An excellent place to investigate non-European poetry:

The Poetry Translation Centre at the School of Oriental and African Studies was established in February 2004 thanks to a generous grant from the Arts Council, London and support from SOAS. The Centre will concentrate on translating contemporary poetry from non-European languages into English to the highest literary standards through a series of innovative collaborations between leading international poets and poets based in the UK…

The Poetry Translation Centre was founded by the poet Sarah Maguire. It developed out of the poetry translation workshops she has been leading at SOAS since February 2002. The workshops, attended by a committed and enthusiastic group of participants from within and outside SOAS, have been an enormous success: in the space of two years, poems have been translated into English from Arabic, Hindi, Spanish, Somali, Chinese, Sylheti, Korean, Assamese, Farsi, Amharic, Urdu, Japanese, Portuguese, Turkish, German and Bengali.

Literary translation in general is a marginalized art form in the UK, but the translation from non-European languages is virtually ignored. For example, the six main poetry translation prizes awarded via the British Centre for Literary Translation each year are all exclusively devoted to European languages. This state of affairs is radically out of step with current developments in contemporary British society. The 2001 Census shows that nearly one in ten people define themselves as coming from an ethnic minority, the bulk of whom are from non-European backgrounds. Their remarkable literary cultures are almost completely disregarded by the British literary establishment. As a result, opportunities are lost to gain insights into their histories, societies and subjective experiences, awareness which is becoming increasingly vital given the current tensions within the UK, especially in relation to refugee communities…

This lack of interest in the rich poetic traditions of non-European cultures is stultifying contemporary British poetry much of which, currently, is very inward looking. Like any other literary tradition, English poetry has always thrived and developed through translation, from Chaucer’s version of The Romance of the Rose to the overwhelming influence on contemporary poets and readers of the Penguin Modern European Poets series in the 1970s. Purely for the sake of poetry in English, it is vital that non-European poetry be widely translated, understood and appreciated. Contemporary British poetry urgently needs to absorb the fresh perspectives and formal innovations of non-European poetry. How far would Modernist poetry have developed if Ezra Pound (who didn’t speak a word of Chinese) hadn’t become fascinated by Fenellosa’s versions of early Chinese poetry?

Each language has a page of linguistic description (eg, Somali), and the sidebar lists the poets whose works in that language are included; each poet’s page (eg, Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac ‘Gaarriye’) has a biography, and the sidebar lists the individual poems, which always have the original text and a translation (on separate pages, sometimes with both literal and “final” versions) and sometimes (as in the case of Fal Galbeed) have an audio file as well. Many thanks to Anne for the link!

Update (July 2021). The PTC has moved to a new website, and I have updated some of the links accordingly, but if they have language pages at the new site I can’t find them and Fal Galbeed seems to have been evicted from their list, so I have provided archived links. Also, Maguire died in 2017.


  1. mahnaz badihian says

    Iam an American/Iranian poet,residing in USA.
    I spend most of my time on traslating poetry.How can I become part of your team ?

  2. mahnaz badihian says

    How can I become part of your team?

  3. mahnaz badihian says

    My dear when you pour on me
    Your kisses,
    Watch out!
    You will drown in my tears!!
    Wishing I could be a bubble, with
    The blow of a breath, I could fly away
    And with the touch of a finger could melt
    My heart to a crystal clear drop!!

  4. mahnaz badihian says

    First Invention
    I don’t envy yesterday.
    that I was blooming
    day by day.
    With my fresh curly hair
    With drunken eyes
    With wine dripping
    from my lips.
    No, I don’t envy yesterday,
    I think of tomorrow,
    When autumn
    is walking through my hair,
    When my eyes are filled with passion
    and my cheeks
    have the footsteps of life’s kisses.
    That your rooted love
    Will echo in my skin, that
    Love is the First Human Invention

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