Sudanese poet Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi on Creativity, Politics, and Translation

En Liang Khong recently talked to Sudanese poet Al-Saddiq al-Raddi for the New Statesman; al-Raddi was recently fired as cultural editor of al-Sudani because of his politics. But, he told the NS:

“…that won’t stop me from speaking my mind.”

Al-Raddi is in London, for a residency, through the end of October, and will be speaking and reading at the Mosaic Rooms on the 18th.  For now, according to the NS, he is “exploring the culture of the ancient Sudanese kingdom of Meroe…as the basis for a new series of poems.”

Al-Raddi said that orality, and public readings, remain an important part of his work:

“The older poets who influenced me had their work read and sung in public. And I have spent 27 years travelling to readings in Sudan’s cities, increasingly enriching my own vision.”

Al-Raddi was also recently a part of the massive “Poetry Parnassus” event in London, and told the Statesman he particularly enjoyed, “The interaction between poets and translators” which “is a chance to look at how poetry is dealt with in different cultures, the chance to build real friendships”

Al-Raddi has apparently been deeply involved in the translation of his poetry:

“I first started with the Sudanese language expert Hafiz Kheir, working towards a literal translation,” Al-Raddi explains, “and I ensured he grasped my meaning and voice.” Hafiz Kheir, who’d grown up with Al-Raddi, brought his poetry to the attention of the Poetry Translation Centre. Since then, the translation of Al-Raddi’s poetry has also involved the language experts Sabry Hafez, Atel Alshaer and the poets Mark Ford and Sarah Maguire, with all these different backgrounds contributing to an increasingly diversified collection of his translated poems.

Al-Raddi also has other interests in translation:

In 2006, he set up his own project gathering writers in Arabic from northern Sudan and writers in English from the south (a linguistic divide since British rule) to translate each other’s work – a dialogue that grew out of the official ending of the Second Sudanese civil war and the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. “I wanted to demonstrate how creative translation can ease political conflicts to enable people to coexist more peacefully”.

He also notes: “Perhaps one way of potentially breaching the gap between English and Arabic would be to support these local [Sudanese] languages. Building a small 500-word Nubian-Arabic dictionary would be a step in an interesting direction.”

More al-Raddi:

A selection of poetry; includes “An Image” and “Lost,” trans. Hafiz Kheir and Mark Ford

Another selection; includes “A Monkey at the Window,” trans. Hafiz Kheir and Sarah Maguire

A blog about seeing al-Raddi in London by Fiona Moore: “This is the sort of poet for whose work one wants to learn a language. ”

The Mosaic Rooms and the Poetry Translation Centre present an evening with the acclaimed Sudanese poet Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi on Thursday 18th October, 7pm. This is a FREE event,

Richard Lea interview with al-Raddi, oddly titled ‘There is a Sudanese culture