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

Filipino American writer Eileen Tabios. CONTRIBUTED

By mid-March, the globe was swept by the Covid-19 pandemic. Schedules had been all of a sudden 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 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 particular person below investigation), physical distancing, lockdown, PPE, operate from dwelling, and so on.

People today are not utilised to extended confinement. But staying at dwelling in the course of the lockdown created some folks productive and inventive. But not Eileen Tabios has constantly been inventive, Covid or no Covid. Therefore 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 expert 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 1 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 1 of the a lot more adventuresome and genuinely inventive poets just before the public now, by San Francisco Assessment of Books.

“The poetry of Eileen Tabios invites us to appear at what it genuinely indicates 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 very first line becoming 1 word, the second line becoming two words, and the third line becoming 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 numerous have observed, but do not comprehend – the Thai script.

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


“I was interested in Thai simply because 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 searching at Thai, I take place to come across 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 motion pictures and Television applications from English to Thai.

In translating poetry, the feelings should be felt by the translator.

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

Thai translator Natthaya Thamdee. CONTRIBUTED

In poetry, understanding metaphors and nuances is vital specially 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 superb supply for these who are organizing to engage in translation.

‘No two words are the same’

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

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

Natthaya explains that the printed translation lasts longer.

“You have a lot more time in translation than interpretation to completely comprehend each cultural denotative and connotative meanings. On the other side, interpretation, in theory, is largely a face-to-face communication. They call for distinctive communication capabilities.”

For instance, when Natthaya was translating Kapwa on Covid, she asked what ‘kapwa’ indicates 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 distinctive in Thai.

“It took me about two months to finish the Thai version as nicely as producing the web page layout in Thai match. There’s constantly a challenge when you have to deal with two totally distinctive alphabets arranged with each other in the identical book,” Natthaya explains.


To be a translated author is a boon to numerous authors writing in English and other languages. A National Artist for literature in the Philippines constantly 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 becoming translated is not just to be translated.

“There ought to be some relevance. In this book’s case, simply because Covid-19 is affecting everybody worldwide, Thai readers may possibly be interested in the book,” Tabios says.

“My interest in becoming translated into as numerous languages as probable relates to discovering as numerous as nicely as varied readers for my poems. I do not target distinct readers but basically want the poems to be out there to everybody, 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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