Incomprehensible Lesson


Incomprehensible Lesson: poems by Fawzi Karim in versions by Anthony Howell after translations made by the Author.


Born in Baghdad in 1945 and now living in London, Fawzi Karim has established a reputation as a major figure in contemporary poetry. 

Plague Lands, his first book of poems in translation was a Poetry Book Society recommendation for 2011. Incomprehensible Lesson

explores the experience of becoming at home in London, a period of transition, from a sense of exile to a sense of uneasy belonging.


Anthony Howell’s first collection, Inside the Castle, was brought out in 1969.

His most recent book of poems is From Inside, The High Window Press, 2017.



The book is prefaced with an introduction by the poet.

Available from Carcanet


Close to my home in Greenford,

The carriages roll to a halt. After long moments

They go on to bisect London. 

The line takes me (questions harass) 'Where?'

To streets, buildings, parks marred by repetition,

So that I prefer my own blurred reflection. 

Then I return by the same red line,

Musing how, from Waterloo Bridge,

The scene’s perfection amazed me:  

Seemed an artistic print, framed in an exhibition,

How the tourists milling there

Scattered such colours – like a wedding breakfast –   

Was it some performance on TV?

A lady at a party broke through my precautions.

I found myself once more in the role of exile.  

The line goes on and on.  The years

Sit across from me.  I take out my passport.

They want to share its pages.


There is a review here by Jessica Sequeira