literature & poetry

Adonis and Khaled Mattawa: A New Divan

Part of Poetry International

Mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's great work of world literature, the West-East Divan, with readings and discussion from internationally renowned poets.

Speakers including the renowned Syrian poet Adonis, known as 'the grand old man of poetry, secularism and free speech in the Arab world' and the Libyan-US poet Khaled Mattawa, who writes in English and who is also Adonis's regular translator. They gather to talk about poetry, translation, Goethe, Hafiz and different cultural traditions.

They also celebrate the publication of A New Divan: A Lyrical Dialogue Between East & West, which responds to Goethe’s original work. The book brings together poets from across the East – Morocco, Turkey, Syria and Afghanistan – and from across the West – Germany, the USA, Estonia and Brazil.

Writing in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, and English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Slovenian, each pair of poets has responded to one of the themes of the 12 books of Goethe’s original Divan, including ‘The Poet’, ‘Love’, ‘The Tyrant’, ‘Faith’ and ‘Paradise’.

Working directly with the original poems or via bridge translations, the English-language poets have created new poems that draw on the poetic forms and cultures of the poets taking part.

Adonis was born Ali Ahmad Said Esber in Qassabin village, Syria, in 1930.

He has been writing poetry for more than 75 years. His work is translated into many languages, including these in English: Adonis: Selected Poems, An Introduction to Arab Poetics, Sufism and Surrealism, Violence and Islam and Concerto Al-Quds.

He has received numerous awards, including France’s Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur, Turkey’s Nazim Hikmet Prize, Germany’s Goethe Prize, the US PEN/Nabokov International Literature Lifetime Achievement Award and China’s Poetry and People Award.

Khaled Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya, in 1964 and emigrated to the US in1979, where he studied at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, taking a Masters in English and an MFA in creative writing at Indiana University. He received a PhD from Duke University and is currently Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

He is the author of four books of poetry, the latest of which, Tocqueville, won the 2011 San Francisco Poetry Center Prize. Mattawa has translated 11 volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry, including Adonis’s Selected Poems and Concerto Al-Quds, Iman Mersal’s These Are Not Oranges My Love and Fadhil al-Azzawi’s Miracle Maker. His book Mahmoud Darwish: The Poet’s Arts and His Nation was a finalist for the Pegasus Prize. A MacArthur Foundation Fellow, Mattawa has won other awards including the Academy of American Poets Fellowship and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.

Dates & times

20 Oct 2019
Approximate run time: 75 mins
Run times may vary, find out more


Queen Elizabeth Hall


£10 - £20
Booking fee: £3.00 (Members £0.00)

Multi-buy discount

£10, £20

Multi-buy discount
Book three or more literature and poetry events in the same transaction and receive a 25% discount. Selected events only.


25% off (limited availbility)
Find out more about our Concessions policy

need to know

Age recommendation
For ages 16+

Southbank Centre takes a strong view on secondary ticketing. We require the lead booker to attend (photo ID may be requested). Tickets can only be resold by Southbank Centre or one of its authorised agents.

Multi-buy discount
Book three or more literature and poetry events in the same transaction and receive a 25% discount. Selected events only.