The Lonely Earth by Kajal Ahmad

Featuring: Kajal Ahmad, Choman Hardi, Mimi Khalvati

My first reaction on receiving Choman Hardi's literal translations of Kajal Ahmed's poems was how good they were, and how little I would seemingly have to do! I think it helped enormously that Choman is such a good poet herself and, in these first versions, had already caught much of the rhythm and tone of Kajal's work. The sweetness and simplicity of the voice, the political and personal passion, the directness and immediacy of the address, were qualities that struck me most, and which I decided were the most important to preserve. I also liked Kajal's sense of humour and the fable-like quality of the poems, evoking so clearly her cultural heritage. In my translations, I also wanted to preserve some sense of the Kurdish language, while helping the poems to sit naturally in English.

Some of Kajal's metaphors translated literally seem either melodramatic or just wierd in English, eg. ‘the igniter of lightning', the radio of thunder', ‘the eraser of dryness's notebook', ‘the revitaliser of the world' (in ‘Rain'). In some cases, I tried to lighten such metaphors by using similes instead or, in the case of extended metaphors (and how lovely to come across them, so rarely used now in English poetry), to make sure that the logic of both tenor and vehicle was sustained throughout (as in ‘Birds'); à propos of this, I loved Choman's frustrated exclamation in the workshop: "Why is English so logical?"

From Translating Kajal Ahmad by Mimi Khalvati