I recently bought the award-winning translation of Adonis’ Selected Poems by Khaled Mattawa and have been enjoying it immensely. A little bit of searching turned up not only the above video, but 18 more such videos, all from a 2013 documentary about the Syrian-Lebanese poet from Oogland Film Productions, Land of Absence, directed by John Albert Jansen and supported in part by Poetry International. PI have created an album on Vimeo where you can watch Adonis recite all 19 poems with Mattawa’s translations in subtitles.
Here’s the description of Land of Absence:
A journey through the eventful life of the Syrian-Lebanese writer Adonis, one of the most eminent thinkers and writers of the Arab world. In Land of Absence he talks about his life and work, about Syria, the Arab world and Islam.
The Paris based Syrian-Lebanese poet Ali Ahmed Esber (1930), better known under his pen name Adonis, is sometimes called ‘the living legend of Arab literature’. For seventy years he has been writing poetry in which Arab identity is a central theme. His unique voice and independent mind has secured him a central role in the complex and multi-faceted Arab world.
In Land of Absence Adonis, in his Paris apartment, talks about his life, about Syria, about the Arab world and Islam. In his old age he is still as lucid and sharp and obstinate as ever. But first and foremost he is a great poet, who covers not only his own land, Syria, but a whole continent. ‘From writing in Arabic, you only learn that your homeland is not a place, that it can nowhere be found,’ he writes.
The DVD is still available for order.
Directed by Egyptian film student and photographer Forat Sami, with acting and narration by Yousef Bakir and sound production by Mohamed Elshazly. For background on the Lebanese-American poet Elia Abu Madi, the Wikipedia has a bare-bones bio.
His poems are very well known among Arabs; journalist Gregory Orfalea wrote that “his poetry is as commonplace and memorized in the Arab world as that of Robert Frost is in ours.”
Gabriel Sumon directs, with cinematography by Mahdy Hasan. Filmed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in Bengali with English titling.
Lebanese poet Yehia Jaber discusses his beliefs about war and peace, God and poetry, and recites one example of his work in Arabic (with English in subtitles). The British/Iranian filmmaker Roxana Vilk got help from Maryam Ghorbankarimi (editing) and Pete Vilk (music and sound design).
Yehia Jaber is also a visual poet — see Everitte.org for a beautiful and easily comprehensible example of vispo/concrete poetry in Arabic calligraphy.