Articles

‘Reading Room - Six Poets and Six Translators at the British Library’

By: Julia Bird

 

As the manager of the World Poets' Tour, I have a tendency to get bogged down in logistics and calculations. If X poets on train heading north at Y mph are divided by Z rounds of sandwiches, then how many chapbook sales does it take to find a local journalist at this time of night. Saturday's events at the British Library reminded me just what all these plans are in aid of.

This is the only event on the tour where all the poets and translators are in the same place at the same time, so before the readings, a celebratory photo-shoot is in order. Some poets are meeting their translators for the first time face to face today, there are introductions to be made and questions asked as the photographer groups and regroups their poses. To capture Gaarriye's photo, the camera needs to be on its 'Sport' setting, so enthusiastic and unpindownable is the man.

Readings all afternoon, in a variety of combinations. All the poets' voices and ventriloquisms are heard - from Kajal's nestless migrating Kurdish birds in Mimi's beautiful translation to Saddiq & Sarah's 'Small Fox' in his 'vagabond stance'.

Audiences are healthy - 85+ at one point - and include many people I recognise from London poetry readings and events. What have they learnt today about Somali alliterative techniques, about Urdu's poetic forms, I wonder? What effect is today's reading going to have on their own thinking and writing from now on?

Julia Bird