Friday, April 28, 2017

Interview _ Marilyn Ricci

Marilyn Ricci is a poet, playwright and editor.

Her poetry has been published in a wide range of small press magazines and her pamphlet, Rebuilding a Number 39, was published by HappenStance Press. Her first full collection, Night Rider, is out now from SoundsWrite Press.

In this interview, Marilyn Ricci talks about her writing and about Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the work you do?

In terms of my poetry writing, I’d describe it as fulfilling and often a huge struggle. When a ‘prompt’ or idea comes to me for a poem (usually through reading other people’s poetry) I feel an excitement because I know I’ve stumbled across something which is important to me. This is the beginning of a process which is sometimes quite difficult but will end, I hope, with a poem which is meaningful both to me and to others with whom I hope to connect. That connection is the important thing.

Which are the easiest aspects of the work?

I think the easiest aspects are enjoying other people’s work, getting together with other poets and gaining inspiration from this. Poetry isn’t a solitary occupation for me.

In terms of the actual writing itself, very occasionally a poem does seem to waft my way and I more or less just write it down and then play with it until it feels right. I wish that happened more often.

With regard to the writing process, one of the most challenging aspects is cultivating patience. When something has prompted me to write, I begin by getting a few lines down. I’m listening for rhythm, wondering about form, cutting out the extraneous to make sure every word earns its place in the poem, looking for what excites me in the subject matter and looking at that from an unexpected perspective or speaking about it in a new way. I’m constantly interrogating the poem as I work on it. This can take a long time and you have to be patient and bold – start all over again if necessary.

I belong to a women’s poetry group in Leicester – SoundsWrite – and I workshop a lot of my poems there to make sure I’m asking the right questions, to help me to be patient and keep working on the poem until it feels right to me. I often refer to a poem as ‘cooked’. What I don’t want is ‘half-baked.’

Marilyn Ricci's books include the poetry pamphlet, Rebuilding a Number 39 (HappenStance Press, 2008) and the poetry collection, Night Rider (SoundsWrite Press, 2017).

Who or what has had the most influence on you?

Regarding subject matter, many of my influences come from my childhood growing up on a council estate just outside Leicester. My parents worked in local factories and I’ve written a sequence about them, “Hannah and Con At Work” – in my latest collection, Night Rider. As was very common in 1960s Leicestershire, my mum worked in the hosiery and my dad in ‘the print’. But they weren’t locals. They were incomers from the mining areas of South Wales and County Durham who were moved during the 1930s on a government scheme to get people out of the depressed areas. They brought their politics with them which greatly influenced my view of the world and so I was very aware of social class differences and the systematic inequalities that produces. This led later to an awareness of gender and ethnic inequalities too and the crazy ways people attempt to justify them and promote prejudice. I hope this is apparent in my poem ‘Framed’ which is being translated – the notion that women covering their heads with a headscarf as something unheard of in British culture is a lie. Not covering the head in public in the UK is a very recent thing and as I said in the poem: my mother always wore a headscarf when she left the house.

The list of other poets who have influenced me is very long, almost too many to name. Here are a few: John Keats, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Stevie Smith, D A Prince, Stephen Dobyns, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Don Patterson, Dennis O’Driscoll, Carole Bromley and many others who may only be known in the small press world.

Supportive editors of small press magazines have also been a great source of strength and encouragement over the years.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement so far?

Getting poems published in magazines I respect isn’t easy so it’s always exciting when I get an acceptance.

In terms of publications, I’m very proud of my 2008 pamphlet, Rebuilding a Number 39, published by HappenStance Press. And this year I’m equally proud of my first full-length collection, Night Rider, published by Karin Koller at Leicester-based SoundsWrite Press. It has been a delight to put together the collection and to read from it at various venues.

Another highlight would be working with Somali friends to translate a beautiful Somali poem, “I Am Somali”, into English and getting that published in Modern Poetry in Translation in 2014.

I have also edited books and written plays that have been performed all over the East Midlands which has been a great experience, but that’s another story.

Marilyn Ricci's poems have been featured in anthologies that include Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) and Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016). 

How did you get involved with Over Land, Over Sea?

I can’t remember exactly but I came across the fact that contributions were being sought for an anthology to help support refugees and asylum seekers. I thought it was a brilliant idea. And it has proved to be so.

Seeing the terrible scenes on the coast of Greece (it’s been happening for years in Sicily too) and then reading the sickeningly nasty responses from some parts of the British media made me want to counter that in some way.

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

The value of an initiative such as this is quite hard to measure. It doesn’t produce the so-called ‘hard’ evidence (usually statistical) that is now so beloved of governments, corporations and many other organisations. That ‘hard’ evidence does have value, but it isn’t the only type of evidence which shows an activity has brought, for instance, great benefit to people.

In this case, it’s a matter of ‘small acorns’ which eventually produce mighty oak trees (there’s a nice English proverb!). Putting people in touch with each other through poetry is the sort of activity which brings fulfilment and a sense of worth to people’s lives and souls. For the writers, it’s wonderful that other people will delve into your poem, pull it apart and rebuild it. For the translators, it’s an insight into another poet’s mind and re-producing the poem so that it becomes meaningful to even more people. For readers it links people together as fellow human beings who may be very different, but also share a common humanity.

Marilyn Ricci’s “Framed”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p. 114. Translated into Greek by Irena Ioannou. 


