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Preview: Conversations with Writers

Conversations with Writers

Presents interviews with writers, publishers and literary activists

Updated: 2017-08-14T16:27:08.385+01:00


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[...]

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 s[...]

Interview _ Rinita Banerjee


Rinita Banerjee is a freelance copy editor and translator.A recent graduate with a Master's degree in English from the North Carolina State University in the US, she worked, until recently, as an editorial intern at Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, and has earlier edited social sciences and literature in translation books at an academic publishing outside in India. She also writes short stories and flash fiction. Her work includes "The Door" and "Keeping" both of which have been featured in Tuck Magazine, an online, political, human rights and arts magazine. In this interview, Rinita Banerjee talks about her writing, poetry and Journeys in Translation.How would you describe the writing that you do?The writing that I do draws from the images, silences and noise that surround me and are within me.Sometimes it draws from the infinitesimal moments that one would really pass on as insignificant: like a sigh, a smell, a streak, a twitch, a line; it is like I am keen on what is in between the pages of a book when someone holds its pages in the middle and runs the thumb over the rest, the pages moving very fast till one reaches the end; one could even suddenly stop in between, out of nowhere. I am also keen on absorbing the ruffle the action causes.It is like a photograph of a single thing that holds my attention completely. I feel that sometimes an emotion at a moment is so engulfing, so all-encompassing, that an explanation of why it is there becomes insignificant. Even what follows, is not important. Therefore, I think I would perhaps never attempt a novel because there, I would have to give away the mystery surrounding the moment. I am not interested in complete, finished, well-rounded wholes; I am in favour of the momentary, rough on the edges, tilted, dark and dark and dark little things, important things, things that are to be guarded, kept, sheltered.A lot of such dark and dark and dark little things, images, moments, and one very important phrase that a dear friend of mine said to me once.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?Everything I read, observe, speak or am silent about, and absorb, and even some that I seem to filter out – all of that influences me.It is difficult to point out one single inspiration. There is my intuition, what belongs to my heart essentially. Along side that, there is a constant grappling with different voices in my head; I am always arguing with those when I intend to express something. Between my intuition, and those voices, I begin to write better – I think. How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?This is a very difficult question to answer.I feel like I am not the kind of person who thinks that as a writer I am very separated from the kind of person I am. So, the stories I am keen to tell, somewhere, always are influenced by what I have felt at a certain point in time. Therefore, I am always in a quandary about whether I should write more memoirs or whether I should attempt fiction. Just that I can invent more and interpret more if it is fiction, whereas in a memoir – the interpretation I have of a situation puts on me the burden of expressing that as the only truth – and that terrifies me a little. To keep writing separate from my personal experiences is a task.Journeys in Translation 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) and to share the translations on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?My most significant achievement as a writer is perhaps yet to come. So far, I have had two of my short stories published in Tuck Magazine, an online UK magazine.But I think, the best I have written so far is a memoir of my experience of my father (who passed away several years ago) that I wrote as part of my Capstone project t[...]

Interview _ Pietro Deandrea


Pietro Deandrea has, for many years, been researching into literature and the arts connected to contemporary migrations.His books include New Slaveries in Contemporary British Literature and Visual Arts: The Ghost and the Camp (Manchester University Press, 2015); Fertile Crossings: Metamorphoses of Genre in Anglophone West African Literature (Rodopi, 2002); and; L'occhio della terra (Le Lettere, 2006), his translation into Italian of Niyi Osundare's poetry collection, The Eye of The Earth.In this interview, Deandrea talks about the arts, literature, migration and Journeys in Translation.How would you describe the work that you do?I teach English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Torino, Italy (Dipartimento di Lingue e Letterature Straniere e Culture Moderne).My aim is to make students enjoy the peculiar power of literature to incarnate ethical values. My ideal wish is also to help them develop their autonomous skills in decoding literary texts in all their nuances. Nowadays we are exposed to all sorts of manipulative messages, so I wish they could arrive (again, through literary sensitivity) at an active practice of critical interpretation.What first drew your attention to the connection between the arts, literature and migration? And, what are some of the things you've found?Working in the field of Postcolonial Studies, migration is the most relevant topic we are currently bound to come across, both in texts and in everyday life. It is part and parcel of the inherent porosity and adaptability of Postcolonial Studies. To paraphrase Hannah Arendt, refugees (and by analogy asylum seekers and migrants) are the key figures of our incomplete modernity: the historical drive towards political engagement shaping Postcolonial Studies point to the urgency, I feel, to concentrate on migration and its latest developments.My recent monograph New Slaveries in Contemporary British Literature and Visual Arts: The Ghost and the Camp (Manchester University Press, 2015) focuses on a particularly tragic aspect of globalization's migrants in the heart of 'civilized' Europe, something that I feel everyone should be aware of.The book makes an effort to bring to the fore new forms of enslavement that have been recently growing side by side with the ordinary lives of European citizens, something that might be taking place at our doorstep. Many different kinds of novels (including crime fiction), plays, films and photographic projects poignantly represent this phenomenon from various perspectives, in its spatial and psychological effects. In some cases, the boundaries of artistic genres are modified, when dealing with new slaveries.I felt it important to offer a wider picture of the emergence of this topic in British culture, not least because the peculiar power of literature that I mentioned above, is capable, more deeply than sociology or political studies, to inspire an empathy with these new slaves and to offer viable strategies of resistance, both individual and collective.Pietro Deandrea's books include New Slaveries in Contemporary British Literature and Visual Arts (Manchester University Press, 2015) and L'occhio della terra (Le Lettere, 2006), his translation, into Italian of Niyi Osundare's poetry collection, The Eye of The Earth.What sets the book apart from other books that have been published on these issues?I might be wrong, but this is the first monograph on the topic as far as the British context is concerned.Other researchers have published brilliant books on asylum or refugees narratives, such as Agnes Woolley's Contemporary Asylum Narratives: Representing Refugees in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and David Farrier's Postcolonial Asylum (Liverpool UP, 2011). I am certainly in debt with books like these, in their opening new areas of postcolonial investigation and in their theoretical strategies.At the same time, I aimed at examining how the emergence of new forms of slavery includes a [...]

