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New Voices from Latvia and Macedonia: in the UK

Posted 31st October 2011

Arc with Macedonian & Latvian poets at the IABF, Manchester
Arc with Macedonian & Latvian poets at the IABF, Manchester

Last week saw a mini tour of Latvian and Macedonian poets celebrating our two new anthologies, as part of the New Voices from Europe series. Thanks to Literature Across Frontiers we were able to take Macedonians Igor Isakovski and Lidija Dimkovska and Latvians Karlis Verdinš and Anna Auziņa to read at Rich Mix in London, at the Blue Sky Café in Bangor,in Hebden Bridge and in Manchester (as part of the Manchester Literature Festival .

To warm them up for the northern leg of the tour, we squeezed in a little trip to Haworth so they could see the Bronte Parsonage and came back via Sylvia Plath's grave in Heptonstall for them all to get a feel for the literary lineage local to Todmorden. Lidija particularly enjoyed the excursion, being a lifelong fan of the Brontes.

But while pleasure is all very edifying, the focus of the trip was the performances. For the poets and the audiences (and we had healthy audiences for all four events), the greatest joy of the readings was hearing the poets read their work in their own languages, and in their own distinct dialects. There was some discussion as to whether the audience would want to hear the Macedonian / Latvian versions of the poems. But to miss the cadences and throaty pronunciations of the original languages would be to miss the aural sense of the poems.

This opportunity to hear poems as aural sculptures is such a treat. It turns language to music, poetry to song. It also adds to our mission of bringing the poetry tradition of these cultures to UK audiences: how often do we get the chance to hear either Macedonian or Latvian spoken? We had time enough for literal sense when the English versions were read immediately afterwards.

So, while a bit tired from lugging the books about, driving about the place, we're looking forward to the next tour...