Friday Finds: Poetry by 2 Iraqi Women, Adapted to English

“Definitions” by Nadia al-Katib and “A Shadow” by Nermeen Al Mufti were co-translated  by Amir al-Azraki and Jennifer Jean, and appeared in a recent issue of The Common:

These are perhaps more adaptations than translations. These, Jean writes in her introduction, “are co-translated poems, which means that Amir Al-Azraki (who grew up in Iraq and speaks Arabic fluently) and I worked together to fashion these translations. He would do a raw translation, send it to me, then I would tinker with it using a variety of poetic devices employed in American English poetries.”

Jean goes on, usefully, to talk through her choices:

In “Definitions” all my editorial decisions were guided by the speaker’s urge to define. The raw translation: “My tale, a maiden/ Not led by innocence” became “My story? I’m a girl/ tempted.”

Meanwhile, in “A Shadow”:

Punctuation was actually a key to this piece–my additions worked with much of the raw translation so that the finished version sounded more natural in American English. But, I also made sure to keep some linguistic strangenesses: “Will they seize my shadow?” Whenever I do this, it makes me feel like translation work can stretch English because it’s very difficult to lean on expected phrases when translating.

Read both in English and Arabic:

Definitions / تعاريف by Nadia Al-Katib

A Shadow / ظل by Nermeen Al Mufti