National Poetry Day: Future of Translation Summit

What is the future of poetry translation in Britain? A day of workshops, panel discussions and readings.

For National Poetry Day (October 4th) 2018, The PoetTrio Experiment, in collaboration with the Institute of Modern Languages Research, organised and curated a Translation Summit in London University’s Senate House. It started with a public workshop on collaborative poetry translation, following the PoetTrio model. Then, poets, translators, speakers from cultural institutions, publishers and other stake-holders came together to reflect on best practice, and brainstormed how to take poetry in translation forwards in the next few years. 

PoetTrio Collaborative translation workshops

Two parallel workshops, with: British poets Sean O’Brien and WN Herbert; Dutch poets Elma van Haren and Hélène Gelèns; and Language advisors Willem Groenewegen and Francis Jones

Panel: Innovators
Speakers discuss the innovative projects, approaches and programming they are involved with.

Jen Calleja, British Library
Theodora Danek, English PEN
Kate Griffin & Peggy Hughes, National Writing Centre
Charlotte Ryland, Stephen Spender Trust
Jennifer Higgins, Queen’s College Oxford

Click for video

Panel: Translation after Brexit

As Britain struggles with the new isolationism, translation emerges as a key cultural tool. Our newly endangered relationship with Europe is a crucible for paradigms of world neighbourliness, from soft diplomacy to cultural industry.

Aušrinė Žilinskienė, Lithuanian Cultural Institute
Petra Freimund, Austrian Cultural Forum
Gabriela Mocan, Romanian Cultural Institute
Inga Bodnarjuka-Mrazauskas, International Writers and Translators House, Latvia  
Fiona Sampson, PoetTrio Project

Click for video

Panel: From Page to Stage 

Poetry translation relies on the vision of publishers and cultural institutions. But all literary publishers today must increasingly on going beyond the page, from radical event programming to inventive digital publishing.

Clare Pollard, Modern Poetry in Translation
Erika Hesketh, Poetry Translation Centre
Bill Swainson, freelance editor and literary consultant
Tony Frazer, Shearsman 
Tony Ward, Arc
Diana Manole, Trent University & McMaster University and poet 


South Korean poet Choi Jeongrye
Romanian-Canadian poet Diana Manole 
Poets from the PoetTrio project; Fiona SampsonSean O’BrienW.N. HerbertHélène GelènsElma van Haren, and Willem Groenewegen reading the work of Menno Wigman

The Summit was curated by:

Fiona Sampson, University of Roehampton, and Rebecca May Johnson, Newcastle University  



Alternating Currents | Martin Heslop

PoetTrio Commission by Martin Heslop

Composer Martin Heslop presents a new music and film work commissioned as a response to collaborative poetry translation from the Poettrio Experiment workshops. The voices and poems of Dutch and British poets (Sean O’Brien, Hélène Gelèns, Elma van Haren, W. N. Herbert, Fiona Sampson, Menno Wigman) are set to a new electronic composition. Imagined as an intercepted broadcast, and itself an act of interpretation, Alternating Currents explores the intersection of language, code and music.


Martin is a writer and composer who lives in Newcastle. He was composer and musical director of Bright Phoenix, a critically acclaimed play with songs especially produced for the newly rebuilt Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. He is a regular collaborator with the writers Jeff Young and Lizzie Nunnery, and wrote and performed the music for Lizzie’s play Narvik, which toured last year and is set to open in Norway in 2019.

He also works with poets such as Helen Tookey. He has been artist-in-residence at Metal, Liverpool, where he first experimented working with film, and has worked on many site-specific installations and performances. His latest composition is Horny Handed Tons of Soil, a performance collaboration written as a love letter to Toxteth in Liverpool and the work of Adrian Henri.

PoetTrios | Researching Collaborative Poetry Translation

Thursday: 10th May 4-5pm, in G.13, Percy Building, Newcastle University

We’ll be talking about our groundbreaking ‘PoetTrios’ project. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, this is the first major research study into collaborative poetry translation. Its cross-university research team brings together experts in both poetry and translation studies.

In a PoetTrio, two poets with different mother tongues work face-to-face with a bilingual ‘language advisor’ to translate one poet’s poems into the other poet’s mother tongue, then vice versa. Poets often collaborate with language advisors to translate other poets’ work. But this project, using videos of real Dutch-English trios, reveals for the first time how they actually work together to produce top-quality poetry translations: we’ll be sharing some initial findings with you.

Presented by

Bill Herbert (School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University)

Rebecca Johnson (School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University)

Francis Jones (School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University)

Sergio Lobejón Santos (School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University)

All are welcome!

Newcastle Poetry Festival 2018 | Crossings

Copyright Sean Scully. Untitled, 1967 Sean Scully: 1970 | a major retrospective exhibition | Hatton Gallery & Laing Art Gallery 10 February to 28 May 2018


We are delighted to announce that the PoetTrio project has co-curated a day of the Newcastle Poetry Festival 2018 with The Poetry Book Society and the NCLA at The Sage Gateshead. The day will feature workshops, panel discussions, readings and the presentation of a specially commissioned artwork that engages with our research. 

Programme below:

The Northern Poetry Symposium

Thursday 3rd May 2018

Translating Poetry with Poets: PoetTrio Parallel Workshops

9.00 – 10.30 | Northern Rock Foundation Hall | Sage Gateshead | £15

Part of the Northern Poetry Symposium. An exclusive opportunity for ten people to join a collaborative translation session with renowned poets W. N. Herbert, Sean O’Brien, Elma van Haren and Hélène Gelèns, with language advisors Francis Jones and Rosemary Mitchell-Schuitevoerder, using innovative new PoetTrio techniques to translate from Dutch to English. No prior knowledge of Dutch required.


