Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Leicester and Leicestershire look at how to raise profile of literature and literary scene

Individuals and groups that have an interest in the literary activity that takes place in Leicester and Leicestershire are meeting to look at what can be done to raise the profile of the scene locally, nationally and internationally.

The meeting is free and open to all and is taking place at the Bishop Street Methodist Church, 10a Bishop Street, on 13 December 2017, in Leicester, from 6.30pm till 9.30pm.

Speaking at the event are:

Henderson Mullin, Chief Executive Officer, Writing East Midlands (WEM)
James Urquhart, Relationship Manager for Literature in the Midlands, Arts Council England
Cllr Sarah Russell, Deputy City Mayor with responsibilities for Children, Young People's Services, Leicester City Council
Farhana Shaikh, Dahlia Publishing / Leicester Writes Short Story Prize / The Asian Writer
Matthew Pegg, Mantle Arts / Mantle Lane Press
Emma Lee, President, Leicester Writers Club; and
Bobba Cass, Pinggg...k!

The event is being hosted by the Leicester Writers' Showcase, and will be chaired by Attenborough Arts Centre director, Michaela Butter MBE.

The speakers will give the view they have of the literary scene in Leicester and Leicestershire and what they think can or ought to be done to raise the profile of the scene. They will also take part in a discussion and Question and Answer session with those present.

In addition to the presentations, there will be a display of books by local writers as well.

Leicester Librarian Matthew Vaughan says, "The Leicester Writers’ Showcase started in January 2017 and hosts a literary event once a month at the Central Library on Bishop Street.

"The Showcase aims to create space for conversations between readers, writers, spoken word artists, publishers, booksellers, and venues.

"The event we are hosting at the Bishop Street Methodist Church is part of the conversation people in the city and county need to have about the literary activity that takes place here and what can be done to increase its visibility."

Events that have been held as part of the Leicester Writers’ Showcase include launch-style events; readings, talks, and Q&A sessions; as well as, the Leicester and Leicestershire Writers’ Fair that was held during Everybody’s Reading 2017 and which is going to become a regular feature of the literary scene in Leicester.

Other Showcase plans include a Local Writers' Corner featuring books by local writers and which will be hosted by the Leicester Central Library.

About the speakers

Bobba Cass is a gay grey poet born in Seattle, Washington, USA but living in Leicester / Leicestershire since 1973. He organises a monthly poetry event, Pinggg…K! which celebrates the metrosexuality of verse. He is a member of Peoples Arts Collective. He is currently working on a series of fables for children, from Gramps with Love.

Bobba Cass will read from poetry and fables that draw on his life on three continents and on his experiences as an events organiser and grandad.

Emma Lee is President of Leicester Writers' Club. Her most recent poetry collection is Ghosts in the Desert (IDP, 2015). She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves, 2015) and Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016). Emma Lee blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com. She reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and has been shortlisted for the Best Reviewer Saboteur Award.

Emma will share insights from the Leicester Writers' Club which meets every Thursday at Phoenix Square in the heart of Leicester's Cultural Quarter. The Club is for professional and semi-professional writers and includes novelists, poets, short story writers, non-fiction writers, children's writers and scriptwriters. Members are both widely published and award-winners. The Club provides constructive criticism on work in progress, visiting industry speakers, social events, advanced masterclasses and a writers' retreat.

Farhana Shaikh is a writer and publisher born in Leicester. She edits The Asian Writer, an online magazine championing Asian literature and runs the small press, Dahlia Publishing which publishes regional and diverse writing. Farhana hosts the popular Writers Meet Up Leicester as well as Leicester Writes Festival of New Writing. In 2017, she won Travelex & Penguin’s The Next Great Travel Writer competition and is currently part of Curve’s Cultural Leadership programme.

Drawing on her experience as a writer, editor, publisher and events organiser, Farhana will give the view she has of the literary scene in Leicester and the region and suggest what can be done to raise the profile of the scene.

Matthew Pegg is Director of Mantle Arts, a participatory arts organisation based in Coalville, Leicestershire. He is also a published writer, playwright and graphic designer. Matthew will share insights from Mantle which, since 2015, has been running Red Lighthouse, a creative writing programme focused on publishing, development opportunities for Midlands writers and community projects.

Mantle also runs a writer development programme for authors interested in writing for children and young adults which includes the Wolves and Apples biannual conference on writing for children and a series of master classes on aspects of writing for the young. The next one of which is in March 2018.

In addition to that, Mantle Arts runs community projects that include playwriting projects in schools, song writing in care homes and a community audio drama about William Wordsworth’s time living in Leicestershire. Mantle Lane Press, Mantle’s publishing arm, issues a series of small books by Midlands writers, fiction anthologies and factual and historical books with a Midlands connection.

Cllr Sarah Russell is Deputy City Mayor with responsibilities for Children, Young People's Services, Leicester City Council. She has been a Councillor for 10 years and part of the City’s Executive team for the last 8 years. Throughout that time, Cllr Russell has been a passionate supporter of the Libraries Service and has taken every opportunity to promote books and reading. Despite no longer having responsibility for Library Services, Cllr Russell has continued to be the Reading Champion for the City Council and seeks to work with schools, young people and communities to promote reading (and writing) for pleasure as well as for formal means.

Henderson Mullin is Chief Executive Officer of Writing East Midlands which delivers writing-based projects and skills development opportunities across the region. Before setting up WEM in 2008, he ran Index on Censorship, a campaigning publisher which supports of freedom of expression. Henderson has worked in the arts sector for over 20 years and has sat on the Boards of several organisations including Writers and Scholars International, Free Word Centre, Human Rights House Foundation Oslo, Open Word FM, New Arts Exchange, FLUPP Literature Festival (Rio), Nottingham Literature Festival, and Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, and the mighty Loughborough Foxes Women and Girls Football Club.

Henderson will be talking about what is happening on a regional and strategic level elsewhere and how WEM might support a process of developing the profile of Leicester’s writing and writers going forward.

