A Sudanese Celebration of Sarah Maguire (1957-2017), Founder of the Poetry Translation Centre in London

Poet Sarah Maguire (1957-2017) died at the end of last year at age 60. The author of four collections of poetry, she founded London’s “Poetry Translation Centre,” which became a hub for translators, poets, and those who loved poetry. At the end of March, poetry lovers got together to remember her:

By Norbert Hirschhorn

Photo credit: Crispin Hughes.

The celebration was held on the 24th of March, 2018, to a full audience at the AM Qattan Foundation Mosaic Rooms in London. Sarah was a special friend to many poets of all nations, whose works she helped bring into English through the Poetry Translation Centre (PTC), which she founded in 2004. (I joined shortly after.) Sudanese poets were among the dozens coming from 45 southern nations, whose poems the Centre’s workshops translated. An anthology published in 2014, My Voice: A Decade of Poems from the Poetry Translation Centre (Bloodaxe Books, Ltd.), presented 111 of these poems.

Eulogies in Arabic and English were given by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, Rashid Sid Ahmed, and (by video) Sabry Hafez.  Al-Saddiq-Al Raddi’s poems were presented in both languages, as well as Sarah’s own poems that had been translated into Arabic.  She is one of a few English poets whose work appears in an all-Arabic edition. Accomplished in the craft, Sarah was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2007, and the Forward Prize (best single poem) in 2005 and 2007. Her early training as a gardener led to being poet-in-residence at the Chelsea Physic Garden, and editor of A Green Thought in a Green Shade: Poetry in the Garden (Poetry Society, 2000) and Flora Poetica: The Chatto Book of Botanical Verse (Chatto and Windus, 2001).

Sarah’s commitment to translation of poets from southern nations began when she was sent by the British Council in 1996 to Palestine.  Through engagement with poets around the world, she developed the determination to fight the notion of ‘otherness’. Sarah chaired the workshops in the same inclusive spirit, and taught me much, and not only about translation.

A PowerPoint sequence of photographs of Sarah, which ran from childhood through to a late moment in her life: sitting, feisty and smiling, in a hospital lounge chair receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer, showed what the eulogists spoke of — her resilience, determination, joyfulness, and generosity.

Norbert Hirschhorn

27 March 2018


  1. Very good article, I am going to reblog this for you.

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