was born 10 April 1969 in Northern Iran. He completed his primary and
secondary education at his city of birth and after receiving his Diploma
in mathematics passed the nationwide university entrance exams. He graduated
with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tehran Technical
and Engineering University. He started his professional poetic career
in 1986 and became one of the most serious and contentious poets of
the new generation of Persian poetry.
Ali has had an undeniable effect on many poets of his
generation by his artistic concepts of proposals through the medium
of his poetry as well as speeches and interviews. And he is one of the
few poets who succeeded to express his independent poetic individuality.
Publication of eight varied books of poetry: “From Riskdom,”
“Shinema,” So Sermon of Society”, “Improvisation”,
“This dear cat”, “Paris in Renault”, “You
Name this Book”, “Only Iron Men live in the rain”,
endorse his poetic creativity and power. Currently he has in publication
a poetry collection “La Elaha Ella Love” and a multi-textual
“Hermaphrodite” that have been followed by varied critical
Nearly all well known poets and critics of Persian poetry have written
about Abdolrezaei’s poems. In September 2002 after his protest
against heavy censorship of his latest books such as Society and Shinema,
he was banned from teaching and public speaking. He left Iran and after
a few months stay in Germany, and two years in France, he’s been
living in London for the last three years.
At “The Priory”
I am writing this letter for the girl who lived lonelier than the moon
the girl who one day alighted in the mirror
and with a little smile pulled a stone slab off my chest
Have you walked in the shoes at the foot of the stairs?
Why don’t you saddle the horses’ neighing?
It must be your eyes
that sometimes sound a few galloping neighs have horses
Our last happiness was the wind that’s gone with the wind
Even cows don’t lick at the river photo in these newspapers
God’s legs have stuck out of the clouds’ skirts
These beds have come through women of old
Attack! Row your oars!
The sea always has so much more swimming than boat rides
We are human again
I have heard, from this very line you are hearing, at the end of the
poem I am writing, at first dusk descends a little, then it rains and
in the end the sound of the unsaddled neighing of a herd of horses,
is running in my shoes.
The clatter of my feet in the stretch of my shoes by your side
I don’t know what wool to pull over I don’t know
I don't know?
Like a woman who lived two years in my eyes
isn’t it a sin to drag me so from bed to bed?
How can I command these trembling soldiers facing you, O life
From the shoes at the foot of the stairs
comes the sound of galloping horses
don’t you believe me?
You! Standing there beyond the end of this letter
just send me two eyes
Raficq Abdulla is an essayist and poet whose poems based on Rumi and Attar – respectively Words of Paradise and The Conference of the Birds – have been published by Frances Lincoln. He has written and presented programmes on Islam and on Spirituality for BBC World Service. His published essays cover a variety of topics such as issues concerning identity, Islamophobia, the aftermath of the Salman Rushdie affair, the Qur’an, Ruskin and on poetry. Raficq has written screenplays for Channel 4 including the award-winning films Blood of Hussein and Born of Fire.
As a public speaker, Raficq has addressed a wide variety of national and international audiences in the UK, Canada, the USA, Spain, Portugal and Dubai on a number of issues including Islam, Muslims, Shari’ah Law, Art, Identity, Poetry and Spirituality. He has spoken on Rumi and Rilke, and he has narrated his interpretation of parts of a poem by the 15th Century Persian mystic poet, Jami at St. Ethelburgas. In May 2008 he was the narrator at a concert in St. Ethelburgas in memory of the German/Jewish composer Victor Ullmann who was killed at Auschwitz in 1945. He has presented his own poetry including his interpretations of Rumi and Attar at a number poetry international venues, in London and at the Dartington and Ledbury poetry festivals.
Raficq was formerly a member of the board of the Poetry Society, Acting President of English PEN and is a member of the Advisory Committee of the British Centre for Literary Translation.
Night of the Imprisoned Writer
What right have you
To lock me up?
Don’t say the law!
The law is your excuse
The lie you use to press
Me into this hole.
I’m not an insect, vermin
You dispose of as an afterthought.
Your power, your status,
Where you place yourself,
Where I find myself,
Are accidental – you’re as contingent
As am I – we’re both parenthetical.
Can you not see that
Your lust to expunge me -
My thoughts, what I say,
What I write - is futile?
So pointless your cruelty.
You too will be expunged in time.
That is our absurd condition,
There’s no reason for you to speed up
The process of our common dying -
If only you knew how similar we are.
Shanta Acharya was
born and educated in Orissa, India. In 1979, she came to Oxford where
she completed her doctoral thesis. Between 1983-5 she was a Visiting
Scholar at Harvard. In 1985, she started her career in investment management
with Morgan Stanley in London. She subsequently worked as a Portfolio
Manager with various firms, including Baring Asset Management. She is
currently Associate Director, Initiative on Foundation and Endowment
Asset Management at London Business School.
Her doctoral study, The Influence of Indian
Thought on Ralph Waldo Emerson, was published by The Edwin Mellen Press,
USA, in 2001. Her three books of poetry are Looking In, Looking Out
(Headland Publications, UK; 2005), Numbering Our Days' Illusions (Rockingham
Press, UK; 1995) and Not This, Not That (Rupa & Co, India; 1994).
She is also the author of books on asset management. For more information,
visit her website: www.shantaacharya.com
Abdul Ahad (b. 1968) is a renowned astronomer/sci-fi
writer. He was born and raised up to the age of nine in a tranquil
village in the Balaganj Upazila of Sylhet, Bangladesh. Thereafter
he moved across to the United Kingdom with his parents and two sisters
to take up residence in Luton, Bedfordshire.
He is author of the First Ark to Alpha Centauri series of novels,
published 2005 onwards in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Amongst his astronomical
discoveries, Ahad is noted for defining the eponymous "Ahad's
Sphere" theorem of the Sun.
He also identified the semi-regular supergiant star 119 Tauri (CE
Tauri) to be the second reddest naked eye star in the whole night
sky. Upon first noticing the true gem-like colour intensity of this
star one evening in April 2004, he coined it the "Ruby Star".
1. First Ark to Alpha Centauri (Sci-fi novel, 2005)
2. The True Price of Immortality (Sci-fi novel, 2006)
3. The Sombrero Spiral Galaxy (my short story featured in "Forever
Extract from The True Pice of Immortality
That particular year, Autumn had arrived in even more spectacular
fashion than before across the miniature world's curving interior.
By the third week of October, the avenue of silver birches that ran
along the entire length of Inertia Drive had turned an intense shade
of yellow. The trees dazzled in the crisp, conical rays of sunshine
that poured down from miniature suns suspended high above. Their small
leaves fluttered in the fresh autumn breeze that blew in off the marsh-like
banks of Eridanus, which flowed at the other end of the street. A
soft and soothing rustle whispered through the trees that punctuated
the late afternoon stillness which had settled over the quiet suburban
Haroon Fiorello drove up the road in his metallic-purple sports rover
and pulled into the drive way of number seventy five. He parked underneath
the Douglas fir that towered up majestically from the home's front
yard. It was the end of another week of grinding problem-solving at
work, and he had a refreshingly 'Friday feeling' about him. This Friday
was something even more special, and to spice up the occasion he'd
spent the whole afternoon trawling the various malls of central Utopia
looking for a couple of items of extravagance that would give a sparkle
of surprise to his sweetheart. He yanked open the rover's trunk door,
grabbed his bulky shopping bag and walked towards the house.
Once inside he called out, "Hi honey, I'm home," angling
his voice up towards the first floor bedroom.
In a more normal voice he said, "We're gonna be late for Aunty
Colaco's at this rate."
He set the bag down onto a small tea table in one end of the living
Rush rush rush, that's all we ever seem to do these days, Caroline
thought as she slowly made her way down the flight of stairs. She'd
almost finished getting ready, both her hands still trying to fit
an earring onto the left lobe of her ear.
"We won't be late. The A3's usually clear, seeing as we're heading
for the farmlands," she said, entering the living room. "Could
you help me with this?"
He stared at her in sheer admiration for a second, and couldn't recall
the last time she'd looked half as breathtaking. She was simply dressed
in a flowery summer dress and a blue ribbon that loosely tied her
blonde hair back. At twenty six, to Haroon, she appeared a true 'Centauri
Princess'... no... the Centauri Princess, as in his eyes few other
women out there even came close to filling that prestigious title.
He helped her with her earring, standing closely behind. The scent
of her hair drove his mind to somewhere between fantasy and ecstasy...
maybe closer towards ecstasy, he decided. She turned around and probed
wonderingly into his clear brown eyes. He took her in his arms, paused
and then they kissed. Neither of them had intended it to be anything
more than a light, husband and wife first anniversary kiss, although
it seemed to be gradually taking them towards something more...
She finally broke free.
"Haroon, darling, we're going to be late!"
He looked into her topaz-blue eyes. "You said the roads would
be clear, remember?" he said softly.
She didn't reply to that, and went over to the black shopping bag
that had caught her attention.
"Goodies for me? What have we got in here then."
She pulled out a six-pack of champagne of a brand similar to Moet
et Chandon, and a boxed-up jewellery gift. She held up the small blue
box and looked at him, biting one side of her lower lip with a smile.
"Oh, you are such a darling."
"Open it then," Haroon said.
She did. And discovered it was an expensive diamond necklace, studded
with an abundance of rubies and emeralds. Caroline's face brightened
even more than the sparkle thrown out by the gems in the necklace.
She looked at him, standing handsome and tall. His black hair and
tanned face made him look too irresistible. She called to him with
her forefinger. He wandered over, and they resumed where they'd left
Rizwan Akhtar was born in Lahore, Pakistan. He came to England in October, 2008 to pursue a PhD in English
at the University of Essex. His PhD thesis is about Postcolonial literature and theory by women writers. His poems
have appeared in Poetry Salzburg, Poetry NZ, decanto, Wasifri, Postcolonial Text (forthcoming), Poesia, Pakistaniat
and quite a few have been anthologised by Poetry Forward press, UK.
