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Image by Caroline Forbes

Jane Duran

b. 1944


Her poems are voyages of discovery. Literally. Over and over she writes about the journeys, physical and metaphysical, that are transformative experiences - Sarah Maguire, Poetry Review


About Jane Duran

Jane Duran (b. 1944) is a writer whose work is often preoccupied with memory and exile. Born in Cuba, she grew up in the USA and Chile, the daughter of an American mother and a Spanish father who met after he fled Franco's victorious fascist regime. Her father fought with the Republican army, and his silence about this experience is the haunting omission which movingly informs her second collection, Silences from the Spanish Civil War.

This fascination with her mixed roots is evident in the imagery of Breathe Now, Breathe which won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. The various strands of her heritage are woven together like the fibres in her 'Braided Rug', or as one reviewer puts it, Duran "twists her hybrid colours into rich, sensual, and perfectly controlled statements of memory and loss..." (Adam Thorpe, The Observer). In her own life Duran has continued to encounter different cultures; this is reflected in some of her poems such as 'Time Zones' which imagines locations she has visited around the world. On the other hand, her childhood and youth in the United States are also powerful sources of imagery, its landscapes and streetscapes intensely conveyed in poems like 'Coat'. Her husband is Algerian and they have a son who Duran celebrates in her tender sequence 'Zagharit'. This sequence is from her third collection, Coastal, which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. In 2005 she was given a Cholmondeley Award. She currently lives in the UK.

In her poem 'Stroke' which describes the loss of language suffered by her mother, Duran states "I go in search of what is missing". In this case it's the words her mother is no longer able to communicate, but in her work she's often drawn to what remains unsaid. 'Not Talking about Franco, 1959' ends with an image of her uncle smoothing out a lace tablecloth, a gesture eloquent of his inability to speak openly. Yet alongside this exploration of silence, Duran's work also talks intimately about human experiences. She finds the words for grief in poems about childlessness and illness, and for joy in celebrations of her son. The emotional freight of such moments is sometimes carried by ritual, like the face to face weeping in 'There are Women' or the rhythms of an old recipe in 'Snow Pudding'.

What Michael Donaghy described as Duran's "quiet authority" is also evident in her reading. Like the rivers which form a recurring metaphor in her work, Duran's clear voice follows beautifully the lyrical flow of each poem.

Selected bibliography

Graceline, Enitharmon Press, 2010

Jane Duran Reading from her poems, Poetry Archive, 2010

Coastal, Enitharmon, 2005

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Silences from the Spanish Civil War, Enitharmon, 2002

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Breathe Now, Breathe, Enitharmon, 1995

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Poetry Introduction 8, Faber and Faber, 1993

Boogie Woogie, Hearing Eye Publications 1991

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Prizes

1995 Forward Prize for Best First Collection, Breathe Now, Breathe

Prize website

2005 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, Coastal

Prize website

2005 Cholmondeley Award

Prize website

Links

Recordings

Jane Duran Reading from her poems

1Braided Rug

2Returning

3Time Zones

4River

5Stillborn

6Miscarriage

7Snow Pudding

8The Orange Tree in Cordoba

9Link

10Great Grandfathers

11Introduction to Silences from the Spanish Civil War

12Spanish Civil War

13Research

14Maestrazgo

15Eye Witness

16To the Aragon Front

17Battle of Teruel, Winter 1937-8

18Sardine Tin

19Crossing at Miravet, 1938

20Road to the French Border, 1939

21Letters, 1940

22Paterna, 1939-42

23Not Talking About Franco, 1959

24Coastline, 1960

25The Pyrenees

26Coastal

27Cape Porpoise, Maine

28Stroke

29Coat

30Hairpins

31The Past

32There Are Women

33Coming About

34To My Mother and Father

35Tracks

36Introduction to Zagharit

37The Mat

38Petit Pain

39What We Know

40Nightlight

41Ramy

42Water

43What is Written

44Sabbat

45Mid-Winter

46Haircut

47Mint Tea

48Coastal Route

49Confluence

50El Attaf, 1958

51Zagharit

A tour of the Archive with Rachel Redford

Over the last few years I have listened to many of the Poetry Archive recordings and my six poems are taken from...

Featured Guided Tours


Books & cds by Jane Duran