Reading at CREAR and the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Adrian Grima reads at CREAR while Ian Stephen looks on (photo courtesy Literature Across Frontiers)

Islands of the North, Islands of the South

8th-13th August

Crear, Kilberry, Argyll
In co-operation with The Scottish Poetry Library, Literature Across Frontiers (LAF) presents Islands of the North, Islands of the South, a  translation workshop bringing together poets from Scotland and Ireland, Cyprus, Mallorca and Malta to translate each other’s work and, subsequently, perform at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

From left: Adrian Grima, Miriam Gamble, Ian Stephen, Maria Rosa Llabrés, Jenan Selçuk


Paco Peña (guitar)

The world’s foremost flamenco guitarist followed by Island Poetry (in co-operation with the Scottish Poetry Library and Literature Across Frontiers)with Poets from Mediterranean and Scottish islands  –  to celebrate the Year of Scotland’s Islands. The climax of a week-long workshop.

The participating poets are:

Miriam Gamble (Northern Ireland; Scotland-based)
Ian Stephen (Scotland – Isle of Lewis)
Adrian Grima (Malta)
Maria Rosa Llabrés (Majorca)
Jenan Selçuk (Turkish Cyprus)
Miriam Gamble was born in Brussels in 1980 and grew up in Belfast. She studied at Oxford and at Queen’s University Belfast, where she completed a PhD in contemporary British and Irish poetry. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 2007, and the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Award in 2010. Her pamphlet, This Man’s Town, was published by tall-lighthouse in 2007, and first book-length collection, The Squirrels Are Dead, by Bloodaxe Books in 2010. She lives in Glasgow, and works as a subtitler for the hard of hearing.
Adrian Grima (1968) lectures in Maltese Literature at the University of Malta and has written poems, short stories and drama for children. His poetry collections in Maltese are It-Trumbettier (The Trumpeter, 1999) and Rakkmu (Weavings, 2006), and a selection was published in English as The Tragedy of the Elephant (2005) and in German under the title Dieser verwundete Frühling – Dir-Rebbiegħa Midruba (2007). He is the coordinator of the Mediterranean cultural organization Inizjamed, and the Maltese correspondent of the website about culture in the Mediterranean region.
Maria Rosa Llabrés Ripoll was born in Palma, Majorca. She received her degrees in psychology (1974) and classical philology (Greek, 1976) from the University of Barcelona. She is an upper secondary school professor of Greek. She has authored two books of poetry: La interrogació vermella (Llibres de Capaltard, Palma, 2003) and L’ocell rebel (Edicions Can Sifre, Palma, 2007); and the book of essays Robert Graves i el món clàssic (Lleonard Muntaner ed., Palma, 2006), which was awarded the Premi Ciutat de Palma 2007 for literary criticism. A version in Spanish will be published shortly. She left teaching in 2008 to focus on literary translation in different languages: Spanish, French, English and most importantly Ancient Greek to Catalan. She also collaborates with different magazines such as S’Esclop (literature), Lluc (culture) and Auriga (classical world).
Jenan Selçuk, (b.1974,Cyprus) has graduated from East Mediterranean University, then lived and worked in Germany and Britain. His poetry has been published in Turkish, German and other European magazines; together with the other members of the Subconscious Gang, he puts out the underground literature and art journal Isırgan. He has two volumes of poetry, Kaza (2003) and Haz (2007).
Ian Stephen was born in Stornoway in 1955 and still lives on Lewis. His poetry and short stories have been published in periodicals in many countries since 1979. He received a Creative Scotland Award, contributed to Zenomap (Venice Biennale 2003), and represented Scotland at ‘Poetry without Borders’ in the Czech Republic, 2004. Among his publications are Malin, Hebrides, Minches, with photos by Sam Maynard (Dangaroo Press, Denmark, 1983), Varying States of Grace (Polygon, 1989), Mackerel & Cremola (pocketbooks, 2001), and It’s about this (Nomad/ Survivors Press, 2004), from a poem-log of a voyage to Orkney, commissioned by StAnza and published on With artist Pat Law and musician Norman Chalmers, he has devised ‘one clear line’, an exhibition of paintings, sculpture and sound about the group of islands called the Shiants, shown at the Scottish Poetry Library in the summer of 2006.
Scottish Poetry Library –
Literature Across Frontiers –
Edinburgh International Book Festival (13-29 Aug 2011) –