James Urquhart is the Relationship Manager for Literature in the Midlands for Arts Council England. After 15 years as a freelance literary critic, regularly published in a range of UK broadsheets, James joined Arts Council England in 2010. His role as Relationship Manager includes offering development and funding advice and monitoring Arts Council England investments in literature projects and organisations.

James will give the view he has of the Leicester/shire literary scene and future possibilities. He will also talk about the Arts Council’s funding programme, Grants for Arts and Culture (formerly known as Grants for the Arts), which is open to writers, artists and organisations.

About the Chair

Michaela Butter MBE has over 30 years of experience working in the arts as a curator, promoter and funder. Currently Director of Attenborough Arts Centre, the University of Leicester's arts centre, she is responsible for developing an inclusive approach to a growing public programme of performing and visual arts, with a strong emphasis on supporting emerging talent, creative learning and community engagement. She also plays a growing role in wider cultural policy at the University of Leicester and beyond.

*See also:

1. Leicester & Leicestershire: City and County of Literature, Eventbrite listing
2. Grassroutes: Contemporary Leicestershire Writing, University of Leicester
3. Cultural Exchanges Festival, De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)
4. Ross Bradshaw, "States of Independence", 17 March 2012 (Video)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nottingham poet & British Sign Language translator to take part in Int. Translation Day event

Elvire Roberts, a poet and British Sign Language translator and interpreter from Nottingham will be taking part in Journeys in Translation, an event that is being held at the African Caribbean Centre in Maidstone Road, Leicester on September 30, to mark International Translation Day 2017.

The event is being held as part of Everybody's Reading, Leicester's nine-day festival of reading.

As part of the event, Elvire Roberts will translate two poems, Pam Thompson's "Dislocation" and Trevor Wright's "Yalla", from English into British Sign Language.

International Translation Day is held around the world annually on 30 September.

For the Journeys in Translation, 13 poems were selected from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge, a poetry anthology published in 2015 by Nottingham's Five Leaves Publications.

The poems have since been translated into more than 20 languages.

The poems are also being 'translated' in other ways as well. For example, one of the poems, "Yalla" has been treated to a Contemporary Music for All (CoMA East Midlands) musical conceptualisation, and, two visual artists are currently working on visual responses or illustrations to the poems.


The poems and at least one translation of each will be performed at the Journeys in Translation event in Leicester on September 30.

Posters of the poems and translations will also be on display at the event.

Elvire Roberts says,
Translating poetry from English into British Sign Language is the ultimate challenge because the two languages work differently and have a completely different structure.

It was a delight to be able to talk to the Over Land, Over Sea poets Pam Thompson and Trevor Wright, check my understanding with them, and ask about intended effects.

With Pam’s poem, I knew immediately how the handshapes would work, that repetition and rhythm were particularly important, as well as keeping the vocabulary true to the original. With Trevor’s poem I needed to hear about the pictures he saw in his mind’s eye so that I could re-create them in British Sign Language's inherent filmic mode.
Elvire Roberts and Trevor Wright at the Quiet Riot disability Poetry event that was held on 21 April 2017 as part of the Nottingham Poetry Festival which was also the first outing of the British Sign Language translation of "Yalla".

Project coordinator, Ambrose Musiyiwa says,
Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversation around themes of home, belonging and refuge. It encourages speakers, learners and teachers of other languages to translate or encourage others to translate as many of the 13 poems as possible and to share the translations and reflections on the translations through blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, on social media, and elsewhere.

The initiative also encourages people, as individuals or communities, to organise related events in their localities. The events could be translation workshops or sessions at which the 13 poems and translations are read and discussed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge was edited by Kathy Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

So far, the anthology has raised about £3,000 for the three charities.

Five Leaves Publications director, Ross Bradshaw says,
In 2015, towards the end of summer, a group of East Midlands writers started discussing the refugee crisis.

The outcome was Over Land, Over Sea, which brings together poems and short fiction from 80 writers from around the world all of whom, through the anthology, respond to people who are seeking refuge, the journeys they are making and how they are being received in Europe and in countries like Britain.

Some of the contributors to the anthology are well-known or are at the start of their career. Some are refugees or from other migrant families, others have campaigned or raised funds for refugees in the past.

Journeys in Translation builds on Over Land, Over Sea and, like the anthology on which it is based, encourages people to look closely at language and images and the effect these have on how we treat people who are looking for refuge. It is good to see there are people in villages, towns and cities in Britain and around the world simultaneously working on the translations.
Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. 


Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).


More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Derby poet to take part in Leicester International Translation Day celebration

Derby poet, Trevor Wright will be taking part in Journeys in Translation, an event that takes place at the African Caribbean Centre in Maidstone Road, Leicester, LE2 0UA, on 30 September from 7pm onwards, to mark International Translation Day 2017.

The event is being held as part of Everybody's Reading, Leicester's annual nine-day festival of reading.

For Journeys in Translation, 13 poems were selected from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge, a poetry anthology published in 2015 by Nottingham's Five Leaves Publications. The poems were then translated into over 20 other languages.

The poems and at least one translation of each will be performed at the Journeys in Translation event in Leicester on September 30.

Posters of the poems and translations will also be on display at the event.

As part of event, Trevor Wright will be reading his poem, "Yalla", accompanied by British Sign Language interpreter and translator, Elvire Roberts.

Trevor Wright says,
I centred “Yalla" on one person who was in transit and had lost all but one of their family.

The poem came to me when I was on holiday watching kids playing in small plastic boats from the beach and walked back into the holiday let to see, on TV, people in large and precarious plastic boats on the Mediterranean. Stories about people losing whole families began to filter through.

With "Yalla", I also wanted to mark the resilience and hope that carried people on, a hope and resilience that, I have to say, we don't honour enough.
Trevor Wright works part-time in social care and is co-director of InSight, a community interest company that provides autism awareness training. His first poetry collection, Outsider Heart, was published by Nottingham's Big White Shed in November 2016.

