Published: Three poems into Dutch on Sample Kannon

Thanks to the brilliant Tsead Bruinja, three of my newer poems, coming from my new book The Guide to Being Bear Aware, have been translated into Dutch and published in the Sample Kannon journal.

De Toekomst

De toekomst
als een eend met rubbertanden.
Een vakje dat uw reactie zal bevatten
op een gebeurtenis die u in de war heeft gebracht,
wat tot als gevolg heeft dat u gaat denken dat reactie een oplossing is.

Published: two poems into Hungarian in Szif

Thanks to the brilliant Orsolya Fenyvesi, two of my newer poems, coming from my new book The Guide to Being Bear Aware, have been translated into Hungarian and published in the Szif journal.

Nem támadnak meg a medvék

Ez ólálkodik a sötétben,
a vegetarianizmus
barátságos története.

Livia azt mondja, kenyér van az orrban
és a torokban.

A note on: In Other Words: The Journal for Literary Translators Winter 2016

Very happy to have a short article in the beautiful and vital In Other Words journal, which is published by Writer's Centre Norwich and the translation centre. Do go get a subscription, it's a brilliant journal


My article gives an account of how I happened to be in Serbia as the UK's exit from Europe happened, and the inevitable disquiet around that experience. I was helped by editor Sam Schnee in putting it together, she did a wonderful job with me and with the whole issue, which features Gabriel Josipovici, Chris Gribble, Jen Calleja and many other talents.

A note on: Moot, a videopoem from Iraq via Highlight Arts & The British Council

Almost exactly two years since I spent some time in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq, thanks to the amazing Highlight Arts and the support of the British Council, a video showing me reading one of the poems I wrote about the place and the trip specifically has been produced by Yasmin Fedda and hosted in a series of articles by Daisy Leitch on the British Council Website.

Published: 8 poems translated into German on

Really so happy to have some of my work in excellent German translation, eight poems from my third book Minimum Security Prison Dentistry, have been translated by Konstantin Ames for, edited by Konstantin Ames, Sonja vom Brocke, Richard Duraj, Mara Genschel, Norbert Lange and Léonce W. Lupette.


Published: Modern Poetry in Translation: issue 3 2015

Really delighted to feature in MPT, the legendary magazine under the editorship of Sasha Dugdale, for the first time, with my co-translations of Maryam Alatar, taken from the Highlight Arts Iraq project I attended last year. You can buy the issue here, which also features a focus on new and classic Uruguayan poetry: new translations of Líber Falco, Horacio Cavallo and Ida Vitale, plus a conversation between two women poets from Uruguay: Laura Chalar and Laura Cesarco Eglin

Zarez interview in Croatia with Marko Pogacar

MP: For the last couple of years you are very active in finding, elaborating and persuading new and original, or at least not very common and worn out methods of presenting poets and poetry. The effort seems to be rather efficient – a couple of projects with high public visibility had emerged out of that. Tell us a bit more...

SJF: A lot of factors led up to me doing this. The fact I didn't have a literary education as a child, and my rather late beginning to writing, and that I perhaps was able to see quite clearly, with fresh eyes, what was working and was not with contemporary presentations of literature was certainly the main one. So it seems natural to me to have poets explore collaboration with each and across the arts as a fundamental mode, to have them write to commission or responding to an idea, to make readings rapid and intensive, to borrow from performance art and so forth. I have also always emphasisedthat readings should be decidedly open and welcoming, that that effects the experience on the most originary level. So far, these ideas have received a lot of support.
MP: You have published six volumes of your own poetry in a rather short time as well. Again the texts and the performances tend to merge styles, strategies, arts and disciplines. The ‘good old’ paper-eye connection lost something of its strength within the everyday explosion of the spectacle? How much the general context determines our very ability to comprehend literature, especially poetry? Is it time for the new ‘aesthetic of the new’?
SJF: So much historical analytical repetition often obscures our view of questions like that. What I will say is that this moment is truly a new moment. The two enormous factors we must deal with is population increase across the globe, the explosion of human beings, doubling the planet's occupation at the same time as absolutely revolutionary technological changes. We live in a truly new moment and have to respond to that. Very idiosyncratically I have responded with a measure of speed.
MP: London’s poetry scene seems to be boiling at the moment – interesting names and venues seem to pop up non-stop. Anything binds them together, besides the fresh energy? Any dominants, recognizable generation characteristics? Does it, in the internet era, make sense to talk about the generation just age-wise?  
SJF: The great quality of London is its size. There are so many things happening at once, so many readings, so many new poets, that its very hard to feel a sense of hierarchy, which is traditional in literary circles. You can't be top dog, because there's always another group of poets, just a street down, who have never heard of you. So there are no dominants in London, just a nearly endless periphery. The great and good of the literary scene are not followed by the avant garde who aren't known by the spoken word etc..
MP: You’re poetry editor in 3AM magazine, you’ve followed poetry scenes all around Europe. Having a good insight, what can you recommend? Where do you find ‘the fresh blood’? What about Lyrikline? A couple of clicks away there is the world poetry treasure. How this kind of availability effects the production? Do we all start to write alike eventually?
SJF: I don't think there's any homogeneity happening at all, precisely the opposite. There are more writers and less readers, in perspective, than ever before. And I firmly welcome this, to tear down the hierarchical model of literature in favour of a more inclusive, democratic vision of writing as something that enriches the individual and cannot be generalised. Every nation has its depths, every nation its scenes and new writers and exciting moments. I've had the chance to travel a lot too, as well as research and all I can report is that though it is a huge part of my life, I have barely scratched the surface. As long as I know this, my head is in the right place.

