Lots of important news updates

Hi all,

Well, what can I say? There is so much I need to catch up on in these strange, pandemic-dominated times.

Of course, the first (and by far the most important) thing to mention is the death of my mother, Elaine, on September 23, 2019. She died peacefully in a care home at the age of 88. After her death was announced, I was profoundly touched by the hundreds of messages I received from all over the world. Some were friends of Elaine who remembered her wisdom and generosity of spirit. Others were admirers of her writing: her poetry, her novels, her biographies, her translations. Some said that Elaine’s magnificent translations of Marina Tsvetaeva and Anna Akhmatova had inspired them to start writing poetry themselves. I organised an online memorial event to Elaine on Zoom on October 24, 2020 – it would have been her ninetieth birthday. It turned out to be a very moving and memorable event, with personal recollections, poetry and music. My younger daughter, Katriona, read her stunningly beautiful (indeed, heart-breaking) poem to her grandmother, whom she loved. (That poem was published in Michael Schmidt’s wonderful magazine, PN Review.) And I read my own poem to Elaine, ‘The Dismantling.’ Apart from family members, we were joined online on October 24 by Ruth Padel, Fiona Sampson, Ruth Fainlight, Michael Schmidt, Eva Hoffman, Howard Jacobson, Michael Horowitz, and so many more …

As a poet, translator and biographer myself, I can truly say that Elaine was not only a wonderful mother but also a friend and colleague. We would e-mail each other our work and ask for mutual opinions. She taught me that a good poem (or translation) must sing – the music is so important. Which is why I am glad she lived long enough for me to read some of my new rhyming translations of the great Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío. It is fair to say that she had an ambivalent attitude to the use of rhyme in poetry – she thought poets often employed it excessively. But I think she agreed I was right to respect the musicality of Darío’s verse. After all. he himself said, in his prologue to his collection, Prosas profanas: ‘Cada palabra tiene un alma’ (Every word has a soul.) By preserving his use of rhyme in my English translations, I hope to have preserved Darío ‘soul’ – meaning the rhythm and sound of the original. My collection of Darío translations was first published in Nicaragua itself in January 2020. A UK edition was then published by Shearsman in October 2020. Here is a link to an excellent review of the Shearsman edition:


I also wrote a blog for my good friend, Graham Henderson, about Dario’s dramatically disillusioning encounter in Paris with his literary hero, Verlaine. Here’s the link:


I have had four other books out since I last posted on this blog! The Spanish and Italian editions of my history of autism, first of all. Then, in 2018, Routledge published my book on autism and employment, Autism Works: A Guide to Successful Employment Across the Entire Spectrum. In 2019, Arc brought out my latest book of translations of Pablo Neruda’s poetry, The Unknown Neruda, much of which had never appeared in English before.

On November 27, 2020, a very successful online event was organised by the Instituto Cervantes in London to celebrate the centenary of the great Uruguayan writer, Mario Benedetti. Juan Toledo and I spoke about Benedetti’s life and work and I read my new translations of some of his poetry.

I am currently working on two novels and a book on Argentinian cinema, for which I have been interviewing many of that country’s leading directors, cinematographers and actors. Before the magnificent Cinema Museum was forced to close its doors due to the pandemic, I was curating a regular series of Argentinian films there. I very much hope to resume this season when the Cinema Museum re-opens.

I have many other projects on the go and I plan to update this blog far more regularly about these in the future, when time permits.

That is all for now. Hope you appreciated the update. Keep well – and keep safe!


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