Coming Soon: Mumbai's Biggest Poetry Festival, Poets Translating Poets

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), November 15, 2016 | Go to article overview

Coming Soon: Mumbai's Biggest Poetry Festival, Poets Translating Poets


Mumbai, Nov. 15 -- For five days straight in June last year, Mumbai-based Dalit-feminist poet Pradnya Daya Pawar translated the works of two German poets - Ulrike Draesner and Thomas Kunst - into Marathi. Three of Pawar's Marathi poems were also transformed into German verses. "I've been writing Marathi poetry and translating Hindi poems into Marathi for 25 years now, but this experience was challenging. I have never visited Germany or read the work of contemporary German poets. Normally, you translate a poem after it has been translated into English. But here, we sat together and helped each other out," says Pawar.

She is one of the 51 South Asian and German poets, who, for the past two years, have been meeting other poets across nine cities in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and in 14 cities in Germany, to translate each other's poetry. The result of this cultural initiative by the Goethe-Institut - also known as the Max Mueller Bhavan (MMB) - is a collection of 280 translations in 20 languages, including Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bengali, Kashmiri, Odia, German and Marathi. Four of Jeet Thayil's poems have also been translated into German.

The enterprise is culminating in Mumbai at the Poets Translating Poets festival, which will take place in the city from November 25 to November 27. Besides several poetry-reading sessions, the festival will feature discussions on varied subjects such as the difference between feminist poetry and the works of female writers. It will also have a session on how Bengali poetry from Bangladesh and West Bengal, respectively, is different from each other. There is even a talk on the market for poetry and translations in South Asia and Germany.

However, Dr Martin Walde, the director of MMB, says, the focus of the festival is to enable poets and readers to understand and accept the world's diversity. "Some of the questions that will arise and those we seek to debate on are: How can we preserve the diversity of cultures and languages when wars and conflicts enforce only one identity, which creates marginalisation and dislocation of refugees? …

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