Snapshots from UNESCO Cities of Literature

Words and Visuals From Literary Cities

An exhibition of words and images from eighteen UNESCO Cities of Literature  at the 2016 Reykjavík Reads Festival in October. The exhibition opened on October 1st 2016 at the Reykjavík City Hall and it runs through October 21st.

Every October we celebrate reading and writing in Reykjavík during the month long Reykjavík Reads Festival. This year’s theme is words and visuals under the title MORE THAN A 1000 WORDS. Reykjavík is one of twenty UNESCO Cities of Literature that in turn are part of the wider UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The Network currently counts 116 cities in the creative fields of literature, design, film, gastronomy, media art and crafts and folk art. On the occasion of the Reykjavík Reads 2016 festival, which is also a celebration of Reykjavík’s five year anniversary as a UNESCO City of Literature, we invite you to take a short trip between eighteen Cities of Literature and get a glimpse of their creative riches. Poems and short prose texts are displayed from the cities, old and new, from poets and writers as diverse as the cities they come from.

The UNESCO Cities of Literature are, Reykjavík (Iceland): Baghdad (Iraq), Barcelona (Spain), Dublin (Ireland), Dunedin (New Zealand), Edinburgh (Scotland), Granada (Spain), Heidelberg (Germany), Iowa City (USA), Krakow (Poland), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Lviv (Ukraine), Melbourne (Ausralia), Montevideo (Uruguy), Norwich (England), Nottingham (England), Obidos (Portugal), Prague (Czeck Republic), Tartu (Estonia) andUlyanovsk (Russia).

Below, you can read about the participating cities and the authors.

Cities and Artists

Baghdad

Baghdad in Iraq has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2015.

Then things to know about Baghdad as a City of Literature

zahir-aljizani

Zahir al-Jizani

ljod_bagdhad

WIDYAN’S FACE

God ..
Assist me.. to see her face
Assist me.. to arrange her laugh,
the movements of her feet,
and the leanings of her hands… on the walls of the house
or when her feet are twisted and she falls
or when she starts crying.
O God of the far-off sky!
O Maker of light, mud and water,
O Opener of His doors for prayers,
And Giver of the secrets of His might to all,
assist me.. to see.. her face.

Translation: Sadek R. Mohammed.

ZAHIR AL-JIZANI was born in Baghdad in 1948. He has published three books of poetry: Come Let’s Go to the Desert (1978), For the Clarification of the Confusion of Intention (1980), and The Father in his Personal Evening (1989). Widyan is the name of the poet’s daughter whom he was forced to leave an infant with his family when he left Iraq to escape the persecution of the dictator and his regime in 1990.

Barcelona

Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2015.

Ten things to know about Barcelona as a City of Literature

Barcelona City of Literature website

Alexandre Plana og Josep Pla 1920

Josep Pla

4 d’octubre 1919

“¿Per què no escrius com t’ha dit sempre el senyor Fabra a la penya, d’una manera natural, segons el
llenguatge parlat… segons la manera de parlar del teu ambient? ¿No em comprens?”

“Si, ho comprenc. Pensava, però, que la literatura anava per aquest camí…

[...]

“T’has de separar d’aquestes coses…”

“¿De quines coses?”

“T’has de separar de la retòrica, del preciosisme, del refinament, de les paraules, de la literatura
diferent… Quan llegeixes el que has escrit, no t’agrada ni a tu mateix. Si ho publiquessis, ¿a qui vols
que agradés fora dels quatre amics de la capelleta? Creu-me a mi. Deixa estar les capelletes! No
escriguis pensant en el que has llegit: escriu amb el teu temperament. ”

 

4 October 1919

“Why don’t you write as Sr. Fabra is always telling the circle, naturally, as people
speak… as people speak in the circles you move in? Do you understand me?”

“Yes, I understand. But I thought that was the path to follow if you wanted to write literature.”

[…]

“You must put such things behind you.”

“Which things?”

“You must break with rhetoric, precious subtlety, verbosity, with highfalutin literature. When you
read what you have written, you don’t even like it yourself. If you ever published it, who would like it
apart from the four friends who belong to your clique? Believe me. Forget the cliques. Don’t write
with your mind on what you have read: follow your own temperament.”

From the book The Gray Notebook (El quadern gris)
English edition: New York Review of Books, 2013
Original edition: Barcelona, 1966

JOSEP PLA (1897 – 1981), is one of the most widely read and popular Catalan writer of all times. He was born in Palafrugell on the Costa Brava to a family of landowners. He studied law in Barcelona, but changed law for working in journalism. As a journalist he worked in France, Italy, England, Germany and Russia, from whence he wrote political and cultural chronicles.

In 1921 Pla was elected as a Member of Parliament of Catalonia. In 1924, under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, he was condemned to exile because of a critical article about the Spanish military policy.
After 1947 his work began to be published in Catalan, and his complete works (thirty-eight volumes and over twenty-five thousand pages) were fully published in 1966.

 

Dublin

Dublin in Ireland has been a UNESCO City of Literature since.

Ten things to know about Dublin as a City of Literature

Dublin UNESCO City of Literature website

allihies-june-201

Tony Curtis

ON FIRST LOOKING ONTO THE SAMUEL BECKET BRIDGE

This morning I saw the bridge
for the first time.
I wasn’t discouraged.
Out of the mist
a white arc reaches into the air,
a whalebone washed in on the tide.
Beneath it,
Twenty-five suspension wires hang
Taut as musical strings.
From a distance it looks like
a great Irish harp lying on its side,
something Carolan might pick up
to compose a planxty, a tune
to the glory of the ceaseless river.

In time people moving over the bridge
will become the books, the plays.

TONY CURTIS was born in Dublin in 1955. An award-winning poet, Curtis has published ten warmly received collections. His most recent titles are Folk (Arc Publications, 2011), Pony, with drawings and paintings by David Lilburn (Occasional Press, 2013) and Approximately in the Key of C (Arc Publications, 2015). He has been awarded the Irish National Poetry Prize and has read his poetry all over the world to great acclaim. He is a member of Aosdána, which honours artists who have made an outstanding contribution to the creative arts in Ireland.

Dunedin

Dunedin in New Zealand has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2014.

Ten things to know about Dunedin as a City of Literature

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature website

Peter Olds

Peter Olds

WINTER WALTZ

In the thin warmth of a sun-beam
in the Octagon
I sit on a bench
& watch the cars glide by

On Flagstaff
they’re looking for
a mental patient
who’s wandered off
a track
in the snow

PETER OLDS (b.1944), who left school at sixteen and began writing poetry in the 1960s, has been called “the laureate of the marginalised … perhaps the last true survivor of the ’60s school of those writing under the influence in search of inner visions”. In 2005 he was an inaugural recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry. He lives in the South Island city of Dunedin. His first published collection was Lady Moss Revived (1972), his most recent, You fit the description, a comprehensive selected poems published by Cold Hub Press in 2014.

Fellow poet Emma Neale has written: “Peter Olds’s poems are often moving and gruelling for their honesty about both the euphoria and the aftermath of pushing oneself to the edge of experience. They’re often vivid, visual, social realist and darkly wry pictures of New Zealand city and town life …

Edinburgh

Edinburgh in Scotland has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2004.

Eight things to know about Edinburgh as a City of Literature

Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature website

the-first-edinburgh-makar-stewart-conn

 Stewart Conn

ON CALTON HILL

. . . The mist miraculously clears. It is
as though the city were unveiling, the setting
sun discharging quivering rays of light;
the Castle rock caught in such effulgence
the walls seem to levitate, only in no time
to be consigned to darkness.
But glance
north-west: a span of the Forth bridge
is just visible, Scotland spread out beyond
like a great plaid, Edinburgh the glistening
clasp that fastens it, that pins it in place.

STEWART CONN has for many years lived in Edinburgh, where until 1992 he was head of BBC Scotland’s Radio Drama Department.  From 2002 to 2005 he was the inaugural Edinburgh makar (or poet laureate). His plays have been widely staged at home and abroad; while among his many poetry publications are Ghosts at Cockcrow, The Breakfast Room (2011 Scottish Poetry Book of the Year) and a new and selected volume The Touch of Time (all Bloodaxe Books), and most recently Against the Light (Mariscat Press). In 2006 he received the Institute of Contemporary Scotland’s Iain Crichton Smith award for services to literature, and he can be heard reading a selection of his work on the Poetry Arcive’s website.

His recurring themes range from the interplay of our affections and the vulnerability of our lives to responses to works of art, and a oneness with landscape which here has Edinburgh as both subject and vantage-point.

Granada

Granada in Spain has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2014.

Ten things to know about Granada as a City of Literature

angeles-mora-mayo13

 Ángeles Mora

COSAS QUE SUCEDEN ALLÍ ARRIBA

Busqué en mis versos
el aire de la Alhambra,
y brillando surgió desde el olvido
aquella noche
de luna en los estanques y en tus ojos:
años ochenta, Alberti recitando
a Lorca entre arrayanes,
rumor de agua.
Tu voz roja en mi oído
Altas torres guardando a los poetas.

THINGS THAT HAPPEN UP THERE

I sought in my poems
the air of the Alhambra,
and out of lost memory burst shining
that night
of moonlight on the ponds and in your eyes:
nineteen eighties, Alberti reciting
Lorca among the myrtles,
murmur of water.
Your voice red in my ear.
Tall towers guarding the poets.

English translation: Ross Howard

After receiving her degree in Spanish Philology from the University of Granada, ÁNGELAS MORA was awarded the Rafael Alberti Prize for La guerra de los treinta años (1990). Her first four books of poetry are collected in Antología poética (1995). Other publications include ¿Las mujeres son mágicas? (2000), Contradicciones, pájaros (Visor, 2001; City of Melilla prize winner, translated into Italian as Contraddizioni, uccelli, 2005), Bajo la alfombra (Visor, 2008) and Ficciones para una autobiografía (Bartleby, 2015; Spanish National Critics’ Prize winner).

Heidelberg

Heidelberg in Germany has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2014.

Ten things to know about Heidelberg as a City of Literature

Heidelberg UNESCO City of Literature website

Ralph Dutli

Ralph Dutli

DIESES FÜR NEPOMUK

die Erinnerung ist eine seltene Ruine / gezackt unter japanischen Blitzen / er aber unten einsam / bei der alten Brücke / der Heilige der Verschwiegenheit der Wassergefahren leuchtende Leiche / Fünf-Sterne-Heiliger des Beichtgeheimnisses / sein Merkmal die rote Zunge die den roten Sandstein leckt / in die Moldau geworfen aus dem Neckar aufgetaucht / Brückenheilige sind Langschwimmer, fünffach besternt:

Solange hältst du auf die Brücke zu, bis sie dir in den Rücken fällt!
Solange hörst du die Beichten, bis die irren Brücken fliegen!
Solange leuchten fünf Sterne, bis der Wunsch über die Ufer tritt!

THIS ONE FOR NEPOMUK

memory is a rare ruin / jagged under japanese lightning / but he down there lonely / near the Old Bridge / the saint of secrets kept
of dangers birthed in waters radiant corpse / a Five-Stars-Saint
of the seal of confession / his defining mark the red tongue licking red sandstone / plunged into the Vltava resurfaced in the Neckar / the saints of bridges are long-distance-swimmers crowned fivefold by stars:

You head for the bridge, until it stabs you in the back!
You listen to the confessions, until the lunatic bridges fly!
You see five stars shine, until desire bursts its banks!

English translation: The author

RALPH DUTLI, born in 1954, is a novelist, poet, essayist, biographer and translator of Russian poetry (Osip Mandelstam, Marina Tsvetaeva, Joseph Brodsky). His latest books are the novels Soutine’s Last Journey (2013) and The Lovers of Mantova (2015).

Iowa City

Iowa City in USA has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2008.

Ten things to know about Iowa City as a City of Literature

Iowa UNESCO City of Literature website

david-morice

David Morice

A MAP OF THE IMAGINATION

I came to you, a city shifting and switching

From mind to mind, from world to word.

I traveled here through the countryside in 1969
From St. Louis, where I grew up.

Your buildings remind me of the toy metropolises
That my sister Delaine and I put together in childhood

Try Toy Epic – that’s an anagram of Poetry City.
I want to go there, not to visit, but to live.

Now where did I put that map of Iowa City?
I want to see the town; I want to read its sidewalks.

