With a Red Flower by Azita Ghahreman
Some of Azita Ghahreman’s poetry is quite challenging to understand for a Persian speaking audience – although the inherent mood and rhythm of poetry can allow you to forgive and gloss over the fact that sometimes expressions or images doesn’t make complete logical sense. For the translations, however, all three of us felt it was important to give some additional pointers to the English speaking audience, so that they can understand at least one of the layered meanings – whether cultural or personal – and so that misunderstandings were not thought to be a product of the translation. Azita, who is currently also translating all her work into Swedish with a Swedish translator, told me that she was aware of the difficulty her work poses for translators, as every single word can have a hidden meaning.
At this stage, Maura and I decided to change some of the initial choices made, and swap one of the newer and longer poems for two shorter poems that referenced the theme of exile, which up till now hadn’t been valorised through the choice of poems – 'When Winter Comes' and 'The Boat That Brought Me'. Azita wasn’t very pleased with this decision at first, as they have already been translated elsewhere, but in the end, she thinks that 'When Winter Comes' is one of the strongest translations of all, so she’s happy with the choice.
Final translation stages: Azita was very helpful to work with, and as the poems got closer and closer to their final translations, she made time to read, and speak to me about them all. She was happy for certain elements to be changed to make more sense for an English speaking audience (e.g. the poppy in with a red flower, which could have been translated as simply ‘flower’ or ‘rose’ but we chose to make closer to the meaningful red flowers in English) and was very happy to feel that a real sense of musicality had been carried across in Maura’s writing.
Extracted from On Translating Azita Ghahreman by Elhum Shakerifar