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.

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 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 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

Petrarch: a celebration of Tim Atkins, the videos

A magical evening, one of the best Ive been a part of, ever. It could not have been more joyous, funny, brilliant. It felt like a family, let alone a real community. All because of the human being Tim is, the way he has taught a generation of poets and peers to cut through the misanthropy to the warmth that permeates through his poetry and his persona. So proud to have been part of this evening, all 19 poets read so wonderfully, all worth watching. 

Cabaret Hrabal - July 3rd at the Horse Hospital

Cabaret Hrabal  

”The world is maddeningly beautiful. Well, it isn’t really, but that is how I see it.” Bohumil Hrabal (uncle Peppin) *** A groundbreaking evening of literary experimentation and innovation celebrating the centenary of Bohumil Hrabal, one of the greatest Czech writers of the 20th century. Inspired by Hrabal’s work, brand new commissions from some of the UK most exciting poets, artists, conceptualists, theatre makers and dramaturges explore Hrabal’s magic world. Curated by poet and curator SJ Fowler.
One of the boundless figures of late 20th century Czech literature, Bohumil Hrabal was a novelist, a drinker, a bon vivant, an avant gardist, a railway dispatcher during the Nazi occupation, a traveling salesman, a steelworker, a recycling mill worker, a stagehand… His novels, which include Too Loud a Solitude, Closely Observed Trains, and I Served the King of England, were censored under the Communist regime, yet have since been translated into nearly thirty languages. A survivor of both the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Czechoslovakia, much of Hrabal’s work juxtaposes the darkness of history to the comic, human-scale happenings of the every-day. His oeuvre is as inimitable as his novels are unforgettable.
Through a half-dozen brand new commissions from some of the most exciting UK based poets, artists, conceptualists, theatre makers and dramaturges, Hrabal will be evoked and enveloped, transposed into some of the most exciting literary experimentalists of contemporary London.
Featuring Zoe Skoulding (sound poetry), Sarah Kelly (book sculptures), Joshua Alexander (film art),Stephen Emmerson (conceptual performance), Marcus Slease (poetry), Tom Jenks (literary experiments), Eva Danickova (stage reading) and Lucinka Eisler (theatre), this is a chance to discover, or rediscover, a great European writer through new and exciting works that pay their debt to the remarkable achievements of Hrabal in the essence of their happening.
SJ Fowler is a poet, artist, curator & vanguardist. He works in the modernist and avant garde traditions, across poetry, fiction, sonic art, visual art, installation and performance. He has published six collections of poetry and been commissioned by the Tate, Reel Festivals, the Liverpool Biennial and the London Sinfonietta. He has been translated into 13 languages and performed at venues across the world, from Mexico city to Erbil, Iraq. He is the poetry editor of 3am magazine and is the curator of the Enemies project. He is presenting and co-curating Cabaret Hrabal.


Josh Alexander
 is a London based artist who makes experimental film and photography. In collaboration with artist Luke Montgomery, Josh’s work has featured in various exhibitions includingJoint Ventures organised by Space In Between in 2012. He made the music video for Drowned At Seaby Fairewell. Josh is part of A616, a collaboration with Erkembode, they are currently working on a series of moving image works. In May 2014 Josh had his first solo exhibition Light on Paper at the Hardy Tree Gallery, London. For the event, Josh Alexander will be presenting a visual interpretation of 'Handbook for the Apprentice Palaverer' in the form of a moving image piece.

Eva Daníčková works in London and internationally as a dramaturg, librettist and translator of plays and prose (A. Goldflam, M. Horoščák, Z. Svěrák). Eva studied dramaturgy at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She founded Boii Theatre in 2010, translating and producing Czech plays (The Green Room at the Etcetera Theatre, Boiled Heads at Tristan Bates Theatre and others). She wrote and produced two operas for the Tête à Tête Opera Festival at Riverside Studios in 2011 (The Moonflower) and 2012 (Insein). As a dramaturg, she has worked with Parrabbola, Patrick Dineen (The Golden Boy, Unity Theatre Liverpool) and on her own projects. Eva reads and translates Czech play scripts for the National Theatre and the Royal Court International Department.
Lucinka Eisler is Joint Artistic Director of Inspector Sands and has co-created all of their shows to date. For Inspector Sands she has performed in Hysteria or If That's All There Is. Other acting work includes The Magic Flute (Complicite at ENO / DNO) and Macbeth - The Abuse of Power (Contender Charlie/ China Plate). Directing credits include Rock Pool, Portrait of the Ordinary Festival Goer and A Life in 22 Minutes (all for Inspector Sands) and A Quiet Afternoon, (Stamping Ground Theatre for Riverside Studios/ BAC). As assistant director Lucinka has worked with Rufus Norris (National Theatre; Young Vic) and Theatre O (Barbican). Lucinka is a visiting lecturer at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Lucinka will perform a theatre scetch A Boring Afternoon from The Death of Mr Baltisberger.
Stephen Emmerson's publications include: 'A never ending poem...' (Zimzalla) 'Telegraphic Transcriptions' (Dept Press / Stranger Press), 'No Ideas but in Things' (Dark Windows Press), & 'Albion' (Like This Press). Installations / exhibitions include: Albion, The Dark Would, Visual Poetics at the South Bank Centre, Pharmacopoetics, Illuminations, and Placebo at Farringdon Factory. His work for the Hrabal celebration is an participatory installation centred around the concept of placebo and language control.