I want to find Poetry City. Did I lose that map?
Ah, here it is, beneath countless poems.

From the book Poetry City: A Literary Remembrance of Iowa City, Iowa

DAVE MORICE is from St Louis, Missouri. After earning his bachelor’s degree in English at St. Louis University, he moved to Iowa City, where he earned an MFA in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a master’s degree in Library Science. His thesis is the shortest in Workshop history (9 poems, 81 words). In 2010, for the University’s celebration of its City of Literature status, he wrote a 100-day poetry marathon at the UI Library and elsewhere. It is 10,119 pages. Bound and stored in Special Collections, it is the thickest book in the library, measuring 8.5 inches x 11 inches x 2 feet and weighing 56 pounds.

In 1978, he began publishing Poetry Comics, in which classical and contemporary poems are depicted in comic book form. Three collections of Poetry Comics have been published. He has edited Kickshaws, a column on wordplay in Word Ways magazine. He has rewritten Dante’s Inferno in limerick form. He has written more than 60 poetry marathons, including 1,000 poems at one sitting, a mile-long haiku, a poem off the top of an eight-story building, a poem across the Delaware River, a poem wrapping a city block, a poem across a football field during halftime, and many more.

Kraków

Kraków in Poland has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2013.

Ten things to know about Kraków as a City of Literature

Kraków UNESCO City of Literature website

krakow-julia-hartwig-pic-joanna-helander

Julia Hartwig

PO OMACKU

Najpiękniejsze jest to co jeszcze nieskończone

Niebo pełne gwiazd niezapisane jeszcze przez astronomów
szkic Leonarda i urwana wzruszeniem piosenka
Ołówek pędzel zawieszone w powietrzu

FEELING THE WAY

The most beautiful is what is still unfinished
a sky filled with stars uncharted by astronomers
a sketch by Leonardo a song broken off from emotion
A pencil a brush suspended in the air

English translation: Bogdana and John Carpenter, The Praise of the Unfinished. Knopf Doubleday, 2008.

JULIA HARTWIG (b. 1921) is a poet and translator of belles-lettres. She was a liaison officer of the Home Army (AK) during the Second World War. In 1970–1974, Hartwig and her husband, Artur Międzyrzecki, lived in the US where she lectured at the University of Iowa. She made her début in 1956 with a volume entitled Pożegnania (Farewells). Hartwig published her poems in Tygodnik Powszechny weekly and in various other publications. She is a three time nominee to Nike Literary Award and has been a notable guest of the Milosz Festival in Kraków for many years. Hartwig is published by a5 in Kraków.

Ljubljana

Ljubljana in Slovenia has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2015.

Ten things to know about Ljubljana as a City of Literature

Ljubljana UNESCO City of Literature website

andrej-blatnik-foto-mateja-jordovic-potocnik

Andrej Blatnic

TROMOSTOVJE

Nekateri pravijo: trije mostovi so preveč, naj bo en sam, naj se ne deli tok ljudi na tri strani. Eden je dovolj, združen je močnejši narod naš.
Drugi menijo: na treh mostovih se šele začne izbiranje, in važno je, da mogoče je izbirati. Vse tri, če hočeš počasi reko prečiti. Dva, če hočeš spet nazaj, kjer si pričel. Ali pač enega, če ti do izbire ni in se ti le mudi na drugo stran.

So pa tudi taki, ki ne govorijo nič, le gledajo v nebo in dol v vodó: mostov vidiš več, če gledaš tudi tja, kamor ne pogleda vsak. Ne moreš jih otipati, a kaj bi to? Važno je, da prideš čez. In vsakič, ko prečkaš most, viden ali ne, si prišel naprej, vsakič se odpre nov svet. In zdaj izbiraj: enega? Dva? Tri?

TRIPLE BRIDGE

Some people say: three bridges are too much, there shall be only one, you shall not part the people’s flow into three streams. One is enough: united is our nation strong.

The others claim: three bridges start the choice, and it is important that you have the choice. You can choose all three of them if your choice is to cross the river in a slow and thoughtful way. Two, if you want to get back to where you started from. Or just one, if you do not care for choice and only rush to the other side.