Interview _ Eva Malessa


Eva Malessa is an educational professional who also works as a translator and an academic proofreader.In this interviews Malessa talks about migration, adult late literacy acquisition, and Journeys in Translation.How would you describe the work that you do? My bilingual background and my passion for languages and literature drove me to pursue the study of Finnish, German and English.As a qualified language teacher, I have gained considerable work experience in various educational settings in Finland and the UK, e.g. as a foreign language assistant at the Glasgow Gaelic School. Most recently during my MA studies at Newcastle University I have gained experience of teaching multilingual groups of home and international students giving German conversation and beginner classes in addition to Finnish and German language tasters to promote language awareness and learning.I have also been working for the Action Foundation and First Step charities in Newcastle, assisting refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants in their English learning process as an ESOL volunteer.What has influenced you the most? Working as a full time teacher is very time-consuming. However, in addition to teaching, I have been occasionally working as a translator and academic proof-reader. In most cases purely for the joy of discovering even more linguistic details about my languages.I am an avid reader and being able to read fluently in three languages can be both a blessing and a curse as there is simply too much to read. Yet I could not imagine spending a day without a book in my hands.My academic interest in late literacy resulted, last year, in a postgraduate dissertation exploring behaviour of non-literate and low-literate adult second language learners in a computer-assisted language learning context of the Digital Literacy Instructor (DigLin). This European DigLin project aims to advance literacy training for adult immigrants learning for the first time in a language other than their first language. My study investigated Low Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition (LESLLA) learners learning to read for the first time in Finnish. How have your personal experiences influenced you in this? So far I have studied and worked in Germany, Finland and the UK. As a European citizen I have enjoyed my freedom of movement and residence and taken it mostly for granted, even though Brexit has changed things and had a great impact on my professional and private life.Growing up in highly-literate countries one easily forgets that not everyone has the opportunity to be(come) literate.In the light of the most recent humanitarian migration to Europe special language and literacy training for low-educated, low- or non-literate adults is urgently needed. In Finland, however, adult non-literacy is a new phenomenon and while there is little research on how non-literate adults acquire basic literacy skills, the challenge to acquire simultaneously oral and literacy skills in Finnish is enormous.One driving force for me to conduct my study and explore the potentials of adult late literacy acquisition in the online DigLin learning environment is the fact that literacy is one major factor in preventing social exclusion, as it enables active participation in literate societies. [Editor's Note: More information on current research on Low Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition (LESLLA) for Adults is available at the LESLLA online research forum.] What would you say has been your most recent achievement as a writer? Last year I participated in a German writing competition, entitled ‘When Cultures Meet’, organised by the DAAD London, the IMLR, and the Goethe Institut in London.The task was to continue storylines on themes of migration and flight based on launchpad texts provided by German-speaking authors Anja Tuckermann from Berlin and Ulrike Ulrich from Zürich.My text won the competition in the native speaker category.The awards ce[...]

Interview _ Giacomo Savani


Giacomo Savani is an archaeologist, a writer, and an artist.His short stories have been featured in anthologies and magazines that include Italian Shorts (Caracò Editore, 2012); 10:25 International and Con.Tempo.In this interview, Savani talks about poetry and Journeys in Translation.How would you describe the work that you do?I am an archaeologist, a writer, and an artist and I like to combine these three ‘souls’ in my work. I have written and illustrated several historical short stories, sometimes in collaboration with other authors, such as the novelist and archaeologist Victoria Thompson.I like to investigate the positive impact that imagination and art have on archaeological research, incorporating creative work and reflective practice.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?Ancient classics have played a major role in my education and are still greatly influential on my work. Among modern authors, I would certainly mention Dylan Thomas, Beppe Fenoglio, Boris Vian, J.D. Salinger, and Haruki Murakami.How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?I heard about Journeys in Translation through a friend of mine, a Greek writer that suggested my name to the organisers. I was excited about taking part to this project and I decided to translate all of the poems on the list.Which were the most challenging aspects of the work you put into the project?Translating texts written by such a variety of authors in so many different styles and ‘languages’ has been undoubtedly a great challenge for me. Sometimes, I was immediately captivated by the atmosphere and rhythm of a poem, which I then almost naturally translated into my own poetic language (e.g. "Framed" and "Waiting").Other times, this process has been much longer and more complex. The poem "but one country" has been particularly challenging. I had to work on the text and, at the same time, on its ‘shape’, as this can be considered an example of concrete poetry. While I am pleased with the result, I see it more as a technical exercise than an act of creativity.Overall, however, working on this project has been a very rewarding experience. Before starting to collaborate with Journeys in Translation, I never had the chance to translate poems. Thanks to this project, I discovered the beauty and labour of this sophisticated art.Giacomo Savani's Italian translation of Marilyn Ricci’s “Framed”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p. 114.What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?I think that initiatives like this one are an extremely powerful way to engage with compelling socio-political problems such as the current migrant crisis in Europe. In particular, I find that giving a new voice to people suffering much hardship and deprivation is a beautiful, humanistic act, which will hopefully contribute to create a bridge of empathy between different cultures and backgrounds. 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 tha[...]