His poetry deals mainly with his homeland, cross-cultural conflicts, space, exile, human suffering and nature.
Lahore, I am coming
My voice in a dusty evening of Lahore
echoes from the chipped roof
of grandfather’s grave,
inside the Mochi Gate.
The map of my life is all wrinkled.
The dust cloaks the stubbles on my face
sleeves upturned into a muddy pouch,
my alphabets singlehandedly sown in this city.
A new language emerges from my silence
a sound wades through the clogs of time
and my fingers dance to a dervish’s manuscript.
I return to Lahore
Riding on the tonga,
hurled by emaciated horses
and the decked rickshaws,
the rides of passion and jolt.
The metaphors like me
also return after ten years
to search for themes squandered in alleys
for the Lahorites burry their dreams with grace...
The barber in my Mohalla circumcised me,
for those days doctors were atheists
so that groggy old man lapped
as if I was a sacrificial goat
a little spurt of water and the fleshy other
regained a new form, the poetry
took many a slashing...
The barber left our house
On that day December 1971,
His hands were stained with blood.
I return to the tree in which I was branched,
to the first verses I churned with my tongue,
to that first Molbi who taught me
the first man who corrected my geography,
and those women, hidden behind black veils.
after my hands have been dipped in all the wells
of some amazing perfumes...
I have found no other graveyard to sleep on...
And after the evening azan at the threshold
he used to clean for me, where I played balls
No longer did any other "child"
in the world stayed behind,
after the spinach steaming in globs of ghee
mother rolled dough into granular
(I am still excited about meals)
the bitter gourd with milky lasi
and the carrot drink that she would pour—
now other foods have claimed my palate.
I enter the courtyard of the Baadshahi Mosque
see Moghuls sleeping on pillows made of Ghazals
neck deep . . . drenched
brick upon brick, a sea of marble
pigeons cooing to pigeon ,vibrations
I wander in the streets of Urdu script
And chose images stetting in a basket of words
And see with my eye the white marbles thinning in dust
And the mumbling mouths holding beads
An aperture swallows me and I am lost
So I sit near the pond of water
" Hayya 'ala 'l-falah"
" Hayya 'ala 'l-falah"
Returning to you
submerged in the monsoons of my childhood
returning to sneak more coins from father’s pockets
buying candy floss, chopped guava in plate,
peanuts skinned in smoky pots of the vendors
Returning to my favourite fountain
For the pigeons at Trafalgar
Are no compensation to the Lawrence Gardens
where we peeled mangoes like an event in history
(Anarkali ogled at the colonial admirers)
but Tesco and Iceland are no distant cousins
to that noisy Friday Bazaar,
but Westminster Abbey in London
is like the torn dream from Lahore fort...
pigeons coded during call for prayers
and more more fortunate
than those ash-grey ones,
on Marx’s monument in Highgate Cemetery.
I wander in the squeezed alleys of Lahore
behind the torn curtains wheatish girls
wink... letters hidden in diaries,
their smiles struggle for contours
and spare me...
the pigeons curve unexpectedly
And greet me
And the fluttering kites
become queens of that sky
patched into legends
beloveds of an air choked with dust,
I croon Ghailb’s ghazals
sitting in the Devana Khas
bedewed in ponderous gems
clouds of saffron
and betel leaf aroma dazes me,
a rain of cinnamon and aniseeds fall
I do my silent prayers in the sequestered garden,
and in the straw-gliding water see reflections
of chipped minarets
recalling Faiz’ last couplets—
the exaggerated hoardings
encroach upon the footnotes of history . . .
Lahore I am in love with you
How have you subdued my images?
For I have been made
to recall the Rubiayat of Omar Khyiuam
amidst the wedding drums in the outskirts
and anklets-wearing saints patched and dusted
dancing wildly on the Fair of Lamps
How do the gardens of Shalimar resonate?
I have come to recollect you
from the trunk of neglect
that corrodes furtively
like a loveless bride,
so is that Mall Road sprawled
in silent dissent, tempered with compromises,
spooled in barbed wires,
I have come to you to embrace you,
the cypresses and mulberries ,
and the Punjabi folk tales.
And the "spontaneous wit"
That you taught me
I have come to you for the shy smiles of women
That first taught me restraints
unvented , I carried in European winters
I beamed at you, a Ghazal ripening...
And from my father’s tasbih
I shed off the reluctance
and argued with my creator.
I unbutton the clammy shirt
one by one it exudes beads of sweat...
I remember my father’s muslin Kurta
drenched in June’s heat
behind a vendor yelling for a spicy Alo Chat . . .
And the sellers praising white cauliflower
And the rickety Chai walla
pouring in miscoloured cups of tea
like histories; slow anodynes
it works and the mind opens...
I remember the towels
hanging outside the saloons
the massage men sprawling on straw mats
As if celebrating the bodies,
I remember the houses tucked in alleys
With their iron doorknobs
And their thresholds decorated with glazed tiles
And their cold red and white floors
That remind you of an oasis.
The Lahore Fort
shaped into the rolling tears,
posied on staggering imagination
for every brick is chipped
And every balcony is lighted with lamp
Lahore pours oil
Lahore claims dark alleys
They meet one another behind curtains
And exchange money
Secretly-at night, the arms dangle.
When I was Shakespeare buff
ten years ago
My father would send letters
crisp and well crafted
unflodig a smell of betel-leaf and turmeric
And when the English doubted the alphabets
They took them to the scanner
they sensed mutiny in Urdu alphabets
espionage in metaphoric flourishes
And when they found nothing
They made stories worst than mine
What is the aroma that you put in Paulo
Is it a coded smell?
a plot like mangoes chutney
much is lost in the cheap translation
I said to them: It's difficult for me to interpret
For betel-leaf is a tongue
It is our way of making love
Our dancing lilts
And if your great poet
Wordsworth had known of beatle-leaf
must have left Windermere and Cocker mouth
a brief a revolt against cartography and poetry...
My father loves Persian, he quotes Hafiz
And whenever he missed me
He would send me a letter,
a poultice of green pan
Because for him, it is the seal
upon the envelope: my address
And when the English didn't understand
they shifted into another paradigm.
The betel leaf was sent for a forensic
the dossier is now closed.
I put on the warm chaddar on my shoulders
Lahore descends with its smells
carrying for my children stories of mangoes,
peaches ,pomegranates and street junk food
women wearing etched bangles
and slobbering like ghazlas
I enter into them
An alcove of lust
clustered jasmine join their wrists
And I speak in perfume
but my passport is dank English
And the black brief case is full of explanations.
I am yours, also a box
stuffed and lipped into compromise
I am yours, Lahore
let me take an autograph from time
before I claim for more indemnity.
I am your prisoner
So be among you that punished me into life
Let me donate this
Because I haven't given charity for years.
was born in Sudan in 1955. He came to England as a political refugee
in 1993 after being imprisoned for his poem: Patience on a beach. Since
then he has lived in Brighton.
Bashir is a poet, songwriter and composer. Since 1991
he has written and composed more than 40 poems and songs, mainly in
Arabic. Most of them are well known in his home country, Sudan. Some
of his songs have been recorded by Sudanese National TV and radio. At
present he is working on a new collection of poetry, entitled: “Rhythm
and resonance”. He is also planning to perform his poetry in several
countries with a Sudanese singer.
Bashir has taken part in several art exhibitions and poetry
readings in England: in Cardiff, London, Liverpool and Bristol. He is
also a well-known proponent of the “Oud”: an oriental musical
His poetry deals mainly with his homeland, exile, human
suffering and love. It is written either in classical Arabic or in Sudanese
local dialogue. The poems contain many emotions, images and metaphors;
and are written in a musical and rhythmic language.
A child and a doll
For Huda Ghaliya
Buried in the fields of death
Suddenly the world plunges into darkness and destruction.
You look up
your father’s voice reaches you
a faint moaning wail from the midst of the wreckage.
You follow it with eagerness.
Your mother and your brothers
are lost in the womb of eternal silence
they have breathed their last asleep.
Alone, you continue to search wondering:
Where is your doll?
a few moments ago, she was here.
The doll lies
cast beside an unexploded bomb.
Her head is split open, her limbs mangled into the sand;
the doll who gave you endless joy.
You combed her hair, talked to her.
A bomb plummeting from the sky
missed its target.
What does it mean?
It doesn’t matter
Did it kill someone?
It doesn’t matter.
This you will never understand.
Your lifetime is just six years
your brother’s bones lie amongst fire, smoke, wreckage,
and other bones.
You carry your doll’s head, dreaming,
You shake off the shrapnel and dust,
and you wonder why they carved up her hands and legs
yet you don’t understand.
Alone in a wasteland
the head of the doll cupped in your hands
your small head cannot grasp it.
You remain bemused:
Where is your mother’s head?
Where are your father’s remains?
The distorted features, the ugly images
are etched in an innocent memory.
The terrible odour of death chokes you.
You scan the scene, taking photographs with your eyes
Silence covers the earth.
Carrying your doll, you run away.
They ask you where the remains of your doll are
and you cry.
They amputated her hands, her legs
only her head remains,
witness to a minor tragedy.
The tragedy of uprooting -
uprooting human beings
their memory, and their identity
the swallowing of earth
the sucking of blood.
The past remembers the past
joins the present…
…and you grow older.
The volcano threatens to erupt
the shameful images
are burnt into the little girl’s memory.
Twenty years on, the girl and the doll’s head remain
Anger will not surrender.
