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Gaby Sambuccetti celebrates on a London rooftop after receiving the prestigious Cosmos Davenport-Hines Prize for poetry
Gaby Sambuccetti celebrates on a London rooftop after receiving the prestigious Cosmos Davenport-Hines Prize for poetry | Photo courtesy of Gaby Sambuccetti

U.K. emigrant overcomes language barrier to win major literary prize

As we choose our paths in life, other paths evaporate. I cannot know what might have happened to me on those other paths. I would choose this one again and again. If I could speak to my younger self today, I would say, “Gaby, you are about to emigrate. Do not suffer, because I will take care of you.”

Gaby Sambuccetti
Interview Subject
Gaby Sambuccetti grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After emigrating to the U.K., she earned a degree in Creative Writing from Brunel University, London with first class honors, and studied Old English at the University of Oxford. She has served as a professor of literature in Argentina and is currently completing a master’s degree at King’s College London in Latin American Literature. She serves as the director and founder of the Oxford-based organization La Ninfa Eco, and previously acted as the director of literary events for the Oxford Writers’ House group.
Her full bio and list of accomplishments can be found here.
Background Information
After starting a podcast in 2018, Gaby launched La Ninfa Eco, a hub for international writers based in the U.K. Eight additional writers joined the team and in 2019 they launched a magazine. With 21 current collaborators, the group aims to spread literature and the creative arts across cultures and highlight work from people of diverse backgrounds. With content in Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Italian, the group hopes to continue growing into other languages and cultures. The organization has reach into Latin America, Spain, Europe, the U.S., and the U.K. They often partner with Aquitania Publishing House.

LONDON, England ꟷ I won a major prize in literature in London for my poem “A Migrant on a Sheet of Paper.” Being the 2022 recipient of the Cosmos Davenport-Hines Prize proved a pivotal moment in my life.

When I first came to the United Kingdom, I faced intense obstacles. I had to learn English just to survive. My early time in a foreign country brought many challenges but today, I am an author, poet, and speaker, featured in literary magazines around the world.

Writer experiences crisis facing language barriers

When I lived in Argentina, I maintained a strong connection to poetry. Frequently attending literary events, I saw some of the U.K.’s most famous poets at the theatre. While I could not understand the words they spoke, the experience was filled with emotion.

Though I often felt on the verge of a crisis trying to understand a foreign language, my determination remained strong. I received emails at work but could not decipher the content. In desperation, I shook with fits of frustrated laughter. Eventually, I made friends who spoke English and taught me their cultural expressions.

Despite the headaches and fatigue that I endured, I pushed hard to achieve my goal, to master English. Then, one day, I took a university-level English exam and passed. That milestone allowed me to begin my academic pursuits.

Being a migrant in the U.K. made it profoundly difficult to adapt. Along the way, I faced obstacles. Remaining positive and joyful allowed me to take on new roles and free myself from the past. I formed a new identity.

Looking back at my experience, I advise migrants now not to think too much in practical terms. Focusing too hard on something difficult and feeling lost takes us to a dark place. We can freeze in a moment in time.

Subduing that pain helped me move forward. Migrating, for me, felt like mourning, but too much focus on this reality proved counterproductive. I found I needed to flow through my experiences without too much care.

Overcoming difficulties of migration and the language barrier propelled me forward. Today, I serve as the Director of the international organization La Ninfa Eco – a hub for international writers from around the world based in the U.K. My lack of English never stopped me.

Through the pain and challenge of emigration, poet perseveres

Literature will always serve as my fundamental rock in life. It allowed me to access knowledge of a foreign language in a deeper way, rather than leaving me alone at the surface. I soon learned the U.K. has an interesting and extensive history with feminism.

The literary field serves as a pioneering industry in gender issues, as many feminists became writers and vice versa. This furthered my confidence as a woman and writer. It helped me to value the work of other women and dissidents from different countries around the world.

I regret nothing in my life. My decisions, though difficult at times, made me who I am today. While sometimes I feel strange about my achievements, I live a rewarding experience and meet interesting new people all the time.

Though I struggle with the same imposter syndrome many women feel, I ask myself, “If I hadn’t emigrated, who would I be? Where would I be? And who would I be with?”

The Silvia Plath poem says, “I saw my life spreading its branches in front of me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of each branch, as if it were a thick purple fig, hung a wonderful future, pointed and glittering. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet, and another fig was a brilliant teacher…”

As we choose our paths in life, other paths evaporate. I cannot know what might have happened to me on those other paths. I would choose this one again and again. If I could speak to my younger self today, I would say, “Gaby, you are about to emigrate. Do not suffer, because I will take care of you.” 

This story is based on a question-and-answer interview with Gaby Sambuccetti. Enjoy more stories from Orato World Media in the Arts & Culture category.

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Sara earned her undergraduate degree is in general psychology and won a scholarship for her Master's Degree in Literature from the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. She published multiple poetry collections including Teachings (Liberoamérica, Argentina, 2019), Nocturnal conversations with the shadow of my mother (Perniciosa editorial, Argentina, 2019), La Impúdica Humanidad de lo Sagrado (House of culture of Loja, Ecuador, 2021) and My dog ​​does not read my poems (Publication House of Cuenca, Ecuador, 2022). She won honorable mentions in the Ileana Espinel Cedeño national contest (2019 and 2021), second prize for poetry in the Carlos Giménez international contest (Spain, 2021), and a Casa Editorial poetry prize (Ecuador, 2021). Her poems have been published in digital magazines including Poémame, New York Poetry Review, Circle of Poetry, El Humo, I Say Word, and others. She was selected as one of the winners in the School of the Living Arts Festival (Institute for the Promotion of Creativity and Innovation, IFCI, 2021) and won an online residence with Atelier Poético (Organization of Ibero-American States, 2021). She is a writer for the organization La Ninfa Eco and independently conducts therapeutic and creative writing workshops. She is coordinator of the Editorial Unicornias.