Except for This Unseen Thread
Author: Ra'ad Abdulqadir
Translator: Mona Kareem
Publisher: Ugly Duckling Presse (2021)
Published in Baghdad in 2006, Falcon with Sun Overhead and The Age of Entertainment inspired a new generation of Iraqi poets, charmed by Ra’ad’s ability to write tender poems in times of destruction and fury. While many of his peers were writing poems about battlefields and faraway exiles, Ra’ad was looking closer in, at the loneliness of those left behind. Hailed for its cinematic portrait of Iraq under sanctions—the bread queues, busy cemeteries, empty schools, and the impossible departures and returns, Ra’ad’s work commemorates the wonders of a city staying still, one blink at a time. Except for This Unseen Thread, the first collection of Ra’ad’s work in English translation, is comprised of poems selected from both titles, with an introduction by the translator.
"What I love about the poetry of Ra’ad are the small details that become reference points to essential truths, as if they are atoms quietly and dynamically moving together in a simple yet profound meaning. The landscape of his poetry is fertile, so as soon as Abdulqadir skillfully sows a poetic seed, many questions emerge. Play is important in his poetry, but what’s particularly special about the game is that you can reassemble the parts differently every time, thus discovering new things by chance."
"Ra’ad Abdulqadir’s Selected Poems consists of fragile, tender moments observed during life and death under sanctions and wars in Iraq. Ra’ad’s poetic language is spoken inside a glass coffin—it only speaks to the wind, snow, rain, clouds, butterflies, and stone birds. Mona Kareem beautifully channels Ra’ad’s glass language of refusal—her translation is an act of refusal against the destruction waged by nation-states."
–Don Mee Choi
"Ra’ad Abdulqadir was a poet's poet. A melancholic voice with a prophetic vision. Mona Kareem's excellent translation invites Anglophone readers to the world of this important Iraqi poet."
"Ra‘ad Abdulqadir’s poems are made from the simplest materials—the moon and clouds, bird bones and the bells of childhood, suitcases and tired feet—out of which they build a world as complex as our own, mired in suffering and suffused with hope. He alchemizes Iraq’s modern history into songs of innocence and experience. Mona Kareem’s translations don’t miss a note."