Haji, for those who don’t know him, is a Syrian-Kurdish poet and translator. He was born in 1977 in Amouda, a Kurdish town in northern Syria, and has translated, among others, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into Arabic.
“To translate poetry well, you need to know what’s going on in the world, and that your roots are everywhere, in all continents. Translation is not just moving the words from language to language; it’s also the movement of the shadow of meaning, how you must be precise to capture the sensations, the images. You are unaware when you have changed, and you don’t know how.”
His first collection of poetry in Arabic, Called in Darkness (2004), won the Al-Maghut prize in poetry. His second book of poetry, Someone Sees You as a Monster (2008), was published during the event celebrating Damascus as the Capital of culture in 2008. His most recent collection, My Cold Faraway Home, was published in 2013 in Beirut. He lived in Damascus but fled in 2011 and has now settled in France.
From a poem I assume is included in his new collection, “Autumn Here is Magical and Vast,” trans. Stephen Watts:
Our dreams remember our dreams.
Like drenched cats we took shelter under the tree when it rained
and big droplets put out our cigarettes.
Flashlights moved across the theater of clouds.
The hankies were sodden. Chairs were abandoned
where I waited for your hand.
Roots lifted the pavement slabs in front of us
and I concealed your craving on my shoulder
like the tattoo of an unfulfilled desire.
On October 23, Haji will be in conversation with Syrian actor Ammar Haj Ahmad. According to organizers, “the talk will focus on the relationship between poetry and politics, and the act of translation, as well as reflections on how the ongoing events in Syria have affected Haji’s work and creative output.”
According to the Mosaic Rooms, there will be readings in both Arabic and English. More on the event.
More Golan Haji:
Haji on WWB: A Note on Syrian Poetry Today
On ArabLit: From the event ‘Syria Speaks‘