Trevor Wright and Elvire Roberts at the Quiet Riot disability Poetry event that was held on 21 April 2017 as part of the Nottingham Poetry Festival which was also the first outing of the British Sign Language translation of "Yalla".

Project coordinator, Ambrose Musiyiwa says,
Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversation around themes of home, belonging and refuge.

It encourages speakers, learners and teachers of other languages to translate or encourage others to translate as many of the 13 poems as possible and to share the translations and reflections on the translations through blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, on social media, and elsewhere.

The initiative also encourages people, as individuals or communities, to organise related events in their localities. The events could be translation workshops or sessions at which the 13 poems and translations are read and discussed.
Over Land, Over Sea was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

So far, the anthology has raised about £3,000 for the three charities.

Trevor Wright's poem, "Yalla", Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p. 94. Translated into Farsi by Mina Minnai.

Five Leaves Publications director, Ross Bradshaw says,
In 2015, towards the end of summer, a group of East Midlands writers started discussing the refugee crisis. The outcome was Over Land, Over Sea, which brings together poems and short fiction from 80 writers from around the world all of whom, through the anthology, respond to people who are seeking refuge, the journeys they are making and how they are being received in Europe and in countries like Britain.

Some of the contributors to the anthology are well-known or are at the start of their career. Some are refugees or from other migrant families, others have campaigned or raised funds for refugees in the past.

Journeys in Translation builds on Over Land, Over Sea and, like the anthology on which it is based, encourages people to look closely at language and images and the effect these have on how we treat people who are looking for refuge.

It is good to see there are people in villages, towns and cities in Britain and around the world simultaneously working on the translations.
Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. 


Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).


More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Interview _ Dania Schüürmann

Dania Schüürmann, born in Münster, Germany, studied Social and Cultural Anthropology (BA) at VU University, Amsterdam, Netherlands and Interdisciplinary Latin American Studies (MA) at Free University Berlin, Germany.

She completed her PhD in Brazilian literature in 2012. Since 2016 she works as an author and literary translator from Portuguese and Dutch in Berlin.

In this interview, Dania talks about project management, literature and Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the work that you do? What drew you to it? How did you start?

Since 2016 only I am working as a freelance translator and author.

After having completed my PhD in literature, I have been working in the area of project management for some years, but somehow I couldn’t get rid of literature. I kept on reading a lot and one day began writing myself, which somehow changed things.

When you are dealing with literature as an academic, you are also passionate about it, but looking at it from an analytical perspective only. I simply never dared to write myself and when I began with it, it was a revelation – it was very hard to produce something I liked, it still is, I am still actually always totally unsatisfied and have never published anything until today, but it makes me happy.

Translating literature makes part of this new productive relationship with literature and is equally hard and equally satisfying. But I am still a total beginner in translating and writing – I am currently working on my first literary translation for real.

What would you say are the most challenging aspects of the work you are doing?

The most challenging aspects – well, there are so many! I suppose that persistent self-doubts are one of those aspects ... difficult sometimes to deal with. You try very much to do your best, but it’s solitary work that normally also takes quite a long time, so that means you are struggling yourself with the words and the text and no one can really help you.

I really like an essay of the German philosopher and literary scholar (and translator) Walter Benjamin who talks about the Aufgabe des Übersetzers. Aufgabe means task, but the word also refers to the verb aufgeben and that is to give up. As a translator you have to make so many decisions with every sentence, you have to be decisive, but to be good, you also have to be aware of all the pitfalls and difficulties and sometimes you also have to give up and let go to really be able to create something new, the new text, the translated one. So, there are quite some difficulties and challenges in translating as in writing as well, but still it’s a very rewarding work.

Dania Schüürmann's translation into German of “What’s in a Name”, a poem by Penny Jones, from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.5.

What would you say are some of the things that connect the various aspects of the work that you are doing?

Translating and writing are both about language. Also, I am teaching German classes in Berlin – another language-related issue. Language would be the material I am working with in all the aspects of my work.

I think that perhaps I am very fascinated by the relationship between form and content, i.e. texts in which the form cannot be separated from the content really. And that’s an enormous challenge for the writer as for the translator.

Which writers influenced you most?

I am very much into Portuguese and Brazilian literature, so I suppose writers as Clarice Lispector, João Guimarães Rosa and also the more unknown Hilda Hilst have influenced me a lot.

In poetry, I like Rilke a lot, somehow, poems I prefer to read in German, my mother tongue. But generally I read a lot and cannot always define how writers have influenced me.

I suppose I am fascinated by how writers as Lispector or Rosa have created their very own language and literary style ... form and content are intricately interwoven and that’s what I deeply admire.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

A friend of mine sent me an e-mail talking about the project. Since I was also involved in a project of encounters between German people here in Berlin and refugees from all over the world, I was immediately interested. As a translator I thought I could make a contribution.

Most challenging certainly was the fact that I am normally not translating from English and I suppose that some of the poets also have different mother tongues. That’s a challenge and very intriguing at the same time.

What I really liked is that whilst translating a poem you really have to make it your own; it’s a way of intense reading and listening to the other writer that wrote it. It’s an act of communication, a very focused one, without haste. Exactly in that way we should also talk to each other more often, I think.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

The value of an initiative like Journeys in Translation is exactly this – by the exercise of translation you listen carefully and intensely to the Other. That’s what I think our society should be more like, a community of listeners. The Other has so much to tell and perhaps, by listening very well, you might became another, too.
Dania Schüürmann's translation into German of “Dislocation”, a poem by Pam Thompson, from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.120.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Interview _ Dominique Cox

Dominique Cox is a pediatrician who loves to read. She lives and works in Argentina and freelances as a Spanish / English medical translator.

In this interview, Dominique talks about medicine, poetry and Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the work that you do?

