Three Poems by Rebin Kheder

Translated from the Kurdish by Jiyar Homer and Isabel López

February 11, 2022  By Rebin Kheder

Upon the success of the Kurdish Revolution of 1991, an initiative led by the Kurdish public and Peshmerga forces in Southern Kurdistan (in present-day Northern Iraq) against the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi federal forces were expelled from Kurdistan following the final battle in Kirkuk on March 21. The revolution exerted its influence over all of Kurdish culture, including its literature, dividing the generations of writers into those who began writing before it and after.

The generation emerging after 1991 became known as The Post-Revolution Generation; Rebin Kheder belongs to this group. In addition to being a poet, he is a novelist, essayist, short story writer, and playwright. He is one of the few surrealist writers working in the Kurdish language today. In 2009, Farhad Pirbal, one of the best-known contemporary Kurdish writers, as editor-in-chief of the influential magazine Wêran, published a special dossier of his poems, proclaiming him a new and different voice in Kurdish poetry. After translating a selection of his poetry into Spanish for the Colombian magazine Literariedad, Isabel López and I decided to translate some of Rebin’s poems into English as well. As a long-time reader and one of the few readers of Lit Hub in Kurdistan, I’m honored to have my work published here.  –Jiyar Homer, translator


Only one person

My grandfather had a dream
My father had the same dream
The same dream I now have

My grandfather planted a tree
My father planted the same tree
The same tree I now plant

My grandfather wrote a book
My father, without reading it, wrote the same book
The same book I now write

An absurd war killed my grandfather
The same absurd war killed my father
The same absurd war I now wait on to kill me.

What kind of place is this?
Where just one person has lived such a long time;
One vision… One breath… One death.
So, really,
Haven’t we lived through this before?

تەنها یەک کەس

باپیرم خەونێكی دی
باوكیشم هه مان خەونی دی
منیش هەمان خەونە ئێستا دەیبینم

باپیرم دارێكی ڕواند
باوكیشم هەمان داری ڕواند
منیش خەریكم داره که دەڕوێنم

باپیرم كتێبێكی نووسی
باوكیشم بێ ئه و هی كتێبه کەی ئەو بخوێنێته وه،
هەمان كتێبی نووسی
منیش هه مان كتێبه ئێستا دەینووسم

باپیرم لە شەڕێكی پووچدا كوژرا
باوكیشم لە شەڕێكی پووچدا كوژرا
منیش چاوەڕێی شەڕێكی پووچم

ئەوە چ مەملەکەتێکه؟
چەند له مێژە تەنها یەک کەس دەژی
یەک ڕوانین… یەک هەناسە… یەک مردن
ئەرێ بەڕاست ئێمە هەموومان،
پێشتر نەژیاوین؟



She is 26 years old and from the Philippines.
Eating just enough to get by, working in a wealthy Jordanian household, washing dresses.
She washes Jordan, washes the East,
Washes the loose cannons of Russia and the USA—broken swords.
Occasionally she browses the internet for her dream man.
Loads of men from 29 different countries
Send her pictures of their penises every day.

He is 26 years old and from Zimbabwe.
Eating just enough to get by, laying brick on brick.
He builds Berlin, adorns Paris, makes Europe stand upright—toxic supermarkets.
Occasionally he browses the internet for his dream woman.
Loads of women from 29 different countries
Send him pictures of their breasts every day.

They never find each other.
The girl grows old. Jordan gets dirty. The East becomes a landfill.
The loose cannons set up markets in the alleys and neighborhoods, swords feel young again.
They never find each other.
The boy grows old. Berlin grows hollow. Paris goes to heaven.
A rat eats Europe. The supermarket becomes a poet.

They are each others’ dream partner,
Eating just enough to get by.
They never find each other.