Mother earth, the whole earth
belongs to everyone.
Love, true love
belongs to those who give it.
No borders, no passports are needed.
Our mother earth gives abundantly of all her wealth
of everything, joyfully
gratified when we meet our needs
angry when we become greedy.
Then she is sickened, and throws out lava
crying a torrent of tears.
Overwhelmed with fear
she shakes into an earthquake.
Yet we feel no shame
you, I, us, them
all are responsible.
Blinded by our avarice
we pushed our mother earth to destruction.
Huda Ghaliya: a 7 year-old Palestinian
girl who lost her entire family to an Israeli missile while picnicking
on the beach.
Aydin Mehmet Ali
was born in Cyprus and lives in London. She was educated in Cyprus,
USA and Britain. She is an international education consultant, project
manager, researcher and writer. As a well-known intellectual community
activist and advocate of multiculturalism and multilingualism, she has
spoken at international conferences and her work appeared in numerous
publications. She has set up and managed many empowerment projects in
the UK and in Cyprus. Her work focuses on young people and women. She
is a passionate campaigner for peace in Cyprus and amongst Cypriots
in the Diaspora. She has been a consultant adviser to the London Mayor
and to numerous education and cultural establishments.
She is the author of the acclaimed book, Turkish Speaking Communities
& education - no delight (2001) and editor and translator of Turkish
Cypriot Identity in Literature (1990). She is an award winning author
and her short stories have appeared in the anthologies Diaspora City
(2003), Uncut Diamonds (2003,), Index (July 2002), Crossing the Border
(2002) and Weeping Island (2000), and in the journals Cadences (2005),
Exiled Ink! (2005) and Orient Express (2005).
Her work was part of the art installation,
Bedtime Story, at the [IN] visible exhibition, London, 2005. Her poetry
translations and articles on literature have appeared in Mother Tongues,
Journal of Poetry in Translation (2001), Agenda Poetry Journal (2002),
The Silver Throat of the Moon: Writing in Exile (2005), Klandestini
website (2004), Negating the Silence (2003), Nicosia (1995), Cadences
(2005), Orient Express (2005) and have been performed at numerous international
poetry festivals and on radio for over fifteen years. She has done readings
in a number of venues including the October Gallery as part of the renowned
International Music Village Festival, Soho Theatre, Birkbeck College,
Waterstone’s Bookshop, the Fawcett Women’s Library and Deptford
Artists Studios, London. She is editing an anthology of Turkish Speaking
Women’s writing in London. She has organised Arts and Literature
festivals, bilingual creative writing workshops, poetry and short story
competitions for Turkish Speaking Women, Cypriot poetry evenings in
Turkish, Greek and English, seminars, exhibitions for individual artists,
Arts workshops for parents and young people, projects using the Arts
to diffuse racial tensions and conflict between different communities.
She recently managed four projects, including The way we are, a multicultural
and multi-lingual photographic project, in the north and south of Cyprus,
with Cypriotturkish, Cypriotgreek, Cypriotroma, settler and mixed heritage
children. She took part in numerous documentaries and Arte TV broadcasted
a documentary in France and Germany about part of her life (2004).
Her first short story collection,
Pink Butterflies/Bize Dair was published in October, 2005.
"Were you in love?"
"I was in love with love at that age."
They suddenly share intimacies in a large room.
"But it was broxenia. Arranged." she adds just
in case her friend does not understand the Greek word. But she had.
"He had come to ask for me. You know what love is like in those
days. He said he couldn't sleep at nights thinking of me. I was so delighted
to hear that a young man couldn't sleep at nights thinking of me! I
was so flattered to think that a young boy was thinking only of me.
Now I sleep very easily at nights. I have no problems with my sleep"
She laughs a raucous, deep laugh hiding the blush of the
sixteen year old creeping under the skin of forty-one years and moisture
in her eyes. Her friend joins in flippantly, "Especially if he
is handsome and looks like some film star. Nothing else mattered, did
it? As long as a young handsome man couldn't sleep at nights for you,
paraded up and down the street in front of the house... you felt you
had something special."
"He was killed at eighteen. My daughter Maroulla
was fourteen months old."
She stops talking. Looks at her intensely through her
shiny brown small eyes slightly drawn at the corners. Dipping into her
memory. Her straw colour curls, tinted, presenting her face as though
in a bed of lettuce. Her wheat coloured smooth skin stretches over her
They stay silent looking at each other. She takes her
eyes away and continues, "It was the second mobilization. In 1965.
The first had passed. They took lots of young men from the villages.
After a while they came back and took away the second batch. And he
was amongst them. He had two months to go before he finished his military
After an imperceptible silence she asks, "When did you leave Cyprus,
Pembe?" as though trying to place both of them in their individual
histories within the one history which unites and at the same time separates
"Summer of 1963."
"Yes it was after that. After the first conflict.
I wanted to go on and finish the gymnasio and then go on to Athens,
to university. I really wanted to go on to higher education so much.
But I knew my parents wouldn't let me. They didn't see me as a university
graduate. Although I wanted to go desperately, I knew in my heart of
hearts that they wouldn't let me. So I agreed. I agreed!" She emphasises
the I... almost to confirm that she was responsible for whatever happened
to her all her life! "But they had ways of getting you to agree.
Yes... it was ultimately my decision to get married..."
"How did you cope with his death?" Pembe asks.
She pauses before she answers. Curls her legs under her
on the settee against the huge window framing the violet early evening
sky. She wraps her arms around her legs.
"You do. You don't think, you just do it. You move
about, you are so resilient. You just live the most unliveable situations
and you keep going. You don't think about it. As though it was natural
to keep going to survive!"
Pembe wants to tell her friend that the full moon is rising
amongst the arms of the apple tree. A silver haze casting speckles over
it. A November moon in London. She keeps watching it emerge waiting
for a gap in the conversation to say, "Just look at the moon! So
beautiful!" She listens as her eyes catch secret glimpses away
from Maria's eyes to the hazy silver moon hiding amongst the dark autumn
leaves. Momentarily disappearing behind clouds then emerging as though
it was playing a game or giving her a respite from trying to catch an
opportune moment, a gap in the conversation to tell Maria. She catches
"What did you do... when you were left on your own?"
The moon had no place in the conversation, only in stolen glances.
"I wasn't on my own. I had my parents. We grew up
in a loving environment. I'd always felt that security and in a sense
maybe that helped. My mother helped a lot."
"But what about men? You were young barely eighteen
and a widow, they must have..."
"They tried to take advantage of me," she interjects,
"but I wasn't stupid. I was young but not stupid!"
My God my Saviour my Lord Almighty Master the most powerful
most merciful how could you do this to me? WHY? What did I do to you
for you to punish me so? What did I do to deserve such punishment such
fate? Left on my own with a young baby in my arms. If you wanted to
punish me- do it. I can accept that, but what did my innocent daughter
do to deserve such horror? With what wisdom did you decide you needed
to punish an innocent baby? Oh where is the magnanimity in that? What
sort of justice is that? What a warped sense of justice you must have
the most powerful the most just my Lord my Master...
" ‘Come to my office tomorrow. I will help
you. I've got a job for you. You start at 8.00. Don't worry my dear,
you are like a daughter to me, I'll look after you. Just come my dear...’
He was my father's friend, he was so kind. My mother encouraged
me to go.”
Why was it so important for you men to try to take advantage
of me? WHY? Why was it so important to posses me conquer my body tell
your lies flatter me get between my legs? WHY? Why did I have to belong
to one of you if not to all of you at once? WHY? Why could you not let
me be? Why could you not leave me alone? Why did you not treat me as
a human being in need of support, encouragement, advice, friends? Why
was it important for you to chase me to try to push me down on my back?
What twisted satisfaction did you get out of that?
Sooner or later she'll need a man sooner or later she'll
get an itch between her legs sooner or later she'll want it once a woman
tastes it she can't do without it she needs it it's only natural she's
young full-blooded passionate she has fire in her still young huge fires
of desire burn in her breast between her legs.
So what? What's so wrong if we try? She needs it anyway
doesn't she? She is only human. What are you telling me that she is
different? She is just like any young passionate woman and on top of
it all she has already tasted it. It's beautiful- of course she would
want it... sooner or later. So what? It's only natural that a man is
going to try and get in there first. Only natural. If I don't get in
there some other bastard is going to get between those lovely legs those
lily-white breasts. So it might as well be me. What difference does
it make anyway, whether it's me or someone else?
Come on my darling, come on... stop playing hard to get.
You want it you want it don't you I'll give it to you I'll give it to
you deep and juicy you'll love it better than your old man who didn't
have the sense not to get killed and left you in the middle of no where
much much better than him I've experience I know how to love a woman
I'll love you slowly slowly slowly you haven't tasted anything like
me yet my beauty you'll ask for more you'll see...
Fuck off... fuck off... fuck off... F-U-C-K--O-F-F! Leave
me alone! Imbeciles! I wouldn't lie under you if you were the last man
"And I couldn't tell anyone about it. Telling would
have meant I was inviting it. I was the one who was lose chasing a bit
of prick. After all decent women don't get chased after or bothered.
It's your fault if men are chasing you. And aren't you ashamed to stand
there and listen to all this? It just proves you're inviting it, you're
at fault you shameless hussy was the reaction and all I wanted to do
was to go to the gymnasio and then to university but no one wanted me
to no one would let me go..." she pushes her hair away from her
face remembering the desperation and frustration of the eighteen year
old trying all possible avenues of reaching her goal.
"I even took my mother to see Makarios..." she
"Why?", Pembe asks puzzled.
"I had asked to see him and as I was a widow... a
war widow... a widow of a soldier... he agreed to see me. So I took
her and my child along. He did see us. I asked him to make a special
dispensation to enable me to sit my exams in the gymnasio, graduate
and then go to university. By then my dreams of university had re-awakened.