Journeys in Translation — an International Translation Day and Everybody's Reading 2017 celebration


As part of events to mark International Translation Day 2017 and as part of Everybody's Reading, Journeys in Translation will be hosting an event at which 13 poems will be read in English and in translation. Posters showing the poems alongside the translations will also be on display. The event will be held at the African Caribbean Centre on International Translation Day which, this year, falls on Saturday, September 30.The poems, from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) have been translated into more than 16 other languages, among them, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Farsi, German, Hindi, Italian, Shona and Spanish.The event is free and open to all.If you cannot make it to the September 30 event in Leicester, you could:translate or encourage others to translate as many of the 13 poems as possible,share the translations and reflections on the translations through blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends and on social media, and/ororganise a related event in your locality at which the 13 poems and translations will be read and discussed and let us know how the event goes.Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan. The anthology 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).*See also:[1] How Over Land, Over Sea came about[2] Interviews with Journeys in Translation poets and translators[3] The 13 Journeys in Translation poems:[a] "but one country", Rod Duncan (Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge, Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.123[b] "Children of War", Malka Al-Haddad (p.119)[c] "Come In", Lydia Towsey (p.16)[d] "Framed", Marilyn Ricci (p.114)[e] "Song for Guests", Carol Leeming (p.92)[f] "Stories from 'The Jungle'", Emma Lee (p.85)[g] "The Humans are Coming", Siobhan Logan (p.79)[h] "The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel", Ambrose Musiyiwa (p.1)[i] "Through the Lens", Liz Byfield (p.121)[j] "Waiting", Kathy Bell (p.62)[k] "What's in a Name", Penny Jones (p.5)[l] "Yalla", Trevor Wright (p.94)[m] "Dislocation", Pam Thompson (p.120)[...]

Interview _ Grant Denkinson


Grant Denkinson is an Open Access and Research Data Advisor at the University of Leicester's David Wilson Library. He is also a qualified psychotherapist and is one of the contributors to Purple Prose (Thorntree Press LLC, 2016), a new book about bisexuality in Britain.In this interview, Denkinson talks about writing, sexuality and Purple Prose: How would you describe Purple Prose?Purple Prose presents different forms of writing about various aspects of being bisexual, such as being a bi person of faith and so on. Each chapter curates a number of personal experiences, collected thoughts and even tentative advice, together with quotes, cartoons and poems.The chapter I co-curated with Juliet Kemp covers bisexuality and non-monogamy. The bi community I've been part of has been talking about how you can be bi and happily monogamous, non-monogamous in various ways, or not in relationships at all. Relationships of all kinds we could think of are spoken about in Purple Prose.We make no argument for one shape of relationship being better than another, just that different ways to love and relate might work better for different people.How did the book come about?Kate Harrad decided a book about bisexuality in UK should exist and then made it happen and edited contributions from the UK bisexual community into Purple Prose.While there has been an active bi movement in UK for many decades, there has not been a UK book by and about bisexuals since Sue George's Women and Bisexuality from 1993.There have been some excellent academic works and some books from US. However, the UK is a significantly different context and we wanted something for everyone that speaks to personal experience rather than as part of the academic debates.What are some of the other ways in which Purple Prose is significant?I'd like this book to be part of making the whole world a better place since bi people are everywhere. We'll only be a small part, but we can play a part.More specifically, there are a lot of people who, over their lives, have loved, fancied or had some form of sex with several people where those people were not all of the same gender. Many people in UK have had such thoughts or experiences. It seems important to me that there is at least one book out there that says people in this situation are not alone, which acts like a conversational prompt, which mentions aspects of the joys or stresses that they might have, and which comes from a place similar to home rather than from thousands of miles away.I've met few bisexual people compared to how many there probably are.Purple Prose is significant because a book can be a private experience. You don't need to be out to anyone to read a book. Books are portable and can be sent and read anywhere. Books last and are preserved in libraries and on bookshelves and can be quoted from and loaned to friends. Also, many people know others who may be bi and who perhaps they want to understand better without needing to ask intrusive questions or treating one person's experiences as the same as many people's experiences. To gain this understanding, they can read autobiographical journals on-line and articles and news. They can listen to partners, friends and acquaintances. They can pick out films or listen to interviews on the radio or find a podcast. All these things are important but none of them offer the experience that comes from a good book on the subject.How long did it take to the book together?The process from conception to launch was a couple of years. Many of the writers met at events and we mainly collaborated online.A number of UK publishers considered bisexuality too niche a subject despite recent surveys which show that around half of young people do not identify as gay or straight.It was important to us to have the book properly produced to high quality while keeping the price aimed for the mas[...]