International Translation Day - September 26th at the British Library

International Translation Day 2014

The British Library
Friday 26 September, 9am-5.30pm
£35 (£28 over 60s) & £25 (concessions)

Book tickets
View full programme
Ngugi wa Thiong'o talks to Amanda Hopkinson at ITD 2013

"English PEN invites everyone who is interested in the art and business of literary translation to join us at this year’s International Translation Day." 
I'm leading a session with Ricarda Vidal from Translation Games and chatting about Enemies! join us at the british library

Translation Games workshop for TCCE conference

I had a really fun afternoon at the TCCE conference in the swanky Guildhall building next to the Barbican doing a seminar with the brilliant Ricarda Vidal for the Translation games project (click the link to see loads of great pictures of the day and the work that was written)

I was a wee bit ill and wonky, though that tends to make me more relaxed and so far more palatable, but the whole of the day seemed so positive and open that it always seemed like itd be a success. This conference is for creative professionals to share ideas, to try new projects, to network, in the best way, and we had a nice group that Ricarda led through the concepts around cross medium translation before they actually had a go at rendering Anna Cady's film back into the poetry from whence it came. I was really positively surprised with the openness of the participants and thought Ricarda did an amazing job. Such a lovely thing to continue my work with Translation Games, long may that grow.

Petrarch & this summer's events

Please join us on June 28th at the Rich Mix Arts Centre for an exploration of the work of the poet Tim Atkins and the launch of his collected Petrarch from Crater press. The entirety of one of the most remarkable poetic projects of our era will be brought together for the first time in a 400 page book, as we take a rare chance to celebrate one of the most brilliant and generous living British vanguard poets in Tim Atkins.
The reading will feature well over a dozen poets reading from Tim’s Petrarch works, including Peter Jaeger, Philip Terry, Andrea Brady, Marcus Slease and Jeff Hilson, and the man itself of course.
& if anyone's kind enough to come …
 June 5th: I’ll be performing and conducting workshops in Riga, Latvia for the Totaldobze project curated by Kaspars Lielgalvis, followed by readings in Vilnius and Talinn, in a minitour of the Baltic.
June 16th: For the Generative Constraints Committee via Royal Holloway, I’ll be performing / speaking about violence (& poetry) at the CC4C in Kings X, alongside Sasha Roseneil, chaired by Prudence Chamberlain, in an evening called 'About the Stand-Off’ from 6.30pm.
June 20th: I’ll be speaking about the Enemies project before reading in the evening at the Midsummer Poetry Festival in Sheffield. 6.30pm onwards
June 24th: For the remarkable Translation Games project I’ll be leading workshops with Ricarda Vidal on transmedia translation at the Guildhall school, Barbican, as part of the Cultural Capital Exchange conference
June 25th: As part of the Science Museum’s amazing Exponential Horn installation, I’ll be performing a new conceptual / soundart / noise piece at the Museum, to be recorded by Resonance FM & the BBC. 7pm onwards.
June 26th: I’ll be reading at the Bookart bookshop in Old St. London, to celebrate the incredible POW series edited by Antonio Claudio Carvalho, which was recently completed. Lots more info on the series here by Chris McCabe 7pm onwards
June 27th: I’ll be reading as part of the BAMS international Modernism now! conference, at the CC4C introducing & reading from the modernist poets who have influenced my work program is called ‘Make it Now: A Modernist Reading by Four Contemporary Poets’ and begins at 7.30pm.
July 3rd: Very happy to be curating a celebration of the great Czech avant garde writer Bohumil Hrabal through the Czech Centre London, at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, which will feature brand new commissions from Zoe Skoulding, Sarah Kelly, Stephen Emmerson, Marcus Slease, Tom Jenks & others. More to come.
July 9th to 17th: Auld Enemies – a cross nation collaboration, a tour of Scotland with six poets writing in rolling pairs and inviting locals to Camarade – Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Orkneys, Shetland. Much more to come… Supported by Creative Scotland.
July 26th: Auld Enemies in London. At the Rich Mix Arts Centre a collaborative poetic celebration of Scottish contemporary experimental poetry and the events and works of the Auld Enemies tour.
August 7th: At the Whitechapel gallery, I'll be performing my short story MueuM, which was up for the white review prize this year, readable here alongside Holly Pester, Kristen Kreider and Patrick Coyle.