But he told me he couldn't do it. He didn't have the power to do so!"
"So you were finished educationally at the age of
"Yes, that was it! But you know what he said, `As
you are a dead soldier's wife, I can offer you something else. I do
have the power to do that. I could appoint you as...' and you know in
those days they were appointing policewomen, they were not what they
were like today. He told me he could offer me a job as a policewoman
"Yes!" she emphasises the words shifting her
body and rearranging her legs. "A policewoman!"
The Greek barricade on the Famagusta road. Two corrugated
iron huts by the side of the road serve as the searching rooms. Tall
eucalyptus trees line the road encircling the dried up moat of the Venetian
walls of Nicosia. One hut is for the women the other for the men. All
cars, taxis, lorries and coaches going into the Turkish enclave of Nicosia
are searched. All coming out are searched. What are they looking for?
Would anyone be so stupid as to try and smuggle guns, bombs, leaflets?
What? No one seems to know what constitutes a forbidden object. "They
took all my husband's photographs. All of them!" she meekly objects.
Why? What did they want with the photographs of this woman's husband
in her 30s?
"He was wearing the uniform of the Mucahits! And
they questioned me for hours. What could I tell them? I am bringing
some of my husband's photographs from Limassol to Nicosia. He can't
go anywhere. He can't do anything. He is dead. He is dead..." she
wipes the corners of her eyes with her trembling fingertips.
"The men can't travel anyway. They have to stay in
the enclaves otherwise the Greeks pick them up and they go missing.
They never come back. And do you know they didn't believe me when I
said he was dead. And they tormented me and they tormented me and made
rude suggestions and gestures... such humiliation! But what could I
do? What can anyone of us do? Here we are at the mercy of the Greeks,
we are in their hands. You just bear it. We can at least travel and
see our loved ones."
She is searched by the young woman in the police uniform.
She had entered the tin hut shown and faced her. She was wearing the
brown khakis of the colonial times, redesigned for the birth of the
Republic of Cyprus in 1960 which split open at the seams in 1963. The
fateful days of 1963. She heard about the war in her country while away
on a year's scholarship in the USA. She was walking down the corridor
in school when the tannoy system tuned in to the radio announced, "As
a result of the death of a Turkish Cypriot two Greek Cypriot policemen
have been attacked in Nicosia. Mass demonstrations... street battles...
in Nicosia. Law and order... has broken down."
The 1963 war had begun. She remembers walking slowly down
the corridor with her head lowered finding it hard to swallow when her
American friends of sixteen with cheery smiles shouted, "Hey Pembe
did you hear that? That's your country! It's on the news! Hey, did'ya
hear, there's a war on out there! Hey, where's it anyway?" She
had no answers. She nursed an invisible twist in her belly.
She heard the same radio again the same year. "The
President of the United States of America, J.F. Kennedy has been shot
in Dallas, Texas today. He is dead." Sobs had broken out in the
classrooms in the corridors. Students were told to go home and mass
grief was allowed. She had noticed that the sixteen-year-old Democrat
students were crying, the Republican eyes were dry. Did you not cry
for a human being if he was not from your party? Was the value of a
human life only determined by their political affiliation? She had wondered.
Did anyone think she was not a human being because she
was a Cypriotturkish of eighteen returning home, being searched by the
young Cypriotgreek policewoman? She looked at the neatly combed back
hair wrapped up into a bun, at the clean neat expressionless face of
the policewoman and smiled at her. She smiled back. So they were both
still able to respond to a smile in this war-torn country of theirs.
The policewoman's hands touched her shoulders, her fingers went through
her curly black shoulder length hair. Moved under her arms, touched
her breasts. She shrunk back. No one had touched her breasts... ever!
These non-caring, matter-of-fact hands without hesitation had brushed
harshly over them, squeezed them slightly. The policewoman looked at
the offended eyes with half amusement on her lips. Pembe said nothing
but her eyes were angry, annoyed, disbelieving. A wave of humiliation
spread all over her and oozed out of her body. She had not even touched
her own breasts how could this total stranger do it without any feeling?
Had she no shame?
The hands moved down her waist, over her belly and before
she knew what had happened dived between her legs. She clasped them
as an automatic reaction, a reflex, momentarily trapping the policewoman's
hand. The hand stayed in place while the eyes met Pembe's. The legs
relaxed. The policewoman felt the hard object between her legs. The
eyes met inside a moment's silence. The policewoman withdrew her hand.
"It's my monthly illness." Pembe offered with
embarrassment undetected in a controlled voice.
"That's not an illness!" the policewoman responded
and smiled. They had spoken in Greek. "OK you can go! Have a good
journey and be careful!"
She walked out of the tin hut slightly bigger than the
space occupied by the two bodies. The space for unwanted intimacies.
The warm air hit her face. She took a deep breath and waited outside
between the huts for the men and other women to be searched. A young
soldier walked up to her. She searched herself for traces of fear, she
had none. She had regained her composure, she raised her head, body
erect. Fear will not settle anywhere. “I will not allow it,”
she whispered, an almost undetectable smile on her lips as she looked
up at him.
"Open your bag!" An order maybe a request she
thought he could probably never put to his mother when he was fascinated
with what she had in her bag. A bag he could never go near, forbidden,
hit on the hands if he reached out to explore as a child. All those
intricate little boxes, tubes, bottles, matches, handkerchiefs, mirrors,
combs, all those interesting colourful things. A treasure trove. And
the heady unforgettable perfume in the little blue bottle with the Eiffel
Tower and the single word Paris, which lingered in the bag and escaped
as though from Aladdin’s lamp when the bag was opened...
He now could rummage through women's handbags, inspect,
smell, empty them on tables, without fear, without reprimand and without
excitement. He no longer felt that secret sensation, that slight dizzying
perfume as when he used to sneak open his mother's handbag. She opened
it. The usual things, lipstick, compact-case, pen, passport, book, note
pad, a thick purse. He opened it and looked through. Full of photographs.
Photographs of American young people. All healthy, content in life,
perfect teeth almost identically posed smiles.
A smile breaks on his lips. "Who are they?"
He speaks to her in English? She looks into his face much more carefully.
"My friends from the USA." The questioning in
his eyes continues so she explains who they are, how she knew them,
when, their names.
"Can I have this one? I can write to her. Can I have
Suddenly she becomes apprehensive. "No! She's my
friend. She gave me this picture. Look she's written a special message
on it! I couldn't give it to you! I could give you..." She notices
the driver of the taxi frantically signalling to her not to argue and
to let him have the photograph. What's in a photograph - your life is
at stake. Are you totally stupid?
He interrupts her, "No! No! It's OK Here... she's
your friend. She's nice." The last words were said gently. He handed
back the photograph. The driver breathed a sigh of relief but was later
to accuse her of ignorance and risking the lives of others by her stubbornness.
Give him the Damned thing, what the Hell is it anyway just a photograph
who the Hell do you think you are to challenge them just shut your mouth
and do what ever they say always say yes. But uncle driver I was always
taught to say no and tell the truth...
She had often thought about him. The young Cypriotgreek
soldier on the Famagusta road under the eucalyptus trees. Brown eyes
brown hair smooth face with high cheekbones and soft smile. Was he the
one who didn't shoot her brother? Was he the one on guard when a seventeen-year-old
walked through the Cypriotturkish barricade, with easy calm steps, not
looking back at the Cypriotturkish soldier who just followed him with
his eyes holding his gun tightly in his hand? He could have shot him.
In the back. It would have been over in a second. No mess no fuss very
neat. He was trying to escape General, Sir! He was walking into the
other side into enemy territory! I had to stop him! He could have shot
me but he didn't. Why? Why didn't he? Was I doing something he wasn't
bravecrazy enough to do? Did he come with me by allowing me to live,
to walk through the barricade? Did he leave with me, walk with me out
of that prison, out of that enclave, out of that suffocating inferno?
The young Cypriotturkish soldier in 1967 on the Famagusta road as I
walked out of my prison into the unknown... who were you? Who were you
granting me an extension to this life? You could have ended it without
much fuss. At seventeen. And the young Cypriotgreek soldier as scared
as trembling as I was, walking towards you. Not knowing if you will
shoot me. Not sure if I was armed if I was going to shoot you if I was
going to throw a grenade at you... A body, a young man, walking alone
on the Famagusta road. Watched from behind by the young Cypriotturkish
soldier whose spirit I was taking with me out of a prison, the young
Cypriotgreek soldier frightened to death trembling watching the approaching
lonely figure on the sizzling asphalt on the Famagusta road.
Young Cypriotgreek soldier were you waiting for my brother
under the eucalyptus trees on the Famagusta road in 1967? I am glad
you didn't shoot him. He has a son now. His son won't be shooting yours.
He is blind.
"What did you do?" asks Pembe.
"I didn't even have a chance to say anything. My
mother butted in and said to Makarios, `A policewoman! Never! Never!
I am not having my daughter become a policewoman!' That was that! I
didn't become a policewoman."
© AYDIN MEHMET ALI
Mir Mahfuz Ali was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Mahfuz
is a performance artist, renowned for his extraordinary voice –
a rich throaty whisper brought about by a bullet in the throat fired
by Bangladeshi policeman trying to silence the singing of anthems
during a public anti-war demonstration. He studied at City Literary
Institute in London and Essex University.
He dances, acts, has worked as a male model and a tandoori chef.
