The world is becoming political with every passing year and resultantly we are building boundaries among different nations of the world. These boundaries can be physical and nonphysical. For any person it is not possible to cross the geographical boundaries until he doesn’t have special permission in form of visa; but there is a way through which we can break down all these boundaries among different nations. It is only art which makes all physical and nonphysical barriers meaningless and unites every human being, making it irrelevant in which part of the world he or she is living. Art is the only language that all humans share in common. The form of this art may be different; it may be painting, performing or literature.

Highlight Arts is an organisation which collaborates with artists living in different countries to celebrate diversity, build solidarity and create dialogue with audiences internationally. It organises live events to explore alternative stories through direct interaction and shared experiences. Previously the organisation has collaborated with artists from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq & Afghanistan in order to present a different perspective on those countries and cultures beyond the common coverage of them in traditional media, which can be shared and felt by audiences around the world. Recently with efforts of The British Council, Highlight Arts combined four poets together – two from Glasgow and two from Lahore – at a four-day workshop for translation and collaborative poetry experiments titled `Glasgow to Lahore: New Poems in Translation`, in partnership with Reel Arts and Sang-i-Meel. The poets came from Glasgow were Jim Carruth and Katherine Sowbery and poets from Lahore were Dr Khalid Javed Jan and Afshan Sajjad. These poets presented their translated work before the audience at Alhamra Arts Council, Lahore. The poets recited their poems and also the translation which they did during the four-day workshop. Speaking at the event Punjab British Council Director Kevin Mclaven said that the literary project was aimed to expand the interaction of people belong to the field of art and literature.

Daniel Gorman and Ryan Van Winkle were the representative of Highlight Arts in this event. Talking exclusively with Sunday Plus, Daniel Gorman said that they brought poets from Glasgow so that they could work with Pakistani poets and these poets could build relations with each other. He said, “The aim of this programme is to showcase the more diversified Pakistan in the UK and give audience the chance to see the interaction between poets and the art of translation. These translations are not like the exact translation but the new versions of the poems. So we asked these poets to be free with the work as much as possible so that these should not be merely the translation but their poems. It is collaboration.” When asked that how they selected the poets from Pakistan and what the criteria was? He replied, “There are many many amazing and wonderful poets in Pakistan. But we researched a lot, talked to lot of people and there were dozens and dozens of recommendations and it was really hard to select for these two slots. It was based on the quality of their work, their enthusiasm for this project and their commitment to work. We chose these two people. But there are still many poets with whom we will love to work and for that we will come again. Similarly, it was also very difficult to make selection in Glasgow as well.”

Ryan Van Winkle added to this question and said, “During selection we preferred those poets who are not super famous but they are specifically working in Urdu.” Talking about the response of Pakistani people and their trip to Pakistan he said with smile on his face, “It has been a wonderful time in Pakistan. The Pakistani people are very generous. It is valuable experience not only for organizers but also for poets as well from both sides. At the end of this event there was live performance of Rafaqat Ali Khan, who incorporated the translated poetry in his songs. Above mentioned four poets talked to Sunday plus exclusively. Following are the excerpts of brief interviews.

Kathrine Sowerby

Kathrine Sowerby is a Glasgow based poet with a background in fine art. A graduate of Glasgow School of Art's MFA programme and Glasgow University's MLitt in Creative Writing, her poems and translations have most recently been published in Gutter, Northwords Now, New Writing Scotland, Poetry Salzburg Review, Aesthetica, Yonder Awa, A Bird is not a Stone and online at Anomalous Press and her book length poem ‘Unnecessarily Emphatic’ was transcribed for theatre and performed in New York. She has been a runner up in the Edwin Morgan and the Wigtown Poetry Competitions and received a 2012/13 New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust.

What is your feedback about this project?

It was a really a wonderful experience. Although it was very hectic but working with other poets very closely and talking about their poems and understanding what they mean and how the language works was a fabulous exercise. There was lot of information which we shared with each other. Besides, we also visited Lahore and enjoyed its diversity. Here people are very welcoming and kind.