Leicester Libraries to host Poetry Translation Workshops during the 2017 Festival of Learning


Do you live in Leicester or Leicestershire? Can you speak more than one language? Or, are you learning another language? These free, poetry translation workshops taking place in libraries, from May 23 to May 27, are for you. Journeys in Translation and the Leicester Library Service are holding a series of poetry translation workshops as part of the 2017 Festival of Learning.The workshops are open to all and will suit anyone who is bilingual, multilingual or who is learning another language. They offer participants the chance to read, discuss and look at how 13 poems from the anthology, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) might be translated from English into other languages in an informal, relaxed and supportive atmosphere. No prior translation experience is required. The workshops will be held on:May 23 at St Barnabas Library, from 1pm till 3pm, May 24 at Belgrave Library, from 11am till 1pm,May 26 at St Matthews Library, from 11am till 1pm, and May 27 at the Highfields Library, from 1am till 3pm.The workshops will be delivered by Journeys in Translation coordinator, Ambrose Musiyiwa who is also the co-editor of Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016), a poetry anthology that explores what Leicester means to people who know the city well.Ambrose Musiyiwa says:Estimates suggest over 40% of the people in Leicester are either bilingual or multilingual. Other estimates suggest more than 100 languages are spoken in Leicester every day. Through translating poems, the workshops are an opportunity to celebrate the multiplicity of languages in Leicester and the richness they bring. It will also be interesting to see what happens when a poem migrates from one language to another.Journeys in Translation encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual or who are learning another language to have a go at translating 13 poems from Over Land, Over Sea from English into other languages and to share their translations and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, on social media and at poetry and spoken word events.The 13 poems have, so far, been translated into at least one of 17 languages that include Arabic, Bengali, British Sign Language, Chinese, Farsi, Turkish and Welsh. All 13 poems have been translated into Italian, 10 into Spanish, and 10 into German.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 are going to be read and discussed. Posters showing the original poems and translations will also be on display.Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge 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.Development Librarian, Matthew Vaughan saysWe were really excited to be offered these workshops as part of our Festival of Learning programme of events.The workshops are highly relevant to both libraries and multicultural Leicester. They will appeal to anyone who speaks more than one language or who is learning another language and are not to be missed."Notes:[1] For more information on Journeys in Translation, contact Ambrose Musiyiwa, Email:[2] The translation workshops are free and open to all. Booking advised. Participants can book a place by calling the libraries the workshops are being held at.[3] Copies of the 13 poems will be available at the respective libraries on the respective days. Anyone interested can also join the Journeys in Translation Facebook group where the 13 poems are available for download. [4] The Festival of Learning runs from 22 -[...]

Interview _ Kathleen Bell


Kathleen Bell is a lecturer in English and Creative Writing at De Montfort University.Her poems, micro-fiction and short stories have been published in magazines and journals that include PN Review, New Walk and Under the Radar and in anthologies that include Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016); Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) which she co-edited with Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan; and A Speaking Silence (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2013).Her poem, "Testament: in an Embankment Garden" won the Nottingham Poetry Society’s 2016 Open Competition which was judged by award-winning poet Liz Berry, and her poetry chapbook, at the memory exchange (Oystercatcher, 2014) was shortlisted for the Saboteur awards. In this interview, Kathleen Bell talks about poetry, micro-fiction and Journeys in Translation.How would you describe the writing that you do?I can’t remember a time when I didn't write so I suppose that writing is a way in which I need to respond to the world around me and to interact with it.I write both poetry and prose fiction and sometimes the border between the two is pretty blurred. For instance, I’m not sure whether "Waiting", in the anthology, Over Land, Over Sea, is poetry or micro-fiction, and the same is true of another piece, "In The Tunnel" which was published as a poem in the Eyewear pamphlet, Refugees Welcome. I've never cared too much for borders so the definition doesn't trouble me much.Apart from that, I do a huge range of writing.In poetry, I like working in strict form when it suits the subject but I’m also happy to work in a more allusive and fragmentary way – I like to have a repertoire of methods. And, as well as short stories, I've written two unpublished novels which are still in need of yet another edit. I think novels are more different from short stories than short stories are from poetry, so that’s another kind of writing ... And then there are reviews, academic essays, Facebook statuses (and rants), tweets and other odd forays …Who has had the most influence on you as a writer?I assume by this question you mean other writers. As a reader I’m pretty omnivorous and I’m still learning – I hope I never stop.I wrote my PhD thesis on Auden so of course he influenced me, as did the Greek poet Cavafy, and various Latin and Ancient Greek authors including Sappho whose surviving fragments do so much in so few words. I had a phase in my teens of being influenced by the satires of Alexander Pope.Another day I might come up with a different list – and I’m carefully avoiding mention of any living writers. There are also many I admire who don’t influence me as a writer because I know that they do something that is very different from the ways in which I write. At most, I might observe a useful technique in a single poem and find it helps me years later.Kathleen Bell'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 have your personal experiences influenced your writing?I grew up assuming that writing was a natural and normal way to respond to the world.My parents encouraged me and my brother to enjoy all kinds of reading and cultural experiences, without the sense of hierarchies that middle- and upper-class people impose. So, we went to the theatre (in the gods, as we called the gallery benches) to see everything from Shakespeare to musicals and read all sorts of things from the popular magazine Tit-Bits to Plato and Borges. This isn't what people expect of working-class families in council estates but it’s what my family was like. I still remember Mum coming home with a Penguin of Borges’ Labyrinths and telling us that we [...]

