It was a pleasure to work on another poem by Amjad Nasser, along with translator Atef Alshaer. This prose poem took on a whole other level when Atef described to us the associations of stone for a Jordanian poet. Whilst we think of it as fixed, cold, hard and cruel, the stone of Petra is colourful, warm, constantly changing, imbued with emotion, and in its pink curves can look almost human. Atef also felt the destruction of cultural treasures by Isis might inform this poem and its brutal final image, adding a political resonance.
As ever there was much debate over particular words. What do you call a piece of stone used in a building? We tried block for a while, toyed with cornerstone, but eventually stumbled on ‘slab’ in an online thesaurus (which alliterated so nicely with ‘sling’.) ‘Bullet-hole’ also dragged us ten minutes past the end of our workshop! The Arabic word allows for holes made by other weapons such as arrows, but simply ‘shot-marks’ didn’t have the necessary power, and ‘wounds’ made the stone sound vulnerable. Eventually we went for the strongest image, even whilst acknowledging it might shut down some possible readings.