Some of the greatest works of literature have emerged from times of crisis, and with most of the world in lockdown, we have more time to write than ever before. But where can we find inspiration?

Look no further than PEN to Paper, a video series of original writing exercises from authors of the PEN America World Voices Festival. Writers we love share short prompts to stir the imagination in these home videos. Our online audiences gain intimate insights into their favorite writers and their unique approaches to craft while putting their own pens to paper.

Joshua L. Freeman and Tahir HamutIn our second lesson, translator Joshua L. Freeman demonstrates the craft of literary translation by welcoming us into his process. Just after finishing translating a poem by acclaimed Uyghur poet and 2020 World Voices Festival writer Tahir Hamut, Joshua calls Tahir to discuss a few lines of his verse. Their ensuing dialogue touches on questions of language, interpretation, and poetic inspiration.

Read Tahir’s poem, “The God of this Time,” in Uyghur or in English (translated by Joshua).

Joshua and Tahir will be launching a series of movies spotlighting their collaborations. Subscribe to Tahir’s YouTube channel, and follow Joshua on Twitter at @jlfreeman6.

About joSHUA L. freeman

Joshua L. Freeman is a historian, translator, and currently, a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. He received his Ph.D. at Harvard University, where his dissertation focused on Uyghur cultural history in 20th-century China. His translations of contemporary Uyghur poetry have appeared in The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Words Without Borders, Asymptote, and elsewhere. More of his translations can be found at his website.

About tahir hamut

Tahir Hamut Izgil grew up in Kashgar, part of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. He is recognized as one of the foremost poets writing in Uyghur. Additionally, he has directed numerous documentaries, music videos, advertisement campaigns, and feature films. Fearing persecution from Chinese authorities, he and his family sought asylum in the United States in 2017. His poetry has been translated into English, Japanese, Turkish, Swedish, and other languages. His poetry has appeared in English translation in Asymptote, Crazy Horse, Off the Coast, Words Without Borders, Berkeley Poetry Review, and The Southern Review. He currently works as a producer at Radio Free Asia.