Tag Archives: Aminur Rahman

Bangladesh, Margate, where next?

Last Tuesday I performed a set of poems in Dhaka, Bangladesh and 3 days later read more poems at The Turner Contemporary Gallery as part of the Margate Bookie Festival. A tiny glimpse of the jet-setting life!

My grateful thanks goes to Bengali poet Aminur Rahman, who rustled up a venue, audience and the kindest of welcomes for me and my husband. We were in Dhaka for the funeral of my father-in-law, Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, who is hugely respected in Bangladesh as a poet, journalist, and hero of the 1971 war of liberation. It was lovely to catch up with some of the poets I met in 2019 when we performed at venues across the city. These included Shakhib Lohani, Ayesha S Chowdhury, Jahidul Huq, and Mohammad Nurul Huda.

The latest issue of The Dhaka Review, edited by Aminur Rahman, was also launched, with articles or poems by a host of respected Bengali poets, plus international writers including Fiona Sampson, Agnes Meadows, Isabel White, Ali al-Shalha, Annabel Villar, Julio Pavanetti, Claire Booker and Tobias Burghardt.

Tributes to Abdul Gaffar Choudhury included a beautiful rendition of his song of liberation, and poems specially written to commemorate him.

Touching down at Heathrow after a 14 hour flight (including breath-taking vistas of Sylhet’s endless horizons of water) I had only one day to recover, before heading off for Margate. What a joy when I arrived to find poetry friends, old and new, in the magnificent modernism of the Turner Gallery.

Here we are, ready to perform our poem +1 from the latest issue of 14 magazine, edited by Richard Skinner, curtesy of Margate Bookie’s creator and man about the pumps, Andreas Loizou.

Poets included Jill Abram, Clare Best, Claire Booker, Angus Carlyle, James Coghill, Kaylen Forsyth, Christopher Hamilton-Emery, Caroline Maldonado, Jess Mookherjee, Kathy Pimlott, Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, Emma Simon, Tamar Yoseloff, plus four women poets supported by Community Action Sutton (Fay Chung, Beverley Dixon, Elizabeth Mudyiwa, and Nali Patel).

Copies of series Two, issue 2 of 14 magazine are available from https://richardskinner.weebly.com/14-magazine.html

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.

14 Great Poetry Gigs to Celebrate

Postcards (Collage 3)Writing poetry is one thing. Marketing it, quite another. This is where poetry gigs can come into their own. Over the last year, I’ve taken my poetry pamphlet, Later There Will Be Postcards, on a whistle stop tour of some great venues.

Green Bottle Press launched the pamphlet last October at SLAM Kings Cross – a delightful venue with an ornate horseshoe balcony and music hall feel.  So far so great – a nice turn out of friends and poetry well-wishers, plus stablemates Tracey Rhys and Yvonne Piper launching their own books too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGBP Postc (Joolz pic)My editor, Jennifer Gregg, had arranged a pre-launch at The Torriano Meeting House – a little piece of literary history tucked away in Kentish Town, which is also home to the imprint Hearing Eye.  I featured there with fellow Green Bottle Press poet Sarah Sibley, reading from her PBS acclaimed pamphlet The Withering Room.  I was there again two weeks later to feature with poets Alan Price and Louise Warren, and enjoy the usual high quality open-mic readers.

In February I was invited to read two of my poems at Palewell Press‘s launch of a powerful book about refugees – Three Days in Damascus, a memoir by Kim Schultz. The venue was The Hive in Dalston, a really wacky, welcoming space full of contemporary art, great coffee and a happening feel to it.  Handy for the Jeffrey Museum too.

Magma 67 launchMagma being one of my top three favourite literary mags (no, I’m not telling!) I was thrilled to be asked to read two of my poems at the launch of its 67th issue (Bones & Breath) at The London Review Bookshop – handy for the British museum. The distinctive L-shaped room is surprisingly good acoustically, and there’s a real buzz sitting in such close proximity to so many books. Perhaps most inspiring is the quality of listening you get at a Magma launch.

Best-of-British-cover[1] And now let’s hear it for Royal Tunbridge Wells, and in particularly that adventurous publisher Paper Swans Press, who launched their Best of British Anthology at The George, not so far from the pantiles where Jane Austin may have sipped a Bacardi Breezer or two (or the Regency equivalent). My fellow contributors gathered from all corners of the UK to share offerings on the topic of British Life.

