British Writers In Support of Palestine

March 1, 2018

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry [Chichester Launch]


Following November’s sell-out launch at London’s P21 Gallery, celebrations of the new bilingual anthology A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry (Smokestack Books) continue.  The first review has appeared – and is glowing! – while February saw editor Naomi Foyle in discussion with Sarah Irving, editor of the landmark Scottish-Palestinian anthology A Bird is Not a Stone (Freight Books, 2015), an event chaired by Farah Aridi for Hibr: A Festival of Arab Poetry (Goldsmiths English PEN). Next up is a launch at Chichester University, where on Monday March 12th poet Mustafa Abu Sneineh and translator Waleed Al-Bazoon will join Naomi Foyle, also a Senior Lecturer at the University, for a reading of poems and translations from the book, followed by discussion and Q&A.

Monday March 12
4 – 5 pm
Academic Block 1.01
Bishop Otter Campus
College Lane
P019 6PE
All welcome.  Free.

Should a trip to Chichester seem a daunting prospect, rest assured that the book can be ordered at any UK bookshop, or direct from the publisher.

* * *

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry brings together, in English and Arabic, new work by poets from the Palestinian territories, from the diaspora, and from within the disputed borders of Israel. Presenting work by Marwan Makhoul, Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, Fatena Al-Ghorra, Dareen Tatour, Ashraf Fayadh, Fady Joudah, Naomi Shihab Nye, Deema K. Shehabi, Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Farid Bitar, Sara Saleh and Mahmoud Darwish, and featuring an introduction by the book’s editor, poet and activist Naomi Foyle, the anthology celebrates the flourishing cultural resistance of the Palestinian people to decades of displacement, occupation, exile and bombardment. Voices fresh and seasoned converse with history, sing to the land, and courageously nurture an attachment to human fragility. Written in free verse and innovative forms, hip hop rhythms and the Arabic lyric tradition, these poems bear witness both to catastrophe, and to the powerful determination to survive it.

Smokestack Books is a small independent press based in Yorkshire. Smokestack champions poets who are unfashionable, radical, left-field and working a long way from the metropolitan centres of cultural authority. Smokestack is interested in the World as well as the Word; believes that poetry is a part of and not apart from society; argues that if poetry does not belong to everyone it is not poetry.

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry was part-funded by a University of Chichester Research Development Award, granted to the editor. A portion of proceeds from the book will be donated toward the legal fees of Ashraf Fayadh and Dareen Tatour, both currently imprisoned, respectively in Saudi Arabia and Israel, on charges related to their poetry.

Mustafa Abu Sneineh is a poet and writer from Jerusalem. His first poetry collection A Black Cloud at The End of The Line was published in 2016. He holds a degree in Law from Birzeit University, Palestine and an MA in Postcolonial Studies from Goldsmiths College, London.

Waleed Al-Bazoon is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Basra in Iraq. He holds a PhD in Contemporary Fiction from the University of Chichester, where he has taught in the Department of English and Creative Writing, and is currently a Fellow. His poetry collection The War on Idigna appeared in 2011.

Naomi Foyle is an award-winning poet, novelist, verse dramatist, and essayist. Her books include The Night Pavilion, an Autumn 2008 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and The Gaia Chronicles, a science fantasy quartet. In 2017 she co-translated the poetry collection Wounds of the Cloud by Yasser Khanger (Al Ma’mal Foundation, Jerusalem).




February 9, 2017

Smokestack Anthology of New Palestinian Poetry in Translation: Call for Submissions

Filed under: Poems — Naomi Foyle @ 5:11 pm
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Smokestack Books

invites submissions for

a bilingual anthology of

New Palestinian Poetry in Translation

edited by Naomi Foyle

forthcoming Nov 2017

As Yet Untitled will present up to five poems each by 10 to 12 Palestinian poets, representing a diverse range of voices, both new and established, representing the Occupied Territories, ’48 Palestinians, the diaspora and the refugee community. Some poets and translators will be invited to submit work; others will be selected through this open call.

Submission Guidelines

  • Please email between three and ten poems and their translations in a Word document to The original poems may have been previously published in journals, anthologies, pamphlets and single-authored collections. The translations may have been previously published in journals or pamphlets, but not in anthologies or translated single-author collections.
  • All modes of poetry are welcome, including performance poetry, traditional forms and experiments with form and voice. Please note that the editor is a non-Arabic speaker and the quality of the translations will form the ultimate basis of assessment.
  • The Word document should include short biographies, highlights of previous publications, and the email contact details of both the poet and the translator.
  • The total poetry submission (excluding biographies and publication highlights) should not exceed 20 pages.The deadline for submissions is midnight GMT June 10th 2017. The final selection will be made by June 30th
  • All contributors will receive one copy each of the anthology from Smokestack Books, and a 40% discount on future copies. And honorarium of up to £50 (depending on number of poems) will be paid to each contributor on publication. In the event of a reprint, an additional fee will be paid in lieu of royalties.
  • The publisher and editor also undertake to apply to other funding bodies to increase the payment to translators to professional rates, and cover the costs of launches in the UK and Palestine; and will also launch a crowd-sourcing campaign with the aim of ensuring payments to poets match those to translators. None of this additional funding is guaranteed, and most of it cannot be applied for until the final selection is made.


