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Heavenly Life

Heavenly Life

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Shortlisted for the 2011 Popescu Prize for Poetry Translated from a European Language into English, run by the Poetry Society.

Foreword by Ruth Padel and introduced by Victor Schiferli.

"With this collection Anglophone readers are introduced to a poet of global scope," writes renowned American poet Marilyn Hacker.

Prize-winning poet, essayist, dramatist and actor Ramsey Nasr, born in 1974 in Rotterdam into a Palestinian-Dutch family, was voted Poet Laureate of the Netherlands in 2009. A man of many passions, including classical music, drama, poetry and travel, as city poet of Antwerp in 2005 his appearances were attended like pop concerts.

"There is an exuberance and energy about these poems – poems for the voice and for performance, which nonetheless sit beautifully on the page and move easily between playfulness and a great humanity. Ramsey Nasr in David Colmer's translation has a strong appeal to new generations of poetry readers."
Poetry Society

The poems in Heavenly Life were selected by the poet from his collections and from works written as poet laureate. His translator is the award-winning David Colmer, joint-winner of the 2010 IMPAC prize for his translation of The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker, who has dynamically recreated in English the patterns and sounds of Ramsey's inventive, bold and thoughtful poems.

The collection includes the poem which voted Nasr into his laureate post – in the Netherlands the laureate is chosen by popular vote. Another is a three-part poem inspired by the life of Dmitri Shostakovich and based on his Sonata for Viola and Piano. The title poem 'Heavenly Life', meanwhile, was written to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s birth and is based on his Fourth Symphony, the four sections of the poem echoing the structure, tone and length of its movements. It is named after 'Das himmlische Leben', the song that forms the symphony’s finale.

Ramsey Nasr was in conversation with Ruth Padel and read from Heavenly Life at the LRB's World Literature Weekend on 18th June, and last November performed at 2 events of the 2010 Poetry International at London's Southbank Centre.

"David Colmer's translations follow Nasr's almost prosaic lines and shifts in register, rarely missing a beat and catching his humour with low-key contemporary phrasing. These are very readable versions of poems that provide a window on what is going on in Dutch society at the moment."
Donald Gardner, reviewing Heavenly Life in Ambit 205

"This is a poet who takes the pulse of his age, presses charges against injustice and oppression, without forgetting the heartbeat of his predecessors."
Paul Demets in the Belgian daily newspaper De Morgen