Playing with Words: Interview with a rising Kazakh poet, Zhulduz Baizakova

ZhulduzTell us a bit about your background and how you got into writing poetry?

I graduated fromthe Kazakh National University, Faculty of International Relations, and then went to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan. I was posted to the United Kingdom where I worked as the Press, Culture and Education Attaché.

I started writing the poetry in my early teens, however it was mostly in Kazakh. When I was 16, I watched the movie about the French poet Arthur Rimbaud and his eternal searchfor the sublime. My imagination was captured by hislife and geniusand I took the conscious decision to dedicate myself to poetry. I knew I could do it. It has always been there. For many years I never thought about publishing a thing; it just never came to my mind.And then, I decided to give it a go and see what happens.


You attended OCABF 2012 and read a beautiful poem from one of your trips during your timein the UK. From where do you get your inspiration?

While in London, I travelled extensively across the country to get the real sense of what they call the “British Isles”. In one of my trips I went to Chichester, one of the most ancient towns in England with its incredible architecture,including its cathedrals. The poem I read at the Forum was writtenin Market Cross.

My inspiration appears sometimes quite suddenly and out of the blue. I can start composing a poem while simply brushing my teeth for example or walking in the park. It is also true, that very little can be created with no inspiration.


Zhulduz BaizakovaWhat did you learn from attending the OCABF 2012?

Open Central Asian Book Festival was truly a magnificent event, which allowed different people from different countries to communicate with each other. I personally had an opportunity to present my book there for the very first time. I believe such events should be held regularly to promote the culture and literature of Central Asian people. I have learned some new names and new trends as well as ideas and think the initiative is worthwhile continuing.


What can such conferences and forums do to help promote Central Asian literature andopportunities in Central Asia?

The most important thing is about communication and interaction. I think people should talk to each other and discuss things they cannot do otherwise. The eventsshould not only be about introducing new talents or stars, so to speak, but it should become a forum of genuine cross-cultural, cross-dimensional dialogue.For example, dialogue about the differences we each have and how to understand each other better.


How does poetry overcome the language barrier? If you write a poem in Russian, can it befaithfully reproduced in another language without losing too much in translation?

There are excellent, overwhelming poetry masterpieces that have been translated into many languages throughout the history of literature: take Shakespeare, Pushkin, Omar Khayyám, Paul Verlaine, Rilke and others. Real poetry can be translated into any language and I don’t think this is an unbreakable barrier. Of course the quality of translation will mostly depend on the skills of translator as well as how profound his/her understanding of the poetry is. My poetry has its own peculiarities, which may present a certain difficulty, however I believe it is still possible to have a perfect translation.

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