Published: a poem & filmpoem for Khadija Ismayilova for English PEN #penfestuk

My first poem to celebrate the extraordinary courage and life of Khadija Ismayilova, to just evidence her immense commitment to her profession and a fundamental notion of truthfulness. You can read more about her case on my English PEN dedicated page, which has my blog on curating the English PEN Modern Literature Festival too (which takes place April 2nd). In the meantime, my poem, the Club, and beautiful filmpoem generously made by Joshua Alexander, which features the poem.

The Club for Khadija Ismayilova

To be too loud like a bulletclub that cannot touch us. Keep quiet.

They are like snakes, beasts, gorillas – masters. 
Very brave, at the top of the trees, but a matter of death and life on the jungle floor.

That is just how it is – surround, surrender, our family - livers swelled, keeping us afloat.

Where we sleep, we’re the same. Where we sleep, you may sleep too,
benefiting the world, a world war bonus. Secret trade of arms, you will receive what is given.

There is light beyond the end of tunnel. That is the soundtrack of cloth burning,
but the light that creates, but the smell it causes,
           one fades quietly, the other stays in the curtains,
but the letters that stand, that will stay
but the fear, but the fog, solid
but the washing of resources, people, stamps, houses in Hampstead,
            which is bearable, is possible, to know
something more than nothing, spraying on the free.

I need not money, but people.
Knowing, the young, hungry hanging, I want you to return here
to see you come back, without the top of boots and bottom of swords.

A low level pedestal,
towering above us, sleeping through.

Something in sense has happened. Give us papers, allow her in.
I can’t imagine the place, and it being strange as storage,
             as a future contribution against nations doing terrible things.

Always later than is thought, food as manners, love as club,
parents as the waiting good, courage as the hospitality
to further good that deserves gratitude
                 and means something.

Joshua is an immense talent, he said of the film: "My immediate idea was to film light prisms in broken glass and water with my camera obscura, extremely up-close so it was abstract and claustrophobic. The idea was to create a feeling of thoughts/memories... and when the poem starts it becomes very still so the words have space. The introduction of birds towards the end is intended as peculiar, but I hope it brings about a feeling of hope, as the piece begins in darkness."

A note on: The English PEN Modern Literature Festival - Full Line up announced

Rich Mix Venue One: April 2nd 2016 - 2pm / 3.30pm / 7.30pm. 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
Free entry but signing up for membership appreciated.
http://www.theenemiesproject.com/englishpen

A privilege to announce a major new project - 30 contemporary writers present new works, each celebrating a writer from around the world who is currently part of the English PEN Writer's at Risk programme. Each of the 30 English writers will present brand new poetry, text, reportage, performance and film on the day that celebrates and evidences the struggle of fellow writers around the world, in solidarity. The full line up of authors is below.

The one day mini-festival takes place at Rich Mix Arts Centre, just off Brick Lane, London, 2pm til 9.30pm, in 3 sessions throughout the day. All are free to attend but attendees are encouraged to join English PEN or donate to the charity if they are already members. 

2pm to 3.30pm
Harry Man on Maung Saung Kha
David Berridge on Dawit Isaak
Kirsten Irving on Nurmuhemmet Yasin
Jen Calleja on Gao Yu
SJ Fowler on Khadija Ismayilova
Dave Spittle on Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury
Prudence Chamberlain on Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong
Robert Hampson on Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace
Adam Baron on Can Dündar and Erdem Gül

4pm to 5.30pm
Eley Williams on Tsering Woeser
Sam Winston on Zunar
Lucy Harvest Clarke on Liu Xia
Stephen Emmerson on Dina Meza
Alex MacDonald on Alaa Abd El Fattah
Drew Milne on Omar Hazek
Oli Hazzard on Enoh Meyomesse
Sarah Kelly on Nelson Aguilera
Caleb Klaces on Jorge Olivera Castillo

7.30pm to 9.30pm
Caroline Bergvall on Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor
Emily Critchley on Mahvash Sabet
Andrew McMillan on Ashraf Fayadh
Andra Simons on Amanuel Asrat
Allen Fisher on Mamadali Makhmudov
Nathan Walker on Mohammed al-‘Ajami
Michael Zand on U Zeya
Mark Waldron on Zhu Yufu
Mark Ravenhill on Mazen Darwish and Yara Bader
Emily Berry on Raif Badawi
Tom McCarthy on Liu Xiaobo

The festival is intended as a call to membership for writers, artists and readers in a time where we face perilous challenges to our freedom of expression and fundamental rights and hard fought liberties, both internationally and here in the UK. As the world changes so remarkably, and so rapidly, and on a global scale, it is vital the political will of our time and this generation of young, dynamic writers is directed purposefully to the work of English PEN, the writer's charity. The hope is this festival, away from creating at least 30 new members of PEN, begins involvements and connections which will have exponential resonance for decades to come.

