival, Oklahoma, 2011.)

Shuttered Windows by Yahia Lababidi

Update: Video has been made private.

Swoon has been busy lately, so again we end the week with one of his creations. This one’s based on a poem by Yahia Lababidi — a collaboration sparked, I think, by this very blog. Which makes me happy.

What is to Give Light by Yahia Lababidi

Egyptian poet Yahia Lababidi, a Facebook contact, shared the text of his poem at The Idler just after I discovered that Al Jazeera has a cache of Creative Commons-licensed videos available for remix. So with Lababidi’s blessing I pulled this videopoem together, using some of that Egyptian street poetry for a soundtrack. I did the reading myself because he was having internet-connection problems and wasn’t able to send me his own reading.

Videos in the film/animation category at YouTube don’t seem to attract too many views, so I identified it as “News & Politics” instead. We’ll see if that makes a difference. In any case, it needs to be watched by people with an interest in the uprising.

Egypt’s poetry of revolt

I’ve long avoided demonstrations here in the U.S., even ones I strongly support, due to my aversion to stupid, boring, time-worn slogans. So I was really excited to read that

The slogans the [Egyptain] protesters are chanting are couplets—and they are as loud as they are sharp. The diwan of this revolt began to be written as soon as Ben Ali fled Tunis, in pithy lines like “Yâ Mubârak! Yâ Mubârak! Is-Sa‘ûdiyya fi-ntizârak!,” (“Mubarak, O Mabarak, Saudi Arabia awaits!”). In the streets themselves, there are scores of other verses, ranging from the caustic “Shurtat Masr, yâ shurtat Masr, intû ba’aytû kilâb al-’asr” (“Egypt’s Police, Egypt’s Police, You’ve become nothing but Palace dogs”), to the defiant “Idrab idrab yâ Habîb, mahma tadrab mish hansîb!” (Hit us, beat us, O Habib [al-Adly, now-former Minister of the Interior], hit all you want—we’re not going to leave!). This last couplet is particularly clever, since it plays on the old Egyptian colloquial saying, “Darb al-habib zayy akl al-zabib” (The beloved’s fist is as sweet as raisins). This poetry is not an ornament to the uprising—it is its soundtrack and also composes a significant part of the action itself.

That’s Elliott Colla in an essay titled “The Poetry of Revolt” in Jadaliyya. Following a concise history of Egyptian revolutions and uprisings, he lists some of the most famous literary poets of revolt since the 1880s, and describes the extent to which their poems have been used to inspire demonstrators and galvanize action.

But beyond these recognized names are thousands of other poets—activists all—who would never dare to protest publicly without an arsenal of clever couplet-slogans. The end result is a unique literary tradition whose power is now on full display across Egypt. Chroniclers of the current Egyptian revolt, like As’ad AbuKhalil, have already compiled lists of these couplets—and hundreds more are sure to come. For the most part, these poems are composed in a colloquial, not classical, register and they are extremely catchy and easy to sing. The genre also has real potential for humor and play—and remind us of the fact that revolution is also a time for celebration and laughter.

Colla goes on to speculate that this communal experience of poetry is key both to building crowd solidarity and helping them overcome their fear of the regime through laughter. Read the full essay. There’s also another YouTube video of protestors at Tahrir Square which includes a translation of sorts in the description.

I am indebted to a Facebook friend (who is @kitabet on Twitter, but otherwise currently blogless) for links to both the essay and the video, and I gather from the notes at YouTube that we owe the translation to Facebook, as well—not surprising given the site’s role in the uprising.

Video previously posted on Facebook, “Bravest Girl in Egypt”, translated into English. You can now read and understand the slogans of the demonstrators. Translated by Iyad El-Baghdadi, subbed by Ammara Alavi. A shout out to Dana Kagis from Vancouver who asked for a translation.

Cairo by Yahia Lababidi

Tim Pieraccini made the video and recorded the reading, as well. Yahia Lababidi says that all his videos on YouTube illustrate poems from a collection called Fever Dreams, forthcoming from Crisis Chronicles Press.