Despite holidaying in Eyemouth, on Thursday last week, I joined most of the other contributors* (inlcuding one of the translators) at the Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh to launch 5PX2: Five Italian Poets and Five Scottish Poets. The evening was slightly chaotic but enormous fun. A good-sized audience, too, for a Thursday in holiday time with competition from the Science Festival.
Everybody’s work was performed in the original and translation. I don’t speak Italian, but hearing the contributors from Italy — Dome Bulfaro, Tiziana Cera Rosco, Tiziano Fratus, Federico Italiano and Eliana Deborah Langiu — enriched my appreciation of the translations considerably. At the last minute, I was asked to read the English translations for Dome Bulfaro, which was fun. It felt a bit like playing by ear, as I tried to follow his pauses as much as possible. Of my own five in the book (which are all new), I read “The White Dot” and “Breathing is the Place to Start”. For me, the highlights of the other performances were Matthew Fitt and his translator alternating the pages of “Kate O’Shanter’s Tale” between Scots and Italian; Tiziana Cera Rosco’s reading, which electrified her poems; and Tiziano Fratus’s translation of my “Breathing is the Place to Start”, which sounded truly beautiful.
These things are always about meeting people as much as about the poems. Some good friendships were made and others strengthened — I hadn't sat down with Matthew Fitt for a long time, for instance. The Italians were great craic; I only wish we could have spent more time together, but thanks are due to the Institute for the meal that enabled us to spend the time together that we did.
With all the conversation we’re having around here about younger Scottish poets, it was particularly refreshing to connect with a bunch poets under 40 from outside the Scottish and British bubbles. For some reason, the sheer volume of good will and admiration that exists abroad for Scotland and Scottish writing always takes me by surprise. Perhaps there’s more of the Scottish cringe left in me than I thought. Let's hope the evening helped to kill that vestige off.
*Unfortunately, Claire Askew couldn’t make it.