On Translating the Work of a Deceased Poet

A Bird Is Not A Stone

By Telche Abu Sulttan

Upon completing the bridge translation of Qarqati’s poem, ‘bayt fi washm al-kharif’, reworked as ‘A Home with Fall’s Brand’ by Harry Giles, the translation numbered ten pages and I was feeling increasingly anxious about a decision to condense the poem.

I had been warned by (co-editor) Sarah Irving, prior to beginning translation, that Qarqati’s was an unusually long poem and that I should consider which verses I may want to omit. After several initial readings of the poem however, I found myself bewildered and besotted – attached to every word and dash. The literary complexity and experimental nature of the poem made any attempts at reducing the poem unworkable, especially when striving to keep faith with the original. But ten pages really was just too long.

In moments away from my faithful friend Hans Wehr (A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic) – battered and bearing the…

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