Tuesday, December 4, 2007

ZAID SHLAH at Sacramento City College Nov. 29, 2007

Zaid Shlah came to visit the Sacramento City College and talked about his love of Arabic culture, poetry in particular. He read several pieces from his book entitled Taqsim [Frontenac, 2006]. Taqsim are short improvisational pieces played on an oud, and the pieces that Shlah read had a feel of meditations by route of stringed instrument. He explained how the cover of the book was a photograph of a favorite uncle who lived in the north of Iraq near Kirkuk, a man who had dedicated himself to Arabic cultural traditions, in particular to the playing of taqsim. For Shlah, there was no other photograph that evoked the spirit of taqsim more than this one.

He read selections from “Taqsim”, followed by ”Afternoon Confession,” “The Reception,” “Arabic Snow,” “Driving Towards Gethsemane,” “Leaving Iraq, Entering Alberta,” and finally, “Asking Iraq to Comply.”

Shlah answered questions after the reading ranging from personal questions to questions about his work. He talked about his tenuos position as an Iraqi-Canadian who now finds himself in California. He also revealed he enjoyed reading his taqsim to an oud accompaniment like one might experience at a salon in Iraq where the poet and the musician are counterpoints to each other.

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