I keep this treasure at the side of my desk. Sometimes I pause over Rhys Jones’ pictures while other
times I journey through Lolita Ray’s poems. This is a book of translation; the poems from Swedish to English, the poems
into photographs, the whole collection into a new voice, one that emerges intelligently from the relationship between word
In the introduction, Lolita Ray expresses concern that the poems might not work in translation from Swedish.
It is true that something is often lost in this process, meaning, tone, pace, but it seems that here there has been an enriching.
I have heard her read these poems in English and Swedish and both are musical and enticing. At times you can almost hear that
a poem is in translation, for instance, in Newly-Fallen Snow:
|Lolita Ray launches Right of a Voice
Has an odd quality
If you take it
In your hand
It feels like
Somebody else’s hand
Against its will
That you have to
Let go of it
But the cold
For a long time
In your empty hand
|Lolita Ray performing live
This piece reminds me of some of the North American Swampy Cree Indian poetry I have read: the fact that
a poem is translated and sounds so, make it resonate more as the expression feels different to that of a native English speaker.
Because of this, the poems lack pretension. That is not to say that one is constantly aware that the poet has written these
pieces in Swedish and translated them. She has successfully delivered beautiful poems which at times, are deceptively simple,
but like William Carlos Williams, Ray unfolds something of importance from a minimum of words. As such, some of the poems
have the feel of a Haiku, with her painting of the natural world and contrasting it to our internal worlds.
Rhys Jones has certainly presented us with the ‘photographic voice’ he hopes to achieve in his
introduction. Usually a writer composes poetry from an image, in the right of a voice, the photographer has read and
interpreted the meaning, the feeling, the atmosphere of the poetry with his lens. His pictures work beautifully to add another
layer to what Lolita Ray was trying to achieve in her part of the collection. But Jones’ photographs are not merely
a complement to her poems; he has not merely snapped his shutter at the first image that might work with her words. The photographs
have an impact on their own and are well-considered. For instance the picture of the street light connected to the poem The
Importance of Light, seems obvious and yet it is not. The poem speaks of a girl who is afraid in darkness (both literal and
metaphorical). Jones has captured that sense of eeriness as the light is obfuscated by leaves blowing in the wind. This adds
a chilling atmosphere that serves to heighten the guts of the poem. And so it is with many of the photographs. My favourite
is the old man walking through an alleyway in a Spanish town. The pictures have detail, movement, a story of their own. Both
poetry and image work successfully as independent pieces; the right of a voice has brought them together and the result
is a book that can be glanced at or pondered over, deliciously.