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 have been abruptly in disarrays. A lot of claimed even though, that it was nature’s way of telling us to slow down. Some nations closed down their borders, flights have been canceled, toilet papers went out of stock, face masks became a portion of the wardrobe, new terms have been added to the English vocabulary – Covid–19, PUI (a individual below investigation), physical distancing, lockdown, PPE, perform from property, and so on.

Folks are not employed to lengthy confinement. But staying at property for the duration of the lockdown created some folks productive and inventive. But not Eileen Tabios has generally been inventive, Covid or no Covid. As a result was born Inculpatory Proof.


“It took me about two months beginning in March to create these poems. They have 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 skilled 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 seasoned 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 additional adventuresome and really inventive poets just before the public right now, by San Francisco Critique of Books.

“The poetry of Eileen Tabios invites us to appear at what it really implies to be portion 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 type in 2003. It is described as a six-word tercet with the initially 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 several have noticed, but do not recognize – the Thai script.

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


“I was interested in Thai due to the fact I hadn’t been translated into this language just before it is the 11th language into which I’ve been translated. It is a bonus that, in seeking at Thai, I come about to come across its photos lovely—the patterning of its lines and curves are superb 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 one 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 type of style as effectively. I felt like meeting a new buddy and I wouldn’t hesitate to enable my buddy sending these messages,” Natthaya explains.

Thai translator Natthaya Thamdee. CONTRIBUTED

In poetry, understanding metaphors and nuances is crucial specially to a translator whose second language is not English and the script is not even Latin alphabet. The two had many exchanges of emails that have been incorporated in the book. This portion of the book is an outstanding supply for these who are organizing to engage in translation.

‘No two words are the same’

Are all words designed, written, or understood the exact same?

In poetry? No. Natthaya and Eileen Tabios get in touch with it “cultural untranslatability.

Natthaya explains that the printed translation lasts longer.

“You have additional time in translation than interpretation to completely recognize each cultural denotative and connotative meanings. On the other side, interpretation, in theory, is largely a face-to-face communication. They need various communication capabilities.”

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 associated 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 effectively as generating the web page layout in Thai match. There’s generally a trouble when you have to deal with two fully various alphabets arranged with each other in the exact same book,” Natthaya explains.


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

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

“There really should be some relevance. In this book’s case, due to the fact Covid-19 is affecting everybody worldwide, Thai readers could be interested in the book,” Tabios says.

“My interest in getting translated into as several languages as attainable relates to getting as several as effectively as varied readers for my poems. I do not target specific readers but merely want the poems to be obtainable to everybody, which includes globally,” Tabios concludes.

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

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