Interview _ Pam Thompson


Pam Thompson is a poet, performer, reviewer and university lecturer.Her poetry has been published in a range of small press magazines and her publications are: Spin (Walden Press, 1998), Parting the Ghosts of Salt (Redbeck Press, 2000), Show Date and Time (smith|doorstop, 2006), The Japan Quiz (Redbeck Press, 2008), and Hologram (Sunk Island Publishing, 2009). She is one of the organisers of WORD! at The Y Theatre in Leicester.In this interview, Pam Thompson talks about poetry and Journeys in Translation.How would you describe your writing?Very varied. I supposed a lot of my poetry is disguised - or not so disguised - autobiography. I experiment formally a lot and I enjoy it when something unexpected arises from those experiments.I agree with the poet C. D. Wright who said: "Poetry is a necessity of life, it is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so.”Poetry is about connection too. I like the fact that writing poetry you immediately establish yourself within a wider community of poets. There is something very comforting about that.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?There have been so many influences. I read a lot of poetry and I have written it since my early teens and was encouraged by certain teachers. Poets who particularly influenced me back then included Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, T. S. Eliot and Ted Hughes. I began to enter competitions in my late twenties onwards and had some successes, and began to get published in magazines. I can't speak highly enough of certain Arvon courses and my tutors on them -Michael Longley, Carol Rumens, Simon Armitage, Glyn Maxwell, Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke. Since then I have been on many courses and have attended - and run - writing workshops. Being involved in organising WORD! at The Y in Leicester has been an enormous influence too because it demonstrates the strong hold that poetry and its public expression have on people's lives. It reinforces the need for a safe space for people to read their work and a supportive community to receive it. That's why we are thrilled to be nominated for a Saboteur Award - if we won it would help us enormously to develop WORD! even more.How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?Greatly - I think it's inevitable that this will happen with any writer. They are often disguised though and filtered through other voices. What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far? I was pretty thrilled to be a winner of the Poetry Business Poetry Competition in 2005 with my pamphlet Show Date and Time, judged by Simon Armitage. Also winning the Magma Poetry Competition Judges Prize, (judge - Jo Shapcott) in 2014/15 and, recently, 3rd prize in the Poets and Players competition, judged by Michael Symmons-Roberts, was pretty special. They are all poets whose work I really like. I have recently passed my PhD in Creative Writing (poetry). That is probably the toughest thing I have ever done writing-wise.Pam Thompson's poems have also 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 Journeys in Translation?My poem 'Dislocation' was included in the wonderful anthology Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge. Subsequently, it was one of the 13 poems offered for translation and, amazingly, has been translated into Italian, Spanish, German, Shona, Chinese, Finnish, Bengali, French, Turkish and British Sign Language, no less!How did "Dislocation" come about?It was part of that group project ... of poets responding to a humanitarian crisis and taking action to encourage artistic responses and to find a means of publici[...]

Interview _ Cynthia Rodríguez


Cynthia Rodríguez is based in Leicester and regularly performs at spoken word events that include Anerki, WORD!, Find the Right Words and House of Verse. She had also performed at Poetry is Dead Good, Too Deep for a Monday, Write Minds Wiff Waff, QTIPOCALYPSE at Rough Trade Nottingham, Coventry Pride, The Chameleon, and the LGBT Laureate night at The Phoenix in London.In addition to spoken word, Rodríguez has collaborated with musicians such as David Dhonau and the BootLeg Jazz Trio, and has performed as a featured act at Moonshine Word Jam, the jazz and spoken word evening hosted by Mellow Baku and Lydia Towsey.Her work has been published in zines that include the Mouthy Poets Queer Zine edited by Dean Atta; the anti-xenophobia Do Something edited by Selina Lock; and Anerki and Sean Clark’s Interanerki. In late 2016, two of her poems were included in Welcome to Leicester, edited by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa for Dahlia Publishing. Rodríguez is also a singer and a songwriter at the queer noise girl band ANATOMY, where she plays alongside singers and musicians, Adrienne Jones, Emily Rose Teece and Leonie DuBarry-Gurr.In this interview, Cynthia Rodríguez talks about poetry, writing and Journeys in Translation.When did you start writing?I started writing when I started learning how to write.It started a bit like private street art, writing the name of my celebrity crush on my living room wall when I was two years old. When I was four, I started to write and tell short surrealist stories about the people and places I knew or imagined. I would write, for instance, about a girl coming from Mars who ate bolts and screws and used apples as petrol for her spaceship. Like my now deceased aunt Adriana, there was a time I would write calaveras ... rather morbid poems about living people and the ways they would meet The Ripper, a Mexican folk tradition for Dia de Muertos.Since then, I’ve been dancing between short story and poetry/songwriting, but been more steady on the latter for the past 18 months.How would you describe the writing you are doing?Intersectional and interdisciplinary. I tend to write about the experiences people live from the margins and at the crossroads. Identity plays a huge part in my work, particularly as a queer fat foreign brown woman with mental and chronic conditions.Recently, I’ve been playing around with more artistic disciplines as well as writing, such as film and music, and I have been exploring the musicality of the spoken and written word. Cynthia Rodríguez performing at Anerki, a spoken word, poetry and music event that is held monthly in Leicester. Photo by David Conrad Dhonau.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?Life and art. My life, the lives of loved ones and those around us. Art, in its audiovisual and performative ways. People like Laurie Anderson, Penny Broadhurst, Pete Um and Saul Williams. Spoken word and interdisciplinary collectives in the East Midlands such as Anerki, Mouthy Poets, House of Verse and FAG. The spirit of the times.How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?A lot. No two life stories are alike, so it is necessary that we tell our own stories and perhaps find a common ground.English is my second language and I still enjoy exploring it and setting myself challenges to learn and expand. Britain is still quite new to me even if it feels like home, so writing is a bit like trying and testing plugs and taps around a fully furnished house I’m still paying mortgage for, stumbling upon a loose wooden tile under the carpet and discovering a neverending basement underneath full of positive and negative surprises.What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?Discovering an extensive network of people who lo[...]

