On the terrors of non-translation

I find great comfort in translating. I do it almost every day, and when I don’t, I feel like I am missing a part of myself. Like I’ve misplaced myself. I had many exciting things happen over the past three weeks–I went to Madison, where I delivered a paper on a topic I knew nothing about, David Shulman and the Nepathya troupe were here in residence, and they rocked our worlds with incredible, life-altering performances, then my Nava Tirupati Dream Team arrived with all their marvelous ideas and their rather large brains. It was a Sukhavati. But I didn’t translate. Three weeks and not one word. The books lay open, silent and accusing, may be not accusing, maybe mournful, lonely. Like them, I felt lonely and a bit lost. So, I sat down to translate this morning, and it was a struggle. The familiar terror came over me–that I would lose all language, and nothing would ever make sense to me ever again. But of course, the terror receded, and in its place came a beautiful quiet, a delicious stillness, a silence inside me, where I could only hear words as they shaped themselves to poetry. A clicking into place of the parts of myself that are ever splintered. What bliss is this.

On First Looking at Kudiyattam

I feel both complete and incomplete after watching two nights of Kudiyattam. Full and empty of everything. So I wrote an incomplete poem. Some of you will get the Keats reference:

On First Looking into Kudiyattam

There’s a poem somewhere
or there’s nothing else. In eyes
that touch like hands that glide
like eyes. A poem lives and dies
somewhere in the not distance || 1 ||

There’s a poem somewhere
or there’s nothing else. Gesture
liquid as the weave of time
carves air into syllables. A poem
is made alive in the not distance. || 2||