by , on Aug 12, 2015


Na tara hankali
a inuwan muryan ki
Ko zan gane
abun da ya sa
Muryan ki ya fi muryan iskan
damuna sanyi da dadi
A ko yaushe da ya sauka
A cikin zuciya na
Ya na gina aljana
Ko ya aka watsa mun wuta
Ba ya kona ni
Saboda son ki ya daura mun
Zanin ruwan sanyi

—Saddiq Dzukogi


Sanyi (translation)

I explore the shadow
of your voice, sift its
shade for meaning
that I might discover
how it is that it surpasses
the cool, sweet voice
of rainy season’s breeze,
how it descends, sinks
into the heart, and there
creates a paradise, a safe
oasis, where sparks that fly
cannot ignite us, fires
cannot consume us, because
your affection cools
and quenches, wraps us in
its protection, cloaks us
in fine fabric drenched
with cool, sweet water.

—trans., Laura M Kaminski


Notes on translation:
This is the first poem by another poet that I have translated from Hausa to English; prior to this, I have only translated my own. It was a struggle at first to find the way to carry the sense of relief and renewal that “sanyi” — “cold” — conveys in Hausa, because in English the idea of a person or heart being “cool” or “cold” implies something else entirely, an aloofness rather than refreshment. I hadn’t given much thought to how a word might differ so between tropical and temperate climates before engaging with this poem.

I was able to find my way when it finally occurred to me to double-translate “aljana” — to translate the word as “paradise” and then add the additional phrase “a safe oasis” to bring the remaining connotations along into the translated version. I then went back through and added phrases in a few other places to pick up the rest of the implied meaning that the direct word-for-word translation left behind, until I felt the sense of the poem was as complete in the English as in the original.

When I sent the translation to Saddiq, his response was: you captured even the dew on the grass of this poem. I hope so; a poem this beautiful should not be stripped of its dew — it must be brought in its entirety, or not at all.


Saddiq Dzukogi is a Nigerian poet and the author of three poetry collections in English. He is also Poetry Editor for the online journal Expound. This is the first poem he wrote in Hausa, and he will be writing more.

Laura M Kaminski grew up in Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing. More about her poetry is available at The Ark of Identity.

3 thoughts on “Sanyi

  1. A beautiful poem made available to those of us who don’t speak Hausa by Laura M. Kaminski. Thank you for bringing this poem, poet and those precious words (including the dew on the grass) to us to read and love. Laura’s notes really made me stop and think of just how complex translation is. It’s not just one language into another. It’s the whole cultural framework, history, geography, natural world…everything the poet has experienced in the making of the poem.

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