About Dubious Saints

‘Dubious Saints’ began as the blog for a bunch of writers and artists and arts administrators who first met in India in December 2010 at Adishakti, near Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu.

Eight poets translated each others’ work into more than eleven languages and,under the guidance of Akshay Pathak of the German Book Office, prepared a performance for venues in Chennai and Pune. Alexandra Buchler organised for Literature Across Frontiers: D.W. Gibson recorded for Sangam House; and Mary Therese Kurkalang and Raza Sadaf made everything work.

The eight poets were Arjun Bali, Sampurna Chattarji, W.N.Herbert, Meena Kandasamy, Robin Ngangom, Roselyne Sibille,  Zoe Skoulding and Raphael Urweider. The name ‘Dubious Saints’ refers to a spurious T-shirt company they inadvertently created while bonding over alcohol.

This blog is a record of texts created at Adishakti and since, and other evidences of the ongoing collaboration process. More recently, it has begun evolving into a general holding place for accounts of our translation work for LAF on other projects. To this end, other Losers may be added to the roster of bewilderment and shame if they’re sure that’s what they really want?


Biographies of the Participants
mostly taken from the LAF site:

Arjun Chandramohan Bali, was born 1968 Jodhpur, Rajasthan. He graduated in English Literature and postgraduated in Developmental Communication from Gujarat University. Bali studied Japanese society and culture as an exchange scholar from Otemon Gakuin University, Osaka, Japan. He has been a volunteer with the National Literacy Mission (India) and has worked as an actor with street-theatre groups for social change. He has also been a jury member on the Tri-Continental Documentary Film festival. Bali is based in Mumbai.

Bali, a storyteller, applies himself across various mediums: as a writer, poet and filmmaker. His advertising, documentaries and short-films have been featured as finalists at international film festivals. As a poet he has read at the Kala Ghoda Festival, Jaipur Literary Festival, Caferati, Blue Frog, The Pen All India and on Distant Voices@Stanza. As a writer he is currently working on a screenplay and a graphic novel.

Sampurna Chattarji is a poet, novelist and translator with eight books to her credit. Born in Ethiopia in 1970, Sampurna grew up in Darjeeling, graduated from New Delhi, and is now based in Mumbai. Her debut poetry collection, Sight May Strike You Blind, published by the Sahitya Akademi (Indian Academy of Letters) in 2007 was reprinted in 2008.  Sampurna’s poetry has appeared in Indian and international journals such as The Little Magazine, New Quest, Chandrabhaga, Indian Literature (India); Stand Magazine, Wasafiri (UK); Drunken Boat, The Literary Review (USA); Wespennest (Germany), Interlitq (Argentina), Carapace (South Africa) and has been anthologized in 60 Indian Poets (Penguin); Both Sides of The Sky (NBT); We Speak in Changing Languages (Sahitya Akademi); Interior Decoration: poems by 54 women from 10 languages (Women Unlimited); Imagining Ourselves (IMOW, San Francisco); Fulcrum (Fulcrum Poetry Press, US) and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (Bloodaxe, UK). Her translation of Sukumar Ray’s poetry and prose Abol Tabol: The Nonsense World of Sukumar Ray was reissued in 2008 as a Puffin Classic titled Wordygurdyboom! She has also translated the Bengali poet Joy Goswami. Sampurna has authored several books for young people, including The Fried Frog and Other Funny Freaky Foodie Feisty Poems (Scholastic 2009). Her first novel, Rupture, was published by HarperCollins in 2009 and her second poetry book, Absent Muses, by Poetrywala in 2010. Her second novel, The Land of the Well, will be published in 2011 by HarperCollins.

W.N. Herbert was born in 1961 in Dundee, and educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he published his DPhil thesis (To Circumjack MacDiarmid, OUP, 1992). He is Professor of Poetry & Creative Writing at Newcastle University, has published seven volumes of poetry and four pamphlets, and is widely anthologised. His last five collections, with Bloodaxe Books, have won numerous accolades. He has been shortlisted twice for the T.S. Eliot prize and twice for the Saltire. He has gained three Poetry Book Society Recommendations, and won three Scottish Arts Council Awards. He has published broadly in the field of Creative Writing, and is a regular reviewer of contemporary poetry. His research interests include creative writing theory and practice; contemporary British poetry, especially Scottish poetry; and poetry in translation. In 2000 he edited the bestselling anthology Strong Words: modern poets on modern poetry with Matthew Hollis. He is the poetry consultant for the Westpark project, originating text and coordinating artworks across this development in Darlington, one of the largest public art projects in the North East.

