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Online Translation Workshop: Sri Lankan Tamil poet Nillanthan


The Poetry Translation Centre is very pleased to partner with the National Centre for Writing to present a translation workshop on the Tamil poetry of Sri Lankan poet, artist and political essayist Nillanthan.

The sessions will be lead by Geetha Sukumaran and Shash Trevett. Based in Canada and the UK respectively, both are poets and translators who have been collaborating on translating Nillanthan's poems about the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war, a period that up until now has been very rarely confronted or reflected upon. We want to highlight the fact that the poem(s) that we will look at for the workshop will be on this theme and are potentially triggering.

As translator-facilitators, Geetha and Shash will offer insight into the nuances of the language and culture, and give helpful suggestions to the group for the direction of the translation that is produced.

Our online poetry translation workshops can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Join like-minded poetry lovers from across the world to discover new poetry and different cultures, share insights and language skills, working together to open up a poem in its original language and reassemble it in English.

We have had participants from across the UK, Egypt, France, Japan and the Phillipines. The workshops are the perfect way to keep you feeling creative, engaged and connected to the world at large. A rough and ready guide translation is provided by the guest translator so there is no need to know the language being translated, simply sign up and bring your love of language.

This online workshop will take place over two 90-minute sessions on Zoom over two consecutive Tuesdays. This format will let us spend time with a single poetic voice.

'Pay-What-You-Can' Pricing

The cost of running these sessions is £45 per person. However, the PTC wants to ensure that our workshops are financially accessible to all, so participants are invited to pay what they can afford to attend.


About the Poet

Nillanthan lives and works in Yalpanam, Sri Lanka. He is an acclaimed poet having published five collections in Tamil. He is also an artist and a political analyst. A collection of his political essays, Pulikalukku Pinnaraana Arasiyal (Politics After the Tigers), was published in 2016. His artwork (Bunker Family Series, Ravana and Pillaiyar: War Portraits) has been exhibited widely across the sub-continent. Nillanthan was a witness to the final days of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

About the Translator-Facilitators

Geetha Sukumaran is a poet and a bilingual translator. She has published two books in Tamil: Tharkolaikku parakkum panithuli (a Tamil translation of Sylvia Plath's poems, 2013), and her own poems, Otrai pakadaiyil enchum nampikkai in 2014. Her English translation of Ahilan's poetry, Then There Were No Witnesses, was published by Mawenzi House, Toronto (2018). She is the recipient of the SPARROW R Thyagarajan award for her poetry in Tamil. She is a doctoral student in the Humanities at York University, Toronto.

Shash Trevett is a poet and a translator of Tamil poetry into English. She is a winner of a Northern Writers’ Award and her pamphlet From a Borrowed Land is published by Smith|Doorstop (2021). She is currently co-editing (with Vidyan Ravinthiran and Seni Seneviratne) an anthology of Tamil, English and Sinhala poetry from Sri Lanka and its diaspora communities. Shash is a 2021 Visible Communities Translator in Residence at the National Centre for Writing. She is a 2021 Ledbury Critic and a Board Member of Modern Poetry in Translation.


Full Details

To try and make the online experience as enjoyable and manageable as possible, places will be restricted - if you book please do make sure you can attend both sessions.

Workshop materials and the log-in details to join the sessions with easy to follow instructions, will be sent out by email when you book your place.

• The PTC will deliver these workshops online via Zoom.

• This online series will follow our usual workshop format, working as a group to translate the poem line by line.

• Working from a guide translation of the original poem, guided by a translator and poet to facilitate the sessions.

• Two sessions lasting 90 minutes over two weeks working on one longer poem

• In advance of the beginning of the series, we will share the original poem and the guide translation that the group will be working from as well as further materials to aid the experience like audio examples of the poetry and a video introduction to the poet by the translator

• On consecutive Tuesday evenings 17 and 24 August, 18:30-20:00 BST.

• Pay-What-You-Can donation when reserving your ticket.

• Reserve one ticket for both sessions.

Warning: potentially triggering content of war and conflict.

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