He has given readings and performances at the Royal Opera House, Covent
Garden; Bedlam Theatre at the Edinburgh festival; New End Theatre
in Hampstead; Tricycle, Arcola in London and at the National Theatre
(Cankarjev Dom) of Slovenia in Ljubljana,. His poetry appeared in
the anthologies The Silver Throat of the Moon, and Whispering In The
Wind, and also in the Index on Censorship magazine and in the magazine
His work has appeared in Ambit and the London Magazine. In September
2007 he was amongst the final three poets shortlisted for the New
Writing Partnership Literature Awards (see photo).
Tales of Nazism and Deptford market up for writers' award
By Emily Dugan
Published: 01 August 2007, The Independent
A first-hand account of Zimbabwe's deterioration, the story of a lesbian
tracing her family to a concentration camp, and a tale inspired by
a box of letters found in Deptford market. The subject matter may
differ vastly, but the works have one thing in common: they were all
written by women.
The shortlist for the coveted New Writing Ventures Award announced
today is dominated by women, with an unprecedented eight out of nine
places taken by female writers.
In the three categories of fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry,
only one man is left in the running, the poet Mir Mahfuz Ali.
Henry Sutton, chairman of judges for fiction, said he was "surprised
and saddened" when he realised that no men had made the grade
for the category. "I was shocked when I realised that all three
were women," he said. "I've never believed in a difference
of the sexes when it comes to literary talent, but there does seem
to be a broader appeal in what women are writing than men."
Mr Sutton believes that market forces are partly at fault in making
it more difficult for male writers to succeed. "I think it's
harder for a fledgling male writer to establish themselves than a
woman, because market forces are swayed towards women," he said.
"But in this case women produced the best writing, so perhaps
men just need to wake up."
He advocated a concerted effort to encourage new male authors, akin
to the support given to women. "Male writers seem to be under-supported
and under-represented, and they need encouragement somewhere along
the line," he said. "Maybe we need an Orange Prize for men".
Char March, one of the writers shortlisted for the fiction category,
said she was "delighted" to hear of her nomination, and
the female-dominated line-up. "I hope it shows that the establishment
is opening up to the fact that women write damn good stuff and are
not just interested in chick lit," she said. March, whose book
follows the lesbian love affair of a woman who traces her family back
to an east German concentration camp, believes that part of the reason
women were less successful in the past was that they had not mastered
the narrative drive.
"Women are trying to write books that are more gripping now.
I think in the past, because thrillers were seen as typically male,
women didn't have such a grasp on narrative drive as they do now,
and that stopped them from being as successful," she said.
Ali said he was "not surprised" that he was the only male
poet nominated. "Women have a better feeling for poetry than
men because they feel things more deeply," he said. "I don't
feel threatened, I think it's wonderful." Ali, 50, who grew up
in Bangladesh during the liberation war, puts his own sensitivity
as a poet down to the hardships he suffered as a child.
He was shot in the throat by Bangladeshi police while singing a protest
song aged just 13, and has taken 30 years to fully recover his voice.
It was through poetry that Ali was able to express his feelings about
the atrocities he had witnessed.
"Having suffered many setbacks and pain, including near death,
I have grown stronger and been able to reflect on the experiences,"
he said. His poetry gives a vivid eyewitness account of some of the
horrendous scenes to which he was privy. "I saw the genocide
and the tsunami with my own eyes, and I witnessed the shooting of
a baby. I was there when no cameramen were there, so I was the camera,
taking pictures with my poetry," he said.
The awards, which are now in their third year, have become a golden
ticket to lucrative publishing contracts for emerging authors. Success
stories include the 2005 runner-up, Liz Diamond, who has two book
deals with Picador, and the 2005 winner Nicholas Hogg, whose novel
Show Me The Sky will be published by Canongate next year.
The overall winners will be announced on 11 September.
Women dominate new writing awards shortlist
Wednesday August 1, 2007, Guardian Unlimited
A Bangladeshi performance poet with an extraordinary voice - the
result of a bullet in the throat from riot police attempting to silence
a singing protest - is the only man to appear on the New Writing Ventures
awards shortlist for emerging literary talent.
Mir Mahfuz Ali arrived in London 20 years ago seeking medical treatment
and political refuge and found a new voice through poetry. Part of
Exiled Writers Ink, a group of émigré authors who fled
war-torn and repressive countries, and a regular reader at literary
festivals, he is now in the running for a £3,000 prize with
his shortlisting in the poetry category of the New Writing Ventures
The Golden Chain that Set Me Free
Anna decorated my bare neck
with a golden chain
for my birthday
her admiration for me
of me being
in her life.
Then she said,
in a caveat tongue,
if I ever took it off
or tried to leave her
she would tie me
with icy shackles.
That is not going to happen,
I reassured her
with an easing tone,
I’d keep the gift
where she wanted it
to be for good.
with a huge hug
and a long, slow kiss.
I woke the next day
with a swollen neck
thick as a banana trunk
and scratched myself
until I bled.
Still I did not
snap the frond,
my bond with her
my honest love
that still wrinkles
But she broke
the link with me
the golden pledge
from my neck
on to her own
declaring she was
setting me free.
Tsehay Alemayehu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
in 1968. She studied at the local government school until junior level
and joined St Mary’s private school for girls. She graduated
with a Diploma in Administration followed by two years of further
education at the Commercial College of Addis Ababa. At the age of
thirteen she began to write and later became a member of the Youth
Writers’ Group. It was a diificult time in Ethiopia during the
Revoloution but she tried to pursue her writing. She emigrated to
the U.K in 1991. In London, she published “Ethiopian Messenger”,
a magazine aimed at the Ethiopian Community. She has a certificate
in Montessori Theory and Methodology. In October 2006 she published
a bi-lingual book entitled “Zeraf!” aimed at young exiles
with the help of UnLtd Millenium Fund. At present she is working on
another book for children.
Samira Al-Mana was born in Basra, Iraq (Self
exiled in the UK since 1965).Deputy Editor of the Magazine in Arabic
(ALIGHTRAB AL- ADABI ) a quarterly magazine on literature of the exiled,
launched in 1985-2003, in London.
Publications including 5 novels:
1. THE FORE RUNNERS AND THE NEWCOMERS (Beirut, 1972)
2. LONDON SEQUEL (London, 1979)
3. THE UMBILICAL CORD (London, 1990)
4. THE OPPRESSORS (Damascus, 1997)
5. JUST LOOK AT ME ( Beirut,2002)
6. A Play, in Arabic entitled ONLY A HALF with the English translation,
7. A Collection of short stories, THE SINGING, (Baghdad, 1976)
8. A collection of short stories entitled THE SOUL AND OTHERS (Beirut
9. Some of her short stories translated into Dutch & English were
published in various periodicals.
Attended the International Writing Program, Iowa City University, U.
S. A, for three months in 1990.
14th October the same year attended International Author Festival in
Toronto, Canada, read one of her short stories.
Attended " Women and the Novel", conference in Morocco, 1992
. Organised by Municipality of Fez, the Creative Women Organisation
& U N E S C O.
Tropical Jungles ( A Story)
“Thank you for your advice. I have no time for you.
She could, perhaps, write to him a strongly-worded letter, like this,
bitter yet with calculating civility, a brief answer of no more than
two lines. She could give him up in the same way that gamblers, whose
whole fortune hangs on a number above or below the winning number,
leave their dream castles without a word of farewell.
She had got to know him before he was sent on business to Uganda.
She used to work with him in on of the branches of an Arab bank in
London. He was an important official, while she was the English secretary,
Once, she had read the biography of Lawrence of Arabia. When she asked
him what he had thought of the film, he answered her question with
a look of disdain as if she had suddenly changed the subject. So she
went back to her chair and resumed her secretarial duties. After that,
they each tried to score off the other, while pretending it was the
other who was starting an argument or quarrel. He did that in his
devious Eastern way, while she went about it with extreme craft and
subtlety. Being curious by nature, she insisted on knowing who had
been the first to start the argument. But this often made her more
involved, and landed her in mysterious world in which the feelings
of fear and adventure could not be easily disentangled. It was as
if the third world were muddled but innocent world, well equipped
with guns and tanks, yet watching her closely like a child.
A soon as he arrived in Uganda he sent her a postcard:
“Dear Mrs. Rogers,( That was her married name) :
Greeting and best wishes to you from Kampala. The beautiful modern
city. There is everything one needs here. Life runs smoothly, and
the weather is generally pleasant, especially at night. My regards
to all our friends. Looking forward to hearing from you at the earliest
She repeated the phrase “especially at night,” then she
took a pen and wrote him a letter. After all there was no harm in
friendly relationship between people. She sent him her greetings,
and told him how much she admired his style in writing English, and
that she liked the postcard, which was a picture of a group of Africans
performing a folk-dance during the independence celebrations. She
mentioned at the end of the letter that she was prepared to send him
books or anything else he needed from London. She ended her letter
by complaining of the cold in London and asking him to send her a
little sunshine in a bottle. At the end she added:
“I have not given your regards to any of our friends (meaning
the bank employees), nor have I told them that I have received a card
from you. Who can tell whether the friends of today might not be the
enemies of tomorrow?”
She signed the letter “yours sincerely, Elaine”. She wrote
her Christian name only, without adding her married name. The letter
was speedily sent to Uganda. She waited three weeks for an answer.
Finally, his handwriting, next to a stamp on which was a picture of
an African young man with milk-white teeth, reached her. It read:
I can hardly neglect someone like you. Someone who is good and kind.
I shall never forget how kind you were to me during my last days in
Britain. I’ve kept your letter in my pocket, my left pocket,
all this time. I read it several times, although you don’t speak
you mind, nor did I do that while I was in London. Your farewell gift
to me is with me. It is the only one of the gifts I received from
my friends in London which I brought with me.
You said you had decided to go on holiday in August. How about coming
to Uganda? I can send you an air ticket and take care of all your
expenses. The slogan ‘Africa for the Africans,’ of course,
would exclude a sweet, lovely person like you. What do you think of
my suggestion? Nights in Uganda are full of stars, but it needed more
than one person to count them.
