Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi's poems are notoriously difficult to translate - as this workshop demonstrated! It took us two-and-a-half hours to work our way through this poem, not only because Arabic itself can often be quite tricky to get into clear English, but because Saddiq's poems are themselves especially complex in Arabic; heavily influenced by Sufism, they are concerned with subjects at first sight far removed from quotidian, empirical English sensibilities.
Clarissa Ackroyd wrote a fascinating article for the ArabLit blog which gives a real insight into how the evening progressed.
We had a long discussion about the title, 'Longing'. We also have another poem by Saddiq called 'Longing', but that 'longing' is translated from a different word in Arabic - arguably more like 'yearning'. But we decided to stick with 'longing' for this poem (despite the duplication) because its translation is closest to the Arabic.
We then had a detailed discussion about the opening line. Since Saddiq was present, he could confirm that, yes, this line referred to a forest that is being cut down. We decided to stay with Sam's literal translation of the line because 'drive off' in English can mean the trees were both being 'driven away' (on lorries) and that sense of 'driving off' animals, shooing them away.
Every single line of the poem demanded similar levels of detailed examination and discussion. We hope you enjoy reading the result!
Sarah Maguire, Workshop Facilitator