THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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37 posts categorized "Events"

19 September 2016

Swimmers: pamphlets and events

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The Library has recently received the first 3 issues of Swimmers bimonthly pamphlet series. These will be available in our Reading Rooms later this year. In this guest post, the editorial team at Swimmers, explain more about the group and the series, and how to find out about future events and publications.

Swimmers publishes a limited-run bimonthly pamphlet series. The pamphlets combine creative and non-fiction written work, alongside artwork in various forms, created by established, emergent, and new writers and artists. To mark the publication of each pamphlet, Swimmers runs an events series—frequently hosted at The Function Room in Somers Town—where artwork exhibits provide a backdrop for poetry, fiction, and script readings and performances.

Swimmers was founded in 2013 in collaboration with arts association STORE. STORE is composed of an educational programme of arts and architecture courses, wide-ranging public exhibitions, and a socially engaged design practice: through this nexus, STORE has created projects and events beneficial to local communities, such as the Summer School in Gillett Square. STORE and Swimmers’ shared ethos and interest in the city space made for an ideal collaborative partnership, through which an initial series of readings, screenings, and performances were hosted in a derelict space in Bloomsbury, where STORE/Swimmers built a library and cinema. Contributors to Swimmers events, and to an anthology-style publication produced in response to the series, included (among many others): Sarah Howe, Maureen McLane, Amy Blakemore, Will Self, Richard Wentworth and Christopher Reid.

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In 2014, the Bloomsbury space was regrettably claimed by property developers. Shortly afterwards, Swimmers dived underground, occasionally resurfacing to host one-off events in collaboration with STORE at a variety of venues across London—such as Taste and Poetry and Architecture.

In March 2016, Swimmers received ACE funding to help launch the pamphlet series. Issue One featured an essay on race and poetry in the UK by Kayo Chingonyi, alongside new poems by André Naffis-Sahely and photo-printed artwork by Ned Scott. Issue Two featured a fragmentary essay on translation and fan-fiction by Sophie Collins, new poems by Caitlin Newby—ancient hymns to the Mayan goddess Inanna, taken from the cuneiform and put through translation software—and A3 prints by Luke Burton. In the current issue, Matthew Gregory explores the phenomenology of the piazza, Richard Scott takes inspiration from Bellini, and Tamsin Snow renders an autopsy table. Issue 4, released later this month, will feature new written work from Daisy LaFarge and Anne Boyer.

Swimmers wants to celebrate the physical, tactile object, to inspire communication between readers, and to allow the written word to enjoy the single-event status often reserved for visual artwork. Swimmers also distributes the pamphlets for free, so that the pamphlets are not restricted to an economically-privileged readership. To achieve all this, Swimmers utilises an experimental distribution model; on subscribing to the mailing list at swimmers.london (or emailing direct at mailinglist@swimmers.london), you will be notified as to when an online sign-up sheet will go live. The first 30 people to sign-up receive a copy—through the post or hand-delivered—for free. In order to widen this readership, a copy of each issue will be accessible to the public at the British Library Reading Rooms. Select content from each issue will also be downloadable as a PDF from swimmers.london, one month after that issue is distributed.

While The Function Room undergoes refurbishment, the next Swimmers event will be held at 7.00pm on Thursday 29th September, The New Evaristo Club, 57 Greek Street, London W1D 3DX. Readings from Emily Berry, Daisy LaFarge, and special guests. Entry is free.

13 April 2016

Seamus Heaney: From “Ex-poet” to Nobel Laureate

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Recently the British Library hosted an event to mark the publication of Seamus Heaney’s translation of Book 6 of Virgil’s Aeneid, published by Faber. Poets Jo Shapcott, Tom Paulin, Matthew Hollis, and Simon Armitage gave readings from the work, offered insights to Heaney’s influence on their own work, and read much-loved poems from Heaney’s celebrated collections. The translation, which details Aeneas’s descent into the Underworld, is the last collection from the Nobel Laureate, who died in 2013. Here Richard Price, Head of Contemporary British Collections, reflects on two meetings he had with the Laureate at the Library.

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Seamus Heaney at the University College Dublin, February 11, 2009, By Sean O'Connor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m lucky enough to have met Seamus Heaney a couple of times, as part of my job here at the British Library. My first encounter was when he had just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was giving a lecture for the Library on the poetry of Robert Burns, an important influence on Ulster poets in the nineteenth century and perhaps still to this day.