Interview _ Tony R. Cox


Novelist and short story writer, Tony R. Cox was a reporter at the Derby Evening Telegraph in the 1970s, and a Business Editor at the Nottingham Evening Post in the late 70s before moving to public relations and running his own business-to-business consultancy.He is the author of the crime thriller novels, First Dead Body (The Choir Press, 2014) and A Fatal Drug (Fahrenheit Press, 2016), both of which are set in Derby. First Dead Body has been described as encapsulating "the life of 1970s reporters when lunches were often long and liquid and it was the norm to meet contacts in pubs like The Dolphin, The Exeter Arms, The Wagon and Horses." While in First Dead Body, the action takes place in Derby, in A Fatal Drug, an investigation into the discovery of a mutilated body reveals a spiral of gangland drug dealing and violence that stretches from the north of England to the south of Spain.In this interview, Tony R. Cox talks about his writing.When did you start writing?I was editor of the school magazine; a regional journalist for 15 years; 25 years in public relations, mainly writing for newspapers and magazines nationally and internationally.In 2010, after I’d decided to semi-retire, it was suggested that I write a memoir of what I used to get up to in the early 70s when I was heavily involved in rock and jazz music reviews and everything that went with it. That formed the kernel of an idea for a novel. I self-published First Dead Body in 2014, basically because I didn’t want the hassle (and ignominy of being rejected) of finding a publisher. After my first novel came out, I vowed never to self-publish (I’m a writer, not a salesman) and researched potential publishers. I approached Fahrenheit Press as they seemed like a good fit and was taken on. My second novel, A Fatal Drug, was published in 2016.How would you describe the writing you are doing? I write crime thrillers with a historical (1960s and 70s) slant. My protagonists are journalists who are drawn into the action; the police are present, but these are not ‘police procedurals’.I hope my books appeal to anybody who enjoys crime fiction. I was told a while ago: “Write about what you know”. I hope my knowledge of the early 70s and newspapers is interesting.I was in my 20s all the way through the 70s, and memories are vivid. I also lived in Pakistan in the very early 60s; and then worked as a journalist during what I believe were the last great days of regional newspapers.Which authors influenced you most? All crime writers help, but I try and follow the characterisation and description that is accomplished so brilliantly by people like Ian McEwan, Alan Sillitoe, James Joyce and, of course, the maestro, Ian Rankin.Simon Jardine, the main protagonist in Tony R. Cox's thriller novels, is a crime reporter on a regional newspaper whose investigations, in A Fatal Drug, reveals a spiral of gangland drug dealing and violence that stretches from the north of England to the south of Spain.What are your main concerns as a writer?Cadence and coherence, mainly. I believe every book must capture the reader and lead them through, gradually as the pace quickens.What are the biggest challenges that you face?Getting it right! Money is not the prime objective, nor is becoming a best-seller, but I want my books to be accepted as well-written.Do you write everyday? No way. I write frenetically to get the plot down and this can be a base of about 50,000 to 70,000 words. Then I stop; put it away; go and re-visit the locations; immerse myself in the people. After a week or a month I go back and start the heavy edit, which is basically re-writing the novel from scratch, but with a structure already in place.In addition to novels, you also write short stories[...]

Interview _ Flair Donglai Shi


Flair Donglai Shi 施東來 is a DPhil in English candidate at Oxford University, a critic in comparative literature (Chinese and English), an occasional short story writer, and a translator.When did you start writing? This simple question is also perhaps the hardest. Since I started my university journey, my academic language has always been English. Yet before that I was living in my hometown, a somewhat remote small city deep in the mountainous province of Zhejiang 浙江, China, and my only language was Chinese.When I was young I was definitely more interested in writing than reading. I got top scores in my Chinese language and literature class but I rarely read outside the curricula. At that time, around the early 2000s, there was a culture of increasing openness in China, and the sentimental, individualistic and urban popular writing was having its moment in the country. So I started writing around themes of loneliness, isolation and dislocation and published a number of short stories in newspapers and anthologies with the help of my teacher. Most of them are lost now but I still have the original manuscripts in my old notebook. After I started studying in the UK around 2012 I started writing in English, but mainly for an academic audience as that is the mode of writing in English I am most familiar with. I published a couple of short stories in English also, one called “Strawberry Candy” and the other called “China Boy”, in which I play around themes about sexuality and disempowerment. It is really much harder for me to write beautifully in English than in Chinese and sometimes I would just translate my creative writing from Chinese to English in order to preserve that original sentimentality, because I find that I always become too concerned about getting the sentence “right” in English to be able to prioritize my creativity.How would you describe the writing you are doing? There is a trend in academia nowadays to challenge the divide between creative writing and academic prose, but in practice this remains unwelcomed. As graduate students we do not have the freedom to write without the standard restrictions on style and structure, and very few academics nowadays produce essays in the manner of George Orwell, D. H. Lawrence or even Virginia Woolf. Most of our essays are so jargon heavy and ideologically entrenched they stop being accessible and influential and become some kind of self-indulgent soliloquy instead. Sometimes I would think the people in the humanities in Western higher education today are like construction workers trapped in a room they built around them, and now all they do is try very hard to find cracks in the wall so that they can write something to fill that blank, and thus to make the room more sealed off from the world. I find this very suffocating sometimes, especially when the election of Trump and Brexit explicitly tell us how higher education has failed to take into action what it preaches. As a literary scholar, I perceive two kinds of criticism to be worth doing. The first is theoretically informed political reading, such as postcolonial, feminist, or queer readings of the classics, which can offer new perspectives for us to see the structures built around a cultural product. This is more of a cultural history kind of reading. The second form of reading is perhaps a traditional one, which is that we should also read what we perceive to be good literature and promote it by making a sound case for its unique contribution to the wider world. These two modes of reading and essay-writing may sound quite commonsensical, but I think in this era of niche-market obsession, many of us under institutionalized pressure tend to forget abou[...]

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 o[...]