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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Interview _ Trevor Wright

Trevor Wright works part time in social care and is the co-director of a community interest company, InSight, which provides autism awareness training. His first poetry collection, Outsider Heart, was published by Nottingham's Big White Shed in November 2016.

In this interview, Trevor Wright talks about the work he is doing.

How would you describe the writing that you do?

I'm relatively new to poetry and so far I've written about family, masculinity and its impact on others, political events in the wider world, key events from my own past with the odd comedic poke at well known public figures. If there's a theme that links many of them it's inequality which has significantly worsened in recent years and is by no means inevitable.

As a writing process, chaotic. Trying to process the endless sensory incoming of everyday life, put some shape to it, find a place within or against it. Sometimes both within one poem. Sin, death and redemption just about covers it.

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

I didn't study literature after the age of 16 and only started writing a few decades later so I'm still working that out.

The Beano, Sillitoe, Robert Tressell and Michael Foot's biography of Nye Bevan then an overdue catch up on the other half of the population via Virago and the Women's Press when I worked in a collective bookshop. I like to hear poetry aloud so would credit people on the Derby / Nottingham open mic circuit who have been supportive. However, I'd say my main cultural influence has been music and the pictures and rhythms that it embeds. You won't spot the links but the likes of Patti Smith, Leadbelly, Joni Mitchell, and Niney crept into my first collection.

Phrases and rhythms from when I lived in Wales as well, 'everyone has their own bag of stones to carry' for example, and then there's the influence of observational comedy - I've always had a soft spot for Dave Allen.

How have your personal experiences influenced you're writing?

Everyone has highs and lows to reflect on so there are experiences and lessons there to be tapped. Some poems come easy, one about my daughter kicking up leaves in the park, for example ... others are buried, not always whole, in layers of clay, rubble and rock that have to be pick axed out.

Being autistic is a thread. Living with autism means you see things from the margins, rationally, not overly encumbered by emotion but can express that perception with passion. It gives an early insight, not always complete of course, into inequality and diversity.

I draw on a range of experiences, from working with snippets that pop up in a writing workshop, media reports from around the world, looking up from a table at an open mic night to see a lonely bloke staggering across Nottingham's Slab Square dressed as Batman. If it pops up, I'll have it!

What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?

Surviving my early open mic and crit group experiences relatively intact has got to be high on the list as has being a Reds fan yet getting a poem accepted for the Welcome to Leicester anthology.

My first collection, Outsider Heart, was published by Big White Shed last November and I never thought that being asked to do that would happen within three years of starting to write. But I'd say, the biggest achievement has been connecting and working with others. Simple things like chatting to someone at an open mic night because a poem spoke to them or the types of creative collaboration central to Journeys in Translation. That can be difficult for someone with autism and against the grain of your instincts and learned experience. Most of us mask and mimic behaviours to damp down the anxieties of 'doing social' or just avoid it altogether.

Writing and performing has enabled me to contribute on my terms, which I'd never really done before. Better late than never!

Trevor Wright's debut poetry collection, Outsider Heart was published by Nottingham's Big White Shed in November 2016 .

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

I had followed the Poets in Solidarity Facebook group and worked up a couple of refugee related poems when the call out for submissions for Over Land, Over Sea was made. I sent in three and one, "Yalla", was accepted for publication in the book. It was later one of the 13 poems chosen for Journeys in Translation.

On the principle of once you're in it, you're in it, I set out to see what translations I could get done. So far, it's been translated into Welsh, Italian, Farsi and British Sign Language with an experimental music version due in May.

We are testing out dual readings of the BSL version and then Farsi version at the Nottingham Poetry Festival next week.

Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put into the project?

Going back to the original poem, having clear images to work from helped ... 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 and I centred the poem on one person who was in transit and had lost all but one of their family.

Being a parent helped position it. That all came together unusually quickly, providing a core structure.

For Journeys in Translation, its others who do the hard work. Individuals volunteered to translate "Yalla" without too much arm-twisting. People got enthused by the project and the values behind it.

Trevor Wright's poems have been featured in the anthologies, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) and Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016).

Which were the most challenging?

For the original poem, translating the images into a poem that had noted the suffering without pity. I also wanted to mark the resilience and hope that carried people on - a hope and resilience that I have to say, in hindsight, I don't think we've honoured.

I was still working on the poem after it was accepted so when the proofs came through for checking I agonised about a middle connecting line and only got the revised version in a few hours before the deadline.

For Journeys in Translation, the challenge was being asked questions about what I had mistakenly thought was a finished poem by the translators. Different languages didn't have the words or phrases that I used, for example, or some required gender-specific words when I'd deliberately left the gender of the subject of "Yalla" open.

With the BSL version, it was having to cast aside elements that had worked in the poem to enable the BSL signer to translate phrases into expressions. Each time I had to return to my original images and enter into a new dialogue to answer the question, "What exactly are you trying to say?"

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.

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

That's the hardest of these questions!

Over Land, Over Sea raised money for refugee charities and profiled a wider range of responses to the refugee 'crisis' than were available to us in the media. So Journeys in Translation has prolonged the shelf-life and spirit of the original anthology, brought people together, provided a sense of connection, contribution and collaboration. There's value in that alone.

Journeys in Translation also gives those Over Land, Over Sea poems extra reach, pushing them out to new communities, and is doing so in different forms, morphing in reaction to new circumstances so mirroring the struggles of people across generations. How much value that adds is probably best decided by others.

