Back from an unforgettable 5 days in Lahore, Pakistan working on a Highlight Arts/British Council project that linked 2 poets from Glasgow, myself and Jim Carruth, with 2 poets from Lahore, Afshan Sajjad and Dr Khalid Javaid Jan. Dan Gorman and Ryan van Winkle from Highlight Arts (what was Reel Festivals) have previously collaborated with artists in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan and I was over the moon when they invited me along.
In the upstairs rooms of Sang-e-Meel bookshop and publishers, we took turns to work in pairs from literal translations, talking about the meaning of the poems and the differences between English and Urdu, poetic traditions and politics. Tangents were followed, sometimes taking us to places that made it easier to understand where the poets and poems were coming from and also giving us a deeper understanding of our own work.
At the final event at Alhamra cultural centre we read our original poems and translations and it was wonderful to hear the appreciative noises and comments from the audience made up of artists, poets, friends and family, journalists and translation students. The final act was the singer Rafaqat Ali Khan‘s interpretative performance of 2 of our translations accompanied by musicians playing tabla drums and the harmonium. He turned Afshan’s translation of ‘Only the Trees’, a quiet poem of mine, into something quite magical.