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  



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.


PoetTrio Experiment presentation live on YouTube!

PoetTrio research associate Dr Sergio Lobejón Santos has lovingly subtitled and edited the readings and discussions presented at the Translation as Collaboration event in Newcastle in July. 

Visit our YouTube channel to watch the individual segments – and below is the full hour!



LECTURE | Collaborative Translation of Poetry: The PoetTrio Experiment


On 22nd March 2018 PoetTrio principal investigator Professor Francis Jones will give a lecture about the PoetTrio project and collaborative translation as part of the Translating and Interpreting seminar series at the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester, UK. 

Thursday 14.00-15.20

Simon Building, Room 4.63

Check out the website and the Twitter account for more detail.

Poettrio X Translation as Collaboration Event


To showcase the fruits of a week’s hard work translating poetry at Newcastle University, and to bring together creative practitioners and translators from all over the UK, The Poettrio Experiment hosted a public event with a focus on collaboration. 

In the first half of the evening’s programme, visiting Dutch poets Menno Wigman and Hélène Gelèns read their originals that they submitted to the translation lab, with translator Willem Groenewegen ably reading on behalf of Elma van Haren (who sadly couldn’t make it). British poets Fiona Sampson, W. N. Herbert and Sean O’Brien read the translations-in-progress produced. To that, one trio of poets Bill Herbert and Menno Wigman and language advisor Rosemary Mitchell-Schuitevoerder discussed how they tackled challenges of translation, and co-investigator Fiona Sampson chaired a discussion between principal investigator Francis Jones and research associates Rebecca May Johnson and Sergio Lobejón Santos about the week’s translation labs.

[For the uninitiated: the poet-language advisor-poet trios work collaboratively and in person, and the poets are not necessarily experts in each other’s language. However, because of the contemporary hegemony of English as global lingua franca, the Dutch poets in this experiment were more familiar with English than the English poets were with Dutch. In our academic analysis, we explore how trios function, from the patterns of communication that arise between participants, to the strategies used to tackle problems of poetry translation and how moments of creativity arise in a trio setting.]

During the second half of the evening, the concept of collaborative translation was opened up to wider interpretation by poets, composers, artists and experimental translation practitioners visiting from University of Birmingham, University of Warwick, Roehampton University and beyond, as well as Newcastle University. This half brought in poets and creatives who had not previously engaged with translation in their own work to reflect on how they could re-imagine the process.

A selection of videos of the evening’s performances will be posted here soon, so you too can enjoy them… in the meantime, visit the ‘Translation as Collaboration’ section of the website to view the creative collaboration contributions. 



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