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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Interview _ Penny Jones

Penny Jones is a writer from Leicestershire.

She has been published by Fox Spirit Books, Factor Fiction Press, Five Leaves Publications, and Dahlia Publishing. Among other writers' conventions and conferences, she attends the monthly meet up of Leicester Writes.

In this interview, Penny Jones talks about her writing, Over Land, Over Sea and Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the writing that you do?

I'm new to writing, so at the moment I write anything and everything. I find writing really hard, but find procrastinating really easy, so writing in different styles and genres means that I can try and fool my brain when it is telling me to give up.

I have recently finished the first draft of a novel, and throughout the process all I wanted to do was write the short story I had been commissioned to write; then when I was writing that, all I wanted to do was write the screenplay for the course I was attending, and now I'm doing that all I want to do is go back to re-writing the novel.

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

I read for pleasure, and admire writers who manage to take big issues and make them accessible through fiction.

I don't tend to stick to one style of literature and enjoy finding new writers, so each year I take up a different reading challenge; for example one year I made my way through the alphabet, another year all the authors had to be from different countries.

I want my writing to be as well rounded and diverse as possible, and so I want as wide an influence of subjects and authors as possible.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I very much put myself into each and every character I write about, especially my flaws. I like my characters to be well rounded, so I look at my experiences and use those to try and see how I would react to a situation. Also, my background as a psychiatric nurse helps as I can utilise the skills and knowledge that I use as a nurse, to empathetically see how my characters are feeling and how they would react; the protagonist in my novel is a young boy, so his reaction to events will be drastically different to my own.

What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?

My most significant achievement so far was my first commissioned piece, which was for a charity zine called Do Something by Factor Fiction Press. The first time you are asked to contribute to something, rather than sending in to an open submission, feels amazing.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

I felt very strongly about supporting Syrian refugees, so when I saw a post on Facebook, where they were looking for poems for a charity anthology I knew that I had to at least send them something, even though I hadn't written any poetry since my school days.

My poem "What's in a name?" was accepted for the anthology Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge by Five Leaves Publications, and following on from that one of the editors, Emma Lee, asked if it could be included in a project to bring the message to as many people as possible through translation.

Penny Jones' poem, "What's in a Name?", on the pavement at the Leicester Against War / Leicester for Peace vigil that, since December 2015, is held every Friday at the Clock Tower in Leicester in solidarity with people everywhere who are bearing the brunt of war and those who are seeking refuge.

Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put into the project?

The easiest aspects of the work, was the idea for the poem. I can only really write poetry if I already have an idea in mind, and for this project it was already clear in my mind, that I wanted to look at humanising refugees.

I had seen and heard many people using the terms refugee and immigrant interchangeably, and it angered me that not only did people not understand the difference between someone who was a refugee and someone who was an immigrant; but also that these people who were dying had become faceless and nameless. So I wanted my poem to show that these were people, they were someone's son, daughter, brother, or sister.

Which were the most challenging?

The most challenging aspect of "What's in a name?" was that although the letter "E" is the most common letter used in England, it is the least common in Syria. This is a major issue when you are writing an acrostic using the word refugee, so finding three Syrian names that began with "E" was really difficult; especially as I wanted to use the name's meaning as the crutch for each line of the poem.

It took hours to find three Syrian names that began with "E", and I only then managed it because some Arabic names that are spelt with an "I" have alternative spellings that start with "E". "What's in a name" took about 10 hours to write, but 9 hours was just trying to find those three names.

Penny Jones' poem, "What's in a Name?", Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.5. Translated into Bengali by Rinita Banerjee‎.

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

The value to initiatives like Journeys in Translation, is that you can get the message out to as many people as possible.

Language is a barrier that we all face, but if we can share our stories and our beliefs it can be a barrier we can peep over, shake hands, and discuss our differences, rather than remain hidden behind.

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, April 22, 2017

Interview _ David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson
David Wilkinson lives in Ashby de la Zouch and works as the Midlands Regional Officer for the Institute of Physics.

His debut novel, We Bleed the Same (Inspired Quill, 2014) was shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2015.

In this interview, David Wilkinson talks about his concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

I have been making up stories set in my fictional “universe” since I was about five. These have been refined over the years until I had novel plots set in my mind. I would talk extensively to my wife about them and she kept saying I should try writing them out. Then a confluence of events occurred. First I got paid to write an article in a science magazine. Then I heard a successful playwright interviewed on BBC Radio 4 who used to be a girl in my English GCSE class, giving feelings of “well, if she can do it...” But mostly it was my wife just telling me to shut up and get on with it, buying me a course at the Leicester Writing School for my birthday in the process. 14th September 2011, the day after the first workshop, at around about lunchtime, was when I started writing!

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

It would firmly sit on the science fiction shelf, some would say space opera. However, the books are totally plot and character driven. It is about interesting people interacting with each other in a dysfunctional society that just happens to span half the galaxy.

The work is certainly adult and has plenty in it for the science fiction fan. However, several non-sci-fi fans who have read it, or parts of it, find themselves enjoying it too. It has a political thrust and also an undercurrent of feminism, so it would be nice to get into broader markets. As for why – I am just writing what I know and love.

Which authors influenced you most?

The very first science fiction books I read as a child were Spaceship Medic by Harry Harrison and Wheelie in the Stars by Nicholas Fisk.

