How many times I felt as if my chest might burst
or like an arrowhead were lodged inside my heart;
and for my lovely Moon, how I was set aflame.
For ever since the Second Month, you nursed
a grudge against me—and then, in the Third,
the lord I serve, who bears the lofty name,
away from his cloisters left on a rough journey
for which I, as a servant at his feet,
was parted from you, though most cherished by me,
until the royal progress was complete:
traversing the wilderness in pilgrimage
to worship the Footprint of the great Sage.
A fine translation of Sunthorn Phu, for whom a pilgrimage was not so much holy as absurd, satiric, overburdened, and unwanted. The poem, a nirat, details a journey by boat and royal elephant through folkloric and dangerous landscapes by a grieving lover. It is also very funny. Noh Anothai’s commentary is scholarly and wry, pointing out subversive puns, weird place names, and spirits that populate the countryside. His translation reads like a string quartet’s performance of Thailand’s great national poet.
—Andrew Schellig, Bright as an Autumn Moon: Fifty Poems from the Sanskrit
Few have attempted to translate Thailand’s classical poetry, and even fewer have succeeded as Noh Anothai has in bringing Sun- thorn Phu’s Poems from the Buddha’s Footprint into English. Phu’s is the definitive account of the time-honored pilgrimage to this holy site, but not even Montri Umavijani, his most prolific translator, completed a full-length version of it. Now, with his ear for Phu’s subtle humor, witty wordplay, and changes in tone, Anothai braves the terrain of the untranslatable by creatively fusing various techniques while suggesting the movement and easy formality of Phu’s poetry like no translator has done before. With this necessary addition to the availability of Thai literature in English, this translation promises to launch our national poet among the great poets of the world.
—Dr. Phrae Chittiphalangsri, Department of Comparative Literature, Chulalongkorn University