Palestinian poetry performed in Scots and English - watch and listen

The recent launches of A Bird is Not a Stone, a collection of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland, gave audiences in Glasgow and Edinburgh the rare chance to hear Palestinian verse performed in both the Arabic original and in translation.

Now, video and audio recordings from the Edinburgh launch have been released by the publishers.

Most unusual is an audio recording of a poem by Faisal al-Qarqati read by Scots poet Harry Giles and Palestinian translator and educator Abla Oudeh. Instead of the usual format of the original poem read in Arabic followed by the translation (or vice versa), Giles and Oudeh alternate short sections, emphasising the strong rhythms of this long, atmospheric piece.

Harry Giles’ translation is in an old form of literary Scots which he felt fit well with the formal Arabic of the original; while it might sound alien to most English-speakers, his advice to “narrow your ears” the way one might narrow one’s eyes to look at the sun might help!

Oudeh also performed alongside the Scottish Makar (poet laureate) Liz Lochhead; this video of their readings of Tareq al-Karmy’s poetry starts with Lochhead talking about her experiences of the initial meeting at the House of Poetry in al-Bireh in Palestine which gave birth to A Bird is Not a Stone:

Despite the British government’s recent denial of visas to cultural professionals from Palestine, it is hoped that two of the Palestinian poets who contributed to the anthology will be taking parts in events in Scotland and England later in 2014.


Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.