Category Archives: Poems

Dhaka International Poetry Summit 2019

 

51385231_10157207771404052_2042701151945621504_o[1] - Copy (2)Bangladesh is a country that shed blood for its language and where poetry is deeply rooted in its sense of nationhood. So it was with some awe that I flew into Dhaka airport to join six other international poets as guests of the Dhaka International Poetry Summit. 609A3515

Where to begin? Over five action-packed days, we performed at 8 different poetry events, met some wonderful Bangladeshi poets, as well as poets from all corners of Asia including Nepal, Shri Lanka, Turkey and India. We were treated like royalty wherever we went.

Notre Dame University of DhakaBeing a poet in Bangladesh is something on a par with being a rock star. I’ve lost count of the number of selfie’s I appear in! It was heartening the way young people were interested in what we had to say. We performed at the English Club at Notre Dame University, took part in an informal seminar at Jahangir Nagar University where students shared their work with us, and a formal performance and seminar at The Independent University of Dhaka in front of the Vice Chancellor. 51098424_1184261445074429_7495139761732976640_n[1]

20190202_124552Every morning, Summit organiser and fellow poet, Aminur Rahman, brought us copies of The Dhaka Tribune, The Independent and other Bengali newspapers, which invariably contained news and feature articles on our progress. The Summit made it onto the news bulletins of 7 television stations, and we were individually interviewed by two other stations. Yes, this was media heaven!

51140331_10157212788274052_7079170181955584000_o[1]My fellow invitees were a great bunch of performers. Between them they have serious form at international poetry events . Annabel Villar and Julio Pavanetti are Uruguyan poets, run a poetry festival in Benidorm, and read their work in the beautiful language of Castille. Dr Ali Al-Shalah runs the Babylon Poetry Festival in Iraq and performed his poems in Arabic and German. 51107091_10157207774134052_7666569438572838912_o[1]

609A3087Kama Sywor Kamanda is from the Congo, and gave hugely powerful renditions of his work in French, his mother tongue.   It was fascinating to hear Dr Tianxin Cai perform his work in Mandarin, as well as in English. P1390281He’s a prolific and much translated poet, and also a professor of Mathematics at Hangzou University. Last but not least, we enjoyed the verbal magic of Malim Ghozali PK in Malay who is a novelist, and essayist as well as poet. 609A3176

IMG_20190203_060654474 (1)We spent hours in the rollercoaster that is Dhaka traffic, travelling between venues – our driver expertly avoided rickshaws, tuctucs, buses of venerable age, kamakazi pedestrians, and street traders plying their wares from car to car. IMG_20190202_050850407 (1)

IMG_20190201_075541296_HDR (1)In between gigs, we had time to visit some of the highlights of the city, including a 300 year old Hindu temple, the Lalbagh Fort with its exotic gardens, and the National Memorial where we laid a wreath to the memory of the 3 million people who died in the war for independence from Pakistan. 20190130_095838

 

We got to perform at the the equivalent of London’s Poetry Café (Kobita Bangla) where it was good to meet and hear some women Bangladeshi poets – still rather a scarcity in the main programme.

IMG_20190130_115333552 (1)More delights were in store for us at the Bangladesh Academy of Fine and Performing Arts where each of us had had one poem chosen by the artist Maksadul Absan, out of which he created his own visual interpretations. The exhibition of 15 poetry paintings was stunning, and will be on show for the coming month.

There is also a beautiful anthology – Poetry & Painting – which contains reproductions of each painting with its poem alongside. Dhaka publications_0006

Dhaka publications_0005Where there are poets, naturally there must be books! A total of four publications bearing our work were launched during the summit. The Dhaka Anthology of World Poetry 2019, edited by Aminur Rahman and Bilkis Mansoor, is a 175 page hardback containing poems by 66 contemporary world poets from 34 countries and five continents. It was launched from a podium of wonderful white, fragrant flowers and the chief guest was the Minister for Information, Mr H E Hasan Mahmud MP. He formally awarded us with the Kathak Literary Award for services to world literature – endowing us with a medal and a beautifully crafted statuette.20190131_190315

Dhaka publications_0004Later in the week, we performed at the launch of Bangladesh’s premier poetry magazine, Kabikantha, which has been on the scene since 1956. It was such an honour to have a poem (in translation) alongside important Bengali poets.

