Arts and Entertainment

Author Tom Pruiksma reads at Vashon Bookshop

Tom Pruiksma. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
Tom Pruiksma.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

Who: Tom Pruiksma

What: A reading from his book, “Give, Eat, and Live,” a translation of 60 poems by the 12th-century poet Avvaiyar.

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at Vashon Bookshop

About the book: Islander Tom Pruiksma translated the poems of Avvaiyar, a spiritual woman from south India, from the Tamil language into English. The book, Pruiksma said, is the first translation of Avvaiyar’s poems into English poetry; the book is also one of only a handful of bilingual tomes in Tamil and English. Eighty million people speak Tamil, primarily in south India. It’s a beautiful language written in a non-Latin script, he said.

Pruiksma learned Tamil when he was working as an English teacher in Madurai, India. He began translating Avvaiyar’s poems to English so he could share them with friends. At the encouragement of mentors and poets Wendell Berry, David Citino and Sam Hamill, Pruiksma continued to translate poems for compilation into a book.

“Avvaiyar is one of the first poets in any language I fell in love with,” Pruiksma said. “They were the first poems I really listened to. The way to approach a poem is the way you approach a song: Listen to the sounds the words make. Only after you’ve enjoyed the music should you begin to analyze it.”

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