Those were in the days of the Round Reading Room in the British Museum when I was a junior curator in the Library there. He had a little time before the event so before he took to the lectern, I met him with my then colleague Mary Doran, the Curator of Modern Irish Collections, and we ushered him into an anteroom.

We had recently acquired a very rare item relating to Heaney’s early days of writing and were excited about what his reaction might be. It was the Hilary Term 1961 issue of the magazine Gorgon (Hilary Term is the second term, at the start of the calendar year). He had been an assistant editor of the magazine as a student at Queen’s University, Belfast and this was the last issue he was involved in. Unusually, he supplied his own, extra, editorial.

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Gorgon, Hilary Term Issue 1961. British Library shelfmark: Cup.410.f.750

It was quite something to be able to show the new Nobel Laureate this early piece of his poetry activism, a slim mimeographed magazine, crammed with poems and articles Heaney had been involved in selecting (the main editor, Pat Roche, makes a point in his editorial that the assistant editors had taken a particularly active role in the process).

Even so, the mere fact of Heaney’s involvement magazine wasn’t why we were so excited: rather, it was because of the dramatic way in which Heaney signed off his editorial. “I am not an ex-editor of Gorgon but something (I have convinced myself) more despicable,” he writes in his last sentence of the editorial, “an ex-poet.”

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An extract from Seamus Heaney’s editorial in the 1961 issue of Gorgon in which he signs off as an ‘ex-poet’

What would the elder, feted, famed, Nobel prize winning, poet say to that?

He laughed, of course.

I think in that chuckle there was an affection for his younger self and for the earnest activity of all poets, young or otherwise. The high stakes of poetry, its solemnities, its purposefulness, even in humour, is particularly felt. Five years later, Heaney would publish Death of a Naturalist to worldwide acclaim. As well the first edition of Death of A Naturalist, Faber, 1966, the Library has sound recordings of him from this time and later, e.g. from our British Council collection.

Heaney Catalogue

Image from a handbook issued by the British Council: Catalogue of Tape Recordings (November 1974).

 

I suppose all poets are like the “young bloods” he describes in the opening of The Aeneid VI, making quick landfall, “vaulting quickly out” with their urgent poetry, metaphorically in search of flints for fire or simply to stand amazed at new rivers.

Aeneid

The cover of Seamus Heaney's Aeneid Book VI, with kind permission of Faber & Faber

The second time I met Seamus Heaney, sadly the last time, was in late 2003. It was in our new building at St Pancras – Heaney had been viewing the Ted Hughes exhibition I had curated because he was going to give a reading of some of Hughes’ poems for the launch. We met for a cup of coffee with Hughes’s widow, Carol. We were talking about Hughes of course, who had been an early inspiration and then a great friend to Heaney.

Then, to my surprise, Heaney began to talk about Robert Henryson, the fifteenth century Scots Makar, the name given to a Scottish poet of national standing. He said he had started to translate, or retell, Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid. This would clearly be one of Heaney’s present-in-the-past projects which followed on from his acclaimed version of Beowulf, in which contemporary battles, and contemporary hubris, seem pre-echoed. As with Edwin Morgan’s translation of Beowulf, which Morgan had described as his ‘Second World War poem’, there is a feeling in Heaney’s translations that in such epic translations the present is being addressed by the past.

 

Cresseid

“Fair Cresseid” © Hughie O’Donoghue, painting reproduced as a tipped-in plate, from Seamus Heaney’s Testament of Cresseid, Enitharmon Editions, 2004, used with kind permission of the publisher and artist

Testament of Cresseid is a sorrowful story about the fate of the once beautiful, vivacious Cresseid, separated from her lover Troilus. For lamenting her life intemperately she is punished by the gods with disfigurements akin to leprosy (though if anything sounds intemperate to me, those punishments do!). Years after they have parted, Troilus recognises her but does not reveal his identity, instead giving a large amount of money to the leper colony. Cresseid, realising who her patron was, dies in grief.

Henryson is in a sense writing a sequel to Chaucer’s poem Troilus and Criseyde, and is also part of a great Troilus literary chain, since Shakespeare, in one of his more bitter plays, would later dramatise the story in Troilus and Cressida.

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“Leper house (gate”), © Hughie O’Donoghue, painting reproduced as a tipped-in plate, from Seamus Heaney’s Testament of Cresseid, Enitharmon Editions, 2004, used with kind permission of the publisher and artist

Heaney’s Beowulf had only recently been published when we met that second time. Famously, the British Library holds the original Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, and in fact, now, the manuscript of Heaney’s translation, too. Manuscripts were the link for the Henryson poem, too: Heaney had seen a Henryson manuscript at the Library and this had inspired him, after long admiring the poet, to render Henryson from Middle Scots into modern English.

Heaney’s Testament would later appear in a beautiful artist’s book with images by Hughie O’Donoghue, published by Enitharmon (British Library shelfmark: LD.31.b.557), as well as in a more commercial publication five years later.

Cresseid 2

 “Cresseid” © Hughie O’Donoghue, painting reproduced as a tipped-in plate, from Seamus Heaney’s Testament of Cresseid, Enitharmon Editions, 2004, used with kind permission of the publisher and artist

As we talked, Heaney emphasised how the Makar’s distinctly moral vision appealed to him: there is a teacher-like morality in Henryson he especially admired. As he talked I thought I detected, what, a hesitation? Knowing me as a Scottish poet, was he testing me, about Scottish reaction to ‘versioning’ this apparently sacrosanct text?

No, the moment passed, and I am still not sure if anything happened at all. In retrospect, I doubt he was worried. Henryson, Beowulf, Virgil, are each surely a gift to the world, in the original or in its re-transmission, and there would surely have been little reason for qualm.

Where is your garden

“Where is your garden?”, © Hughie O’Donoghue, painting reproduced as a tipped-in plate, from Seamus Heaney’s Testament of Cresseid, Enitharmon Editions, 2004, used with kind permission of the publisher and artist

Seamus Heaney highlights in the British Library include

  • Gorgon, Hilary Term 1961. Queen’s University literary magazine for which Heaney was an assistant editor.
  • Eleven poems (Belfast: Festival Publications, [1965]), X.909/37714. Heaney’s first collection, followed in 1966 by Death of a Naturalist (Faber).
  • Many sound recordings from 1966 onwards, including some made by our own curators.
  • Beowulf, typewritten drafts of Heaney’s translation with MS annotations; 1995. Add MS 78917
  • 'Forecast', a typewritten poem (inspired by the Shipping Forecast) with autograph annotations, extensively re-worked and edited. Presented by the author; 3 April 1998, Add MS 74089
  • Correspondence between Ted Hughes and Heaney, 1991-1998 (Add MS 88918/35/12)
  • Testament of Cresseid, with images by Hughie O’Donoghue, Enitharmon Editions, 2004, LD.31.b.557.

29 February 2016

Bringing a Liverpool Heart to Moliére

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by Deborah Dawkin, currently working on a collaborative AHRC PHD project with UCL and the British Library focussing on the archive of Ibsen translator Michael Meyer.

Last week the British Library had the pleasure of hosting the 2016 Sebald Lecture, given this year by Roger McGough. His subject was the translating and adaptation of Molière’s plays, including Tartuffe (2008), The Hypochondriac (2009) and The Misathrope (2013) for the English Touring Theatre. Unsurprisingly perhaps, given McGough’s renowned skills in performance and public speaking this was anything but a dry lecture: we were treated to a vibrant and entertaining as well as thought provoking insight into the process of translating seventeenth century French comedy for the contemporary British theatre – one which highlighted the difference between the requirements of theatre translation and literary translation – the difference of creating a text which “preserves history” and one that breathes new life into a play while at the same time respecting the original writer’s message and intentions.

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Roger McGough (right) who gave this year's Sebald Lecture together with Duncan Large, Academic Director of the BCLT who chaired the event.

The Sebald lecture is an important date on the British Library calendar for all those interested in international literature and translation. Sponsored by the British Centre for Literary Translation. The Sebald Lecture is given annually on an aspect of literature in translation. The event is named after the acclaimed German writer WG Sebald (1944-2001), whose novels and essays include The Emigrants, The Rings of SaturnAusterlitz and On the Natural History of Destruction. Despite writing almost exclusively in German he lived in the UK, lecturing in German at University of East Anglia where he founded the British Centre for Literary Translation in 1989.

In true story teller’s style McGough began at the beginning, and took us back in time to his first lessons in French at the Irish Catholic Brothers school for boys in Liverpool, where the tyrannical Brother O'Shea used the fear of the strap (specially sewn and crafted by the local nuns) to get his students to learn their verbs and vocabulary. Despite this unpromising start McGough went on to study French as well as Geography at the University of Hull. If the audience were expecting then to hear how McGough had developed an undying passion for French literature and language, they were disappointed. Instead we were regaled with a story in which McGough’s accent was so bad (having missed the French Exchange programme due to a family bereavement) that he was discretely removed from the aural exam. Slightly disingenuously - as he worked as a French teacher in the sixties - McGough left us with the impression that his French language skills were sketchy at best. But perhaps McGough wanted emphasise the point that these are not literal or academic translations, but adaptations designed to bring the spirit of Moliére to a contemporary audience: Molière with a "Liverpool heartbeat".

McGough was first approached in 2008 by Gemma Bodinetz to create a translation/adaptation of Tartuffe for her production with the English Touring Theatre. He was initially uncertain about undertaking the task, but promised to give it some thought. Taking several translations of Tartuffe with him on a Saga cruise (as an entertainer he hastened to tell us, not a guest) he read them on the journey to the Bay of Biscay. This allowed McGough to enter the play without the struggle of reading complex 17th century French verse, and to allow the characters and plot to inhabit him; to set his imagination free. By the time he had returned to the shores of the UK, McGough had started to write his version. Now McGough, concerned that he should be true to Molière’s intentions, turned to Molière’s original text, to check his own version against it, thus taking the script to a new level.

Anyone who has read McGough’s translations of Moliere, or had the pleasure of attending a performance, will be struck by their dexterity and their sharp, playful wit, and their cleverness in offering us a contemporary text, with contemporary references, yet never quite losing the link back to 17th century France.

This event was supported by Arts Council England and Writers’ Centre Norwich.

Past Sebald Lectures can be heard in full on the British Centre for Literary Translation website.

09 February 2016

Seven things that you might not know about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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With the Library’s Alice in Wonderland exhibition now almost half way through its run I have been thinking about some of the surprising things that I have learnt about Carroll's famous story whilst working on the exhibition. I shared seven facts about Alice as part of one of the breakout sessions at the Alice themed Festival of the Spoken Nerd event that was held at the Library on 1st February and I thought that I would share them here too.

1. It took Lewis Carroll over two years to create the manuscript, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, after he first told the story to Alice Liddell and her sisters on the 4th July 1862. Carroll recorded in his diary that he had finished the text of the manuscript (which is written in a very neat hand in sepia ink) by February 1863. However Carroll was not a professional artist and it took him more than a year to finish the illustrations.

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2. Carroll added two new chapters, ‘Pig and Pepper’ and ‘A Mad Tea-Party’ when he reworked the story for publication. These chapters include some of the most famous characters – the Duchess, the Cheshire Cat, the Hatter and the March Hare. It is hard to imagine Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland without some of its most famous and eccentric characters!

3. The model for publication was rather different in the Victorian period. Although Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published by Macmillan Lewis Carroll bore most of the financial liability for the publication of the book himself. This meant that decisions about all aspects of publication from selecting the illustrator and engraver to the size and colour of the volume were made by Carroll. This may help explain part of why Carroll was so determined that the book should be a success.

4. John Tenniel who illustrated both of the Alice books was blinded in the right eye in a fencing accident aged only 20. Tenniel sustained the injury in a fencing match against his father though he managed to conceal his disability from his father for the rest of his life in order to spare him any guilt. This isn't strictly a fact about the book but I found it so incredible that Tenniel was able to become such a successful artist with such a disability.

5. The first colour illustrations of Alice which are featured in The Nursery Alice (1890) show Alice wearing a yellow dress rather than the blue and white outfit which we often tend to associate with her.

6. The success of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can be seen in the range of 19th century merchandise and Alice themed music and theatre which were created. This included Charles Marriott’s Wonderland Quadrilles and the Wonderland Postage Stamp Case which Carroll personally helped to create.

 

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7. Copyright for Carroll and Tenniel’s edition of the book expired in 1907. This meant that any artist who wished to publish their own version of the story could do so. The market was flooded with new editions with twenty being produced between 1907 and 1920 alone. 

If you haven’t already seen the exhibition please do visit before it closes on the 17th April. In addition to the free exhibition the Library is also running an interesting series of events based around the exhibition. These include two Ekphrasis poetry evenings inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland on the 4th and 5th March and an Alice in Wonderland Discovery day for all the family on Saturday 20th February.

Finally the Library is running two adult learning courses with Alice themes, Illustrating Alice and Alice and the World of Children's literature which will begin in February and March. Please see the Library’s website for more details.

25 September 2015

Celebrating Translation at the British Library

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On Friday 2nd October, the British Library will open its doors once more to the translation community to celebrate International Translation Day. Translators, authors, students, publishers, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and reviewers, all with an interest in translation, will gather to debate significant issues and developments within the sector, as well as to celebrate its successes. This annual event, presented by Free Word, English PEN and the British Library in association with the British Centre for Literary Translation, Literature Across Frontiers, the Translators' Association, Wales Literature Exchange and Words With-out Borders has become one of the highlights of the British Library’s calendar. 

Translated literature may only represent between three and four per cent of books published each year in the UK, but most literature lovers will find that their bookshelves (real or virtual) hold a far greater proportion of translated works than such a statistic implies. The personal library of any serious book-worm is very likely to include international classics such as Homer, Tolstoy, Proust, Ibsen, Nietzsche and de Beauvoir, as well as examples of more contemporary authors such as Saramago, Kundera, Knausgård and Murakami…and perhaps some Scandinavian crime, for lighter, though somewhat dark, reading. Without this international literature our world would certainly be a great deal narrower, and our literature a great deal poorer.

 

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It is easy to forget when discussing the latest work by Murakami that the words on the page are in fact those of his translator/s and as such represent an act of interpretation. We have no way of knowing the challenges that the original text has presented the translator with, or how much is lost (or perhaps even gained) in translation. Even more hidden from our eye is the collaborative pro-cess that goes into the making of a translated text: the discussions that took place between the translator and the editor, or original author, over issues of style or ‘meaning’. Neither can we guess at the various levels of negotiation that bring a work of foreign literature to our shelves:  the impassioned letters from a translator to a publishing house persuading them to publish the latest literary gem they have discovered; the fierce negotiations over foreign rights at the international Book Fairs; the wrangling over author’s and translator’s fees; the concerns of publishing houses about the marketability of a work. In a sense, then, it is not just the translator and his/her process which remain largely invisible to the public, but all the other professionals who collaborate to bring translated fiction to our shelves.

It is this ‘hidden life’ of a translation – the whys and wherefores of translators’ choices and the complex process of translated literature reaching our shelves – which is often revealed in the archives of translators. Within its contemporary literary manuscripts collections, the British Library holds the extensive archives of poet Michael Hamburger (1924-2007) and playwright Michael Meyer (1921-2000). Both authors in their own right, Hamburger and Meyer are best known for their translations. Hamburger was responsible for bringing some of the most important German language writers, particularly poets, to our shelves, including Paul Celan, Gottfried Benn, Friederich Hölderlin and W. G. Sebald. Meyer translated the works of the great Scandinavian dramatists, Ibsen and Strindberg, for the British theatre, radio and television of the 1950s and 1960s, bring-ing a freshness to the texts which helped to ensure their status in the twentieth century’s dramatic repertoire. These two archives, containing draft manuscripts of their translations alongside correspondence with editors, literary agents, publishers and other prominent literary figures shed light on the ‘hidden life’ of a translation.

Other equally interesting translation-related material is to be found in the recently acquired archives of contemporary poets Ted Hughes and Peter Dale, both prolific translators. Hughes believed passionately in the importance of translation, and the archive includes letters and papers relating to the journal Modern Poetry in Translation which he and the publisher Daniel Weissbort founded in 1965 with the express aim of bringing contemporary foreign poetry to the Anglophone reader. Hughes’s own translation work included the poetry of Ovid, and plays by Euripides, Racine and Wedekind. The archive includes correspondence about his translations of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding as well as drafts of his translation of Aeschylus’s Oresteia. Peter Dale’s translations from the French include the poetry of François Villon and Paul Valéry and Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The Library’s archives collections do not only represent translations into English. A collection of correspondence between Harold Pinter and his Japanese translator Tetsuo Kishi not only throws light on the relationship between author and translator but also on the cultural transformation that Pinter’s plays undergo in translation, giving us pause for thought about the Pinter we know and love, and what it is it about his work that transferred so effectively to Japanese theatre.

