The World Poets' Tour at Dove Cottage: Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, Sarah Maguire and Sabry Hafez
The Jerwood Centre, Cumbria
Saturday 25th October 2008 14:00
Part of the World Poets' Tour 2008
This remarkable afternoon was two years in the planning. In September 2006, following his attendance at the LitUp Festival in Grasmere, Tom Boll and Sarah Maguire took Saddiq on a brief trip to the Lake District, which included a visit to Dove Cottage. Saddiq was entranced by the house (though hills turned out not to be quite his thing) because he knew of Wordsworth's poetry from the pioneering translations into Arabic carried out by the late Sudanese poet, Mohammed Abd-Al Hayy, whom Saddiq had met shortly before his death in 1989. As a result, we thought how wonderful it would be to organise an event with Saddiq at Dove Cottage - to which we could invite members of the Sudanese community from Manchester, with whom Saddiq had a very strong relationship. And so the Dove Cottage plan was hatched.
We were fortunate that Saddiq's translator, Sabry Hafez, had been a close friend of Mohammed Abd Al-Hayy's when they were postgraduate students at Oxford in the late 1960s; Professor Hafez is also an expert on the translation into Arabic of the Romantic poets. And so we approached him with regard to giving a lecture at Dove Cottage on Mohammed Abd-Al Hayy and his translations of Wordsworth, which Sabry Hafez also agreed to repeat and host at SOAS (the event on 21st October).
In Manchester, the PTC approached the Sudanese Cultural Society, through Mohammed Bahari, to invite them to attend our events at Dove Cottage. We were able to offer them coach travel to Grasmere, plus a discounted rate for the museum tour of Wordsworth's cottage, negotiated through the Trust's literature officer, Andrew Forster. Some of the details were very tricky and time-consuming to arrange.
Before the reading, Andrew Forster, the Literature Officer at Dove Cottage, and Michael McGregor, Director of the Wordsworth Trust, gave us a fascinating tour of the Jerwood Centre, including a privileged glimpse at some of the rare books and manuscripts held in the library. We even got to see a manuscript of The Prelude, with its pasted-on corrections (apparently the poet was so embarrassed by his mistakes that he had Dorothy write out the ammendments and stick them over the top of the original).
At lunchtime, the Sudanese group arrived, with 30 adults and 20 children and - torrential rain notwithstanding - they were delighted to join us. Saddiq was greeted with huge affection by his friends from Manchester and a great deal of laughter - and smoking of cigarettes in the rain - occured. The excited children were taken to the education building by the Trust's education officer, where special activities were arranged for them, while the adults gathered in the main room in the Jerwood Centre for the lecture and poetry reading.
Professor Hafez gave an illuminating talk on the impact of translations of Wordsworth into Arabic. Several groups of poets were strongly influenced by his work, most notably the Apollo group that emerged in Egypt between the wars. During the talk, Sabry read two of Wordsworth's poems in Arabic, with Sarah reading the originals. We learned that, to date, 33 poems by Wordsworth have been translated into Arabic - dwarfing the nine poems each by poor Blake and Coleridge. Figures that put our translations from Arabic into English of Saddiq's poems into sobering perspective.
After a short interval, Saddiq read his poems in Arabic with Sarah reading the translations she'd produced with Sabry Hafez.
The audience was equally divided between people who regularly attend readings at the Wordsworth Trust and the members of the Sudanese community we'd brought to Grasmere especially for the event. The afternoon was received with enormous enthusiasm, particularly by the Sudanese members of the audience, who were clearly touched and delighted by being invited to the Wordsworth Trust to hear Saddiq read and by Sabry's stimulating talk. Dr Rahman was so moved that he gave a short speech at the end, thanking the PTC and Wordsworth Trust for organising the day. Michael MacGregor, director of the Wordsworth Trust, and Andrew Forster, the Literature Officer, were thrilled with the event and with the participation of the Sudanese visitors. It appeared that this was the first time they'd hosted an event that considered Wordsworth's reception in non-European countries. It was certainly a first for Dove Cottage to receive so many visitors from Africa. The Trust is very keen to work with us on future projects.
Venue and booking details
The Jerwood Centre
Cumbria, LA22 9SH
Cost: £4 advance, £5 on door
Please book tickets through: www.wordsworth.org.uk
Accessibility: Full disabled access is available to the Jerwood Centre, Wordsworth Museum and Art Gallery using a combination of ramps and lifts (elevators).
However, as Dove Cottage is an historic building, they are unable to make provision for disabled access.
This event is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.