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Sian Melangell is in Kerala as part of ‘Poetry Connections India -Wales’

“One morning I looked out of the window and saw my father sweeping the front yard. When I saw my father, I didn’t see my father, I saw the woman in Anitha’s poem...” That was Anitha Thampi’s poem Muttamadikumpol (Sweeping the front yard) playing out in front of Sian Melangell Dafydd, the gender difference of the protagonist getting erased out.

Sian Melangell, an author, poet and translator from Wales is in Kerala as part of an exchange programme coordinated by the University of Wales, British Council, and Literature across Frontiers (LAF) as part of the project ‘Poetry Connections India -Wales’, involving 10 poets from India and Wales. But her association with Malayalam poet Anitha Thampi started back in 2011, when the two met at the Hay Festival in Thiruvananthapuram. Their love and admiration for each other’s works grew rapidly and soon they started collaborating. This project came at the right moment to take forward their ongoing partnership and also to tread new paths together.

Response poems

‘Response poems’ are a major part of their work, where they both write on the same theme or incidents in different languages. Sweeping the front yard is one such poem, with Sian’s version having a man (her father) as the protagonist, whereas Anitha’s was a woman.

An ardent advocate of yoga, Sian can talk for hours about how yoga has helped her gain a level-headedness amidst her busy schedule. She works as a lecturer in creative writing at the American University of Paris, France, and also as course leader of the MRes in Transnational Writing at Bath Spa University, England. One is almost tempted to say her life is literally poetry in motion. ‘Seeking of silence in stillness’ is what she calls her writing process, which is also the case with yoga. For her, poetry happens when you are nurturing the art of attention. The theme for their current project is ‘Independence’ and they both feel the fact that they are working together transcending geographical, political, and language boundaries is in itself an assertion of independence.

They are particular about one thing while translating, that English does not become the bridge language. So it is a strenuous process, going forward and backward, into the deep background of the poem, its musicality, the writer’s priority in terms of what the poem achieves. “Translation is in a sense travelling. You are travelling into another language, another self,” says Sian.

They are also planning to include translations of the works of great poets of yesteryear from both the languages in their book as a tribute to Welsh and Malayalam languages. Their book will come out in early 2018.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 9:11:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/poetry-yoga-and-much-else/article19983528.ece

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