When I sent in my application to volunteer at Brighton Festival last month I had no idea I would be so lucky; usually volunteering means making tea or handing out flyers, however, I got drafted to assist with this year’s literary and spoken word events!
Words are not expressive enough of how I feel.
I will be working over the next two weekends during the Festival; my fellow volunteer, Agnes and I, will be happily running about like maniacs, getting to assist with some frankly fantastic events for, Mathew Clayton, Literary and Spoken Word Producer for the festival and our leader. Today was a light introduction to the process, with only two events; Neil Mckenna – author of Fanny and Stella, and Modern Poetry in Translation.
As many regular readers will know, every Wednesday I take a dip into the poetry sea and post a peice I have discovered that week – attempting to reach beyond my poetry horizon. Thus, I was in for a treat being able to assist with Modern Poetry in Translation; they where launching their Spring Addition of Strange Tracks with some brilliant contemporary European poets.
When Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort founded MPT in 1965 they had two principal ambitions: to get poetry out from behind the Iron Curtain into a wider circulation in English and to benefit writers and the reading public in Britain and America by confronting them with good work from abroad. They published poetry that dealt truthfully with the real contemporary world. For more than 40 years MPT has continued and widened that founding intent.
MPT builds on the first editors’ extraordinary achievement. It affirms the vital importance of poetry in the modern world. It brings the best new translations, essays and reviews that address such characteristic signs of our times as exile, the movement of peoples, the search for asylum, and the speaking of languages outside their native home.1
I was only really meant to be there in case something went wrong, but Deborah and Sasha – Managing Editor and Editor respectively, were amazing – they really let me get stuck in and help out. Manning the book sales and Twitter updates, I live tweeted throughout the poetry session, which was great fun – the poetry really was sensational. You can visit here for a description of the poets and translators and I strongly suggest you subscribe; I certainly will be once employment comes – it’s only £19.90 a year!2
What first struck me, was how beautiful the poems sounded in their own language as well as their English translations. It left me craving a Dutch or French language skill, just to understand the poems in their original state. I couldn’t pick a favourite poet from this afternoon, they are all so different, but I will leave you with a translation of Ester Naomi Perquin’s Stranded, which was one of my favourite pieces.
Stranded by Ester Naomi Perquin
We still don’t know what it was,
the creature that lay here yesterday,
its wings spread out on the sand,
bulk almost too big for the day
but it lay on its side like a horse of
insane proportions that had charged at the coast,
a head like a house, the hide just as smooth
as an adder or toad, the eyes
almost sad, even closed.
It lay in the light of the north,
we stroked its skin until night.
We slept restless, unable to think,
Now there’s talk here of gods
and fables – who knows where it is.
Strange tracks lead down to the drink.
If you would like to see my Tweet-spree you can visit MPT’s twitter account @MPTmagazine.
I am not sure if I need to say this or not, but just in case – these are my views and not the festivals (although I am sure they probably thought it was lovely too).