Welcome to PENning Spirit, the eighth issue of New Writing. We were pleased that just under half the submissions were from writers whose first language is not English. Three of these were from the International Women’s Group based at Sighthill, and will appear after the booklet for which they were written is launched in Refugee Week. We were again pleased to see submissions from SPEN members who have not previously submitted work to the magazine and hope that this will encourage other SPEN members who have not yet done so to submit work for the next issue.
Special thanks to our guest co-editor, Zoe Wicomb, for her careful reading of the submissions and judicious advice. Our current practice of inviting a guest co-editor to join us in judging submissions for each issue of the magazine has allowed us to approach each batch of work with a fresh pair of eyes and is a real benefit to the magazine.
We are delighted to welcome Kätlin Kaldmaa, President of PEN Estonia and a poet, writer, translator and literary critic, as our featured writer for this issue. Kätlin has given us a meditation on light conceived in the polar darkness of Iceland. It seems fitting that an issue dedicated to the spirit should feature a piece that ends in the word ‘light’.
‘Spirit’ was a sufficiently wide topic to allow some latitude in judging whether a piece of work submitted was ‘on theme’, though no-one took the opportunity to visit a distillery! ‘Spirit’ is the theme of Refugee Week, where it has been taken in the sense of spirit of survival: several of the pieces from refugee writers, including those which will appear later from the IWG at Sighthill, take the theme in this sense, while other submissions transport us to Hartford, Connecticut with Mario Relich to ponder Wallace Stevens, to a Scottish hospice with Aimee Chalmers, to a ‘forest of surprises’ with Jim Aitken, and cover themes as diverse as fasting at Ramadan and the soul of language. We invite you to join our writers on these journeys.
Anne Clarke, Linda Cracknell, Lindsey Fraser, Fiona Graham, Zoe Wicomb
Ak Welsapar was born in 1956 in the former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan. After six years of membership, he was excluded from the Soviet Writers’ Association following his publication of investigative articles about major ecological problems in Turkmenistan. He left his home country in 1993 and now lives in Sweden, where he is a member of the Swedish Writers’ Association. He has also been an honorary member of the International PEN-Club since 1993. He has published 19 books and received many national and international awards. He writes in Russian, Turkmen and Swedish. His works have been published in a number of languages including Turkmen, Russian, Ukrainian, English, French, Swedish, Spanish, Turkish, Mongolian and a few languages from the former USSR. He was invited to represent Turkmenistan in the Poetry Parnassus event held at the South Bank in London this summer as part of the Cultural Olympiad and the poem we reproduce is the one he read on that occasion.