One Day


Hazim Al-Temimi is a poet from southern Iraq - famed for its once magnificent marshes that were drained and destroyed by Saddam Hussein - and this poem must be read within that geographical context. For example, the very first stanza refers to the 'water reeds' of the marshes and the date palms that grow in southern Iraq in profusion.

The second stanza uses a verb 'recite' that specifically means reciting the Koran. Our use of 'The Painful Verses' was a way of indicating the special nature of the text the protagonist is reciting.

The line, 'I am the one whose words enlighten the blind' is a direct (and very famous) quotation from Al-Mutanabbi, a tenth-century Iraqi poet, widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of the Arabic language.

Although the line breaks of the poem make it look as though it is written in free verse - or what Arabic poets call 'prose poetry' - this poem is composed in the strict rhyme and metre of traditional classical Arabic poetry.

This was a difficult poem to translate, not simply because it's written in a classical form, but also because the fantastic sentiments it expresses are inimical to English. Whereas statements such as those made in this poem sound very beautiful in Arabic, in English they can come across as nothing more than empty rhetoric and bombast.