Podcast | Literature Across Frontiers: Adrian Grima

Portrait of the poet Adrian Grima

Every year the SPL teams up with Literature Across Frontiers to bring poets from different countries together to participate in a week of translation workshops in Crear. We chat with one of the 2011 participants, Maltese poet Adrian Grima, who is co-ordinator of Mediterranean cultural organisation Inizjamed which he co-founded in 1998 and which organises the annual Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival. We get to hear him reading poems in Maltese with translations from Miriam Gamble (read by Ryan) and Ian Stephen and he discusses poetry, language and place.

Presented by Ryan Van Winkle
Produced by Colin Fraser @anonpoetry
Music by Ewen Maclean

First published 10 February 2012




Sunday 14 August
8:30pm – 9:30pm
Peppers Theatre
10.00, 8.00

Crossing the sea is easy – with the Scottish Poetry Library and Literature Across Frontiers. Poets Adrian Grima from Malta, Jenan Selcuk from Cyprus and Maria Rosa Llabres Ripoll from Majorca headed north to spend a week alongside fellow poets Ian Stephen from Lewis and Miriam Gamble from Belfast, travelling in the Inner Hebrides and translating each other’s work. In this event they share the fruits of their collaboration. Enjoy the melange of voices evoking sunshine and storm, wanderings and landings.

Chaired by the director of the Scottish Poetry Library, Robyn Marsack.

Some nice feedback from social media:

Poems From Small Islands poetry reading tonight at the Edinburgh International Book Festival was brilliant. Many languages, many words, an amazing hour.

Poems from Small Islands a real treat. Particularly loved the camping ‘trilogy’.

Poems From Small Islands: Creating At Crear

By | Published on Thursday 18 August 2011

twThis year is the Scottish year of island culture. To celebrate, five poets from islands as diverse as Lewis and Malta convened in the Inner Hebrides to translate each others’ work. The aim was producing a synthesis of voices, united not by their geographical proximity but by the fact that their tongues were all tinged with the taste of salt sea air. Each poem was read first in its original language and then in translation, with the Maltese of Adrian Grima being the most surprisingly accessible of all the foreign languages on offer especially when twinned with the melodious translations proffered by Miriam Gamble from Belfast. A bewitching premise for an evening of excitingly harmonised poetry.

Peppers Theatre, 14 Aug, 8.30pm (9.30pm), £10, eibfpp11.

Poems from Small Islands (EIBF Review)

By Vivien Devlin – Posted on 17 August 2011 |

Venue: Charlotte Square Gardens | Running time: 60mins

Performers: Robyn Marsack, Miriam Gamble, Adrian Grima, Maria Rosa Liabres Ripoli, Jenan Selcuk, Ian Stephen


On the evening of Sunday 14th August, the small Peppers Theatre stage was packed with poets – not the usual one or two writers and a presenter; here were five international poets from Belfast, Malta, Majorca, Cyprus and the Isle of Lewis. Introducing the event was Robyn Marsack, director of the Scottish Poetry Library.

In co-operation with the SPL,  Literature Across Frontiers (LAF) arranged a writers’ workshop recently at Crear, Tarbert, Argyll, bringing together these poets from islands around Europe. This was apparently an inspiring and educational collaboration, learning about language with the aim to translate selected poems – say, from English into Turkish. The workshop and subsequent poetry readings in Crear were part of the “Year of Scottish Islands Culture” series of events.

“Crear, space to create, is an inspirational working space with accommodation on the west coast of Scotland, connecting individuals and organisations across the arts worldwide through innovative residencies.”