I work as a Paediatrician, focused primarily on high-risk populations in Argentina, immersed in the socio-political context that this entails. Alongside clinical work, with a co-worker, we developed TRA-Doctor, a firm specializing in translations within the medical field.

In spite of always being an avid reader, it was only through my experience as a doctor that I fully discovered the value of words. I realized that words could dramatically change the meaning and the impact of whatever it was I might be trying to convey, as well as my patients´ reactions. Sometimes language was the only barrier to be broken to ensure treatment adherence, reassure distraught parents or bring comfort to a suffering child.

Who or what has had the most influence on you especially as a reader, a writer and a translator? 

People, our humanness, have always fascinated me. Books have been the means by which I was allowed, from as far as I can remember, to enter the lives of people from different times, geographical locations, religions, etc. With a simple turning of a page I could find myself immersed in someone’s life, thoughts and experiences. I read whatever book I came across, undiscriminating.

To my understanding, books and an open-minded family upbringing have been the tools that enabled me to develop an ability to step out of my own reality into someone else’s without a second thought. A skill I have found essential as a physician.

Carol Leeming’s “Song for Guests”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.92. Translated into Spanish by Dominique Cox.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

I was invited to participate in this project by Laura Chalar, a very passionate Uruguayan lawyer, writer, translator and mother, who also happens to be family. We have always shared our passion for books, and in many ways she has been a link to the literary life that sometimes seems forgotten in the midst of work and motherhood.

Up until now, I had never attempted translations outside the medical field, so in a sense this has been my most significant challenge, having stepped out of my comfort zone.

Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put into the project? And, which were the most challenging?

I was not sure I was up for the challenge. In spite of being truly motivated, I had never attempted to translate poetry before, and my medical translation plus reader experience somehow seemed lacking. I wanted to be as faithful as possible to the original versions, whilst adapting to the Spanish grammatical structure. The effort to do so was fully rewarding.

As a reader I felt it was easy to empathise with what was being conveyed by each poem, and thereafter immerse myself in the writer’s mind-set, speculating about their particular choice of words.

Kathleen Bell’s “Waiting”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.62. Translated into Spanish by Dominique Cox.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

There is great value in the power of words as a means to break barriers, yet language is sometimes the only hurdle. This initiative exponentially multiplies each poem's effect by means of translation, broadening their possibility to reach out to as many people as possible.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Interview _ Elvire Roberts

Elvire Roberts was born in Yorkshire, spent her early childhood in Zambia and now lives in Nottingham.

She studied Chinese at the University of Cambridge, later pursuing her passion for language to train as a British Sign Language (BSL)/ English Interpreter. She has taught interpreting, and now works primarily in forensic, mental health, academic and arts settings at a senior level. She also assesses and audits interpreting services.

Elvire has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. She writes poetry and short stories and her poetry has been shortlisted and placed in national competitions. Elvire is actively involved in the local poetry community in Nottingham (UNESCO City of Literature) and regularly performs her work.

In this interview, Elvire Roberts talks about British Sign Language, Journeys in Translation, and poetry.

How would you describe the work that you do?

As an interpreter, I see my work extending in two parallel planes: the creative act of replicating a person’s utterance with all its emotional and contextual meaning, alongside the socio-political act of empowering and facilitating communication.

The deaf people I meet, whether as tutors, colleagues, clients or friends, have a lifetime’s experience of being silenced, of their language being disrespected and their requests for access to communication being seen as ‘difficult’ and costly. From my own life experiences as a woman, I believe whole-heartedly in enabling others to speak their truth, whether I agree with what they say or not.

When you are interpreting, what would you say you are doing?

Interpreting is immediate and in the moment; it may not convey 100% of the content, but often holds more of the perlocutionary force and intonation of the original than a translation does.

I usually interpret simultaneously, so as the person speaks or signs, I am just a few seconds behind them. This enables me to channel more of the person’s character and attitude, as expressed in their intonation and body language.

A complete interpretation requires a degree of performance in order to fully ‘be’ that person in the other language.

And when you are translating a text?

When I translate, I can take time to get inside the text. Translating feels like a luxury, as when I am working as an interpreter I have to search for meaning instantaneously and reproduce natural-looking or sounding language on the spot.

Translating poetry is the ultimate challenge, particularly when working between two languages which occupy different modalities – BSL is a visual-spatial language with a completely different structure from English. Facial expression and body movement are essential parts of its grammar. Rhyming in BSL poetry is seen in repetition or mirroring of space, handshapes, eyegaze, or simply the way a hand is turned.

As a translator-poet, I can have two different approaches to translating a text – a faithful version that replicates as closely as possible the poet’s original intended meaning and rhythms, or a freer version that incorporates my personal response and understanding of the text.

I’ve been intrigued to see the variety of approaches in the Journeys in Translation texts, some of them much looser translations than others.

Elvire Roberts and Trevor Wright at the Quiet Riot disability Poetry event that was held on 21 April 2017 as part of the Nottingham Poetry Festival which was also the first outing of the British Sign Language translation of "Yalla".
How have your own experiences informed the approach you've taken with Journeys in Translation?

Many years ago, I translated Tang Dynasty poetry and had to guess at an 8th Century Chinese scholar’s vision of the world. So it was a delight to be able to talk to the Over Land, Over Sea poets Pam Thompson and Trevor Wright, check my understanding with them and ask about intended effects.

With Pam’s poem, I knew immediately how the handshapes would work, that repetition and rhythm were particularly important, as well as keeping the vocabulary true to the original. However, with Trevor I needed to hear from him about the pictures he saw in his mind’s eye so that I could re-create them in BSL’s inherent filmic mode.

An additional challenge with translating into BSL is that it has no written form. There are complex methods of linguistic coding to represent the language for research purposes, but these would not be accessible to non-linguists. Accordingly, I had to write notes of my translation, then memorise these before signing the final version to camera. A final translated text in BSL is always on film rather than on paper. You can see the translations for "Dislocation" and "Yalla" on YouTube.


