Bilingual poetry – Tamil/English


Writing poetry is difficult but bilingualising it is another all together. With this in mind it is no wonder that the writer almost started negatively as the poetry of the original is so well-known. The news item starts of by saying that:

Reading a bi-lingual edition of a work-in-translation is akin to living on the border between two friendly nations. You can hop from source text to translated text, making up your mind along the way about several things at once.

Translated by Usha Rajagopalan, this special bilingual edition of the Tamil poet Subramania Bharati’s poems carries that lovely promise.

It is such a shame that the emphasis was not more on that now everyone can have some experience of the original poets words, or that people who have spoken Tamil previously but now speak more English, can get access to the text now rather than the emphasis on the poetry not having the same feel when literally translated. it is such a  shame because from what I read I got some song and drama…so maybe it’s in the mind of the reader and whether you come to it with a positive or negative place.

The writer does relent a little later and says that:

In a small subset of her translations, however, Usha really lets go and thereby almost gets Bharati’s voice. “To the Sun” is one such example:

O Sun! What have you done to darkness?

Driven it away? Killed it? Swallowed it?

Have you smothered it with your embrace,

Hidden it with your light ray hands?

Other translations which do reasonably well are “To the Wind” and “Clarity of mind”. “Kannamma, My Beloved” very nearly works, marred only by the “alas! alas!” of the closing lines.

I for one are happy that these poems have been opened up for me, as I love poetry and I am sure many others will as well.  Lets face it how often do story tellers complain that things have been taken out of context by their peers or it’s not true to the original when all involved speak the same language so I say Bravo and well Done.

http://www.thehindu.com/arts/books/no-song-here/article3968309.ece

There is also another more positive story which can be found below.

http://www.thehindu.com/arts/books/dwelling-on-silence/article3968311.ece

2 thoughts on “Bilingual poetry – Tamil/English

  1. The source language is Tamil, not Urdu. My intent in translating Subramania Bharati’s poems into English was to give a non-Tamil reader a glimpse of his greatness and not to exhibit my prowess as a poet. I’m glad you liked the few lines that you read in the review. You can read four poems in this link: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/poetry/four-poems-0

    Even though I had taken great care to ensure that my rendering was faithful to the original in meaning, I expected critics to comment on any error in my interpretation but not for my lacking sensitivity or poetic skills. If this had been the case, surely I wouldn’t have done “reasonably well” or “almost” get Bharati’s voice in some poems.
    Perhaps it is not only poetry that is subjective but also some critics!

    • Hi Usha,

      Thanks for the comments and sorry for saying Urdu rather than Tamil I have changed this now. What a great idea to open poetry up to reach others who speak another language. Well Done

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