10:30-18:30 | Sage Gateshead Northern Rock Foundation Hall | £25/£20 (students)

The Northern Poetry Symposium will be a day of lively debates, workshops and readings exploring poetry in translation with leading poets, publishers and translators. In the current age of political turbulence – the vote for Brexit, the presidency of Donald Trump, the refugee crisis and the rise of censorship – poetry in translation is more relevant than ever. We’ll be crossing the globe with exiled voices, exploring innovative new translation processes and putting poetry in translation firmly back on the map. Co-hosted by NCLA, PoetTrio and the Poetry Book Society.

10.30 – 11.00 Registration

11.00 – 12.00 Panel 1: Poetry Translation as Collaboration
A unique insight into the collaborative process of translating poetry from leading translators and researchers of Dutch, Austrian, Swedish and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian poetry. Led by the PoetTrio Experiment Co-Investigator W.N. Herbert, joined by panellists Karen Leeder, Carolyn Forché, Lars Gustaf Andersson and Francis Jones.

12.15 – 13.00 Reading 1: PoetTrio Showcase 
A reading by the PoetTrio poets Elma van Haren and Hélène Gelèns, alongside W.N. Herbert, Fiona Sampson and Sean O’Brien, with a tribute to Menno Wigman.

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch Break

14.00 – 15.00 Panel 2: Crossing the Divide: Poetry and Voices of Exile 
Karen McCarthy Woolf chairs a dynamic discussion on the role of poetry in the age of migration featuring the exiled Ugandan poet Nick Makoha, the Ukrainian-born poet Ilya Kaminsky, and Carolyn Forché, editor of Against Forgetting: Twentieth-century Poetry of Witness (1993). How important is poetry in translation in voicing migrant experience and highlighting the recent refugee crises? How can we combat threats to freedom of speech today and what more can be done to make migrant voices heard?

15.00 – 15.15 Tea break

15.15 – 16.15 Panel 3: International Dialogues: Putting Poetry in Translation on the Map 
Former Modern Poetry in Translation editor Sasha Dugdale explores innovative ways to raise the profile of poetry in translation with the founder and editor of Bloodaxe Books, Neil Astley, prizewinning poet and translator, Fiona Sampson, PBS Director, Sophie O’Neill, and the first-ever British Library Translator in Residence, Jen Calleja. How can we publish more poetry in translation and give it a more prominent place at book festivals, in the media and on the national curriculum?

16.30 – 17.00 PoetTrio Commission Presentation with Martin Heslop
Composer Martin Heslop presents a new immersive sound work in response to collaborative poetry translation from the PoetTrio Experiment workshops. Imagined as an intercepted cross-border broadcast, Alternating Currents explores the intersection of language, code and music.

17:15 – 18.30 Reading 2: Symposium Showcase and drinks reception 
Chaired by the T S Eliot Prize-winning poet Sinéad Morrissey, the symposium concludes with a drinks reception and readings from Nick Makoha, Carolyn Forché and Lars Gustaf Andersson, and PBS Summer Translation Choice Evelyn Schlag and Karen Leeder.


An Expelled Tongue: Translating Kim Hyesoon

Poet Don Mee Choi discusses the myth of fluency and what happens when translation is allowed to be hysterical.

Don Mee Choi is a translator of feminist South Korean poet Kim Hyesoon—most recently of Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream (Action Books, 2014), which was shortlisted for the 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. The author of The Morning News Is Exciting(Action Books, 2010), Choi has received a Whiting Writers Award and the 2012 Lucien Stryk Translation Prize. Her most recent works include a chapbook, Petite Manifesto (Vagabond Press, 2014), and a pamphlet, Freely Frayed, ?=q, Race=Nation (Wave Books, 2014). Her second book of poems, Hardly War, is forthcoming from Wave Books in April 2016.

In the following interview with Margins Poetry Editor Emily Yoon, Choi talks about the failing and afflailing tongue, the position of history and politics in translation, and the American tendency to insist on joy, among other things. Choi proclaims, “If you’re not already, you’ll soon be a junkie of Kim’s adorable, often bloody, rat, cat, pig, hole allegories of patriarchy, dictatorship, neoliberal economy, and neocolonial domination.” Read two of Don Mee Choi’s translations of Kim Hyesoon’s poems in The Margins. And look out for a series of essays and short reflections on Kim’s work later this week.

READ THE INTERVIEW HERE  Asian American Writers’ Workshop – An Expelled Tongue: Translating Kim Hyesoon

(Image: Detached ??, by Daehyun Kim. 29.7 × 42 cm, Pigment liner and marker on a paper, 2014)

Art Commission Winner Announcement

The judging panel is delighted to award the PoetTrio art commission to Martin Heslop

Heslop fought off exceedingly tough competition from 75 other proposals to win the £3000 commission. 

The artwork will be unveiled on the 3rd May at the 2018 Newcastle Poetry Festival at the Sage Theatre. 

Thanks to all entrants for their proposals which were of extremely high quality. We regret that we are unable to provide feedback about unsuccessful proposals. 

Art Commission Shortlist

We were overwhelmed by the response to the extended call for proposals for the AHRC-funded art commission, with 76 entries and a very high standard overall.  After some long hard thinking the judging panel led by Sinéad Morrissey, with W.N. Herbert and Rebecca May Johnson, in consultation with the PoetTrio principal investigator Professor Francis Jones, have managed to whittle down the list of 76 to a shortlist of six, named here in alphabetical order:

We will be announcing the winner shortly.

Thanks to all entrants for their proposals which were of extremely high quality.

We regret that we are unable to provide feedback about unsuccessful proposals. 

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