There's a tiny homage to Medic in my first novel; I wonder if anyone can spot it.

As I got older I ploughed into most of Asimov and, like so many others, I owe future city building to the Caves of Steel.

Dystopias had a strong impact – From Huxley’s Brave New World to Orwell’s 1984.

The one standout novel that had the most influence on me was The Mote in God’s Eye by Niven and Pournelle. It really brought home to me the truth that good Science Fiction is about our contemporary world. I was also impressed by their amalgam of current and future tech. It really brought characters to the fore and had the power of story where characters were neither entirely good nor entirely bad.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I’m not a fan of large swathes of description. I don’t enjoy reading it and I am not good at writing it (as evidenced by my cold readers, editors and anyone else who has ever got near an unedited version of my work). As a result I have learned about writing detail.

If you write about one of your characters tracing greasy outlines on the outside of their mug, you don’t have to write a long description of the squalor of the canteen they are sitting in. It also keeps the reader close to the action.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

The biggest challenges are my everyday life. I have two children under eight and a full time job. I am also learning to play a concerto. Writing just fills in the odd free moment. I also write on trains – that’s where I am doing this interview now.

Do you write every day?

Taking into account the previous question, the writing experience is usually the same. I sit down and spend about 10 minutes reading over what has come before, ostensibly to get into the flow but really just to put off the moment of beginning.

Once I start, the first 15-20 minutes are a real struggle and on about a quarter of attempts, I stop in this time. Then, twenty minutes in, something magical happens and I hit the zone. Without apparent effort I will reel out about 750-800 words of good material. Then I feel tired and notice that an hour has passed since I sat down.

This varies sometimes.

In particularly compelling chapters I’ll be able to keep going and get down 2,000-2,500 words in a two-hour sitting.

As I approached the end of my last novel, I went into something of a frenzy, writing whole chapters in about an hour or so. In this way I wrote the last ten chapters (20,000 words) in less than a week. That bit needed a lot of editing!

How long did it take you to write We Bleed the Same?

I started writing We Bleed the Same in the novel workshop series my wife bought me. At that time it was the only fiction I had ever written. The publisher Inspired Quill gave me a contract and We Bleed the Same came out in July 2014.

It took almost exactly a year to complete the first draft. Afterwards there was about three months of personal editing. My cold readers then had it for a month before I spent another two months editing again. This is when I started sending it to agents.

David Wilkinson's debut novel, We Bleed the Same (Inspired Quill, 2014) was shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2015.

How did you chose a publisher for the book?

Well, primarily Inspired Quill was the one that offered me a contract. They are a small, new publisher and they are operating as a social enterprise, putting income back into social programmes. They were very up front about the realities of signing with a young, small publisher – even presenting me with a list of pros and cons of their own. The main con is that they don’t have a large advertising budget. The pros include a more collegiate approach to editing, a personal relationship with the boss and a good deal on royalties.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult? Why do you think this was so? And, how did you deal with these challenges?

Just keeping going. Getting the words down has always been my biggest irritation – I am much happier developing plot. I just have to hold my nose and get on with it.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

Plotting. I do it entirely in my head and write almost no notes. This lets me do it in the shower, driving the car or walking the dogs. It is always there, ticking away in the back of my mind and the wonderful thing is when revelatory story lines spring into my mind. At those moments I stop, smile and sometimes do a fist pump.

What sets We Bleed the Same apart from other things you've written?

Everything else I have written has been factual and in the field of forensic physics.

Are there any similarities?

I don’t like breaking the laws of physics – there is no artificial gravity or inertial dampening. Where I have had to extend science, I have tried to provide adequate explanations.

What will your next book be about?

It is a detective story set in the same “universe”.

In my first novel a character is reading a detective story set in a city they visit. It is this book, Pilakin: Falling Rubble, that I am writing. It is essentially SciFi Noir.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Getting a publisher on my first piece of fiction.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Interview _ Ursula Kapferer

Ursula Kapferer
Ursula Kapferer was born in Vienna (Austria) in 1989 and currently lives in Freiburg (Germany). She studied German and English to become a teacher and is currently writing her PhD thesis on German-English poetry translation. She is also presently writing an article about translating the German poet Christian Morgenstern forthcoming in the traductology series ECHO.

In this interview, Ursula Kapferer talks about writing, poetry and poetry in translation.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

I write poetry in German and English and translate poetry in both directions.

Currently, I am working on my PhD thesis about poetry translation, where I combine poetry translation practice and theoretical work.

I have always been fascinated with sound and rhythm which greatly influences both my writing and research interests and I am also interested in the different advantages and challenges when translating both from German to English and vice versa.

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

The two greatest influences on my writing are my family and the poets I admire.

Some of my earliest memories are my father carrying me around in the kitchen, while reciting Latin poetry. I remember being fascinated with the enchanting rhythms and sounds, even though I did not understand a word. Poetry was always part of our everyday life during my childhood: My grandfather recorded ballads for me and my parents used to read to me and each other while going on holiday. I think these childhood experiences shaped my love for poetry and especially for sound and rhythm.

My own writing has always been greatly influenced by the poets I was reading at a time. Leafing through my older poems, I can see the different poets who influenced me at the time shining through. It has always been easier for me to get a feel for a poem than finding my own voice. This is probably also why I started translating poetry.

Are there other ways in which your personal experiences have influenced your writing?

