Poetry by Shakila Azizzada

With thanks to Sarah Maguire director of The Poetry Translation Centre for facilitating my selection of poems by Shakila Azizzada.
The poems were translated by Mimi Khalvati and Zuzanna Olszewska for the Poetry Translation Centre

Once Upon A Time

in memory of Leila Sarahat Roshani
Granny used to say
always keep your magic sack
tucked inside your ribcage.
Don’t say the sun’s worn out,
don’t say it’s gone astray.
Say, I’m coming back.
May the White Demon
protect and watch over you.
Oh, daughter of the dawn,
perhaps this sorry tale,
stuck in the mud,
was of your doing.
Take the comb from the sack,
throw it in the Black Demon’s path:
seven jungles will grow at his feet.
Don’t say heaven’s too far,
earth’s too hard. Don’t throw the mirror
if you fear the sea and her nymphs.
Don’t say there was, don’t say there wasn’t,
trust in the god of fairytales.
May Granny’s soul rest in peace.
Give the mirror to Golnar’s mother
who, down by the charred vineyards,
dreams of birds and fish.
Don’t say the rooftop’s sun’s too brief.
Say, I’m coming and this time,
forget love’s foolish griefs.
Shake out the sack.
In the name of the White Demon,
burn that strand of hair.
Wasn’t there,
once upon a time …?
Once upon a time there was
a girl in whose long, endless dreams,
an old woman with white braids,
forever telling beads, would pray:
‘May the Shomali Plain still fill with song
and through the ceilings
of its ruined homes, let light pour in.’
Once Upon A Time is © Shakila Azizzada.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Zuzanna Olszewska.The final translated version of the poem is by Mimi Khalvati

Once Upon A Time: this poem refers to a fairytale in which the hero sets off to fight the Black Demon, aided by the White Demon and the magic powers of a sack with a mirror, a comb and a strand of hair. Fairytales traditionally start with the refrain, ‘There was one, there wasn’t one, apart from God, there was no one.’

View from Afar

I’m left again with no one standing behind me,
ground pulled from under my feet.
Even the sun’s shoulders are beyond my reach.
My navel chord was tied
to the apron strings of custom,
my hair first cut over a basin of edicts.
In my ear, a prayer was whispered:
‘May the earth behind and beneath you
be forever empty’.
However, just a little higher,
there’ll always be a land
purer than any land Satan could wish on me.
With the sun’s hand on my shoulder,
I tear my feet away, a thousand and one times,
from the things I leave behind me.

View From Afar is © Shakila Azizzada
Translated by Zuzanna Olszewska and Mimi Khalvati.

Haft Seen

If it weren’t for the clouds,
I could
pick the stars
one by one
from this brief sky,
hang them
in your ever ruffled hair
and hear
you saying:
‘I’m like a silk rug -
the older it gets,
the lovelier it grows,
even if
two or three naughty kids
did pee on it.’
Am I finally here?
Then let me spread
the Haft Seen tablecloth
in the middle of Dam Platz.
Even if it rains,
The Unknown Soldier
and a flock of pigeons
will be my guests.
Haft Seen is © Shakila Azizzada.
The literal translation of this poem was made by Zuzanna Olszewska.
The final translated version of the poem is by Mimi Khalvati.

from The Poetry Translation Centre


shakilaShakila Azizzada is a poet from Afghanistan who writes in Dari.

Shakila Azizzada was born in Kabul in Afghanistan in 1964. During her middle school and university years in Kabul, she started writing stories and poems, many of which were published in magazines. Her poems are unusual in their frankness and delicacy, particularly in the way she approaches intimacy and female desire, subjects which are rarely adressed by women poets writing in Dari.

After studying Law at Kabul University, Shakila read Oriental Languages and Cultures at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, where she now lives. She regularly publishes tales, short stories, plays and poems. Her first collection of poems, Herinnering aan niets (Memories About Nothing), was published in Dutch and Dari and her second collection will be published in 2012. Several of her plays have been both published and performed, including De geur van verlangen (The Scent of Desire). She frequently performs her poems at well-established forums in The Netherlands and abroad.