خەڵکی فلیپینە و تەمەنی بیستوشەش ساڵە
ئەوەندەی سکی خۆی نان، لە ماڵێکی دەوڵەمەندی ئوردنی کار دەکا، جل دەشوا
ئوردون دەشوا، ڕۆژهەڵات دەشوا
تۆپە هاروهاجەکانی ڕووسیا و ئەمەریکا دەشوا- شمشێری شکاو
ناوبەناویش بەناو ئینتەرنێتدا، بە دوای پیاوی ناو خەونەکانیدا دەگەڕێ
ڕۆژانە لە بیستونۆ وڵاتی جیاجیاوە پیاوان دەستەدەستە
تەنیا ڕەسمی کێری خۆیانی بۆ دەنێرن

خەڵکی زیمبابۆیە تەمەنی بیستوشەش ساڵە
ئەوەندەی سکی خۆی نان، خشت دەنێتە سەر خشت، بەرلین دروست دەکا
پاریس دەڕازێنێتەووە، ئەورووپا لەسەر پێ ڕادەگرێ- سووپەرمارکێتی ژەهراوی
ناوبەناویش بەناو ئینتەرنێتدا، بە دوای ژنی ناو خەونەکانیدا دەگەڕێ
ڕۆژانە لە بیستونۆ وڵاتی جیاجیاوە ژنان دەستەدەستە
تەنیا ڕەسمی مەمکی خۆیانی بۆ دەنێرن

ئەو دوانە هەرگیز یەکتری نادۆزنەوە
کچەکە پیر دەبێ و ئوردن پیس دەبێ- ڕۆژهەڵات دەبێتە زبڵخانە
تۆپە هاروهاجەکان لە کۆڵان و گەڕەکان دوکان دادەنێن- شمشێر گەنج دەبێتەوە

ئەو دوانە هەرگیز یەکتر نادۆزنەوە
کوڕەکە پیر دەبێ و بەرلین کلۆر دەبێ، پاریس بە هەوادا دەچێ، ئەورووپا مێشێک دەیخوا
سووپەرماکێت دەبێتە شاعیر

ئەو دووانە ژنوپیاوی ناو خەونی یەکترن
ئەوەندەی سکی خۆیان نان،
هەرگیز یەکتری نادۆزنەوە


Poetry is Dead!

As I was buying tomatoes in a Frankfurt market,
A string bean with wild hair on television yelled, “Poetry is dead!’’

I hurried to catch a bus back to Hamburg.
I barely had time to reach one of my poems. It was barely breathing. Thankfully my neighbors, the crafty bastards, helped me lift it. It was unwieldy, enormous, so heavy with moons and butterflies and ruffian flowers, we had to unload some.

We continued stripping things away from the poem as we carried it down the stairs. I’m not lying: Miss Kobs pried out a still-breathing, rose-tinted window. Professor Mark picked up some money from the pile, saying he had to exchange it while it still held value. Renata, a beautiful young girl, pinched a cluster of jewels and disappeared. Muhammad the Afghan got a car out. Old Eduard enjoyed the poem’s broken meter and rhyme, but said he’ll fix them for use in a prayer!

Michel grabbed a pistol from the poem and fired its first bullet at the morning. The sun bled onto morning’s face; morning fell to its knees. Miss Sara took moldy, wormy freedom, saying she’d give it to her grandfather. Maybe he’ll turn into a scarecrow.

As we reached the building’s garden, the poem had gotten so light only a door and a grave remained within it. I closed the door and threw myself into the grave.
So, I’m lying in the grave. I can no longer write poems. This darkness is so dark it cannot be understated—but it’s so comfortable!

شیعر مرد!

لە فڕانکفۆرت لە مارکێتێک بووم، تەماتەم دەکڕی.
ملباریکێکی پڕچ-عەنتیکە لە تەلەڤزیۆن بۆڵاندی: شیعر مرد!
بە هەڵەداوان هەڵاتم تا بە پاس ڕێ بکەومەوە هامبۆرگ.

لە ماڵەوە تەنیا بە شیعرێکم ڕاگەیشتم بە حاڵ هەناسەی دەدا. باش بوو دراوسێ زۆڵەکانم لە هەڵگرتنی یارمەتییان دام، ئەوەندە قورس و زەبەلاح بوو، ناچار بووین هەندێک مانگ و پەپوولەی لێ دابگرین! ئنجا هەندێ گوڵی هەرچیوپەرچییش!

