Fil-Am’s poetry in the time of Covid gets Thai translation

Filipino American writer Eileen Tabios. CONTRIBUTED

By mid-March, the planet was swept by the Covid-19 pandemic. Schedules had been abruptly in disarrays. Several claimed even though, that it was nature’s way of telling us to slow down. Some nations closed down their borders, flights had been canceled, toilet papers went out of stock, face masks became a element of the wardrobe, new terms had been added to the English vocabulary – Covid–19, PUI (a individual below investigation), physical distancing, lockdown, PPE, function from property, and so on.

People today are not applied to lengthy confinement. But staying at property through the lockdown produced some persons productive and inventive. But not Eileen Tabios has often been inventive, Covid or no Covid. Hence was born Inculpatory Proof.


“It took me about two months beginning in March to create these poems. They had been written concurrently with the unfolding of the Covid–19 tragedy,” Tabios says.

Eileen R Tabios’s Inculpatory Proof is a collection of ten poems translated into Thai language by Natthaya Thamdee, a qualified translator and lecturer at Vongchavalitkul University in Nakhon Ratchasima Thailand. It was published by Laughing/Ouch/Cube/Productions and i.e. press, California-New York. It is also Tabios’s third bilingual edition.

The publisher describes the book as educational for presenting a discussion on translation and untranslatability, as skilled with Natthaya’s Thai translations and an Oulipian “N+7” translation of a single poem by Susan M. Schultz.

Tabios is a noted Filipino American poet described as “one of the foremost Filipino American poets of the 21st century,” by Asian Week a single of the extra adventuresome and actually inventive poets prior to the public right now, by San Francisco Overview of Books.

“The poetry of Eileen Tabios invites us to appear at what it actually implies to be element of the human race, not merely a fragment of it,” according to The Poetry Shed (U.K.).

Tabios has been translated into 11 languages. She also invented Hay(na)Ku, a 21st-century diasporic poetic kind in 2003. It is described as a six-word tercet with the initial line getting a single word, the second line getting two words, and the third line getting 3 words.


From English to Thai

But this is not just about Covid–19 and poetry. Inculpatory Proof is also about translation in a language and script a lot of have noticed, but do not realize – the Thai script.

Sometime in May possibly, I introduced Natthaya Thamdee, a Thai colleague to Tabios by way of e mail. Natthaya is also my translator.


“I was interested in Thai for the reason that I hadn’t been translated into this language prior to it is the 11th language into which I’ve been translated. It is a bonus that, in hunting at Thai, I come about to locate its pictures lovely—the patterning of its lines and curves are great to see,” Tabios says.

Natthaya is a freelance translator. She translated subtitles of films and Television applications from English to Thai.

In translating poetry, the feelings need to be felt by the translator.

“I study her (Tabios) sample poems sent to me. I could really feel her pieces of anger against some thing unfair and out of shape. I could really feel her insurgent and activism inside just about every single word that sincerely conveys. That is my sort of style as properly. I felt like meeting a new buddy and I wouldn’t hesitate to assistance my buddy sending these messages,” Natthaya explains.

Thai translator Natthaya Thamdee. CONTRIBUTED

In poetry, understanding metaphors and nuances is essential particularly to a translator whose second language is not English and the script is not even Latin alphabet. The two had various exchanges of emails that had been integrated in the book. This element of the book is an outstanding supply for these who are arranging to engage in translation.

‘No two words are the same’

Are all words designed, written, or understood the identical?

In poetry? No. Natthaya and Eileen Tabios contact it “cultural untranslatability.

Natthaya explains that the printed translation lasts longer.

“You have extra time in translation than interpretation to totally realize each cultural denotative and connotative meanings. On the other side, interpretation, in theory, is largely a face-to-face communication. They demand various communication expertise.”

For instance, when Natthaya was translating Kapwa on Covid, she asked what ‘kapwa’ implies in Filipino. Does it have a direct translation in English? How is it connected to Walmart is out of toilet paper, or eggs, sunshine?

Then there are Hay(na)ku lines:

They are We.

You are,

I –

-that is kapwa. But the Thai translation is unnatural. The word count is also a challenge, which Tabios also wrote in the book. Natthaya explains that conjugation is also various in Thai.

“It took me about two months to finish the Thai version as properly as generating the web page layout in Thai match. There’s often a challenge when you have to deal with two totally various alphabets arranged collectively in the identical book,” Natthaya explains.


To be a translated author is a boon to a lot of authors writing in English and other languages. A National Artist for literature in the Philippines often boasts that he is the most extensively translated author in other languages apart from his medium which is English. And his relevance ended in translation.

For Tabios, the value of getting translated is not just to be translated.

“There should really be some relevance. In this book’s case, for the reason that Covid-19 is affecting every person worldwide, Thai readers might be interested in the book,” Tabios says.

“My interest in getting translated into as a lot of languages as attainable relates to locating as a lot of as properly as varied readers for my poems. I do not target certain readers but merely want the poems to be out there to every person, which includes globally,” Tabios concludes.

Inculpatory Proof: The Covid-19 Poems is out there at Laughing Ouch Cube Productions and its Lulu account. You can also send e mail to [email protected]

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