Tom Jenks has published five books of poetry, co-organises The Other Room reading series and website, and administers the avant objects imprint zimZalla. Building with the texts of Bohumil Hrabal, Tom will be presenting a brand new conceptual poetry project.
Sarah Kelly is an interdisciplinary text artist and poet, working predominately with hand made paper sculpture. She has published widely and is the author of 'locklines' (KFS Press). Performances and exhibitions include The London Poetry Festival, Saison Poetry Library and MACBA. For the event Sarah will be reworking the material book 'the Death of Mr.Baltisberger' into a collected series of integrated text sculptures.
Marcus Slease was born in Portadown, N. Ireland but moved to Las Vegas at age 11. Currently, he lives in London and teaches English as a foreign language. His latest book is Rides (Blart Books, 2014). For the event, Marcus Slease will be responding to Hrabal's Closely Watched Trains and Too Loud A Solitude
Zoë Skoulding is a poet, translator, editor and critic. She has published four collections of poetry, most recently The Museum of Disappearing Sounds (Seren, 2013). She is Senior Lecturer in the School of English at Bangor University. She will be presenting a sound-based response to Hrabal's 'Diamond Eye'.

Celebrating Bill Griffiths

Without doubt, Bill Griffiths is one of the most powerful, impactful and deeply underappreciated poets of the post war era in England. It was an honour to put together the reading that celebrated the second volume of his collected poems, edited by Alan Halsey and published by Reality street. The turnout was lovely, and the readings excellent, some coming from living legends of the avant garde, the friends and peers of Bill, like Alan, Geraldine Monk, Allen Fisher and Harry Gilonis. It's extremely important to me to try and connect the lineage of my writing, and the culture of 21st century British vanguard poetry, to those figures of the recent past and present who have already walked that path that I am somehow, often accidentally, blindly stumbling down. Clearly the prolific and dynamic use of language, and the subject led, innately innovative poetry that Bill Griffiths produced is something I am often aping, and hoping to come close to achieving. He died just before I came onto the scene, in fact the launch of the 1st volume of his collected poems was the first reading i attended in London. Read more 

Will Rowe - the pre-eminent British Vanguard critic of the latter 20th century

I have the great privilege of being associated with Will Rowe in a number of ways. He edited my book Fights for Veer, he was pivotal in my early involvement with the Writers forum and he is my doctoral supervisor. I am perhaps biased when calling him the most considerable scholar of the avant garde in this country of the last half century, eye to eye with Eric Mottram. As Stephen Watts said so eloquently at this event, held for Will's retirement, and absolutely packed to the rafters with admirers, friends, colleagues, well wishers and some of the best poets of his generation and the two or three following, Will is the consummate witness - never disturbing the integrity of his subjects, the great avant gardists of our time, but complimenting them, growing an understanding of their work and their selves, always alongside. Integrity is the word I would associate with Will, integrity and responsibility. Will's vast career is a testament to a life spent in pursuit of an ideal, and one which has been wholly successful. It is humbling to be before it, so very much aware my own piffling journey is just
beginning. This was a great evening. A day of talks were rounded off with a three hour reading session which featured some of the finest and warmest and most intense readings I've witnessed. Often I believe the London avant garde community has elements of stand offishness which can create unfortunately tapered atmospheres, but not on this day, so far away was that feeling of defence. This was all about celebration, about a genuine feeling of respect. Sean Bonney, Martin Bakero, Carol Watts were just a few whose variant styles and performances genuinely captivated everyone. It was delightful to see people come from around the globe to celebrate Will and his work, and all the more so that we could all share it in one place at one time, in an environment that truly represented his achievement.