The Poetry Translation Centre in London has recently published that poem, called "Galiilyo", or Catastrophe, along with Nagra's translation of it.
"I felt an affinity, in the parallels between my work and Weedhsame's — I was intrigued to see how he would construct migrant identity and nation state identity. I've been doing that in my latest book: writing nation state poems," he says.
When the boat was overturned...
Did the fish in anguish
not weep tears of festering anger?
Galiilyo (Catastrophe), Xasan Daahir Weedhsame,
trans. Daljit Nagra and Martin Orwin (2017)
Weedhsame was a protege of the late great Gaarriye, father of Somali poetry. Born in Hargeisa, at the age of six he fled Somaliland with his family to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, though he later returned.
He is an intensely political poet, popular among the young in Somalia and Somaliland.
"'Catastrophe'", says Erica Jarnes, the Poetry Translation Centre's managing director, "is a howl of anguish about the migration of the Somali people, and offers a provocation to western Europe, as well as a message of hope to all who have fled their homes to seek a better life across the sea."
Says Nagra: "I've written about migration from the other end, in a sense — people who've successfully arrived in the west, whereas Weedhsame is talking about people who want to reach the west.
"My constructions are of the much more privileged position of the migrants of the 50s and 60s," he adds.
For people in the west, he says, Weedhsame's poem is "a corrective complicating of the picture. We have certain stereotypes of Africans coming into Britain. It offers us an insight into the thinking at the source."
There is a second side to the poem, too, says Nagra: a plea for those who leave to stay involved with the country they've left.
"If these people leave, what will be left behind, who will stay behind and fight for their country? He lives back in Somalia now: he's in a sense done that journey and returned, and feels he's seen both sides," he says.
One technical challenge in translating the poem from Somali came from its use of assonance.
"The poem is in a certain vowel sound in each line, like writing in a certain key," he explains.
To have done that in English though would have conjured up Anglo-Saxon verse, and "would have enshrined it into an English value system: it would probably lose that emotional power the poem has, and would sound overly clever, self-conscious," he says.
The true-hearted can settle —no matter which land.
A flower wants to bloom, wherever its garden....
Whichever the forest, a peacock needs must dance.
“The True-Hearted”, Basir Sultan Kazmi (2000)
Originally composed in Urdu; author's 2003 translation.