In your opinion, what effect does your being a non-native BSL user have on your rendition of the Journeys in Translation poems? 

I’m not entirely satisfied with my translations due to the fact that BSL is my second language: the filmed BSL translation is rendered with the articulation of a non-native BSL user. In my experience, native BSL users have both more pronounced and varied facial expressions, with a more sophisticated use of eyegaze.

To see poetry created and performed by Deaf BSL poets, you can look on the YouTube channel signmetaphor: Paul Scott’s "Tree" is one of my favourites.

What effect do the various roles you play have on each other?

Interestingly, my role as an interpreter has been one of the obstacles in my transition to being a writer. As an interpreter, my aim is to be impartial, to talk only about issues of communication, and not to give my personal views on the matter in hand.

As a writer, I express my views, use autobiographical elements, allow my own self to form and originate the text. This is testing enough as a woman in any role, where we are still encouraged to be ‘angels’, to put the needs and voices of other people first.

I have, however, benefitted enormously from being multi-lingual and from having learned British Sign Language and Mandarin Chinese, languages which are so very different in form and culture from British English. They stretch my brain to alternative connections and ways of creating meaning, giving me a wider range of lenses on the world.

I wonder if perhaps the acts of attention and interrogation that I bring to translation are also those same acts which I bring to forming a poem.

I also believe that there is interaction between the visual-spatial nature of BSL, my interest in art, and my delight in how space is used in poetry. I remember having a eureka moment when I first picked up The Ground Aslant: an anthology of radical landscape poetry, edited by Harriet Tarlo, where white space is a much-flexed muscle of the poem’s environment. This is something that I am exploring in my own poetry and I have just been introduced to the work of Caroline Bergvall, whose playful and linguistically experimental poetry works across other art forms, addressing difficult issues such as migrancy and disappearance.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

I often meet people who are surprised that there isn’t just one signed language, that each country has its own and that within that national signed language there are regional dialects.

From my perspective as a poet, as an interpreter working with disenfranchised communities, and as a feminist, the Journeys in Translation project encapsulates the value of diversity, a value not expressed in economics but in the opening of our minds to the experiences and perspectives of others. At the same time, it speaks of compassion and of sameness, and of the importance of communicating that across barriers. The richness of being human is our obdurate creativity and individuality, and in that we are all the same.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Interview _ Renata Strzok

Renata Strzok is a writer, blogger, translator, and technical writer.

As a member of a student creative writing group, she had some of her stories, both in Polish and in English, published at CREATURE: Sekcja Creative Writing KNA UJ and currently is co-editing the second short story anthology to be published by the group.

Strzok also blogs at Uczę się mówić, which she describes as "a mixture of personal reflections, mostly on the issues of mental health, quotes, angry rants, and short fiction."

She finished her MA studies in translation and intercultural communication at the Jagiellonian University, and since then has cultivated her interest in translation through workshops and projects such as Yeats Reborn and Journeys in Translation. For two years, she has been working in the area of technical communication.

In this interview, Renata Strzok talks about creative writing, Journeys in Translation and poetry.

How would you describe your writing?

Most of my writing stays in my diary, which is as much a place to reflect on what happens within and around me as a document recording those reflections. Other than that, I write mostly short fiction, also quite introspective, but not necessarily personal.

For me, writing is a way to get the most important things – things that make me happy, angry, or which hurt – out of my head, and share them. This doesn’t apply to my work as a techwriter, which is not so much about writing as it is about gathering information and presenting it in the clearest and most useful way possible.

Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?

I think I’ve gone through several phases where I could notice different writers’ influence in my own writing. For example, there were the phases of Edward Stachura, Virginia Woolf, or Witold Gombrowicz.

What would you say are your main concerns as a writer?

Gombrowicz wrote that we should write about things that really interest us, and not be boring. That’s one of my main concerns: not to bore myself to death with my own writing because if I am bored, how can I expect a better response from others?

I also try to make sure that the things my characters do make sense emotionally, from the point of view of psychology. For example, if a character does something that’s bad for them, there should be a reason for it.

What is the name of the student creative writing group that you are part of? And, what does the group do?

The name is actually quite long: the Creative Writing Section of the Association of Students of English at the Institute of English Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. The group has been active since 2014, and I’ve been part of it all along. I joined out of curiosity, and because I wanted to have people to talk to about writing.

Over the years, there were many occasions to discuss both serious and not-so-serious issues, have a beer together, and of course exchange feedback on the texts we write. In the very beginning, we agreed that the feedback must be constructive, so that we hear more than just “I didn’t like your story” or “you’re such a good writer”.

I can’t give you an exact number of people in the group - people come and go, but recently I think there are five people meeting regularly every two weeks.

Apart from the meetings, we organized two short story contests for students who are not native English speakers. We got submissions from Sweden, Lithuania, Spain, Russia, and of course Poland. We published the Obsessions anthology after the first contest, and we’re in the process of publishing the second anthology called Press Any Key. I got involved in the language editing of both books, and typesetting of the second one.

Press Any Key, the second anthology from the Creative Writing Section of the Association of Students of English at the Institute of English Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, mentioned in a local newspaper.
Why are groups such as this important?

Through interaction with other writers, you really learn a lot. For example, you may learn about kinds of literature you’ve never heard about, or learn that criticism doesn’t have to hurt. Thanks to our meetings, some of us started to submit their texts to online magazines or publishing houses, which they didn’t feel confident enough to do before.

Accomplishing something together, like we did with the contests, is also a great experience. But probably the most important thing about such groups is the awesome people you meet there.

What led you to translation and intercultural communication? 

I liked learning English at school. When I started getting fluent and reading books in this language, my first attempts at translating fragments of them came about kind of naturally. For example, I remember translating a fragment of Life of Pi just because I wanted to see what it could read like in Polish. Then, I started studying translation and intercultural communication, and learned some theory which was also interesting for me.