He did not sign his full name, only his initials. And all she needed
was a pen to write him a quick answer :
“Dear Mr Al-Jadiri,
I still feel awkward when I call you by your first name. I received
your last letter. I had no idea you were sentimental. To tell you
the truth, I waited for your letter so long that I thought you were
not going to write to me at all. I even began to curse you under my
I was so touched by your invitation to me to visit Uganda. But in
my present difficult circumstances I cannot possibly accept. You know
very well that I am married and have a child. I sometimes blame myself
for writing to you at all. Could your feelings towards me perhaps
amount to nothing more than mere passion? Please don’t be angry
with me. I want to talk to you frankly about a very important matter.
I have had no relations with any other man than my husband. I have
no experience of men, having married very young. As I said, my husband
has been the only man in my life and I am still only 24 years old.
I am not used to brief and casual affairs. I must tell you how I miss
P.S. Has your car arrived? They told me it would take two months to
ship it out to Uganda. If it hasn’t arrived yet, then I’ll
get in touch with them to see what has happened.”
Once again she was very diplomatic, something she had inherited from
her ancestors. She used to find excuses to keep their relationship
going. One of the best excuses was when she rang him up at his flat
before he left for Uganda. The call was an official one, or at least
she had tired to make it seem so. She had misled him so that he would
mislead her. He had wanted to have his car shipped out to Uganda by
a well known company. But by a mere coincidence she had come across
another company which was more efficient and reasonable. It charged
£20.00 less than the well known company. She had his telephone
number, and getting in touch with him was a tempting prospect, as
if the £20.00 she was going to save would feed the starving
people of Africa. She dialled his number:
“Hello. Yes, it’s me.”
“Is it you?”
“Yes, it is.”
He was delighted to be talking to her. It was evening and he was shaving.
He had told her so and she seemed to be pleased by that.
“Where do these Arabs spend their evenings?” She wondered.
“Dining? Well, who with? Perhaps it is not important?”
He was a bachelor and had a very seductive voice. The next time she
telephoned him he had already shaved and dressed, and was waiting
for her call.
“You’re late. I’ve been waiting for your call for
over an hour.”
“I couldn’t get through easily to the shipping company.
The man in charge is away. In the end I accepted their offer. The
difference in the charges of the two companies is £20.00.”
That was how a car with rubber tyres came to play an important part
in the development of their relationship. This led to an exchange
of questions about the number of her children, whether love survived
marriage, what time he got up on Sundays, and if he should not smoke
less. Did he drink alcohol , and how long was he going to stay a bachelor
?! She went on to say:
“Until you’ll be 45 perhaps, and then you’ll marry
an 18 year old girl.”
“Elaine, you’ve hurt my feelings. Do you think I’m
“No, but isn’t that the sort of thing done in your country?”
He cut her short with gentle words, saying that he had not met the
right girl yet. The girl whom he was ready to love, and to whom he
hand over the key to his empty heart. She knew, just as he knew, that
his heart had never been empty, and that the key to it, together with
the key to his flat, was often on loan, and that the lock was never
firm. Once, three months previously, while overcome with emotion,
she telephoned him and heard the soft tones of a young woman speaking
English. She had guessed that it was his girlfriend who was at that
time in his flat. Now that she had a good excuse she decided to get
in touch with him. The subject of the car was a good excuse, a big
green excuse. The car being green. It had to be sent out to Uganda
by a company that did not charge too much. It seemed to be the most
reasonable of the British shipping companies that were all in it for
a big profit. She wanted to save him £20.00 with which to buy
thousands loaves of bread, loaves to feed the poor of the earth. She
had been eager to give him the necessary information in the evening,
instead of waiting until the following morning. It was a matter of
great importance and urgency.
Fortunately, this time she did not hear the young woman’s voice
she had heard before. Instead she felt as if she were carried in a
dream. She felt happy and light-hearted. She began to sing in the
kitchen, contrary to her usual habit. She sang while she washed up,
made the beds and swept the stairs. Boring, routine housework became
something secondary to the songs which expressed the joys of love
and the happy expectations of future meetings. It was amazing how
people’s lives could be transformed from the life of a ewe or
a sow to the winged life of a dove or a nightingale.
The letters he wrote her were sent to her Scottish neighbour’s
address. She put them under the mat in her neighbour’s sitting
room, after she had read them. The two women used to read and reread
the letters together out of a sense of loyalty and friendship. They
used to share a joke and exchange a few pleasantries from time to
time, while her neighbour’s husband was not around. Another
postcard she received read as follows:
I shall be going to Algeria on a special mission, and then on to Ghana
and Cairo. I don’t know where I’ll be staying. I shall
be getting in touch with you soon.”
It was a brief note. But, at least, it was better than nothing. She
tried, as she put, to read between the lines, and to explain the obvious.
But she could not come to grips with the situation. She took the postcard
and put it under the mat at the neighbour’s. The card was soon
forgotten under the dusty mat.
It was nearly time for her holiday. She was getting ready to leave
with her husband and child for Spain. It was not her decision, but
her husband’s. Spain was a good idea. After all it was the nearest
European country to Africa. They had decided to spend a fortnight
there. In her next letter she would write and tell him that she travelled
across the seas to be near him. On her return with husband and child
she would send him Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. She
might even send him a poem she had composed herself. She had started
to dabble in poetry. She might very likely say:
“Here is one of my poems:
I have been searching for you since Eternity
In the Scriptures, Moses,
Mohammed, Jesus, Zarathustra,
But the only flame I found was within me.”
The day following her return from Spain she took her handbag and went
to work. London seemed to her like a wise old woman staring at her
knowingly and maliciously. London was not one of her favourite cities,
at any rate. It was not Accra or Kampala, not even Beirut or Baghdad
or Cairo or Tunis. She had come to a point of devouring the maps of
Asia and Africa, in order to follow step by step the route taken by
the postcards and letters which she longed to receive. She remembered
appropriate literary quotations from the works of writers who were
relatively little known. She would use phrases, which had stuck in
her mind, describing palm trees, deserts, tropical jungles, the perfumes
of India and exotic delicacies, and she would pretend, without any
hesitation, that she had written them herself. For instance, Lawrence
Durrell says that a city becomes a complete world if one loved just
one of its inhabitants. She wondered why people live in these cold
islands. She often asked people that question. She herself wanted
to talk about things other than the weather of the British Isles.
She also disliked European dress, heavy taxation, eating potatoes
every day, blue eyes and classical music. She settled down to the
idea of being permanently unsettled.
But then another letter came.
You stood one day in front of the altar and promised in the presence
of your husband and all the congregation to take your husband for
better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.
You gave yourself to your husband unquestioningly. This is precisely
what you did when you married him.
As far as you and I concerned, I feel that we have reached a point
in our relationship where we have got to come to a decision. I am
a bachelor, and so have nothing to lose. I am a man whose life could
very well come to an end by a stray bullet, or a car accident, or
even a plane crash. Who knows? You, on the other hand, have everything
to lose, everything, your husband and your country. I can’t
give you anything better in return. I can just see you wanting to
strangle me with your beautiful hands for saying what I have just
said. But I feel I owe it to you to be honest because I just can’t
hurt anyone who has never hurt me, nor can I bear to cause suffering
to person who has never wished me any ill. What will your husband
say when he finds our letters? You probably think I am mad worrying
about mere letters, and that our relationship amounts to nothing more
than those letters. What I’d like is to spare you any unnecessary
problems and complications. You are beautiful beyond words. You exude
beauty from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. You are
a Venus without exaggeration. I wish I had been an artist to paint
a portrait of you and immortalise you for centuries to come, for generations
after generations, just like the Mona Lisa. I have known many beautiful
women, but you far outshine them all. You are endowed with far greater
beauty and a pleasant disposition and kindness that knows no limits.
You ask me if what I feel towards you does not amount to mere physical
attraction. I feel I must answer you with all sincerity. I can’t
deny that I am a man. But when I asked you to come to Uganda I only
had your interest and well-being at heart. I wanted to make you happy.
I could have taken advantage of my position at work in London to make
advances to you as I longed to do. But I respect you, and I respect
myself. I can’t flirt with a woman who is married and a mother,
in other words a woman who belongs to another man. That was why our
relationship remained within very strict limits, in spite of my real
feelings towards you. Perhaps I felt something more towards you than
you did towards me.”
She wondered what had happened to make him say all that. How could
he be so cruel? They seemed to get on very well and had a good relationship.
What had happened to him? Her Scottish neighbour tried to comfort
her, as they read the letter together. No, no, that could not possibly
be true. What was it that had happened? “He is mad,” she
thought. “I must try to understand his motives.” Elaine
read the letter for the fourth time and wondered again what had happened.
Why this virtue all of a sudden? Why all this advice? It was the preaching
that bothered most. She snatched the letter from her neighbour’s
hand. Her neighbour was also astonished by his behaviour. Elaine’s
neighbour had thought him sensible and highly sensitive. He had seemed
to her almost a child, a handsome Arab, one of the rare treasures
of the East. He was someone better than maharajah, carrying all the
promises and riches of the East to Elaine and to her as well. Elaine’s
neighbour had forgotten all about love, let alone the pleasures of
travel. The thought of this man had renewed in her the desire to travel
again. She began to read the names of foreign cities, which seemed
strange to her. She would exclaim: “Oh, that’s a place
I’d like to see.” She came to know, once more, the pangs
of love, realising that she too had been in love once. That had been
twenty years ago when her husband was still a young man. He had been
courageous, loved and respected by all. But that was all before the
arrival of their five children, and her husband had become addicted
to alcohol, while she herself seemed forever to be looking for the
scattered shoes of her children before they went to school each morning.
