Benefit Poetry Reading Draws Kazakh and US Writers

БенефисASTANA – Host Kanat Omar, a Kazakh poet, read his own original works to art and poetry lovers at the Cablegram benefit poetry reading at the Black Duck restaurant on Nov. 30. The event was the first of its kind in the poetry marathon that has been going on since March.

The event was broadcasted via a Skype conference call to Saint Louis, Missouri, in the United States to people Omar met during the transatlantic visit he made after winning the ArtsLink Residencies Programme, an international literature competition.

The event started with a brief introduction to the poet’s visit to the U.S.

“I am very grateful to Mary Laurita and Joachim Faust who invited me to Saint Louis, helped me with many issues and introduced me to many wonderful people. I would like to give a special thanks to Tamalyn Miller, the CEC ArtsLink Residencies Programme director, who initially contacted the Centre for the Humanities in the summer of 2013 about hosting me and Arts Link programme coordinator, Maxim Tumenev,” Omar said in his opening speech.

“When I was in the U.S., I recited English translations of my poems to a New York panel that were crafted by American poet and translator Tomas Campbell two years ago. I also demonstrated translations of other modern Kazakh poets and medieval poet-cavaliers, Assan Kaigy, Kaztugan Zhyrau, Atamberdy Zhyrau as well as others. This work will result in the first multilingual book of Kazakh-American Contemporary and Medieval Poetry,” he said.

His visit lasted five weeks, he travelled from New York to Saint Louis and then back to New York. During the visit, he met writers who are little known in Eurasia. His project was of great interest to poets and translators, as well as several professors at Washington University.

“The most notable thing was that I had the opportunity to start translating there,” he added.

Omar read his poems and short stories at the event. The audience had the opportunity to listen to American works via Skype. They were very interested in the event, because it was the first of its format held in Kazakhstan.

The event drew poets, journalists and many other people interested in the arts. Honorary Ambassador of The ATOM Project, Karipbek Kuyukov, himself a famed painter, was in attendance as well. He told the audience about the project, the consequences of the nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk and the challenges he has faced during his lifetime.

“I am very grateful to my father who didn’t hide me from the rest of the world like many parents do with children suffering from the consequences of nuclear testing. My father gave me an opportunity to study and to see the world,” Kuyukov, who was born armless, said.Бенефис 1

He also mentioned that he has started writing his own book, another testament to his creative spirit.

Overall, guests enjoyed the event and the works of Omar.

“The event was really a Cablegram evening – as the telegram from Astana was transferred via a cable of fellowship to New York. The event created the groundwork for future, long term literary exchange. The ‘live bridge’ experience was a first for us. It bears not only benefits like friendship, but it also develops culture,” Dinara Butobayeva, head of the Association of Creative Personalities’ Dialogue public foundation said.

Omar has authored four poetry collections, he has won numerous competitions including the Shabyt International Festival in Astana. His poems have been published widely in literary magazines throughout Russia and Kazakhstan. With a degree in film and video directing, he has worked for seventeen years in television as a director, journalist, television host and producer. He has won awards for his documentaries. He also teaches poetry seminars at the Open Literature School in Astana. Omar hopes to discover new American authors and cooperate on translating their works into Russian and translating the works of Kazakh poets into English.