-click here to listen to “Love Letta to de Worl” in Jamaican-
Frank X Walker’s poem was translated in Jamaican by Shauna Morgan and Robertha White-Morgan. Thank you, Shauna and Robertha!
A poet and scholar, Shauna Morgan springs from a rural district in Clarendon, Jamaica. She is globalist who researches and teaches literature of the African Diaspora at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Her poems were shortlisted for the 2011 Small Axe literary prize and have appeared in ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics & Consciousness, Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, The Pierian, and the Anthology of Appalachian Writers Volume VI. She researches and writes about representations of Black womanhood in 21st-century literature, and is currently editing a collection of essays on the poetry of Frank X Walker. She spends much of her time in a twin sandwich reading with her 9-yr old daughters Neena and Ella.
Robertha White-Morgan fell in love with words 34 years ago. She wrote her first poem (about the slaughter of a majestic pimento tree) when she was eight years old. Her love affair with the written and spoken word has continued ever since. As a broadcast journalist and teacher, she has shared this love with others for 15 years. Currently struggling to learn Japanese while raising two rambunctious children, she writes on paper scraps, capturing words in the breaks between school recitals and diaper changes. It helps her to stay sane.
One question we often get is what’s the most surprising thing that’s happened since we started working on Love Letter To the World. There’s a lot we didn’t anticipate a year ago, yet we always come back to what’s at the core of this artwork: the people (if you are reading this, you are already part of this astonishing core!). We never imagined we’d make so many new friends. We did not expect we’d happen upon Frank X Walker’s inked words in coffee houses, barbeque joints, and daycares.
Kelli Reno’s “still believing”
We did not imagine we’d meet Kelli Reno, an English teacher at STEAM Academy in Lexington, who wrote to us a week before getting “still believing” inked on her back, to ask whether we’d work with her students to collect loving words for the North Side of Lexington. We will soon be talking with her sophomores about community, art, and poetry that makes love visible. Her sophomores will be writing poetry and making art (though they will stay away from permanent tattoos!).
We did not imagine that an email introduction by a mutual friend would lead to a meeting with Ali Farhang at Third Street Coffee that lasted nearly two hours. Ali, who identifies as a proud Torontonian who was born in London and considers Iran his homeland, wanted to make sure he does justice both to every word of “Love Letta to de Worl’” and to the venerable tradition of Persian poetry. So we drank coffee and talked about metaphors and multiple meanings and words too heavy with history.
Listen to Ali Farhang’s translation here
We did not imagine that on walking into Blue Door Smokehouse we would see “with the sun” inked on the right arm of Rob Thomas, the man who greets everyone who enters with a huge smile. We already knew Rob from the Lexington Tattoo Project, but we had no idea he has enough charm to convince anyone to get the sliced beef brisket, even if you thought you were going in for a side of slaw (the beef brisket is totally worth it!).
Rob Thomas’ “with the sun”
We expect that our circle of friends will continue to grow, that one day it will be impossible to travel anywhere without spotting new galaxies of words and suns dancing on strangers’ skins.
— Kremena and Kurt
-click here to listen to “Love Letta To de Worl'” in Japanese-
The Japanese translation of the poem was a collaboration between Chuck Clenney and Ayako Antone.
Chuck Clenney is a Japanese translator by day and, by night, a writer, DJ, and visual artist, living on the north side of Lexington. He writes for the Chevy Chaser Magazine, has published lots of poems, and hosts a radio show every Tuesday night, 10 pm-midnight, on 88.1 FM WRFL. Chuck also helps coordinate Kentucky Fried Zinefest (formerly Ephemera Fest), a yearly fest for zinesters, DIY artists, small press, and independent publishers, in Lexington, every May.
Ayako Antone is originally from Okinawa, Japan. After graduating from college, she spent about a year in New Zealand, learning English, and exploring the world and herself. In Okinawa, she worked for the Ginowan City Board of Education for a few years as a researcher and editor, and published a book related to the city’s history titled Murashibai, a report about the city’s ethnic dance/musical festival. Ayako has lived in Lexington, KY since 2006. She writes: “When my co-worker Chuck Clenney introduced me to the poem “Love Letta to de Worl,” I fell in love with it. It was not easy to translate such a beautiful piece of art, but it has been an honor to be involved in this project.”