The poets in turn read their own poem followed by the translation by another poet into their language;  for instance Northern Irish writer, Miriam Gamble’s witty and romantic ‘Semi-colon’, was translated into Catalan by Maria Rosa Llabres Ripoli.

Ian Stephen – photo Mats Rehnman

An atmospheric narrative about the wild rugged Icelandic landscape, ‘Ridge above Lake Myvatn’ was first read in English by Ian Stephen (with lively Hebridean storytelling skill) and then repeated in the translated version in Maltese by Adrian Grima.

Reading poetry requires fine expression over every syllable, each word and stanza, with flowing pace and rhythm. Adrian, Miriam and Ian have a rich quality of voice and performed their work with style , while one or two of the writers seemed uncomfortable with public speaking, reciting with a monotonous tone.

As highlighted in the EIBF brochure, the focus of the event was writing about island life and the sea from the Hebrides to the Mediterranean – ‘sunshine and storm, wanderings and landings’.  But there were few poems describing travel or a sense of place, with subjects ranging from love, relationships, folk tales and childhood to a saga about a camping trip.

While this eclectic anthology of poetry in a colourful array of accent and language was often evocative, 57 minutes was too long for a series of readings. There was time for just one question from the audience –  ‘But can you describe how you were able to translate the poetry?’ asked a man in the front row.

More time could have been given to a literary discussion and explanation about their writing, the translation process, and the poets’ own experience of their “Small Island ” lives and culture.

Don’t Forget

Don’t forget
to send me a wave or two
from the other side.

Just dip
the pulse
in your long fingers
to the churn
of Manhattan.

It won’t be instant
but of course I’ll sense it
arriving in
at our own west side.

(Ian Stephen, from the Isle of Lewis)



From the Scottish Poetry Library blog

Poems from Small Islands | edbookfest

August 15, 2011

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is here and our August will never be the same again! There’s plenty of poetry events that we can’t wait to get stuck into, and the first of the lot was last night’s ‘Poems from Small Islands’ event, the showcase of the now annual Crear / Literature Across Frontiers / SPL translation workshop [here’s a piece Robyn wrote about Crear from our Poetry Reader issue 6]. This year, the participating poets all come from ‘small islands’: Miriam Gamble is from Northern Ireland; Adrian Grima from Malta; Maria Rosa Llabrés Ripoll lives in Palma, Majorca; Jenan Selçuk lives in Famagusta, Cyprus and Ian Stephen in Lewis, Stornoway (when he’s not at sea).

The story of their week was unfolded through this dialogue via poems. We started by hearing Miriam’s translation of Adrian’s ‘Andrew Dreams of Catherine Wheels’; heard Adrian read his translation of ‘;’ by Miriam; Maria Rosa read her translation of Ian’s poem, ‘Baptist Church (Abandoned)’ and Jenan read his attempt at translating Miriam’s challenging poem ‘The Flaying of Marsyas’ (‘it nearly killed him’, Miriam told us). And so wonderfully on – a journey through their week, free-wheeling between Catalan, English, Turkish and Maltese.

It was a lovely evening, many of the poems prefaced with an explanation of the process: the difficulty of gendered words; the challenge of uncharted subject material; how some of the translations cleaved more closely to the original than others. One poem, Adrian’s poem for Abder, became ‘The Sea Swell’ in Ian’s hands, and many stanzas shorter in Miriam’s version, owing to the tradition of the compact Northern Irish lyric.

Miriam articulated her feelings on the complexities of translation: ‘it’s not the original poem, but not a freed poem either. It falls somewhere between the lines.’ Robyn closed by saying that she appreciated it was challenging to listen to an hour of poetry in an unknown tongue, but that she hoped the audience had revelled in the music of language. We certainly did.



See also Ian Stephen’s “farewell-and-ahoy_-log-of-a-voyage-part-4-_-northings” about his workshop and readings with Adrian Grima and the other poets at CREAR.



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