Sixth Event of New Series: The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX – Wednesday 30 January at 7.30pm – Tickets at the door: £5

Timothy Adès presents ‘How to be a Grandfather’, by Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo is best known to English-speakers by the screen and musical versions of just two great novels, Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris. Yet he created a torrent of wonderful poetry, plays, novels and political speeches. He is France’s greatest poet and surely greatest writer, commemorated by a major street or square in hundreds of towns and villages.

More than that, he was a great human being, he was and still is a worldwide symbol of liberty. Twice a Deputy and twice a Senator, he never stood for President of France, but two million people went to his funeral.

How to be a Grandfather
Layout 1    How to be a Grandfather is Victor Hugo’s last book of poetry.

Exiled in Guernsey, he describes beautifully how the young awaken to life and nature. In Paris, the zoo sets him musing.
Songs and stories, poems on childhood and old age, and political freedom…

For most of the poems there is no other English version.


Timothy Adès
w   Timothy Adès, who translates with rhyme and metre, also provides an introduction and notes, and includes some of Hugo’s other poems. The publisher is Hearing Eye.

Timothy has had two other poetry books published, both translations from the French of Jean Cassou: 33 Sonnets of the Resistance (Arc) and The Madness of Amadis (Agenda).

He also translates from Spanish, German and (rarely) Greek, and has won various awards.



Poetry & Translation is organised by Holland Park Press


Fourth Event of New Series: The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX – Wednesday 28 November at 7.30 pm – Tickets at the door: £5

Rilke’s ‘Sonnets to Orpheus’ translated by Martyn Crucefix

In fifty-five sonnets Rainer Maria Rilke plays an astonishing set of philosophical and sensual variations on the Orpheus myth. Nature, art, love, time, childhood, technology, poverty, justice – all are encompassed in poems that spark with insight and invention, amongst the most joyful and light-footed that Rilke ever wrote.

Rainer Maria Rilke
René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926), better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian-Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language. His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety: themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.

He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. Among English-language readers, his best-known work is the Duino Elegies; his two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Martyn Crucefix

Martyn Crucefix

Martyn works as poet, teacher, reviewer, critic, translator and competition judge. He is a tutor with the Poetry School in London. Martyn’s first collection, Beneath Tremendous Rain (1990), was published by Enitharmon Press and his Arvon prize-winning poem, At The Mountjoy Hotel, appeared with Enitharmon in Spring 1993. A second collection, On Whistler Mountain, was published by Sinclair-Stevenson in 1994 and his third book, A Madder Ghost by Enitharmon in 1997.

An English Nazareth (2004) and his translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies (2006) were published by Enitharmon with the latter being shortlisted for the Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation and hailed as “unlikely to be bettered for very many years” (Magma). His collection Hurt appeared in 2010, and Martyn’s new translation of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus has just been published by Enitharmon.

To reserve your place email

Poetry & Translation is organised by Holland Park Press

Third Event of New Series  The Poetry Cafe 22 Betterton Street London WC2H 9BX Wednesday 26 September at 7.30 pm Tickets at the door: £5

YIDDISH FOLKSONGS      Norbert Hirschhorn will talk about his project of ‘reimagining’ Yiddish folksongs into English poems. Several of these poems have been published in UK journals including bhy Modern Poetry in Translation.

Yiddish folksongs are meant to be sung in public by the audience or at social events, and celebrate the human conditions and emotions of their time. Bearing this in mind Norbert Hirschhorn will first enable us to listen to a song before presenting his version in English.

Norbert Hirschhorn   
Norbert Hirschhorn is a physician specializing in the public health of women, children and communities in the USA and the Third World. In 1993 he was commended by President Bill Clinton as an “American Health Hero”. He currently lives in London and Beirut.

His first pamphlet, Renewal Soup and his first full collection, A Cracked River, were published by Slow Dancer Press, London, UK, in 1996 and 1999.

Two pamphlets followed resulting from competitions: The Empress of Certain from Poet’s Corner Press, Stockton, California, in 2005; and Sailing with the Pleiades from Main Street Rag Publishing Co., Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2007.

A fourth pamphlet, The Terrible Crystal, was published in 2008 by Hearing Eye Press, London, UK.

A second full collection, Mourning in the Presence of a Corpse, appeared in 2008 from Dar al-Jadeed, Beirut, Lebanon. A third collection, Monastery of the Moon, has just been published by Dar al-Jadeed, and will be available for sale.

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Part of the Poetry & Translation series organised by Holland Park Press

Second Event of New Series  The Poetry Cafe 22 Betterton Street London WC2H 9BX Wednesday 26 September at 7.30 pm Tickets at the door: £5

Celebrating the first translation into English of a selection from the work of Leonard Nolens

We are very pleased to announce that Leonard Nolens will make a personal appearance and discuss his work with his English translator Paul Vincent.

Leonard Nolens
The Flemish poet and diarist Leonard Nolens was born in Bree on 11 April 1947 and since his debut in 1969 with Orpheushanden (Orpheus Hands), he has created an impressive oeuvre consisting of thirty poetry collections and diaries. Nolens is considered one of the most important contemporary poets in Dutch literature.
His collection of poems Liefdes verklaringen (Declarations of Love, 1990) was awarded the Jan Campert Prize in the Netherlands and the Triennial State First Event of New Series
Prize in Belgium. In 1997 he received the Constantijn Huygens Prize for lifetime achievement, and in 2008 he was awarded the VSB Poetry Prize for the collection Bres.
This year he has received the Dutch Literature Prize, the most prestigious prize in Dutch-language literature. The jury had this to say about Leonard Nolens: ‘He is an exceptional poet and a highly gifted reader’ and characterised his work as ‘a life-long struggle with language and a quest for his own identity and that of others’.
Collections of his poems have been translated into French, Italian, German, Polish, Serbian and Hungarian. Some of his poems have been translated into English and in autumn 2013 Anvil Press will publish the very first Leonard Nolens anthology in English translated by Paul Vincent.

