Seeing your country's culture from a new perspective from time to time is a very valuable thing. One of the best ways to do that is to meet literary figures from other cultures. I'm extremely fortunate and privileged to have had, with the support of Wales Arts International, the chance to meet literary figures from all over the world. I remain close friends with a number of them to this day. The experience has given me a new perspective on Welsh culture, highlighting what is unique about it as well as what it has in common with the world's other cultures.
When I joined the India–Wales Writers Chain in 2010, I had no idea that today I'd still be corresponding regularly with one of India's most prominent English-language authors, Sampurna Chattarji. The long weekend I spent with other Welsh poets in the Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in the company of Sampurna and two other poets from India, K. Satchidanandan and Robin Ngangom, was a wonderful experience. And so was our poetry performance in Aberystwyth shortly after. Although I didn't know it at the time, this was the beginning of five years of joint discussion, translation and drinks with a group of exceptionally interesting literary figures.
I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to travel to India to join Sampurna and Satchi once again, along with other poets, in 2011. Once again the emphasis was on discussing and collaborating on translations of our work, and we had the opportunity to perform the new poems at Hay Festival Kerala. The location, as well as the company, very much added to the experience – as can be seen in this photo!*
In 2012-13, I was invited to be one of Hay Festival's International Fellows, and this was the beginning of a very exciting period in which I visited five literary festivals around the world. The whole thing is one big colourful mixture in my head by now – the non-stop busyness of Dhaka, the leisurely vibe in Nairobi, the colourful hustle and bustle of Cartagena, the stunning beauty of Budapest, and the warm friendliness of Kells. I met so many different authors and caught a valuable glimpse of the world of international publishing, and I came to understand how so many minority languages around the world, like the Welsh language, manage to prosper alongside majority languages.
In 2014-15, I had an opportunity to meet once again with Sampurna as part of the Walking Cities project. Rhian Edwards and I went wandering around the hot streets of Mumbai with Sampurna and Ranjit Hoskote, getting to know parts of the city via their poems. It was another unforgettable experience that enriched my understanding of both India and urban poetry. The group came to Wales for the second part of the project, along with another group of fantastic and mischievous poets who were collaborating in Kolkata.
All these experiences have underlined for me the importance of translating poetry, and of meeting authors on their home turf. It has broadened my horizons in terms of both literature and geography, and has shown that Wales, despite all the difficulties it faces, belongs to a very large family of unique nations.