Hafsa Al-Rifai – Margin

Rifsai LE Arab Women P&W April 2024

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Live Encounters Arab Women Poets & Writers April 2024.

Margin, poems by Hafsa Al-Rifai.

Translated from Arabic by Dr. Salwa Gouda. 


“Perhaps I wanted to be more
Than a space for pencil scribbles
And naive words
And ugly fractures
What distinguishes the blank page from me?
To test the elegance of ink
And the correct numbers
And the trustworthiness of a point at the end of the line”
A margin says painfully,
Before it is erased again.


The womb of the world devours me
It does not want any more embryos
After today
It tells me in its own way:
To grow bigger
And I tell it
– With the fetal curl around my confusion-
Every night
Everything it needs to know
It slaps me on the cheek
And I cannot return the slap
And I do not turn the other cheek to it!
I’m not that capable
Not that serene anyway
We do not belong to each other
But I’m just pretending to blend in with its colors
Until I borrow a chameleon’s skin
And stop chewing the bad poems.

© Hafsa Al-Rifai

Hafsa Al-Rifai is an Egyptian poet and urban planning engineer. She won the shield of the “Zarqa Al-Yamama” Poetry Festival in 2015. She published a literary collection entitled “Possibilities of a Mirage” in 2012 and the poetry collection “Before Habit Tamed My Vocal Cords” in 2023. In addition, she participated in several collective books, such as “Writers of Youth” and “Half-Closed Windows”. Moreover, she has published periodical articles and translations. She is also qualified for the short list of the “Ibn Khasib” Prize for Arabic Poetry in 2022.

Translation by Dr. Salwa Gouda, an Egyptian literary translator, critic, and academic at the English Language and Literature Department at Ain-Shams University. She holds a PhD in English literature and criticism. She received her education at Ain-Shams University and California State University in San Bernardino. She has published several academic books, including “Lectures in English Poetry, and “Introduction to Modern Literary Criticism” and others. She has also contributed to the translation of “The Arab Encyclopedia for Pioneers,” which includes poets and their poetry, philosophers, historians, and men of letters, under the supervision of UNESCO. Additionally, her poetry translations have been published in various international magazines.

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