Reel Iraq: Kurdistan diary #3

The day began translating with Maryam Alatar, a female poet from Baghdad, and one whose work I have been intrigued by since I heard of its ferocity. Maryam's poetry is pared down in execution but takes the patriarchy of Iraqi society head on. A quiet assurance in her manner is reflected with poems which can easily be described as outwardly aggressive toward oppression, abuse and misogyny. I had a great experience working with her, helped ably by the spritely Dina Mousawi, whose down to earth Bradford Iraqi charm rather offset the subject matter in a way that allowed me a certain permissive objectivity, one I needed to actually translate the work into English and make it my own.

Back from lunch and the grime gym (the owner of the complex, once a resident of Derby, and a former kickboxer, sorted me out with a bag and some good kit), I returned to my room to find it being cleaned. I got talking to a man from Nepal, who has come to Iraq for work. I made him some tea, and we talked for as long as he was allowed to before moving on to the next cabin. Him and his wife moved here a few years ago, and though the money isn't good he characterised the place as good because the worst it got was disdain, and not violence. He said they needed to move on at some point, the money they were earning in Shaqlawa was not enough to feed them and support their family back in Nepal. He spoke perfect English, told me he had a uncle who was a Gurkha and was incredibly mannerly and well spoken. His dignity in the face of treatment that he tried to downplay, but was obviously difficult, bordering on brutal to bare made me feel stupid in the way one does when realising the futility of any notion of fairness on the earth. I am being paid to be in Shaqlawa, being flown here, fed, given time to talk about, translate and write poetry. I believe it can only be good at times to find this absurd. He said we could chat tomorrow before we leave.

I then spent some time in the afternoon working on my translations of Ali, Maryam and Zhawen. My intention was to begin as loyal as possible to the original text, and then veer carefully, when it was required. It didn't turn out like that. The context felt freer, and so I was free. I introduced new ideas even, at points. The poems became mine. I wanted this for my own work, but for theirs...I hope they're okay with that in the end! Those of them who speak English anyway. 
The whole crew then climbed a mountain. I never caught its name, but in the Safeen range, and we were driven there en masse in a minivan that shouldn't have been able to climb as it did. At the foot a group of typically slick Iraqi dudes were just hanging, all shiny jeans and tight shirt and gelled hair, and we began to climb they joined us. The party started to stretch out, each taking the climb at their own pace. The climb was well staired, with views into the valley of Shaqlawa behind us. I was driving forward with Hoshang and Dina and Ryan, and the metal stairway at the summit of the climb came into view as the steps stopped and a dirt path took its place. The point of this pathway was apparently to reach a fertility stone. By sliding down this stone, face first, women apparently increase their chances of having a child. Sounded counterintuitive to me. I skipped ahead and reached the top first. Climbing the metal rigging I made my way to the dead end, the stone, to find a single man, sitting high above, in full body camo attire. He just looked upon me as the climbing beginner I was. Heading back down I came first to all the cool Iraqi guys we met. The first thing they said was 'picture'. Again I offered my white face up as some sort of pleasure for others, happy to do so for such friendly people. Eventually the whole group was at the shrine, with most doing the slide and we milled, Hoshang even mountain goating further up the increasingly sheer mountain. We then spotted the camo man, on an adjacent peak, frighteningly high and clearly requiring some ropeless vertical climbs. Rather him than me.

Passing us on the way down was a whole group of men with shisha pipes and wood, ready to barbecue at the top. At the bottom itself all the Iraqi dudes started dancing, choubi music blaring from their car stereo, doors open. Arm over arm, they sucked in most of our party before the cab came to take us back.

