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Stephen Watts was born in London in 1952. He is a poet, editor and translator with cultural roots in the Swiss Italian Alps and Scotland. After leaving university he lived in the Outer Hebridean island of North Uist, working as a shepherd for a few years before moving down to London. He has two recent bilingual English-Italian works, The Mountain Language/Lingua di montagna (2008) and Journey Across Breath/Tragitto nel respiro (2011), six other collections of poems, including Ancient Sunlight (Enitharmon, 2014) and The Blue Bag (Aark Arts, 2004) – from which selected poems are published in Banipal 49 – with The Language Of It (Shearsman) being published later this year. His own poetry is translated into Italian, Arabic, Czech, Bengali inter alia. He has read widely at festivals (including in Syria in 2010) and has worked as a poet in schools, hospitals and homeless drop-in centres, researching issues of language, well-being and community.
Many of his poems express the unceasing wanderings of his own migratory soul as well as the changing cultural dynamics of the Whitechapel area of the East End of London where he has lived for 30 years. His poems show boundless imagination and vision as well as revealing an uncanny feeling for historical timelines, for time moving relentlessly from present into history rather than into the future, while linking his own and others’ experiences with wider international events.
With a deep interest in dialogue between cultures through translation his co-translations include collections by Ziba Karbassi, A N Stencl, Meta Kušar and anthologies of Slovenian and Kurdish poetry. His other works of translation and anthology include Voices of Conscience, an international anthology of censored poets (Iron Press, 1995), the “Mother Tongues” edition of Modern Poetry in Translation (MPT17, 2001), which he guest-edited, and Music While Drowning, an anthology of German Expressionist poems that accompanied an exhibition at the Tate Modern in London (Tate Publishing, 2003).
He was a Hawthornden Fellow in 1993 and was twice awarded second prize in the UK National Poetry Competition, though for him it is the acts of writing and co-translating with other writers that matter far more than prizes.
Stephen is a regular poetry reviewer for Banipal.