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 [...]

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 wan[...]

Interview _ David Wilkinson


David WilkinsonDavid 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 1[...]

Interview _ Ursula Kapferer


Ursula KapfererUrsula 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[...]

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 screenwri[...]

Interview _ Emma Lee


Emma LeeEmma 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 t[...]

Interview _ Antonella Delmestri


Antonella Delmestri was born in Trieste, Italy, where she began her education in Classical Studies before moving to Computer Science. Holder of a PhD in Information and Communication Technologies, she is author or co-author of a number of scientific publications.In 2004 her first collection of Italian poems, Stanze dove non eri stato mai, was published by Ibiskos. In 2016 her second collection, Il respiro del drago (The breath of the dragon), including an English translation by Anne Lloyd-Williams, was published by Battello Stampatore.Antonella has also published in Italian a short story “E questo fu solo l’inizio!” and has won various literary awards with her poems. Since 2006, she has lived in the UK, and works at the University of Oxford in medical research.In this interview, Antonella Delmestri talks about her poetry.How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?My personal experiences have entirely influenced my writing, even its very start and existence. I love T. S. Eliot’s definition of poetry:Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.Which authors influenced you most?What has most influenced my writing is my classical background, especially Greek and Latin mythology. I am fascinated by the power of this psychologically evocative cultural expression, which remains significant through the ages in representing universal human emotions. Myths, archetypes and metaphors are symbolic ways of conveying deeper truths about ourselves and the world around us. How would you describe Stanze dove non eri stato mai? Stanze is a journey through different emotional states represented by the book's sections: "Ombre" (Shades), "Attimi" (Moments), "Sorrisi" (Smiles), "Miraggi" (Mirages) and "Catene" (Chains).The reader is invited to discover different rooms (stanze in Italian) of a virtual house, which symbolises one's inner self and identity. This is what the book's title refers to (Rooms where you had never been in English), and is a line in one of the poems, "La vergogna" (Shame). The fact that Stanza has an additional meaning in poetry makes the title more evocative.How did the collection come about?I started writing poetry when I was in my early 30s and it was a complete surprise to me. One day I woke up and I just had to write.Initially, everything I produced was in rhyme, and the rhymes were ready to come out effortlessly. It was an unsettling experience, because I was not used to it and I did not understand where it came from. Probably to give it some direction, I got into the habit of writing in the morning and editing the result later in the day. This activity of dreamy writing and file-editing went on for a few years undisturbed and solitary.One day I heard of a publisher, Ibiskos, running a competition for poetry collections, and I began to consider sharing my writing with the outside world. I started selecting the poems that I thought might be suitable, and grouped them into sections. My collection was shortlisted in the competition and Ibiskos offered to publish it.Antonella Delmestri's first poetry collection Stanze dove non eri stato mai was published in 2004 by Ibiskos Editrice. What were the easiest aspects of the work that went into the collection? And which where the most challenging?The creation of the poems t[...]

Interview _ Irena Ioannou


Irena Ioannou’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Wild Word, S/tick, Literary Mama, Eyedrum Periodically and Shipwrights. She writes from Crete, Greece where she lives with her husband and four children.In this interview, Irena Ioannou talks about her writing, translation and poetry.When did you start writing?My first efforts were in Greek and were meant for my eyes only, too many years ago to be able to pin it down. Then I stumbled upon some creating writing courses at Malmo University, or they stumbled upon me, I can’t tell for sure.My first poems were published online in 2013 and ever since I’ve been taking my writing one step forward, the past months more steadily and decisively so. How would you describe the writing you are doing?I write narrative, confessional poetry, more often than not with a feminist-political bent. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with the flash fiction and the short story form. Writing constantly offers new opportunities to learn and evolve, or sometimes you find that a medium cannot deliver the intended meaning adequately. But poetry is the guide to everything else: it taught me to pay attention to every single word, which is a big step into writing.Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?I am Greek and I have attended Greek school which means that I’ve studied the Classics. Having also studied English Literature though, a new window opened when I came across contemporary female poets.I chose to do my Bachelor Thesis on Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife, and, well, nobody can remain unaffected by that. Questions about the truth of representation and the reinvention of history still haunt my writing.In general, I am drawn to poems with a strong voice. Poets like Sharon Olds and Adrienne Rich — and others less known who use poetry to bare their soul — are my soft spot. How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?Your experiences make you who you are, and your writing reflects it. I’ve been influenced by two countries: Sweden, where I was born, and Greece, where I’ve grown up.Studies have also the habit of messing with your head, and at times I enroll in foreign language courses trying to decode the way of thinking behind them. And of course, my job in the Greek Fire Brigade offers new angles of interpreting the human condition.What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?I consider my best achievement that I continue writing while working and being a mother of four.I cannot single any of my pieces out as they all carry a piece of me in their words. But of course I value the magazines that treat my work with respect, like The Wild Word did with my poem "It’s Only Human Nature" and my personal essay "On Country And Shared Blood", and the Mortar Magazine did with my short story "St. George".The publishing world is still a puzzle to me, though every time a total stranger chooses my work among hundreds I call it a small miracle, and marvel at the way poetry unites us all.How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?I answered to an open call for volunteer translators posted in my university’s online writing community.I have translated eight of the poems into Greek, and I am working on the rest. So far, it’s been a very rewarding experience. I can’t help but admire such initiatives; we’re all so caught up in our lives that we don’t even allow sidelong glances to anything that doesn't directly concern [...]