And there are those who do not speak; they look up at the sky or down where water flows: you can see more bridges if you look there where not everybody looks. You can not touch them, but what difference does that make? The important thing is that you can cross. Every time you cross a bridge, seeing it or not, you step ahead, and every time a new world opens there for you. And now you choose: one? Two? Three?

 

ANDREJ BLATNIC (Ljubljana, 1963) holds a PhD in communication studies. After working as a fiction editor for twenty years, at present he teaches publishing studies as an Associate Professor at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He has published twelve books in Slovenian, including three books of theory, and over thirty in translation. Blatnic has been awarded both Slovenian and international literary awards and had numerous readings around the world, including at the PEN World Voices Festival in New York, Kosmopolis in Barcelona, International Festival of Authors in Toronto and Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur, India. Blatnik participated in International Writing Program in Iowa City in 1993. He still enjoys travelling on a shoestring.

Lviv

Lviv in Ukraine has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2015.

Ten things to know about Lviv as a City of Literature

author-photo-izdryk-reykjavik-2016

Yri Izdry

Юрій Іздрик

я мешкаю в місті якого нема

молюся до бога відомого всім

всередині в мене – порожня пітьма

та іноді й там загорається світло

 

обожнюю всіх тонкорунних дівчат

що суть віддзеркалення діви дів

не йти уперед й не дивитись назад –

найкраще з усього що я тут зумів

 

RETORT

I live in the city that doesn’t exist

I pray to a God that everyone knows

Inside of me is but empty darkness

Although sometimes there too light flashes on

 

I really adore all the fair-haired girls

They are in essence a reflection of Mary

The best thing I could do here is

Not to look back and go forward.

 

English translation: Julia Didikha VERBatsiya project

YRI IZDRYK is a novelist, poet and cultural scholar. Among his works are Stanislav and its Liberators (1996), Underwor (L) d (2011), Izdryk Yu (2013), AB OUT (2014), Calendar of Love (2015), The Island of Krk and Other Stories (1994) and the multimedia project Summa (with Ye. Nesterovych).  He is the editor and founder of the cult literary and art magazine Chetver and co-founder and front man of the band DRUMTYATR.

Izdryk received the BBC Ukrainian Book of the Year Award  in 2009. Some of his works have been translated into Polish, English, Russian and German. Yri Izdryk  lives in the city of Kalush but his literary life is strongly connected to Lviv.

Melbourne

Melbourne in Australia has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2008.

Tem things to know about Melbourne as a City of Literature

Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature website

tto-pic-4gippsland-002

TT.O.

GEORGE ST. STATE SCHOOL

my mother told me
to do as they say
(i was 5)

On the 1st day
we walked thru the playground, thru a door;
into a windy tunnel, along a muddy corridor, to enrol;
They were all facing the wall (i cried); and
the whole class sang a nursery rhyme
till she’d gone; And I got dragged by the hair
to the platform (as an example
of dirty knees); to be made an example of; While
“pet” Partridge beamed at the back (cos
his mum, was President of this
and President of that); While my mum, came everyday
in her lunchbreak from FOYS (textiles) (in
Smith Street), to feed me cold broth (thru the wire
nets cos I didn’t have thr’pence …

TT.O. is a “famous poet”. After 41 years as a draughtsman he is now retired. He grew up in Fitzroy, and now lives in Darebin. He has published many books the latest being Big Numbers — New & selected poems, and Fitzroy – the Biography. He currently edits the poetry magazine Unusual Work, was a founding member of the Poets Union, and performance poetry in Australia. He has also edited an anthology of performance poetry Off The Record (1985) with Penguin Books, and Missing Forms, an anthology of visual poems.

Norwich

Norwich in England has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2012.

Ten things to know about Norwich as a City of Literature

Writers’ Centre Norwich and the City of Literature website

Upplestur á ljóði Meir Ben Elijah

Meir Ben Elijah

WHO IS LIKE YOU?
(excerpt)

With pestilence he smote their cattle
and broken was their pride by boils.
All the magicians preened in vain
for this was far beyond their powers.

The hail came down with crushing force
and fire approached towards the land.
And every creature left outside,
man or beast, the fire consumed.

Locusts shall spoil your corn and wine
and ravage all your threshing floors.
And this shall be an oft told tale
repeated in your children’s ears.

