Hilal al Hajri is a contemporary Omani researcher, translator as well as a poet. He served as a professor of Arabic literature and travel writing at the College of Arts and Social Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University for over a decade.
Interested in the discourse of orientalism, he has written extensively on Western travel in the Arab world. Perhaps the title of his masterpiece “British Travel Writing on Oman, Orientalism Reappraised” encapsulates the geography of his scholarly interests.
Published by Peter Lang, International Academic Publishers in 2006, this book traces the writings of British travellers’ for over three centuries, (roughly from the 17th Century to 1970).
In 2010, he was honoured by the GCC ministers of culture for his “outstanding” contribution to translation, and in 2020 His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik bestowed upon him the Order of Appreciation for Good Civil Service (Second Class).
Till date he has published two poetry collections: “Night Is Mine” (Muscat 2006) and “Like a Mountain Bird Watching the Collapse of the World” (Beirut 2013). By and large, Al Hajri’s poetry is characterised by such a sense of freshness and sincerity that touches the heart, as can be felt in the following translations from his second collection.
A moon lighting up the gloom of the world
Collecting my soul's scattered parts
To offer them as sacrifice
To your sacred love.
Glory to you
O ancient sea
There's a distant light
Shining in your soul
Lend me a flash from it.
Let it be a shooting star's spark
Or the gleam of a pirate's gold tooth
Or whatever I light up with my dark caves.
To A Friend
Cling to joy's fringes
Behind you is an abyss
Of anarchy and nothingness.
I'm the naked prophet.
A Lover Looming as Light
Nothing can portray how much I need you
More than a plant panting
In a recess of sand
Like a Mountain Bird
Here I am
Ascending the divine throne
Like a mountain bird watching the collapse of the world
Below the mountainside.
Here are the Bedouin
Desert children and wolves
Squatting in the mosque.
The Friday preacher stuffs them
With sermons on nationality
And the comfort of a kingdom to come.
The tongues of sea waves are
Just like the turbans of our Omani ancestors
They purify the earth
A Good Citizen
Friend of wolves and jackals
Lord of the Empty Quarter's wilderness
Prophet of revolution and apocalypse
Here I am
Waiting for my turn
To get the right to good citizenship.
To whom shall I dedicate this lost cloud?
In this rebellious morning
I see her
Eyeing the earth wryly
It refuses to spit on these cattle!
The Morning Star
Omanis long slept away
From the morning star.
I see her there in the east
A spear distant from the Arabian Sea
I see gods bathing
In a pool of a true dawn.
Isn't there a knight
To snatch this candlestick
And lead us to glory?!