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Birds Through a Ceiling of Alabaster: Three…

Birds Through a Ceiling of Alabaster: Three Abbasid Poets (1975)

by G. B. H. Wightman (Translator), Abu al-Ala al-Ma'arri, Abdullah Y. al-Udhari (Translator), Abbas Ibn al-Ahnaf, Abdullah Ibn al-Mu'tazz

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The three poets in this collection may share a common culture, but two centuries separate them and, not surprisingly therefore, they each have distinct voices. That could, of course, have more to do with their individuality rather than anything else. Anyway, Abbas ibn al-Ahnaf writes solely love poetry, Abdullah Ibn al-Mu'tazz writes love and nature poetry, whilst Abu al-Ala al-Ma'arri writes about life, death and mortality, particularly, it seems to me, the latter.

Though I much admire al-Mu'tazz's nature poetry, of the three, al-Ma'arri speaks to me most clearly (which is a revealing discovery). An atheistic vegetarian, we have that much in common. It seems the trials of his life made him of a dour frame of mind, if not to say bitter, so I hope that's not a reflection of myself I'm catching in his mirror. Perhaps a "what could have been". I wonder whether al-Ma'arri was a particular influence on Omar Khayyám? I feel they have a similarity of attitude towards the impermanence of life and the unknowable voids that stand before and after earthly existence.

Most of the verses in the collection are a few lines long, none more than a page. I like the punchiness and directness of the forms used. Some of them are haiku-like in the layers of meaning conveyed in so few words. As with the best poetry, I found more this time than I'd seen on my previous readings. ( )
  Michael.Rimmer | Jun 11, 2017 |
poems by Abbas Ibn al-Ahnaf, Abdullah Ibn al-Mu'tazz , Abu al-Ala al-Ma'arri ( )
  overthemoon | Dec 12, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wightman, G. B. H.Translatorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
al-Ala al-Ma'arri, Abumain authorall editionsconfirmed
al-Udhari, Abdullah Y.Translatormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ibn al-Ahnaf, Abbasmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ibn al-Mu'tazz, Abdullahmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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