The fourth and final publication, which contains four poems each in Bengali translation,  gave me plenty of fun, trying to work out which of the poems was which – essential to know, as we read our poems in mother tongue and then Aminur Rahman read his translations of them. Eventually, line-breaks gave the game away!

IMG_20190201_051852952 (1)Perhaps the highlight of the whole five days was performing at the National Poetry Festival during the month-long Ekushey Book Fair. It was held in an open air auditorium (at a pleasant 27 degrees Centigrade with the monsoon still a month off, perfect weather) under a beautifully decorated awning. We took off our shoes and sat on the platform awaiting our turn, as one by one, poets were invited to the rostrum to perform. Plenty of time to bond with poets, exchange cards and learn a little about their countries. We even managed to snatch a photo of female poets from three continents – Asia (Nepal, Malaysia), South America (Uruguay) and Europe (UK). Pushpa Khanal, me, Annabel Villar and PK's wife

20190201_122659Hospitality was so generous, that one day we enjoyed breakfast, mid morning tiffin, lunch, afternoon tea and two dinners. Well, it would have seemed ungrateful to decline!

Bangla CafeDhaka publications_0003It was inspiring and instructive to listen and read (in translation) the work of our Bangladeshi colleagues who performed alongside us. These included Aminur Rahman, Asad Chowdhury, Habibullah Sirajee, Hayat Saif, Jahidul Huq, Maksudul Ahsan, Mohammad Nurul Huda and Mustafa Pasha.

609A3219Poetry in Bangladesh is not afraid to express big emotions or call for action on the part of the listener. It feels more tied in with the life of social and political change than perhaps is poetry in the UK. At Kabita Bangla an entire collection was launched the night we were there of poetry concerned with the Rohynga refugees.

P1400602The International Poets Summit was truly an extraordinary experience – proof that when people come together to share their aspirations, their experiences of life and their poetry, we do truly become one world. with Nikita Tahsin

My grateful thanks to Aminur Rahman and Bilkis Mansoor for inviting me to the Summit, for the wonderful care they took over every little detail, and to my fellow poets, both international and Bangladeshi, for their energy, their talent and their enthusiasm. Friendships that I hope will last and grow. The poetry world is truly one large family.

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It’s Cricket! Paper Swan’s Latest Pocket Book is Out

Paper Swans - CricketIf the hallowed sound of leather against willow seems like a distant dream, why not buy yourself a copy of Paper Swans’ CRICKET Pocket Book of Poetry, where twelve poets will knock you for six with their spin on the noble game?images51VWJZ8U

Look out for stories of love among the wickets, batting triumphs and bowling disasters from Penny Blackburn, Claire Booker, Catherine Edmunds, Steve Harrison, Neil Leadbetter, Roy Marshall, Jill Munro, Brenda Read-Brown, Sue Spiers, Rob Walton, Joe Williams and Lawrence Wilson.

The Pocket Book of Poetry – CRICKET is one of a series of themed poetry pamphlets edited by Sarah Miles and designed to pop into a pocket, a bag or send with a greetings card to make it extra special. They’re available from Paper Swans Press for £3.50 (ex p&p) and include the topics of LOVE, WEDDINGS, ANGER and WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE.

To buy a copy or learn more about the Tunbridge Wells based publisher, click on: Paper Swans Press

Call for Guernsey ‘Poems on the Move’

guernsey poetry bus (2)If you’d love to see your words riding a Guernsey bus for a season, there’s still time to enter the 2019 International Guernsey Poetry Competition.

