Archive for July, 2017

The Dream Job

Translation has been lucky for me. Ever since the British Council trip to Hungary where I first discovered that I loved translating – and that, in fact, as someone who isn’t a linguist I was allowed to translate – it has brought so many good things into my life: adventures; friends; a whole, thrilling world of poetry beyond what I thought I knew. And this month has brought more luck. I was really pleased to hear we have won a 2017 PEN Translates Award for Asha Lul Mohamud Yusuf’s The Sea-Migrations. The Poetry Translation Centre workshops I help lead also featured in an episode of Helen Mort’s brilliant new radio series Mother Tongue.


And then my big, exciting news – I’m thrilled and honoured beyond words, really, to say I am going to be the new editor for Modern Poetry in Translation. It is the job of my dreams. I mean, it is my favourite magazine – beautiful, political, diverse, essential. Ted Hughes co-founded it for goodness sakes!! With Daniel Weissbort, he sought to create ‘an airport for incoming translations’. John Berger has said of it: ‘MPT is the Fifth International, anyone who wants to change the world and see it changed should join.’

I will be learning as much as I can from Sasha as she puts together her final issue this autumn, and putting out my first issue in the Spring. I hope you will join me on this journey! Pleased beyond measure.

Read Full Post »


Such a hectic week, full of things I wanted to share, so I’ll jot some of them down. Last weekend I attended a Poetry Translation Centre event, launching two Turkish pamphlets in the Arcola in Dalston. Bejan Matur’s translations were read by Jen Hadfield, and they both spoke beautifully about the process afterwards – Bejan talked about her shamanic leanings and declared: ‘In sun and darkness are words. Poets can hear them!’ I was particularly blown away by Karin Karakasli’s poems though, translated by Sarah Howe and Canan Marasligil. They are just my sort of thing, full of amazing leaps between very specific, personal images and politics – a poem about schoolgirls rolling up the waist of a ‘mouse grey’ uniform becomes about state oppression.  And its evocation of Istanbul is stunning:


I am in love with a tower

I am one of the fluorescent white seagulls

spinning like magnets

round its axis by night


This week I also did edits on my translations of Asha Lul Mohamud Yusuf, ran the PTC class on Chinese poetry, and attended a marvellous Idler dinner, where my hosts were Tom Hodgkinson and Victoria Hull. In exchange for a short reading, I got to sit at a table with the geniuses John Lloyd and Rowley Leigh who both gave short talks, and was plied with wine and delicious food; seaweed butter, Labneh, broad beans, dukkah, bavette steak, grilled peaches… I’d highly recommend you book their next dinner (with Lavinia Greenlaw) for a convivial night out. Also, I’ve just agreed to be the Idler’s new poetry editor (light duties, I’m assured).

Then on Thursday I headed to Newcastle to the Northern Writers Awards. It was absolutely pissing with rain, which felt comfortingly appropriate. We went to a grand building at the University of Northumbria for a swanky occasion with real champagne, many speeches, and everyone sat round tables applauding like the Oscars. I was very pleased to present awards to Niall Campbell, Vidyan Ravinthiran and Rachael Allen. Also to meet the New North Poets I will be mentoring this year: Michael Brown, Jasmine Chatfield, Elizabeth Gibson, Maria Isakova-Bennett and Rosa Walling-Wefelmeyer. You’re going to be hearing a lot from me over the next twelve months about these exciting talents. Another delight was bumping into a New North Poet from a few years ago, Degna Stone, and receiving a copy of Butcher’s Dog 9. It’s as beautiful as ever and was good train reading for my return journey – poems by Will Harris and Rachel Long particularly.

On Sunday I braved rail replacement hell to get to Ledbury, aka poetry heaven. Luckily when I got there the sun was shining on the monochrome timbered houses and rainbow hanging-baskets, and two of my favourite poetry people Luke Wright and Jacqueline Saphra were in town to drink wine with and exchange gossip. Luke delivered a blisteringly good new show with poems from his collection The Toll, which by coincidence (they hadn’t met before) Jacqui recently reviewed for The Poetry School – it’s as good as she says. 

The next morning I ran a workshop about putting your manuscript together for Mslexia, and had lunch in hospitality before catching the train home (during which I gulped down Larchfield, by Polly Clark, which won the Mslexia Prize, about Auden and a young mother who is also a poet – a subject sometimes uncomfortably close to the bone. It’s a really clever, moving read about the horror of always being watched and your privacy being eroded – both when you become a mother and suddenly your domestic habits are everyone’s business and for Auden as he realises the same is true of his sexuality. Do read it.)

And I haven’t even got onto all the Life Stuff – the children’s party, the haircut, the reception meeting at the school Gruff’s going to be starting at this autumn. It was also the week of our big move, back from the flat we’ve generously been allowed to stay in near Tower Bridge during building works to our Peckham home. It’s been a little cramped, but a strange privilege to walk along the river every morning, sometimes seeing the bridge lift or swans bob past and people taking selfies. I made the most of my last days there with the kids, taking Gruff to climb on the big anchors and propellers he loves, then to the fountains by City Hall to splash around, whilst Cate paddled in the tiny corporate river. I also managed to enjoy the stunning new Dreamers Awake show at the Bermondsey White Cube, which includes some of my favourite artists: Louise Bourgeois, Leonorra Carrington, Lee Miller. Gruff kept saying things like ‘Why does that lady have teeth on her nipples?’ but seemed to enjoy it. This review by one of my favourite essayists Olivia Laing is worth a read.

And then packing everything up, moving it back across London and arriving at a house still covered in scaffold and without curtains and with so much to do. But I’m glad to be home. Our new room where the loft used to be is lovely and light with a big window over the garden and a new bathroom. I’m lucky to be able to live in such a beautiful space my husband has designed, whilst Cate sleeps for the first time in her own nursery downstairs.



Read Full Post »