Maram al-Masri (Syria – France)
Maram al-Masri (born 1962) is a Syrian writer, living in Paris, She is considered “one of the most renowned and captivating feminine voices of her generation” in Arabic.
Born in the coastal city of Latakia to a well-known Sunni Muslim family, Maram al-Masri studied English Literature in Damascus, although she interrupted her studies when she fell in love with a man of Christian faith. The relationship failed because of the opposition of the man’s family (interfaith marriage was forbidden in Syrian law) and in 1982, Maram al-Masri emigrated to France, where she married a Syrian, whom she divorced later. In her book Le rapt she picks up the issue of having been unable to see her son for 13 years, because he was taken to Syria by his father after she remarried. She has another two children with her French husband, from whom she separated, too.
She wrote poetry from a young age “to distinguish herself from the other girls and to attract attention”,publishing in literary magazines in Damascus. Her first collection was published there in 1984 under the title I alerted you with a white dove, but her public breakthrough came in 1997 with the book A red cherry on a white-tiled floor, published by the Tunisian Ministry of Culture, as it was considered “too erotic” by Syrian publishers. In 2002, the book was published in a Spanish translation which obtained an immediate positive echo with several reprints, and shortly afterwards, the French and English translations appeared. Maram al-Masri started to publish regularly in the French market and took up writing poetry in French, too. Although her writings “do not address the Arab reader because their language and their thoughts are different to mine”, most of her work is still written in Standard Arabic. Her poetry has been described as “direct, unadorned writing, with its emphasis on the quotidian”, where the “utilization of simple, almost child-like metaphors, contrasts sharply with the conventions of traditional Arabic love poetry”. “That a woman write so unreservedly about sex” also “lends a fresh, unexpected quality” to her poetry. The Guardian described her as “a love poet whose verse spares no truth of love’s joys and mercilessness” Besides publishing regularly in Spanish book market, some of her works have been translated also into Italian, Catalan and Corsican, with some samples in German, and she is a frequent guest at poetry gatherings in several European countries, from Ireland to Italy. She has received several prizes, like the “Adonis Prize” of the Lebanese Cultural Forum, the “Premio Citta di Calopezzati” and the “Prix d’Automne 2007” of the Societe des gens de letters.
Maram al-Masri has taken a firm stand against the Assad regime in Syria  and considers that “every decent person is with the Revolution”. Her poetry book Elle va nue la liberté [Freedom, she comes naked] (2014) is based on social media images of the civil war. Although she defines herself as an Atheist, she justifies the use of religious slogans in the Syrian uprising as a “last opium” which cannot be taken away from people brutally oppressed by a dictatorship.
I alerted you with a white dove (Andhartuka bi hamāmaẗ beidāʼ) (1984)
A red cherry on a white-tiled floor [Karzaẗ ḥamrāʼ ʿalá balāṭ abyad] (2003)
I look at you [Anẓuru ilayk] (2007)
Wallada’s return [ʿAudaẗ Wallada] (2010)
Freedom, she comes naked (Elle va nue la liberté (2014)
The abduction [Le rapt] (2015)
she gives birth
to an infant in a poem.
Between her thighs
like a waterfall,
a small body
I am here
He has begun to speak to me
with his eight small teeth,
drool on his lips.
He tells me with his eyes
things that seem to him important,
perhaps he is speaking to me of war
and the children born
to die every day,
or perhaps he is telling me
of islands far away,
I do not know if he wants to tell me
that the future will be sunny,
that a day will come
when people will live in peace.
He is occupied
with making his ten fingers move,
with convincing me that love is the natural fruit
of the tree of life,
and that he is happy
to have come to this world.
Then, suddenly, he has me entangled,
burrowing his head into my chest, begging me to take him in my arms.
In that instant I understand
all that he wishes to say to me.
you were born
to learn from the birds
how to fly.
so that the troubled heart of the world
may calm itself
to the rhythm
of your steps.
The Bread of Letters
Who will tell the trees they are guilty
for having let fall their leaves,
who will accuse the sea of abandoning its shells on the sand?
I, mother-woman, woman-mother,
with two breasts for pleasure
two breasts for maternity
who gives the milk of music
and the grammar of thoughts.
I, who am woman voluptuous tender,
virtuous and sinner,
with my mouth
I give to eat the bread of letters,
consonants and vowels,
phrases, synonyms and comparisons.
Who will accuse me,
I who make a gift of my body
The act of writing,
is it not a scandalous act in itself?
it is learning to know oneself in the most intimate thoughts
Yes I am scandalous
because I point to my truth and my nakedness as a woman,
yes I am scandalous
because I cry my sorrow and my hope
my desire, my hunger and my thirst.
is to describe the multiple faces of man
the beautiful and the ugly
the tender and the cruel.
to write is to die in front of a person
upon whom you look, unmoved,
it is to drown in sight of a boat that passes close
without seeing you.
is to be the boat that will save
is to live on a cliff’s edge
clinging to a blade