Podcast #4: Goutam Datta, Yusef Komunyakaa, & Subodh Sarkar

by: Montana Ray


In this episode Montana Ray speaks with Yusef Komunyakaa, Goutam Datta, and Subodh Sarkar about exchanges between US and Bengali poets, including the anthology  (edited by Datta) of African American poets translated into Bengali, “Ami Amar Mritur Por Sadhinota Chai Na” (I Do Not Want My Freedom When I Am Dead) and the Kolkata Book Fair. The writers also discuss the relationship between poetry and theater in both New York and Kolkata. And Komunyakaa discusses the praxis of stage-to-page translation of the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh. Finally, the poets discuss the Bengali language as coexisting with other languages within the context of multilingual societies, both in India and internationally.

With poetry and music by Goutam Datta, Yusef Komunyakaa, Subodh Sarkar, Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate, Paul Robeson, and Toots & The Maytals. Plus Goutam Datta’s Bengali translations of Langston Hughes’ poem “Juke Box Love Song” and Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “The Crazy Woman.” And an excerpt from Yusef Komunyakaa’s Gilgamesh: A Verse Play performed by Actors Scene Unseen (available for purchase here).

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speak by one mouth a feast of tongues sing

Four riddles from the Exeter Book, translated from Old English by Evan Klavon

[Riddle 7]

by Anonymous (from the Exeter Book)

Hrægl mīn swīga∂     þonne ic hrusan trede

oþþe þā wīc būge     oþþe wado drēfe.

Hwīlum mec ahebbað     ofer hæleþa byht,

hyrste mīne     ond þēos hēa lyft,

ond mec þonne wide     wolcna strengu

ofer folc byreð.     Frætwe mīne

swōgað hlūde     ond swinsiað

torhte singað     þonne ic getenge ne bēom

flōde ond foldan,     ferende gǣst.

[Riddle 7]

by Anonymous (from the Exeter Book)

My clothes stay quiet     as I cross the earth

or let down on a dwelling     or drive the waves.

At times my trimmings     and the mighty sky

muster me up     over men’s nooks

and then cloud’s clout     bears me about

over the folk.     My bits of kit

sound out loudly     and sing a line

noting finely     when I’m not near

river and ground,     a rambling ghost.

translated from Old English by Evan Klavon

[Riddle 8]

by Anonymous (from the Exeter Book)

Ic þurh mūþ sprece     mongum reordum,

wrencum singe,     wrixle geneahhe

heāfodwōþe,     hlūde cirme,

healde mīne wīsan,     hlēoþre ne miþe.

Eald ǣfenscēop,     eorlum bringe

blisse in burgum,     þonne ic būgendre

stefne styrme,     stille on wicum

sittað hnīgende.     Saga hwæt ic hātte,

þe swā scīrenige     scēawendwīsan

hlūde onhyrge,     hæleþum bodige

wilcumena fela     wōþe mīnre.

[Riddle 8]

by Anonymous (from the Exeter Book)

I speak by one mouth a feast of tongues sing through modulations changing quick a heady voice crying out loud my tune carry my way resound without refrain as an old evening-bard to courtiers brings merriment to settlements when I alighting shout my voice to homes they quietly sit there nodding.           So tell what I am called who like a showgirl jest and imitate with gusto cabaret promising men much to welcome with my voice.

translated from Old English by Evan Klavon

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