Paul Vincent 

Paul Vincent has translated several of the leading Dutch poets, novelists and non-fiction writers, among others Louis Couperus, Harry Mulisch, Willem Elsschot, Joost van den Vondel, Gerrit Achterberg, Herman Gorter and Gerrit Kouwenaar.
His work is internationally recognised and he was the recipient of the first David Reid Poetry Translation Prize for this translation of Hendrik Marsman’s famous poem Herinnering aan Holland (Memory of Holland) in 2006, awarded by the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature (now Dutch Foundation for Literature).
In 2012 Paul Vincent received the Vondel Prize for My Little War, his translation of Mijn kleine oorlog by Louis Paul Boon.

Poetry & Translation is organised by Holland Park Press

First Event of New Series
The Poetry Cafe 22 Betterton Street London WC2H 9BX

Wednesday 25 July at 7.30 pm Tickets at the door: £5

Sarah Lawson introduced some marvellous poems by Jacques Prévert and Arnold Jansen op de Haar told us about the poets who have inspired him.

It is odd that so little of Prévert’s poetry has been translated, since he is by a huge margin the most popular poet of the 20th century in France with book sales approaching 3 million. His poems, famed for his wry wit and his depiction of working-class life and attitudes, have been sung by prominent 20th century vocalists, including Marianne Oswald, Yves Montand, and Édith Piaf, as well Joan Baez and Iggy Pop. Yet in the UK Prévert is mostly known for screenplays for films directed by Marcel Carné, most famously Les Enfants du Paradis (1945).

Sarah Lawson’s Selected Poems by Jacques Prévert (Hearing Eye, 2002), a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation for the Summer Quarter in 2002, is unique because it draws on five or six of Prévert’s poetry collections, whereas the main previous translation by Ferlinghetti dating back to 1956 only contains a selection from the first collection.

Sarah Lawson is a writer and poet who also translates from French, Spanish and Dutch. Her translation of Christine de Pisan’s Treasure of the City of Ladies (Penguin, 1985) was the first translation of that work in English since it was written in 1405. With Małgorzata Koraszewska she has translated the poetry of Jan Twardowski (Serious Angel, Dedalus Press, 2003) and a group of aphorisms by S. J. Lec (included in Friends in the Country). Her first full length poetry collection was Below the Surface, published by Loxwood-Stoneleigh 1996, and a second collection All the Tea in China came out in 2006. Some of her poems have been translated into Polish, Galician and Serbian. Recently her collection of 100 haiku, The Wisteria’s Children was published by Hearing Eye, who have also published her pamphlets Friends in the Country and Twelve Scenes of Malta. A full write-up of her writing career is available from

Arnold Jansen op de Haar started his career by becoming an officer in the Dutch    Grenadier Guards but his love of books and poetry and his experiences during the Bosnian war pulled him towards a career as a full-time writer. Angel, Holland Park Press 2011 (Engel, Holland Park Press 2009) is the sequel to his novel King of Tuzla, Holland Park Press 2010 (De koning van Tuzla, De Arbeiderspers  2011). His poetry collection Yugoslav Requiem, Holland Park Press 2009 (Joegoslavisch requiem, Meulenhoff 2002) is a companion volume to King of Tuzla. He is currently working on a new poetry collection with the working title: The Orchard of Days Gone Past. More information about Arnold is available from

Poetry & Translation aims to challenge and is organised by Holland Park Press

All events will take place at the Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street, Covent Garden WC2H 9BX  tel. 0207 420 9887/8 and will commence at 7.30 pm unless otherwise stated. Tickets at door £5/£3 conc.  Most meetings take place on the last Wednesday of the month but consult this page for details.  To reserve your place email

FINAL EVENT (of previous series organised by Sebastian Hayes) :  Wednesday April 25th –  7.30 pm

 Robert Yates presented his recent translations of Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations.

Robert Yates is a contemporary poet and has translated poetry from the French, German and Ancient Egyptian.  His  prose poem cycle “Work In Progress” has just been published on the International Times website:
Cristina Viti presented the work of the Italian poet Dino Campana.
Dino Campana (1885-1932) was the author of ground-breaking poetry collection ‘Orphic Songs’ (1914). He was interned in a mental asylum at the age of 33, and most of his other poetry was published posthumously.

 Cristina Viti is a poet and translator whose publications include   Selected Works of Dino Campana  (Survivors’ Press 2006), Stephen Watts’s Mountain Language/Lingua di montagna (Hearing Eye 2008) & Journey Across Breath/Tragitto nel respiro (Hearing Eye 2011). Forthcoming translations include Dome Bulfaro’s collection Ossa Carne(Le voci della luna) & Mariapia Veladiano’s award-winning novel La vita accanto (MacLehose Press).

RECENT EVENTS :  On Wednesday March 28th there was a Jewish Evening

Khayke Beruriah Wiegand and Stephen Watts presented the Yiddish poet A.N. Stencl, born in Czeladz (Poland) in 1897, became a celebrated Yiddish poet in Weimar Berlin in the 1920s, where he was part of a group of Yiddish and German-Jewish poets, writers and artists, who frequented the Romanische Café. Stencl published several volumes of his poetry in the original Yiddish, as well as in German translation. In 1936, he moved to London, where he settled in Whitechapel. There he published many more volumes of his own poetry, as well as a regular Yiddish journal, Loshn un Lebn (“Language and Life”). The first bilingual Yiddish-English selection of Stencl’s Berlin poetry was published in 2007.

Khayke Beruriah Wiegand is the Woolf Corob Lector in Yiddish at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies (University of Oxford). The first bilingual volume of her poetry is due to be published by the Leyvik-Farlag in Tel Aviv in 2012. She holds a BA and MA in Hebrew and Jewish Studies from Leo Baeck College, London, and a Ph.D. from University College London.
Stephen Watts  co-translator of Stencl, will be reading some of his own poems. Stephen Watts is a poet, editor & translator, with family roots in the Italian Alps. He lives in Whitechapel, UK. He twice won second prize in the National Poetry Competition (1983 & 1992). He is a strong performer of his own poetry & has recently read at Festivals in Syria, Sicily, San Francisco & in the UK at Ledbury, Snape, & forthcoming at Glastonbury.
Ruth Ingram, founder of the Camden Mews Translators’ Group, presented Hilde Domin. Hilde Domin was born Hilde Loewenstein in 1909.  She came from a well-assimilated Jewish family (her father was a respected state attorney).  When the  the Nazis came to power she and her partner moved to Florence where she continued her studies of law and obtained a doctorate.  When Jews were beginning to be arrested in Italy she and her husband fled to England, by which time the war had broken out, and they were regarded as enemy aliens.In 1940, fearing that England was to be invaded, the couple managed to obtain visas to the Dominican Republic. Later she adopted the name ‘Domin’ for all her literary work.  After twenty-two years in exile she returned to Germany, and in later years was awarded numerous literary prizes.  She died in 2006 aged ninety six.

