New year. Will old rage fuel new hope?
Why publish this poem again now? Thirst was translated by Clare Pollard in 2017, but Asha Lul Mohamud Yusuf wrote it earlier. After more than two decades in the UK, she has plenty to say about the political climate there, and in the country of her birth, Somalia. In a hostile environment, when the sea between the islands of Britain and mainland Europe is getting wider, it’s time to listen to her again.
As Yusuf herself says, she would rather that her home be known not for its wars, but for its rich poetic heritage. Somali gabays, drawing on centuries of oral tradition, political commentary, complex form and devices such as alliteration. This noble tradition has rightly been compared to Old English poetry; Pollard was encouraged to use the same alliteration in her translation because of Simon Armitage’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Here it is in the title poem of Yusuf and Pollard’s book:
Want to know how this ends? You can hear Yusuf and Pollard reading the whole thing, and more, here. Yusuf paints a picture of how different things can be, in her poem The Rain that Stops the Caravan:
The Sea Migrations: Tahriib is published by Bloodaxe Books, in collaboration with the Poetry Translation Centre. Read it: it will fuel your hope for the new year.