Archive | English RSS for this section

الغريب The Stranger

Building Bridges Across Language Barriers

Palestinian poet and novelist Abdul Karim Sabawi was invited to participate at Australia’s Multilingual Literary Heritage at Wollongong University. The following is part of his contribution on the importance of translation:

How else but through translating could we unearth our common humanity which lays the foundation of past eras and civilisations? Without translation, we would not have understood the laws of nature nor would we have made new innovations.

During their golden era, Muslims were ethnically diverse and tolerant of new ideas. Translation played a part in their accumulation of knowledge and their ability to exchange scientific discoveries from India, China, Persia, Greece, Rome to the rest of the Western world through the gates of Spain.

Today, here in Australia we are in desperate need for translation to play a part in bringing closer the ethnic communities, uniting them and preventing their polarisation and radicalism.

We are a society of many tongues, diverse cultures, multiple religions. We are equal partners in one free nation that gives us so much more than many other countries are able to give to their citizens.

The world outside our borders is a stage for many wars and conflicts, some older than Australian’s federation. Often times we find ourselves forced to suffer the consequences of these conflicts. We must bond together, understand one another, no matter how different our cultures are. Our salvation rests on raising new generations that are protected from the dangers of intolerance and hate both outside and inside our borders.

We need a revolution in the education system. Our teachers from kindergarten to year 12 must have the persistence of the profits the resilience of revolutionaries and the wisdom of philosophers so they can teach our children the difference between justice and injustice. In Hamlet, the king of Denmark was assassinated with a drop of poison in his ear; our children’s eyes and ears are prey to the poison of hundreds of media channels and thousands of Internet websites. Our children have no time for innocence or spontaneity or for drinking from the fountains of accumulated knowledge of human cultures of the past. Should it be a surprise then that some may become radicalised. We wonder how they leave us to participate in external wars that have nothing to do with their lives.

This challenge cannot be faced by the government but is in need of the work of NGOs, civil liberty groups and civil society. How to accept the other, respect other cultures, and maintain our humanity in order to guarantee justice is the only way to protect our youth from violence and radicalisation and a narrow-minded vision.

We need to build strong bridges between our cultures and translating texts and literature is a large part of that.


From left to right: Panel – Arabic-Australian writing – Participating Chair: Nijmeh Hajjar spoke about the ‘The Arab Australian Novel: Intentions and Methods’ in it she highlighted some of the work of Mr. Abdel Karim Sabawi. Also on the panel were Abdel Karim Sabawi and Samah Sabawi presenting ‘Beyond Language: poetry in translation’ and Dr. Ahmad Shboul presenting ‘Reflections on the Life of Arabic Poetry in Australia’.


Blood For Freedom: Poetry for Palestine by Abdul Karim Sabawi



Now available online in English.  A collection of poetry from Palestinian poet and author Abdul Karim Sabawi.




Also available in .pdf  Blood For Freedom


Lion from Gaza by Stuart Rees


For Abdul Sabawi.  Lygon Street, Melbourne 23 December 2013


His heart is in Gaza but he cannot go,

waves wash the shore but he cannot see

lights of the fishing boats, steps in the sands,

pictures for poems in a foreign land.


Dreams come and go in the heat of the bush,

challenge to pen on a paper trail

to create new lives with horizons to teach,

stories to tell and techniques to reach.  


He paints with his grief, makes links to his heart

for time when it comes to place on a page

rhyming and rhythms of verses at play

nurtured by soil that is so far away.


Images come in the day and at night,

adrenalin runs and women appear-

a compass to guide his scribbling so much

with translating daughter, sensuous touch


To drink, derive succour from Matilda’s air,

applause from small kids as key source of flair

to conjure from muses’ each artistic outline

to breathe and sustain, Gaza, Palestine.


From a book of poetry by Stuart Rees titled ‘A Will to Live’ published by Ginninderra Press 2014

Lost in Translation

To my Grandfather Abdul-Kareem. Thank you for reminding me of the power of words and the love which sustains them. For my words and the passion which drives them, I have only you to thank.

Lost in Translation

A robustly concerted gaze is soothed beneath the veil of time but your words endure eternal. Hands worked to the bone are muddied by the soil of your homeland, but the words they have come to scribe endure eternal.

Your words are but a whisper in these untrained ears, who long to immerse themselves in the sheer power of your native tongue. I continue to firmly grasp the remnants, of which, are lost in translation. They whisper to me as my own words come to be. Expending the energy of a chiselling hand to rock, they remind me of how you transcend them. You are more than an elderly man with words. You are heart. You are mind. You are soul. Each embrace and each kiss to hand uniting me with my ancestors. A magic that is unprecedented.

An unshakable frame of stone, now shaken by your own mirrored words, these words endure eternal. A Demeanour of Leadership coerced by the villainous hands of fate, your words reign over you, they remain eternal.

Fear not that these words subdue me from you. As enthralling as they remain, I remain enthralled by you and all you have always been. I look beyond what is lost in translation and I feel the loving presence that is you.  Even now as my own words lose themselves to foreign space and time, I know that you will find me. I know that you will always find me, just as I have come find you…lost in translation.

Hamed Sabawi

Erasure: 45 years of Israeli Occupation

In 1967 when Abdul Karim Sabawi’s home city Gaza fell under Israeli occupation he, like many other Palestinians was uprooted and forced into exile.  He wrote this poem on that painful first morning when he woke up in Jordan to realize he may never be allowed to return.  The poem was translated from Arabic into English by his daughter Samah Sabawi.

When you were parched

We quenched your thirst

With our blood


We carry your burden


We cry in shame

When asked

Where do you come from?

Dishonoured we die

If only the stray bullets

From the occupier’s guns

Were merciful

That they pierced through our legs

It only they tore through our knees

If only we sunk in your sand

Deep to our necks

If only we got stuck

And became the salt of your earth

The nutrients in your fertile soil

If only we didn’t leave

The gates of our hearts

Are wide open to misery

Don’t ask us where this wind is blowing

Don’t ask us about a house

Or windows

Or trees

The Bulldozers were here

The Bulldozers were here

And the houses in our village

Fell…Like a row of decayed teeth

They haven’t colonized Mars yet

And the moon is barren


So carry your children

Your memories

And follow me

We can live in the books of history

They’ll write about us…

“The wicked Bedouins

Landed in Baghdad

They landed in Yafa

They landed in Grenada

Then they moved on

They packed their belongings

And rode on their camels

They didn’t leave their print on the red clay

And all their artifacts

Were faded

With the passing of the years”

Does anyone in the world care?

Does anyone care?

What is it worth

To be an Arab…

A Native American…

Or a dinosaur

%d bloggers like this: