Selected Poems by Paula Erizanu

a nutshell: thanks to the Moldova Foundation in the US, I was thrilled to be put in touch with Moldovan poet, writer & journalist Paula Erizanu who generously shared some of her extraordinary poetry – I was particularly moved by her work-in-progress collection Poems for Mental Hygiene

a line: “the joy to discover that | you don’t have to be | any thought | that crosses | your head” – ‘Authenticity is overestimated’ (I may have to adopt this as my mantra…)

an image: I loved Erizanu’s portrayal of the ego as a popcorn kernel that jumps oily on the frying pan, before being sealed in a plastic bag for the working day in the poem ‘Monday to Friday, from nine til six’

a thought: through her use of the second person and intimately powerful imagery, the poems often gave me the sense that they were tuned into my own (pandemic-infused) psyche – very much a collection that struck a chord

a fact: Erizanu recommended Tatianta Țîbuleac’s novels (excerpts here) and, as an aside, mentioned that she also just finished her first novel, which she is translating from Romanian into English over the coming months – watch this space!

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Lady in a Boat by Merle Collins

a nutshell: both disquieting & loving, this expressive poetry collection spans family history, the Grenadian revolution and Caribbean life more broadly

a line: “It seems the apocalypse | will be televised”

an image: Collins returns to a haunting image of a friend lying in a stinking drain, with a pig nudging at his body, which gave me the horrifying impression that it is one taken from life

a thought: the poet writes of wandering to wrestle with her furies, and the imporance of knowing the arrogance of wandering and seeking the humility of home – something that particularly struck me, as a person living on the very opposite side of the world to where I grew up

a fact: the poet was deeply involved with the Grenadian Revolution and served as a government coordinator for research on Latin America and the Caribbean

want to read Lady in a Boat? visit here

Night by Sulochana Manandhar (tr. Muna Gurung)

Cover of Night - part of the Translating Feminisms series

a nutshell: first jotted in the lap of night, this Nepali poetry collection is a sublime expression of the collaborative power & beauty that can emerge from women translating women in Asia’s literary landscape

a (few) line(s): “Night is an expectant mother | If you are doubtful, just wait; | early tomorrow morning | it will give birth to the sun” *

an image: in the exquisite opening to the poem ‘Sieve’, we watch as the poet pours scattered pieces of her heart on night’s sieve and begin to sift

a thought: I was moved by so many of these poems, but one that’ll stay with me for some time is ‘Property’, in which night is portrayed as the land in which the poet feels free – where she no longer fears subjugation

a fact: to method-translate parts of this collection, Gurung set alarms for various odd hours of the night (which goes some way towards illustrating the devotion that she so clearly feels for Manandhar’s writing)

want to read Night? visit here

* in the Translator’s Note, Gurung mentions how Sulo refers to night as ‘ ऊ ‘ – the gender non-specific third person pronoun in the Nepali language

Translating Feminisms is an initiative to showcase intimate collaborations and conversations between some of Asia’s most exciting women writers and emerging-star translators.

Knitting the Fog by Claudia D. Hernández

knitting the fog cover with misty path image, book on tile floor all in black and white

a nutshell: blending narrative personal essays and bilingual poetry, Hernández shares her matriarchal upbringing and her childhood journey from Guatemala to Los Angeles

a line: “Tía Soila has always been a breathing poem who knows how to climb the tallest tamarindo trees”

an image: the scene in which Hernández, her sisters & her mother are to cross the Río Bravo to make the leap from Mexico to the US is one of the most intensely memorable in the book, particularly the moment where one of the sisters worries aloud about their inability to swim and Hernández (“trying to be brave and hopeful”) reassures her that she’ll rescue her

a thought: her mother’s physical violence towards others and corporal punishments on the girls for any misbehaviour made for discomfiting reading; Hernández’s explanation of what her mother had endured earlier in life was telling, but not excusing, nevertheless the writer expresses gratitude in the Acknowledgements for her mother’s courage & sacrifices

a fact: languages & accents play a big role in Hernández’s story about coming of age, and I learned that Guatemala has more than twenty Mayan & distinct indigenous languages

want to read Knitting the Fog? visit here

Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

a page from the book with words highlighted 'tell them we are afraid'

a nutshell: this dazzling debut collection from a Marshallese poet & activist is a rallying call to action on climate change, while also carrying the traumas of racism and US nuclear testing

a line: “Tell them | we are afraid”

an image: so many pages of this collection are stunningly shaped – from the words scattered across pages to mirror a child’s hair falling out from chemo to the words that weave a basket to reflect the matrilineal society of the Marshallese

a thought: at several points, the poet notes the strain of colourism that runs through society (such as “Ma’s consistent warning” to remember bonnet so she doesn’t “turn brown”) which reminded me of the writer Shazia Usman’s book, Kaluti, on self-love in the face of such attitudes

a fact: the destruction wreaked by the United States’ nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands crops up in many heart-breaking poems throughout the collection; as the poet writes, “most Marshallese can say they’ve mastered the language of cancer”

want to read Iep Jāltok? visit here