Translating Concrete Poetry

Saison Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall, 5th floor, Southbank Centre

5th March 2014, 8pm

curated by Ricarda Vidal and Jenny Chamarette

This Translation Game was conceived specifically for the Special Edition series at the Saison Poetry Library, Southbank Centre. Its results were presented on the evening of 5th March 2014 at the Library.

This time we translated from poetry to film, scent and digital art and then back to poetry. We chose five poems from Antonio Claudio Carvalho’s concrete poetry magazine p.o.w.: Simon Barraclough’s “two sun spots”, Paul Brown’s “cold”, Antonio Claudio Carvalho’s “(the) flesh of gods”, Mel Gooding’s “sextet: improvisations”, and Chrissy Williams’s “murder she wrote”. We invited filmmaker Anna Cady, multimedia artist Sam Treadaway and digital artist Katja Knecht to choose one of the five poems and translate it into their medium.

Each of them  presented their translations on the evening of 5th March and discussed the challenges and revelations of translating from one medium (text) into another (fine arts).
The poet Steven Fowler simultaneously translated the discussions into live writing.
See his translation here.

Anna Cady’s filmic translation of Paul Brown’s poem ‘cold’ was retranslated into poetry at a workshop we held at the annual TCCE conference on 24th June.


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Our selection from p.o.w.

Each copy of P.O.W. is published on a fold-out poster. Follow the link to see images of the 5 poster poems we have chosen for the game.

The Source

entire powe seriesp.o.w.

p.o.w. (poetry / oppose / war) is inspired by the futura series edited by hansjorg mayer in the sixties. like futura, p.o.w. has also 26 editions with entropy – by mayer himself – finishing the series

antonio claudio carvalho – editor of p.o.w. – is an artist, poet and printmaker born in brazil he lives and works in rio de janeiro and edinburgh. his poetry has appeared in poetry review,  kontexts, strange faeces, blooknoot and many other magazines.
“antonio claudio carvalho, poet-historian of global art, proves himself to be a protagonist in the great debate on the current destiny of the image…”  (pierre restany)

The Translators

The filmmaker: Anna Cady

Paul Brown, "cold", P.O.W. 2013

Anna translated Paul Brown’s ‘cold’.
“It was essential, in creating this filmic translation of Paul Brown’s poem‘ Cold’, to retain the idea that a short ‘film is, itself, a poem’. I analysed each word, nuance and metaphor; yet only occasionally did this result in a literal visual translation. I felt there was a danger that I might find myself making an illustration so I avoided images of ice and snow. Sometimes, as with the stanza ‘slicing the tumour’, I found it was better to translate whole stanzas into a kind of parallel visual physical experience. This work is a collage / sketch – constructed out of scraps.”

A version of Anna’s film without the recital of the poem was used for retranslation into poetry at the TCCE workshop on 24th June.

Bio: Anna Cady  often works co-creatively and responsively with others who are not artists. For example, from 2008-10 she worked on ‘It Works Both Ways’ with Louisa Makolski who could not speak or move her body voluntarily; her short stop motion short film – ‘Farms of Innocence’ – which portrays a child’s view of global warming screened at Tate Modern and toured internationally with Figuring Landscapes.
A short animated documentary – 30% (Women and Politics in Sierra Leone) – was selected for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. She is currently working on another animated documentary in Kenya whilst also directing and curating the third element of Elemental Dialogues where she is working to interpret her short films – with poets, musicians, sound artists, dancers and performance drawing. Residencies include several months in India and, throughout last year, sixteen films installed at Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire (National Trust).
Founder member of ‘neuf’ – experimental film group based in Cambridge. Creator and facilitator of ‘Questions’ – a crit group for women artists from all disciplines.
MA (Goldsmiths college London 1998-2000) BA1st class (Winchester School of Art 94-98) BA Textiles (Farnham 1969-73)
Website: www.annacady.com


The digital artist: Katja Knecht

Mel Gooding, "sextet: improvisations – a garland for a painter of modern life", P.O.W. 2013sound

“London Trajectories is a sound translation of the first part of Mel Gooding’s improvisation no. 3, in reference to André Debord, from the “sextet: improvisations – a garland for a painter of modern life”. In a series of walks, I explored London by foot, underground and bus collecting sounds of my travels, experiences and encounters. The recordings have been arranged as a set of soundtracks that are to be played simultaneously to create a joint soundscape. The listener would ideally explore this soundscape by moving through, his/her own trajectory thus resulting in an individual version of my translation.”



Bio: Katja Knecht is an interaction designer and researcher. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Queen Mary University of London in the Media and Arts Technology Programme. With a background in media and architecture, her main interests lie in exploring concepts of space and atmosphere through digital means and in creating tangible environments and spatial experiences.


The scent-maker: Sam Treadaway

simon barracloughSniff Disc is the result of a transformation of the poem ‘two sun spots’ by Simon Barraclough, into smell. Within five short lines, the poem’s circular form appears to transport the reader from the ‘Big Bang’ and the beginning of time to the everyday routine of breakfast. The resulting scent is composed of five materials, one to represent each line of the poem; iron, opium poppy, orange , cedar wood, and leather. Sniff Disc references connections between the fields of perfumery and music which share common vocabulary such as ‘composing’, ‘notes’, and ‘chords’. Its fabrication mimics fragrance blotting strips, whilst its design borrows the LP record’s format of disc, sleeve and cover. In a literal translation the scents’ materials are listed by both their common and Latin names printed like song titles on a record. At five centimetres in diameter the poem’s text reduces in size until illegible, its words seemingly dissolved at its epicentre in a single drop of liquid scent.”

Sam Treadaway, "Sniff Disk", 2014

Sam Treadaway, “Sniff Disk”, 2014

Bio: Sam Treadaway is a UK-based artist whose practice includes sculpture, installation, drawing, book-arts, and live events. In making use of existing frictions between aesthetic form and utilitarian function, he edits and re-aligns found objects, structures, and systems thus generating new outcomes. The interplay between the arts and other fields of knowledge, such as science and philosophy, often inform these processes.
Recent exhibitions and events include; Revolve:R bookwork & giclée prints at Ceri Hand Gallery, London, UK. | « , Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, UK. | Emergency, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, UK. | The Paper Cooperative, Spacex Gallery, Exeter, UK.
Website: www.samtreadaway.com


The live writing poet: SJ Fowler

Steve live writing“The final translation in play, liminal and marginal, a translation of the revealing of the translations, will be SJ Fowler’s live writing response, taking place throughout the event – a continuous, fragmentary, aberrant flow of poetic transliteration to the speech, art, audience and environment of Translation at the Poetry Library.”
See his translation here.

Bio: SJ Fowler is a poet, artist, martial artist and vanguardist. He has published six collections of poetry, and been commissioned for original works of poetry, sonic art, visual art, installation and performance by the Tate, the London Sinfonietta, Electronic Voice Phenomena, Penned in the Margins, the Liverpool Biennale and Mercy. He has performed at venues across the globe, from Mexico to Iraq, and is translated into 13 languages. He is the poetry editor of 3am magazine, founder of the Maintenant series and curator the Enemies project.
Website: www.sjfowlerpoetry.com, blog www.blutkitt.blogspot.com, twitter @stevenjfowler

Steve has written about his experience with TG: p.o.w. on his blog. Read his entry here.