I was lucky enough to be a Poems on the Move Open winner last year (congrats to Josh Ekroy, Jonathan Edwards and Peter Wallis for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes). The selection was made by Daljit Nagra, and my poem ‘On Beacon Hill’ has been busy zooming around this lovely Channel island on one of its yellow buses. Poems on the Move (enhanced)

Other winners (in three categories) sharing bus space, include Zilla Bowes, Lyra Davies, Scott Elder, Sue Proffitt, Alexander Soulsby, Simon Rees-Roberts and Anthony Watts. 

“I was impressed by the range of poetry that seemed to touch on every subject imaginable,” says Daljit Nagra in his judge’s summary. “I appreciated the discipline of the many poets who wrote succinctly and vividly remembering that the power of poetry lies in its turn of phrase, in its lively associations between unusual things, so that in a few words the reader can be held and transported at once.”

Guernsey busTo read poems by the current winners, or to enter the 2019 competition, please visit: Poems on the Move. Entries must arrive by January 15th and could win you top prize of £1,000. This year’s competition will be judged by Bloodaxe poet Maura Dooley. She’s looking for poems of 14 lines or fewer, and that will fit on a single page of A4.

And if you’re planning a trip to Guernsey – perhaps for the International Literary Festival (1-6th May) – you may want to check out the buses on the island and read some of the winning poems while you stock up on potato peel pie!  

More information at: Guernsey Buses  and Guernsey Literary Festival

Elbow Room has Sublimed

Elbow Room Issue 20As we go forward into the new year, ElbowRoom waves its beautiful pages in a gesture of farewell.

This lovingly hand-crafted gem has given the literary scene 20 issues of poetry, short prose and artwork, plus some fantastically enjoyable launch parties. It has earned the right to rest on its laurels. ElbowRoom Live

The brainchild of artist/writer, Rosie Sherwood, (ably assisted by poet Zelda Chappel), Elbowroom launched in April 2012 and became something of a trend-setter in the world of hand-made art journals.

More than 100 writers have graced its pages. Poets published in this final volume (issue 20) are James Bell, Claire Booker, Christy Hall, Roger Hare, Oz Hardwick and Stella Wulf. The photographic artworks are by Bethany Murray and Rosie Sherwood. Elbow Room Issue 20 by Rosie Sherwood

“In the introduction to the first volume of Elbow Room, I wrote about coming across a hand-painted sign for a bookshop so tiny it only had space for a desk and one over-flowing bookcase,” says Rosie Sherwood.

“Despite the size of the shop, they had divided the shelves into fiction, poetry, illustration, photography etc. I found myself frustrated that art, visual and written, is not allowed to sit together more regularly. This was the birth of Elbow Room.”

You can still buy some Elbow Room back-numbers by visiting the As Yet Untitled website. Although its flagship publication, Elbow Room, has now sublimed, As Yet Untitled will continue to specialise in limited edition, handmade works that embrace the breadth of possibility in book form, from traditional binding techniques to sculptural works.

Good luck Rosie, and all who sail with you!

Check out the latest developments at As Yet Untitled

South Bank Poetry is 10 Years Old

South Bank Poetry (issue 30)_0002Poetry magazines aren’t notable for their longevity. It takes dedication and sheer bloody mindedness (I suspect) to keep jumping those hurdles, year after year.

So a massive thumbs-up to Peter Ebsworth and Katherine Lockton for steering their ever-popular magazine into its second decade. By sheer fluke, I have two poems in the 10th anniversary issue, which in a lovely way, gives me a direct connection with that celebration.

Due to prior commitments, I wasn’t able to attend the launch of South Bank Poetry (issue 30) at the Poetry Place, but by all accounts it was an evening to remember. Many contributors attended and read their poems. For those of us who weren’t able, there was a special treat in store. The actress Annette Badland (Hazel of Archer’s fame), kindly agreed to perform our work. SBP Annette Badland reads At Risk Child 18

Having heard her read another of my poems last year in the Actor’s Church, Covent Garden, as part of the Out of Place music project, I know just how well she uses that intelligent voice of hers to bring out every nuance in a piece of poetry.