Older translation-related treasures are to be found in the British Library vaults too. The archive of the nineteenth century drama critic, translator and author William Archer, who brought many of Ibsen’s plays to the British theatre for the first time in the late 1800s, includes papers related to performances of the time, and discussions with George Bernard Shaw about Ibsen’s work. The literary manuscripts of William Morris contain drafts of his translations of the Icelandic Edda and Beowolf, along with correspondence and notes. The archive of William Henry Fox Talbot, known chiefly as a pioneer in photography, but also an Assyriologist and one of the first decipherers of the inscriptions of Nineveh, includes a collection of notebooks with his draft translations.

And from even further back in time there are many Early Modern British and European manuscripts of translated works; not just into English but from English into Latin, Greek, Italian, Dutch, Swedish and Arabic (to name but a few). Some even earlier examples of translation are to found in our Arabic and Islamic Heritage collections - among them a thirteenth century manuscript of Ptolemaeus’ Almagest, an influential astronomical text thought to have been translated from the Greek into Arabic by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf ibn Matar in about 900 AD. The manuscript was owned by the mathematician Tusi, and is annotated with his comments and improvements on Ptolemaeus’ system, as well as remarks where he finds fault with the translation (visit the Qatar Digital Library at http://www.qdl.qa/en  to find out more). Such documents offer important historical clues into the impact of translation in the history of the international ex-change of ideas on philosophy, medicine, surgery, theology, as well as politics, trade and diplomacy, from as early as the thirteenth century.

The fact that translation and international literature is an intrinsic part of our national heritage, both past and present, is not only represented throughout the British Library’s collection, but is celebrated in our calendar of events through-out the year. This June, for example, UCL held the ARTIS 2015 Conference: Multidimensional Methodologies: collaboration and networking in translation re-search. The conference included a panel discussion about the relationship be-tween Archives, Museums and the study of Literary Translation, followed by a “show and tell” session led by curators at the Library to showcase some of our collections.

For the general public with an interest in international and translated literature, there are a variety of events to be found on the British Library’s calendar, not only including the forthcoming International Translation Day, but The PEN Pinter Prize held this year on October 6th, European Literature Night held each spring, and a plethora of events throughout the year which offer audiences an opportunity to hear international and British authors from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, as well as translators, discuss their work.

Deborah Dawkin is currently working on a collaborative AHRC PhD project with UCL and the British Library focussing on the archive of Ibsen translator Michael Meyer.

 

12 August 2015

The Michael Marks Awards 2015: now open for entries

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        We are delighted to announce that this year’s Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets are now open for entries. There are three awards for Poetry Pamphlet, Publisher, and Illustration. Works published in the UK between July 2014 and June 2015 are eligible, and full details of how to apply are available from the Wordsworth Trust website.

        The Awards were started by the British Library with the Poetry Book Society, with the generous support of the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, in 2009. They are now entering their 7th year, with the Wordsworth Trust joining the British Library as lead partner in 2012, and the TLS joining as media sponsor.

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Laura Scott, winner of the Michael Marks Award 2014, for her pamphlet ‘What I saw’.

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Laura Scott: What I saw. Aylsham: The Rialto, 2013.

            The Awards were inspired by the Scotland-based Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, also supported by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, and founded by Tessa Ransford. They were established to celebrate the poetry pamphlet as a unique form of publication, having a fundamental importance in poetry. Traditionally the poetry pamphlet is often seen as the first step to publishing a collection of poetry by emerging writers, but it is also used by established poets who may have a piece of work that they want stand alone, or want to use the opportunity to collaborate with an artist or writer.

Forweb-Helen Mort
Helen Mort

        Judges for the 2015 award include Helen Mort, Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at The University of Leeds, and former Poet-in-Residence at the Wordsworth Trust; Rory Waterman, poet, lecturer in the Department of English at Nottingham Trent University, and regular reviewer for the TLS; and Debbie Cox, Lead Curator of Contemporary British Publications at the British Library.

