Journeys in Translation – update

but one country Rod Duncan showing English original and Shona translation by Ambrose MusiyiwaJourneys in Translation is seeking translators to help translate 13 poems from “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” (Five Leaves, 2015) from English into other languages for an event being held in Leicester on International Translation Day, 30 September 2017, as part of Everybody’s Reading. During the event the original poems and translations will be read and displayed.

So far the 13 poems have been translated into Bengali, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Shona, Spanish, Turkish and Welsh with assistance from 16 translators (translators working in a group have been counted as one translator) who have translated at least one poem each. The most popular poems to be translated have been Pam Thompson’s “Dislocation” and Rod Duncan’s “but one country”. Translators have said they picked these because they felt it would be challenge, particularly because “but one country” is a verbal mirror image poem and, like the original, translators have been ensuring their translations also work in a mirror image.

One translator has commented, “The process of translation always involves a certain degree of what is known as ‘translation loss’. There are certain ideas, objects or experiences that can never be satisfactorily translated because they simply do not exist in the target language’s culture. For example, the phrase ‘a present from Skegness’ in the poem ‘Framed’ by Marilyn Ricci carries connotations for the UK-based reader, but will be lost in translation for the German reader. I imagine that sometimes when refugees try to describe the lives they left behind, the equivalent words are simply not available, which therefore means that on top of all the others losses there is a further loss on a linguistic level… this sense of powerlessness through the loss of communication tools can feel extremely uncomfortable. I found that when focusing on the words and stories within the poems I started to really focus on the human aspect of the refugee crisis, which I had not perhaps really appreciated until this point. Suddenly all those news images and statistics took on a more personal meaning.”

At the start of the project, coordinator Ambrose Musiyiwa held a workshop in Leicester with further workshops planned at the Soundcafe and local community centres.

We look forward to more translations into more languages and to working with people from everywhere.

Anyone who would like to have a go at translating the poems can join the Journeys in Translation Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/316952552020172/) or contact one of the organisers.

“Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Leicester City of Sanctuary and Nottingham Refugee Forum. Copies of the anthology are available from De Montfort University Bookshop (Leicester) and Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

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Journeys in Translation: translating poems

Stories from the Jungle by Emma Lee poem postcardJourneys in Translation is intended to build on the success of the Journeys Poem Pop-up Library which took place during Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading last October. We took 8 poems from “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge”, printed them on postcards and gave them out at Leicester’s Railway Station. We had allocated an hour each day but ran out of postcards on the fourth day. Doubtless some would have taken a postcard thinking it another promotional leaflet and less hassle to accept and move on rather than try and refuse, some of those postcards may have been read before being recycled. The library was about sharing poems. One of the drivers of the original anthology was to reach out and share stories, hopefully enabling others to share theirs.

The practicalities of a quick publication turnaround – the call for submissions went out on 3 September and the anthology was launched on 1 December – meant that we had to request poems in a language common to all three co-editors so the poems could be selected, typeset and proofed in a timely manner for the printers to deliver by the launch date. Raising funds towards practical help was given priority. I feel that was the right decision.

Journeys in Translation gives an opportunity to overcome some of the disadvantages of the monolingual “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge.” The 8 poems have been expanded to 13 and the idea is to encourage people to have a go at translating one (or more) of those poems into another language. There is a Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/316952552020172/ and a couple of Journeys in Translation workshops have been held in Leicester where participants were encouraged to have a go at translating one or part of one of the poems and discuss any obstacles to translations or the nature of translation itself. We’ve asked for literal translations so there is no pressure to make a poetic translation (i.e. to try and shape the translation so it reflects the original rhythms and/or sound patterns/rhymes in the English poems). We are also exploring how to translate the poems into British Sign Language – this will probably be done as a video with someone reading the original poem alongside another signbut one country Rod Duncan showing English original and Shona translation by Ambrose Musiyiwaing it.

We plan to have an event on 30 September 2017 (International Translation Day) in Leicester where the original poems are read along with some of the translations. There will also be posters on display showing original poems and translations. Most of the original poets are based in or near Leicester. However, it is open for translators not local to Leicester to hold similar events or workshops in their own locality. Our focus currently is on our Journeys in Translation event but we are thinking about how to make the poems and translations visible after the event.

 

 

 

 


This blog is included in Matthew Stewart’s Rogue Strands’ Best Blogs of 2016. Do have a read of his article and explore the listed blogs – all worth a read.  With thanks to Matthew for listing this blog.


