Translation by Liljuan Gonzalez:
Original Text: "Home" by Warsan Shire no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well your neighbors running faster than you breath bloody in their throats the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body you only leave home when home won’t let you stay. no one leaves home unless home chases you fire under feet hot blood in your belly it’s not something you ever thought of doing until the blade burnt threats into your neck and even then you carried the anthem under your breath only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets sobbing as each mouthful of paper made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back. you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land no one burns their palms under trains beneath carriages no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled means something more than journey. no one crawls under fences no one wants to be beaten pitied no one chooses refugee camps or strip searches where your body is left aching or prison, because prison is safer than a city of fire and one prison guard in the night is better than a truckload of men who look like your father no one could take it no one could stomach it no one skin would be tough enough the go home blacks refugees dirty immigrants asylum seekers sucking our country dry niggers with their hands out they smell strange savage messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off or the words are more tender than fourteen men between your legs or the insults are easier to swallow than rubble than bone than your child's body in pieces. i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark home is the barrel of the gun and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore unless home told you to quicken your legs leave your clothes behind crawl through the desert wade through the oceans drown save be hungery beg forget pride your survival is more important no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying leave, run away from me now i don't know what i’ve become but i know that anywhere is safer than here
Throughout the semester, we have worked on various forms of translation and analyzed how that form emulates and/or deviate from the original works. With that in mind, I decided for my final project to translate Home into a motif-improvisational dance piece. The aim for this translation was to reveal how translation does not have to be solely bound to literary modes; the modalities of translation are infinite and allowing dance to become one of the modes for translation to occur show the bountiful capacity of movement and translation. It is with that in mind, and the ephemeral nature of both processes, that I established a need to execute a movement project that completes my final translation of Home.
Home, by Warsan Shire, depicts the visceral ruminations and response of an immigrant when encountering the fac. The poem allows us to gaze upon the terror that immigrants face while escaping the dangers of their home. The poet structured the poem using enjambment throughout the piece, constructing a narrative for the piece. That was one of the prominent features that stood out besides the diction and syntax used for the poem’s imagery. Besides the dance translation I just completed, I also completed an inter-lingual and vowel removal translation. For both translations, I attempted to maximize the theme (immigration) throughout the reproduced work. However, it was difficult to reconstruct the poem after removing several vowels. The latter resulted in incomprehensible words which made it difficult to read the new poem afterwards. On the other hand, I believe the inter-lingual translation was one of the powerful translation due to my decision to convert the poem into Arabic— one of the native language of Shire’s Somalian ancestry. Even while translating the poem into Arabic I could maintain the prominent theme I was aiming for, but I was also able to connect it to Shire’s identity. Analyzing this poem from an outsider perspective reduces my capacity to fully engage with the nuanced information. It is important for me to state how Shire’s experience deriving from her first-generation immigrant family, her understanding of her black womanhood, and her heritage as a Somalian is heavily interwoven in her poems, including Home. So in a lot of ways, I’m interpreting and analyzing this poem from an outsider perspective, attempting to maintain the integrity of her culture and the crucial identities she possess that encapsulates the raw emotion of the narrative of so many.
The final translation is similar to the ones mentioned above in terms of staying closely related to the overall theme of the poem. However, movement took the place of traditional literary modes of translation. As a dancer, I always believe there is power to be find in dance that is completely untapped or overlooked within scholarly inquiry. When we think about dance and the way we use it as a vehicle to share canons, emotions, political commentaries, etc., we realized that its reach is endless. Movement in general becomes another way to translate stories, while challenging the default ideology of translation being solely bound to literary devices. Using dance as my final translation modality allowed me to translate the emotional aspect of the piece that I felt was reduced or completely removed if read by an outsider (someone with a lack of proximity to the immigrant identity). Some of the advantages of this translation was performing the emotional aspect of the poem via movement and Shire’s reading of the poem. Another advantage was showing the ephemeral nature of both translation and dance; the ability of both to exist within a temporary timeframe if left unarchived. I will discuss further later on in the paper.
I want to quickly state that in my personal opinion, and from what I have gathered in class this entire semester, there is no “successful” translation. I think the moment we began to produce translated works, the “reproductions” become new productions themselves. In other words: they become entirely new works. I created the dance translation hoping to ideally stay within the thematic parameters of the poem, but I can never say that it is a “successful” translation of the poem because there is plenty of sections, emotions and other material that I couldn’t reproduce through movement. On the other hand, I transformed the literary piece into movement, producing a different visual way of seeing, feeling, hearing and experiencing Home.
This entire class has taught me how translation comes in many forms and to not bind translation to just intra-lingual modes. I believe we also learned that there are also numerous processes of translation depending on what you wish to translate and how you want to translate it. However, we failed to mention how translation occur daily and sometimes they aren’t recorded through literary devices. Instead, they become ephemeral forms of communication that are constantly disappearing by the conclusion of the conversation. This reflects dance. Dance is also ephemeral in the sense that the performance of movement disappears by the conclusion of the dance piece, sometimes earlier, but this highlights how communication (dance and translation) isn’t always archived for storage means. Sometimes they are stated in open space and disappear shortly after appearing. In conclusion, my final project initiates a conversation on a different mode of translation, but it also teases out the ephemeral aspect of translation itself. Perhaps, that aspect could be explored further in the future.