Wednesday 29th February 2012  

Patrick Williamson presented contemporary French language poets of Africa and Adnan Al-Sayeghthe acclaimed Iraqi poet, read out some of his poems in Arabic while Stephen Watts, co-translator with Munga of Adnan’s poetry, read the English versions.

Wednesday November 30th 2011   7.30 pm
GALICIAN SAUDADE IN TRANSLATION presented by Jason Preater and Ester Mangas.  

The north west corner of Spain (where Jason Preater lives) is renowned for its lyric poetry. Jason Preater and Ester Mangas will introduce and read poems from poets of the  nineteenth and twentieth-centuries, including Rosalía de Castro, Blanco Amor, Noriega Varela and Díaz Castro.
Galician is a language somewhat in between Spanish and Portuguese and there is a long tradition of poetic/musical Saudade which goes back to medieval times. Saudade is untranslateable (‘yearning’, ‘longing for what is lost or cannot be’ ?) : it is a typical expression of del sentimiento trágico de la vida (‘the tragic sense of life’) which has been so much in evidence in the culture of the Iberian peninsula and which, in the twentieth century, gave rise to the well-known musical/poetic genre Fado (which means ‘fate’).

(We were very glad to have Jason Preater and Ester Mangas with us to conclude this year’s series with a fascinating glimpse into this little known lyrical tradition. S.H.)

October 26th
GERMAN EVENING: Ingeborg Santor & Ludwig II of Bavaria
Ruth Ingram from the Camden Mews Translators’ Group 
presented  the poetry of  Ingeborg Santor
Ingeborg Santor was born in Koblenz in 1942.
She was employed as editor in various publishing housees, and as  text-writer for museums. Deeply involved in the anti-war movement she took part in mass demonstrations in Bonn.  She actively supports Amnesty and Greenpeace.  Some of her poems and short stories first appeared in journals and newspapers in the sixties.
Her poems were published in Ruth Ingram’s translation by Hearing Eye (together with her translation of John Rety’s  poems).  More recently she has translated Judy Gagahan’s long poem’Journey around Ludwig’s soul’ which was presented  on the same night.
Judy Gahagan read excerpts from her long poem ‘A Journey Around Ludwig’s Soul’ about Ludwig II of Bavaria. Ingeborg Santor also read excerpts from her  translation into German and spoke of the difficulties she encountered.

Judy Gahagan is a poet (five collections) short story
writer, essayist, translator, runs courses in ecology and poetry and archetypal
psychology and poetry. She lives in London. She has previously presented
translations of poetry from East Germany at the Poetry Cafe.

Wednesday September 28th

Antonio Machado 1874-1939
The Spanish poet Antonio Machado is perhaps less well known outside Spain than Garcia Lorca. His long term influence  on Spanish social and political life, however, has never been greater.
Patrick Early read from his verse translations of  Machado’s Campos  de Castilla including his long philosophical  sequences Proverbios y Cantares . After graduating in Spanish Studies at Cambridge, Patrick worked for the British Council in Spain and Latin America, among other places.  His poems have been published in British and Irish journals and anthologies.

Pablo Neruda  1904-1973
Neruda is affectionately known to his Spanish readers as ‘monstruo’ due to his prolific achievements and world-wide reputation. This Chilean poet-diplomat, frequently exiled for his Communist beliefs, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.  He died in September 1973, a few days after the military coup in Chile which overturned the government of his friend, Salvador Allende.

Marina Sanchez is of Native-American-Spanish origins and was raised in Europe. She is a published poet and translator and will be reading her translations from Neruda’s Cien Sonetos de Amor, One Hundred Love Sonnets.

Wednesday September 7th  Modern Iraqi Poetry including Sayyam and Mahmoud al-Braikan


 “The emergence of great writers, I believe, accompanies a great historical and
social turning point….Al-Sayyab [likewise Al-Braikan] was one of those talented
creative beings who have an instinctive ability to read the ‘hidden rhythm’ of
their age and to turn that rhythm into words” 
Fadhil Sultani  

Badr shakir al-Sayyab  is a household name not only in Iraq but in the whole Arab World. Most Arab critics consider him to have been the founder of the free verse movement in the late forties of the 20th century – a movement which helped to change forever the course of Arabic poetry. The chief influences on
his work were T.S. Eliot and Edith Sitwell. Al-Sayyab was born in Jekor, a small village near Basra, the son of a
date grower and shepherd. He obtained a degree in English  Literature from the Higher Teachers’ Training College in 1948. Al- Sayyab died in 1964 leaving a widow and a son and two daughters.

Mahmoud Al–Braikan  was born in Zubair near Basra in 1931. He received his initial education in Basra, but went to Baghdad in 1964 to study law at the University of Baghdad. He then taught Arabic Language  and Literature at Basra’s Teachers’ Training College. Amongst his interests were philosophy, classical music, and European art.
Al –Braikan notably declined any overtures made to him by the old regime in
Iraq. He was killed by an unknown attacker (or attackers) in his home in 2002.
Though a prolific writer,  he did not leave a Collected Works. Some 70 of his poems in Arabic were assembled , selected, and published posthumously in 2003 by Mr B. Meraiby.

