Catastrophe is an electrifying poem by the Somali poet Xasan Daahir Weedhsame, a howl of anguish about the displacement of the Somali people, soon to be published as a dual-language poem-poster featuring a specially-commissioned illustration by the artist Bryan Talbot thanks to a crowdfunding appeal. Now, the organisers want to push the envelope and do just a little more with the project…
Catastrophe offers a provocation to Western Europe, unable to hold focus on the devastating refugee crisis playing out on our shores, and a message of hope to all who have had to flee their homes to seek sanctuary across the sea.
Last year when images of the mass migration began to fill the UK news, Weedhsame’s poem took on a new significance. Catastrophe was written about the ‘Tahriib’ or sea migration, the search for a better life in another country. This perilous journey is familiar to most Somalis living in Europe, and its impact looms large in Somali culture.
The poem has resonated with Somali audiences at home and in the diaspora, cementing his reputation as one of the finest poets of his generation.
By capturing this story, laying out both the human tragedies and great national cost of this mass migration, Catastrophe offers a vital new perspective to the ongoing refugee crisis, and gives a voice to the nameless people we see in news reports about mass migration.
“Getting this poem out to young people and a range of communities across the UK will help reawaken awareness of the biggest mass migration of people Europe has seen since the second World War,” says a spokesperson for the Poetry Translation Centre, who will publish Catastrophe as a dual-language poem-poster in October, including a dazzling English translation by British poet and BBC Radio 4 poet-in-residence Daljit Nagra and scholar Martin Orwin.
The poster will also feature illustrations by the artist Bryan Talbot. The original artwork of the cover, the large interior illustration, two extra illustrations (all in full watercolour) and a signed edition of 10 line prints are also all being offered for sale to raise funds for publication.
“We want to get this poem into the hands of as many people as possible, particularly young people,” we’re told.
The project now has the backing to print 500 copies (the translation and artist costs supported by Arts Council England), but every further pound raised over this target will help to reach more schools up and down the country with reading copies and classroom resources.
“If we can raise another £300 and get to 120% of our initial funding goal we would have the funds to record a dual language audio version of the poem.
“Weedhsame and his poet translator Daljit Nagra will be together in the UK this October. This gives us a unique opportunity to make an audio recording of Catastrophe featuring the voices of these two poets.
“If we are successful and reach this stretch goal we will make the recorded poem available for free online for everyone to enjoy.”
• If you haven’t joined in yet it’s not too late, or if you have donated and you want to help get the project to the next level this is your chance. Every penny you donate helps us bring this awe inspiring poem to new audiences across the UK