Travelling through someone else’s dreams by Afshan Sajjad

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.

Afshin Sajjad was one of four poets including Jim Carruth  the Poet Laureate of Glasgow  (Makar), Katherine Sowerby, 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.

Afshan Sajjad reading at ‘Lahore to Glasgow: New Poetry in Translation’ at the Alhamra Art Centre in Lahore

November 26th was a very pleasant and cool evening in Lahore. We were together to present our own poetry and the translation of each other’s poems at the final event of ‘Lahore to Glasgow: New Poetry in Translation’ at the Alhamra Art Centre in Lahore. Hall 3 at the Alhamra centre was full of a university students and art and literature lovers. The response of audience to our poems was overwhelming. Famous Singer Rafaqat Ali Khan graciously concluded the event with his singing of some translated poems. There was no formal question answer session after the event, however at the reception people mingled with each other, and listening to their encouraging comments and appreciation was very rewarding for me. Pakistani media was also present for the coverage of the event.

The project began only four days previously, on November 22nd, when we had met at Pearl Continental Hotel Lahore for the first time, followed by four daylong sessions on the roof of Sung e Meel Publications. Our one on one discussion and long conversations about our poetry enabled us to discover same level of sensitivity and social awareness in the poetry of all four poets from lands far apart. Katherine Sowerby chose my two poems ‘I am Malala’ and ‘Lamp in the sun’ to translate because it wasn’t hard for her to relate to those topics. Jim Curruth found two of my poems ‘Seven seas apart’ and Beauty of Lahore’ interesting to translate because in his own words “We also have some pollution problems and lakes and rivers which need improvement, back home in Glasgow.”

I found Katherine’s poems both different and intricate. They contained abstract images in them. I enjoyed translating her poem ‘Only the Trees’  – it was just like travelling through someone else’s dreams.

The poetry of Jim’s that I worked on focused more on social and political awareness. A deep sense of sorrow also ran through it. I tried to translate into Urdu the compassion, rhythm and flow of his poem ‘Dancer’ which was written in memory of a girl who was a victim of gang rape in India.

Dan and Ryan’s friendly and positive approach made it possible for all of us, Dr. Khalid Javed Jan, Jim Curroth, Katherine Sowerby, Afshan Sajjad, Dan Gorman, Ryan Van Winkle, Ali, Abdullah, Talha, to come closer like a family in a span of only five days.

(L-R Ali Kamran; Dr Khalid Jan; Ryan Van Winkle; Talha Iqbal; Afshan Sajjad; Jim Carruth; Kathrine Sowerby; Dan Gorman) taken on the roof of Sang e Meel

Originally published on Reel Festivals website on December 8th, 2014.

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