November 16, 2011

Remi Kanazi: Hope Bearer

Remi Kanazi performed to a capacity crowd at the Friends’ Meeting House in Brighton last night, delivering a host of his signature powerhouse poems, a double whammy of Palestinian and American street cred, and bucketfuls of hope. Organised by the Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign, this gig was the fourth in Remi’s long-announced UK tour – a dizzying 22 shows in 18 days.  He’s acclimatized quickly: ‘Don’t call it my UK tour,’ he begs us, ‘I’m not going to Scotland or Wales – I’ll get in trouble.’ (Don’t forget Northern Ireland, Remi!) The remark gives a small measure of the man: as well as an internationally regarded poet and activist, Remi’s a kidder, a clowner and a master of self-deprecation: an artist both deeply engaged and engaging.

Remi introduces himself as an ex-fat boy, the only brown kid in a small mid-Western school, afflicted with a mono-eyebrow and a mother who was loudly proud of being Palestinian; and while it’s clear his politics stem from being the grandson of four 1948 refugees, and his poetry was honed in post 9-/11 New York, one imagines that his humour developed from playground self-preservation techniques. For his show, though built around the urgent, often angry poems of his new collection Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine, abounds with humour. Like a comedian, he gets up close with the front row, in ways that may make older British people uncomfortable except that Remi’s introduced himself before the show, and is clearly eager to make friends. He needs to cast the audience as interlocutors at times because his very vocal poems — sometimes addressed to real-life opponents he can’t get out of his head — explore and enact a raging cultural dialogue about racism, violence, and the desperate need for change. Packed with a one-two punch of history and determination, these are poems that travel: today’s audience is composed mainly of local activists – though one of the UK’s top hiphop artists rolls in late after getting lost on the way from London — but Remi’s equally at home with crowds of a thousand, all hungry for emotion served like a good steak: not raw, but rare.

For Remi’s anger is seared by his own unique take on the poet-performer’s craft: eschewing obvious rhymes, his poems meld the rhythms of rap poetry and impassioned speech, and are performed with a dancer’s ethos: mind, body and spirit working as one. Remi often places his fist on his heart, and then opens his hand out to the audience – a physical symbol of the way poetry transforms anger into communication. His topics range from family history and events in the Middle East, to the current American political climate (prophetically, Remi was an Obama-sceptic even before his election) and the vital importance of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Here he gives us an artist’s eye view – BDS, he explains in answer to a question, is directed against the Israeli state and its complicit institutions, and doesn’t mean a person can’t perform in a private café or home within the 1948 borders.

But while they impart a ton of information to arm us for the arguments the topic of Palestine inevitably provokes, Remi Kanazi’s poems also gift us memorable imagery:

my grandmother
still fills tear ducts
with longing memories of Yaffa


just because the house you built is beautiful
doesn’t mean the bones you built it on
have fully decomposed

(‘Only as Equals’)

Of Middle Eastern civilians, whose quest for justice goes unseen by the poet’s trendy twenty-something peers, he writes:

… they are human beings
gracing the windowpane
reflecting stillborn images
they are voices
chiming in choirs and temples
they are life
that won’t be forgotten
they are the world’s shiver
and whether you like it or not
they are coming inside

(‘Before the Machetes are Raised’)

At the ripe old age of twenty-seven himself, Remi is already a veteran campaigner, whose poetry has taken him all over North America, Europe and the Middle East, and whose political commentaries have been featured by news outlets including Al Jazeera English, GRITtv and BBC Radio. As a Palestinian writer and performer, remaking poetry for a new generation, he helps gives the struggle for justice an enormous shot of hope. For in the last 100 years the Palestinians have faced two main enemies: Zionism and international indifference. And if the latter is largely based on ignorance of the Palestinian people, culture and communication are the antidotes. In her groundbreaking memoir of post-48 exile, In Search of Fatima, Ghada Karmi recounts meeting Tony Benn early on in her activist life: give me something to work with, he asked – give me something to match Jewish literature, music and suffering in the minds of the general population. Well, the Palestinians have always had culture, especially poetry, but now, in Remi Kanazi, Suheir Hammad and Selma Dabbagh, among others, they have young writers who are bicultural, media savvy and only just flexing their collective muscle.  This is a potential game-changer; a cause for immense hope.