PAE Centrala 2April saw me in Birmingham’s Centrala Gallery, a great space which specialises in Eastern European art, and overlooks the Grand Union Canal. It was all part of the Birmingham Literature Festival. With Arts Council funding, our UK/Romanian collective PoetryArtExchange could afford to pay for three British poets and two Romanian poets plus a Polish saxophonist to perform poetry to an avant-garde sound track of words and musical sounds. I really let my hair down on castanets, tambourine and ball point pen! PAE - John Riley

Written in Water Constable event 6 May posterBrighton Museum, inside the Prince Regent’s fantasy palace with its minarets and flamboyant painted dragons, is a unique venue. For this year’s Brighton Festival, The Frogmore Press invited a contingent of Brighton-based poets to read their work inspired by clouds and sea. What a delight to share words in front of a magnificent collection of John Constable paintings and sketches.  There was an excellent turn out from the public, some of whom didn’t expect this added extra but stopped to listen to such poets as Clare Best, Maria Jastrzebska, Mandy Pannett, Jeremy Page, Lyn Thomas and Marek Urbanowicz. Thank you to Alexandra Loske for inviting us.

Beyond WordsIf you live within reach of south London, count yourself lucky. Beyond Words at the Gipsy Hill Tavern, is one of the most consistently enjoyable spoken word events and punches well above its weight. Hosts Angela Brodie and Caroline Vero invited me to feature in the summer, alongside Jim Alderson. What could be more convenient than a 2 minute walk to the train station and then up to Victoria in an eye-wink? I got home to Brighton in time for a nightcap.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALoose Muse Covent Garden, run by the inimitable Agnes Meadows, welcomed me as feature poet in June, alongside novelist SV Berlin and blogger Naomi Woddis. Later in Ocober I had the pleasure of featuring at the Winchester’s Loose Muse, alongside Jessica Mookherjee. I had time to visit some Winchester’s wonderfully preserved heritage (including King Arthur’s round table) before heading for The Discovery Centre, which was buzzing with interested poets thanks to organiser Sue Wrinch’s warm and efficient hospitality. I even managed to sell ten copies of Later There Will Be Postcards which is (and will probably remain) a personal best. We were the closing act of the UK-India Festival of Words set up by Sue, which included a flash fiction workshop, a free Bollywood film, poetry workshops and performances by Mona Arshi, Rishi Dastidar and Martyn Crucefix. Aminur

The Indian subcontinent continued to exert its effects, this time through the Bangla poet, Aminur Rahman, who was over in the UK to promote his latest collection, Perpetual Diary. Agnes Meadows organised an evening at The Sun Covent Garden, where Aminur charmed us with his readings in English and Bengali, and Isabel White, Racheal Joseph and myself were the supporting acts.

Petersfield Write Angle 2017Petersfield in Hampshire is a delightful  town with a market-place, herb garden and lovely winding river that runs through its Tudor and Georgian houses. It’s also home to a wonderfully eclectic poetry night – Petersfield Write Angle – run by Leah and Jake Cohen. Petersfield - Claire Dyer They invited myself and novelist/poet Claire Dyer to fill the feature slot for August (always the third Tuesday of the month). The venue is intimate and quirky, and the open mic drew some extraordinary performances, including a wonderful harpist.

Ver poets poster 17I travelled up to St Albans, burial place of Harold (arrow-in-the eye) Godwinson to feature at a Ver Poets Reading, alongside John Mole and Caroline Vero. St Albans public library was a joy – warm, bright and inviting, with an attentive mix of Ver poets and members of the public making up the audience.  John was reading from his Shoestring Press collection Gestures & Counterpoints, and Caroline shared some of her most up-to-the-minute poems.   Chroma 1d

Chroma 1And the final event I featured in this year, was the launch of the brand new lit mag Chroma at Brighton’s bijou ONCA Gallery.  Chroma will focus on a different colour each issue. Issue one is red and heart-stoppingly gorgeous to look at. The launch was awash with talented young artists, musicians and writers, and there was a beautifully curated exhibition of some of photographs and poems  (including my own I’m proud to say).  So thank you to Emma Phillips for fashioning such a sumptuous read!

Copies of Later There Will Be Postcards are still available at £6.20 plus p&p from: GREEN BOTTLE PRESS