The Saudi Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission recently hosted a virtual meeting to discuss the history and art of translating poetry.

Titled “Strategies for Translating Poetry,” the event was held as part of the Year of Arabic Poetry celebrations. It was attended by a number of experts, including writers Bandar Al-Harbi and Waad Al-Otaibi, and poet Sharif Baqna.

The meeting began by establishing the general history of Arabic poetry translation, its evolution and impact. The experts discussed how the essence of poems can be translated beyond the literal text and highlighted the challenges that process involved.

They made reference to the attempts by a group of experts to translate the 10 “Mu’allaqat,” or “The Hanging Poems.” The panelists focused on the different methods used to reflect historical developments, and present new and lively content that aligned with the language of the times.

The meeting aimed to create awareness of the craft of translation, which is an essential medium in transmitting culture, knowledge, creativity and art. The panel agreed that translators must have a deep understanding of the source language, fluency in the target language, and extensive knowledge of a variety of literary tools and artistic techniques to ensure each poem is accurately reproduced.

Anyone wishing to become a translator should begin by translating short works or excerpts of longer pieces and present their efforts for review by experts or on social media, they said.