I also had great teachers, including dr Agata Hołobut and prof. dr hab. Marta Gibińska-Marzec, whose knowledge and enthusiasm for translation were really inspiring.

During my studies, I had a lot of practice: we translated everything from promotional materials through to travel books and poems. Nowadays, I sometimes take part in events such as the ha!wangarda festival, or the Miłosz Festival, which offer challenging and sometimes unconventional translation workshops.

I’ve also participated in two translation projects so far, both centered around poetry: one of them was Yeats Reborn, a call for translations of selected W.B. Yeats’s poems, and the other was Journeys in Translation which is translating poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) into other languages.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

I learned about it from a friend from the creative writing group. Then I read the poems, and found some of them interesting to translate. So I started translating.

Which were the most challenging aspects of the work you put into the project?

Given that Polish translations tend to be longer than their English sources, one of the biggest challenges was preserving the shape of some of the poems. For example, “Stories from the Jungle”, where lines are already long, so I didn’t want to make them any longer, and “Dislocation”, where I think the brevity of the lines contributes a lot to the meaning.

I also made multiple attempts at the poem “but one country”, where I strove to preserve not only the shape of a globe, but also the links between lines in both parts of the poem, which wouldn’t form naturally like in the English text because Polish has more cases.

One of the poems I liked best, “Yalla”, also proved difficult to translate. Its imagery is quite complex, but after reading it several times I started seeing that rock, that sand, that heavy sky and the remote land with my own eyes. I tried to render this poem according to what I imagined reading it. Some of the expressions I used, e.g. “pomarszczone palce gładzą sny / osad, co powstał wbrew ruchowi fal” (“wrinkled fingers stroke dreams, / residue all at odds with the tides”) are unusual in Polish, but I think that’s the strength of this poem, that’s what made the English text so memorable to me.

As part of Journeys in Translation, Renata Strzok has translated poems that include Rod Duncan's "but one country" and Trevor Wright's "Yalla", from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015), from English into Polish.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

I guess all translation projects encourage people to communicate across language barriers as well as other barriers, to do with culture and politics. We may live in an era of globalisation, but this is still very important.

This particular initiative is also important in that it tackles the topic of refugees through a different medium, and from a different perspective than we’re used to. Where I live, the media focus on conflict, do little to fight xenophobia within the country, and hardly ever talk about ways to help those seeking refuge. The poems in Over Land, Over Sea offer a closer look at the lives of refugees, showing their experiences, so that we see them for who they are: people who need help.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Interview _ Monica Manolachi

Monica Manolachi is a poet, a literary translator, and a lecturer at the University of Bucharest, Romania, where she teaches English in the Department of Modern Languages and where she completed her PhD in 2011.

Her research interests are American, British and Caribbean literature and culture, postcolonial studies and contemporary Romanian and Eastern European literature in translation.

Her books include Performative Identities in Contemporary Caribbean British Poetry (Ars Docendi, 2017); and the poetry collections, Joining the Dots / Uniti Punctele (PIM, 2016), Poveștile Fragariei către Magul Viridis (Fragaria’s Stories to Magus Viridis) (Brumar, 2012) and Roses (Lumen, 2007).

In September 2016, her Antologie de poezie din Caraibe was awarded the “Dumitru Crăciun” Prize for Translation at the International Festival “Titel Constantinescu”, Râmnicu Sărat.

Monica Manolachi has also translated children’s literature by classical authors such as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Jack London into Romanian. [Editor's Note: See also, Manolachi's Galatea Resurrects #.25 interview on poetry, translation and research].

In this interview, Monica Manolachi talks about poetry, Caribbean and Romanian literature and Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe Performative Identities in Contemporary Caribbean British Poetry?

Performative Identities is a book about some of the cultural meanings of the poetry written by authors from the Caribbean, who live, have lived or lived in the United Kingdom: John Agard, James Berry, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Fred D’Aguiar, David Dabydeen, Linton Kwesi Johnson, E. A. Markham, Kei Miller, Grace Nichols, Dorothea Smartt, Derek Walcott and Benjamin Zephaniah.

It focuses on five themes: performative identity; performative gender and race; postcolonial metamorphoses; collective trauma and memory; and religion. The thread that connects all these themes is the idea that the hubristic component of cultural hybridity may be considered a source of performative identity. The poet’s role is to transform hubris into an artistic product by using metaphoric language.

How did the book come about?

In 2008, I was sailing the ocean of literature published in English, trying to choose a topic for my PhD thesis. I was in Bucharest, where I live, and couldn’t decide what direction to take. The novels of Hanif Kureishi, Doris Lessing or Iris Murdoch, but also the metaphysical poets, the Romantic poets or the contemporary poets were on my list.

Apart from using elements of literary studies, I wanted to develop a translation component.

Professor Lidia Vianu, my coordinator, told me the work of black British poets hadn’t been approached here by then, so that would have been an excellent topic. After reading and listening to poetry by some of the poets mentioned above, after accessing some articles, biographies and interviews and watching some videos online, Caribbean literature emerged as a significant subject in my mind, slightly different from Bob Marley’s music (quite popular here) and very different from Pirates of the Caribbean (in the cinemas at the time).

Of course, I liked what I read: the pronunciation, the attitude, the wordplay, the approach to history, the focus on memory, ethno-racial matters and relationships, or the variety of poetic styles and techniques. The problem was that the main corpus was practically not available in any our libraries. I had been interested in postcolonial studies ever since we were introduced to the topic at the faculty; in 2003, I had seen the word “postcolonial” on a door at the ELTE, the state university of Budapest, where I was studying Hungarian (my minor). So, in the summer of 2008, I made my research proposal after reading only a small part of what was about to come.

I am a very intuitive person and now I think I made the best choice. The theoretical scaffolding was developed later, following the main idea of the hubristic side of cultural hybridity, in the sense that the latter may hide many inequalities and unhealthy relationships.

