I translate almost everyday, mostly from Tamil. For several years, I have been experimenting with new ways of translating pre-modern Tamil poetry, particularly alvar poetry. My approach is to find ways to integrate, apply and adapt Indic modes of recursive reading and performance practice into translation. From this perspective, the text becomes a malleable, supple, even fluid thing, that throws up new kinds of challenges to the translator. It also affords a way out of the interminable debate between the literal and the literary, or sense and sensibility, the twin poles on which every translator seems to die.
While I’ve been thinking about translating in this mode for some time, and have tried out tentative translations, it was really only this year, in 2018, that I’ve taken the plunge and started playing with translation.
I’ve also translated this into a performance, collaborating with the Carnatic vocalist, Sikkil Gurucharan. Our performance focuses on the female voice and two quintessential female genes: the lullaby and the lament. We’ve performed “Lullabies and Laments” at the Sacramento Poetry Center (March 2017) and at the Prakriti Poetry Festival in Chennai (December 2017), and will also perform it at Poet’s House in New York in May 2018.