Reel Iraq: Kurdistan diary #2

Spring in Shaqlawa is the time to be in Shaqlawa. Apparently in two months I would be lobster crisp. Now it is really warm but never roasting. I have a view of the mountains from my cabin. I slept little, as I normally do, but because I ate a whole sheet of dried apricot syrup paper and had at least 8 sugar teas the day before. Breakfast with Hosang, Dan and Ryan, already reflecting on how soon we will have to leave. Into the conference room, bedecked for the possibility of politicians, it is replete with questionable portraiture and decor, but we have baklawa in shaqlawa.

The translation process is full of potential. Literal translations of our poems have been made, and we are randomly paired, and do a round robin, working with everyone. We use different poems for each poet we work with, so a wide selection of the work we put forward will end up in Arabic or Kurdish. We then have two three hour meetings a day, for two days, to cover the four Iraqi poets we work with. An intermediary, who speaks the language, but does so much more than that, completes this translation triplet. And this is the work (!) I wrote ten new poems specifically for the occasion, about the history of Erbil, taking, in an abstract manner, ten points in its history, from 6000bc to 2014, as the beginning of each poem, linking them together through the place itself. Erbil claims to be the oldest town in the world, and so much has passed through it, Assyrians, Alexander, Romans, Timur, Genghis, Saddam etc...

My first session was with Ali Wajeh, the amazing Lauren Pyott as intermediary. Ali fits the notion I had in my mind of a male Iraqi poet to some extent, assured, lyrical in his style, full of poetic pontification. The main thing for me was that the translation of my work became new. Ali had no problem with that, my work seemingly 'inspiring' him onto his own track, and I welcomed his more careful guidance through his work, before I kind of wedged myself into it, opening up his dialogue structure with a wee bit of irony and references to Highway 80, the Highway of Death. Got in another gym session before lunch, bringing the poets Nia Davies and Ryan Van Winkle. Very funny mix, fitness and poets.
my work in Kurdish
The second session was the most engaging moment I've ever had in this kind of translation exchange, just really humbling and gratifying. I got to work with the female Kurdish poet Zhawen Shally and Hoshang Waziri, a playwright, man of the world and general literary fixer extraordinaire. The process of actually having to explain my own work line by line is deeply strange and discomforting. I write at speed, I defer care, and I welcome carelessness. Yet having to offer analysis of each line, in its deep and thorough explanation I find myself saying so much. Had I intended any of it? Is it just my verbosity in the moment, and not the text itself? A problem made a pleasure through the skill and interest of Zhawen and Hoshang. Zrwen could not be more kind and humble, and this poem I had chosen of mine to translate was about the year 1988 in Kurdistan, the height of the al-Anfal, Hussein's campaign of murder against the Kurds ( The poem is abstract, but that is what it is about. Zhawen is the only Kurd in the group, so I wanted to work on this with her, but still maintain a profound respect of the reality of that history I can know very little about. She handled my words with a care they didnt deserve. As we were working through her work, a beautiful poem in praise of solitude, Zhawen then revealed her father was a freedom fighter for Kurdistan, a resistance fighter, and after being betrayed, he was killed in 1987. His name was Bayiz Shally. He was very young when he died. Again I am rendered stupid in the face of people's openness and profound honesty and warmth.

After dinner we returned to Shaqlawa again. We strolled through the town, much quieter on a saturday night than a friday, and made our way off the main promenade to what looked like a warehouse, but what turned out to be a local gaming hall, with pool and table tennis. The owner (with the photoportrait hung in the hall, above) was a bear of a man, grizzly beard and expert snooker player. Lauren had met him the year before, and his ebullient wife, now ill, sadly, and his initially fearsome visage took on a sadder shade. They had come from Baghdad originally, and had a hard life by any standards. After leaving the poolhall, Dina Mousawi, irrepressible in her energy, ushered Ryan into to a local barbers, where he proceeded to have his four month old mountain man hair and beard wet shaved and cut with an audience, and furore, as though he were about to fireswallow. Yas, the filmmaker in our crew, filmed him reading a poem as the cut took place. The men and boys in the barbers welcomed us all to sit down, joked with us and could not have been more friendly and hospitable, as everyone has been, relentlessly. As we left they refused payment and instead, insisted on a memento.