What differences did you find between Urdu poetry and English poetry?

We talked about forms of poetry. There is strict form of poetry but we also have free verse in English and there is less restriction in it. The main difference which I found is that in Urdu the poems seem longer and full of double meaning and in English it is shorter poem to say the same thing. When I will go home I will read more about Urdu poetry and will learn more about it.

Translation loses the true spirit of original work. What are your views?

Of course it could be a different poem after translation but the way we worked here, speaking to the poets and getting to know about the poets’ personalities and checking all the time if we understood correctly is somewhat different. We translated poems and we weren’t just transferring the meaning but also captured the real essence. It can’t be a true translation, a different poem. But I think you can keep the spirit.

What are the essential elements of translation?

For translation like in such events you have to be good listener and needs lot of patience also. We worked for literal translation and then talking all the time to the poets and understanding what they were trying to say and making changes in your notes.

Sometimes literal translation doesn’t convey any sense and you have to forget that and absorb in the true spirit of that poem and get the idea what the poet wants to say. Literal translation sometimes doesn’t convey that dramatic situation and emotion which the poem has. During these four days workshop I found it very helpful that the poets read their poems and I could hear the emotion in their voice.

Anything you want say for our readers?

I hope the people will enjoy the new poems as much as I enjoyed working on them.

Jim Carruth

Jim Carruth was born in 1963 in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, and grew up on his family’s farm near Kilbarchan. He has had six well-received pamphlet collections of poetry since his first, Bovine Pastoral in 2004. He has won both the James McCash poetry competition and McLellan poetry prize and was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2009. In 2005 he was one of the founders of St Mungo’s Mirrorball, the network of Glasgow poets which he chairs. He is also the current artistic adviser for Stanza – Scotland’s International Poetry festival. He has been involved in many poetry projects, including editing an anthology for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and having his words etched in stone as part of Andy Scott’s Kelpies sculpture. He was appointed Glasgow Poet Laureate in July 2014 in succession to Liz Lochhead and Edwin Morgan. His most recent collection was Prodigal which was published by Mariscatin 2014.

What is your feedback about the project?

I came to Pakistan for the first time and the experience of working with two gifted poets was great. A lot of discussion was done on the form, background, and tried to capture that in English was a lovely challenge.

How much you were successful in translating the poems.

I think the form of the poem might be different but the passions and the message are transferred. The beauty of this project was the conversation with poets whose works you were translating. It was not that you were translating the work of someone who had died 300 hundred years ago. Here you could ask him that this was you wanted to say? In such translations words might slightly different but the spirit is the same.

You can’t read Urdu then how did you translate the poem?

They gave us a basic, non poetic translation of the poems in English. Secondly, both the poets could speak English and we spent a lot of time listening to them. I just followed how it was read and felt the passions in the poems. I translated and tried to catch the movement and passions in ‘I am a Rebel’.

How did you find Urdu poetry?

It was awe. I really enjoyed the poetry.

Say few words about such events?

I think such events are good to find the common grounds in poetry, it can convey message to the people. Such events should be encouraged.

Your message for the readers.

Poetry gives your voice on page and that makes it universal.

Afshan Sajjad

Afshan Sajjad is an educator and poet. She is currently the Head of the Urdu Department at Lahore American School, where she has been teaching High School students for the past eight years. She has widely published her poetry in Urdu magazines, and is the author of an Urdu poetry book by the name of ‘Jo Dil Pe Guzarti Hai.’ She has also served as a judge of poetry recitation competitions, participated in various Mushaayeras and has written Urdu songs as well as scripts for some plays in school. She holds a masters degree in Urdu from Punjab University, Lahore.

What is your feedback about this workshop?

It was a very interesting experience and I enjoyed very much. The four days workshops made it clear that a poet may belong to any country or region, their thinking pattern is the same. When I read their work, initially I felt it quite different and it took me some time to understand that because their style of poetry is different. But when I spent some time with them and we conversed with each other things became clear. In fact their poetry is more of abstract especially of Kathrine Sowerby. It was like images of some dream.

