Summing it all Up: Reaching the World
‘How wonderful to hear to the Governor of Bangkok speak of his love of literature, to listen Harold Stephen’s stories of Joseph Conrad in his talk about the famous Oriental Hotel and to take a tour of the author's wing with the delightful ninety-three year old Khun Ankana Kalantananda,’ commented one of the 120 participants from 20 countries who joined us in early November for ‘Reaching the World’.
‘This event was like a buffet where writers, translators, educators, publishers, editors, and students came to understand and bring back something unique back with them,’ wrote Bhavna Khemlani.
We agree that combining our annual AP Writers gathering with the South East Asian Writers Awards (SEA Write) was a perfect match. It gave everyone a generous taste of Thai hospitality, thanks to the support of the Governor, M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, who is also Chairman of the SEA Write Award, and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
The BMA opened its impressive Arts and Culture Centre for our first night readings by Thai poets Zakariya Amataya, Krit Lualamai and Kal Real as well as Zeyar Lynn from Myanmar, Thailand-based American poet Colin Cheney, and the distinguished Singaporean poet Edwin Thumboo. The first night ended with a generous banquet. Thank you, Governor.
‘Congratulations on masterminding and bringing to sweet fruition a fabulous and very productive week,’ wrote Asia Literary Review’s Editor-in-Chief, Martin Alexander. ‘1) Invaluable forum for meeting pan-Asian writers, translators and academics; 2) Likewise for focused discussion and understanding of writing, translation and publication issues; 3) A strong sense of community, both personal and national; 4) Nothing beats the met eye, the shared smile, the hand shaken and the words directly spoken.’
Much of the congratulations are due to our host, the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University (‘Chula’), Thailand’s oldest and most prestigious university. We were honoured to have the university’s President, Professor Pirom Kamolratanakul, join us for the opening.
Also at the opening was Australia’s Ambassador to Thailand, James Wise and second secretary at the embassy, Dr Moya Collett, representing the Australia-Thailand Institute (ATI) which supported the participation of a large contingent of Australians, including Adjunct Professor of Translation and Interpreting Studies at Monash University, Harry Aveling.
‘It was an extremely rich event,’ wrote Professor Aveling. ‘You successfully gathered many of the most important writers and critics from across the region.’
We are grateful to the ATI also for supporting David White, one of the directors of Varuna, The famous Writers House in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, which we hope will eventually be able to partner with us to provide residencies to some Asian writers. David wrote an inspiring article on the event for the Varuna newsletter, highlighting the participation of indigenous Australia poets Lionel Fogarty and Ali Cobby Eckermann, recommended to us by the Japanese-based publisher and poet, Michael Brennan.
‘The most moving parts of the program were without doubt the readings by the showcased authors and poets. Powerful writing, powerfully read. Even those work read in first language, untranslated, made connections with the audience. Gutsy poetry, deft short stories, intriguing novel extracts, incisive political rhetoric encased in clever characterisation. No-one who heard it will forget the reading by Mr Jang Jin-sung, once the poet laureate for Kim Jong Il, who defected at great personal risk. His intense verse, read first in Korean and then translated, wrenched everyone’s guts.’
A sizable delegation came from the Philippines. Distinguished Filipino author Jose Dalisay (‘Butch’ to most of us) wrote in his column, ‘AP Writers is both as regional and as global as you can get. This reflects an increasingly obvious fact in today’s literary world: international and inter-cultural exposure has become vital for writers, to expand both their perspectives and their networks.’
Reaching the World was for emerging writers as well as established authors. We offered three workshops, two for prose, led by Xu Xi and Matthew Condon, and a poetry workshop led by Colin Cheney. One of the newbies, Andrew Bond, wrote: ‘As an aspiring writer, events like this are critical for nurturing local talent since so few forums and gatherings exist, I found it excellent for networking and gaining insight to develop further as a writer.’
Indian author Dipika Mukherjee said Reaching the World ‘was cozy enough to really get to know old friends and make new ones, plus a wonderful blend of new writers and seasoned. Very supportive and open environment, with none of the crazy writerly egos at the big literary conferences.’
Asia Books did a massive job, turning up every day to display and sell the authors books.
Perhaps the cultural highlight for those of us who stayed the full five days was the massive banquet in the Mandarin Oriental’s ballroom where the South East Asian Writers’ Awards were presented by Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Mahidol. Simon Winchester was the brilliant keynote speaker. One of the many remarkable aspects of that spectacular event was the dessert – a marzipan book with a chocolate feather quill pen. Delicious too.
The winners of this year’s South East Asian Writers’ Awards were Wipas Srithong (Thailand), Suchen Christine Lim (Singapore), Oka Rushmini (Indonesia), Duangxay Luangphasy (Laos), Ismail Kassan ( Malaysia), Trung Trung Dinh (Vietnam), Charlson Ong (Philippines), and Pengiran Haji Mahmud bin Pengiran Damit (Brunei).
We have every expectation that next year will be even better. Stay posted for dates and details.