Abdulla Pashew (b. 1946) is a true heir to the tradition of Kurdish poetry. He dedicates himself to the sounds of each poem, drives his reader across a range of subject matter. He completed his graduate work, a Masters in Pedagogy and a Doctorate in Philology, in Moscow and began his academic career as a professor in Tripoli.
Fluent in Kurdish, Russian, and English, he is also a prolific translator. When he isn’t writing poems, he is bringing Whitman and Pushkin into Kurdish. He loves, as many poets do, that the act of translating enlarges the capacity for expression in his mother tongue.
Arguably the most popular contemporary Kurdish poet, he draws audiences in the thousands when he reads publicly. Each of his eight collections of poetry has been so sought after that bootleg copies proliferate.
by Abdulla Pashew, translated from the Kurdish by Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse and the author
When I am silent
don’t talk to me
Don’t shake the twig of my tongue
until the fruit is ripe
I am not the only one who is silent
even as they expose their chests to thunder
as it stretches its blades toward the light
When I am silent
Don’t think that I’m unburdened or idle
my cranium is a beehive, hectic
I have told you so much about my homeland
Your soul is brimming with love for it
Do you want its cities and villages to brighten your eyes?
Do you want to touch its wounds?
when I am silent
saddle my silence
put your feet in the stirrups and strike
You will see my whole homeland
Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse served as the founding chair of the English Department at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani, where she continues to teach literary translation and poetry writing. She received her MFA at Warren Wilson and a Masters in English Education from the University of Virginia. Her translations and nonfiction have appeared in Words Without Borders, The Fair Observer, and the recent anthology SoJust.