Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

Poetry from Iraq and Scotland

Sabreen Kadhim, a young poet from Baghdad who very much dispels any myths linking poetry with dowdiness and cardigans, was supposed to appear at Reel Iraq earlier this year. However, in its infinite stupidity the UK Border Agency denied her a visa, along with several other artists who was scheduled to perform during the festival.

At last, though, Kadhim has made her way to Edinburgh, and earlier today read at Word Power Books along with Krystelle Bamford (whose chapbook, Mosquitoes, is available here). Not only was their poetry – in Arabic, in translation to English, and in original English – beautiful and moving, but we also got to hear a little about the pain and horror of life in Baghdad and how it helps to shape Kadhim’s poetry. And, despite that, we also got to witness how young women the world over, whatever circumstances they live in, write about love, relationships and how irritating men can be, as well as more melancholy subjects.

Reel Festivals have plans for some of the Arabic, Kurdish, English and Scots poems from Reel Iraq, and the translations in each direction, to be published. That is a collection to be eagerly awaited…

Here, meanwhile, is my first foray into videoing live events (something I wasn’t planning to do until I got an urgent text message about 2 hours before the reading was due to start…). It’s not too horrible! It features Kadhim reading Why Write This Poem and Water My Heart With A Jonquil in their original Arabic, followed by Bamford reading the translation of …Jonquil and then her own poem Wake:

12 comments on “Poetry from Iraq and Scotland

  1. mlynxqualey
    August 17, 2013

    Thanks for doing the video!

  2. Sarah Irving
    August 17, 2013

    It’s not too bad if you turn the sound up a bit. Fortunately the appalling music from the pub opposite wasn’t cranked up too high today!

  3. Sarah Irving
    August 17, 2013

    I should probably also add that Sabreen and a whole bunch of Reel Iraq poets, as well as musicians and theatre, will be on at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday evening. This is the blurb: Revel in a special evening of contemporary Iraqi culture, to mark ten years since the invasion of Iraq, with poetry, theatre and music. Featuring acclaimed Iraqi poets Sabreen Kadhim (coming direct from Baghdad) and Ghareeb Iskander, accompanied by new translations from renowned Scotland-based poets Krystelle Bamford, John Glenday, Jen Hadfield and William Letford; compelling theatre from Dina Moussawi and Iraqi Choobi dance music. This event is supported in part by Creative Scotland and LIFT Festival. And details are available here: And it’s FREE!

  4. Pingback: Watch Iraqi Poet Sabreen Kadhim Read at Word Power « Arabic Literature (in English)

  5. beckykilsby
    August 19, 2013

    Thanks, I so enjoyed hearing the Arabic and then a ‘translation’.

    • Sarah Irving
      August 19, 2013

      Glad you liked it! There are more similar recordings of Reel Iraq poetry events on the festival’s YouTube profile here:

      • beckykilsby
        August 19, 2013

        Thanks Sarah, that’s great. Any idea how I can get hold of a copy of Sabreen’s poetry.. especially the English translation?

      • beckykilsby
        August 19, 2013

        Thanks Sarah, that’s great. Any idea how I can get hold of Sabreen’s poetry? Especially the English translation of ‘Watering my Heart with a Jonquil’?

      • Sarah Irving
        August 19, 2013

        Reel Festivals are planning to bring some kind of book out – I don’t know if it’s print or just an e-book as they did for Reel Syria – so best way to hear about it is probably to keep an eye out on their website/twitter feed.

      • beckykilsby
        August 19, 2013

        Thanks Sarah, will do

  6. Korg
    August 29, 2013

    I agree..its a good video, and the poems are beautiful, too. Thanks for bringing them into the light!

  7. Pingback: A Bird Is Not A Stone | adadeh

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