Occupy Poetry

Venus Khoury-Ghata

Vénus Khoury-Ghata came to France as a young adult, from the bilingual community of Beirut where she had begun to establish herself as a writer. Prolific as a writer of fiction as well as poetry, she made a conscious choice of French as her language of expression: she could have written in Arabic, as does her novelist/journalist sister who remained in Beirut. She translates contemporary poetry from Arabic, notably of the renowned Syro-Lebanese poet Adonis, and the Arabic language often seems to speak through her French, in the elaborate, pithy figurative language in which she delights, in the landscapes and seasons through which her poems’ protagonists (hers are poems, often sequences, with protagonists) move. Audré Lorde’s term “biomythography” is often applicable to Khoury-Ghata’s poetry, as she makes larger-than-life, sometimes tragic and often wryly humorous poem-narratives incorporating her family’s, her region’s and her country’s history. Though she has lived in Paris for over thirty years, the always-implied and often very specific landscape of her densely populated poems is always Lebanese, in fluid transformation from a fable-textured place of origin to the warscape of yesterday’s news. She is the author of seventeen novels and fifteen collections of poems in French, and was the recipient of the Grand Prix de Poésie de l’Académie Française for the totality of her work in 2009.

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