Meena Kandasamy is a young Chennai-based poet, fiction writer and translator. Her first book, Touch, was published in 2006. Two of her poems have won prizes in all-India poetry competitions. Her poetry has been published in various journals, including The Little Magazine, Kavya Bharati, Indian Horizons, Muse India and the Quarterly Literary Review, Singapore. She edited The Dalit, a bi-monthly alternative English magazine of the Dalit Media Network in its first year of publication from 2001 to 2002. Kandasamy’s translations include the writings and speeches of Thol. Thirumavalavan, leader of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal or the Dalit Panthers of India (Talisman: Extreme Emotions of Dalit Liberation, 2003) and the poetry and fables of Tamil Eelam poet, Kasi Anandan. She is one of the 21 short fiction writers from South Asia featured in an anthology published by Zubaan, New Delhi. At present, she is working on her doctorate on Caste in the Indian Language Classroom. Kandasamy regards her writing as a process of coming to terms with her identity: her “womanness, Tamilness and low/ outcasteness”, labels that she wears with pride. She knew, she says, that “my gender, language and castelessness were not anything that I had to be ashamed of… I wrote poetry very well aware of who I was. But I was also sure of how I wanted to be seen. I wanted to be taken on my own terms… I wanted to be totally bare and intensely exposed to the world through my writings. I wanted it to be my rebellion against the world.” It meant, she adds, consciously deciding that she wasn’t interested in winning “acceptance, or admiration or awards”.

Robin Ngangom (born in Imphal, Manipur) is a bilingual poet who writes in English and Manipuri. A lyric poet and long-established translator, he is a significant presence in the literature of North-eastern India. Since the publication of his first volume of verse in 1988, he has consolidated his literary reputation with a poetry collection in every subsequent decade. He studied literature at St Edmund’s College and the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, where he currently teaches. Ngangom describes his poetry as “mostly autobiographical, written with the hope of enthusing readers with my communal or carnal life — the life of a politically-discriminated-against, historically-overlooked individual from the nook of a third world country”. While many of his poems are birthed in English and then translated by him into Manipuri, the reverse occurs frequently as well. The poems in his recent edition The Desire of Roots are of mixed linguistic parentage, and only one exists solely in English (since Ngangom considers it untranslatable in Manipuri).

Roselyne Sibille is a French poet who was born in 1953 in France. She studied geography, and then worked as a librarian before running creative writing workshops. She lives in Provence where she writes on her approach to the human being in connection with self and nature. She gives writing and listening lessons at the University of Aix en Provence (CFMI) and has run poetry workgroups at the University of Avignon. She leads writing workgroups for the association “Share horizons”(Partage d’horizons). Since 2005, she has travelled with groups into the Sahara desert for the association Wind’s friend (L’ami du vent).

Zoë Skoulding lives in Bangor, Wales. Her most recent collection of poems, Remains of a Future City, was published by Seren in 2008, following The Mirror Trade in 2004. A tri-lingual selection of poems in English, German and Czech was published with a CD under the title You Will Live in Your Own Cathedral by Literature Across Frontiers and Seren in 2009. Her collaborations include Dark Wires, with Ian Davidson (West House Books, 2007) and From Here, with visual artist Simonetta Moro (Dusie, 2008) and the long-term project Metropoetica. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and currently holds an AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts at Bangor University, where she is researching poetry and city space. She has been involved in several projects incorporating poetry, film and music, and is a member of the group Parking Non-Stop whose album Species Corridor was released by Klangbad in 2008. She is a co-editor of Skald and became Editor of the international quarterly Poetry Wales in 2008. www.zoeskoulding.co.uk

Raphael Bendicht Urweider was born in 1974 in Bern, Switzerland. He studied German literature and philosophy in Fribourg, and sees himself as a poet and a musician. He has performed with the Bernise Hip-Hop crew LDeeP and composed the music for a number of plays. In 1999, he received the Arbeitsstipendium des Deutschen Literaturfonds, as well as the Leonce-und-Lena-Preis. Other prizes include the Förderpreis des Bremer Literaturpreises (2001), the 3sat award at the Ingeborg Bachmann Competition (2002), and the Clemens-Brentano-Preis (2004). His first volume of poetry, Lichter in Menlo Park, was published in 2000. His latest collection is Das Gegenteil von Fleisch (2003). He also translates plays (Five Gold Rings, Poor Beckby Joanna Laurens) and poetry (Minsk by Lavinia Greenlaw). In March 2009, he was awarded the ‘Schillerpreis’ for his poems in ‘Alle deine Namen’. He lives in Bern.


3 Responses to About Dubious Saints

  1. Sadaf Raza says:

    Finally a place where i can be a part of the dubious gang considering i refuse to succumb to the tempting voyeurist world of facebook 🙂
    Loving the blog…..

  2. Soma Roy says:

    I have been doing some translation work for some time English to Bangla and vice versa. I have also started translating from german to Bangla and English. May I be a member of your Team, and participate in the varoius workshops?

    • Bill Herbert says:

      At present we have no workshops as a team, but several of us have worked on different translation projects in India and elsewhere. Do you know the Literature Across Frontiers website?

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