The Sun is one who sees and knows everything…


It was a joy to work with the Poetry Translation Workshop and Assiya to translate Gulnar Salykbay's poem. This felt very much a poem for the times we are living through - big questions about happiness and meaning, busy cities, anxiety, isolation, hard days, big dreams. Before we began, Assiya gave us a fascinating insight into the poetry of the Kazakh language and its literature - its musicality, vowel harmony and the strong oral poetic tradition which still thrives in Kazakhstan.

Working with Assiya's bridge translation and her guidance, we enjoyed puzzling over the tricky second line: The Earth is a stomach made of patience. The image of the stomach as something which can expand and hold things yet also perhaps was crucial to the Kazakh original. After trying bellies and balloons we finally settled on the line Patience rests in the Earth's guts, giving the reader the image that the Sun and Earth are able to witness all things and still contain and bear them patiently. That lovely tough bodily word 'guts' seemed just right,

Assiya told us that Salykbay is known for her love of linguistic experimentation and neologism so we allowed ourselves a little lyrical indulgence by turning birds to thought-birds in Line 4, creating a beautiful image which also draws out the meaning of the line.

We played a lot with line 9 and that central phrase Resilient soul. We tried strong. brave, enduring before finally choosing old as it seemed to carry the experience and weariness of the Kazakh original.

We knew it was vital to keep the image of the foal and the mare in Line 11, especially when Assiya told us about the belovedness and importance of horses in Kazakh culture. We then gently shifted time's gallop to this galloping age, further drawing out Salykbay's wonderful horse imagery.

Liz Berry, Workshop Facilitator