Atef Alshaer, the bridge translator for our workshop, told us that the poem’s title “Savannah” is also a loan word in Arabic and so it feels a little odd - slightly estranging as a choice - given the particular local intimacy of the poem itself. But this strange duality between the intimate environment and more worldly discourses seems fitting in a poem so concerned with dreaming. In the poem, a Bedouin grandfather is talking to his grandson and Atef told us that the dedicatee of the poem, Jad, is in fact Nasser’s grandson.
One the images/concepts that we discussed most passionately was this idea of a suspended or postponed sky. Eventually we settled on deferred, placing the adjective at the end of the line to reinforce its oddity and nodding towards the unusual of balance of registers that the Arabic speakers noted in the poem. We tried to maintain the equilibrium between the playful transformation of grandfather and grandson into leaping tigers and the slight ‘legalese’ nightmare of even the sky being postponable, subject to delay or bureaucratic quibbling. The poem seems to derive much of its power from paradox: if on the one hand hope comes from dreams, then there is also the sense that that hope is only a dream. Still, as one of the many urgent phrases in the poem insists, “it is better to believe”.