When The Neva Rushes Backwards

Poetry Collective Word of Mouth

About the book…

Word of Mouth’s interest in poetry is not limited to English or Irish language poets; it was an interest in Russian poetry that led to an informal partnership with women writing poetry, in St Petersburg. Initially through Joan and Kate Newmann’s connection with Alla Mikhalevich, the group got interested in translation and produced a poster which featured one of her poems with seven versions in English. This culminated in an Irish tour for Alla in 1999, after which she set about translating the Blackstaff anthology into Russian with the help of several other Russian poets.

With some assistance from the Arts Council, four of the collective were able to attend the launch of the Russian- English parallel text in St Petersburg in 2005, and to do readings with translators at the British Council and Writers’ Union there.  The reciprocal translation of the Russian women’s poetry resulted in When the Neva Rushes Backwards.

The bilingual anthology features the work of five St. Petersburg poets: Ella Fonyakova, Galina Gamper, Alla Mikhalevich, Galina Usova and Taryana Usova. Translations are provided by Marcus Wheeler, Ruth Carr, Ann Zell, Natasha Cuddington, Gráinne Tobin, Sally Wheeler and Eilish Martin.

when the Neva rushes backwards
smacking its lips, eroding
already half-eaten parapets
to nothing but grey silhouttes

       - 'December', Galina Usova

"Galina Usova's remarkable poem 'December' gives this anthology its title - underpinning the serious intent of this fascinating collection of contemporary poetry by five St Petersburg poets. This anthology adds to the debate aeound literary translation offering, as it does, a deeply engaged and engaging conversation between poets from different lands and languages."
       - Dr Frank Sewell, University of Ulster

"These are poems of exciting exploration: of St Petersburg's cultural presence in the twenty-first century, of its history and open wounds, of the labyrinth of intersecting voices of five poets and seven translators, and of a tradition reaching back of Akhmatova and beyond."
      - Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Professor (emeritus) Trinity College Dublin

Photo of the author, Poetry Collective Word of Mouth

About the author…

Founded in 1991, The Word Of Mouth Poetry collective was a way for women poets to come together to read poetry and have critical commentary. Since then the group has met monthly in the Linen Hall’s Governors’ Room. The group were strongly in favour of poetry for everyone who was interested, and some of the collective were involved in teaching community writing classes.

In 1996 their first anthology, Word of Mouth was published by Blackstaff. Since then, over a dozen single collections have demonstrated the individual voices of various members of the group. The group have read collectively and individually in Dublin, London, Derry, Kilcar, Ballycastle, Preston, Sligo, Skerries, Omagh, St Petersburg, London, Belfast and Newcastle in County Down. From time to time they have run workshops, readings, talks, even poetry parties, to encourage emerging poets and advance the appreciation of poetry across communities throughout Ireland.

Since November 2013, in partnership with the Linen Hall Library, the collective have hosted the 'Of Mouth' lunchtime readings showcasing both established and up-and-coming local poets who gather and read selections of their work.