Poetry for me is closely connected to emotion. I would even say the two are inseparable in my experience. Strong feelings often bring poems to mind and also have resulted in several of my poems. Also, I still have great difficulties translating poetry which I do not have an emotional connection with.

What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?

The encouraging feedback of my private and professional environment is especially significant to me, for instance that I was invited to read one of my poetry translations at the T & R (Theories and Realities in Translation and wRiting) conference in Naples (Italy) in 2016.

Another significant achievement for me is that I managed to obtain two scholarships (first the “Landesgraduiertenförderung” and then the “Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes Promotionsstipendium”) for my PhD project (which includes my translations as well as theoretical work on translation I mentioned above).

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

Especially since my work as a German as a Second Language teacher for Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Freiburg (Germany), refugee experience and integration have become personal matters for me. I think that poetry is able to play a significant role in the integration process which begins with mutual understanding, I believe. So, when I heard about the project via an email bulletin from EACLALS (The European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies), I started translating “but one country” by Rod Duncan the same day.

Rod Duncan's poem, "but one country, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015), on the pavement at the Leicester Against War / Leicester for Peace vigil that is held every Friday at the Clock Tower in Leicester in solidarity with people bearing the brunt of war and those seeking refuge.
Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put into the project?

The easiest step to me always is the first one, the reading, listening and then beginning the literal surface translation before dealing with formal and other constraints. Surprisingly, also, problem solving can sometimes be easy if I do not try too hard.

If I do not find a solution straight away, I found that getting up, going for a short walk or even only to the fridge often clears my mind so that when I return to the desk, sometimes there is a solution – seemingly out of nowhere.

Which were the most challenging?

I love challenges of poetic form. In the case of Rod Duncan’s “but one country”, such a challenge was the shape of the poem in the form of a globe and the syntactic challenges in ensuring that the poem can be read in both directions, the two halves making contradictory statements.

I find it fascinating that it is often especially poems that pose (formal) challenges, such as this one, where I like my solutions best in the end. Straight forward, literal solutions usually do not work in such cases and force me to “go deeper into” the poem and come up with creative solutions.

This experience also influenced my interest in the constraint and creativity I work on in my dissertation project.

Ursula Kapferer's translation into German of “but one country”, a poem by Rod Duncan which is one of the poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) that are being translated from English into other languages as part of Journeys in Translation.
What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

I think the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation is - to use a poetry metaphor - that its form mirrors its content: The poems taken from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge express solidarity with refugees and can be described as transcending barriers between cultures and individuals on the level of content.

Journeys in Translation takes this one step further: It does not only overcome the monolingual barrier, but its open form (translation workshops and the use of social media like Facebook) enables a broadness and diversity that could not be achieved in conventional translation projects. The use of Facebook and the translation of the poems into many languages also make the poems accessible to a widespread audience and might be a valuable part of bringing the refugee experience closer to a larger number of people.

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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Interview _ Lydia Towsey

Lydia Towsey is a poet and a performer. Her previous commissions include: Freedom Showcase (Literature Network); Spoken Word All Stars Tour (Poet in the City); Beyond Words, U.K. tour of South African poets (Apples and Snakes); and, Three the Hard Way UK tour, alongside Jean ‘Binta' Breeze and Alison Dunne in 2014 and Jean Binta Breeze and Shruti Chauhan in 2015.

Poet, Performer and Spoken Word Artist, Lydia Towsey.
A Decibel commissioned artist, in 2008 Lydia Towsey was one of 50 international artists in residence at Stratford Theatre Royal.

Previously shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, she has spoken and performed everywhere ... from London’s 100 Club, Roundhouse and the House of Lords, to ... Plymouth University’s Zombie Symposium.

Her work has been featured in publications that include the magazines: The London Magazine, Hearing Voices and Magma Magazine; and the anthologies, Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Raving Beauties, Bloodaxe, 2016), Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015), Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016) and within Candlestick Press’ 10 Poems about ... series.

Lydia is currently UK touring the stage show of her collection, The Venus Papers (Burning Eye Books, 2015) produced by Renaissance One, supported by Arts Council England.

In addition to her practice as a poet/performer, Lydia works as a producer, specialising in literature, health, women and excluded communities and works as part-time Arts in Health Coordinator for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. She plays the ukulele, keeps a cat and is the chair/co-ordinator and rotational compere of WORD! - the longest running spoken word night in the Midlands, nominated as ‘Best Regular Spoken Word Night’ in the 2017, national Saboteur Awards.

In this interview, Lydia Towsey talks about the work she is doing.

How would you describe your writing?

My creative writing focuses on poetry and developing work for the page and performance.

I'm particularly interested in narratives surrounding gender, politics, woman and culture - from popular culture to counter culture and the other… to ethnicity and notions of national identity. I enjoy using humour, satire, wordplay, the fantastical and both visual and performance based techniques and approaches to explore these areas.

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

Who - undoubtedly, Jean Binta Breeze - who I was lucky enough to meet at an early point in my writing career and fall truly, madly, deeply in friendship and fan-girldom with. I was in my mid-20s and experiencing challenging personal circumstances. Jean taught me to look outside of myself and combine the personal with the public. I think of poems of hers like “Ordinary Mawning” pegging out the washing, while America bombs the middle east… now, with new resonance, of course.

