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Maged Zaher on Translating Seven Poets of the Arab Spring in The Tahrir of Poems
Seattle’s The Stranger writes about their own Maged Zaher, who has edited an anthology of Egyptian poets called The Tahrir of Poems. The book features seven poets, all of whom participated in the Arab Spring. Great piece. An excerpt, from writer Paul Constant:
…Finally, five years after that first clumsy act of translation over the internet, Zaher has published The Tahrir of Poems, a slender collection of short works. (Tahrir also marks a significant milestone for another Seattle literary treasure: It’s the first bound volume from local chapbook publisher Alice Blue Books. Zaher is pleased with the editorial collaboration with Alice Blue publisher Amber Nelson, and he’s glad the authors and publishers of the book are “the same generation,” with everyone ranging from 25 to 35 years of age.)
Now that he’s undertaken a five-year intensive course in translation, what has Zaher learned? Firstly, he says it’s important to address each poem completely in one sitting. “There is a moment when you become one with the poem,” he explains. It’s a “poetic moment when you get the poem deeply,” and when that moment happens, you have to translate every single word. “You don’t leave anything undone,” he warns, or the moment—and maybe the entire translation—will be ruined. Once the first pass at translation is complete, he would let the poem sit for a time before reinvestigating and revising. Finally, he’d collaborate with the poets and incorporate their notes. Zaher has grown to enjoy the process; he has several translation projects in the works right now.
The only connections that bind all seven writers in Tahrir are their age and country of origin; they don’t even share a single language. . . .