Challenges of Translating Malay Poetry: A Roundtable Discussion


Featuring: Abdul Rahman Basrun, Alfian Sa'at, Dr Sa’eda Buang

Moderator: Bashir Basalamah

Poetry is one of the most subjective and creative forms of expression. In translating poetry, a translator has to deal with linguistic, literary and aesthetic, and socio-cultural challenges. How does a translator deal with culturally-specific metaphors? How can a translator ensure that the innate lyricism of a poem is retained? What are a translator's priorities when transforming a poem from one language to another. Are all poetry translations acts of transcreation? A panel of experts share their experiences and insights on translating poetry between Malay and English.

This programme is co-organised by the Malay Heritage Foundation. It will be in Malay and English.

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Alfian Sa’at is a Resident Playwright with W!LD RICE, one of Singapore’s most recognised theatre companies. His published works include three collections of poetry, One Fierce Hour, A History of Amnesia and The Invisible Manuscript; a collection of short stories, Corridor; a collection of flash fiction, Malay Sketches; two collections of plays, as well as the published play Cooling Off Day. Alfian won Best Script at the Life! Theatre Awards in 2005 for Landmarks, in 2010 for Nadirah and in 2013 for Kakak Kau Punya Laki (Your Sister’s Husband). In 2011, Alfian won the Boh-Cameronian Award in Malaysia for Best Book and Lyrics for the musical The Secret Life of Nora. In 2013, he won the Boh-Cameronian Award for Best Original Script for the play Parah. In 2001, Alfian won the National Arts Council Young Artist Award for Literature. His plays and short stories have been translated into German, Swedish, Danish and Japanese and read and performed around the world.


Bashir Basalamah began his translation and interpreting career in the civil service, learning the craft on the job in the Judiciary before joining the Parliament as staff interpreter. Since turning freelance, he has gained the Australian NAATI Professional Translator accreditation, admission to the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), and membership of the American and the Malaysian Translators Associations. He is a founding member of BAHTERA, an Indonesian translation e-group of about 2500 members, as well as the smaller Malay translation e-group TERAJU. He has now found a new interest in the training and professional development of translators and interpreters. He feels privileged to conduct PD workshops for colleagues in the Judiciary and, as an Associate of SIM University, enjoys teaching translation and interpreting to a new generation of potential linguists.


Dr Sa’eda binte Buang, a Senior Lecturer, has joined the Asian Languages and Cultures Academic Group, NIE since 1 July 2001. Dr Sa’eda received her Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Arts from the National University of Singapore, and Doctor of Philosophy from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She obtained her Diploma in Education from the the Nanyang Technological University/National Institute of Education.


A multiple award-winning journalist, Abdul Rahman Basrun retired after two and a half decades from journalism at Singapore Press Holdings to pursue his passion of writing, as well as grooming a future generation of moral and ethical writers. As former chief sub-editor of Berita Harian, he headed the teams of sub-editors, photographers and graphic artists. He has penned hundreds of social commentaries and multiple columns in the local media and was recently editor/publisher of three anthologies of fiction written by madrasah students. He helped transcreate the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs, Kisah Singapura (The Singapore Story), and has authored three children’s books that are sold out. He is now coach with multiple student enrichment programmes. He founded Scholastica in 2015 to continue the work of promoting the spirit of intellectualism. He translated Isa Kamari's book, Portrait of Singapore’s Malay Poetry, from Malay into English as part of The Select Centre’s Intercultural Residency.

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Sat Sep 16, 2017
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM SGT
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