As I prepare to travel for a significant literary event to launch my book in the UK, in just a couple of days, I find myself revisiting my first poetry reading—- already, a full decade ago.
Shortly, following the career-changing publication of my first book, I learned that poems of mine were translated into Slovakian. This was giddy-making stuff! Yet, it was nowhere near as exciting as later discovering that the Slovakian Ambassador was a fan of my writing and I was invited, to represent Egypt, at The International Poetry Festival in Bratislava, Slovakia: ARS POETICA (7-11.10.2009)
Arriving in Slovakia was like landing on the moon and meeting intelligent, kind life forms -- aka interesting, international writers, including one very cool and capable American poet, who has since become a friend: Campbell McGrath.
Our hosts were very attentive and gracious, taking us on cultural tours of the city and feeding us well. They put my wife and I up in a house boat, a first for us, which made for a fun and memorable experience.
The big night of the poetry reading, it was encouraging to be received by a packed and enthusiastic crowd. Although, once the lights went out, I admit that I did not see any of those literature-loving faces.
Blinded by the limelight, I felt like I was happily lost in some inner space for the twenty minutes or so that I was on stage... (which helped calm my nerves).
After the event, we celebrated. It was nice to be paid for our participation, and booze was flowing. Relieved of our professional obligations, this is when we (the invited poets) really bonded; in other words, we danced like mad!
Here's a short video of my reading, and the text of the poem, below.
What Do Animals Dream?
Do they dream of past lives and unlived dreams
unspeakably human or unimaginably bestial?
Do they struggle to catch in their slumber
what is too slippery for the fingers of day?
Are there subtle nocturnal intimations
to illuminate their undreaming hours?
Are they haunted by specters of regret
do they visit their dead in drowsy gratitude?
Or are they revisited by their crimes
transcribed in tantalizing hieroglyphs?
Do they retrace the outline of their wounds
or dream of transformation, instead?
Do they tug at obstinate knots
inassimilable longings and thwarted strivings?
Are there agitations, upheavals or mutinies
against their perceived selves or fate?
Are they free of strengths and weaknesses peculiar
to horse, deer, bird, goat, snake, lamb or lion?
Are they ever neither animal nor human
but creature and Being?
Do they have holy moments of understanding
deep in the seat of their entity?
Do they experience their existence more fully
relieved of the burden of wakefulness?
Do they suspect, with poets, that all we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream?
Or is it merely a small dying
a little taste of nothingness that gathers in their mouths?