These two poets will be presented by the poet, critic and translator, Salah Niazi, (with some assistance from others). Salah Niazi went into voluntary exile in 1963 and worked as the head of the cultural unit at the BBC Arabic Service, during which time he completed his PhD at the University of London.  In 1984 he became editor of Alightirab al-Aladabi Mag. (catering for Arab writers in exile). He has published more than twenty books including ten collections of poetry  and
five books of criticism (amongst them a critical study of the Epic of Gilgamesh), and has translated  King Lear, Macbeth , Hamlet, The Old Capital  by Cawabata, and 12 chapters from James Joyce’s Ulysses into Arabic.


Wednesday June 29  7.30 pm
Central Asia in Poetry, Prose and Song

1. Yvonne Green read from her collection THE ASSAY and from her translations of Semyon Lipkin (forthcoming from Smith/Doorstop).
`Yvonne Green’s poems are strange, evoking unfamiliar worlds and seeing them with their own kind of language. What matters is the voices out there, and she hears them. There is so much world, so many stories, included here. It is wonderful to encounter this vivid annex to experience and understanding.’ [Michael Schmidt].  ‘This is a fine new voice, which deserves to be widely heard.’ [Elaine Feinstein]

2. Robert Chandler read from THE RAILWAY (Vintage Classics). Hamid Ismailov’s scintillating novel is set in Gilas, a fictitious small town on the ancient Silk Road in his native Uzbekistan. The town owes its existence to the “iron road” – “a never-ending ladder whose wooden rungs and iron rails lay stretched across the earth”.  Gilas has drawn people from all over – Armenians, Kurds, Persians, Ukrainians, Jews, Chechens, Koreans, Gypsies, Russians – a “Noah’s Ark of humanity”, and a “microcosm of the Soviet Empire”.  The Railway is a poet’s novel, full of memorable descriptive passages and heart-wrenching asides.  [Shusha Guppy in The Independent]

 3. Hamid Ismailov, just back from Uzbekistan, read an excerpt from his book in Russian and shared with us his concern at the fate of a journalist colleague currently imprisoned on trumped up charges in Uzbekistan.

4. Robert Chandler read from his co-translation of SOUL by Andrey Platonov (Harvill Secker & NYRB Classics).
“In Soul, Platonov weaves together Sufi philosophy, Persian travelogue, socialist realism, and the language of Soviet bureaucracy into a magical tissue with the luminous, universal quality of myth. Soul is an unforgettably weird retelling of a familiar story: the struggle of an educated young man to assimilate his present with his past.” [Elif Batuman]

5. Razia Sultanova, “the acclaimed London-based Islamic singer” (The Irish Times)  played the dutar and sang accompanied by her young son.  Razia Sultanova is the director of the Centre for Central Asian music at the University of Cambridge and the author of From Shamanism to Sufism: Women and Islam in Central Asian culture. 

Wednesday 25th May 2011–  7.30 pm         Modern Romanian Poetry:  Sorescu and successors

An evening of modern Romanian poetry translated via the poetry pRO project, an Anglo-Romanian collaboration between 120UK poets and BucharestUniversity. The Romanian poets’ work was read by translators from the project and included major selections from the following, some of whose work was read for the first time in the UK.
Marin Sorescu (1936–1996)  probably the best known Romanian poet of modern times, whose ironic and comical verse subtly sends up the absurdities of life while taking  a sly swipe at the Communist regime that held power most of his life.

                                              Christiana Maria Purdescu a well established presence in contemporary Romanian poetry. She has written academic works as well as running her own fashion house. Her poetry has a passionate yet reflective voice with a mystical sensibility in a post-modern setting.

Lucian Vasilescu whose poetry reflects a “strained faith” in things carried by playful rhythmic, staccato verses with leaps into highly-colourful images. 

The readers will include:

Anne Stewart, poet, founder of poetry p f and co-founder (with Lidia Vianu, Professor of contemporary British literature at Bucharest University) of  poetry pRO, co-translator of Lucian Vasilescu’s work.
Leah Fritz, author of two prose books in America and four collections of poetry in Britain, who created English versions of Christiana Maria Purdescu’s poems from direct translations by Alina-Olimpia Miron, and in conjunction with Graham Mummery.
Graham Mummery, poet and translator who worked with Leah Fritz and Alina-Olimpia Miron on the translation of Christiana Maria Purdescu’s book, talked about and read from Marin Sorescu’s work.
There were also readings of individual Romanian poets’ work by their English translators who have worked on the poetry pRO project. For further details about poetry pRO see\poetrypro.html .

Wednesday April 27th  –  7.30 pm   

Mr. Robert Yates, contemporary poet and translator from French, German and Ancient Egyptian presented excerpts in verse and prose from the works of Charles Baudelaire (1821-67) in his own translations.  He also talked about Baudelaire’s liife and his influence on other writers e.g. on Rimbaud and Lovecraft. In the second half he read some of his own poems.

 The Iraqi writer Mr. Salah Niazi talked about the poetic skills shown by the author of  the  Mesopotamian  Epic of Gilgamesh,  one of the earliest major works of literature in the world. He also read excerpts from piblished collections of his own poems.

Mr. Salah Niazi went into voluntary exile in 1963 and worked as the head of the cultural unit at the BBC Arabic Service, during which time he completed his PhD at the University of London. In 1984 he became editor of Alightirab al-Aladabi Mag.(catering for Arab writers in exile).  He has published more than twenty books including ten collections of poetry & and five books of criticism (amongst them a critical study of the Epic of Gilgamesh), and has translated  Macbeth , Hamlet, The Old Capital by Cawabata, and 12 chapters from James Joyce’s Ulysses into Arabic.

Thursday March 24th  7.30 p.m.   Poets of East Germany    

Judy Gahagan presented: Peter Huchel (1903-81) and Reiner Kunze (1933-)    These two poets of eastern Germany belong among the many that had to create some domain for poetry within the constraints of totalitarian regimes and while surviving the apocalyptic events of mid-20th century Germany. In varying degrees they adopted the famous strategy of ‘inner emigration’. The poems tonight will illustrate that ‘emigration’ inwards of Peter Huchel, native of Brandenburg and Reiner Kunze – native of Saxony.
Judy Gahagan is a member of the Camden Mews Translation Workshop.  She has published 5 collections of her own poetry and a collection of short stories as well as a verse-history of Ludwig II of Bavaria ‘Tours Around the Soul of Ludwig’. She is a tutor at the Poetry School London and for various other writing groups; and she runs courses in eco-poetry. Her work was included in ‘Over the Water’, a collection of translated poems from the Camden Mews group.

