Translation was central to Edwin Morgan’s activity as a poet. His Collected Translations (Carcanet, 1996) is as voluminous as his own Collected Poems(Carcanet, 1990) and his lifelong commitment to making the voices of foreign cultures ring out in English and Scots was never a secondary preoccupation. During the years he wrote many of his most popular and enduring collections he was just as busy translating from a vast array of world languages.
In alternate years to the Poetry Award, the Edwin Morgan Trust sponsors biennial translation events that will bring some of the world’s leading foreign language poets to Scotland to participate in workshops and readings alongside Scottish poets.
In March 2019 the Trust funded a workshop with Hungarian and Scottish poets, facilitated by Ken Cockburn. They went on to present their work at the StAnza Festival on March 8-10. Short biographies of participants are below.
Mónika Ferencz was born in Budapest in 1991. She has been publishing poems in journals since 2013, and translations since 2015. She received the Mihály Babits Translators’ Grant in spring 2016, and participated in literary translation workshops organized by the Petőfi Literary Museum in Budapest (2016) and the Association of Young Writers (FISZ, 2017). Her first volume of poetry, Hátam mögött dél (Behind my Back South), was published in spring 2017. She was awarded a Zsigmond Móricz Literary Grant this year to write her second book. “Poetry for me is an abyssal language for me, with which I can express myself in an unworldly way.”
Balázs Szőllőssy, born in Budapest in 1981, is a poet, editor and cultural organiser. He was, until recently, board member of the Association of Young Writers in Hungary. His first book of poetry, A szabadság két jelentése (Two Meanings of Freedom), was published in 2010, and his second, A Kilátó Presszóban (In Presso Viewpoint), in 2019. He currently works as cultural attaché at the Hungarian Cultural Centre in Istanbul, Turkey. “As one of our great poets, Ágnes Nemes Nagy said, good poetry is the last fortification of language, gaining new and new territories (e.g., meanings) for itself while facing the unknown and unexpressed.”
Krisztina Tóth is a poet, writer, playwright and translator. The winner of several awards, including the Graves Prize (1996), the József Attila Prize (2000) and the Laureate Prize, (2008), she is a writer engaged in social issues. Her children’s books treat topics that are considered unusual, even taboo, in children’s literature. Her poetry and prose have been translated into more than fifteen languages. She also writes plays for children and adults. Her musical Wanderer of the Years explains loss and letting go to children, whereas the play Pokémon go, for adults, is a grotesque portrait of Central Europe today. She lives in Budapest. “For me poetry is primarily music and the expression of the subconscious through words and linguistic structures. It lets appear non-verbal contents via special language which is a mixture of traditions and inventions.”
Iain Galbraith Galbraith grew up on the west coast of Scotland, studied languages in Cambridge, Freiburg and Mainz, and now lives in Wiesbaden (Germany). His collection of poems The True Height of the Ear appreared in 2018. His translations include W.G. Sebald’s Across the Land and the Water. Selected Poems 1964-2001 and Esther Kinsky’s River. He has received the Stephen Spender Prize (2014), the Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation (2015) and the Schlegel-Tieck Prize (2016). “Poetry is a moment of peculiarly heightened attentiveness to the world and an activity whose consequences cannot be planned. A poem can start anywhere, with anything, but during the time of its writing its outcome will always be unknown. A wave of concentrated seeking, the poem appears at a certain juncture to have culminated in a singular object or gesture: it offers its energy and mystery to a reader. The poem making its shape in sound, language and script was reaching out, its singularity inhabited by the exploratory movements undertaken by a species more quaerens than sapiens.”
Em Strang is a Lead Reader for Open Book, facilitates workshops in Embodied Poetry and has spent the last six years teaching in HMP Dumfries. She is currently setting up Three Streams SCIO and Hutting Cooperative, with a focus on Creativity, Contemplation and Action. Her first full collection, Bird-Woman (2016), won the 2017 Saltire Poetry Book of the Year Award. Her second collection, Horse-Man is coming out in September 2019. Em’s relationship with poetry is about connecting up the dots between head and heart.
Kate Tough‘s poetry is included in Makar/Makar: Twelve Contemporary Poets in Scotland (Tapsalteerie, 2019). Her piece, ‘People Made Glasgow’, was selected as a Best Scottish Poem 2016 and became a motion in The Scottish Parliament. Her pamphlet, tilt-shift, was Runner Up in the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, 2017. Abacus released Kate’s novel Keep Walking, Rhona Beech in 2019 and her short fiction has appeared in The Brooklyn Review, The Texas Review and Gutter. “Poetry is where the brain goes to play (where the systems of everyday adult life are allowed to go fuzzy round the edges); and poetry is politics.”
On Edwin Morgan
One of the most motivational moments of my life was when I encountered the heritage of Edwin Morgan. We always hear that Hungary is a really small country and although it has a beautiful poetical voice, it really hard to transfer this to another language; and if somebody translates it anyway, it cannot really be heard as it is in any other language. But I think Edwin Morgan proved that a poem really can have the same gravity in English as in Hungarian.
In international literary relations there is a need for Edwin Morgan-like renaissance personalities who not only know the linguistic and technical dimensions of translation but also dedicate their entire being to serving poetry. As an interpreter I fully support the idea that translation and poetry comprise re-construction and the visit to the Edwin Morgan archives presented wonderful examples of interrelations between creation and translation.