Gdańskie Spotkania Literackie

Poetesses of the Isles at the second Gdansk Meetings of Literary Translators

The anthology Poetesses of the Isles is a collection of poems from eight British authors translated by Jerzy Jarniewicz and Magda Heydel. The book is a joint publishing project of the City Culture Institute in Gdansk and the Biuro Literackie. The publication marks the second Gdansk Meetings of Literary Translators Found in Translation organised by the CCI in Gdansk, on 9—11 April. The book premiere and the discussion on the anthology with the translators and Zofia Król will take place on Friday, 10 April, at 18.00, in the CCI Vestibule.


The anthology comprises some of the works by Lavinia Greenlaw, Moniza Alvi, Jackie Kay, Gwyneth Lewis, Alice Oswald, Ruth Padel, Jo Shapcott, and Rosemary Tonks. Each of the authors is presented in the anthology through fifteen poems, complete with the poetesses’ bios submitted by the authors of the collection, and the afterword by Jerzy Jarniewicz.


I am very happy the anthology has finally been published. For numerous reasons, the work was not easy. First, there was the translation process itself. The poems selected posed a considerable challenge because of their subject matters as well as linguistic and poetic sophistication. Then, we had serious problems with the process of the selection – the British female poetry is not an isle or isles; it is an archipelago, or even a continent. A dozen or so poems from eight authors are a mere sample of a sample, a bite to whet your appetite. In such cases, there is always the hunger for more and the regret that is all we could use. Eventually, the typesetting turned out to be no easy task, either. I do not want to go into details, but both the translators/editors are apparently strong personalities with different tastes and types of sensitivity, who, however, like to listen to one another – says Magda Heydel.


It is going to be a startling and multidimensional read, as all the poetesses’ styles are radically different. It is, therefore, all the more interesting to put side by side Alice Oswald’s poems, which are a rewriting of the Iliad, Ruth Padel’s poetry, which harks back to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, Jackie Kay’s poems inspired by the blues, and Lavinia Greenlaw’s poetry, which draws inspiration from the language of science and its history.


Also included in the anthology is Gwyneth Lewis, a half-Welsh half-British poetess writing about the murder of the Welsh language – her ‘mother tongue’, as she puts it in the title of one of her poems. There is also Jo Shapcott with her interest in various stages of decomposition, the cracks between the body and the mind, as well as fluid and heterogenic identity.

The anthology also contains some works by Moniza Alvi, who operates between the British and the Pakistani culture, trying to understand and describe the duality in her, and the rebellious and energetic Rosemary Tonks inspired by the works of Rimbaud and Baudelaire.

This year’s edition of the Gdansk Meetings of Literary Translators Found in Translation, where the anthology is going to be presented, will focus mostly on the literature written in English.

The anthology is going to be published right before the Found in Translation, and it is going to be presented at the Meetings as part of the discussion between Magda Heydel and Jerzy Janowicz titled Feminine rhymes. The anthology of British female poets, and moderated by Zofia Król. The meeting is going to take place on Friday, 10 April, at 18.00, in the CCI Vestibule at the following address: ul. Długi Targ 39/40 in Gdansk.

Jerzy Jarniewicz – born in 1958, a poet, a translator, a literary reviewer, and an academic, since 1994, he has been one of the editors in Literatura na Świecie. His poems, translations, and critical essays have been published by Biuro Literackie. His last anthology – Six Irish Poetesses – was published in 2012.


Magda Heydel – born in 1969, a literary translator, a professor, and the editor-in-chief of the magazine Przekładaniec, she conducts classes in the theory of translation, as well as the cultural and the literary comparative studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. She has translated some works by Joseph Conrad, Seamus Heaney, T. S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf.