Poetry and I


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.

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