English translation: Bente Elsworth and Ellman Crasnow

MEIR BEN ELIJAH, one of the earliest English poets writing in Hebrew, probably worked in Norwich between the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. His oeuvre, which lay undiscovered in the Vatican archives for many centuries, has been identified as the work of a single man by the acrostic on which this long poem, ‘Who Is Like You?’, is based: “I am Meir, b. r. Eliahu, from the city of Norgitz [Norwich] which is in the land of isles called Angleterre. May I grow up in the Torah of my Creator and in fear of him; Amen, Amen, Selah”. The poem, a reworking of The Book of Genesis, highlights the suffering and persecution of Norwich’s medieval Jewish community through its vivid imagery of plague and exile.

Nottingham

Nottingham in England has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2015.

Ten things to know about Norwich as a City of Literature

Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website

John Lucas

John Lucas

THE ARBORETUM
(excerpt)

There’s no pagoda here
the bandstand hints at crimson, spike of gold,
whatever quickens eye
or rumours at inventive ear
of braying brass. But the one soldier’s old.
Under a leafstrewn sky
he dozes on his bench seat near
the four Sebastapol cannon on which mould
greens and glimmers wetly.

‘The Arboretum’ is from JOHN LUCAS’s first collection of poetry, About Nottingham. John Lucas is a critic, jazz band leader, poet, novelist, publisher and an emeritus professor at two universities. His many works include an English version of Egil’s Saga, an Everyman classic, and a prize-winning travel memoir, 92 Acharnon Street. Since 1994, he has run Shoestring Press, one of the UK’s biggest poetry publishers.

Prague

Prague in the Czech Republic has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2014.

Ten things to know about Prague as a City of Literature

Prague UNESCO City of Literature website

prag_m-iljasenko-photo

Marie Iljašenko

VLTAVA

Tohle je místo, kam jsi přišel: město a břeh

řeky, která nemá než slepá ramena.

Bílé světlo říčních limanů zůstalo jinde,

vybledlé jako východní díván.

 

Vltava kvete: v chatové kolonii čtou staří básníci

o sobotách své opus magnum. Kdekdo něco o lásce,

ale v pralese jsou stále místa,

kde ještě nikdy nikdo nebyl.

……………………………………………………………………

……………………………………………………………………

……………………………………………………………………

 

Ta místa ještě nemají jména.

 

The Vltava

This is the place you have reached: the city and the bank

of the river that has but oxbows.

The white light of the river estuaries lingers elsewhere,

faded like a divan from the East.

The Vltava is in bloom: on Saturdays, old poets read their

magna opera in a cottage colony. They mostly tell of love

but there are still places in the ancient forest

no one has ever been.

…………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………

These places remain nameless.

 

English translation: Veronika Francová

MARIE ILJSENKO (1983) was born in Kiev (Ukraine) to a family with Czech-Polish roots. She graduated from comparative literature at Charles University in Prague. A collection of her poems Osip míří na jih (Osip aims to south) was published in 2015 and was nominated for the Magnesia Litera Price.

Reykjavík

Reykjavík has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2011.

Ten things to know about Reykjavík as a City of Literature

thora-jonsdottir

 

Þóra Jónsdóttir

LANDREKSKENNINGIN

Sprungan liggur þvert yfir landið
og gegnum grunn húsanna
þar sem rúmin okkar standa

Við smölum gjástykkin
sérhvern dag
og stöndum með sitthvorn fót
á börmunum

Undir rennur rauð kvika
kallar á gos
Við vitum ekki hvoru megin
Úrslit eru lengi í gerjun
eins og mosinn veit

 

CONTINENTAL DRIFT

The fissure runs right across the land
and through the foundations of houses
where our beds stand

We gather up pieces of chasms
each and every day
and stand with one foot
on either side

Beneath, red magma runs
invoking eruptions
We do not know which side

The outcome is a long time fermenting
as the moss knows

English translation: Bernard Scudder

ÞÓRA JÓNSDÓTTIR was born in 1925, in the Bessastaðir area of Álftanes, but at a young age moved with her family to the farm Laxamýri, in the north of Iceland. Þóra taught at college from 1948-1949, studied literature at the University of Copenhagen from 1949-1952, and in 1968 received her teaching degree from the University College of Education in Iceland. From 1975-1982, she worked at the Reykjavík City Library.

