The Poetry Society recently announced the the six-book shortlist of the Ted Hughes Award. Al-Saddiq al-Raddi’s He Tells Tales of Meroe, crafted into English with poet Sarah Maguire, is the only “translated” title on the list:
Maguire is not listed as a translator for her work on the shortlisted dual-language collection, He Tells Tales of Meroe, but rather as a “poet-translator.” Maguire is not an Arabic reader, but instead helped al-Raddi re-birth the poems in English.
Maguire has said in a previous interview with ArabLit that this doesn’t mean putting her own talents on display, but that such poet-to-poet translations “are based on the principle that the most important person is the international poet. British poets who work with us are asked to put their talents at the service of the poet whom they’ve been commissioned to translate. We are not interested in fancy show-off versions of poetry which are more about the poet who produces them than the original poet.”
Al-Raddi wrote the collected works while he was poet-in-residence at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London.
According to the Poetry Society website:
The collection presents eight new poems in Arabic and English which were inspired by the museum’s collection of material from Meroe in Sudan, and one poem translated by Mark Ford from an earlier project. The poems are accompanied by photographs of the objects that inspired them, and recordings of the poems in both languages are also available as part of the project.
The prize was judged by poets Jackie Kay and Andrew McMillan along with novelist Ali Smith. McMillan said, as part of a prepared release: “What I can say, with utter confidence, is this is a shortlist that looks like no other; a shortlist that has brought pieces of work that might otherwise have gone unrecognised into conversation with each other…”
The other five shortlisted collections are:
Chris Beckett for Sketches from the Poem Road (Hagi Press)
Elizabeth Burns for Clay (Wayleave Press)
Kate Clanchy for We Are Writing a Poem about Home (BBC Radio 3)
David Morley for The Invisible Gift: Selected Poems (Carcanet)
Carole Satyamurti for Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling (W.W. Norton & Co.)
The winner is set to be announced March 31 along with the winners of England’s National Poetry Competition.
Some of Al-Raddi’s poetry in English translation: