There's no doubt that these long poems are at the centre of Adonis's claim to international significance. But open the covers of Selected Poems, and there's a surprising twist: Funeral for New York is not included. Some readers will naturally wonder: after 9/11, did Adonis worry that a poem that envisions the destruction of New York would sound intolerable to western ears? Adonis says the decision was taken on more prosaic grounds. Indeed, it seems the arguments he made in these crucial, long poems are just as vital to him as ever: "There are already two or three English translations of that poem," he says. "My translator says he tried a new translation and couldn't make it work.
"It's not the destruction of New York that I imagine in the poem. I love New York. It's the destruction of American political power. Instead of transforming the world according to its values, America has turned the world into a military barracks and a marketplace. I think America has betrayed the spirit of its founding humanism."
So does it feel to him, post 9/11, that East and West are moving further apart, in a way he could not have imagined when he wrote Funeral?
"There was a tradition of liberal, humanist thought in the West, and this thought hardly exists any more," he says. "Thought, or what we called thought, has just become a means to explain military strategy.
"On the other hand, you have an Arab world that is still beholden to power. Power is everything, and that runs against openness. So we live in a constant state of siege. But there is always hope."
Can poetry change any of this?
"Poetry doesn't change anything directly. But it can present a new image of the world, and, by this, change readers. Then," and he smiles, just as he did when we sat down an hour before, "it is up to readers to change the world."
Adonis: Selected Poems is published by Yale
From : David Mattin