Hackney gallery to release book of poems celebrating the borough’s multicultural communities

Swirl Of Words / Swirl Of Worlds’ features 116 poems from 94 languages spoken across Hackney. Pic: PEER.

A Hackney gallery is to publish a poetry book celebrating the borough’s linguistic diversity.

‘Swirl Of Words / Swirl Of Worlds’ features 116 poems from 94 languages spoken across Hackney and will be published by PEER gallery, located in Hoxton Street, on June 4. 

Rosa Harvest, Deputy Director at PEER said: “PEER has been based in Hackney for over twenty years. As a small charitable arts organisation that works closely with local organisations and people, we are very aware of the incredible cultural and linguistic diversity within the local area. 

“For many reasons, this felt like the perfect moment to celebrate this diversity by gathering together a collection of poems representing languages spoken in the borough and making it available for free to Hackney library users.”

In about three months, over £11,000 was raised by a crowd-funding campaign to support the publishing of the book.

According to the campaign’s Pay It Forward page, around 260 people have contributed.  

The poems have been selected by poet and translator Stephen Watts and include names such as Federico García Lorca, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Stéphane Mallarmé as well as other contemporary, lesser-known and local poets, in an attempt to create a poetry map of Hackney.

The project’s original starting point was “A Bibliography of Modern Poetry In English Translation”, a research and publishing project by Stephen Watts himself. 

Around 3,000 copies of the book will be available for free to Hackney Library members, as well as a free online publication, digitally accessible on PEER’s website.

PEER’s Deputy Director said: “We hope that the project encourages a sense of pride and community within Hackney, in addition to encouraging understanding across cultures. 

“By producing this book and presenting the project in partnership with Shoreditch Library, we hope to engage local audiences with the work and widen cultural participation.” 

The launch of the book will be accompanied by a programme of events and an exhibition at PEER and Shoreditch Library, featuring artists’ film installations by Susan Hiller, Madiha Aijaz’s and Zineb Sedira.

Also included will be the work of artists who have past connections with PEER as previous exhibitors or as part of the wider artistic community. 

“By making the book available to collect at Hackney Libraries, alongside the wider exhibition and programme of events at PEER and Shoreditch Library, we hope to rebuild people’s confidence in these important public spaces as our communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Harvest.

Languages featured in the book include: Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Basque, Belarusian, Bengali, Bosnian, Bravanese, Bulgarian, Burmese, Catalan, Chinese, Creole/Haitian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dari, Dutch, English, Estonian, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Italian, Japanese, Kashmiri, Korean, Lao, Lingala, Lithuanian, Luganda, Malayalam, Maltese, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian/ Farsi, Portuguese, Romani, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Shona, Slovenian, Soninké, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, Turkish, Tigrinya, Twi, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh, Wolof, Xhosa, Yiddish and Yoruba.

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