A Bilingual Poetry Collection that Looks at Life through the Lens of Islam

Translator and author Sarah Irving was recently at the launch of Iyad Hayatleh and Tessa Ransford’s bilingual poetry collection, Rug of a Thousand Colours:

By Sarah Irving

417SsNB2h8L._SL500_AA300_As part of Scottish Book Week, the Scottish Writers’ Centre in Glasgow hosted a multi-book launch which included readings from Iyad Hayatleh and Tessa Ransford from their innovative bilingual collection of poetry, Rug of a Thousand Colours, published by Luath Press. The collection features poems written in Arabic by Iyad and in English by Tessa, and then translated collaboratively by the two of them into one another other’s languages.

Each poem is on the theme of one of the pillars of Islam — although, as Iyad Hayatleh insists, this is a collection not about religion but about “Tessa and myself and how we see life through these aspects of Islam, which exist in Christianity as well.” This means that the references range from the Canterbury Tales to the birth of a first son, and the context in which Iyad and Tessa set their work at this time includes a moving dedication by Iyad, a Palestinian refugee who grew up in Syria, to his mother, who has had to flee her home in al-Yarmouk camp in Damascus.

Marc Hudson videoed the event, and separate videos of both the English and Arabic versions of the poems on ‘Testimony’, ‘Prayer’ and Pilgrimage’ can be seen on YouTube:




Sarah Irving is the author of two books, the Bradt Guide to Palestine (Bradt, November 2011) and a biography of Palestinian fighter, politician and women’s rights activist Leila Khaled (Pluto Press, May 2012). I’m also co-author of Gaza: Beneath the Bombs, published by Pluto Press in January 2010. You can follow her on Twitter at @sarahonline_.