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Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016

Photo of Al-Mutanabbi Street in Iraq

Arabic Poetry Translation Contest Winner

Split This Rock is pleased to announce that Ali Znaidi has won the Arabic Poetry Translation Contest! Split This Rock organized the contest as part of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016. The submissions were judged by Fady Joudah, whose poetry and translations have received the Yale Series of Younger Poets and a Guggenheim Fellowship, in addition to numerous other awards and recognitions. Znaidi won for his translation of "The Curfew," written by the Tunisian poet Radhia Chehaibi:

The Curfew

I’m alone as usual
but the city is unusually alone.
I watch over its wilderness out of my window.
Nothing but the night and the curfew.
The one tree of the long street
asks about two lovers that have never missed a date.
The broken lantern asks about a kiss
it has concealed in the dark time and again.
The bar is closed and the wine is drinking by itself
and a pot hole in the road is celebrating
footsteps that did not come.
Only the curfew is wandering alone
and all this night is a kingdom for the wind.
What will become of supplication
and deferred footsteps
and appointments that wait
for the curfew’s permission?
What’s all this change in the city?
Where are the weddings and the city lights?
Where are the door bells and the cats’ meows?
Where are the horns and brakes of crazy cars?
Where are the voices of children
who split the darkness with shouting and laughter?
Where’s the tapping of a dancer’s high heels on her way home
or of a woman heading to work?
Where’s me when I hate my loneliness?
The city that was plentiful around me
is now lonely like me
lying on the side of the night.
The curfew is cautious
just like my confused window
like me the solitary
like the city
this cautious stillness...moving stealthily toward the morning of life.

Written by Radhia Chehaibi; translated from Arabic by Ali Znaidi.

Radhia Chehaibi lives in Tunisia and has authored the poetry collections What Leaked from My Silence, Travel Recitations, and The Digital Path of the Soul. Her full bio, along with the poem, can be found at The Quarry. 

Ali Znaidi lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. He is the author of several chapbooks, including Experimental Ruminations (Fowlpox Press, 2012), Moon's Cloth Embroidered with Poems (Origami Poems Project, 2012), Bye, Donna Summer! (Fowlpox Press, 2014), Taste of the Edge (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2014), and Mathemaku x5 (Spacecraft Press, 2015). For more, visit

For further information about the festival, continue to scroll down. 

About the festival:

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016 is a book arts and cultural festival planned for January through March 2016, throughout the Washington, D.C. area. Exhibits, literary programs, and a film festival will commemorate the 2007 bombing of Baghdad’s historic bookselling street, and celebrate the free exchange of ideas and knowledge, to stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq, who have endured so much; and with people at home and abroad who are unable to make their voices heard.

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016 is funded by a generous grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art's Building Bridges Program. The grant supports festival literary programming, presenting contemporary poets and poetry of Iraq and the Arab world and celebrating the translators and publishers who bring these essential voices to English-speaking readers and audiences.

Photo of The Song Lives On, created by John Bently in 2011
​The Song Lives On, John Bently, 2011

Featured poets and translators include:

Photo of Amal Al-Jubouri

    Kareem James Abu-Zeid

           Amal Al-Jubouri

                Hala Alyan


       Fatimah Asghar

          Safia Elhillo

          Fady Joudah


Photo of poet Dunya Mikhail

           Amal Kassir

          Philip Metres

        Dunya Mikhail


          M Lynx Qualey

           Sholeh Wolpé


Our Partners

In 2014 a group of non-profit institutions and passionate individuals came together to discuss their ideas and begin to organize an array of exhibitions, poetry readings, performances, hands-on street festival activities, and educational programs for the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project. These partners include George Mason University's School of Art and Fenwick Library, Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, McLean Project for the Arts, Corcoran at George Washington University, Georgetown University, Cultural DC, Smithsonian Libraries, National Portrait Gallery Library, and Brentwood Arts Exchange.

Further information about Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016 can be found on the festival website. Photos of festival events are here and videos are here. Follow us on Facebook for updates and plans for the 2017 commemorations.