Poems

Spring

Notes

We were very lucky that Reza Mohammadi was at the workshop when we were translating this poem because, if in doubt, he always had the final decision on what choices we made.

Take the lineation. In the Dari original, there are no stanzas. Whereas, in his literal translation, Moheb introduced stanzas. As it happened, Reza was quite happy for us to break the poem into stanzas if we saw fit. So we did.

In Dari, there are no capital letters or punctuation so, again, we had to introduce these, as subtly as possible, we hope.

Another, fundamental, difference between Dari and English is that in the former there are no gender markers: spring is neither male nor female. Calling spring 'it' in our translation disrupted the feeling of intimacy in the original and so we settled on 'her' (with some protests from the Arabic speakers in the room, for whom spring is masculine).

We took a long time to settle on 'dyed you with fresh blood'. In Dari, the original verb refers to having your hands and feet dyed with henna. Again, other cultural references were embedded in Moheb's translations of 'your name was erased from your parents' family book' (which we translated as 'gave you a new name'); and 'paid the price of your blood' ('bought your freedom').

The idea of clouds gathering round your home, in the UK, is of course very negative indeed! But in Afghanistan, the clouds presaging rain are very welcome, which is why we went for 'blessed'.

Finally, in 'Birds became your breath, your hair, your air' we changed 'hair' to heart. In English, hair is something very specific whereas 'heart' immediately has non-literal connotations, as 'hair' does in Dari.

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Praveen

Reza is one of the best poets writing in Persian today!

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