How much are you successful in translating poems into Urdu?

Initially it seemed impossible because the time frame was very short. But the pressure of deadline also helped to complete the task. I translated poems in closed verse rather to translate it verse to verse or word to word. It was a challenge for me, which I accepted and enjoyed. It was a successful project because they didn’t hand over only the content for translation but they also provided us the opportunity to talk to each other. We spent a lot of time together in these four days and we had tried to understand the background of the particular poems and only in that way we could able to translate each other works. It helped us more.

How do you see the effort for such projects?

I appreciate these people that they came here, did some effort and because of them some of our things will go in other parts of the world and their ideas will reach here. I encourage such events and these should be organized on regular basis. Such events also convey the soft image of Pakistan.

How do you see the phenomena that our younger generation is alienating with Urdu Literature?

Our children don’t know any language. They neither know English literature nor Urdu literature. And literature is the thing which makes you human, it sensitises you; either it is Urdu, English or literature of any other language. It is very sad that life has become very fast and people don’t have time to read literature. And because of that anxiety has increased in our society; that is why beautiful things are vanishing from our lives. We should promote literature and language at any cost.

How can we promote Urdu literature?

To promote language it is very essential to attach some benefits with that. People should get jobs, respect and employment because of that language. It is only then people will learn that particular language. But if you know that if an application written in Urdu can’t fetch you a job in some good office then why people will learn it. In fact we all get education to secure good jobs.

Dr. Khalid Javaid

Dr. Khalid Javaid Jan is a writer and documentary filmmaker. He is the author of 5 books of poetry and 15 books on medical and political subjects. His book “Main Baghi Hoon” was translated into many languages. His poetry took a turn when the military dictator, Gen. Zia ul Haq, imposed Martial Law in Pakistan in 1977 and hanged the elected PM Z.A. Bhutto, Dr. Jan wrote his best known poem – “Main Baghi Hoon” (I am a Rebel). This soon became a poem of resistance against oppression and social evils. As a result he was imprisoned and tortured by the military regime, with his arm and leg broken. This poem is still widely read among students, labourers and political activists.

What are your views about this project?

It is a new thing and I appreciate it very much. It will remove the image that Pakistan is an unsafe country and there are terrorists living here. Such events will strength the soft image of Pakistan. These people have worked on many such projects in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq to bring their soft image to the world. When this work will publish in other countries they will come to know that how Pakistani intellectuals are thinking. They will come to know that we are not isolated from the world but we are very much part of it.

What are the differences which you observed in their poetry and ours?

Poetry and literature develops with different issues and circumstance. In every literature there are some local issues and some international like war, poverty etc. ‘I am Rebel’ was written keeping in view of local issues when there was an atmosphere of tyranny. In their poetry there are imaginations and fascinations because they are not facing the issues which we have in our country. There are wishes for better to best in their poetry.

How much did you people achieve in these four days?

We tried our best to come close to each other. We can go near to each other but there is no match with the original. But something is better. In such translation technique may be bit different but the real message of that poem is translated. And this was only possible because we weren’t translating each other works in isolation. We were doing this exercise after long discussions with each other. I explained my poems that why I wrote these and what were the circumstances. Similarly, they explained their work that what the background was when they wrote their poem.

How can we gain maximum from such projects and events?

I think time should not be constraint like it was in this event. Jim and Kathrine came to Pakistan for the first time. They could not read or understand Urdu. So they should have got some more time for interaction. Even though we also required more time but we were in some comfort zone because of the fact that we can read and understand English. To get more from such events, sufficient time for discussions should be provided for better understanding.

How can we promote Urdu language?

It is not only Urdu but Punjabi also needs to be promoted. The first is our national language and the later is our mother tongue. When a person has good command over mother tongue then learning other languages becomes easy for him. It is a recognised fact that the literature of dominating nation is read. To promote Urdu language we have to attach good jobs with it. This time British Council took the initiative but our government should also encourage such activities.