Climbing the minaret of the mosque of Wazir Khan in the dark by Jim Carruth

30th December 2014

In November 2014 Highlight Arts were in Lahore, Pakistan to work on a translation project with Sang-e-Meel and the British Council in Lahore.

Jim Carruth  the Poet Laureate of Glasgow  (Makar)was one of four poets including, Katherine Sowerby, Afshan Sajjad, and Dr. Khaled Jan Javvaid, who took part in the workshops. This is part of a year long translation project in partnership with the British Council.

From Glasgow to LahoreGreat care is taken to welcome all those who journey to Lahore so the gates in Lahore Fort were built to accommodate those arriving by elephant.

And precision and the journey seem to be the watchwords that have shaped our time here in this vibrant city with a population double that of Scotland.

Whether it is travelling on the main roads with the multi-coloured trucks, rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles, donkeys, tractors, the frenetic flow and lifeblood of the city or walking in the maze of the market street of the old town – this is a great feast for the senses.

The intricacy is everywhere too in the handmade scarves and dresses, or the plaster, the tiles, the multi-coloured frescoes and facades on the ancient mosques– craftsmen working together to create something more. So much beauty here, a symmetry presenting balance and form.

As my fellow Glaswegian poet Kathrine Sowerby mentioned often we were walking without a map so our journey in this city is based on trusting our guide and being open to a surprise round every corner.

No different to our work in translation here. We have trusted  our local poetry guides Khalid Javaid Jan and Afshan Sajjad as they have introduced us to the minute detail and form that creates the music of their Urdu verse – to reveal so many moments too that startle sparkle and surprise.

The challenge for us so much learning, so little time – but what wonderful conversations – each one a journey of sound and sense, full of choices, dead ends, retracings, start agains. So much more fun getting lost without a map.

On Monday evening we agreed to climb one of the minarets of the mosque of Wazir Khan. We were late and it was already dark. There was no lighting so the party in single file climbed the tightly coiled stair case of the tower with just one flashlight at the front. My fear of heights added an extra spice to the journey, that nervous tension increased as step by step we moved up. I following behind, listening intently  to the voice ahead knowing someone had already made the journey in front of me and is that not the essence of translation  and when we reached the top the view, the glimpse of old and new, another poem.

Originally published on Reel Festivals website on November 26th, 2014.

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