‘Lament’ Recorded at the Smock Alley Theatre

I received this morning the sound files for a performance of Lament that occurred at the Smock Alley Theatre, as part of the 2012 Béal Festival. My thanks to Elizabeth Hilliard and David Bremner for programming the piece.

Friday Afternoon – part 3.wav


Christine Murray: Lament (for three female voices) (performed by Dove Curpen, Réiltín Ní Charthaigh Dúill and Emilie Champenois; also with thanks to Rita Barror for organising and reading-through) (first performance)


Recours au Poème: Poésies & Mondes Poétiques

My thanks to Matthieu Baumier, editor at Recours au Poème , and to Elizabeth Brunazzi, who published and translated four poems from my collection, Cycles (Lapwing Publications, 2013).
I am adding here Elizabeth’s translation of i and the village (after Marc Chagall)

moi et le Village

(d’après Marc Chagall)
Version française, Elizabeth Brunazzi
La rosée découle en jade une lune aux trois quarts
L’Amour O l’amour! Ta fleur arrachée embaume
De son parfarm ma main, bientôt
bientôt me rappelant une certaine musique-
Mon destin a toujours été de quitter le lieu
où la lune dansait avec la subtile Neptune!
Tout se dissout-
sauf le souvenir de ton visage,
ton rire en pleine rue et ta danse pour la lune!
Tes bagues de jade et ta fleur sont mes bijoux,
nuançant toutes choses d’une teinte de vert, de pourpre, d’un bleu profond.
La rosée découle en jade une lune ornée comme un bijou,
Sa fleur blanche fond sous le bleu.
Je me souviens d’un visage, maintenant fixé en lumière,
maintenant un ton, une bague ornée de bijoux, une certaine nuance brillante.



(after Marc Chagall)

Dew drops into jade a three-quarter moon.
Love O love ! Your uprooted flower dissipates

Its scentedness onto my hand, soon
soon recalling to me a certain music -

My fate was always to leave the place
where moon danced with subtle Neptune!

All dissolves -
save your remembered face,
your laughing in the street and your dancing for the moon!

Your jade rings and your flower are my jewel,
shading everything green, and purple, a rich blue.

Dew drops into jade a jewelled moon,
Her white flower dissolves under blue.

I remember a face, now caught into light,
now a tone, a jewelled ring, a certain bright hue –

Recours au Poème: Poésies & Mondes Poétiques

Snake by Leonora Carrington


Crowned as the serpents
In the Kingdom of the mind
Often are.
Where is the pyramid
Of her body placed?
A mnemonic device
To navigate the reptilian brain.
Bare it in mind
Bare it in mind.
Snake poem and image by Leonora Carrington , from Leonora Carrington; The Celtic Surrealist (IMMA, Dublin



The accompanying Leonora Carrington image is entitled Ulu’s Pants (1952) and is on the IMMA website advertising, Leonora Carrington; The Celtic Surrealist. The exhibition runs from 18 September 2013 – 26 January 2014, at the Garden Galleries, IMMA, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

I went, I will probably go again. Details about the exhibition and the paintings are available at the IMMA Site.

the bird-keepers by C. Murray

the bird-keepers

I know three places that they go,
and the birds wait in congregation
on pitched roof, tottering lamp-post
in the tree-chorals. They wait mute,
gull and urban-pigeon, rook, starling
wood-pigeon and magpie, all wait.
Sparrows await the later crumbs,
the blackbird desires garden-apples.
I saw a bird-keeper once.
With her bird-eye. Her empty bag,
her melt into the crowd anonymity.
I saw her just leave a squake of gulls
in her wake tearing at the good bread.
She directed her gaze onto me and
I thrilled with the recognition. Each day
at the right time she had walked to
a reach of grass at the four roads
opposite the park where herons. Her
bag later stuffed into her ordinary jacket
her streaked hair, her impassive gull-eye.
I lost her image in the crowd. Those others,
the bird-keepers of unlikely corners at
the meeting of roads, and roundabouts
carry a backpack, a trolley. One a man,
the other a woman. She is old now.
the bird-keepers is © C. Murray , first published in Skylight #47 2013