‘The Bards of Somalia’

In 'The Bards of Somalia' on BBC Radio 4, Rageh Omaar asks, 'What could Britain learn from Somalia - a country where poetry is nothing less than the main means of cultural communication? Portrayed abroad as a land beset by gunmen, pirates and famine, it is also known by those who live there as a Nation of Poets.'

The programme features interviews with translator Martin Orwin, who outlines the remarkable tradition of poetry in Somali, and with PTC Director, Sarah Maguire, who discusses the importance of translating Somali poetry into English. Poet W N Herbert, who co-translated Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac 'Gaarriye' with Martin Orwin, talks about the complexities and delights of the translation process, and the impact it's had on his own writing.

'The Bards of Somalia' includes an extract from 'Self-Misunderstood' by Gaarriye. On our website, you'll find Gaarriye's original poem in Somali and Bill and Martin's co-translation into English. You can also listen to Gaarriye perform his poem in Somali and to Bill reading it in English; and we have a video of Bill and Gaarriye reading the poem at The British Library in 2008.

'Self-Misunderstood' is one of the poems in our podcast of Gaarriye's poems and it's also featured in the chapbook we published in 2008. This chapbook is one of the ten dual-language books found in our beautiful boxed set of chapbooks.

Gaarriye visited the UK to take part in the PTC's World Poets' Tour in 2005 and again for our second tour in 2008.

You might also like to read a fascinating article that Bill wrote called 'Some Thoughts on Co-translating Gaarriye' and Martin's article, from his perspective as a Somali specialist, 'Translating the Poetry of Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac "Gaarriye" for the World Poets' Tour in 2008'.

The PTC has had a strong commitment to translating Somali poetry since our inception, both because of its remarkable literary qualities and because we want the Somali people who've settled in the UK to feel that their culture is welcomed and valued. Our work would not have been possible without the support and expertise of Martin Orwin and Maxamed Xasan 'Alto'.

If this is your first visit to the PTC website, please join our mailing list to find out more about our activities. We'd also be very grateful for your support to continue the valuable and unique work that we do.

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