The late Libyan poet Jelani Trebshan (1944 – 2001), embodied in his works the suffering of many Libyan writers and intellectuals under the Gaddafi regime, he was considered in the early 1970’s one of the most distinguished new voices of a new generation of Libyan poets, but as the Libyan regime persecuted and imprisoned many writers in the late 1970’s, he found himself living as a bohemian homeless writer on the streets of Britain, Ireland, Morocco, and Iraq,  running away from the shadows of death and longing for his homeland, until he came back to Libya in 1988 full of frustrations and wishes.

In this poem (Four Forms Of The Poet) he continues asking the fundamental question of the purpose of his existence as a writer and intellectual in a country ruled by a regime that stripped him and his fellow Libyans of his right to live a decent dignified life, finding himself more of a stranger in his homeland than when he was living outside Libya, it also continues to reflect his sadness and despair, his frustrations and hopes for a new Libya, the main theme of his works until his sudden death in 2001.

It has been ten years since we lost Jelani Trebshan, and as a tribute to him and to the Libya that he longed for as it is embracing freedom, I present this English translation of this poem, and will be working on more translations of the best of his poems.



When I came to this country
I didn’t come as a prophet
Nor as an invader, or guardian
I wasn’t rain
I didn’t spread fertility in the dewy fields
I wasn’t an oasis, shading the weak
Or a tent welcoming guests
Lighting fire for the lost ones on the roads of misery
I came as a child; my father didn’t teach me the wisdoms of the cleric
Nor I was tempted by heroism in the cradle
To wear on a dull summer
Rags of wool and claim Sufism

When I came to this country
I didn’t come as a king!
I came carrying my provisions and doubts and the sorrows of travel
Childhood memories
Receding to a wall in the morning
Throwing the pagan tablets into the waste

When I c
ame to this country
I went searching for Khan al-Serry
Maybe I find a house I will build
Maybe I have brothers, still holding Bedouin goodness
A heart beat
Morning smiles with dewy roses
Maybe Leila
Maybe Selma
Will ask the wind for me once/ wandering the prairies / poking with sticks
Asking the sands about my Arabian horse?
My Tuareg camel
Searching in the rocks for my Berber foot
What did I come carrying with me?
Here I am, still walking in the labyrinth
Only to find adulterated liquors/ hallucinations of usurers
The vehicles of brother enemies
My house/here it is seized by a revolutionary imposter

When I came back, I didn’t carry to my childhood friends
Neckties or race camels
I came back carrying the memories of long nights/ O, long nights
The travel/the famine/the nights of bitter cries in police dungeons spreading from wound to wound
Give me back Leila
Give me back Selma
And take away all the boredom behind the west and east
In the caves of the heavy nights/the women/the yearning/the erotic gypsy moaning
Take away everything
Take me back to my mother’s grave
Take me back to my house on the mountain
Take me back to my homeland as a poet
Not as an invader or a guardian…