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Archive for November, 2015

Chameleons

I’ve read at some fantastically diverse events this month – at Peckham Literary Festival and the Globe Road Festival – and the Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize Awards last Monday evening felt like a fitting climax. They were held in Europe House near Westminster, supported by the British Council and the Poetry Society, in a room filled with international flags where DJ Penny Metal played euro-tunes and at times recreated the atmosphere of a bierkeller. My co-judge Olivia McCannon talked very movingly about the importance of translation in these times – Paris was in everyone’s minds – and the readings were all absolutely beautiful: Tom Kuhn and David Constantine read Brecht, Iain Galbraith a stunning poem about tension he thought fitting to the occasion (‘The Catkin’ gets stuck up a nostril like ‘an ermine in its den’), whilst Anne Stokes introduced the audience to Sarah Kirsch,  Elzbieta Wojcik-Leese (who had made the trip from Copenhagen) and Robert Minhinnick gave us a powerful rendering of  Krystyna Milobedzka, and Susan Wicks delighted us with Valerie Rouzeau. In their absence I was honoured to read out Ellen Dore Watson’s translation of the Adelia Prado poem Neighbourhood, which I love.

(photos by Kevin Lake for the Poetry Society of Iain Galbraith, Olivia McCannon, myself and   Elzbieta Wojcik-Leese.)

Pure pleasure, and such warmth and generosity in the room. I had to do the whole ‘and the winner is…’ bit (hopefully I kept the anticipatory pause the right side of tacky), and we were pleased to give the award to Iain Galbraith for Jan Wagner’s Self Portrait with a Swarm of Bees, the kind of book it would be impossible not to enjoy (although they would all have been very worthy winners). The event concluded with a reading of Wagner’s poem ‘Chameleon’, itself in a way in praise of the translator: ‘vanishing slowly among / the colours. Hiding itself in the world’.

It was particularly pleasing that the award was also a victory for Arc, who work so hard for international poetry. It was a joy to catch up with the editors, Tony and Angela, and hear that plans to put together a collection of my friend Anna T. Szabó’s work are finally coming together. I need to dust off my Hungarian dictionary…

In other news, I’ve written reviews for the new issues of Magma (of Sansom, Moore and Rose Parkes) and Poetry London (of Freud, Reid and Barraclough) and have been enjoying my complimentary copies. And I’ve been reading some great stuff online – this essay about the poetic ‘I’ by Dorothea Lasky is amazing, and check out Declan Ryan’s new poetry website Wild Court too. Now, time to get in the mood for Christmas: we decorated Gruff’s first Christmas tree this weekend (he added a seal and an Orca when I left the room) and I’m about to fill his advent calendar with out-of-date chocolate coins…

 

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