 

Over Land Over Sea at the Poetry Cafe with Exiled Writers Ink

At the invitation of Exiled Writers Ink, “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” was featured at the Poetry Cafe at The Poetry Place on Monday 1 August. There were readings from ten contributors scheduled with a possibility of an open mic, time permitting, afterwards. Jennifer Langer of Exiled Writers Ink introduced the evening by mentioning forthcoming Exiled Writers Ink events.

It was great to see a large audience: the venue was filled. Rather than have a lengthy introduction about “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge,” I introduced the first reading contributor, Jasmine Heydari. Jasmine was bought up in Sweden and we were fortunate she happened to be in London. She is Iranian and her poems are inspired by her experiences of the Iran-Iraq war and she often writes from a child’s perspective, as her poem “The First Time” which is narrated by a child who has just learnt the letter “w” at school and ends, “and as the windows performed their dance and walls crumbled, I dreamt of a world where war was just a word scribbled underneath wooden desks and wished for another first time.”

Trevor Wright was next to read, starting with his “Over Land Over Sea” contribution, “Yalla,” which starts,

“Shadowed by fissured rock,
fingers funnelling cooling sand,
the pull of the moon carving
the rhythm I need to pierce
the gloom, smell the horizon,
taste futures.”

Trevor had travelled down from Nottingham. Our next poet had travelled across from the West Country. Tania Hershman who has two short story collections from Tangent Press and her poetry pamphlet, “Nothing Here is Wild, Everything is Open.” She started with Joanne Limburg’s poem “So Many Set Out” and read a poem from her new pamphlet as well as both her poems from “Over Land Over Sea,” “Relativity” and “The Observer Paradox” where a man with a box of knives has been trying to bargain with restaurant staff while diners may or may not have seen him, it ends

.                         When he gets home,
boxes intact, will the fact that you
saw him make any difference
at all? What’s a poem to a person

with a room full of boxes
and boxes of unsold
and unwanted knives?”

Martin Johns had travelled to the Poetry Cafe from Northampton. He read three poems plus his contribution to “Over Land Over Sea,” “Consignment,”

“He’s cold, cold as the desert night, but met
by the warmth of a soft voice.

He hears only softness,
tastes sandwiches that respect his faith.
As his erstwhile liberator recognises

himself, all men and women
in the black mirror of those wide eyes
before they arrive to take him away.”

Caroline Rooney, Professor of African and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Kent, gave the last reading before the interval. Her poems often explore the way refugees can lose their voices by, e.g. documentary makers, who try to frame another’s story through their own prejudices rather than letting their subject speak with their own words. “People like to make films about me” ends

“Or why not ask me about the sweetened black tea and goat’s cheese?
Or ask me about the moped I left behind.
I thank you for your offer to write a poem about me.
I hope you’ll excuse the little I’ve sent on.
As for me? I’d like to direct a movie, to bring you
The bringing of where I am from.
You’ll see. It won’t be the same as the words about me.”

After the break, Daniel O’Donnell-Smith continued with a tribute to Elee, a friend who’d sadly passed away earlier in the day. His poem “and the sea did give up those dead in it” (quote from “Revelation 20:13”) explores the break down in language that occurs after trauma, both first hand or second hand where those who try to help vicariously live the lives of those they seek to help. It’s based around the phrase, “I enjoy great privilege those around me suffer immeasurably.”

Next was Barbara Saunders, a grandchild of Russian refugees who now teaches English to children of refugees. Her poem, “A Memorable Journey” takes a child’s viewpoint and is based on George McKay Brown’s “The Horse Fair” and starts with a group of children being instructed to write about an exciting or memorable journey and ends,

“I held on by my nails
men climbed out of the sea
someone shouted at me
are you dead or alive

the moon was gone
and my brother was gone
I was dead but they
picked me out of the sea
now I am in this country

Fantastic effort! Thank you so much for sharing.”

Hubert Moore has published eight collections of poetry and has been a writing mentor for Freedom from Torture. One of his poems for “Over Land Over Sea” looks at preparing donated clothes for wear by charity recipents. He also loves birds and their lack of respect for borders. His second “Over Land Over Sea” poem “Pedestrians” looks at “men on the long hard shoulder/ between Junctions 5 and 6,/ between entry / and almost certain removal” and ends

“There is no stopping
on their motorway.
Wait till the overhead sees,
announces its kindly truisms:
PEDESTRIANS IN THE ROAD,
TREES IN THE FOREST,
BIRDS IN SKY.”

Ambrose Musiyiwa at the Poetry CafeAt least there are birds. Malka Al-Haddad had wanted to travel down but wasn’t able to on the day so I read her poem “Children of War” before announcing our final reader, Ambrose Musiyiwa. Ambrose read from his poem “The Man who Ran Through the Tunnel” and a selection of micropoems from “The Gospel According to Bobba”. We rounded off the “Over Land Over Sea” part of the evening with a joint reading from Carmina Masoliver’s “The Sinking Ship.” Her poem is presented in two columns so we read in two voices with one voice for each column, one voice belongs to a refugee setting out with hope, the second to an observer questioning where refugees come from.

