Saturday March 5, 2016 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM EST
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Smith Center for Healing & the Arts 
1632 U St NW
Washington, DC 20009

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Shatha Almutawa 
Split This Rock 

“Faithful” Translation: An Interactive Workshop with Kareem James Abu-Zeid 

In this practical workshop, participants will have a chance to delve into the nitty-gritty of translating poetry across a cultural and linguistic divide. With a single relatively short Arabic poem as their starting point, each participant will produce their own English translation from “trots” (a thick literal translation) and a phonetic transcription of the Arabic text—no prior knowledge of Arabic is needed. We will then edit the translations together, considering their strengths and weaknesses. This hands-on approach will entail going over some of the frequently forgotten cardinal rules of literary translation, as well as discussing what exactly it means to be “faithful” to a text. All are welcome to attend this fun and interactive workshop, which will be beneficial to anyone interested in the craft of translation, regardless of linguistic background.

About Kareem James Abu-Zeid

Half American and half Egyptian, Kareem James Abu-Zeid was born in Kuwait in 1981, and has lived an itinerant life across the Middle East, Europe, and the US. He is a prolific and award-winning translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world, and also works as a freelance translator of German and French texts. He is currently completing his PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, with a focus on spirituality and modern poetry.

About Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016 is a book arts and cultural festival organized for January through March 2016, throughout the Washington, D.C. area. Exhibits, programs, and events will commemorate the 2007 bombing of Baghdad’s historic bookselling street, and celebrate the free exchange of ideas and knowledge, to stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq, who have endured so much; and with people at home and abroad who are unable to make their voices heard. Book sellers, who survived the bombing, rebuilt their stores and are once again in business. They sell works by Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, and Jews, children's books, and progressive publications from around the world.

The Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project began as a call from San Francisco poet Beau Beausoleil in 2007 for writers, and it quickly moved on to incorporate artists, artist books and printmakers all who are responding to bear witness to a tragic loss of a center of literacy and humanity in Iraq. Al-Mutanabbi Street was a street of booksellers, printers, and readers, a street where people still felt “safe” among all the words and books. This is the project’s starting point: where language, thought, and reality reside; where memory, ideas, and even dreams wait patiently in their black ink. 

Project Partners:

George Mason University’s School of Art and George Mason University Libraries, Split This Rock, Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, McLean Project for the Arts, Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at The George Washington University, Busboys and Poets, Georgetown University, Cultural DC, Smithsonian Libraries, Brentwood Arts Exchange, Northern Virginia Community College, George Mason University Student Media and Fourth Estate Newspaper. 


Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016 is made possible in part by grants from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. Additional support received from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at George Mason University. Busboys and Poets is also a major sponsor. Our translation workshops are co-sponsored by The Jerusalem Fund.

To learn more, visit the festival website