Who, also - Scott Bridgwood, my life partner, figurative painter and key creative collaborator. Our work frequently crosses over, and has done so most recently in The Venus Papers. In this, I’ve developed my research in collaboration with Scott, drawing on his knowledge of figurative art and incorporating my work as a life model (within our relationship) to write around these and other experiences/areas of knowledge. He’s always the first person to hear a new poem and the closest thing to a Witch Doctor I’ve found.

Another big influence - around 10 years ago undertaking and completing an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, specialising in poetry and screenwriting. In doing so I was able to develop formal craft, technique and writing processes, which I’ve drawn and built on ever since.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I began training as a visual artist, initially undertaking a Degree in Critical Fine Art Practice at Brighton University. Though ultimately not a path I pursued, I think I take quite a visual approach to my writing, from the arrangement of text, to style and content. In the case of The Venus Papers, the writing has been at least in part ekphrastic, directly responding to a painting.

Writing about Venus, I’ve also drawn on other backgrounds, specifically the past experience of anorexia, from my late teens through to my early 20s - with this naturally making me interested in such issues as mental health, body image, the media and cultural/societal pressures to conform.

Writing about Venus - as ‘everywoman’ but also ultimate traveller, I’ve also been motivated by my cultural background. Like many people in the UK, I come from a family of immigrants, on my father’s side mostly Hungarian Jewish, though my Great Great Grandfather was Mexican, his wife American - and there are people from/of other places and cultures too, my mother's Welsh. At the same time I'm English and a descendent of the British Empire and therefore implicated in a story of colonialism and post-colonialism. Given all that, a lot of my writing is interested in this question of cultural and national identity, its historical resonance and unfolding contemporary narratives - including Brexit and the current European refugee crisis.

I often write about my own experiences, so everything from being a being a zombie fan (long story), becoming a mother, working part-time for the NHS and keeping a cat - have made it into my work.

I'm currently working on a new collection exploring Englishness and so far, featuring all of the above. Later this year I'll be poet in residence for Literary Leicester and Arriva Buses - thinking about my dad's former occupation as a bus driver, so again working with personal material, but linking it to a broader context.

Lydia Towsey's The Venus Papers (Burning Eye Books, 2015) takes, as it's starting point, Botticelli's 15th Century painting, 'Birth of Venus' where Venus is depicted arriving on a shell at a Cypriot beach, and goes on to imagine Venus transported to the 21st century.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?

Developing and touring my first full length collection, The Venus Papers, published by Burning Eyes Books (September 2015) and funded by Arts Council England. I first began writing Venus material, six or seven years ago, so the body of work has had a long gestation period and evolved a lot to take in many influences, personal writing breakthroughs, ideas and experiences. Seeing all that come to fruition has been enormously satisfying.

As a whole, The Venus Papers is about how we look - at ourselves, each other and the world - and how others influence the way we do so … from marketing and the media, to representations of women, the (fe)male gaze and the political machine.

The title sequence takes Botticelli’s infamous 15th century painting, "Birth of Venus", depicting Venus, Roman Goddess of love and beauty arriving on a Cypriot beach. It then relocates her to a UK beach in the 21st century and asks what might happen if she were to arrive here, now. So, there are poems like “Venus Walks into a Bar” … “Venus gets a job as a Glamour Model” … “Venus in Primark” … “Venus at Customs” and so on …

Botticelli’s Venus was the first recorded example of a female nude painted and exhibited life size and in many ways the medieval blueprint for every cover girl to come. Against this background and through the eyes and perspective of someone arriving as an outsider, naked and vulnerable, both show and book engage with society, politics, culture and identity ... re-framing familiar contemporary situations to try and look anew.

The tour is produced by Renaissance One and continuing until the end of 2017, with our next dates taking in Wiseword Festival, Canterbury; The Royal Albert Hall and JW3, London; Lancaster Literature Festival, and more.

WORD! - the poetry and spoken word night you chair and compere with fellow committee members, Tim Sayers, Pam Thompson and Richard Byrt - has just been shortlisted in the 2017 Saboteur Awards as the UKs "Best Regular Spoken Word Night".

Tell us about WORD!, its place within the local literature scene and how you feel about the nomination.

WORD! is the longest running spoken word night in the Midlands - est. circa 2001 by Apples & Snakes, and delivered independently by a voluntary committee/organisation since 2008. The night is formed of an open mic, plus booked act(s) and takes place at The Y Theatre, Leicester on the first Tuesday of every month, compered by members of the committee, Pam Thompson, Tim Sayers, Richard Byrt and I.

We take a diverse approach and programme across gender, age, cultural background and style.

Over the last year we’ve presented powerful local voices like Toby Campion, Shruti Chauhan and John Gallas, alongside artists from outside the city - including Mark Pajak, Malika Booker, Jean Binta Breeze MBE and Rosie Garland.

We’ve also programmed exciting local collectives - from a Writing East Midlands literature project, with refugee writers at City of Sanctuary - to a showcase from Project LALU, a group of female ukulele players, writing bilingually and committed to cultural cohesion and wellbeing.

Our open mic is generally busy and attracts both established and emerging voices from near and far. We aim to create a democratic and safe space, where a range of voices can play together, from the acclaimed, to the emerging and/or previously voiceless.

For many years the only spoken word night in Leicester, in more recent years it’s been exciting and energising to see the emergence of many other local literature projects - from our sister nights, Pinnng…K! (particularly open to LGBTQ+ audiences) and Moonshine Wordjam (led by WORD! and Bootleg Jazz and particularly focused on women and diverse artists) - to a range of other initiatives, connected and unconnected to us. In all cases, our work now also involves the voluntary distribution of a regular newsletter, praising, promoting and further supporting such other activity.

