Poetry and I

The sin is that I wasn't a stone
     And the troubles of the world make me sleepless
And I shield myself with poetry
     And it keeps me company when I'm far from home
And poetry is my satchel that I will always carry with me
     It holds the taste and fragrance of the earth
It holds thickets of prickly branches
     It holds palm fronds loaded with dates
It paints all the stories of love in my language
     Its colours form the spectrum from grape to dawn
And I said bring the most beautiful of stringed instruments
     So the universe may know how music flows
And play its soothing melody
     That brings justice to those who are in love
Letters burden this world of mine
     Trouble leeches ink from the quill
Trouble leeches ink from the quill
     When I read of the longing of lovers I burn

Translation notes

This was a particularly thorny poem to translate - well worth the effort - that took the whole two hours of one workshop to complete.

If you compare the literal and final versions, you'll probably be able to make sense of how we got from one to the other in most cases.

'Branches of petulance' was translated as 'acacia' by an Arabic dictionary, which is how we reached 'prickly branches' because the acacia tree is famous for its sharp thorns.

Another long discussion ensued about how to translate 'grape and twilight'. Although the Arabic word tends more towards 'dusk', we felt that we wanted to convey the idea of poetry forms the whole of the spectrum; which we felt that using 'grape' (violet) and 'dawn' (red) achieved.

Another tricky line was 'Worldly affairs are a guide of the letters/ characters very grave', which ended up as 'Letters burden this world of mine'. And then 'Feather and ink drained concern' which we translated as 'Trouble leeches ink from the quill'.

It was a real pleasure to translate our first poem written by a Mauritanian poet and we look forward to working on more of Mbarka Mint al-Barra's poems.


1 Sylvain

thanks for introducing us to the peotry of people who are forgotten by the world

2 Carlos

very powerful poem

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