British Writers In Support of Palestine

April 30, 2018

Crowdfunding Appeal: Help A Poet Return to Palestine!

Greetings to all BWISP supporters and welcome to all our new followers. Recent weeks have seen a spike of interest in the blog, which I take to be a response to the brutal Israeli response to the Great March of Return. Certainly when peaceful protesters, including children and journalists, are being massacred with impunity in full view of the world, many people wish to take action.

Only sustained international pressure and effective internal leadership will create a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moral leadership in Palestine is coming from the grassroots and, taking our cue from Palestinian activists, BWISP was formed to support the flourishing Palestinian cultural resistance.  We do this by promoting the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and by supporting Palestinian literature. This latter is vital because it asserts Palestinian existence against Israeli efforts to deny it, and helps to sustain Palestinian identity across the diaspora.

As BWISP co-ordinator, I am therefore currently seeking support from members and followers for a crowdfunding campaign in aid of the Palestinian launches of A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry. This bilingual anthology, which I edited last year for Smokestack Books, was launched to a standing-room only crowd at London’s P21 Gallery, and has since been praised in Poetry ReviewLondon Grip and Write Out Loud. Now it’s time to take the poems home – to Palestine. This summer the book will be launched at the Al Ma’mal Foundation in Jerusalem on July 27th, and at the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre in Ramallah on July 28th. The events will feature locally-based contributors Maya Abu Alhayyat and Marwan Makhoul, Jerusalemite-Londoner Mustafa Abu Sneineh and Brighton-based editor (me!) Naomi Foyle. We will hopefully also hear readings from Dareen Tatour, who is currently under house arrest in Israel and awaiting a verdict this week on charges related to her poetry, and New York City-based spoken word poet and calligraphy artist Farid Bitar, who is seeking help with his airfare.

There’s more on the crowdfunding campaign here. We are also seeking help with associated venue costs of the Ramallah launch, while any extra funds raised will go to Dareen Tatour’s legal fund. Rewards include calligraphy drawings, CDs, and the anthology itself – which is also for sale here. Best of all, against the violent repression of the Great March of Return, you will carry in your heart the knowledge that you have helped one Palestinian set foot again in his beloved homeland. Thank you from Farid and myself for any and all contributions – and for helping to spread the word!

 

Farid Bitar and Naomi Foyle at the London launch of A Blade of Grass, held at P21 Gallery and featuring a pop-up exhibition of Farid’s calligraphy drawings.

 

PS: for those of you in New York, there’s a fundraiser in Harlem this week for Dareen. RSVP here for exact venue details.


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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
Chichester
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).

 

 

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