Category Archives: Poetry Events

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.


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

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:

Magma 71 – the Film Issue

Magma 71“Poetry and Film make wonderful bedfellows,” proclaims the editorial in the summer issue of Magma. The 62 poems within its pages are testimony to that.

Poets selected for the final wrap of Magma 71 include Patricia Ace, Claire Booker, Matthew Caley, Kristi Carter, Michael Conley, Frank Dullaghan, Pat Edwards, Carrie Etter,  Katie Evans-Bush, Jamie Field, Nick Garrard, Kevin Higgins, Mingpei Li, Roisin Kelly, Andrew McMillan, Kathy Pimlott, Kate Rutter, Rosie Shepperd and Greta Stoddart.

Magma 71 - Cinema MuseumCo-editors Cheryl Moskowitz and Stav Poleg have curated a celebration of the cinematic qualities so often found in good poetry – a rich coupling of word and image. But they were also keen to travel beyond the page and connect poets with filmmakers to allow new creations to emerge. 

Enter the University of Edinburgh, Emma Davie at the Edinburgh College of Art and Lucy Kendra and Jennifer Williams at the Festival of Creative Learning. The collaboration has resulted in a number of powerful film poems. So often poetry is a lone wolf, but Magma have increasingly extended the hand of creative friendship to make fascinating new links.

Magma 71 - launchOne such link is with The Cinema Museum in Kennington, which opened its doors for a stunning launch of Magma 71 last month. I urge you, if you can, to visit this amazing museum, set inside the old workhouse where Charlie Chaplin and family took refuge. Magma 71 (The Cinema Museum)

As a huge Chaplin fan, it was incredibly moving to read my poem in the very place where he must have known despair and hunger, never imagining that his genius would later be celebrated in the self same cavernous building. To learn more or lend your support (there’s talk of closure) visit: The Cinema Museum

Magma 71 - KenningtonAs well as contributor readings, we were treated to an exhilarating range of poetry films from the expressionist, right through to more traditional ‘illustrative’ approaches. You can view these films at the Magma website now.

Back to paper and pages. Inside Magma 71 you’ll find work by highlighted poet Liz Lefroy; winning poems from the Magma 2017/18 competition; reviews by Jade Cuttle, Lisa Kelly and Andrew Neilson; analysis by Professor Peter William Evans of films including The Red Shoes and Il Postino in the light of poetics; Lucy Ingrams’ article on why reading Elizabeth Bishop is like going to the cinema; and a commissioned poem by Caroline Bird inspired by Rebecca E Marshall’s film Fever of the Light.

To echo Cheryl Moskowitz’s own sign off: “Find yourself a seat, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the issue!”

To buy a copy of Magma 71, submit your own work or view the film poems, please visit: Magma

The Interpreter’s House – a Celebration

Interpreters House, Martin Malone, Karen Izod 2018Martin Malone tested the limits of heat endurance when he handed over the keys of The Interpreter’s House on a sweltering night at a packed-to-the-rafters event in Nell of Old Drury, Covent Garden.

Celebrating the end of his five year tenure as editor, contributors from issues 67 and 68 waxed lyrical (and sweaty) during an evening both warm in body and heart.

Poets sharing their work included Claire Booker, Rachel Clyne, Sophie Dumont, Janet Hatherley, Pamela Johnson, Gary Jude, Wendy Klein, Candyce Lang, Jeremy Page, Jessica Mookheree, Olivia Tuck, Julia Webb and Ros Woolner, as well as commended poets and the runner-up in this year’s TIH poetry competition – Claire Dyer, Fiona Larkin and Karen Izod (above: with Martin Malone). Interpreter's House issue 68

IH68Launch2The latest issue includes the winning poem ‘Operation Thunderstorm’ by Theophilus Kwek, as well as poems by people who couldn’t make it to the launch such as Josephine Balmer, Robert Crawford, Katie Donovan, Carrie Etter and Robin Houghton. Plus there’s a powerful story by S.P. Hannaway and reviews by Martin Malone, Aoife Lyall, Dawn Gorman and Declan Ryan.

