Kavya Poetry in Tibet

Shambhala Publications was a sponsor and partner of the Tsadra Foundation's Translation & Transmission Conference 2017

In this Translator's Craft Session, Andrew Quintmen, Gendun Rabsel, Kurtis Schaeffer, Nicole Willock discuss Tibetan Kavya poetry.

Kavya in Tibet is a session following from a workshop on Tseten Zhabdrung’s commentary on poetics (Snyan ngag spyi don) that was hosted at the Latse Library with Gendun Rabsel, Nicole Willock, Andy Quintman, and Kurtis Schaeffer. The Tibetan system of poetics and ornate poetry is highly influential in the history of Tibetan writing and is based on the most important Indian manual of poetics, Daṇḍin’s Mirror of Poetics (Kāvyādarśa). This session introduced some of the fundamental theory and practice of this snyan ngag type of literature. The intellectual gravity of snyan ngag did not make itself felt until 1267 and 1270 when the Kāvyādarśa was translated fully into Tibetan. From that point onward we see hundreds of major and minor works on snyan ngag and its influence on writers throughout the Tibetan world can hardly be overstated. The organizers of this session give four main reasons for presenting a more extended public presentation of kavya and why that would be useful and enjoyable for people who engage in different kinds of work with Tibetan texts: 1) snyan ngag is one of Tibet’s major art forms and most other types of writing are heavily influenced and often include snyan ngag; 2) This classical form of literary art is still alive today, and snyan ngag is at the center of contemporary discussions and debates about the relationship between innovation and tradition in modern Tibetan literature; 3) it is notoriously difficult to learn, but useful for a deeper understanding and appreciation of Tibetan literature; 4) historically it is now possible to approach this challenging technical literature because of the work being done be a few scholars and translators these days.

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