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Issue Spotlight: Interviewing Uyghur Poetry Translator Joshua Freeman

2015/10/23 — 12:32

【Text by Ryan Mihaly】

"A lot of what's really vibrant and interesting in Uyghur poetry right now is happening primarily on the web, and even on phone messaging apps."

Your translation of Merdan Ehet’éli’s poem “Common Night” isAsymptote‘s first piece from the Uyghur. I want to point out two words from the poem: “pig iron” and “hellfruit.” Can you tell us about these words and how you translated them?

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The Uyghur word choyun (also chöyün) refers to pig iron or cast iron, and for me it calls to mind something hard and rough. The connotations are much less positive than the words tömür (iron) and polat (steel), both of which are used in Uyghur personal names. In speaking of “a night poured into our spines like pig iron,” Merdan Ehet’éli may be alluding to Tahir Hamut’s well-known poem “Summer Is a Conspiracy,” in which Tahir refers to fear’s “pig iron voice”, which “seeps into the marrow / and hardens.” 

 

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