Remi Kanazi is today fit, confident, and boasts beautifully threaded brows – a walking advertisement for the benefits of poetry and politics. Though as he asks – what’s political about wanting your basic human rights? Another of his piping hot takeaway lines; lines that, in the end, take you back to his book. Poetic Injustice. Buy it here

July 3, 2011

[Poem] ‘Red Onions’ by Agnes Meadows

Filed under: Gaza,Poems — Naomi Foyle @ 11:37 pm
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As the captains and crew of  Freedom Flotilla II face sabotage, imprisonment and the concerted efforts of Israel and the US to thwart their mission, BWISP remembers the reason for their efforts: the courageous, long-suffering people of Gaza, and in particular its children.  Thinking of them, we publish a poem by Agnes Meadows, from her collection At Damascus Gate on Good Friday (Waterways Publishing, 2005).

Red Onions

My sparrow-spring girl is crying again, not silently,

With the precocious dignity of those old before their time,

But with noisy, terrified tears as befits an 8-year-old

Who has just seen her best friend murdered before her eyes.

Her weeping splits apart the fabric of evening,

A grey cotton shroud torn to bitter shreds,

A wailing siren of grief shaking the walls of her home

Like an angry robber intent of stealing midnight’s stillness.

This vibrant, joyful, dancing child,

Who turned me around with her laughter,

Spun me like a top until I became dizzy with love,

Now shouts and trembles, convulsing with torment,

Beats her father in blind uncomprehending rage,

Her small fists nailing stations of the cross upon his flesh.

He smokes too many cigarettes, becomes absorbed in the mending

Of clocks, radios, other broken things, a family joke

That seems to have lost its punch line, for his child cannot be fixed

Tonight, a clockwork toy that has been wound up once too often,

Spitted by a soldier’s sniping savagery.

She has been undone by horror, unravelled by memories of blood

Splashed with geranium freshness onto the fearful ground.

Her brothers hold her close

As if by doing so they will absorb her anguish,

Join up the circle of her broken heart,

Rekindle the flame of innocence within her.

Her mother occupies herself in the kitchen,

Holding things together with soup,

Slivers of chicken,

Eggplant, green peppers.

It is the red onions that make her eyes water,

Nothing more.

Just the red onions.

April 5, 2011

Three Poems for Palestine

Filed under: BWISP members,Poems — Naomi Foyle @ 10:56 pm
Tags: ,

Rockets are the jokes of the weak
Palestinian saying

The jokes land in ploughed fields
or bash into a wall or two.
Laughing so hard killed one soldier
in a year and wounded several civilians.
Still, fun in the wheat,
whistling over a closed border,
a blockade and a siege to boot,
we were not amused.

Finally we couldn’t resist.
Unable to stifle our own
more democratic laughter,
and ever eager to impart our
more civilized sense of fun,
we ran a hilarious sitcom
over three weeks
for 1400 Gazans.

What a show!
They fell over laughing.
They crawled, howling. No surprise.
We have perfect timing, delivery,
state of the art material.
See what happens to clumsy jokes
about the birth town
of the Minister of Defence.

Judith Kazantzis

8th March 2009

Happy International Women’s Day
to the women of Gaza
from the international community.

Sorry we have been unable to take your call
Sorry you have been held in a queue
Your call is important to us.
Press one for the usual disillusion
two for a no state final solution
Press nought for nothing, nada,
zero, zilch, absolutely jack shit and sweet fuck all

Hold for an operator. Hello. Hello? Hello?

Frankie Green

How to Settle

Get a title deed from God,
and a blank cheque from your sponsors.
It also helps to bully the U.N.
Lie. Build. Kill.
Build, build, build.

Ignore that shape at the corner of your eye.
Like a man on a planet with twin suns
you have a double shadow.
One thrown down on the hot hard road
built by the army purely for you,
the second lying faint on the grass behind you.
Watch as you pause on a hilltop,
overlooking your conquest:
here comes the Other,
whose invisibility lets you be seen.
His silence gives you speech.

Here, where your every presence marks
an absence, this land is haunted
by the woman always thinking
of this valley, this field, the ruins
of this house, whose door is remembered
only by the flesh of cactus
and she whose olive trees you harvest,
who follows you, clasping a ghostly key,
whispering in your ear, louder and louder:
my place, my place.

Carry on ignoring them. Of course you belong
God has given you the nuclear bomb to prove it.

Frankie Green

Judith Kazantzis is a poet, novelist and activist based in East Sussex. Frankie Green is a writer, musician and activist living in Kent.

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