Everything that was worthwhile had come to an end, the longing, the
expectations and the tender feelings.
The two women sat down again on the sofa, and the neighbour said:
“Calm down, Elaine. I’ll make you a cup of tea in a minute.
Just sit down for a while.” But she refused to do so. “No,
no, no, it isn’t possible. He simply can’t put an end
to our relationship so casually. Why does he complicate things? Everything
was running smoothly and naturally between us, so much so that whenever
our hands touched in the bank when I handed him the stamps, it was
done in the gentlest way. He used to ask me to take down his letters,
and I would sit at his desk facing him. He often found a good pretext
to call me. He always timed it so that we would keep coming across
each other. It was strange how sensitive he was, as if he had feelers
all over his body.”
“Thank you for all your good advice, but I have no time for
She would write to him a letter in this tone, a harsh tone, full of
malice and totally indifferent. She looked on both sides of the letter
for his address, but she could not find it anywhere. “Look,
he hasn’t even left his address, as if I am someone who could
rape him.” *
* Translated by Farida Abu - Haidar
Wafaa Abed Al Razzaq
1952 – Basrah / Iraq
Currently reside in London / UK
Bachelor degree in accounting
• Ambassador of Iraqi Orphan Children in Iraq – London
* Foundaiton member at the Hope messenger Association - London
• Iraqi Writers Union – Iraq
• Exiled Writers Ink – London / UK
• Iraqi Association, member of the administration comity, head
of cultural comity – auditor of Iraqi association newspaper (AL
Muntada) – London / UK
• Arabic Union for Internet Writers
• Syrian Story Friends Association - Syria
• Poesat del Mundo
• In addition to may other associations and organizations
• Seven poetry books in traditional Arabic language
• Seven poetry books in Iraqi spoken language
• Six poetry CD’s in Iraqi spoken language – poetry
reading accompanied by music
• Two short story books
• Three novels
• One poetic novel
Currently under publication:
From the Dairy of the War Chilled
A poetry book that carries a message against war and calls for world
peace. The book is currently under production for an 80 minutes film
• Published in several Arabic magazines and newspapers
• Some of the poems were translated into English and Persian
• Participated in a lot of poetry festivals
Oh foolish judge
Don’t bang with your crude hammer
Your slimy impurity
Will decide my death
Words germinating in three
A shirt frolicking
In a bed of roses
The genuflecting angels
Embracing transcendental purity
The sky sucking the rain
Should you observe the drooping shirt
Three things on the guillotine
Will pursue you
Until you metamorphose into a ghost.
Nora Armani plays Shakespeare, Shaw, Hammerstein,
Molière, Tchekov, Guitry, Labiche, Fatima Gallaire, Tewfik
al Hakim, Gunter Grass, and has toured with SOJOURN AT ARARAT internationally
in over 20 cities on four continents in its English and French (Le
Chant D’Ararat) versions, together with Gerald Papasian. Nora
Armani has interpreted lead roles in American, French, Czech, Armenian,
Lebanese and Egyptian films on screen and on television. Between March
1991 and December 1993, she represented the Ministry of Culture of
Armenia as a spokesperson for the promotion of Armenian cinema world
wide. The films she has produced were shown at major film festivals:
Cannes 1996 (Official Selection- Un Certain Regard), Montreal, Rotterdam,
Cairo, Portland, Washington, D.C., Cambridge, London, Inverness, Cardiff,
Birmingham and Lancaster amongst others. She was invited to Cairo
to play the lead role of Anna in the musical The King and I opposite
Egyptian stage and TV star Mohamed Sobhi, performed at Radio Theatre
in Cairo and broadcast on TV and Satellite. Other works: "Nannto
Nannto", a stage production of words and music of her co-creation
with cellist Aya Sakakibara, which she performed in Paris at the Theatre
des Dechargeurs during February 2000. And later in Venice at the Santa
Margherita Theatre in August 2000. Nora Armani is the winner of several
awards: two BEST ACTRESS awards for Film and Stage Yerevan (Armenia)
Festival-1991, the DRAMALOGUE AWARD for performance-1988- Los Angeles,
the Encore DRAMALOGUE AWARD for performance-1989- Los Angeles, the
CALIFORNIA MOTION PICTURE GOLDEN STAR award-1985-Los Angeles. She
is an Honorary Member of the National Theatre of Armenia since 1992.
Her most recent award was that of Best Actress for her lead role in
Labyrinth at the Siunik Film Festival. She holds an M.Sc. from the
University of London and a B.A in Sociology and Theatre Acting and
Directing from the American University Cairo and UCLA.
Her most recent work as a playwrigt and performer is On the Couch
with Nora Armani and her recent TV appearance is the TV series Freinds
On the Couch with Nora Armani
My characteristic traits are engraved on my birth certificate
and my passport! As far as I know, I'm the only one in this category.
A female, born in Egypt of Western Armenian parents, educated in England,
having lived primarily in the USA and in France, with shorter visits
to a host of countries which we won't go into, fluent in several languages,
two of which are mother tongues, plus a host of special physical attributes…
I think. I hope!
Oh, but maybe I don't have to [wait much longer]…Things
have changed dramatically over the past few years. Nowadays ethnic is
in! You see it in all the major… supermarket chains. It’s
all there, on special shelves. ‘Ethnic Delights’!
So, tonight, ethnic delights! This [casting] call is for
a romantic, curious, charitable, headstrong, sheltered, kaleidoscopic
and exotic, not to say ethnic, brunette 20-25 years of age (ah well,
we’ll make an abstraction of that - most casting calls are for
under 25’s anyway!) of medium height and build, deep brown eyes
and a huge smile with a 'please like me' expression. She must speak
several languages though none are really needed. She must have lived
in different countries even though the action takes place right here.
And most importantly, she must sing and dance well, as it will be needed
in the course of the evening's entertainment.
It’s incredible. It’s me! Fits like a glove! I can assure
you by the end of this evening you’ll have, before you, a very
happy and satisfied artiste. If there is such a thing!
So, without further ado, let's hold hands and leap into the wonderful
world of… Nora Armani!
(Recognising someone in the audience). I can't believe
it. It's you. I wasn't sure. I thought I was imagining it. The hair,
it’s the hair that fooled me for a second. But eyes never lie.
It sure is you.
(To the audience). Please excuse me. You are witnessing an incredible
moment. (To the person) I knew we'd meet one day. But here, tonight...!
I'd even imagined all sorts of situations - except this one. How long
has it been now? Fifteen years. You haven’t changed at all!
(To everyone) Where was I? Ah, yes!
So, without further ado, let's hold hands and leap into the wonderful
world of… Nora Armani! (Interrupting herself again)
A few years ago, I was shooting this labyrinthine film in London. (To
everyone) I had the lead role. (To herself) Though I never really understood
what the film was about. One of those Eastern European films with no
story line, but powerful images of naked light bulbs swinging in sparsely
furnished rooms with paint peeling off the walls and water running down
them. A Franco-Czecho-Yugoslavo-Moldavian co-production. I think Ch:
4 had given some money too. (To the person) You cannot imagine my state
when I'd found out that one of the key locations was right outside your
flat. On Bedford Square. (To everyone) I remember my heart leaping each
time the door swung open and someone walked out of the building. I kept
squinting, and the director kept shouting, "Cut, cut!"
Had I only known that he had moved a loooong time ago! I was squinting
in vain. Although, admittedly, this added a certain ‘je ne sais
quoi’ to the scenes shot that day. The images were fabulous, and
considering that there wasn’t much of a story line it helped a
lot. (To the individual) I even won an award, "Best Actress",
for my squinting interpretation in that role. (To everyone) At the Siunik
Film Festival! (Beat) OK! It’s not Cannes! But it is a relatively…
unknown…film festival. Completely…unknown. Anyway, an award
is an award. Even if the films competing were of the same category,
I mean the naked-swinging-light-bulb kind…
(To the audience) You know, this woman looked so much
like me. The spitting image! It made me want to spit. (To him) Where
did you find her? Oh, yes, she found you. (Does a posh accent) Picked
you up at a posh party chez… what’s his face! Oh, never
mind! Excellent place for that encounter, and quite safe too. (Back
to her normal accent) She turned to be my 'replacement'. She had the
right family background and all the contacts. Not that you needed them!
(To herself) I, on my end, don't know much of my pedigree
(to the audience) except that my great-grandfather came from Erzeroum,
in Anatolia. It’s Eastern Turkey now. He travelled West as a young
man, to Istanbul, in search of fame and fortune. Neither of which he
found …until now.
He was a jeweller. A diamond setter! A fifth-generation jeweller! Two
more generations of jewellers were to succeed him; my grandfather and
my uncle. At least there’s some continuity there! (To herself)
But who were his ancestors, I don't know. (To him)
"The excruciating desire to belong somewhere is a curable disease,"
I thought to myself and set off to find the remedy. It verged on obsession.
At first unconsciously, then on purpose, I looked for the remedy in
others; other people. Men. (Glancing over her shoulder to him) Yes,
mostly men. They can be a good remedy!
My first man, I’ll call him… Adam. The rest
will follow alphabetically. Let me see. (Starts reciting the Armenian
alphabet) AYP, Pen, Kim, Ta, Yetch…. I think we'd better stick
to the Latin alphabet. The Armenian Alphabet has 38 letters, with doubles
for each. Twins! The Arabic alphabet is all struck together. Can’t
tell where one ends and where the other begins. You’ll have a
very bad opinion of me. Hebrew is from right to left. I'd like to think
in these matters there's no right or left. Maybe top or bottom. Like
Chinese. Oh, no! Chinese has 10,000 characters. Impossible to do in
the course of a lifetime, let alone an evening!
