Biographical Notes and Author’s Statements
Written in English by Specimen
SJ Kim was born in Korea and raised in the American South. She is a Lecturer in Creative and Critical Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London.
“In the aftermath of Brexit and the ongoing global pandemic, it feels particularly meaningful to be sharing the prize on equal footing with a stranger who is a fellow writer. Although I have yet to read this writer’s words, in sharing this particular prize, I feel there must be many parallels in our lives, shared experiences and traits between us, at heart our deep love of language. Our sharing itself feels resistant to narratives that aim to divide and sow dangerous fears. I wonder if this writer, like me, does not feel fully at home in England. I wonder if this writer, like me, feels privileged to be here regardless. Here, at least, we can often speak our minds, in our tongues, in the dialects ingrained in us, or, of our choosing, or, of our making. Here, at least, we have opportunities to voice on the page that we who live in our multiple languages, cultures, and identities with our broader, deeper love, we, the searching, make up the global majority. And we have much to say about this place we may call home.”
Originally from Chad, S. now lives in the UK and is studying for her GCSEs. S. hopes to become a doctor one day, and enjoys creative writing in her spare time.
“Celebrating the diversity of languages creates an opportunity for learning, as it showcases all of the languages and cultures present in England today. This prize has encouraged me to step up and speak out about my experiences: it has made me feel so happy to know that a true reflection of my voice has been accepted and celebrated in this way. If a young refugee person reads this poem, I would want them to know that anything is possible: it doesn’t matter where you come from, there will always be someone who will recognise the importance of what you have to say, and will want to listen and learn from it.”
A linguist by passion, training, and trade, Antonietta Bocci has spent her adult life in a diasporic space stretching across four countries and three continents, working as a teacher, translator and interpreter. She writes dual-language poetry (in her native Italian and her adoptive English) and her work is also being self-translated into Chinese, edited by Xu Lilong. Her poems have featured in literary blogs and magazines in Italy (Poesia Ultracontemporanea, Carte Sensibili, Margutte) and the US (Coffin Bell, Snapdragon, Gyroscope Review).
“When I learned about ‘To Speak England in Different Languages’, what instantly captured my attention was its subheading ‘A prize for any language but one’–a brave wording stressing the significance of the UK’s cultural richness. I instinctively felt that taking part in the competition was a unique opportunity to reflect on hard-to-process feelings–those stemming from living across languages and cultures. This space for dialogue created by the competition is even more meaningful–because it is necessary–in the aftermath of Brexit: the latter has indeed given rise to an extremely polarised debate, one that returns a deformed image of the relationship between the UK and ‘the Continent’ in the past fifty years of European history, with potentially devastating consequences. I would therefore like to thank Specimen for this opportunity for personal reflection on emotions that every migrant must, sooner or later, come to terms with–those stemming from one’s living suspended. The outcome was an enlightening dialogue with myself and a hard-fought attempt at expressing, through language, some of the conclusions I have painfully come to.”
Beatriz Chivite Ezkieta
Beatriz Chivite Ezkieta was born in Pamplona, Northern Spain, in 1991 and has lived in China, Nepal, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Italy, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. She began to write poetry in Basque to feel closer to her roots and maintain an intimacy with the words of her childhood. She lives in London where she works for the Architectural Association. Her books of poetry are Pekineko kea (Pamiela, 2017); Metro (Arabako Foru Aldundia, 2014, translated to English as The Blue Line by Francis Boutle Publishers); Biennale (Erein, 2017); and Mugi / atu (Pamiela, 2019). Her poetry has been translated into Slovenian, Frisian, Gaelic, Spanish, Galician, and English.
“Having lived outside my motherland for half my life, poetry and languages have always been the mental and emotional space where I feel rooted and connected with feelings of my homeland and dear ones. Writing poetry in Basque has always been that intimate activity that connects me with my childhood, where I seek shelter when life gets heavy.
Here in the UK, I’m surrounded by all the languages I had the pleasure to learn around my years abroad: I speak Spanish with my Argentinian flatmate, Chinese with the friends I met in Hong Kong that recently moved to the UK, Italian with my neighbours, Basque with my mother (on the phone) and my notebook, and English with all the rest of the people around. In that multiplicity of words, I feel comfortably at home and it could not happen anywhere else but here – in London.
A prize and a magazine like Specimen is incredibly precious in any society nowadays, as it celebrates diversity, multiplicity, and all those shelters that we all create for ourselves and for the communities around us when waves of narrow-minded nationalism and individualism hit us.”
Carla Montemayor was born and raised in Manila, Philippines, and is a first-generation immigrant in the United Kingdom. She has a Masters in Political Communication from the University of Sheffield and has worked in politics and advocacy for most of her career, most recently in migrant’s and women’s rights. She received a London Writers Award for narrative non-fiction in 2021, was shortlisted for the Spread and World’s Life Writing Prize in 2020, and was longlisted for the Ginko Ecopoetry Prize. She writes creative non-ficiton, short stories, poetry and satire. She is currently working on a memoir about grief, family histories and her life as a migrant in a changing England over the last decade.
“Being part of the Specimen Prize was very meaningful to me because it allowed for full expression using the multiple languages that migrants like myself possess. There are over 120 languages spoken in the Philippines, four of which were used within my immediate family. Today I write in English out of training and necessity, but my understanding of events and experiences constantly shifts between the languages in which I remember them. My thanks to Specimen Press for giving me the opportunity to traverse vocabularies and memories, and to the judges for valuing infinitely varied stories and the voices we use to tell them.”
Published May 26, 2022
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