There was just enough time for three open mic readings. The first reader explored the contrast between the normality of wearing a headscarf in her own country with it taking on an almost political significance in the county she lives in now where reactions to her headscarf have been different. The second reader had a love song to his former country. The third reader, a nine-year-old, had a poem which explored reasons for homeless and why we shouldn’t just walk on by.

A big thank you to Exiled Writers Ink for inviting us.

Over Land Over Sea at the Poetry Cafe

Over Land Over Sea

Over Land Over Sea: Future Dates

Over Land Over Sea poems for those seeking refuge book cover“Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” has now gone into a second reprint. It has also had an extensive review at Sabotage Reviews. New events are listed below:

18 June 2016 11.45am Town Hall Square Leicester

Poems from “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” will be read by the editors on the acoustic stage during Red Cross’s fundraising events to mark the start of refugee week.

23 June 2016 6-9pm Voiced at the Exchange Bar, Leicester

Contributors and editors will be reading poems from “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” during Voiced, an evening of spoken word and music at the Exchange Bar.

1 August 2016 from 7.30pm Poetry Cafe, London with Exiled Writers Ink

At the invitation of Exiled Writers Ink, poets from “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” will reading their work.

1-9 October 2016 Leicester Railway Station Journeys Pop-up Poem Library

ER LogoReading is about sharing stories and making an imaginative journey, ideal to liven a routine commute or inspire on a longer trip. Travelling is an ideal time to read or think of other journeys. To provide inspiration, we will give out postcards from Leicester Railway Station with extracts from poems featured in “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” (Five Leaves, 2015). The poems are about journeys refugees have undertaken, including historical journeys, to inspire and provoke ideas.

 

Copies of “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” are available from Five Leaves.

 

The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel

With a bandaged hand Abdul, 21, tells of imprisonment
and gestures to describe the electric shocks he received
after his arrest from the Sudanese government.
His tribe also harassed by rebel militia. He feels deceived
by traffickers. Despite his razor-wire injury,
he’ll try again. Sudan was an English colony.
He wants to stop looking over his shoulder.

From “Stories from the Jungle” published in “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge.”

The Abdul in the poem is not Abdul Rahman Haroun, but he is seeking refuge for reasons probably very similar to Abdul Rahman Haroun who has been granted refugee status by the UK government. Both men left Sudan, the latter became “The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel,” “When I heard/ how he ran/…/and through tunnels/ how could I fail/ to be inspired?” (also from “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge”. You can hear Ambrose Musiyiwa reading his poem here.)

Despite Abdul Rahman Haroun’s status as a refugee, Euro Tunnel are determined that his story will not inspire others to make the same journey and he is being prosecuted under Section 36 of the 1861 Malicious Damage Act. This is in conflict with the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, which recognises that refugees could be forced to use illegal means to travel to the country where they will seek asylum and should not be prosecuted for irregular entry, and was incorporated into the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act. Mr Haroun’s defence team asked for an adjournment for the CPS to reconsider their prosecution in light of Mr Haroun’s status as a refugee, but the CPS have decided to go ahead and the trial has been scheduled for 20 June. Ironically, the start of Refugee Week. There is a petition asking for this prosecution to be stopped – please consider signing.

This shows how contemporary “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” is and, sadly, how some of the issues explored in the poems continue to be relevant. There are opportunities to hear poems from the anthology at:

25 February 2016 from 8pm at Attenborough Arts (Lancaster Road, Leicester).
Readings from “Over Land Over Sea” at the invitation of the Leicester Migration Network. Event starts at 6pm but poetry readings run from 8 – 9pm.

27 February 2016 from 7pm at Attenborough Arts Poems for People Benefit in aid of the current refugee crisis. Spoken word performance poetry featuring readings from the anthology.

1 August 2016 from 7.30pm Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street London, joint event with Exiled Writers Ink.

There is a review of “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” at London Grip.

“Over Land Over Sea poems for those seeking refuge” launch 7 December 2015

The launch took place on 7 December at the Secular Hall in Leicester from 6.30pm. This event was part of the Human Rights Film Festival. Ambrose Musiyiwa, one of the festival coordinators, started the launch by talking briefly about the festival, one of the highlights of which had been the previous day’s Music Without Borders that had raised funds for MSF.

