Hopscotch Translation Series: Kirmen Uribe & Elizabeth Macklin

Please join us for the 13th installment of our
Hopscotch Translation Series:

a discussion of Basque literature & language w/


translator/poet ELIZABETH MACKLIN!


Kirmen Uribe has quickly become one of the best-known Basque-language writers--an important contemporary voice from a vital but largely unknown language. Meanwhile Take My Hand presents Uribe's poetry for the first time to American readers in both the original Basque and in poet Elizabeth Macklin's skillful and award-winning translations.

In these lyrics and narratives are the young drug addicts of Spanish coastal fishing towns, the paved-over rivers of newly urbanized medieval cities, the remains of loving relationships, whether entirely uprooted or making do with a companionable silence. The Basque phrase Bitartean heldu eskutik, which became the book's title—Meanwhile Take My Hand--Uribe has said, is "what you say when there's nothing at all you can say."

"[Kirmen Uribe's work is] an urban poetry, made with a special rhythm, direct and piercing. . . ; a poetry that has assimilated the legacy of the Basque oral tradition and come to rest in the twenty-first century: 'reality's bonemarrow / resides in its pieces.'"—The Barcelona Review


The day he knew he was going to die, Liborio Uribe took his young daughter in law to the Museum of Fine Arts to show her a picture. Liborio had spent his entire life at sea, like his son José, living out unforgettable adventures which would later fade into obscurity. Years after, faced by the same painting, Liborio’s grandson Kirmen, a writer and poet, uses these family stories to write a novel.

Bilbao–New York–Bilbao takes place during a flight to New York and tells the story of journeys by three generations of the same family. The key to the book is Liborio’s fishing boat, the Dos Amigos: who are these two friends, and what is the nature of their friendship? Through letters, diaries, emails, poems and dictionaries, Kirmen creates a mosaic of memories and stories that combine to form a homage to a world that has almost disappeared, as well as a hymn to the continuity of life. It is also a reflection on the art of writing, and lies between life and fiction.

Like W.G. Sebald, J.M. Coetzee or Emmanuel Carrere, Uribe finds new narrative forms within fiction without sacrificing authenticity or accessibility for the reader. As leading El País journalist Juan Cruz says, Bilbao–New York–Bilbao is “a splendid novel, which the reader acknowledges like a hug”.

KIRMEN URIBE is one of the most-read and most-translated of Basque-language authors. His first novel, Bilbao–New York–Bilbao, was awarded Spain’s National Literature Prize for Narrative in 2009 and became a worldwide literary event. Before that, his poetry collection Bitartean heldu eskutik (Meanwhile Take My Hand) had been recognized by critics and and readers alike (it received Spain’s Critics’ Award for work in Basque) and was published in English by Graywolf Press in 2007. His third novel, titled Elkarrekin esnatzeko ordua (The Hour of Waking Together), was published simultaneously in Basque, Spanish, Catalonian, and Galician, and also received the Critics’ Award for work in Basque; it is being made into a film by Asier Altuna. His poetry has appeared in international publications such as The New Yorker, Ghost Fishing: An Eco-justice Anthology, and the Terezin Music Foundation’s LIBERATION:New Works on Freedom from Internationally Renowned Poets. Last year he co-curated and wrote the alphabetical catalogue essays for the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum’s 110-anniversary exhibition of its permanent collection, ABC: The Alphabet of the Bilbao Museum. He is currently a fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, at work on a new novel.

ELIZABETH MACKLIN is the author of the poetry collections  A Woman Kneeling in the Big City  (Norton, 1992) and You’ve Just Been Told (Norton, 2000), and of the English translations of Kirmen Uribe’s Meanwhile Take My Hand: Poems (Graywolf, 2007) and of his 2008 novel Bilbao–New York–Bilbao (Seren Press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in Boston Review, The New RepublicThe New Yorker,  The Penguin Book of the Sonnet The Eloquent Poem: 128 Poems and Their Making, and Women’s Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English, among other publications. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry and an Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, which allowed her to spend a year in Bilbao, in Spain’s Basque Country, beginning to learn Basque. She is at work on a third collection of poems.

Event date: 
Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Meanwhile Take My Hand Cover Image
By Kirmen Uribe, Elizabeth Macklin (Translated by)
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9781555974589
Availability: Currently not available
Published: Graywolf Press - January 9th, 2007

Bilbao - New York - Bilbao Cover Image
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9781781722053
Availability: Currently not available
Published: Poetry Wales Press - April 20th, 2015

You've Just Been Told: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393321586
Availability: Available to Ship
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - July 17th, 2001

A Woman Kneeling in the Big City: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393311051
Availability: Available to Ship
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - March 17th, 1994