Ruth Ingram presented: Hans Sahl(1909 -1993)

Hans Sahl was born in Dresden into a wealthy Jewish family.  He became a respected Theatre and Film Critic in Berlin.  As a Jew and a socialist he was an immediate target for the Nazi regime.  He escaped to Prague, then to Switzerland, and finally to Paris.  He was interned by the French authorities at the outbreak of war together with many other Jewish refugees.  When France was invaded he escaped again to Vichy, and from there finally to the States.  His poetry mirrors the fate of many politically active Jewish writers.

Ruth Ingram is a member of the Camden Mews Translators and the Highgate Poets.  Her translated poems have been published by Hearing Eye, and the literary journal ‘Modern Poetry in Translation’. Her first book of translated poetry ‘In Exile’ was published in February 2011 featuring three German Jewish poets: Hans Sahl, Mascha Kaléko and Hilde Domin.

Wednesday February 23rd 2011   7.00 p.m.  OPEN EVENING
As  an experiment the organiser of the series, Sebastian Hayes, called an ‘open’ event’ when people were invited to come along and read a poem which meant a lot to them, whether by a famous author or someone unknown, and to try to explain why they found the poem memorable. This was not an ‘Open Mike’, however, since it was made clear in advance that the poem must not have been written by themselves; also the author of the poem was only to be revealed at the end of the evening. Some of the poems read out can be found on the linked website . The atmosphere was more informal since there were no official speakers and entrance was free.
Afterwards there was some discussion about the state of poetry in the UK and modern society generally. One person said that it was too difficult now for a poet to become accepted but others said that the problem was the reverse, that it was all too easy for poor quality ‘poetry’ to acquire  an audience of sorts via ‘Open Mike’ sessions and. above all, on the Internet where anything goes. Everyone seemed to agree that there was little or no middle ground between ‘popular’ poetry such as Rap and the sort of poetry published in the leading magazines, such as Poetry Review, which tended to be too abstruse to attract the general reader.

Those who attended seem to have thought the experiment worthwhile and I am planning a second ‘Open Evening’ later in the year, probably at the end of September.
However, for the forthcoming events we shall be returning to last year’s format of having speakers invited to present foreign poets in translation.


Wednesday 24th November   7.30 p.m.  at Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street, Covent Garden WC2H 9BX

Donald Gardner presented the poetry of the Dutch poet  Remco Campert some of whose poems are given in a post on the Homepage.  (We were very glad to hear the translator in person, who knows the author Campert well, read and recite so vidvidly some of these haunting poems. S.H.)

Remco Campert (The Hague, 1929) is one of the great generation of Dutch poets, the ‘fifties poets’. Coming to adulthood under the shadow of the Nazi occupation, these poets wrote a poetry in which nothing could be taken for granted, in form or content. They dismantled traditional notions in favour of experiment and a language closer to common speech. Of this group Campert was always the most accessible. Rarely translated into English, Campert is a household name in Holland. He is presently working on a book of poems on the theme of ‘Night’ for the Dutch National Poetry day, early in 2011London-born

Donald Gardner is a poet and translator who lives in Holland. Originally a Spanish-language translator, he translated Octavio Paz’s ‘The Sun Stone’(Cosmos, York 1969) and was co-translator of Gullermo Cabrera Infante’s novel, ‘Three Trapped Tigers’. His book of translations of the poems of Remco Campert, ‘I Dreamed in the Cities at Night’, was published by Arc in 2007. His recent poetry collections include ‘The Glittering Sea’ (Hearing Eye, London, 2006) and ‘Sleight of Tongue’ (Boekie Woekie, Amsterdam, 2010). He was the guest editor of Ambit’s Dutch number (no. 198). He is a popular reader of his own poetry, in Amsterdam, London and New York. His website is:

Then Sarah Lawson, poet and translator, read to us some of her translations from the poetry of   :

Jacques Prevert (1900 – 11 April 1977) was at first a member of the Surrealist movement but his militant left-wing views led him in a somewhat different direction. He became a very popular poet in the Thirties, famed for  his wry and witty depiction of working-class life and attitudes . He also wrote several successful screenplays for the director  Marcel Carné, notably Les Enfants du Paradis that many people consider to be the greatest French film ever made.

Sarah Lawson is a writer and translator from French, Spanish and Dutch. Her translation of Christine de Pisan’s Treasure of the City of Ladies (Penguin, 1985) was the first translation of that work in English since it was written in 1405. The Spanish classic El sí de las ninas by Leandro Fernández de Moratín was performed in her translation at the Prince’s Theatre in Greenwich in 1997. Her translation of  Selected Poems by Jacques Prévert (Hearing Eye, 2002) was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation for the Summer Quarter in 2002.

Wednesday 27th October at  7.30 pm


Clive Wilmer and Patrick McGuinness are two poets equally well known for their translations and original poetry  and we all look forward to hearing selections from their work. (S.H.)

Patrick McGuinness is bilingual in French and English. He was born in Tunisia and has lived in Belgium and Romania. These facts affect his poetry. His first collection, The Canals of Mars (2004), was shortlisted for the Roland Mathias Prize. His second collection, Jilted City (2010) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. He also translated Mallarmé’s For Anatole’s Tomb (PBS Recommendation 2004).

Clive Wilmer is an English poet who has translated poems by more than twenty Hungarian poets in collaboration with George Gömöri. They have published books by Miklós Radnóti, György Petri and Gömöri himself. Clive Wilmer will be reading translations and imitations from several languages, as well as poems of his own. His most recent collection is The Mystery of Things (Carcanet Press 2006).

Wednesday 20th October at  7.30 pm

POETS OF TODAY :   “Yugoslav Requiem – a journey from soldier to poet”

Arnold Jansen op de Haar read from Yugoslav Requiem. This poignant collection of war poems has been translated into English by Paul Vincent. In it the author reflects on his personal journey. He searches for his own identity and we feel his overpowering need of no longer wanting to belong to any group or organisation. Arnold will also use other material such as his blogs and columns to show how the collection came about and to give more insight about the translation process.

