Poetry Muse: Leïla Tahir + Trente poèmes pour enfants

April 5, 2022

This week on Poetry Muse we are joined by Leïla Tahir, the translator of Jawdat Fakhreddine's poetry book Trente poèmes pour enfants (Bookland Press). Leïla shares in our Q&A when she started translating poetry, and what her creative process was when she began translating. 

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Who is your muse?

As a translator from Arabic to French, my muse is above all the poems I am translating.


What inspired you when you started translating this poetry collection? And what is your creative process when you begin translating? 

I am very fond of children’s literature, especially of books that bring poetry to children’s lives. I first reread the most poetic children’s books from my bookshelves to immerse myself in this word in French, and find the right mood and rhythm to convey the meaning and the feelings carried by the Arabic poems. Besides, I read the original poetry collection many times before beginning the translation. Then, the French poems come first naturally. In a second phase, to respect the metrics and prosody adopted by the writer in Arabic, I rewrite the lines to provide the same kind of experience to children reading the poems in French.


When did you start translating poetry and why did you choose to translate this particular poetry book?

The only other poem that I translated was the one I wrote myself. This book was my first attempt to translate poetry. I chose these poems for children because I love the genre and I loved the book when I first read it. When you translate for children, you know that you have to be bold to engage them, that makes you dare more.


How would you describe this poetry collection? 

These poems make you want to contemplate nature through the window and run to the closest forest. They are filled with genuine children feelings expressed in a lyrical way. If I have to describe it in 3 words, I would say lively, colourful, galvanizing.


What advice would you give to aspiring translators?

Translate it if you can feel it.


Are there any poets, translators or poetry collections that you admire? 

In Arabic, Mahmoud Darwich, and in French, Aimé Césaire.


Does music inspire you when you start translating poetry? 

For these children’ poems, Anne Sylvestre’s songs were constantly in my mind, especially Géogaphie (Listen here on Spotify) and Balaie l’eau  (Listen here on Spotify)


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Leïla Tahir, diplômée en langue et littérature arabes et en traduction, a traduit de l’arabe Ramallah, mon amour de Mahmoud Abou Hashhash (avec Emma Aubin, éd. Galaade), Presqu’île arabe de Salwa Al-Neimi (éd. Robert Laffont) et L’affaissement du temps et la mort du sens d’Ala Hlehel in Un royaume d’olives et de cendres (éd. Robert Laffont). Elle pense depuis longtemps qu’il n’y a pas d’âge pour lire des contes et des livres pour enfants.

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During the month of April, you can buy Trente poèmes pour enfants and any one of our other featured Poetry Muse books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada with promo code ALUPOETRYMUSE. Or find them at your local independent bookstore! 

Keep up with us all month on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook with the hashtag #ALUPoetryMuse.


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