We’re celebrating International Women’s Day 2018 with this selection of ten brilliant international women poets with women translators. All the featured poems are available to read online for free – click through the links beneath to see more of their work.
You can also read our selections for 2017 online.
1. Hagar Peeters and translator Judith Wilkinson
‘Her language is often very physical, with its deliberately non-fluent, almost stubborn rhythms. Many of her poems explore the subtleties of human interactions, without ever losing their directness and concreteness. In her earlier poems she frequently scrutinises love and family relations, but in her later work there tends to be a sharper historical awareness and social engagement.’ – Judith Wilkinson
Dust raised the days of the flesh,
flesh turned to dust.
This poem comes from our forthcoming issue, ‘Profound Pyromania: Focus on Caribbean Poetry’
2. Nurduran Duman and Karen McCarthy Woolf
This poem was written by Nurduran Duman while visiting the UK, and taking part in a workshop with Karen McCarthy Woolf, then a poet in residence at the National Maritime Museum. ‘Nurduran has an extremely focused, bell-like clarity to her work, and this, I hope, is what this translative collaboration captures.’ – Karen McCarthy Woolf
Is it the bird’s rush
or do the clouds dance?
The surface is frosted glass.
Read ‘The River’
3. Anna Akhmatova and translator Jo Shapcott
‘I stayed as close as possible to the tight, beautiful images she creates for the first section of the poem. In the second half, she uses the figure of Pontius Pilate, washing his hands in front of the people. I changed him to George Bush, reasoning (rightly or wrongly, I don’t know) that she might have spoken more frankly, if she could; and since I live in a more open time and place, then I should.’ – Jo Shapcott
Wild honey smells like freedom,
dust – like a ray of sun.
Violets – like a girl’s mouth,
and gold smells like nothing.
Read ‘Wild Honey’
4. Fadwa Souleiman and translator Marilyn Hacker
‘Fadwa Souleiman was a successful and appreciated actor in theatre and film in Syria before the revolution. She left her career and family to join the democratic uprising and became a kind of icon – addressing the crowds in Homs and leading them in the chant ‘One, One, the Syrian people are one!’ – but she was also an eloquent spokesperson for a nonviolent revolution, interviewed by Egyptian or Jordanian television and newspapers.’ – Marilyn Hacker.
Within me, a butterfly’s strength
and a bull’s weakness
5. Anja Kampmann and translator Anne Posten
‘In Kampmann’s poems musicality is paramount. The poems are personal in the sense that they are derived from lived experience of place, yet Kampmann uses precise language and relies on rhythm to lend her images power, thereby distancing herself from the text and allowing structure and sound to be the primary carriers of meaning.’ – Anne Posten
and no one knows how deep the lake is
over which you swim pyramids
6. Ebba Lindqvist and translator Janice D. Soderling
‘The lyrical poetry of the Swedish writer Ebba Lindqvist is grounded in natural landscapes and in biblical and classical themes. Especially her portraits of women combine the tensions of a death wish with a passion for life… She made her literary debut in 1931 and, despite personal hardships and a nomadic life, published new volumes at intervals until the mid-sixties.’ – Janice D. Soderling
We ask in this prayer
that you allow those heavy clouds
charged with nuclear radiation
to drift up to the Arctic regions
without damaging any living thing
Read ‘Fourth Prayer’
7. Angélica Freitas and translator Hilary Kaplan
Angélica started her googlagens (google collages) culling and recomposing language she found online through Google searches in both Portuguese and English. Her new book, Um útero é do tamanho de um punho (The uterus is the size of a fist), critiques the notion of ‘woman’. The googlagem is one way she stages this critique; the book’s ‘3 Poems with the Help of Google’ explicitly acknowledge her Google procedure.’ – Hilary Kaplan
a woman goes to the movies
a woman goes to get ready
a woman is going to ovulate
Read ‘a woman goes’
8. Ana Martins Marques and translator Julia Sanches
‘Myth is a strong presence throughout Ana’s work. And yet, when she writes of the mythology of Ancient Greece, it is always with an eye on the domestic, on the quotidian. She reduces Penelope, in a way, to an act that encapsulates her waiting, and yet her waiting is also a weaving, a telling. The characters in these myths suffer, or even live, our own human ailments: love, longing, loneliness.’ – Julia Sanches
What day knits
Read ‘Penelope (i-iv)‘
9. Choman Hardi (self-translated)
‘I began to write poetry in English in the early 2000s and for a while it seemed that I would never write in Kurdish again. Then in 2005 I started my post-doctoral research about the widows of genocide. This involved extensive fieldwork in Kurdistan. I began to inhabit my language again, to hear it, speak it and read it once more. These poems were written following this period. It was like coming back to my mother tongue with a new identity and style.’ – Choman Hardi
By the murky pond
in which the two sisters drift
look at your policemen.
into the grave
The phone rings
10. Maria Stepanova and translator Sasha Dugdale
‘Often, where I felt an image wouldn’t work in translation I could return to Maria’s notes on her intended effect and choose a slightly different image, or extend the image in some way. Maria also gave me the freedom to use images with a currency in the UK, and as both Russia and Britain suffer from martial and imperial mythmaking this gave me great satisfaction. Lines from Kipling found their way into the poem, for example, and a pre-battle quote from Anthony and Cleopatra replaced a line from a Russian poem about lovers on the eve of a battle.’ – Sasha Dugdale
This little piggy went to market
And this little piggy froze to death
Read an excerpt from ‘War of the Beasts and the Animals’