Sunday 8 October 2017

Alexandros Plasatis reviews the “Journeys in Translation” event

On Saturday 30th September in the African Caribbean Centre thirteen poems travelled once again into new lands, seeking refuge in more languages, cultures, homes. I was there, in a beautiful dozing off state, listening to all those languages, all of them beautiful. I listened to the poets reading from a poetry anthology, and men and women translating the poems into many other languages: Italian, Shona, German, Arabic, the sign language.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge, edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan, was published by Five Leaves in 2015. It’s an anthology of 102 poems expressing solidarity with the refugees. The proceeds from sales go towards a Refugee Forum and Médecins Sans Frontières, and as we were informed by the editors, the book has made £3000 so far. Not bad for a poetry book.
The first part of the event was chaired by Emma Lee, where each of the chosen thirteen poems were read in English followed by the translation into a different language. So I sat there comfortably, eyes half-closed, unsure of what’s going on around me, dream-like, letting known and unknown words come to me, the sing-song Italian, the melodious German, the fairytaleish Arabic. They finished and I thought, Ah that was nice, when Ambrose Musiyiwa, who was to chair the second part, asked us to form a circle and have a discussion, and I panicked, I thought, Oh shit now I’ve got to talk? It was all right though, I didn’t say a word, I just listened again, others did the talking, and that part was good too, it brought people closer.

One of these 102 poems was written by an Iraqi poet and asylum seeker who lives in Leicester, Malka Al-Haddad, it’s this one below. Gute Nacht.

Children of War

Every child in my land suffers torment of wars.

Every child in my land suckles milk mixed with fear.

I ache, ache from the gun at my side:
your gift, Father, the day before they killed you.

You told me your gun would be my best friend.
It has been with me each day and each night. And still

Every child in my land suffers torrents of wars.

Every child in my land suckles milk mixed with fear.

By Malka Al-Haddad

About the reviewer
Alexandros Plasatis is an immigrant ethnographer who writes fiction in English, his second language. His work has appeared in UK and American anthologies and magazines. He is a volunteer at Leicester City of Sanctuary, where he helps find and develop new creative talent within the refugee and asylum seeker community. He lives in Leicester. 

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