WORD! is the longest running spoken word night in the Midlands and has been shortlisted in the 2017 Saboteur Awards as the UKs "Best Regular Spoken Word Night".

What effect would winning the Sabotage Review “Best Regular Spoken Word Event” have on WORD!?

Winning the accolade of ‘Best Regular Spoken Word Event’ in the UK, would of course be a dream. It would really help in our current endeavour to secure public funding - and in doing so substantially grow our work and make it possible for us to reach even more people. If nothing else, being nominated has greatly impressed our cats/mothers/significant others - and provoked us to Instagram!

We find ourselves on a brilliantly inspiring shortlist - so can only hope to follow in our football team’s footsteps, be fearless and ‘do a Leicester’.

If we win, we’ll ask Gary Lineker to present the next WORD! … in his boxer shorts.

If people would like to, they can vote for us, and across other categories, here. Voting closes at midnight on April 30th.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

I was working on “Three the Hard Way - Part Two” - a show with Jean Binta Breeze and Shruti Chauhan, touring the UK in 2015 and exploring women, our three generations and continents of origin.

In the light of the ongoing and distressing European refugee crisis, we set ourselves and audiences the question “Who’s your neighbour?” - reflecting on such themes as multicultural Britain, globalisation, inter-dependence and migration. In a country built on both transatlantic slavery – and the free movement of Europeans into the New World – how should we define our responsibilities, where should we draw our borders and who should be entitled to what? We invited people from across the country to respond with poems, uploading recordings or links to text, via twitter.

At the same time and in response to the same situation, the call-out came via CivicLeicester for Poems for People, an anthology designed and planned to gather poems and micro-fictions in solidarity with the refugees - then (and still) receiving so little welcome in Europe and specifically of course, the UK.

Jean, Shruti and I were keen to share the call-out alongside our own, raise awareness and contribute to challenging the hostile political and media discourse growing up around the subject.

In addition to sharing the call, we invited project instigator, Ambrose Musiyiwa and co-editor, Kathleen Bell, to share their own poems in solidarity and speak about the book at our first tour date, Upstairs at the Western, in Leicester.

I went on to submit and have two poems placed in Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) the anthology that came out of the initiative, and have been keenly following the Journeys in Translation stage of the initiative's genesis.

As part of Journeys in Translation, my piece, "Come In" has been translated into six languages so far and I’ve seen it chalked onto the pavements of Leicester as part of one of CivicLeicester’s many activist happenings. I feel very proud to be connected to the project and grateful for its existence.

Lydia Towsey's "Come In" is one of the 13 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) that are being translated into other languages as part of Journeys in Translation. So far, the poem has been translated into six languages.

Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put into the project?

Unusually for me, I found it relatively easy to write the poems. I wrote both of those featured in Over Land, Over Sea, around the time our government announced it would shelter only 4,000 of the most severely affected refugees - a minuscule number comparative to need, resources at our disposal and offers made by fellow European countries. My feelings were so strong and the issues so specific that I was able to work quickly.

Post Brexit, the rise of racist attacks, and our government’s new announcement, that it will now take only 350 child refugees - the hardest thing is to not give in to despair and feel powerless. I deal with such fears by continuing to write and speak positively around the subject, donate what I can to charities supporting refugees, engage with activism and exercise my voting rights to effect the change I want to see.

Lydia Towsey's poem, "Come In", on the pavement at the Leicester Against War / Leicester for Peace vigil that, since December 2015, is held every Friday at the Clock Tower in Leicester in solidarity with people from everywhere who are bearing the brunt of war and those who are seeking refuge.

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

Journeys in Translation is exciting and dynamic as both a political and an artistic endeavour. The poems and micro-fictions are in response to migration, a politically resonant and urgent subject - but then the words and poems are themselves migrating across language borders, and then migrating between stage and page - then onto the internet, pavements, placards and beyond. The project has great value in its reach, artistry, innovation and activism.

In translating poems over multiple languages and involving even more people, as translators and audience (in conventional and unconventional settings) it has the ambition and power to bring people together and unite diverse groups and communities - something that is of evident value and importance, and particularly so now.

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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Interview _ Emma Lee

Emma Lee
Emma Lee co-edited Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) and is one of the coordinators of Journeys in Translation. She also co-edited Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016) and has three poetry collections, Ghosts in the Desert (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015), Mimicking a Snowdrop (Thynks, 2014) and Yellow Torchlight and the Blues (Original Plus, 2004).

She reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and is currently Vice-President of Leicester Writers' Club. Her poems have been published in the UK, USA, Mexico and South Africa, broadcast on radio and she has performed them at venues such as Leicester City Football Club, Leicester's Guildhall and the Poetry Cafe in London.

In this interview Emma Lee talks about her writing and about Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the writing you are currently doing?

In between poetry reviews and blog articles, there are poems. I'm currently taking part in NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month, April 2017) where the aim is to draft or make notes towards 30 poems during April, averaging a poem a day. Outside of NaPoWriMo, I'll still be writing poems, blog articles and reviews, going to poetry and spoken word events and Leicester Writers' Club, but without the pressure of averaging a poem a day.

In that, who or what has had the most influence on you?