“Poetry’s background music represents an incrementally important soundtrack to what a society is, and in one of the developed world’s most socially unequal, this is no small thing,” says Martin Malone in his final editorial. Out-going Assistant Editor, Charles Lauder Jnr adds: “The goal was and always has been to accept the best writing – strong, surprising, unique, well-crafted, thought-provoking poems and stories.” IH launch 68 - 3

IH68launchIt’s a tough act to follow for new editors Georgi Gill and Andrew Wells, but they’re already on the case. Something like 1,500 submissions will land in their in-tray over the coming weeks, so if you’d like to see one of your poems or short stories in issue 69, check out the website at: The Interpreter’s House

Magma 70 – The Europe Issue

Europe means Europe (as Teresa May sadly never said) and Europe in all its complexities is the theme for the Spring issue of Magma, which radiates a raft of continental perspectives. Magma 70

Editors Susannah Hart and Paul Stephenson have steered a careful passage around knee jerk Brexit poetry to produce a subtle, playful and thought-provoking issue, packing in a bumper array of  80 poets, who include: Claire Booker, Steve Boorman, Kit Buchan, Rishi Dastidar, Josh Ekroy, Mark Fiddes, Jan Heritage, Paul Jeffcutt, Jane Kirwan, Wendy Klein, Neetha Kunaratnam, Martin Malone, Richie McCaffery, Katrina Naomi, Ian Pindar, Julian Stannard, William Stephenson, Matthew Sweeney and Claudine Toutoungi.

Magma Europe House 2As selected poet, Anna Kisby (who is a Londoner, now residing in Devon) offers three powerful poems which look at what it means to belong to a place. Richard O’Brien writes a fascinating article on Christopher Fry’s 1973 poem ‘Fanfare for Europe’ written to celebrate Britain’s new alignment with the continent.  The Director of StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival, Eleanor Livingstone, shares her extensive experience of poetry festivals across Europe. And Rosalie Challis writes an emotional response to Marcel Proust – starting out as a short letter poem, but developing into something of a memoir on Franco-cultural life in 1960s London. Magma Europe House 4

Will Stone takes a thoughtful look at the visionary poet, Georg Trakl, an extraordinary talent who emerged from the turmoil (personal and national) of turn of the century Austria-Hungary. Rainer Maria Rilke said of Trakl’s poems: “I have discovered much in them: overwhelmed, amazed, wondering and mystified. I imagine that even one who stands close by must experience such spectacles and perceptions as though pressed, an exile, against a pane of glass.”

Magma Europe House 3

Claire Booker reads her poem ‘Galia Melons’ at Europe House

Through good planning and a piece of Magma magic, the editors were able to secure the perfect location to launch Magma 70 last month –  Europe House in Smith Square. More than half the poets in the issue were able to read their work, which made for a fun and very action packed evening, with some memorable renditions (Kit Buchan and Wendy Klein to name but two).  And of course, Magma wouldn’t be Magma without its poetry review pages, this time with reviews by Claire Crowther, Rishi Dastidar, Michael Loveday and Laurie Smith.                                              To  purchase a copy of Magma 70, or to submit your work to the magazine, please click on: Magma


Chroma Magazine – the Red Issue

Chroma 1 coverThe first issue of Chróma launched this winter and features an intoxicating fusion of contemporary poets, thinkers, artists and photographers with one uniting factor, the colour red.  Now, editor Emma Phillips is looking for work inspired by orange.

I was lucky enough to be invited to read at Chróma’s launch party in Brighton’s ONCA Gallery where a packed crowd enjoyed a stunning exhibition of photos and printed word material, then listened to poems and specially composed music.  Chroma 1c

Chroma 1dThe sheer quality of this inaugural magazine is a ravishment to eyes and brain alike. It’s a visual wow as well as being elegantly rammed full of intellectual and emotional surprises.  

My fellow contributors to the first issue include: poets Lydia Bowden, Chiyuma Elliott, Katie Munnik and Constantin Preda; stunning artwork by Karl-Joel Larsson, Darby Milbrath and Coco Davez; and mind-altering photography by Tekla Evelina Severin, Keegan Grandbois, Laurence Philomene, Mary Chen and Sophie Harris-Taylor. There are also in-depth feature articles on subjects as diverse (though thematically linked) as the meat industry, menstrual taboo, self-harm; plus interviews with artists such as Cleon Peterson and film-maker Greta Bellamacina. Chroma 1 There’s even room in Chróma’s 124 generous sized pages for short-stories by Gwen Myers and Colette Coen.

“2017 was a year of blood, shooting, wild-fire and extreme politics,” says Emma Phillips. “Despite this, the magazine also explores the beauty of red through its relationship to love, landscape, lipsticks and gender. In the West, red may mean anger, but in the East, it is a sign of vitality and fertility. It is the colour of happiness, worn by brides at their wedding and hung vibrantly across their streets and temples.” Chroma + poem

To order your copy of  the Red issue of Chróma, please visit the following link: Chroma To submit work inspired by the colour orange, email Emma at