Lamia Makaddam – A Portfolio of Poetry — translated by Lily Shehady


Tunisian poet Lamia Makaddam’s free-verse poetry has simple vocabulary yet complex and original descriptions of life as a woman, poet, lover, reader, and mother. The four poems below are from Makaddam’s 2019 poetry collection Fi Al-Zaman Wa-Kharijahu – In Time and Out of It (Baraat Almutawassit). When translating from Arabic, issues of supplementary diacritics also known as tashkīl are always present. Naturally, they were part of the issues I had to deal with. However, in the four poems below, the main challenge was the English word-choice. Arabic is a rich language with words often having multiple synonyms. Throughout the process, I dealt with the question of whether there is a better word to explain more precisely what the speaker is trying to say or what the image is evoking in the original and whether or not the image is translatable. Reading these four poems, one gets the sense of the multitude of themes and topics I mentioned above; but it feels, with Makaddam’s poetry, that some thread links the poems together. I cannot name this thread yet, but a little bit of each poem is always in the next.


Lamia Makaddam (b. Tunisia, in The Hague) is a Tunisian poet, journalist, and translator. She is the author of four poetry collections and has translated two books from Dutch to Arabic. She was awarded the al-Hijara Literary Prize in the Netherlands in 2000. Makaddam’s latest poetry collection is titled Qasa’ed Al’amah, The Blindness Poems (Baraat Almutawassit 2023).

Lily Shehady is a Nazarene poet, translator, and educator. She is completing her MA in English literature and creative writing at Bar-Ilan University, and has been teaching English at a Waldorf elementary school for the past seven years. Her work has previously been published in Write-Haus Magazine, Zocalo Public Square, and The Basilisk Tree Journal. More details at