Utilialandia, or short for Utia, is one of the most progressive countries on the planet. I was grateful to be here during a recent kerfuffle due to the translation of the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman into Utian.
Though there are only 2,401 native Utian speakers, they are the most literate people. Everyone can read and write in at least four other languages. However, they were in a near state of bewilderment with the young new American poet. In Utia, they don’t distinguish between African American, Asian American, LGBTQ American, Irish American, etc. It was all confusing to them. My host asked me, “Aren’t you all Americans since you live in the USA?”
Gorman, the young American poet (African American), wrote a lovely poem about hope and freedom. As far as Utians can figure, these are universal values and understandable by all. They selected their finest translator for this critical job. In Utia, the Ministry of Arts and Poetry is one of the most important departments, next to the Ministry of Happiness. They chose Uhuru Marieke, known for translating some of the most abstract and obtuse poetry. They had even translated my somewhat difficult Jazz Ku verses flawlessly. The Ministry of Poetry was pumped!
A special paper was ordered. Fresh ink was ground up! And the finest calligraphers were on call. The verse would be translated, then printed, and large six-foot panels of the poem would be displayed downtown. Then the Ministry of Poetry was notified that Poetry Central in the USA forbade this. “The translator Uhuru is not African American, nor a person of color, and therefore forbidden to translate this poem into Utian.”
The Minister of Poetry was mystified. “What does the color of your skin, the color of your eyes, or your predilection for ice cream have to do with your ability to translate poetry?”
Poetry Central in the USA replied, “We’ve sent three pages of politically correct translation guidelines. We understand that there are no African Americans in UTia, but it must be translated by someone with an iota of African heritage for the poem to be genuinely translated or understood.” The Utians were puzzled and asked me, “Does that also mean that only Polish people can play Chopin or only Black musicians from Mississippi can play the Blues?” I was as mystified as my hosts of this literary, racial profiling.
The Ministry of Technology ran the genetic algorithm on all Utians, borrowing computer times from MIT and Cal Tech, and discovered that Utians could indeed translate the poem. It turned out that all Utians had.0004 percent of African heritage.
Utians were African and a rainbow of all nationalities, and with the new translation into Utian, we understood the poem, “The Hill We Climb.” We are not divided by race or ethnicity, gender, but we are defined by our collective journey to justice and equality for all. We are all inspired by the exquisite translation into Utian. I am grateful that my Utian hosts did not kowtow to provincial political correctness and allowed this poem to be read by all. Just imagine the magnificent land of Utia.
Namaya has recently returned from Utia to the People’s Republic of Vermont.