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Waters and Harbours in the North

In partnership with literature organisations in Sweden, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, New Writing North is part of a European literature project that has seen writers from each country undertake autumn and winter residencies in each country and create new work together around the idea of harbours and rivers

A partnership project between New Writing North, Writers’ Centre West in Gothenburg, UNESCO City of Literature in Reykjavik and The Nordic House in Torshavn in the Faroe Islands.

How do waterways connect us, bring trade and prosperity and form identities for towns and cities, and how does travel across water bring people together?

Sharing perspectives from across Europe and forming new collaborations and partnerships, this project forms part of a long-running partnership between New Writing North and Writers’ Centre West in Gothenburg.

The novelist Laura Steven travelled to the Faroe Islands, the poet Degna Stone visited Reykjavik and the children’s novelist Mark Illis travelled to Gothenburg.

In each country the UK writers worked with local writers and artists to create new work and enjoyed spending time exploring new places and building relationships with fellow writers and literature organisations.

We were delighted to welcome three writers to Newcastle and Durham in October 2017. Our guests were hosted by Michael Chaplin who toured the coastlines and rivers of the North East to introduce his fellow writers to our wonderful North East waterways. The writers shared their work and talked about the experience of spending time together at a special event North Sea Writers at Durham Book Festival.

The project was supported by the Nordic Culture Point/Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordisk Kulturfond and Durham Book Festival.

You can find out all about what took place in every country on the project’s website.

Michael Chaplin: Newcastle and Waters and Harbours in the North

As part of the Waters and Harbours in the North project, three writers from Sweden, Iceland and the Faroes visited Newcastle with Michael Chaplin as their guide around the past and present of Northumberland. Here he writes about his experience of the project and a history shared across the North Sea.

The Waters and Harbours in the North Newcastle exchange.

Thank you to the Port of Tyne for supporting our visiting writers to experience the Tyne in style.

Poetry inspired by the project by Oddfridur Marni Rasmussen

Meðan eg hyggi út av brúnni

Eg havi einaferð staðið við ánna Seine í París,
beint við har, sum gráu restirnar av Jeanne D’Arc vórðu
stroyddar, eftir at hon varð brend á báli,
ella stóð eg har Paul Celan eina svarta nátt leyp út í mjólkaskúmaðu ánna,
kanska var tað ikki har. Kanska var tað í nánd,
men ikki heilt.

Nei, lat meg byrja umaftur.

Eg havi einaferð staðið við ánna Tyne, havi staðið
á Bridge Street og hugt eftir bátinum, sum skuldi sigla meg
oman móti munnanum.
Viðhvørt krevur tað sín mann at standa á eini brúgv.
Tað krevur ein vanligan mann, sum letur seg í arbeiðsklæði,
sum letur seg í handskar og stivlar,
og fer út á ánna,
at seta lív sítt í vága,
meðan fuglar láta og fiskurin svimur,
og Gud altíð er tann sami vitin,
sum blunkar gjøgnum sorgina og tárini.

Lívið, tað yðjandi lívið, sum fer frá einum áarbakka til hin
tvørtur um brýr, menniskju so tøtt,
at tey hoyra hjartaslátturin
hvør hjá øðrum ekkóa
ígjøgnum stál, ígjøgnum skipslastir
og inni í hvørjum hjartakamari
anir ein lítil logi,
ein logi, sum einaferð varð tendraður fyri at snýta náttuni.

­Og skrúvurnar sum grøva seg niðan eftir ánni,
sum vildu tær bora seg upp á mánan og aftur,
skrúvurnar, sum fáa jørðina at mala og mala,
har hon hongur sum ein bóltur í alheims sortanum.

Tá ið dagurin er av,
tá ið møðin dundrar út í hvønn krók,
og orðini hita kjálkarnar
og alt tað vanliga frá degnum, sum er farin,
byggir brýr millum dreymarnar og andadráttin,
tá síggi eg,
at ein vilstur láturkópur stingur høvdið upp undan vatnskorpuni,
og eg leni meg út yvir rekkverkið,
meðan eyguni drukna í takksemi.

While I watch from the bridge

Once, in Paris, I stood by the river Seine,
on the spot where the grey remains of Joan of Arc were
scattered after she was burned at the stake
or was it where Paul Celan one black night leapt into milky whisked river,
perhaps it was not there. Perhaps close by
but not quite.

No, I’ve got start again

I once stood by the River Tyne, stood
on Bridge Street, looking for the boat that was to take me
down to the river’s mouth.
Sometimes only the brave can stand a bridge.
Someone ordinary is needed, who puts on their working clothes,
puts on gloves and booths,
and enters the river
to risk their life
while birds sing and fish swim
and God remains that same lighthouse
flashing through the sorrows and the tears

Life, teeming life, travels from one riverbank to the other
across bridges, people crammed so close
they hear each other’s
heartbeat echo
through steel, through ships’ hulls
and inside every heart chamber
burns a weak flame,
a flame once lit to fool the night.

And the screws that propel swiftly upstream
as if they wanted to drill a tunnel to the moon and back,
the screws that make the earth turn and turn,
there where she hangs as a bolt in the universal darkness.

When the day is spent,
when weariness roars into every nook
and the cheeks are warmed by words
and the passing of a day’s measure of the ordinary
builds bridges between dreams and breath,
then I see
that a grey seal, gone astray, raises his head above the surface of the sea,
and I lean over the railing
while my eyes drown in gratitude.

Translated by Poul Guttesen

Degna Stone: Reykjavík and Waters and Harbours in the North

Degna Stone talks about her experience of her Waters and Harbours in the North residency in Reykjavík with three other poets, each from Iceland, Swedan and the Faroes, and a visual artist from Iceland. She explores the culture, history and food (strictly vegan!) in this blog post.

The Waters and Harbours in the North Reykjavík exchange

Laura Steven: Tórshavn and Waters and Harbours in the North

Laura Steven, author of The Exact Opposite of Okay, writes about her trip to Tórshavn as part of the Waters and Harbours in the North writers’ exchange, from a mammoth 13-hour journey by way of Copenhagen to an exhibition at Nordic House.

The Waters and Harbours in the North Tórshavn exchange

Mark Illis: Gothenburg and Waters and Harbours in the North

Mark describes his experience of Gothenburg during the writers’ exchange as part of the Waters and Harbours in the North project, a partnership between New Writing North and literature organisations in Sweden, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The Waters and Harbours in the North Gothenburg exchange

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