Trying Again to Stop Time

“It’s a losing battle:
my words have no chance against time.
Sometimes,
unable to catch up with imagination,
I leave the battle, candle in hand,
in complete darkness.”

— from “Trying Again to Stop Time"

Jalal Barzanji chronicles the path of exile and estrangement from his beloved native Kurdistan to his chosen home in Canada. His poems speak of the tension that exists between the place of one’s birth and an adoptive land, of that delicate dance that happens in the face of censorship and oppression. In defiance of Saddam Hussein’s call for sycophantic political verse, he turns to the natural world to reference a mournful state of loss, longing, alienation, and melancholy. Barzanji’s poetry is infused with the richness of the Middle East, but underlying it all is a close affinity to Western Modernists. In those moments where language and culture collide and co-operate, Barzanji carves out a strong voice of opposition to political oppression. Readers will return to his work again and again, just as viewers return to a favourite painting.

“Like contemporary poets Taslima Nasrin, Adonis, Yehuda Amichai, and Shuntaro Tanikawa, Barzanji’s is a voice in which the native willingly mutates into the global.”
— Sabah A. Salih, Translator

“The Kurdish question stands tall in our age as yet another emblematic paradigm of the violence enacted on a people in the name of the nation-state. Barzanji’s poetry is lovely, with frequent piercing tender moments and visions of the daily and the ordinary. The translation reads smoothly and naturally, highlighting the spoken quality of the poems, the loving and wounded quality of their speaker.”
— Fady Joudah, translator of Ghassan Zaqtan's Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems, winner of the 2013 International Griffin Poetry Prize

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Front cover 1
Title page 4
Copyright page 5
Contents 6
Foreword by Sabah Salih 10
Preface 14
Trying Again to Stop Time (2009) 18
Trying Again to Stop Time 19
A Soulful Sunshine 21
Beauty’s Fault 23
Smart Poems I 25
Winter Is the Season of Grief 28
Home in a Suitcase 32
The Pocket 35
I Didn’t Want to Leave Alone 37
Returning to Autumn 39
I Want To Be Named Home (2007) 40
To Go Back and Back 41
Beyond the Sky Is a Blue Window 51
A Woman Befriends Darkness 53
To Be Free and Lonely 54
Even Autumn Had No Room 56
In Memory of a Person Swept By the Wind (2006) 58
In Memory of a Person Swept By the Wind 59
A Terrible Morning 60
Too Late for Watching the Sunset 61
The Last Refuge 62
Smart Poems II 66
The Rain of Compassion (2002) 68
War 69
Hello Exile 70
Life Coming to an End 72
Nature’s Playground 73
The Fallen Doves 74
The Rain of Compassion 75
Untitled 77
The Sun Ignores My Boat 78
No Warmth (1985) 84
Keeping to Oneself 85
Midlife 86
My Heart and Water 87
Shouting at the World 88
The End of Conflicts 89
An Old Desire 90
The Shade’s Wound 91
Water’s Limitation 92
Before Leaving 93
The Most Depressing Time 94
The Wind of Exile 95
Winter’s Response 96
Burial 97
A Lonely Flower 98
The Shrine 99
To Be Naked Again 100
After the Storm 101
His Soul Returned to Us 102
The Anthem of Departure 103
The Evening Snow Dance (1979) 104
A View 105
An Accident 106
That Evening 107
The Immortal Lorca 108
A Poet and a Suitcase 109
The Lantern 110
No Return 111
A Legend 112
Returning 113
A New Cloud 114
Always Anxious 115
Our Breakup 116
The Shade 117
To Be Surrounded 118
To Love 119
A Visit 121
Having No Need for Fire 122
The Evening Snow Dance 123
The Meadow 124
The Fish Eagle 125
The Dance of the Waves 126
That Tree 127
Your Heart 128
Any Time You Come 129
The Death of a Poet 130
The Kindness of Trees 131
Separation 132
A Layer of Dust 133
Falling in Love 134
New Poems (2012-) 136
Where Am I? 137
The Shadow of a Wall 138
Together, Alone 140
Glossary 142
Acknowledgements 144
About the Author 145
Other Titles from The University of Alberta Press 146