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. Numerous claimed although, 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 beneath investigation), physical distancing, lockdown, PPE, perform from property, and so on.

Folks are not applied to lengthy confinement. But staying at property in the course of the lockdown produced some people today 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 specialist 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 a lot more adventuresome and definitely inventive poets prior to the public nowadays, by San Francisco Critique of Books.

“The poetry of Eileen Tabios invites us to appear at what it definitely 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 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 numerous have observed, but do not comprehend – the Thai script.

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


“I was interested in Thai mainly because 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 searching at Thai, I occur 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 should 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 every single single word that sincerely conveys. That is my type of style as nicely. I felt like meeting a new pal and I wouldn’t hesitate to aid my pal sending these messages,” Natthaya explains.

Thai translator Natthaya Thamdee. CONTRIBUTED

In poetry, understanding metaphors and nuances is essential specifically 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 had been integrated in the book. This element 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 made, 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 a lot more time in translation than interpretation to totally comprehend each cultural denotative and connotative meanings. On the other side, interpretation, in theory, is largely a face-to-face communication. They need diverse communication abilities.”

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 diverse in Thai.

“It took me about two months to finish the Thai version as nicely as creating the web page layout in Thai match. There’s often a difficulty when you have to deal with two entirely diverse alphabets arranged with each other in the exact same 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 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 ought to be some relevance. In this book’s case, mainly because Covid-19 is affecting every person worldwide, Thai readers could be interested in the book,” Tabios says.

“My interest in getting translated into as numerous languages as feasible relates to discovering as numerous as nicely as varied readers for my poems. I do not target certain readers but just want the poems to be offered to every person, like globally,” Tabios concludes.

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

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