Contributors to the 10th anniversary issue include Jim Alderson, Tessa Berring, Leonardo Boix, Claire Booker, Oliver Comins, Daniel Loudon, Joel Scarfe, Paul Stephenson, Joe Wedgbury and Heidi Williamson.

“We would like to thank all our contributors to this issue, as well as all the poets who have sent us their work over the last ten years,” writes Katherine Lockton in the intro. We would be nothing without you. Over the years we have seen poets published in our magazine go on to become poetry superstars. We are so proud of what you have all achieved and continue to accomplish.”

South Bank Poetry (issue 30)_0001I can think of no better encomium for the magazine, than that written by the poet, journalist and travel writer, Hugo Williams: “I have always enjoyed South Bank Poetry for its unexpected mix of strange and traditional, lyrical and political, young, old and odd, so I don’t hesitate in recommending it to anyone remotely interested in the art. It is just a very good money’s worth and will last.”

How prescient he turns out to be. A hearty thanks to Peter and Katherine for giving us a decade of happy reading. Here’s to the next ten years (and more)!

To buy a copy of the magazine, or submit your own work, please check: www.southbankpoetry.co.uk

The Spectator and I

Spectator (Dec 1st 2018)_0001Thank you to Hugo Williams for including one of my poems in this week’s Spectator magazine (Dec 1st issue).

The Spectator may not be everyone’s cup of tea politically, but it gets serious marks for including not one, but two (and sometimes even three), contemporary poems EVERY WEEK in its pages.  How many newspapers or main stream magazines can say as much?

And what’s heartening, is those poems are not always by the literary glitterati. Which means that anyone can have a chance to be enjoyed by 80,000 plus readers – so long as the poem is interesting enough to be selected.

In this issue, you can read loads on the arts, including poems by John Mole, Nicola Healey and Claire Booker, an interview with best-selling author Sam Leith, advice on buying modern art (out of my price range, alas!), book, TV, theatre and dance reviews, including Michele Obama’s ‘Becoming’ and a feature on the history of Art Deco. You also get Spectator Life magazine thrown in for good measure, which includes a highly entertaining interview with comedienne and former advisor to a number of Labour leaders, Ayesha Hazarika. Spectator (Dec 1st 2018)_0002

If you’d like your work to be considered, send a small selection of poems (on paper only) to Hugo Williams, c/o The Spectator, Arts and Books, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP.

 

 

Dream Catcher 37 is Out!

Dreamcatcher (issue 37)“Poetry produces many delights,” writes editor, John Gilham, in the foreword of the latest Dreamcatcher. And indeed, he’s right. This is a lively collection of poetry, fiction and artwork on the big themes of love, vengeance, nature, mystery, illness and death (among others!)

Poets who appear in issue 37 include Claire Booker, CM Buckland, Angela Cooke, Kieran Egan, Sally Festing, Daniel Gustaffson, Oz Hardwick, Tony McCabe, Mike McNamara, Ali Pardoe, Natalie Scott, Kenneth Durham Smith, Iain Twiddy, Tom Vaughan, Linda Lee Welch and Alice West.

The issue kicks off with a selection of poetry which featured at Poetry For All – an evening of work from poets living with hearing impairment, blindness or autism. Donna Williams’ work I admired in particular, especially her poem ‘These hands are bigger than the sky’. Diversity enrichens all our reading experience.

There are also short stories by Merryn Williams, Eleanor Porter, Alison Mordey, Stewart J Lowe, John Vale, Angelica Krikler and Gay McKenna among others.

Dreamcatcher reviews this issue include Paula McLain’s genre-bending book Flights of Fancy: Circling the Sun on women aviators; Pam Zinnemann-Hope’s first collection from Ward Wood Publishing; and Miller Oberman’s mixing of his own poetry with his translations of Old English poems, in his collection The Unstill Ones.

And what a lovely inter-weaving of featured artist Freya Horsely’s boldly impressionistic and colourfully dexterous work.

To purchase a copy of Dream Catcher Magazine (issue 37) or to find out how to submit your work, please visit: Dream Catcher and Stairwell Books