Interview _ Laura Chalar


Laura Chalar was born in 1976 in Uruguay, where she trained as a lawyer. She is the author of six books, most recently Midnight at the Law Firm (Coal City Press, 2015), a chapbook of poetry, and Líber Andacalles (Topito Ediciones, 2016), a Spanish-language short story for children. She has also published numerous translations from and into Spanish, including Touching the Light of Day: Six Uruguayan Poets (Veliz Books, 2016) and Uruguayan poetry dossiers in Modern Poetry in Translation and other literary journals. The recipient of various literary awards as well as a Pushcart Prize nominee, she is currently at work on several simultaneous projects. Laura is married and has a daughter.In this interview, Laura Chalar talks about her writing.When did you start writing?I started writing when I was very small, copying the printed letters I found in books and newspapers. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. My father was very proud of a story about a ‘caterpillar woman’, which I must have written when I was about four. Both my parents were readers --- fine examples of that type of cultured, literary-minded lawyer which is now sadly in danger of extinction. We never had much money when I was growing up, but there were always plenty of books around the house.How would you describe the writing you are doing?I am a poet and short-story writer who also wants to become a novelist! Recently, I’ve also started writing for children. And then, of course, I also translate. These different genres often hinge around subjects I keep returning to --- memory, childhood, ‘normal’ people living normal lives, usually in places I happen to know or have lived in. In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most and in what way? Why do you think they’ve had this kind of influence?I wouldn’t know about influence, but there are many writers whose work I admire and which are a quality standard I always try to keep within sight, even if I can’t match it. I’m always discovering poets whose work I love, many of them English! Among Uruguayan writers, who are perhaps less familiar to English-language readers but definitely worth getting to know, I would mention Julio Herrera y Reissig, Líber Falco, Juan Carlos Onetti, Marosa di Giorgio, Carlos Martínez Moreno, Horacio Quiroga and Juana de Ibarbourou from the ‘classics’ ranks.Laura Chalar's books include Touching the Light of Day (Veliz Books, 2016) and Líber Andacalles (Topito Ediciones, 2016).How have your personal experiences influenced the writing you are doing?My personal experiences are always there, lurking behind the scenes. That is not to say, of course, that my writing is always ‘confessional’ --- I will draw on stories I have heard, the visual arts, places I have never been to --- but there is always something of myself, of my tastes and inclinations, in what I write. I suppose it’s the same with most writers --- your life seeps into your writing, sometimes in ways you can’t recognize.What are you working on at present?I am preparing a Spanish-language book of prose poems (or poem-like stories, depending on your view) for the press. It will be published in Uruguay by Irrupciones, a local publisher, perhaps in May. This year, I also plan to finish a book about reading to (and with) my daughter, and edit the short stories and other writings of my father, who died last year (some of these can be read in the latest issue of[...]

[Interview_2] C. Y. Gopinath


C. Y. Gopinath has worked as a journalist, a film director, and a community development worker.His books include Travels with the Fish (Harper Collins, 1999) and the novel, Book of Answers.In this email interview, C. Y. Gopinath talks about his new book, Hoyt’s War.What is your latest book about?I just finished writing Hoyt’s War. The story is set in USA 2020, after four years of a very Trump-like President called Barry Codbag have made America the most ridiculed and reviled nation on the planet. It’s strange that my main ‘villain’ was every bit as irrational, maverick, and a dangerous loose cannon as Donald Trump. Campaigning now for four more years in the Oval Office, Codbag needs new and more diabolical distractions to confuse the electorate.Along comes an ordinary retiring American, Daniel Hoyt, a man who just would rather be left alone in peace. Hoyt knows he’s in trouble when he inherits an ancient but locked book said to contain answers to all of America’s problems.And Codbag wants it. He knows this book will help him get re-elected.Hoyt, wanting no part of this, sells the book to a dollar store. But the shop owner quickly realizes what the book could mean, and re-invents himself as a clergyman, claiming that through this book God speaks straight to him. It’s a matter of time before he is working directly with the President.The President and the pastor make a lethal pair. For every preposterous law Codbag wants to enact, the pastor makes up ‘divine’ evidence that it comes from God’s words in the book. And a gullible nation laps it up.Codbag wants to turn America into a monarchy with himself as King, in the name of minimum government. Decriminalize rape. Legalize cheating in examinations. Impose a tax on sex. Create a special Grey Area for people who think too clearly. Ban the past and future tense. Now Daniel Hoyt hates a fight; he’s no hero. But against his wishes, he gets dragged closer and closer to a confrontation with Codbag. The government wants the key to the book, and only Hoyt can get it. Suddenly he is the White House’s crosshairs.Hoyt’s War is the story of an ordinary American who reluctantly takes on the most powerful man on the planet, in a hard-hitting, riotous and all too plausible satire of a dystopian America.Is it true that Donald Trump was the inspiration for the character of President Barry Codbag?Codbag undeniably talks, thinks and feels like Trump. But the truth is that I began writing this book in 2012 and finished it in early 2015, long before Trump was even a feature on the election map. So it’s a moot point whether Trump inspired Codbag — or whether Trump could pick up a few more crazy ideas from him.The rather audacious promotional campaign I am launching actually is based on a series of ‘news stories’ from a certain fictional newspaper called Washington Psst, in which Trump is seen waving a copy of Hoyt’s War and saying it should be banned. It feels completely appropriate to take full advantage of someone as amoral, unethical, unprincipled and self-serving as Trump. What sets the book apart from other things you've written?Imagine a story set in the culture and society of one country — being re-written and re-imagined in the socio-political setting of a completely different country. I would go out on a limb and say Hoyt’s War might be the first book in literary history to do that.In 2011, Ha[...]