See You in Medellin (Virtually)

When I saw this posting of some of my poems in translation, it became real. I’m headed to the Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin (Colombia) this coming August. I would rather be there in person but I’m in good company nonetheless.

The line up covers the globe, including Caribbean writers like John Agard and Grace Nichols of Guyana, Jamaica’s Ann-Margaret Lim, Yvonne Weekes of Barbados, Marion Bethel of the Bahamas, and Jane King Hippolyte of St. Lucia, among others. See the line up with bios here.

The interaction with the translator has been interesting, especially given my heavy use of Caribbean Creole. One small example, his request for an explanation for the phrase “tek dem ‘tick tu’n tune” from ‘Ode to the Pan Man‘ which I explained meant, literally, took their (tek dem) sticks (‘tick) and made music (tu’n/turn tune). I also explained that the sticks here referred to pan sticks (the sticks used to evoke music from the instrument some readers might know as steel drums but which we call steel pan/pan, the only musical invention of the 20th century) but the use of “turn” references the stick used to turn cornmeal to make fungee (Antigua and Barbuda’s national dish which has its roots in Africa). The motion resembles the action of cooking up music in the pan but the intention there is also to reference the domestic space women stereotypically occupy counter to their presence in what was once the predominantly male space of the pan yard. Was all of that necessary? I don’t know. But breaking it down was fun. And there were about 10 questions like that about different selected pieces.

My friend who I asked to vet the translation for me, gave the outcome a thumbs up (while reminding me that pan is bread in Spanish, so some clarification might be needed there) and so hopefully nothing gets lost in translation.


This will be the 31st installment of the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín. Keep up with developments here.

For more on where I’ll be when, visit my Appearances page.

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