Friday, 20 November 2009


Lunch yesterday at Iraqi poet Abdulkarim Kasid’s flat near Chancery Lane, to continue working on the English versions of his poems, versions he first made himself working with his daughter Sara. This method of translation has become increasingly common of course, and I’ve previously worked on the British-based Punjabi poet Amarjit Chandan’s poems in a similar way. Some of those versions are among those included in a collection of his poems, ‘Sonata For Four Hands’, due out very soon from Arc Press. It’s a way of working of course that shows up a fundamental asymmetry – they know English, we don’t know Arabic, Punjabi . . .

Kasid’s first home after he got out of Iraq nearly thirty years ago was in Aden. He lived near to what was Rimbaud’s house, and one of the poems we’re working on, ‘A Volcano’, is dedicated to the poet’s memory. He has translated Rimbaud from French into Arabic and yesterday he told me he identifies with Rimbaud’s wandering lifestyle, having himself like so many others been constantly on the move through force of circumstance, something alluded to in this poem (which was in Shadowtrain a while back):

How could I know
My outbound journey
Could be the way back,
That my dreams were behind me
And I wasn’t only the walking shadow
Of a standing-still man?

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