I had heard about the Greek term hubris in high school, when our literature teacher, Mr. Gheorghe Mitrache, introduced us to ancient Greek drama. Later, as a student of foreign languages, I realized there are etymologists who agree that there is a link between hubris and hybridity, and the Oxford English Dictionary mentions too that hubris is the root of the word hybrid.

It means there must be theorists who support this view, I thought. The more I read about (cultural) hybridity, the more I realize there are arguments for this perspective.

In the first year at the doctoral school, the scholarship offered by the University of Bucharest allowed me to buy some books online, especially the poetry collections. It was only in 2009, when I went to Oxford to do research in the Bodleian Library, that I eventually started to go scuba diving in the deep Caribbean Sea of poetry.

This is, in short, how my journey of cultural translation began.

Monica Manolachi's books include Performative Identities in Contemporary Caribbean British Poetry (Ars Docendi, 2017); and the poetry collections, Joining the Dots / Uniti Punctele (PIM, 2016), Poveștile Fragariei către Magul Viridis (Fragaria’s Stories to Magus Viridis) (Brumar, 2012).

Which were the most challenging aspects of the work that went into the book?

Firstly, the many local languages spoken in the Caribbean – Jamaican Patois, Guyanese Creole etc. – have been a source of poetry, of course, which means that what Kamau Brathwaite called “nation language” in The History of the Voice (1984) appears as a significant linguistic phenomenon in the collections published by these authors.

It is English, but not quite. At first, I had some difficulties.

In a slim book entitled Slave Song, writer David Dabydeen shows the gap between Standard English and the various dialects spoken there and gives some explanations why people prefer a hybrid language, suggesting what might happen in the psyche when such dialects are obliterated, and that translating dialects might pose problems.

When trying to translate some of these works, I realized Standard Romanian is like Standard English: it does not express the same reality. And then, what dialect to choose?

In this case, I guess, one perfect equivalence would be texts written in a Romanian dialect about our realities, through glocalization, which I have actually seen lately.

Secondly, the poetry written by Caribbean authors is rooted in numerous cultural phenomena originated in almost all continents: the triangular history of the slave trade, the multicultural European heritage, the New World, the mass migration across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans etc. The texts are often palimpsests, one word may have multiple meanings and the translator must work carefully not to obscure them.

One book that seemed opaque to me at the beginning was Bill of Rights by Fred D’Aguiar, which deals with the Jonestown massacre from November 1978. Only after watching a documentary online did I have a better grasp of the tragedy the book is about.

Another challenging aspect I am researching at the moment is intralinguistic translation: how contemporary poetry interacts with various Anglophone literary and artistic traditions. It is challenging because it involves a lot of work and resources, but I find it rewarding and useful for future translations.

Last but not least, one of the risks of considering the hubristic component of cultural hybridity as a source of performative identity is to think that hubris must be produced or procured like any other resource. It happens anyway, because man is a small creature in the universe and cannot control everything.

I’d rather say that, instead of just sitting and waiting, man should consider why and how hubris occurs.

I don’t have clear answers to these questions.

What is obvious is that many crises are produced because of not understanding when and how certain phenomena become excessive.

It has taken me about ten years to read and partially assimilate what these authors have written. I’m sometimes suspicious of some of the ideas I put in the book. I fear they might be biased, unripe or improper. My English might sound awkward at times. However, I’m sure poetry has its own mysteriously redeeming ways.

Which were the most enjoyable aspects of the work?

One of the best features of Caribbean poetry is that it tackles cultural and historical trauma in many healing ways. It ranges from epic poems such as Omeros by Derek Walcott or Turner by David Dabydeen, dealing with collective wounds, to humorous and witty condensed poetry which debunks stereotypes.

It also ranges from poems written in Standard English to many others which combine it with dialects and other languages, or are written in dialect altogether. The colour of saying – to quote Dylan Thomas – is a rainbow of feelings and rhythms, the joy of difference I identified with from the very beginning.

As a learner of English, reading Caribbean poetry is very rewarding. It makes me dream in English and of distant places and people.

Last week, I dreamt I was on a beach in Barbados!

Last summer, I dreamt both Walcott and Brathwaite, and had a conversation with them. Walcott said “the night is young” and went upstairs. We were in Barbados too. I have recurrent dreams of this island.

Some years ago, I dreamt Grace Nichols in my kitchen: we were chatting like close friends.

Apart from this influence, I find very interesting the way these poets respond to other literary traditions, especially the Western one. It is a vivifying interaction with fusions, intrusions and disjunctions, which reveals traces of intercultural contact, the nature of that relationships and the tensions of power relations.

Postcolonial poetry from the Caribbean suggests directions in which cultures can relate to one another.

As a translator, I started rendering poems into Romanian some years ago. They were hosted by a local webzine, EgoPhobia. In 2016, Antologie de poezie din Caraibe (Anthology of poetry from the Caribbean) won a local prize for translation in Râmnicu Sărat, a town near the place where I was born, Galați. The book includes poems by seven authors. (My intention is to continue with a second edition and to include selections from other authors as well.) Thus, vocabulary such as “star apple” or “star fruit” arrived in Romania both in literature and along with fruit traders.

I see Caribbean poetry as the fruit of endurance and infinite hope, of freedom and genius, the fruit of the “poetics of relation”, in Edouard Glissant’ terms.

What makes Performative Identities different from other books that are out there that look at more or less the same issues?

I am aware that there are hundreds of books about Caribbean culture and literature.

In comparison with other studies that locate Caribbean poetry in the English or the postcolonial literary canon, or that focus on either Caribbeanness or Britishness, my book explores a set of particularities related to how these poets reconfigure the identity of the contemporary migrant beginning with the 1970s.

Following a two-fold approach, both synchronic and diachronic, both literary and cultural, Performative Identities argues that the prominence of Caribbean literature has been the effect of transforming the burden of (neo)colonialism into artistic products. I also look into several psychoanalytical theories (D. Winnicott, N. Abraham and M. Török, or L. Kirmayer) to argue for the importance of poetry as a vibrant mirror of the soul in instrumenting this metamorphosis.

