Wednesday, November 30, 2022 | Jumada al-ula 5, 1444 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

A philosophical touch for small details of life

Al Rahbi has played a pioneering role in ushering in a new poetic diction in Oman. Formally, he champions a form of poetry free from traditional musical patterns and a vocabulary accessible to a wide audience

Saif al Rahbi is amongst Oman’s most well-known and prominent contemporary poets. Born in 1956, he lived abroad during his youth for over two decades.


Seeking knowledge and occasionally practicing journalism, he moved into a number of Arabian and Western cities, such as Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, Paris, London, Amsterdam and Bonn.


Upon his return to Oman, he founded a quarterly cultural magazine 'Nizwa'. At its outset, the magazine showcased (and still does) articles, research studies, reviews, translations and literary works, both fiction and prose.


Drawing upon his exposure to these cultural centres and upon the Arabic cultural and literary heritage, Al Rahbi has played a pioneering role in ushering in a new poetic diction in Oman. Formally, he champions a form of poetry free from traditional musical patterns and a vocabulary accessible to a wide audience. Thematically, he elevates the everyday, the common and the down-to-earth by bestowing upon the small details of life subtle philosophical touches.


He’s published a number of poetry collections such as Jabal Akhdar (1981), One Knife Is Hardly Enough for Slaughtering a ِSparrow (1988) and The Soldier that Saw the Bird in His Sleep (2000). He has won several regional awards (including the highly prestigious Sultan Qaboos Award for Culture, Arts and Letters). He still supervises the magazine in his capacity as its editor-in-chief.


The East


At the beginning of every day


As I pluck out my first steps


To the jungle


The east dawns from my blood


Like a strange sun


I see horses rushing


With manes touching the sky.


A Night


(To Imro al Qais[1])


A night you can't cut with a saw


Or arrest in a cup


A foxy, moody night


It sometimes seems like a clown before a crowd


And slips sleekly like a bridegroom's fur


The night of diviners and truck drivers


Hasn't yet loosened its curtains


But insidiously made its creatures gossip


Strangers loom on their sea-facing balconies


Ships sink in sailors' memory.


An unassailable night


A rugged night


It's loosened its curtains on the world's neck.


The Stranger


This man who takes us to his distant lands


Unfolds on his bed and the table


The heaps of faces and places


Traces the borders of his days


Hill after hill


A tower, a deserted village, a city devoured by war


Bites on an apple, smokes, remembering:


The graveyard of his grandparents


His mother in rags sleeping between sand dunes


The glass grabbed by hands


Before he sips its dregs and sleeps.


The wind hisses outside like a wolf


(Truly, he'd seen a wolf-pack in childhood)


The stranger heaps on his table faces and destinies


Tries to write


About what?


O soul of winged carriages


O soul of rains and dawn's trains


The soul of a stranger weeping at the start of the road!


A Bag


A man living in a bag


His feet are crossways


At every cross there's a gloomy sky.


He once on a horizon saw ewes


Remembered his grandfather


Lit a candle in a cave


Kept roaming around


Century after century


Till his shadow cracked


And his days overflowed with tears.


A Special Sky


This eagle that redesigns the sky


Along with his peculiar mood


Sometimes stoops to see


The beauty of the painting he drew away from God.


This eagle


With a beak carrying storms like rabbits


Sways into ecstasy and memory:


A spring where he descended with his mate


Plains and valleys he crossed with an old friend


Peaks of the Himalayas


And Jabal Alakhdar (2).


Dreaming of eagles to fill solitude's expanse.


The sky's wild scapegoat remembers too the glory of his personal wars


And offspring on the edge of extinction.


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