Backlist Wednesday: Perfect Harmony by Ibn El Arabi

Perfect Harmony title page

Perfect Harmony title page

Because the soul can be lost by a single glance…

With Valentine’s Day just ahead, it seems a good moment to revisit a chapbook filled to the brim with desire, overflowing with thoughts about longing, love, and eros. The chapbook is Perfect Harmony and it contains a poem written eight centuries ago by Ibn El Arabi, an Andalusian Sufi mystic and poet. Over the course of this poem, love at first sight is elevated to the level of philosophy and religion, ecstasy intensified “to the point of perfect harmony.” That this poem remains immediate and passionate all these centuries later and in another language has much to do with labors of Timothy Young; always good to have a poet translate a poet.

Perfect Harmony excerpt

Perfect Harmony excerpt

100 copies were printed in 2009 with the assistance in the print shop by the translator. The Spectrum type was set by hand, letter by letter, then inked and impressed upon pages of Ingres paper. Autonomous drawings by Dalyce Elliott accompany the text. These pages are sewn into Khadi wraps. The paper and type alone are a kind of Valentine.

In addition to the chapbook version, this poem is included in Timothy Young’s most recent book, To the Palace of Kings: Selected Longer Poems (Red Dragonfly Press, 2014) and is available on a CD, Perfect Harmony. The latter, an union of spoken word and brilliant musical accompaniment, comes highly recommended, is only available direct from the translator: mail $10 per CD plus $3 shipping to Timothy Young, 1610 Fernwood St., St. Paul, MN 55108.

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