I usually avoid naming contemporary poets for fear of leaving someone out, but it's fair to say many of them are my Indigo Dreams Publishing stable mates. Other influences include Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Mew, Rosemary Tonks, Maya Angelou, Marcia Douglas, Anna Akhmatova, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell.

How have your personal experiences influenced the writing?

Not all my poems are semi-autobiographical. I love that poems give me the chance to try and imagine what someone else's experiences feel like and explore how others might tell their stories if they were given a chance.

What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?

In terms of being noteworthy, probably co-editing Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015), not only in the interest it generated in readings in Leicester, Nottingham, St Andrews, the Poetry Cafe in London and interviews in The Morning Star and on Iraqi TV, but also in fundraising for refugee charities and subsequent projects such as the Journeys Poems Pop-Up Library, Journeys in Translation and the "Poetry and 'The Jungle'" paper I presented at the Jungle Factory Symposium organised by the University of Leicester in 2017.

On a more personal level, it has to be the publication of my third collection Ghosts in the Desert (IDP, 2015).

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

Ambrose Musiyiwa and I were chatting over coffee about the Journeys Poem Pop-up Library, where we gave out postcards featuring eight poems from Over Land, Over Sea at Leicester Railway Station during the Everybody's Reading Festival, and how we could build on that.

At the time of putting together Over Land, Over Sea we only took poems in English, a language common to all three co-editors, because our priority was to raise funds, however we were aware that the publication being monolingual was a potential issue because it raised barriers to reading and sharing poems about a universal experience. So the idea came about to translate some of the poems into other languages and break down some of those barriers.

We picked the eight poems used in the postcards and added a further five, using local poets so that we could work towards an event where the original poems would be read and displayed alongside readings and displays of some of the translations.

I suspect if I hadn't stopped for that coffee, I'd still be involved somehow.

"[We] were chatting over coffee about the Journeys Poem Pop-up Library, where we gave out postcards featuring eight poems from Over Land, Over Sea at Leicester Railway Station during the Everybody's Reading Festival, and how we could build on that."

Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put or are putting into the project?

Coming up with the design for the posters. We're using the cover image of Over Land, Over Sea and each poster features the original poem alongside one translation.

Where more than one translation in a specific language has been done, these are being featured with the original poem on one poster, where possible. For example, there are three German translations of "The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel" and these are featured with the original English version on one poster. The idea is not to directly compare the translations, but discuss how the differences occurred and difficulties in translating phrases or idioms which don't have a direct translation into another language.

One of your poems, "Stories from 'The Jungle'" is also being used as part of Journeys in Translation. How did the poem come about?

One frequently asked question is along the lines of: "Why don't refugees apply for asylum in the first European country they arrive in?" or "Why do refugees camped in France want to come to the UK?"

I wanted to explore some answers to that.

Sometimes it's because the refugees already have family here and want to join their family. Sometimes it's because the only European language they speak is English (usually because they were from a former colony and English was and in some cases still is one of the official languages). Sometimes it's a combination of reasons.

"Stories from the Jungle" takes seven stories from newspaper interviews and explores them not only through the question of why try to get to England but also why leave home and country in the first place.

Primarily I was trying to show that refugees are people with stories too. Not only that but they also have the right to tell those stories in their own words and on their own terms. There are a lot of negative connotations attached to the word migrant. But there is also a tendency to imply refugees are victims with no agency. Neither is accurate.

We won't solve the problems that large migrations cause without understanding why they are happening. People don't choose to leave their homeland and embark upon long, perilous journeys unless they have good reason for doing so. In an age of austerity, it's easy to fall into the trap of seeing migration as an economic problem but it's not that simple. I wanted "Stories from 'The Jungle'" to re-humanise de-humanised people.

Emma Lee's poem "Stories from 'The Jungle'" on the pavement at the Leicester Against War / Leicester for Peace vigil. The vigil started in December 2015 and is held at the Clock Tower in Leicester, every Friday,  in solidarity with people everywhere who are bearing the brunt of war as well as those who are seeking refuge.

How has the poem been received?

One of the translators in the Journeys in Translation project commented:
I found that when focusing on the words and stories within the poems I started to really focus on the human aspect of the refugee crisis, which I had not perhaps really appreciated until this point. Suddenly all those news images and statistics took on a more personal meaning. When I read through the experiences of Abdel, Sayid and Ziad in “Stories from ‘The Jungle’” and the lives they left behind, which seemed very normal and comparable to my own, I couldn’t help thinking, "It could have been me!"
So far, which were the most challenging aspects of the work you put into the initiative? 

The most challenging was translating some of the poems myself. I do have a basic understanding of German but hadn't spoken or written in German recently. I started with my own poem because I knew the intention behind the words I'd chosen so wouldn't be so daunted by there not being a direct translation.

I used several online dictionaries (not just Google Translate) so I could be more confident I was picking the right German words for the poem. I also re-translated my German back into English using online dictionaries so I could be sure that the selected German words would be interpreted in the right way. It was very reassuring when others translated the same original poem into German and I could see their approach was very similar to mine, although still with small differences.

I had tried to reproduce the original rhyme scheme (at least by sight) in my translation, but the other translators had gone for a more literal translation without the rhymes.

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

It's great to see the enthusiasm and involvement of both poets and translators.

Translating the poems isn't just about widening the audience for the original poems, it's about breaking down barriers to the poems being read and enabling the stories behind the poems to be shared. It also gives others the opportunity to share their stories and experiences.

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.