Þóra’s first book of poetry, Leit að Tjaldstæði (Looking For a Campsite), was published in 1973; and since then, her prodigious output has included poetry collections and translations of poetry. A book with selected poems from her earlier books was published by the publishing house Salka in 2005. Þóra lives in Reykjavik.

Tartu

Tartu in Estonia has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2015.

Ten things to know about Tartu as a City of Literature

Kristjan Jaak Peterson

Timo Maran

VARJATUD TARTU

Novembri lõpp. Miinus viis. Tulen risti
üle Toome Rootsi bastioni varemete
ja Baeri ausamba vahelt. Õhk aurab,
mulda ja lehti katab valge kirme.
Ilm on selge, päike käib poolviltu kusagil
Tähetorni taga. Värvid on karged,
pisut sinised. Puude ladvad sirutavad
end välja, taevas saab üha kõrgemaks.
Toomkiriku kaks terrakotapunast torni
küünituvad üles, Kassitoome vajub
sügavale alla. Kesklinna korstnatest
tõuseb suitsu, valgeid, peenikesi lõngu, mis
kerkivad, kuniks kaovad. Märkan,
et keegi on Kristjan Jaagu pihku torganud
hiiglasliku nööpnõela, mille tipp on taevas ja
tera maa südames. Tartu varjatud vertikaal.

 

HIDDEN TARTU

End of November. Minus five. I come across
the Toome Hill between the ruins of the Swedish bastion
and Baer’s monument. The air is steaming
the soil and leaves are covered with white frost.
The weather is bright, the sun moves ascance somewhere
behind the old observatory. The colours are bright
slightly bluish. The treetops stretch themselves
out and the sky becomes higher and higher.
The two terracota towers of the cathedral
crane upwards, the valley behind it – Kassitoome –
seems to be sinking. The downtown chimneys
smoke, white thin threads that
go up in the air till they vanish. I notice
that somebody has put a giant pin into the hand of
Kristjan Jaak, a giant pin with its tip in the sky and
the point in the heart of the earth. The hidden vertical of Tartu.

English translation: Kersti Unt

TIMO MARAN (b. 1975) is a poet and a semiotician. He is a senior research fellow at the Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu. He is an author of many scholarly articles and editor of academic collections. Maran has written mostly nature poetry and published three poetry collections. He is a member of the literary group Erakkond which was formed in Tartu in 1995. His poetry has been translated into Finnish and English. His poem Varjatud Tartu / „Hidden Tartu“ was firts published in the literary magazine Looming in 2012 and republished together with the English translation in the multilingual collection Picture and Word. Crazy Tartu 2010–2012.

The statue is of Kristjan Jaak Peterson – the founder of modern Estonian poetry, a writer who deliberately wrote in Estonian. The staff hints at a widespread legend about Peterson – his travels on foot from Tartu to Riga because of lack of money. An excerpt from one of his poems, “Kuu” (Moon),  is inscripted, it can be translated as ‘Cannot the tongue of this land, born by the wind of song rise up to the heavens seeking eternity.‘

Ulyanovsk

Ulyanovsk in Russia has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2015.

Ten things to know about Ulyanovsk as a City of Literature

Gala Uzryutova

Gala Uzryutova

ULYANOVSK. THE NAME UNDER THE SNOW

Lenin breathes under the snow
leninleninlenin
it melts, and he doesn’t
over the hill one can hear the river
will be able to enter into the river twice?
snow as a frozen light doesn’t crumble on everyone
city with someone else’s surname
Oblomov’s snowy footprints
melt and turn into the Volga

 

GALA UZRYUTOVA was born in Ulyanovsk in 1983. She writes poems, plays and prose. In 2015 the publishing house “Russian Gulliver” (Moscow) issued a collection of her poems called On turning around you come across a forest. Gala is the winner of the Ulyanovsk Poetry Award named after Nikolay Blagov and a finalist of the Russian and Italian Literary Award “Rainbow”.  She was longlisted for the Award Debut.  Her poems have been translated into German and her prose into Italian.