Please join English PEN
You can join English PEN here http://www.englishpen.org/membership/join/ and if you are a writer, poet, artist, scholar, academic, reader or someone who is passionate about defending our fundamental freedom of expression in the UK and around the world, please take the time to do so and become a part of the future of this extraordinary organisation. 

If you are outside of England, please visit http://www.pen-international.org/ and join your national branch of PEN. You can find more about each writer's work responding to this project on their individual sites, for example Harry Man, and a blog on my website on the process of curating the festival

Thanks to Cat Lucas, Hannah Trevarthen and all the remarkable staff at English PEN. Follow the project on twitter using #penfestuk

A note on: curating the English PEN Modern Literature Festival on April 2nd

The English PEN Modern Literature Festival will take place over one day at Rich Mix Arts Centre, near Brick Lane, on April 2nd 2016. It will involve 30 English writers, primarily poets writing in the literary or modernist traditions, who will present new works each relating to a writer at risk from around the globe, whom English PEN is currently supporting. It will be a celebration of these writers, in new pieces of literature, a day to take stock of what we have, of what they’ve done, and the achievements of English PEN as an organisation. www.theenemiesproject.com/englishpen

My primary curatorial duty in this project has been to connect the 30 writers from England each to a writer at risk. For many months this process has been discussed with the brilliant people at PEN, and when I received the files on the writers at risk we were going to celebrate, I was just about to board a long flight and so had the chance to read them in one go, over about nine hours, in the strange environs of a plane. It’s hard to describe the feeling afterwards, certainly the sense of responsibility, that I had sought out this project, enthusiastic from the off, but perhaps not truly prepared for the reality of the writers we would be writing about. It’s mawkish to speak of admiration, but come face to face with such will, such commitment to principle, and for it to be so global, to be almost everywhere on our planet, through these 30 human beings who share with us a profession, it left me feeling as ashamed as I was inspired. Perhaps one can never really divorce oneself from the selfish question of whether I would continue to speak up in such circumstance, facing prison, torture, perhaps death. To risk my life and the lives of those I love. The festival will not be a maudlin affair, and no one is suggesting it will create powerful change, but it is important, to me and the other 59 writers connected, if nothing else.

I’m fortunate to have the infrastructure to organise an event like this, with The Enemies Project, having run quite large events which require new work or collaborations from the participating poets almost every time, and this feels, without a doubt, the best use for that infrastructure. I enjoy curating live literature, I think especially in the modernist or avant garde traditions, it’s maybe necessary, to share complex and challenging work with people, consistently, in a welcoming and generous context, and as a poet and artist, to take control of that space where the work is shared. I think it’s an act of community, though I don’t think it more than it is, it is antagonistic to the smallness that can come with writerly solitude or factionalism. The English PEN Modern Literature Festival feels like the most purposeful event I’ve ever put together, for it’s effects, already happening, will not just be to connect underappreciated writers from the UK to oppressed and unbelievably courageous writers in different places, to bring light to those writers, to celebrate them, in London, a global city, where we must always be mindful of the freedoms and luxuries we enjoy. But also because I hope it encourage others, writers and readers alike, of my generation, to join English PEN and to begin investments and connections that might have significant effects on the future of this extraordinary charity, the writers charity, as they battle to maintain our freedom of speech, as they do the job we need doing, long into the future www.stevenjfowler.com/englishpen

2nd edition of my 1st collection: Red Museum

http://knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/redmuseum.html As is the poet's prerogative, this, my first book, was somewhat declaimed by me over the last few years. Coming into this year, it's gotten a little attention and reconsulting it, it suddenly seems to have its own 'value'. Not sure what that is exactly, that it is so big and dense to be a reading challenge, that it maintains its intensity of language...Anyhow, very happy Knives forks and spoons press have gotten to the point where the first print run has gone, and a new one needed doing, with really beautiful production values. It looks better than ever, a lovely thing to receive in the post.