        There are two major Michael Marks Awards, one of a work of poetry in pamphlet form, and one for a publisher of poetry. Pamphlet publishers are the lifeblood of new poetry, often working on a voluntary basis and often with only their own resources. The Awards are unique in recognising
that commitment.

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Winner of the publishers’ award in 2014 was Welsh poetry pamphlet imprint Rack Press

 

        This year, for the first time, we offer a new Award for an illustrator of poetry pamphlets, celebrating the pamphlet as a beautiful object in its own right. The Illustration Award will be judged by Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery, London from 2008 – 2015.

        The shortlist for the Poetry and Publishers’ Awards will be announced by the end of October and the winners will be announced at a special dinner at the British Library on Tuesday 24th November.

Full details of the Awards are at www.wordsworth.org.uk/poetrypamphlets.

Closing date for submission of pamphlets is Friday 28th August 2015

 

 

 

 

 

19 May 2015

Podcast of 'A Celebration of Anthony Trollope' at the British Library

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On 23rd April the British Library held 'A Celebration of Anthony Trollope', an evening event to mark the writer's bicentenary. The event which was held in the Library’s conference centre featured panel discussion between Trollope’s biographer, Victoria Glendinning, the writer, Victoria Trollope and the actor, Edward Fox, chaired by editor of the Mail on Sunday, Geordie Greig. There was lively discussion between the participants on a range of subjects relating to Trollope’s life and work from his involvement with the Post Office to his difficult childhood and his relationship with his wife, Rose.


As the event provided so popular we were keen for a recording to be made available as a podcast for anyone who was not able to attend. The podcast can be downloaded for free from the British Library website. Trollope fans may also like to know that a display on Trollope and novel writing mentioned in an earlier blog posting on 4th March remains on show in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library gallery until June 7th. You can also find out more about Trollope on the Library's Discovering Literature website.

01 December 2014

‘The Story is the Thing’: Graham Swift on reading his stories out loud

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Graham Swift will be reading from his latest collection, England and Other Stories, on Monday 15 December at the British Library. For tickets, and further information, see What’s On at the British Library. Graham’s archive is held at the British Library (listen to Graham talking with the British Library’s Jamie Andrews about unpacking his archive on the Guardian’s podcast). 

Below, Graham has prepared an exclusive blog in which he talks about reading his stories out loud, and ‘the importance of narrative to our existence’.

At one of the first readings I gave from England and Other Stories I was asked by a member of the audience: ‘Was there anything you learnt about that story by reading it to us that you didn’t know before?’ A sharp question. I gave an obtuse, yes-and-no answer. I always write for an ‘inner ear’, for a silent solitary reader, so when I read aloud I invariably make small changes, I become aware of nuance. But that is minor, superficial stuff. The essence of the thing, the story itself, remains. So do I learn anything new?  

Graham Swift3 Klein - Copyright Janus van den Eijnden
Graham Swift; Copyright Janus van den Eijnden


I think what I learn, or rather have refreshingly confirmed, is itself something essential, and very big: the importance of narrative to our existence, that the story is indeed the thing. The curse of reading extracts from novels is that you get enmeshed in context-setting. With a short story you can immediately and simply deliver an entirety. What may have taken you months to write suddenly enters its ‘real time’ and, since it takes two, you and an audience, you become aware of being a component in something—your contact with the reader—at which you’re not normally physically present, of truly partaking in the act of sharing that I believe fiction fundamentally is.  

 Of course I’m describing an optimal experience, but at any public event the spirit of sharing is always there. Every story begins with the implicit words, ‘Here is something to be shared.’ We’re not all novelists, but we’re all short story tellers. Who hasn’t told a story to somebody else?  

G Swift
Graham Swift's manuscript of The Light of Day from the British Library archive



 

For my part, it’s been a great excitement after several novels to return, in this new book, to the writing of short stories—and to have the extra pleasure of reading some of them aloud. As for audiences, they may well want to listen, too, to what a writer has to say about writing, but I believe they take a principal pleasure—actually a primary human pleasure—in simply hearing a story told.

Text by Graham Swift 2014.