Arnold Jansen op de Haar (born 1962) was the commanding officer of the unitthat secured Tuzla airbase for incoming UN aid in 1994, one year before the overthrow of the enclave Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia. He left the Grenadier Guards in 1995 to become a full time writer.Yugoslav Requiem (Joegoslavisch requiem) was published in 2009 by Holland Park Press. Originally published under the title Soldatenlaarzen by JM Meulenhoff in 2002.His novel King of Tuzla (De koning van Tuzla) was published in Dutch in 2009 and in English in 2010 by Holland Park Press. Originally published in Dutch in 1999 by De Arbeiderspers.His novel Angel (Engel) was published in Dutch in 2009 and will be published in English in 2010

Wednesday 29th September –  7.30 pm     Tickets at door £5/£3 conc.


Peter Daniels presented the poetry of Vladislav Khodasevich (1886-1939), described by Nabokov as “the greatest Russian poet of the twentieth century”. Some of Peter’s translations appeared in the May 2010 PN Review and the new Autumn 2010 Poetry Review.

Sebastian Hayes presented  poems by Catherine Pozzi (1882-1934) who spent much of her life searching for some faculty or lost sense which would enable humanity to overcome the dreadful duality matter/spirit. To this end she undertook serious scientific studies and one can see, with hindsight, that she was groping towards something akin to Dr. Sheldrake’s current theory of ‘morphic resonance’.  More’s the pity she did not leave us a  body of work as substantial as that of, say, Blake : she only approved six poems for publication and even then from her deathbed.



Wednesday 22nd September  7.30 p.m.

Sophie Lewis  presented translations of three prose poems of Charles Cros (1842-88) “Key in the Parisian cabaret scene of the 1870s and ‘80s, Cros wrote poetry for the magazines, performed comic monologues at café gatherings and spent his days on scientific projects including the invention of a prototype phonograph. More lyrical than Baudelaire’s, less obscure than Rimbaud’s,  Cros’s eight prose poems are only now available in full to English readers” (Sophie Lewis)..

Sam Bootle talked about the poetry of Jules Laforgue (1860-87) “Jules Laforgue has tended to find more appreciators in the English-speaking world than in France. Most notably, T. S. Eliot cited Laforgue as a major influence on his early work; this highlights the proto-modernist elements of Laforgue’s poetry, which include free verse and a self-ironising poetic voice. The Derniers Vers, translations of which I will be presenting, embody some of these elements, whilst retaining traces of the post-Romantic heritage” (Sam Bootle).

Sebastian Hayes talked about Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) and read extracts from his new translation of Une Saison en Enfer (see Brimstone Press  website) : “Rimbaud is often presented as an uncompromising individualist and precursor of the Surrealists. But he also wrote many political and social poems and his central concern was to find the ‘secret formula’ for changing the world and regenerating fallen humanity” (Sebastian Hayes).
Wednesday July 28th 2010

Elke Williams presented:

Hans Keilson (who is 100 years old!) is most likely to be the last surviving German author who went into exile during  the 1930s. His first novel was banned and he was forbidden  to work in Germany in 1934. He emigrated to Holland where he still lives and works. He has had a remarkable career as an author, musician, PE teacher, doctor, poet, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. During the war he continued writing while working with Dutch resistance groups, and supporting Jewish children placed with Dutch families. This led to the publication of his research into “The sequential traumatisation of children and adolescents” (1979).His parents died in Auschwitz-Birkenau and in his only poetry publication (1986) he concentrates on the fate of his parents and on the emotional, psychological and cultural rootlessness he experiences.

Anne-Marie Sharman presented:

François Cheng (1929 -), born in China, has lived in France since arriving as a student in 1948. His first literary works were on Chinese poetry and painting. He has translated French poets into Chinese and written novels, essays and poetry, winning several major French literary prizes. He became a French citizen in 1971 and, since the 1980s, has chosen to write only in French. In his speech on being elected to the Académie Française in 2002, he spoke of having become a Frenchman in ‘law, mind and heart’, with the French language being ‘the soul of [his] creative work’. His poetry has been described as Chinese painting and calligraphy represented in words.   Anne-Marie will read from his Cantos Toscans (1999).

Judy Gahagan presented:

Günter Eich, Heinz Czechowski and Durs Grünbein

are three poets from East Germany whose work shows in dramatically different ways how individuals as poets may survive the assaults on the histories of their homelands and consequent sense of alienation and homelessness, barely alleviated by the subsequent freedoms of the West.
Günter Eich (left)  survived as a poet in the Third Reich and found a poetic refuge in the natural world; Heinz Czechowski’s poetry is the pure elegy of loss; Durs Grünbein (right), the youngest and most feted, adopts the idiom of cynicism and anti-lyric which was typical of many post-war German writers.

Comment: Many thanks to the contributors for a fascinating evening. The four German poets provided a whole gamut of reactions to twentieth century German history, ranging from the restrained but deeply tragic tone  of Hans Keilson, movingly read by Elke Williams, to the brittle, somewhat cynical stance  adopted by the post-war poet Durs Grünbein presented by Judy Galagher.  The  lyrical, haiku-esque poems of François Cheng presented by Anne-Marie Sharman and the ‘postcard’ poem about Saturday night dancing on the barge moored on the Canal Saint-Martin provided a perfect contrast to the  understandably more sombre tone of the excerpts  from the German poets.   Sebastian Hayes

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Wednesday  23 June –  7.30 pm

Pushkin in Translation

Three distinguished contemporary translators and scholars, Robert Chandler, Stanley Mitchell and Antony Wood  presented excerpts from the work of Pushkin (1799–1837), generally regarded as Russia’s greatest poet but surprisingly little known in Britain.

Robert Chandler is the editor of Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida and the author of Alexander Pushkin (in the Hesperus ‘Brief Lives’ series). His translations from Russian include Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate and Everything Flows, Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Aleksander Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter. His translation of Hamid Ismailov’s The Railway won the AATSEEL prize for 2007 and received a special commendation from the judges of the 2007 Rossica Translation Prize.

