Haddad, Bahraini poet, is the recipient of the Owais Cultural Foundation Prize for Poetry, which is frequently referred to as the Arabic-language Nobel Prize. Ghazoul and Verlenden chose to translate Haddad’s work due to the lack of translation projects of Gulf Arab poets, and therefore, this project fills in a gap in the works of translation.
"Qassim Haddad has been selected by us for translation because he combines the exquisite poetics of ancient Arabia with a modern sensibility and a progressive outlook," said Ghazoul.
The centerpiece of Ghazoul and Verlenden’s translation will be Haddad’s Majnun Layla, originally a medieval poem known in variations from North Africa to India. A selection of poems and an introduction to the poet’s life and work will combine to create an edition of Haddad’s works in English. Ghazoul and Verlenden have been working on Haddad’s poetry and prose since 2003, with a group of Haddad’s poems appearing in Banipal journal in 2004.
“Haddad is a synthesizer of various cultures of both Western and far Eastern,” said Verlenden, project director. “He is looked upon as an example of the new voices coming up in Arab literature that are not confined to their own culture. He is a person who is changing not only the subject matter, but the form of poetry written in Arabic today,” explained Verlenden.
The applicants for the NEH grant face fierce competition and the recipients are chosen by a panel of judges composed of world-class intellectuals. Due to that, “there is an instant credibility you get when you win an NEH grant,” said Verlenden, adding that this grant reflects AUC’s ability to attract top faculty with the expertise to win the approval of intellectuals outside the university.
The newly established Center for Translation, the AUC Press and the independent translation projects undertaken by faculty members will all “contribute to the intellectual understanding that AUC is committed to becoming a key center for translation,” said Verlenden.
Ghazoul, lead translator, and Verlenden, poet and writer in the target language of English, have been a translation team since 1995. Their first work, The Quartet of Joy by Egyptian poet Muhammad Afifi Matar, won the Arabic Translation Prize at University of Arkansas, sponsored by King Fahd. Their second project, Edwar al-Kharrat’s Rama and the Dragon, is currently listed by the Arab Writer’s Union as number eight in their Best 100 Arabic Books.