Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

The most important literary news from Hong Kong, Romania, Moldova, and the UK.

It’s Friday and that means we are back with the latest literary news from around the world! From Hong Kong, Editor-at-Large Charlie Ng brings us the latest on theater, literary festivals, and poetry readings. MARGENTO brings us exciting news about past Asymptote-contributors and other brilliant writers from Romania and Moldova. Finally, our own assistant blog editor, Stefan Kielbasiewicz shares news about poetry in the UK. 

Charlie Ng, Editor-at-Large, Hong Kong

November is a month filled with vibrant literary performances and festivals in Hong Kong. On stage from late October to early November, a Cantonese version of The Father (Le Père) by French playwright, Florian Zeller, winner of the Molière Award for Best Play, is brought to Hong Kong audiences by the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre for the first time.

The seventeenth Hong Kong International Literary Festival kicked off on November 3 with a grand dinner with Scotland’s well-loved crime fiction writer, Ian Rankin, who also attended two other sessions as a guest speaker: Mysterious Cities: the Perfect Crime Novel and 30 Years of Rebus with Ian Rankin. Carol Ann Duffy was another Scottish writer featured in this year’s Festival. The British Poet Laureate read her poetry with musician John Sampson’s music accompaniment on November 9. The dazzling Festival programme includes both international authors such as Hiromi Kawakami, Amy Tan, Min Jin Lee, Ruth Ware, Hideo Yokoyama, and local writers and translators such as Xu Xi, Louise Ho, Dung Kai-cheung, Nicholas Wong, Tammy Ho, and Chris Song.

Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine organised a poetry reading session to celebrate the launch of the thirty-seventh issue of the publication on November 3. On November 17 and 18, Contemporary Legend Theatre from Taiwan will stage a Chinese opera version of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at Kwai Tsing Theatre. Hosted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong 2017 will run from November 2126. The biennial festival of poetry was inaugurated by renowned Chinese poet, Bei Dao, who is currently based in Hong Kong. The event this year is supported by the participation of twenty-four poets coming from all around the world, including Adonis, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Lorna Crozier, John Burnside, Charles Bernstein, Moon Chung-hee, Cui Jian, and many more. Approaching the end of the month, PEN Hong Kong will host a talk on “Censorship and Self-censorship in Hong Kong Today” on November 29.

MARGENTO, Editor-at-Large, Romania and Moldova

It’s been a febrile early autumn on the Romanian literary scene, and ours seems to be an international febrility. Violeta Savu, senior editor of Ateneu and past reviewer of Asymptote’s Romanian contents, was once again the driving force behind two festivals in Bacău (in Eastern Romania): Ateneu journal’s Colloquium (the theme of which was the “George Bacovia Effect” this year) and Bac-Fest, featuring poetry events, awards gala, round tables, and theatrical and musical performances.

In the west, in Timișoara, the County Library and its manager, poet Tudor Crețu threw a “LiTerrary” festival —LitVest—featuring outstanding Romanian poets like Ioan Es. Pop and international guests of stature Fiona Sampson and past Asymptote contributor Martin Glaz Serup.

In Bucharest last week, the Blitz Show Revival performance poetry series launched The Five Nations Tournament—not a rugby championship kickoff but the release of a poetry collection by Andrei Zbirnea. Emceed by Anca Bucur and Simona Popescu, the event announced more upcoming international multimedia performances. The fifth edition of FILIT took place last month in Iași (up north, on the Romanian side of the border of Moldova) with stars including past Asymptote contributors Olga Tocarczuk and Mircea Cărtărescu, and living classics like David Lodge.

The Bucharest-based American poet of remote Romanian extraction, Tara Skurtu, gave a reading at FILIT seems to have the right transnational profile for such events. She recently got top-billing at another international festival, Poets in Transylvania (in Sibiu), alongside Pulitzer winner Lloyd Schwartz and other writers from places as far apart as Republic of Moldova and Australia, before taking off to London to launch her latest collection.

Another Romanian-international poet, Paris-based Rodica Draghincescu, editor in chief of Levure littéraire has just launched in Germany a Frontier Portraits bilingual Romanian-German poetry anthology featuring fifty international poets from Ilya Kaminsky in California to Asymptote past contributor Șerban Foarță and Nicole Brossard in Canada.

Canada is actually a significant place on the Romanian-transnational map, as living legend Ana Blandiana was recently announced as the twelfth The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry’s Lifetime Recognition Award recipient, joining the hall of fame of other luminaries like Tomas Tranströmer, Ko Un, Adrienne Rich, Seamus Heaney, and Derek Walcott.

Stefan Kielbasiewicz, Assistant Blog Editor, United Kingdom

Last month the T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry announced its shortlist, including poets Caroline Bird, Michael Symmons Roberts, and Ocean Vuong, among many others. Over the past few years, the prize has been a contentious space for the recognition of poets of colour—in 2015, the poet Sarah Howe was accused in some corners of the British press for winning the prize due to being a woman of half-Chinese ethnicity. This year, in what was a great year for British poets of colour, one observer in the Guardian lamented the inclusion of only one poet of colour (Vuong), and a return to the status quo. The results of the prize will be announced on January 15, 2018. In other awards-related news, the winner of the prestigious Baillie Gifford Prize, the annual prize in the UK for nonfiction, will be announced on November 16.

Sarah Maguire, acclaimed poet as well as founder and the Artistic Director of the Poetry Translation Centre, died peacefully on November 2, the PTC reports. The author of four poetry collections, among other publications, she became “an active translator of contemporary Arabic poetry into English,” co-translating a novel by Afghanistan’s leading novelist, Atiq Rahimi. This season, the Poetry Translation Centre is offering a number of workshops from November to December, on poets including Adelaide Ivánova and Iraj Ziayi, as well as Japanese poetry.

Moving on from poetry, this Autumn season has been an exciting one for theatre in translation. The Royal Courts in London have put on a number of productions, including Bad Roads by Natal’ya Vorozhbit, trans. Sasha Dugdale, Goats by Liwaa Yazji, trans. Katharine Halls, and B by Guillermo Calderón, trans. William Gregory, which finished last month. The only theatre in the UK dedicated to translation, [Foreign Affairs] is presenting an English version of The Unburied. The Saint of Darkness by playwright András Visky, trans. Jozefina Komporaly from Novemeber 20-25. Last but not least, one year after the Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina staged Burning Doors with the Belarus Free Theatre in London, she returns once again on November 17 for a performance piece based on her memoir, Riot Days. Less exciting, and perhaps even a bit commodified: an immersive theatre performance, Inside Pussy Riot, at the Saatchi Gallery in London starting November 14, where audience members will experience “exactly what Pussy Riot went through during our imprisonment.”

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