Thai-American Fulbright Student Anothai Kaewkaen grew up reading the works of Homer, Ovid, and Sappho in English translation, but found few comparable versions of Thailand's classical poetry. Inspired by American poet Robert Fitzgerald, whose interpretation of the Odyssey had been composed in Greece within sight of Homer's Mediterranean, Anothai dreamed of living in Thailand to study and translate its classical literature while immersed in the language and culture from which it rose—a vision the Fulbright program answered.
During his time as a Fulbrighter, Anothai participated in numerous cultural events by his host institution, the College of Dramatic Arts, serving as an English-language master of ceremonies at the induction of Wat Pho, Bangkok's oldest and largest Buddhist monastery, into UNESCO's Memory of the World register, the Ministry of Culture's five-day exhibition of Thai silks in honor of HRM Queen Sirikit's 80th birthday celebration, and for performances by Land of Art Theater Troop. “In this day and age not having an English-language announcer for these events would be embarrassing,” said Surat Jongda, Anothai's project adviser and assistant producer for the SUPPORT Foundation's annual masked dance-drama under patronage of the Queen.
After speaking at a panel discussion arranged by Fulbright Thailand on the reading culture of Thai youth, Anothai joined forces with Thai Fulbright alumna Nawan Poovarawan and her nonprofit organization My First Book Project, which produces and sells literary material and purchases books for underprivileged Thai children with the proceeds. Previous projects had been entirely in Thai and Anothai was invited to help expand their consumer base by adding writings in English. In late 2012, they and their team began sales of “Cards for All Occasions,” boxed sets containing ten greeting cards, each featuring original illustrations as well as a poem in both Thai and English. Within the first three weeks over one thousand units were sold, with each unit equal to one book a child will receive. In all, the project has the potential to reach four thousand children.
Anothai is currently applying the experiences he garnered in Thailand as a writer in the MFA program in creative writing at Lindenwood University, St. Charles, Missouri. The program and school were introduced to him by fellow U.S. Fulbrighter to Thailand, Ryan Guffey, PhD, who established an exchange program between Lindenwood and several Thai universities. Together, they look forward to facilitating further exchanges between Thailand and the United States.
Lindenwood University MFA in Writing Program—Online or In-Class
Fully Online MFA Program—No Residency Requirement