Rather than give a lengthy introduction to “Over Land Over Sea poems for those seeking refuge,” I began with a selection of the poems because that’s what everyone had come to hear. Poems read (I read for those who weren’t able to be there on the night):

“Song for Guests” Carol Leeming
“Come In” Lydia Towsey
“My Neighbour” Richard Byrt
“What’s in a name?” Penny Jones
“We Walk Together” Sally Jack
“Children of War” Malka al-Haddad

I wanted to start with these poems because the first two were about welcoming. One of the key themes we found with many of the poems submitted was neighbourliness, reaching out to meet refugees as fellow humans. Malka al-Haddad’s poem is a powerful reminder of why people are leaving their homelands.

After this poem, I read an extract from Sir Martyn Poliakoff’s introduction, “…most of my adult life has been spent living in Beeston and being part of the community. So it is hard to ignore the plight of families who are going through traumas today similar to those experienced by my father and grandparents nearly a hundred years ago. This book is a really impressive collection of poetry and prose put together by a group of East Midlanders who care passionately about the lives of others and who are determined to help those less fortunate than themselves. Everyone who has contributed has done so free of charge and all of the proceeds from the sales are intended to help refugees. It is a great demonstration of the spirit which exists in our region. It also shows that compassion is still alive in the UK and that we are willing to welcome new families into our country so that they too can contribute to our communities as soon as they have overcome their dreadful experiences. Until then, we need to help them.”

It is often the case that small kindesses are more memorable than grand gestures, which introduced the second set of poetry readings:

“Blue Folder” Lily Silverman
“Birthdays, May 2015” Merrill Clarke
“The Whiteness” Mariya Pervez
“The Humans are Coming” Siobhan Logan
“What we know” Kerry Featherstone
“Hayride” Roy Marshall
“Yalla” Trevor Wright
“Stories from the Jungle” Emma Lee
“The Man Who Ran Through The Tunnel” Ambrose Musiyiwa

Some of the poems in “Over Land Over Sea” contrast our relative privilege with the little the refugees had and what they’d left behind. Space was also a recurring theme in submissions. Some used the idea of exploring space and alien lands as a metaphor for refugees arriving in foreign lands and being regarded as different. Siobhan Logan’s poem was based on a story of a teenaged refugee who dreamt of becoming an astronaut. Another theme was the journeys undertaken by refugees, and understanding how it must feel to make that journey and the motivation to keep going.

I paused here to talk about editing the anthology which I’ve already blogged about. The poetry readings continued:

“Waiting” Kathleen Bell
“Through the Lens” Liz Byfield
“The Devil and the Deep” Diane Pinnock
“In a small boat” Louisa Humphreys
“Outside the Photograph” Emma Lee
“but one country” Rod Duncan.

Rod Duncan’s poem is a wonderful unifying poem which uses a verbal mirror image to transform a negative view into a postive one. That’s primarily what we were looking for in “Over Land Over Sea poems for those seeking refuge,” a sense of connection, an acknowledgement of tragedy and trauma but without unremitting doom and gloom and a note of hope.

Thanks to all the poets who came along and read their poems and to Ross Bradshaw of Five Leaves who helped run a bookstall on the evening.

“Over Land Over Sea poems for those seeking refuge” is available from Five Leaves Bookshop. The proceeds of sales will go to MSF, Leicester City of Sanctuary and Nottingham Refugee Forum, charities working with refugees. Printing and distributions costs have been paid via a crowdfunding project before publication.

Over Land Over Sea poems for those seeking refuge

Over Land Over Sea poetry anthology for refugees book coverAvailable from Five Leaves Bookshop.

“Once again, men, women and children cross continents by foot and risk their lives at sea. Many are driven from home by war and catastrophe. The 101 poems in this anthology offer a range of responses: from grief to hope, from satire to anger. Above all, this book reminds us that those who seek refuge are our fellow humans – people much like us.

“Many of the contributing poets live in the East Midlands, others further afield. Some are well known, others at the start of their career. Some come from migrant families; others have campaigned or raised funds for refugees. Contributors include Chrissie Gittins, Ziba Karbassi, Joanne Limburg, Sheenagh Pugh, Mahendra Solanki, Lydia Towsey and Rory Waterman.

“Proceeds from the sales of this book support the work of Leicester City of Sanctuary, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum and Médecins Sans Frontières.

 

Launch Events

Tuesday 1 December 2015 from 5pm

Room 0.01 Clephan Building DeMonfort University, Leicester.

Monday 7 December 2015 from 6.30pm

Secular Hall, Humberstone Gate, Leicester LE1 1WB.

Free entry and all welcome to come along and hear some of the poems from the anthology and meet some of the poets and editors involved.

A5 launch flyer