Monday, 3 June 2013
...And Then One Day I Realised That I Loved Sudanese Poetry
I recently attended another Poetry Translation Centre workshop, which I've just occasionally been able to go to, where we (poets, translators, poet translators) translate a poem collaboratively. This time it was a poem by Ateif Khieri, an important Sudanese poet writing in Arabic (and now sadly exiled in Australia).
It was a fun evening. We ended up laughing quite a lot, which was a surprise, as it's not a particularly humorous poem. You can judge for yourself and read the poem, 'Exhortation to the Village (8)', on this link. (This is the final translated version, but there are also links to the original Arabic, and to the more literal early translation which we worked from.
EXHORTATION TO THE VILLAGE (8) (Ateif Khieri)
There were a number of things about this poem which really got under my skin. The literal translation, which I had looked at quickly before the workshop, had something about it that reminded me of Paul Celan. I think it was the element of the surreal, and the sense that a really deep engagement with the original language and the meaning of the words, and some background about the poem's cultural roots, would help immensely. I mean, all of this is probably very much the case for most translation of poetry - but more so in some cases.
Sarah Maguire led the workshop as usual (I also love her own poetry), and we were really fortunate to have Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi there, who is friends with Ateif Khieri and whose own Sudanese Arabic-language poetry is, I hope, just about to take...everyone by storm. He and the first translator Samuel Wilder, and others in the workshop with a knowledge of Arabic, were able to help us with a closer engagement. The depth of meaning in many of the Arabic words is remarkable and this made the translation very challenging, but very interesting and rewarding.
The other thing that got me about 'Exhortation to the Village (8)' was simply a very, very strong feeling of familiarity. It came over me particularly with these lines:
After two streets of grief
and treacherous paths toward the lord
The whole poem seems to find an intense, almost traumatized meaning (either positive or negative) in the details that surround the poet, in everyday life. And I still don't know what is familiar about it - whether it reminds me of another poem, or whether it is a less specific emotional familiarity.