Stanley Mitchell has taught Russian literature and art, comparative literature and cultural studies at a number of universities in England, Canada, Tanzania and the USA.  Writers he has translated include Georg Lukács and Walter Benjamin. He is known, above all, for his translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (recently awarded a special prize by Academia Rossica).

Antony Wood has published translations of Pushkin’s verse drama and selected narrative and lyric poems. The production of his translation of the original (1825) version of Boris Godunov by Princeton University in 2007 was a world premiere. He is a winner of the Max Hayward Award  from the Translation Center at Colombia University and in 1999 was awarded a Pushkin Medal by the Russian government.

Wednesday 26th May  :

Anne Boileau presented the German poet, Hans Magnus Enzensberger(1929–), Graham Mummery the French poet René Char (1907-88) and Ruth Ingram the Jewish born, German language poet Mascha Kaléko  (1907-1975).

[Manythanks to the  presenters of these three fascinating twentieth century poets, only one of whom was known to me personally. The three very able translators, Anne Boileau, Graham Mummery and Ruth Ingram, are members of the Camden Mews Translators’ Group. See the main site for articles on René Char and Hans Enzensberger by the presenters. Unfortunately, because of copyright problems, it is not possible to post any excerpts from Masch Kaléko though one of the poems read out, the haunting Notizen, can be found in the Camden Mews Translators’ group publication, Over the Water (Hearing Eye, 2007).   Sebastian Hayes]

Two Hungarian Evenings, April 21st and 28th  :

On April  21 the distinguished Anglo-Hungarian poet, George Szirtes, talked about his native land, Hungary, presented translations from Hungarian poets and read us some of his own work.

And on April 28 the well-known writer  Goerge (György) Gömöri , also of Hungarian origin, presented selections from his own work translated by Clive Wilmer, and that of contemporary Hungarian poets.

Comment by Sebastian Hayes : It was a great honour to have the two best known Anglo-Hungarian writers in this country come to the Poetry Café to speak to us about their native land, its rich poetic heritage and to read to us from their own work.
George Szirtes spoke eloquently about the turbulent and often tragic history of his country from which his parents escaped in 1956, walking through the woods to Austria with himself in tow as a boy of eight. He said he could hardly describe himself as an exile since he has few memories of life in Hungary and was brought up, after the age of eight, to speak English even in the home. However, he has remained in close contact with his compatriots and has, in association with his friend George Gömöri, edited a fascinating collection of modern Hungarian poetry, The Colonnade of Teeth, which includes the work of many poets he knew personally who were obliged to ‘go underground’ during the aftermath of the abortive 1956 Revolution.
What struck me at once was the contrast between England and Hungary. Hungary, Goerge Szirtes, told us is entirely landlocked, though it has two rivers, and George Gömöri told us he saw the sea for the first time at the age of nineteen. This is scarcely believable for an inhabitant of a sea-faring nation such as Britain : I myself can clearly remember going through the Suez Canal at the age of three. Also, Hungary has long been a country squeezed in between giant neighbours, in particular Russia and Austria and, as George Gömöri puts it,

Small Nations
as a rule peep out of  the pockets of big ones
and there they rave and wave their arms about:
‘vile usurper!’
‘dearest friend!’

Indeed, George Szirtes said  that the “last time Hungary won a battle was in 1516” and the fine Hungarian anthem, written by a Romantic poet,  is subtitled “A magyar nép zivataros századaiból” (“From the rough centuries of the Hungarian people”).

These two poets, one of whom writes in English first and the other in Hungarian, are much alike in that they are both intensely personal in their writings (George Szirtes writes movingly about his father and George Gömöri has written a whole series of poems about  his wife, Mari), but they are also preoccupied with political and social themes.
This makes a sharp contrast to late twentieth century and contemporary Western poets who, all too often, find it difficult to find anything personal to say that has not already been said a hundred times already, and whose political engagement is either nil or strikes one  as being skin-deep. But no one who lived in, or originated from, Eastern Europe, could afford to dismiss politics completely while affirming the right to have a private life at all was, for an eastern European during the Soviet era, itself a political protest since all personal feeling tended to be dismissed as “petty-bourgeois individualism”.

In this respect writers hailing from Eastern Europe, though they may well have had a tougher time emotionally (fear for friends and relatives, problems of being an exile), seem to have had a much easier time ‘ideologically’ than their Western contemporaries. In particular, though they may have remained vaguely ‘socialist’, they were not likely to be paralysed, like so many Western intellectuals, by a strange reluctance to openly denounce the Soviet system : it is scarcely credible that Sartre actually criticised Kruschchev’s unexpected attack on Stalin, not for being too lukewarm, but for being  “premature and unwise given the economic situation of eastern Europe”.

Ironically, as George Szirtes has noted in his very interesting book Fortinbras at the Fishhouses, present-day Hungarians are making heavy weather of their new-found ‘liberation’. Opposition to the Soviet régime brought writers together but, since the collapse of Communism, those still alive lost no time in falling out between themselves : “Writers who had been friends for decades suddenly stopped talking to each other.”  And, as for the writers, many of whom were known personally to George Szirtes, who suddenly found themselves catapulted into official positions, they  “generally served a term or so in the political sphere before leaving it, exhausted, out-manoeuvred, and disillusioned.”  George Szirtes compares two ‘versions’ of a poem written by a noted Hungarian author, one toned down because of the censor during the Soviet era, the other a ‘free’ version, and decides that the earlier version is better as a poem !    Heine also has a not entirely tongue in cheek passage where he bewails the end of censorship in his native Germany. The point is that, if a regime sees fit to rigidly control literature, this implies that literature matters to the people as a whole and indeed, during the nineteenth century, poets and composers in Eastern Europe played  an important role in movements of national liberation, whereas now they have by and large turned into completely marginal figures anxiously looking round for an audience other than friends and family.

