In 2012-13 I was awarded the HALMA/Translator's House Wales Scholarship. HALMA is a network of 27 writers' centres across 20 countries in Europe.The Scholarships gave me a month as writer in residence in two of the HALMA centres, in Finland and Slovenia.
14 Jan. - 11 Feb. 2013 - Slovenia
For these four weeks I stayed at the Hostel Situla in Novo mesto, where my hosts were the publishers Goga, run by Mitja Ličen. Having shared a platform in Brittany with the great Slovene author and champion of small languages Boris Pahor more than a decade ago, I was keen to learn more about his country. The cliche that we write so glibly on postcards is true; I had a wonderful time in Slovenia. Goga have an office in Novo mesto's old town, around the corner from Hostel Situla, and a beautiful bookshop-cafe a few steps away in the Glavni trg - the main square.
I published some blog-essays during the trip on the Wales Literature Exchange website here, with some pictures. These were republished on the Institute for Welsh Affairs website and online by New Welsh Review.
Slovenia is a fascinating, beautiful and young country of two million people and has much to interest anyone from Wales. While I was there my short story 'Progress' was translated into Slovene by Tina Mahkota and some poems were translated by Barbara Pogačnik. I gave a reading and took part in several unforgettable events as well as TV and radio programmes. I witnessed the dissatisfaction of the Slovene people with the government of Janes Jansa and took part in the huge anti-government march in Ljubljana in February just before he was ousted. My thanks to the translators and to many others, especially the staff at Goga, including Mitja, the very thoughtful Vesna, Jelka, Jasna, Maša, Lucija, Matic, Brigita and brilliant publicist Nastja; to Luka and Simona for an amazing day during the anti-government protests on 8th February; and to Mirijam Skube, who invited me to speak at her school, and who with her husband Andrej introduced me to the beautiful, snowbound Mirna Gora and Bela Krajina.
What Happened in Finland...
From 22nd October - 19th November 2012 I spent four weeks in Finland, based in the Kirjailijatalo, the Writers' House in Jyväskylä, Central Finland. My host on behalf of HALMA and the Writers' Union of Central Finland was Finnish poet Vesa Lahti. Vesa translated a short story of mine and a short extract from my novel, The Book of Idiots. Also translating some of my poems was Marko Niemi of the poetry publishers, Poesia, based in Jyväskylä. The month in Finland was fascinating and intensely productive.
I wrote a series of prose pieces published as a blog on the Wales Literature Exchange Website here as well as producing new poems and working on the editing of a new collection which should appear in 2013. The blog pieces have been republished on the New Welsh Review website, and two of the pieces have appeared as essays in a US on-line publication, The Literary Explorer, here.
I also made all too brief an attempt at translating one of Vesa's poems, with his help, into both English and Welsh. I attended numerous literary events, Some extremely sober and serious, some crazy, as well as art openings and some electric cultural events in Vakiopaine, the best and coolest bar in the city. I also had a fascinating visit to Helsinki to meet publishers, where I was hosted by the brilliant Maria Pakkala. I sat in on a fascinating seminar in the University of Jyväskylä and visited and spoke to numerous publishers and translators. We gave readings of my work at the Writers' House on Friday 16th November. Some of my poems translated by Marko Niemi appeared in the anthologyValo kajahtaa, edited by Marko and published in 2013.
Here come some thanks to some of the many people who've shown me kindness and friendship on this trip: as well as Vesa and his family and Marko Niemi, they include: Outi Mattila; the remarkable cartoonist Panu Hämeenaho; poet, painter and barman Willie Lahti; Prof. Tuomo Lahdelma; Olli-Pekka Tennilä; Zuzanna Kurlikowska; Katariina Vuorinen; Kanerva Eskola; Laura Kuitunen (and her dad); two wonderful linguists and translators, Alice Martin and Maria Pakkala; Pasi Lönn and his partner; Jere and Riika, who played music and sang at the reading; and Niklas Salmi and his father Seppo Salmi, who was very generous with his time and who showed and explained to me the workings of one of the most significant cultural forces in Central Finland, the Kauko Sorjosen Foundation, of which he is a key part. I'm sure there are many more names I should have added. My apologies to anyone I've missed out.