Kerry Featherstone lectures in Creative Writing at Loughborough University. He is interested in writing about landscape and memory, and was MuBu poet for Alford Manor House (2010). He’s been published in journals such as Cleaves, The Journal, Tears in the Fence and the Coffeehouse. Kerry writes in French and English: recent poems based on his translation of a novel by Ingrid Thobois appeared in the Parnassus edition of Modern Poetry in Translation.
Kerry is originally from Lincolnshire. He spent a year in the Vendée before returning to study English and European Literature at The University of Essex. He did a PhD on Bruce Chatwin at Nottingham Trent University. After a year in Franche-Comté, he again returned to England to take up the post of Literature Office for Leicestershire County Council. He now sits on the Board for Apples and Snakes.
Spark Up The Sky
(taken from Le Roi d’Afghanistan ne nous a pas mariés, by Ingrid Thobois)
See the skill of the ironworker
hitting saucepan handles
- with a few blows of a hammer -
what little you really have need of.
These gestures are silent elsewhere.
So I turn what I see of this
into rhythm: I hear craftsmanship speak.
And Afghanistan sticks
to my skin: where everything is made
with ten fingers and a bunch of nothing.
Wherever one man is working, there are ten others
in the press:
he is not left alone to cut up beef.
One lifts the tail, another the left leg;
a third flushes the blood with tubs of water.
But you also meet kite-flyers, who spark up the sky.
And the counters of clouds
whose only tool is the eye: you see
them in their great age.
And observers can be counted in dozens,
posted at the corners;
with a startled air at having been passed
by so many children and so much dust.
Modern Poetry in Translation, ‘Parnassus’ (third series, number seventeen) 2012.
I met Ingrid Thobois a few years ago, and was interested in her debut novel because it’s set in Afghanistan, a country that I teach about and research. I was in the process of writing a poem with music about Kandahar. We talked about the novel, and I decided to translate it. In the process, I found that because of Ingrid’s style, some of the sections seemed to stand out as individual pieces. I began to turn them into single poems. ‘Spark Up The Sky’ is an example of these. It’s different from the prose translation because I’ve changed the order of some of the sentences, and chosen different words from those in the ‘literal’ translation. I’ve turned ‘tens’ into ‘dozens’ to make it resonate with ‘corners’. I’ve made the phrases tighter: for example ‘…who spark up the sky’ which in the prose reads ‘…without whom the sky would not have so much spark’; ‘See the skill…’ was originally ‘you need to have seen once in your life the dexterity of…’ The process combined my excitement about the novel, my fascination with the French language, and the tuning of sounds and images which is my favourite aspect of writing creatively.
I wrote to the editors of Modern Poetry in Translation, saying that these were not translations of poems, but that they were poems and they were translations. Fortunately, the editors saw what I was doing and liked it. I think I’ll come back to this process in future: I read this poem to French students in Brest recently, and when I finished there was a little hush.
Poems in the Parnassus edition of Modern Poetry in Translation, Volume 3, issue 17, 2012
I Need The Owl: Poetry and the Visual, online essay: legwork.cc//2010/08/i-need-the-owl-poetry-and-the-visual, 2010
In a Different Light, four poems included in a catalogue of photographs by Zoe Childerley, 2009
Recording of poems for poetcasting.com, Arts Council: http://www.poetcasting.co.uk/?s=kerry
Four poems in The Journal, 2009
Words and Things: Writing Creatively from Objects and Art, (co-editor), 2008