Hunger Like Starlings: Hungarian & Scottish Poetry


Poetry from the Edwin Morgan Trust’s Scotland-Hungary translation workshop. Featuring original poems and translations by Mónika Ferencz, Iain Galbraith, Em Strang, Balázs Szőllőssy, Krisztina Tóth and Kate Tough.


“Before I had any contact with the Hungarians at all, I discovered Attila József in Italian translation, and made my own translations from that, out of sheer excitement and delight at coming across a poetry of such deep urban pathos and concern – it was almost like finding a kind of poetry I had been half-searching for … but never truly experienced till then. Budapest and Glasgow!”
– Edwin Morgan, Nothing not giving messages

The Edwin Morgan Trust sponsors biennial translation events that take some of the world’s leading foreign language poets to Scotland. In 2019 the Trust brought three Hungarian and three Scottish poets together for a five-day workshop facilitated by Ken Cockburn, which culminated in a reading at the StAnza poetry festival.

Hunger like Starlings presents selections from this inter­national collaboration, featuring original poems and translations by Mónika Ferencz, Iain Galbraith, Em Strang, Balázs Szőllőssy, Krisztina Tóth and Kate Tough.

Mónika Ferencz was born in Budapest in 1991. She received the Mihály Babits Translators’ Grant in spring 2016, and has participated in literary translation workshops organized by the Petőfi Literary Museum and the Association of Young Writers. Her first collection, ‘Hátam mögött dél (Behind my Back South)’, was published in 2017.

Balázs Szőllőssy, born in Budapest in 1981, is a poet, editor and cultural organiser. His first collection, ‘A szabadság két jelentése (Two Meanings of Freedom)’, was published in 2010, and his second, ‘A Kilátó Presszóban (In Presso Viewpoint)’, in 2019.

Krisztina Tóth is a poet, writer, playwright and translator. The winner of several awards, including the Graves Prize (1996), the József Attila Prize (2000) and the Laureate Prize, (2008), she is a writer engaged in social issues. Her poetry and prose have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Iain Galbraith grew up on the west coast of Scotland and now lives in Wiesbaden, Germany. His collection of poems ‘The True Height of the Ear’ was published in 2018. He has received the Stephen Spender Prize (2014), the Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation (2015) and the Schlegel-Tieck Prize (2016).

Em Strang is a Lead Reader for Open Book, facilitates workshops in Embodied Poetry and has spent the last six years teaching in HMP Dumfries. Her first full collection, ‘Bird-Woman’, won the 2017 Saltire Poetry Book of the Year Award. Her second collection, ‘Horse-Man’ was published in 2019.

Kate Tough’s poetry is included in ‘Makar/Unmakar: Twelve Contemporary Poets in Scotland’ (Tapsalteerie, 2019). Her piece, People Made Glasgow, was selected as a Best Scottish Poem 2016 and became a motion in The Scottish Parliament. Her pamphlet, ‘tilt-shift’, was runner up in the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, 2017.

Seregélyétkű gyermekek

Reggelente sós vízzel próbálod lesúrolni
torkodról a seregélyétkű gyermekek nevét,
akik játéklovaikkal és csörgőikkel átkeltek
a város melletti dombokon.
Sátrat építettek az udvaron
a világ megváltásáról szóló terveikből,
és tüzet raktak a Kolozsvári utcai parkban,
mielőtt elindultak megkeresni,
mi lett belőlük.

Éjszakánként elképzelem,
ahogy a ház előtt időznek, és hiába a tüdő,
hiába van levegő benne, szó nélkül nézik,
ahogy játékaikat a szőlők tövére akasztják,
hogy elriasszák velük a gyermekkor
kártékony madarait.

– Mónika Ferencz

* * *

Hunger like starlings

Every morning, with salt water, you try to scour
from your gullet the names of the children with starlings’ hunger
who have crossed, with their Barbie horses and rattles,
the hills beside the city.
They constructed a tent in the courtyard
from their plans to redeem the world,
and built a fire of ideas in the park in Kolozsvári Street,
before setting off to look for
what became of them.

At night I imagine
them standing in front of the house and, despite their lungs,
despite the air inside, they watch in silence
their toys being hung on the grape vines
to scare away the damaging birds
of childhood.

– ’Seregélyétkű gyermekek’, translated by Kate Tough


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