What sets the book apart from other things you’ve written?

It is the only book I have written in English from first to last.

I also write poetry in Romanian and English, articles and essays, and translate literature from and into English.

Apart from being a breathtaking journey, doing research for and writing Performative Identities was a threshold and a source of inspiration, an occasion to learn about the world and to engage in creating my own view through writing.

In 2012, a poetry collection about leaving, returning and becoming a whirlpool, entitled Poveștile Fragariei către Magul Viridis (Fragaria’s Stories to Magus Viridis), was published in Timișoara, Romania. In 2016, Joining the Dots / Uniți punctele came out in Iași, Romania. It is a bilingual collection which includes poems published over the last ten years and in which I engage with contemporary ideas related to translation.

What would you say are some of the things that unite the various aspects of the work you are doing?

Although I don’t teach literature at the moment, I sometimes bring poems in class to show students various types of discourse, to familiarize them with metaphoric language, with its power of connecting fields that may seem incongruent at first sight or of interrupting metanarratives when they ruin parts of society. Fortunately, poetry is not only about love in a narrow sense. A poet sees the love between a stapler and a mustang or between silence and numbers or between cassava bread and quantum physics. Good poetry moves mountains, cultivates sensitivity and can be a delightful, thought-provoking or healing activity.

The main topics of Performative Identities are aspects I tackle in my own writing and research.

I grew up in a multiethnic market town called Tecuci, a place at the crossroads, close to the former border between two historical provinces, Moldova and Wallachia. We used to travel quite often between Bucharest and Tecuci. It was a time when cultural difference officially did not matter much, given the general uniformization and nationalist cultural politics before 1989.

The first time somebody said to me I am a Romanian ethnic was in England in 2010. It took me by surprise. I had never thought of myself an ethnic before. A national, yes. My family name sounds Greek, it’s true, but I had always thought of it only in aural terms.

I believe that translating literature of the Caribbean – and from other postcolonial spaces – might promote a more relaxed and informed approach to interrethnic and interracial relationships, because readers can get a richer perspective on such issues if they are allowed to reflect and talk about them.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

A friend from Scotland, poet Neil Leadbeater, told me about the project and encouraged me to participate. We know each other because he has been a contributor to a local multilingual litmag, Contemporary Literary Horizon, coordinated by Daniel Dragomirescu.

Besides, given that for several years now I have been working with international students who come to study in Bucharest, such poems form part of the material suitable to share with them.

Ten years ago, I graduated from an MA in literary translation studies in Bucharest and have translated poetry ever since, for anthologies, radio, literary magazines, friends and strangers, paid or just for my pleasure or for future projects etc.

Which were the most challenging aspects of the work you put into the initiative?

When translating the poems into Romanian, "but one country" by Rod Duncan required more effort than the others, because of its content and shape.

I worked on it in stages: the identification of meanings; the syntax and the arrangement of the linguistic chunks; the final round shape.

It took about a week, as I had classes at the time.

I had to work quite a bit on the line “you should blush when you say to us…” A word-for-word translation would be too blunt. For the verb “to blush” I preferred “a se îmbujora” instead of “a roși”. Whereas the latter seemed too common to me, stemming from “roșu” (Eng. “red”), the former reminds us of “bujor” (Eng. “peony”), which is more positive, it evokes a mix of shame and hope, rather than just shame, it makes the poem less bitter and more engaging.

The Romanian peony (Paeonia romanica peregrina) is the oldest flower in my country. It survived the ice age and is as old as crocodiles.

From a different angle, the overlapping verbal and non-verbal components of the poem, which together form an instance of intersemiotic translation, give a powwow tonality to the whole.

In my translation, the last two lines of the first half and the next two lines play upon the statement/question binary.

Another challenging aspect is the juxtaposition of words that can be both nouns and verbs, which implies that there might be more than one way of translating them and reflects the existence of more than one reality and sometimes the clash of various perspectives. That occurs in "Song for Guests" by Carol Leeming.

One other thing is that, in "Stories from ‘The Jungle’", Emma Lee uses the pun “the right to chase lorries”. At first, I wasn’t sure what that meant and had to ask: It’s recent history.

Which were the most enjoyable aspects of the work?

I was delighted that "but one country" could be translated into Romanian and arranged exactly as I imagined it when I first read it.

When I wanted to take a photo of the printed page, I noticed the shadow of my hand in the background and thought it looked better with it than a simple photo of the poem.

I find it wonderful that poetry allows us to do so much with so little.

Several weeks ago, we discussed some of these poems in class and students commented on them. They resonated with poems such as "Dislocation" by Pam Thomspon, "What’s in a Name?" by Penny Jones, "The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel" by Ambrose Musiyiwa, "Framed" by Marilyn Ricci or "The Humans are Coming" by Siobhan Logan.

In some cases, they have family members who work abroad and are sensitive to issues of migration, cultural identity and cultural difference.

Monica Manolachi's translation, into Romanian, of Siobhan Logan’s “The Humans are Coming”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.79.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

Translation presupposes very careful reading.

If it is poetry, then reality is once again filtered through an imaginative aura, where there is space for mindful reflection, patience and creativity. Values such as friendship, compassion, balance, subtlety, recognition, transparency or awareness are some that come to mind when rereading these poems about the refugee experience and recollecting the act of sharing them with friends, students or family.

Initiatives like Journeys in Translation connect the reality of literature written in English with the everyday multilingual reality seen both in the street and online. They are signs of normality as they can contribute to reshaping our worlds from one year to another, from one decade to another, in a very practical way. It is an instance of what Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to have said: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Posting the translations in various languages and the interviews on blogs and social networks is very helpful in this sense because, for example, I have access to what other translators wrote and could relate to their perspectives and come up with improvements. It is as if we were a team in the same room.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.