A Bird is Not a Stone Edited by Henry Bell and Sarah Irving (Freight Books, Glasgow) is the first major collection of contemporary Palestinian poetry translated by some of Scotland’s finest writers and poets. As the stench of Faragism still hangs in the air, this is a beautiful and timely expression of cultural solidarity and internationalism.
The poems, by 25 Palestinian artists, were translated using the ”bridge’ method, in which Scottish poets worked from literal translations to create new ‘versions’ of the works in Scots, Gaelic, Shetlandic and English. Translating poets include Liz Lochead, Alasdair Gray, Jackie Kay, James Robertson, Kathleen Jamie, Aonghas MacNeacail, DM Black, Tom Pow, Ron Butlin, Christine De Luca, John Glenday and Jen Hadfield from original work by Tareq al-Karmy, Zuhair Abu Shaib, Bisan Abu Khaled, Yousef Abdul-Aziz, Salim al-Nafar and many more.
It’s refreshing to step outside the referendum debate and get some perspective. As Liz Lochhead writes after visiting the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem of four thousand people: “It’s Apartheid. The State of Israel denies human rights to Palestinians. Denies that they are human beings.”
The Palestinian poets were selected by the House of Poetry in al-Bireh, the Palestinian partner project. The idea was to highlight the work of writers who had been published in Arabic, but who had rarely, if ever, been translated into other languages.
This is a unique exchange giving insight into the emotional reality of today’s Palestine. In an era of information-overload, poetry is establishing a new essential role, and this book exemplifies it. Switch off the computer and enjoy it. As Maya Abu Al-Hayyat says:
“As a result of technological development, the media is not so far from an everyday control of our emotions and beliefs. And so you cannot confirm anything absolutely by yourself when surrounded by this surfeit of images and influence. If you are controlled by these outside images then logically you cannot believe anything. All this reflects to a great extent on poetry, not only in Palestine but in the entire world. Poems are full of doubt, undermining solid logic, highlighting absurdity beyond truth, and focusing on the untruthfulness of absolute facts”.
Next: Paradise Road by Stephen O’Donnell, published by Ringwood Publishing., Glasgow