English-language poem by international authors (adult), judged by poet Tishani Doshi
Before, the taiga whispered in the head.
The viper slept in the land of ink,
and musk deer in blueberry thickets;
River ice arc, amber banks.
From ear to ear for three days elk walked to lose antler.
Now in the head there are no pines, no moss, no willows,
only damp housing estate.
The lamp blinks, the stooped dives twist into the arch,
without extinguishing the cigarette.
The moon’s restless look—
The smoke of the boiler room
in port light.
Before, the ocean sang behind the sternum,
kraken rummaged in the underwater crater,
the joyous island was always drunk,
the Isle of Apples has long since sunk.
Whales and mantas reigned over the reef,
we basked in a cafe on the pier,
watching the sunset, absorbed,
as we stirred in glasses the silence
and watermelon light.
Before, something in the stomach...
there was nothing in the stomach.
Now there are red clods of clay,
a fraction sowed—and rich:
rain will pour, shells will grow.
There is a cauldron in the stomach,
and a goat in the cauldron,
fused again from the bones.
In the stomach we live on the edge of a grove,
and we have a full house of guests.
In the stomach I crawl to you to say farewell
—with a knife stuck in my venter.
In the stomach under the roots
there are traces of wolves,
tubers of pain, tails of ventures.
We rush along the left hand, tomorrow we’ll ride
on the wrist of the right arm.
But for now, the heart stops, and
the pines here are frighteningly
On "Uncharted map of the body and the remembrance of childhood", judge Tishani Doshi said:
“I fell in love with the rich landscape of this poem. Language and image work together in a thrilling way to map the territory of childhood, place, and body. To juxtapose the taiga of river ice and blueberry thickets with damp housing estates, to contrast 'port light' with 'watermelon light'—this is a dexterous poet who sees all the hues of the world. I found so much magic in this poem—it led me into unfamiliar worlds (where elk have to walk days to lose antler, of kraken and craters and whales reigning over a reef). It reminded me of that electric quality of experiencing wildness. By the time we arrive at the last sentence—'the pines here are frighteningly/ high'—we are well invested in this poet’s dream.”
The Barjeel Poetry Prize celebrates poetry, in Arabic and English, that opens a worldwide conversation with 20 selected Arab artworks from the Barjeel Art Foundation. This is one of the 12 poems that won first and second place in the inaugural Barjeel Poetry Prize 2020, judged by distinguished poets. Click here for more information about the Prize at Barjeel Art Foundation's website.