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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October 3, 2017

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry – Crowdfunding Begins!

 

Looking for a way to support the Palestinian cultural resistance? Why not feed the poets! The forthcoming Smokestack Books anthology A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry is crowdfunding now, seeking to raise money to help pay contributors’ fees and printing costs, and to donate to the legal campaigns of imprisoned poets Ashraf Fayadh and Dareen Tatour. There’s more information below, or just click here to go straight to the site. Thank you for anything you can do to help – even if just spreading the word!

‘Against barbarity,’ said the celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008), ‘poetry can resist only by cultivating an attachment to human frailty, like a blade of grass growing on a wall as armies march by.’ 

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 MakhoulMaya Abu Al-HayyatFatena Al-GharraDareen TatourAshraf FayadhFady JoudahNaomi Shihab NyeDeema K. ShehabiMustafa Abu SneinehFarid BitarShahid NWASara Saleh and Mahmoud Darwish, and featuring a 12 page 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 that receives no public subsidy. The publisher and the editor are working pro bono. The book is partially funded by a research grant from the University of Chichester, awarded to the editor, which has allowed her to pay a small contributors’ fee of £10 a page.  This crowdfunding campaign seeks to increase this fee to a more professional rate; to cover design and printing costs for the book; and to raise money 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.

Translators: Josh CalvoRaphael CohenKatharine HallsSarah Maguire and Anna Murison [c/o the Poetry Translation Centre], Tariq Al-HaydarAndrew LeberWaleed Al-BazoonWejdan Shamala.

Monies raised to support Ashraf Fayadh will be donated to the English PEN campaign on his behalf.  Funds raised for Dareen Tatour will be donated to the Free Dareen Tatour campaign.

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