Poetry in Translation at Bolgatty Palace

Poetry in Translation at Bolgatty Palace

  • 07 Mar 2018
  • Nikhil
  • Features

The Krithi literary festival was off to a tremendous start today, with three international poets joining forces with four Malayali poets in translating each other’s’ works

The first day of the Krithi International Festival of Books and Authors was off to an interesting, if tardy, start. The first session of the day at the Lalithambika Antharjanam pavilion at Bolgatty Palace, hosted a full dais of poets and poetry enthusiasts. Moderated by Alexandra Buchler, the director of Literature Across Frontiers, the panel saw Malayalam poets, Anitha Thampi, Anwar Ali, Pramod K M and V M Girija, and Swiss poet Vanni Bianconi, Catalan poet Marti Sales and Welsh poet Sian Northey. Poets Sampurna Chattarji and K Satchidanandan and bilingual novelist Kiran Nagarkar were also present.

A common purpose

The premise of the session was simple: prove as false the commonly held idea that poetry cannot be translated without losing its sense of self. “But it’s through translation that we meet the likes of Lorca and Neruda!”, exclaimed Satchidanandan at one point. And this was proven by the seven participating poets. After brief introductions to each of the visiting poets, Bianconi, Sales and Northey, their works translated into Malayalam were read aloud for the benefit of the audience by Anitha, Anwar, Pramod and Girija, proving right Buchler’s statement that poetry is a meeting of minds, languages and ideas.

The session swung into a delightful rhythm with Pramod introducing Bianconi and the peculiar space he inhabits as a poet – more specifically, a Swiss poet who writes in Italian and lives in England – a man caught between languages. Bianconi read out in lilting Italian his poem, Versante, which means “the side of a mountain”but also calls to mind the actual verses in a poem. Since it was impossible to find its counterpart in Malayalam, Pramod coined a new word, “charivaezhuthu” to do it justice.

On Language, Poetryand Translation

More poems and their translations were read out, culminating in an open forum where the poets interacted with their audience. All poets spoke about the challenges and delights involving the writing and translation of poetry. Taking a philosophical turn, Bianconi said,

“I don’t know if a language ever belongs to you. You belong to a language, and when you don’t live in your language, there is constant tension… Language permits us to move through the infinities that surround us.”

Sales, on the other hand, chose to speak of the political tension prevailing over his beloved Catalonia where Spain has taken a totalitarian approach, seeking to quell resistance and taking political prisoners. 
Northey, in a wonderfully imagistic metaphor, claimed,

“Language is a track in which you see ideas. When you change languages, you change track and so see new things”,

speaking of the revelations poets have while collaborating with others on translations. Anwar was somewhat theoretical when he explained,

“Poetry is a parallel language that doesn’t change despite having a source language and a target language to change it into.”

Whatever their definition of poetry and the accompanying challenges of translating it, the World Literature session at the Lalithambika Antharjanam pavilion yesterday was a treat for lovers of literature and literary pursuits.

Text Credits: Rheanna Mathews                 Image Credits: Nikhil Wilson

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