Magic poetic

We can translate experience into poems. Also, poems can translate ourselves to ourselves. Also, literary translation can purify language into its best self. I’m happy to share this interview based on my recent conversation with poet-translator Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma about his forthcoming work on Tirukkural, a masterpiece of Tamil literature.

People use the term “didactic poetry,” which I find not as satisfying a term, simply because it is often used as a pejorative. I think “wisdom literature” is my favorite term, because they are trying to impart some lived wisdom, but they’re trying to do so as poets, not merely as didacts. A poem can express a sense of ethical responsibility and ethical possibility, without it merely being a rule to follow.

Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma, The Rumpus feature interview by A. Anupama

The sense of delight in a verse, through cleverness of language or harmony of sounds, contains the jewel. His translation also asks a reader to work for it a bit: the syntax is concise and tricky. The action of untangling leads to an exhaustion of the overthinking mind, which lets go its grip and allows a clear view.

Be translated into a jewel.

The Kural will be available in January 2022 from Beacon Press. Find it on Bookshop.org.

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