Archive for November, 2017

Various Rainbows

I’ve had a stressful few days juggling work with a sick, mucusy, furious baby, but in the interest of counting blessings, I did enjoy teaching at the Hurst for Arvon last week with the wonderful Steve Ely (who is insanely knowledgable about everything from Rwandan history to Willow Tits), managed to do some reading, and had one long, bright, blustery walk on which I saw this rainbow:


The last night’s group performance was just one of the best I’ve heard too.

Also, Asha’s collection ‘The Sea-Migrations’ was THE Sunday Times Poetry Book of the Year! So proud and pleased for her and the Poetry Translation Centre! Why not buy a copy for a Christmas present?

Some online stuff to draw your attention to as well. Firstly, tomorrow the seasonal tradition that is the Modern Poetry in Translation Advent Calendar begins. A poem a day – it’s been a pleasure looking through the archives and helping choose some of them. Do follow us at @MPTmagazine (and can I just quietly whisper an idea in your ear: gift subscription).

My mood was also really lifted this morning by this lovely review of ‘Incarnation’ by Michael Bartholomew-Biggs for London Grip.

And this podcast I did for the RLF in which I chat about the nonsense poetry has also just gone up (I’m ten minutes in, giving a talk about Jabberwockies and Jumblies). Something to listen to whilst wrapping your Christmas presents perhaps…

Now must blow my baby’s nose whilst she screams ‘ow’.



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At the weekend I was in Aldeburgh, in the chill, blasting sunshine of a glorious autumn weekend: taking part in a panel for the Society of Authors, buying smoked cockles off a hut on the pebbled beach, catching up on poetry gossip in The Cross Keys, and listening to some wonderful readings: Bernard O’Donoghue, Lavinia Greenlaw, Jacqueline Saphra’s sonnets about Lee Miller from her Hercules Editions pamphlet A Bargain With The Light (set off rather wonderfully by surrealist canapés of skewered eyeballs and meringue nipples), and the brilliant Ishion Hutchinson reading from his Faber collection House of Lords and Commons – this poem, ‘After the Hurricane’, in particular, felt awfully relevant (flies returning to genuflect / at their knees, on Aunt May’s face.) Many thanks to all the volunteers who make Poetry in Aldeburgh possible and so special.

Then on Monday I headed to Queen’s College Oxford, as they generously hosted a launch for Sasha Dugdale’s final issue of MPT, which has a Russian and Ukranian focus. It’s a double-length issue packed with wonderful things. David Constanine’s Hölderlin translations were exquisite. It was also very special to hear Maria Stepanova, and Sasha’s own translation of her ‘War of the Beasts and the Animals’, a mindblowing 26 page masterpiece that is the issue’s centrepiece and the best thing I’ve read all year. Honestly, I felt like I’d just heard ‘The Waste-Land’ for the first time. You can read her editorial and an extract here, or why not subscribe to MPT instead?

I also want to say something about Sarah Maguire, who very sadly died last week. She was the founder of the Poetry Translation Centre and a huge influence on me: encouraging me to think I could translate though I’m not a linguist and bringing me round to her conviction that ‘poetry only ever develops through translation’. Without her Asha and I would never have published The Sea-Migrations this month, and I don’t think I would be taking on the editorship of MPT. She was a superb poet in her own right (read ‘The Florist’s at Midnight’ and feel your heart break), a superb anthologist (as a fellow gardener, Flora Poetica is perhaps my favourite anthology of all time), a superb translator of Arabic. But I will remember her most of all sharing gossip over heaped plates of Persian food with dried limes and saffron, or dancing joyfully with the women at Somali Week. I visited her in her last month, and she was still surrounded by flowers and friends. RIP Sarah.

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