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The Only Question: Durban - Manchester – Adiela Akoo and Roma Havers

Афиша встречи

The Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Program Directorate starts publishing The Only Question - new international project - materials. More than 40 authors from 18 UNESCO literary cities (or related cities) participate in the project. Poets from Durban and Manchester – Adiela Akoo and Roma Havers – are our guests of the project.

The organizers invited writers, poets, playwrights, translators from UNESCO literary cities to imagine they have the opportunity to ask just one question to an author from any other literary city. The initiative will help to introduce the authors from the literary cities to each other and establish their dialogue. The project will also let to understand what issues are of concern to authors from different countries today. Besides, it will provide an opportunity for readers to get to know new writers and poets.

Questions and answers by the authors (in Russian and English) along with a short biography of each participant and links to their publications will regularly appear on the Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Website, other literary cities' websites, and social media, etc. Writers' dialogs will also be offered for publication on the project partners' platforms (literary magazines, libraries, literary media, and mass media). As a result of the project, in summer 2022 an online anthology will be released (in Russian and English) with all the conversations.



Adiela Akoo

We learn by trial and error and often, it takes many years before we reach that ‘Aha!’ moment when we discover the things we wish we had known at the beginning. What advice can you render to someone starting out on their literary journey?

Roma Havers

This was such an interesting question, I love to find space for writing that feels like ‘practice’ and I often tell people I’m teaching that too. Writing to learn rather than writing to make a final project can feel really fun and often really helps with problem solving. I think reflecting on your work as you go really helps notice those little ‘Aha’s’ as we go!

Roma Havers

I’d love to know what you’re reading at the moment, and if there’s any poetry from your country that you would recommend for me to read?

Adiela Akoo

Thank you for responding to my question. I do agree that reflecting on our writing is a learning process, often giving us cathartic 'Aha!' glimpses into the subconscious. 

I am currently between reads as far as books are concerned (with a TBR pile rivaling Mount Everest :). Though, with social media, I'm constantly still reading. 

We have many phenomenal poets, including JRR Tolkien.

A collection that I enjoyed and that is a part of my personal library is 'The Angel & Other Poems' by Tatamkhulu Afrika.


Adiela Akoo

Портрет Аделы АКоо

Adiela Akoo was born on the 4th of May in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, though mostly raised and educated in the neighboring city of Durban, where she also received the prestigious Dux Award.

Apart from writing, she has a background in banking and comprehensive healing and in her spare time loves creating art and crafts using mixed media, watching movies, playing scrabble and chess, creating in the kitchen, or chatting to the birds out in the garden, among other things.

She was nominated as one of the Top 7 ‘Most Promising Literary Influencers’ in the GBC Awards 2020 and received the Silver Star Award from the Global Literary Society for her 'excellent contribution to world literature', among others. She was included in the Best Emerging Poets of 2019 series, has won poetry contests, and been published in a variety of journals and anthologies across the world. Her poems have been translated into four languages to date. She has also represented the Durban UNESCO City of Literature in collaborations with other cities of literature.

‘Lost in a Quatrain’, her deep, soulful, debut collection, was written over a period of 18 years and is a thought-provoking read on a journey to becoming, a journey of hope and healing. The book was the first runner-up for poetry in the South African Independent Publishers Awards 2021. The poem “Whiplash” from the book was quoted in The House of Parliament. ‘Pre Natal’ was nominated “Poem of the Day’ on the popular poetry platform, PoemHunter, and the poem 'Within' (English with Russian translation) received a Certificate of Excellence from Demo Gog, St. Petersburg, Russia & Everychild Lifeline Foundation International Literary Award 2020, among others. Her second collection will be released in 2022.

As an ambassador of literacy, she volunteers her time in the position of Vice-Chair of Litasa, KZN – The Literacy Association of South Africa. She is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the new literary journal, The Quilled Ink Review.

Adiela is married, to a medical doctor, and they have three children, a son and two daughters.

For more info visit:

Roma Havers

Портрет Ромы Хейверса

Roma Havers is a Manchester-based queer poet and theatre maker, with four years experience writing and performing professionally. Roma’s work explores queer inheritance, what it means to practise, and radicalising queer joy. Alongside Manchester Poetry Collective Young Identity, she has been commissioned to perform by Manchester Histories, Manchester International Festival and HOMEmcr, and has performed for TV, Radio and Festivals including BBC Contains Strong Language and Hay Festival. Independently she has been commissioned to make an audio play by Superbia, write poetry for Manchester City of Literature, and is dramaturg for several upcoming plays by queer artists. Her first solo show Bolted, exploring agoraphobia, debuted with UK Young Artists Festival Takeover 2019. In 2019 she was recipient of the LGBT Arts and Culture Network Bursary to produce a new work, which was later commissioned by Queer Contact with funding from the Arts Council. She is also Editor for Young Identity’s poetry press No Disclaimers having editing four of their most recent anthologies.

For more info visit:

Previous issues:

  1. Heidelberg-Ulyanovsk – Şafak Sariçiçek and Sergei Gogin
  2. Melbourne - Heidelberg – Christopher Raja and Klaus Kayser
  3. Calgary-Mannheim - Kelly Kaur And Claudia Schmid
  4. Melbourne And Ulyanovsk - Rijn Collins and Gala Uzryutova
  5. Heidelberg - Nottingham – Ingeborg von Zadow and Leanne Moden
  6. Durban-Ulyanovsk – Adiela Akoo and Sergei Gogin
  7. Heidelberg-Ulyanovsk|Moscow – Şafak Sarıçiçek and Irina Bogatyryova
  8. Yekaterinburg-Iowa City – Ekaterina Simonova and Jacquelyn Bengfort
  9. Iowa City-Québec – Jeremy Geragotelis and Vanessa Bell
  10. Heidelberg-Ulyanovsk – Juliane Sophie Kayser and Gala Uzryutova
  11. Durban-Melbourne – Adiela Akoo and Rijn Collins
  12. Heidelberg – Dublin – Şafak Sarıçiçek and Csilla Toldy
  13. Ulyanovsk - Heidelberg - Gala Uzryutova and Juliane Sophie Kayser
  14. Melbourne-Heidelberg:   Anne Richter And Judith Rossell
  15. Ljubljana-Melbourne – Andrej Tomazin and Jo Langdon
  16. Melbourne and Heidelberg - Christopher Raja and Konstantin Hanack
  17. Seattle and Ulyanovsk - Cara Diaconoff and Sergei Gogin
  18. Melbourne - Ulyanovsk – Penelope Bartlau and Danila Nozdryakov