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Part of: Exile and Arrival: Poetry Translation Centre's 20th Birthday Showcase in Norfolk Voices in Exile: An Evening with Azita Ghahreman, Elhum Shakerifar and Maura Dooley

National Centre for Writing

An exiled poet or artist embodies more than just a geographical boundary and a political setting. - Azita Ghahreman, translated by Alireza Abiz

Join us for a bilingual evening of poetry with Azita Ghahreman, one of Iran’s leading poets, with her translators Elhum Shakerifar and Maura Dooley, hosted by George Szirtes.

Born in Iran, Azita Ghahreman has lived in Sweden since 2006 and is a cherished voice in contemporary Persian literature. Her deeply personal poems cover a vast emotional territory, ranging from the delicately restrained to the shockingly direct. Her PEN Award-winning collection Negative of a Group Photograph runs the gamut of Azita’s experience: from her childhood in the Khorasan region of south-eastern Iran to her exile to Sweden, from Iran’s book-burning years and the war in Iraq to her unexpected encounters with love.

Azita, Elhum and Maura will give a poetry reading in Farsi and English, and then discuss poetry and translation across borders with fellow exiled poet, George Szirtes, using Azita’s essay ‘A City Called Exile’ as a jumping-off point. Translated by Alireza Abiz, this piece explores historical and contemporary writing in exile, and is published in Living in Language, the Poetry Translation Centre’s groundbreaking anthology of international reflections on poetry.

At this unique event, Azita will join us virtually from Malmö, Sweden, where she will perform to a live audience at the Dawit Izaak Library, the world’s first and only international collection of banned literature available to the public. You’ll be able to watch Elhum, Maura and George in person at Dragon Hall or join this Eurovision-esque showcase online. This exciting new format has been developed by the Poetry Translation Centre to bring audiences and artists together across borders, and to reduce poetry’s impact on the climate.

This international event is part of a showcase weekend at the National Centre for Writing, kick-starting the Poetry Translation Centre’s 20th birthday year of celebrations. Throughout 2024, the PTC will be running events and workshops around England, open to all. Find out more about our exciting line-up, upcoming publications, young people’s programme and online activity at

This event will be BSL interpreted. Please contact for any questions about access that you may have.

This event may cover themes including political violence, discrimination, exile and desire. All are welcome but age 14+ recommended.

This event is supported by Arts Council England.

More about the poets

Azita Ghahreman is an Iranian poet, writer and translator who has lived in Sweden since 2006. Azita is the author of six poetry collections and three short story collections, and her writing has been translated into 13 languages. In 2013, she was a recipient of Swedish PEN’s Prince Wilhelm Award, and in 2014, Russian and Ukrainian translations of her poems were awarded the Udmurtia Russian Academy’s Ludvig Nobel Prize. Her selected poems, نگاتیو یک عکس دسته جمعی or Negative of a Group Photograph (Bloodaxe/PTC, 2018), were translated by Elhum Shakerifar and Maura Dooley. The collection won a PEN Award and was nominated for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. Her latest short story collection was published in Swedish in 2022. In 2024, her essay ‘A City Called Exile’ (translated into English by Alireza Abiz) appears in Living in Language published by the PTC in its 20th birthday year.

Elhum Shakerifar is a poet, essayist and translator, most recently PEN Award-winning, Warwick Prize-nominated Negative of a Group Photograph by Azita Ghahreman, translated alongside poet Maura Dooley (Bloodaxe/PTC, 2018). In 2022, she was one of Writerz & Scribez' inaugural poetry Griots and she was a Visible Communities resident at the National Centre for Writing in 2023. Elhum is also a BAFTA-nominated producer and curator working through her London-based company Hakawati ('storyteller' in Arabic).

Maura Dooley’s most recent collection Five Fifty-Five (Bloodaxe) was published in 2023. With Elhum Shakerifar she published translations of verse by the Iranian poet Azita Ghahreman, Negative of a Group Photograph (Bloodaxe/PTC, 2018) which received a PEN award and was shortlisted for the Warwick Women in Translation Prize. She has been short-listed for the Forward Single Poem Award, twice for the TSEliot Award and is a recipient of both a Gregory and Cholmondeley Award. Maura has also taught fiction and memoir, programmed literary festivals and worked in theatre. She is Professor Emerita at Goldsmiths, University of London, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

George Szirtes was born in Hungary, came to England as a refugee and trained as an artist. His twelfth book of poem, Reel (2004) won the T S Eliot Prize for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest is Fresh Out of the Sky. (2021). His memoir The Photographer at Sixteen (2019) was awarded the James Tait Black Prize in 2020. He is a co-winner of the International Booker translator’s prize, as well as of numerous others. His book for children, In the Land of Giants (2015) won the CLPE Prize for best book of poetry for children. His own books have been translated into various languages including Italian, German, Chinese, Romanian and Hungarian. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature since 1982.

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