لە پەیژەکانەوە لێکدالێکدا شتمان لە شیعرەکە دەردەهێنا و لێمان فرێ دەدا. درۆ ناکەم خاتوو کۆبس پەنجەرەیەکی ڕەنگاڕەنگی هێشتا-ژیان-تێدا-ماوی بۆ خۆی لە شیعرەکە دەرهێنا. مامۆستا مارک هەندێک پارەی لێ هەڵگرت، گوتی دەبێ زوو بیگۆڕمەوە تا بەسەر نەچووە. ڕێناتا، کە کچۆڵەیەکی جوانکیلەیە، هێشوویەک خشڵی لێ دەر‌هێنا و لەبەر چاو ون بوو. موحەمەد ئەفغانی ئۆتۆمبیلێکی لێ دەرهێنا. ئیدواردی پیر دڵی چووە سەر وەزن و قافیەیەکی شکاو و گوتی چاکی دەکەمەوە، بەشکوو بۆ دوعایەک بەکاری بێنم!

مێشێل دەمانچەیەکی لە شیعرەکە دەرهێنا و یەکەم فیشەکی بە بەیانییەوە نا. بەیانی خۆر بە دەموچاویدا چۆڕاوە و کەوتە سەر چۆک. خاتوو سارا ئازادییەکی کەڕەکیفەهەڵێناو و کرملێدراوی بۆ خۆی هەڵگرت، گوتی دەیدەم بە باپیرەم، ئەو ڕەنگە بۆ خۆی بیکات بە داهۆڵ.

تا گەیشتینە باخچەکە، شیعرەکە کێشی ئەوەندە سووک، تەنیا دەرگەیەک و گۆڕێکی تێدا مایەوە، دەرگەکەم داخست و خۆم
هەڵدایە ناو گۆڕەکە.
ئەوا لەناو گۆڕەکە ڕاکشاوم. ناتوانم ئیتر شیعر بنووسم. تاریکستانێکە هەر مەپرسن.
بەڵام تا بڵێی ئاسوودە!


ژیار هۆمەر Jiyar Homer is a Kurdish translator and editor working with Kurdish, English, Spanish, Arabic, and Persian. His translations have appeared in publications in the USA, UK, Argentina, Afghanistan, Armenia, Denmark, Sweden, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, in publications including World Literature Today, The Brooklyn Rail InTranslation, Buenos Aires Poetry and Círculo de Poesía. His current projects include a co-translation with Dr. Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse into English of Farhad Pirbal’s short stories, forthcoming from Deep Vellum in Dallas and Pirbal’s poetry into Spanish with David Shook, forthcoming from Gato Negro in Mexico City, as well as the first ever translation of Juan Carlos Onetti into Kurdish. Presently based in Sulaimani, he works for کەشکۆڵ (Kashkul), the center for arts and culture at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), and serves as an editor for the Kurdish literary magazine ئیلیان (Îlyan).

ئیسابێل لۆپێز Isabel López is a Venezuelan poet, translator, editor and student of Economics and International Relations (Rhodes College, Memphis, TN), who, due to the debilitating crisis in her country, emigrated to the United States in search of new frontiers. In addition to advocating for women’s rights and democracy in Latin America, she works as an editor at Memphis Cartonera, translating texts of all kinds and leading workshops to democratize literature, preserve cultural heritage through language, and spread her love for words. She is currently putting together a collaborative volume titled Covid Chronicles with students from her university, as well as an international poetry zine with university students from across the globe. She co-translated Kurdish poetry into Spanish, and appeared on Círculo de Poesía, Cardenal, Literariedad, Álastor and Small Blue Library.

Rebin Kheder
Rebin Kheder
ڕێبین خدر Rebin Kheder is a Kurdish poet, novelist, essayist, short story writer, and playwright. He was born in 1986 in Hawler, the capital of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in present-day Northern Iraq but has lived in Germany since 2016. He earned his bachelor's degree in Kurdish Language and Literature at Salahaddin University - Erbil. In 2012, he published his debut collection, On 14 Roads, followed in 2013 by his first novel, A Balloon in the Red Sky. His most recent novel, Language Drives a Broken Bicycle, was published in 2020. Kheder also writes short stories in German, three of which have been published in the Gestern - Heute - Morgen anthology. His poems have been translated into Spanish, German, Arabic, and Persian. He won the second-place prize for short stories from the Federation of Kurdish Writers in 2011 and the third-place prize for poetry at the Gelawêj Festival in 2012.

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