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Desert Tracings: Six Classic Arabian Odes by 'Alqama, Shanfara, Labid, 'Antara, Al-A'Sha, and Dhu Al-Rumma
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Desert Tracings: Six Classic Arabian Odes by 'Alqama, Shanfara, Labid, 'Antara, Al-A'Sha, and Dhu Al-Rumma

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  55 Ratings  ·  6 Reviews
According to legend, the Bedouin tribes of pre-Islamic Arabia held poetry competitions during annual fairs near Mecca. The wining poems called Mu'allaqat, or Hanging Odes, were embroidered in gold on banners and suspended from the walls of Arabia's most sacred shrine, Ka'ba. Desert Tracings is a translation of six classical sixth to eighth century odes. Arabic codes (qasid ...more
Paperback, 87 pages
Published May 1st 1989 by Wesleyan (first published 1989)
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Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Desert Tracings is a collection of six Arabian Odes. I first read this in college and was struck by the beauty of the poetry. This time reading through, I had a little more time to really absorb the poetry. The imagery is simply stunning. The beloved is described with a grace and sadness that is overpowering while scenes of battle are grotesque and horrifying. Beauty, violence, sadness and boast exist simultaneously and pull the emotions of the reader.

The introductions to the works provide help
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, school
As you may imagine, I read this book for class, as my range of literary interest hasn't quite extended to pre-Islamic poetry. Indeed, I am not much of a poetry person myself.

However, I found this book really interesting; I thought that Sells' introduction and explanations for each poem were informative, and really showed the difficult choices translators face. The most difficult thing about translating Arabic texts, in particular, is that the language has a very particular cadence and sound to i
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Sells’s is one of the best-known English renderings of the pre-Islamic qasida, an Arabic verse form whose metrical rules and stock subjects (the absent beloved, the abandoned desert camp, praise of the poets’ camel and boasts about the writer’s poetic prowess) survived the Bedouin conversion to Islam to become the backbone of Arabic poetry into modern times. The place of the qasida in Arabic is maybe analogous to the sonnet in English and the Romance languages—in fact, the troubadours who pionee ...more
Samuel Brown
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: poets in English
The versatility of the ancient poetic form highlighted by this slim volume demonstrates continuing power. Early Modern poetry in the West owes these odes a tremendous debt, making the sensation of reading them at once strange and familiar, like reading Homer. Each poem traces a topography of love and loss, including the desert-creatures met on the search for proto-Petrarchan traces of his beloved.
Kiyaa Kanjukia
Jan 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I am a bit skeptical about translations because they tend to, somehow, lose a bit of their meaning. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the poetry in Desert Tracings.
Ann Chamberlin
Apr 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A great translation with important commentary.
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Michael Sells studies and teaches in the areas of qur'anic studies; Sufism; Arabic and Islamic love poetry; mystical literature (Greek, Islamic, Christian, and Jewish); and religion and violence. The new and expanded edition of his book Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations appeared in 2007. He has published three volumes on Arabic poetry: Desert Tracings: Six Classic Arabian Odes, which f ...more
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