Translation Games at the Poetry Library

From the moment I came into contact with Translation Games, through the unusually considered and energetic work of Ricarda Vidal and Jenny Chamarette, I knew it was the kind of project I wanted to be involved in. The kinship it has with what Im trying to do with the Enemies project goes beyond the similar contextual concerns into the very culture of the project, it's openness, it's direction, it's appreciation of complexity.
I came into Translation Games at the beginning of it's second phase, as Ricarda and Jenny were expanding the scope of the program and working towards an event, which happened just a few days ago, at the Poetry Library, as part of their special edition series. The process involved 3 artists translating a selection of concrete poems from Antonio Claudio Carvalho's amazing POW series, into their own mediums. They had just a week to do so, and the results were unveiled at the event, with a general presentation of the project and its aims, as I sat in the dark, at the back of audience, live translating the translations and the general goings on.
There was a Q&A after the works were presented too, where I got to share the stage with Ricarda, and with two of the artists involved, the film maker Anna Cady and the artist Sam Treadaway. Both their work really was a joy to witness, and being so familiar with the POW series, I felt I had an inside track to the roots of their process. Anna's ethereal filmwork highlighted the potential of realising certain paradoxes about death and expiry which cannot be attained in formal language, and Sam's transforming of Simon Barraclough's sun poetry into scent was breathtaking. Sam handed tiny discs to the audience, which were miniaturised renditions of the poem and were infused with the scent of leather, oranges, was remarkable. You can, and should, read more about it on the translation games website.
So much came out of the discussion and the work, but perhaps pivotally for me, I was really forced to consider the lines between translating and collaborating, and how intention defines the difference between these ambiguous concepts when they are deployed as I deploy them, which is, hopefully, a test to traditional boundaries. The live writing was a pleasure, because the event was a pleasure, and I tried to inculcate a meta-dialogue (humorous, I hope) alongside actual expressionistic poetic response. The words, as I was spilling them out, appeared on a screen so the audience could read as the event unfolded. The entire live writing text has been published online and if you liked the excerpts here, you can read it allll

International Translation Day at the British Library

I would honoured to speak at this one day conference / summit / get together of translators and industry professional at the British library on technology, futurology and poetry. It was an embarrassment of riches in terms of the speakers, I actually looked like the child of most of the distinguised peoples in the programme, and I inhabited one of the afternoon breakout seminars with Maya Gabrielle, who is a serious digital programme industry leader, working with the National Theatre and others. She spoke really directly and powerfully about waste and direction in using social media and allowed me to be the good cop really, as I waffled on with my thoughts on the potentiality of the ether for writers, and how the internet is not a tool but a mode, and that its growth is inevitable, its use free and its engagements exponential. It went well, I was able to ramble without notes, feeling quite empassioned, and the people in the full room were knowledgable and positive about my positivity. Robert Sharp mediated us well too. All immensely clever people involved, and great to see friends like Dan Gorman, Sarah Hesketh, Alexandra Buchler amongst new connections I will no doubt benefit from meeting. Also to speak at the British Library is a proud first.

poetry in Recours au Poeme in French translation Thanks to the efforts of the excellent translator Elizabeth Brunazzi and the tireless and extraordinary editorial efforts of Matthieu Baumier my work has appeared in the respected French journal Recours au Poeme in both English and French translation. The work is taken from my meditations on scent sequence.

Recours au poeme has an almost unmatched width, frequency and quality, and Matthieu's work is truly both inclusive and ambitious. 

Recours au Poème
Poésies & Mondes poétiques
 Nouveaux articles en ligne cette semaine
Sommaire 51 / Issue 51 /Sumario 51
Pour toute proposition ou demande : 
Focus     Nikola Živanović, 6  poèmes
PoèmesJoël Bécam Anne-Cécile Causse Margaret Beston Roger des Roches SJ Fowler
Vu du Sud (3), la poésie d’ Abdellatif Laâbi, par Nasser Edine Boucheqif
Lecture (s), autour d’Eva-Maria Berg, Jigmé Thrinlé Gyatso, Danièle Faugeras, Dinu Flamand, par Paul Vermeulen
Tête d’Or, la force et le sens (Paul Claudel), par Claude-Pierre Pérez
Ecrire en situation mauricienne : l’obscurcissement de la perspective ontologique, par Catherine Boudet
CritiquesLa doublure de R. Roussel, par Lucien Wasselin
Brocéliande, de Gilles Baudry et Pierre Denic, par Pierre Tanguy
Anthologie de poésie canarienne : ontologie visible pour archipel inventé, par C. Boudet
Toucher terre de Vincent Pélissier, par Matthieu Baumier
Sur deux récents ouvrages de Salah Stétié, par JP Gavart Perret
  RencontreRencontre entre Sege Nunez Tolin, Marc Dugardin et Jean-François Grégoire
 Directeur de la publication  :
Gwen Garnier-Duguy
Rédacteur en chef :
Matthieu Baumier