Sebastian Hayes

Wednesday 24 March 2010, 7.30 pm Timothy Adès, a translator-poet who tends to work with rhyme and metre, and who has won awards for his versions of Cassou, Desnos, Hugo and the Mexican, Alfonso Reyes, presented his translations of four poets :
Jean Cassou – Robert Desnos – Bertolt Brecht – Victor Hugo

He writes

“Jean Cassou 1897-1986 was a major cultural figure, the creator of France’s Museum of Modern Art. Imprisoned as a suspected Resistant in 1941, he composed in his head his 33 Sonnets. Serious injury and rejection led him to write The Madness of Amadis (1950); these poems, translated, are now the core of two volumes of his work. The strict form of the sonnet enabled him to memorise the poems composed in prison; Amadis, taking its name from a hero of old romance, looks deceptively like an antique ballad. The forms chosen are at odds with the modernist, often opaque yet beautiful imagery.


Robert Desnos 1900-45 is the most exciting French poet of the last century. He mastered the fun and the puns of surrealism and took them out into the world, adapting his methods to film and radio. Some of his love-poems are anthologised: two women, one cold, one warm, were his Mermaid and Sea-Anemone. That conflict coincided with his main crisis as a writer. Rough seas, the Paris street, the round of red wine are recurrent themes. War, the Occupation and active resistance darkened his voice and impelled him to write two great sequences, Contrée (Against the Grain) and Calixto, even alongside a feast of poems for children. He died at Terezin.

Bertolt Brecht 1898-1956 is as great a poet as he is a playwright. Even more than Desnos, he wrote for a mass audience; like Cassou and Desnos, he rhymed about half of his huge output of poems. By ending the clause or sentence on the rhyme he could create a resounding emphasis. He can be bitter, vitriolic, offensive, loving, bizarre, naive. He will survive because his themes such as power, corruption, inhumanity and hypocrisy apply under any political system.

Victor Hugo 1802-85 is grievously underestimated here. His output of superb poetry is simply vast: the four anthologies in English translation scarcely overlap. He wrote plays and political tracts and many more than two novels. He is unmistakably a great human being, an enormously generous spirit for all his flaws, and the embodiment of French liberty, who spent his best decades exiled in Jersey (briefly) and Guernsey. His unquenchable verbal profusion matched his hatred of tyranny.”  

Sebastian Hayes writes:

“The audience was enthralled by Timothy Adès’ spirited readings of a very varied selection of poems from French and German, some of which were well known like Hugo’s tour de force, Les Djinns (translated by Brereton) and some, like Desnos’ charming poems for children, or Jean Cassou’s 33 Sonnets  of the Resistance probably much less so.  One of these, Sonnet IX, has a strange story connected with it. Jean Cassou was arrested by the Vichy police at Toulouse for suspected Resistance activity and held incommunicado at the local military prison. The prisoners were  not allowed pen and paper — which meant that Cassou had to learn off by heart almost all the sonnets — but, worse still, were not even allowed any reading matter. But one day a torn section of the Pariser Zeitung came into the prisoner’s hands and he was enraptured to discover a famous sonnet by Hofmannsthal Die Beiden which he proceeded to translate “during a sleepless night” and which Timothy Adès gave us.  Louis Aragon, in his introduction to Cassou’s work, sees this poem as a symbol of poetry and the human spirit transcending political and social boundaries.
We are most grateful to Timothy Adès for such an instructive and entertaining evening. In particular he made it clear to us that, when approaching French poetry, we should not expect the strong ti-tum-ti-tum beat of the English pentameter but look out for rather subtler and more varied rhythms : French poetry is ‘syllabic’ rather than ‘metric’. This is a most important point which is not sufficiently emphasized, I feel.”      Sebastian Hayes

Timothy Adès’ principal translations to date are :

Jean Cassou, 33 Sonnets of the Resistance (Arc, 2002)
Jean Cassou, The Madness of Amadis and other poems (Agenda, 2008)
Victor Hugo, How to be a Grandfather (Hearing Eye 2002)
(See also biography on the Brindin website.)

Wednesday 27 January 2010, 7.30 pm      Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street, Covent Garden

Fyodor Tyutchev, Anna de Noailles, Manuel Ulacia

John Dewey, whose biography of Tyutchev will shortly be published by Brimstone Press Ltd, introduced us to Fyodor Tyutchev (1803-1873)

He writes “Fyodor Tyutchev is revered by Russians as one of their great lyric poets, sharing that accolade with the likes of Pushkin, Blok, Mandelstam, Akhmatova and others. Outside his native land, however, he remains curiously unknown. He trained as a diplomat and between the ages of eighteen and forty lived abroad, mainly in Munich. On returning to settle in Russia he began a second career as a government censor (by no means an unusual occupation for a Russian writer at that time). His verse combines emotional intensity with philosophical depth, revealing glimpses of an eternal and unfathomable reality behind the fleeting world of appearances. His nature poetry is unsurpassed, as is the remarkable ‘Denisyeva cycle’ charting a tempestuous long-term extramarital relationship.”

Sebastian Hayes, co-Director of Brimstone Press Ltd, introduced us to Anna de Noailles (1876 – 1933) He writes:

 “Anna de Noailles was a well-known poet, novelist and woman of letters during the Belle Epoque but is now almost entirely forgotten. An acclaimed beauty sculpted by Rodin, at least one young man in Paris allegedly committed suicide because of her. As a poet, she is full of fire and unashamed sensuality and saw herself as a female Nietzsche, a thinker she admired and whose philosophy she claimed to espouse. Stylistically, she resisted modern innovations such as ‘free verse’ and stream of consciousness techniques, keeping strictly to traditional verse forms.”

Sarah Lawson, poet and translator of Prévert and Fernández de Moratín,  introduced us to Manuel Ulacia (1953-2000) She writes:

“Manuel Ulacia was a Mexican academic who specialized in Luis Cernuda and had known him personally. One of his poems, the long and impressive ‘Origami for a Rainy Day’ concerns the memory of meeting the older poet when he (Cernuda) was visiting Manuel’s parents when Manuel was a little boy. All of Ulacia’s poems are very personal. Some of them are about his coming to terms with his homosexuality, his confusion as an adolescent, his search for a soul-mate in later years. There is a very touching poem about the death of his father, and a really extraordinary one about being on an overnight Moroccan express train when a woman comes into his compartment and gives birth!”

Sebastian Hayes