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Panel talk: Explosion of Words | An Imaginary Library: Modern Poetry & Translation

Thursday, April 7, 2022
Opening Hours: 
6.30pm - 7.45pm
ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS

40 years in the making, Stephen Watts’ ongoing Bibliography of Modern Poetry in English Translation is a monumental body of work spanning nearly 2000 pages. As a living archive of poetry in translation, the Bibliography provides a single reference point that showcases the huge wealth and multiplicity of poetry translated into English that spans across numerous histories, cultures, and contexts.

Chaired by Nisha Ramayya, join a panel of established speakers, writers, and academics including Stephen Watts, Hannes Schüpbach, Jo Catling, and Chris McCabe as they dig into the significance of Watts’ Bibliography and its crucial place in a full consideration of modern poetry in translation.

The panel will be followed by a light drinks reception with small bites - a chance to continue the conversation.

Book Tickets Here


Panel members:

Stephen Watts was born in London in 1952 (of partly Swiss-Italian heritage), where he still lives and works in Whitechapel. He has published seven books of poetry – The Lava’s Curl (Grimaldi Press, 1990), Gramsci & Caruso (Periplum, 2004, with Czech translation by Petr Mikeš, reissued by Mille Gru, 2014, with Italian translation by Cristina Viti), The Blue Bag (Aark Arts, 2004), Mountain Language / Lingua di montagna (2008) and Journey Across Breath / Tragitto nel respiro (2011, both: Hearing Eye, with Italian translations by Cristina Viti), Ancient Sunlight (Enitharmon, 2014, repr. ‘20), and Republic of Dogs / Republic of Birds (Test Centre, 2016; new edition, Prototype 2020) – and edited several anthologies – Houses & Fish. A book of drawings with writing by 4 & 5 year olds (Parrot Press, 1991), Voices of Conscience (an international anthology of censored poets, Iron Press, 1995), Mother Tongues (a special issue of Modern Poetry in Translation, 2001), and Music While Drowning (an anthology of German Expressionist poems that accompanied an exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, Tate Publishing, 2003). His numerous translations and co-translations include books of modern Kurdish, Georgian and British Bangladeshi Poetry as well as volumes by A.N. Stencl, Meta Kušar, Amarjit Chandan, Adnan al-Sayegh, Golan Haji and Ziba Karbassi (from Yiddish, Slovenian, Punjabi, Arabic, Persian). He has also curated bilingual readings at several exhibitions (including Emil Nolde, Joan Miró, Arshile Gorky, Renato Guttuso and Francisco Toledo). He has worked in schools and hospitals as a writer on issues of well-being and creativity. The Republics, a film directed by Huw Wahl and based on Stephen Watts’ book Republic Of Dogs / Republic Of Birds has been premiered in 2020.  Since 1980 Stephen Watts has compiled an ongoing Bibliography of Modern Poetry in English Translation.

Hannes Schüpbach (b. 1965 in Winterthur, Switzerland) is a visual artist. His recent work has mainly involved 16mm silent films, which are shown in museums as well as at major film festivals. In London, his films have been screened at Tate Modern in 2009 (curated by Stuart Comer) and in 2013 at the Zilkha Auditorium of Whitechapel Gallery (curated by Gareth Evans). In 2009 his recent and earlier work was presented in the solo exhibition Hannes Schüpbach: Stills and Movies at Kunsthalle Basel (curated by Adam Szymczyk). Several of his films, among them Erzählung (2007) L’Atelier (2007), the trilogy Spin / Verso / Contour (2011), Instants (2012), and Essais (2020), deal with the moments from which art is created. With his translation of 19 poems by Stephen Watts and the installation Explosion of Words, dedicated to Watts and his oeuvre, he continues his ‘reading’ of fellow artists.

Jo Catling is a writer, translator and academic. She studied Modern Languages at the Universities of Oxford, Freiburg im Breisgau and Tübingen. From 1993 onwards she lectured in German Literature and Language at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, where she was a colleague of W.G. Sebald until his untimely death in 2001. She has published widely on Rilke, translation, and Sebald, whose essays on literature she is translating (A Place in the Country, Hamish Hamilton, 2013; Silent Catastrophes: Essays on Austrian Literature, forthcoming). Together with Richard Hibbitt she edited Saturn’s Moons: W.G. Sebald – A Handbook (Legenda, 2011). She remains affiliated to UEA and to the Translation Research Group at the British Centre for Literary Translation.

Chris McCabe’s work spans artforms and genres including poetry, fiction, non-fiction, drama and visual art. His work has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and the Republic of Consciousness Prize. His latest poetry collection, The Triumph of Cancer is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and he is the editor of several anthologies including Poems from the Edge of Extinction: An Anthology of Poetry in Endangered Languages. His first novel, Dedalus, is a sequel to Ulysses; his second, Mud, a version of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, set beneath Hampstead Heath. He is working on an epic series of psychogeographical books documenting the lost poets buried in London's Victorian cemeteries, the latest of which is Buried Garden: Lockdown with the Lost Poets of Abney Park Cemetery. He works at the National Poetry Library in his role as the National Poetry Librarian.

Nisha Ramayya grew up in Glasgow and now lives in London. Her poetry collection States of the Body Produced by Love (2019) is published by Ignota Books. Recent poems and essays can be found online in CCA Annex, JUF, and Spam Zine; and in print in Wasafiri and Magma. She teaches Creative Writing at Queen Mary University of London.  


Access Information for ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre

  • Directional and locational signage for the lecture theatre(s) is available in upper and lower case lettering that is clearly visible.
  • The corridor outside the lecture theatre(s) is sufficiently wide enough (150cm+) to allow wheelchair users to pass.
  • There is step free access into the lecture theatre(s).
  • The door opening width(s) is/are 75cm+ for the lecture theatre(s).
  • The door(s) for the lecture theatre(s) is/are push pad activated.
  • There are designated spaces for wheelchair users within the lecture theatre(s).
  • The designated spaces for wheelchairs users are located at the back.
  • There is level access to the designated seating from an entrance.
  • There is space for an assistance dog.
  • There is step free access to the speaker's area at the front of the lecture theatre.
  • There is staggered seating within the lecture theatre.
  • The steps to the staggered seating do not have handrails.
  • There is not a hearing assistance system for the lecture theatre(s).
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  • There is fixed furniture within the lecture theatre(s).
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  • A height adjustable table/bench is not available.
  • There are no chairs with armrests on both sides within the lecture theatre(s).
  • Floor coverings in the lecture theatre(s) are even with no trip hazards.

Access Information for the Nunnery Gallery

The Nunnery Gallery has step-free access throughout from street level, including to the accessible toilet, and is service animal friendly. This venue does not have a hearing loop system.

Accessible parking is not available on-site but blue badge parking can be found 500m away on Fairfield Road.

If you have any questions regarding accessibility at this venue or event, would like to make us aware of any access requirements that you have in advance of visiting, or would like this information in an alternate format including Easy Read, please email or call 020 8980 7774 (Ext. 3)

Travel Information

Opening hours: Tues-Sun, 10am to 4pm
Address: Nunnery Gallery, 181 Bow Road, London, E3 2SJ
Nearest station(s): Bow Road (District and Hammersmith and City lines) is a 6-minute walk away, and Bow Church (DLR) is a 3-minute walk away.
Bus: 205, 25, 425, A8, D8, 108, 276, 488 and 8 all service the surrounding area.
Bike: Bicycle parking is located at Bow Church Station. The nearest Santander Cycles docking station is at Bow Church Station.