Explore Norwich and the River Wensum with this captivating creative commission from writer, translator and journalist Dragana Erjavšek.
In her work, Dragana connects to Norwich through sharing stories, through interacting with the river and learning its secrets. This lucid creative commission dips into Norwich’s mercantile trading past and the welcoming nature of our City of Stories.
Dragana wrote this piece while staying with us at Dragon Hall in May 2023. Her residency was part of the Translation in Motion project, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.
Read on for Dragana’s unique depiction of Norwich, ‘Kindred Spirits’.
I connect with the waters as with kindred spirits. The river Wensum and I whisper to each other. The river’s memories are deeper, they reach further, they multiply in an instant as the river exchanges memories with my curiosity.
In Norwich, the word is felt like flowing water; it is strong and does not flatter itself, but changes, shapes itself to its own liking and creates space for dawn and work. It is also home to swans and a path for kayakers. With the river, I myself become part of the story. A stranger who has come to try to make a difference and connect two countries and two languages through poetry. This city doesn’t bare its teeth to foreigners, only a smile and a touch of weariness of experience. This city that passes the test of time has more wrinkles than I do. Wrinkles become decoration the moment they stop being a burden.
The awe I feel when I encounter the tops of buildings, cathedrals and churches is too strong. They tickle the sky.
The water flows and reminds me of the merchants, artisans, artists, miners who dug to grow the city around it, and random passers-by who will bring crafts and fabrics. I hear it as I walk always from the same point, from King Street, to all corners of the world, stopping under the clocks and towers, under the windows that let the colourful reflection of the sun into the old chambers. I hear the water lazily rolling down the riverbed as I crane my neck, trying to memorize each brick, all those reds, yellows and grays, each stone mysteriously silent and allowing you to draw your own conclusions. You can’t go wrong with these walls. If they were bad, they wouldn’t have waited 600 years or more for me to walk by and admire them.
The awe I feel when I encounter the tops of buildings, cathedrals and churches is too strong. They tickle the sky. They argue about who is older. Actually, they don’t argue, they fight. The clouds come and go, the wisdom remains on the towers. The thunderbolts try, but in vain.
These preserved impressions let in the smell of garlic and fried fish
In the park, a small theatrical performance is in its first bloom. Fortunately we met in May, dear old town. The temperature of your pulse and my body are in agreement. If I say that I can’t do something here – I’m lying. Even your rain didn’t scare me. I write a poem while walking. I am writing it while watching the yellow-billed birds through the window. I can hear it inside me while young people loudly shout for victory in the background. I’m writing it in my sleep, because it’s all from preserved impressions.
These preserved impressions let in the smell of garlic and fried fish through their nostrils. Through their glass ears the song I wanted to hear. The carrot cake melts on the tip of the tongue. I’ll recite it out loud when it settles down, when it’s halfway around the world.
One person always comes to Norwich, and another person returns from it. A better person, without any doubt.
Dragana Erjavšek studied at the Faculty of Philosophy in Nikšić, Montenegro. She works as a journalist and book critic for the daily newspaper Pobjeda. She has published two volumes of poetry and a novel. Last year she was awarded in two regional competitions for her short stories. Her poems, stories and essays have been published in the magazines Glasnici and Fokalizator, as well as in numerous printed and online anthologies. She translated the monograph Bar – The Phoenix town by Maksim Lutovac from Montenegrin into English and is currently finishing the translation into Montenegrin of the book The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. During her residency, Dragana was translating Unexhausted Time by Emily Berry into Montenegrin.
Dragana Erjavšek was a translator in residence in Norwich in May 2023. Her residency was part of the Translation in Motion project, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.