Transreading John Berger

Transreading John Berger

Compose poems as small pockets of resistance

‘The promise [of the poem] is that language has acknowledged, has given shelter, to the experience which demanded, which cried out.
– John Berger in his lyric essay ‘Once In a Poem’

What experiences cried out to John Berger, writer, art critic and painter? How can we offer shelter to our own experience by rethinking it with the help of his prose texts and in the language of our poems? On this course we will read selected ‘moments’ from Berger’s four books (and our faces, my heart, brief as photo; A Seventh Man; The Shape of a Pocket; here is where we meet) in order to see, anew, once again, our habits, photos we carry, repetitive work, love, ‘some fruit remembered by the dead,’ home, light, faces, beds, fields, ‘the visual experience of absence’ or ‘the inconsolable algebra of the geese.’ Berger is a philosophical writer who considers himself a storyteller; a radical art historian who urges us to re-examine our ways of seeing; and a compassionate thinker who contemplates the economic and emotional predicament of migrant workers, our relationship to animals, or the workings of our private and public memory. ‘In contemporary English letters, he seems to me peerless; not since Lawrence has there been a writer who offers such attentiveness to the sensual world with responsiveness to the imperatives of conscience,’ remarked Susan Sontag. As readers of Berger’s essays, we will look with renewed urgency at ourselves and the world around us – we will compose poems as ‘small pockets of resistance’ that occur whenever ‘two or more people come together in agreement … the reader, me and those the essays are about.’

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.

Transreading courses – co-curated with Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese – invite us to read poems brought to English by translation, English-language poems inhabiting other cultures, and multilingual poems whose English hosts other tongues. We translate texts and/or compose new poems in response to our readings; in this process of trans-reading and trans-writing we open our poetries to the multi-literate world.

More information about how all our online courses work can be found on the Online Courses page.

(Image credit: ‘Antonio Marín Segovia’)

About Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese View Profile

Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese co-curates Poetry School’s ‘Transreading’ courses on translated, multilingual and transnational poetries. She writes with/in English, Polish and Danish. Her multilingual texts have appeared in, among others, Wretched Strangers (Boiler House Press, 2018; anthology marking the vital contribution of non-UK-born writers to British poetry culture, published ‘to commemorate the anniversary of the June 2016 EU Referendum and in solidarity through struggles to come’; proceeds go to charities fighting for the rights of refugees), Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History (2014), Metropoetica. Poetry and Urban Space: Women Writing Cities (2013) and such journals as Cordite Poetry Review, Envoi, Long Poem Magazine, Shearsman, The Projectionist’s Playground and Tears in the Fence. Her English translations of contemporary Polish poetry have featured in various anthologies, journals and on the London Underground. She has guest-edited Polish issues of Poetry Wales and Modern Poetry in Translation. Nothing More (Arc, 2013), which samples Krystyna Miłobędzka, was shortlisted for the 2015 Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize. Cognitive Poetic Readings in Elizabeth Bishop: Portrait of a Mind Thinking (2010) is based on her research as a Fulbright scholar at the Elizabeth Bishop archives. She works at the Centre for Internationalisation and Parallel Language Use, University of Copenhagen.

‘Made me feel connected to other poets rather than separate from them, helps me to feel normal about finding it hard sometimes and makes me excited there are other regular poem writers with minds wonderfully different to my own.’

– Summer 2018 survey response

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