O, I almost forgot the Hieroglyphs. Then again, maybe
not. It can get too graphic!
Chinwe Azubuike is a strong female contemporary
voice from Africa, born in Lagos-Nigeria. Her origins are from Imo
State. Her literary development began whilst attending secondary school.
She has constantly viewed myself as a spokeswoman for Nigeria's deprived
underclass and recognised within herself a strong sense of social
justice. This is reflected in her poetry as her work highlights the
complicated issues and beauty of the people of Africa, especially
the plight of women and children. The bulk of her work focuses on
female issues; of love, life and torture with specific references
to ethnic family traditions within West Africa. Her meteoric rise
in African literary circles came about when she was invited to give
a talk on female circumcision for the BBC World Service in 2004. Following
on from that success she gave various readings at the Poetry Society
in Betterton Place, London. She has spoken candidly on various radio
stations in the Capital and her work has been published in various
online publications and offline magazines in London and throughout
the world. Presently, she is running a campaign worldwide for women,
against the victimisation and deprivation of human rights of "the
Widow" in Nigeria. This issue is extremely personal to her as
it is borne out of her own bitter experience when her father sadly
passed away. She has written extensively on the subject with essays
and poetry and intends to create a documentary in Nigeria about "Death
of a Husband".
To The Memories Of Homage
I still remember the duty your lips pay
left and right as you walk
down the aisle of people back in motherland
The responses of women
with wrappers wrapped high above their breasts
busy, bustling with wares to be assembled for an early sale
in the glowing warmth of the morning sun
They never forget to respond~
with the chewing sticks stuck in their mouths
They never forget to call out your name
even before a salute leaps out of your lips
I still remember the sequential interference
of greetings that stops you in your track
to enquire the fate of your house-hold
and livestock if you possess any
At times irritating, but all in good faith
by well meaning hearts and acts of brotherliness
I remember the rebukes your unintentional mind attracts
from those who surpass your age when morals evade you
The slogan says ‘it is not love’
yet we engaged in it without ceasing
it gave and earned us respect
So whenever I see familiar faces here
who avert their eyes,
I wonder what they think salutation depicts.
Hassan Bahri – I was born
in Syria 1955 and graduated from USSR (Ukraine) as a Mechanical Engineer
1982. I was political activist and detained for more than 8 years
in Syria. During this period I learned French and English and started
writing short stories in Arabic and translated several books into
Arabic. After the prison I qualified as a “Tourist Guide”
and worked as a free lance translator, article writer and tourist
guide. I came to UK in 2001 and continued working as a free lance
translator and article writers for Arabic newspapers then I joined
“Write To Life” group through which I published several
short stories in English language and gave readings around the UK.
In 2007 I joined “Exiled Writers Ink” and published a
small collection of short stories “Bread heap and a dreamer”
A reporter who died from obesity
Late in the sixties of the last century,
many wonderful things used to happen. People lived with big dreams and
believed in what they dreamed. The Beatles imagined, and a whole young
generation shared that dream – even Prince Ali, as we used to
call him, felt a touch of that common dream. He spent year after year
carrying a small transistor radio close to his right ear, which unspooled
fairy tales deep into his mind.
About me, the narrator, who spent his moments
of relaxation watching others, there is nothing worth saying, just that
I was then a student, a school student, at a secondary school, in a
poor part of my city. I lived not far from the school. The narrow street
where I lived was dirty, in summer dusty and in winter muddy. To its
left there was a shop where neighbours exchanged news and views, as
well as looks, before they made their purchases.
They always used to arrive in the shop all
together, as if they were coming to share their rumours, and not to
buy whatever they could afford. You could sometimes tell from their
looks what they were swapping, and you could even guess the phrases
they were whispering in low voices, as if they were sharing highly guarded
secrets. Something was about to happen or going to happen, at least
they believed so, and were waiting for it. Even the sudden surges of
the late autumn wind, whirling dust and yellow leaves on the street,
seemed to be tipping them off that something was around the corner.
There, waiting was the main drive to live.
‘Surely God doesn’t forget those who humbly follow him
- be patient and God will reward you.’
It was the most uttered phrase on this street.
Prince Ali had spent his days wondering why
this life didn’t want him around its table, and why it was pushing
him away from its shops.
These questions were tussling in his small
head, and might even have exploded it. But before that could happen,
just as in the old fairy tales, a miracle occurred.
One day while he was strolling alongside
the road which passes not far from this place and connecting Syria with
Turkey, a car, yes a car stopped by him. A woman opened the car door
and addressed him, smiling, in a language different from his. She tried
to explain to him with words and gestures what she wanted. Prince Ali
caught the word ‘Turkey’. He was very happy to have understood
this unknown- for him- language. He lifted his own hand high pointing
northward, and shouted in his own language:
‘Turkey… yes in this direction…’
Before the car disappeared in the direction,
which Prince Ali pointed, the woman with short hair and blue eyes gave
him a small transistor or a talking machine, as he used to call it,
and a bunch of strange brown fingers. Everything was beyond him; he
was totally bewildered by what the road had brought to him.
His way back was different from his way there,
only a few hours before. He felt excited. A woman - with a car! - had
spoken to him in a different tongue and he had understood what she wanted…
She had given him all these things just because he knew what she wanted…
he was not so useless, after all.
Half way back to his dusty street, after
he had used most of his senses on the brown fingers without discovering
what they were for, he decided to bite one of them. When his gappy teeth
bit into one of them, It crushed easily and melted away with a flash
of sweetness filling his mouth.
That was a big day for him. He dreamt that
night of a big world full of that brown sweet stuff, and hundreds of
beautiful women giving it away to everybody, as much as everybody wanted
The next day Prince Ali was waiting for me
at the end of our street as I came back from school. He showed me the
radio. I was a schoolboy, a student, so I should know everything, at
least he thought so. For me, as well, it was something new. However,
after a few minutes of fiddling with it, sounds came out of it. Prince
Ali was transfixed, and before he took it back from me he muttered some
holy verses to keep all possible genii and evil spirits away from all
around the place.
Then every new day brought some curious neighbours
to him asking him the latest from his radio. Through this magic box
prince Ali became a focal point on this street. Soon he found his useful
place among his neighbours.
Prince Ali was always on the alert, waiting, his mouth half opened and
his transistor pressed to his ear as if he wanted to minimise the distance
the news would have to travel between the radio and it. He was trying
to make sure that he would hear the latest from the “BBC Arabic
Service” before anybody else. Or maybe he just wanted to squeeze
the last drop of news from his magic box.
Our reporter was short. His legs were slim
and one was shorter than the other was. I always wondered how they carried
his small body so quickly. Nobody knew his exact age. Even he had no
idea about it. They told him that he was born when his mother was collecting
olives the year after drought and famine struck the whole region. However,
he looked middle-aged. His face was circular and his cheeks were sunken,
his clothes shabby and his hair scruffy. However, what was most striking
about him was his rounded, reddish frightened eyes, which always reacted
to the news coming from the radio pressed against his ear.
He had nobody waiting for him. No job to
do, no family to care for, no money, so he was happy to become the community’s
sentinel. Waiting not on the top of the hill but at the furthest end
of the street, dying to break all kinds of news to the customers in
the shop. As soon as he heard anything, you would see his bowed legs
snatching nervously at the road between his listening-post and the shop,
on his face a grimace or a smile, according to his evaluation of what
he heard. At the shop there were always some customers, and they never
failed to see Prince Ali coming. He loved the BBC; it was his source
of news. Words coming from nowhere, and even tradable. At the shop!
And for food! All this began to be reflected in his demeanour and self-confidence.
Since he had got his transistor, he enjoyed
a new kind of life. People needed him. He was happy to notice how others
started to listen to him - something that had never happened before
- every time he broke the news. He was happy with all of that and even
happier when someone would ask him for some details regarding some event
far away from their small world.
He would never forget that day when he told
them that the Russians had sent Yuri around the earth. And all of the
shoppers asked him: ‘Who is this Yuri?’ His answer was full
of confidence: Yuri Gagarin, Russian astronaut. He was brief and curt,
as if this Yuri was one of Prince Ali’s good friends, and astronauting
was something the prince did every day. The shoppers were impressed,
but divided in their reactions and everybody had an opinion.
But they were more divided on the day Prince
Ali broke the shoe news:
‘Khrushchev banged with his shoe on the desk in the United Nations!’
Prince Ali started to learn the secrets of
his food-rewarded career.
He had begun rephrasing the news and holding back some detail that he
would then be asked to explain, so he could get more and tastier food
as well a higher status among his growing audience.
This particular news was a big event for him. Everybody wanted to know
who were this Khrushchev, United Nations, and the shoe…
Prince Ali explained everything to them; they were impressed by all
of it, from Prince Ali himself to the United Nations, to Khrushchev,
and most of all by the Shoe…
Our reporter Prince Ali got more respect
and food, even sweets, for this life-changing news, but not before some
heated discussions about Khrushchev’s shoe. First, every one of
them had a look at his own shoe and then at the others’. Most
of them were in awe of Khrushchev’s brave act, but others were
not happy with it. It is not good, they argued, to put a shoe, no matter
how new it is, on a table. After all, maybe the shoe was dirty! But
Prince Ali was quick to answer that Khrushchev’s Shoe could not
be in any way like theirs:
‘It’s clean and expensive…’he said with clear
‘Did you see it?’ one asked him.
‘No, but Khrushchev is President, he can buy a new Shoe every
year, not like you, or me, every ten years if we’re lucky’
prince Ali answered stressing on words `you or me`.
‘Look, my shoe is new, I bought it not last summer but the one
before, but if it were me I would never put it on a table… just
imagine how much dust would fly off it… No, no I would not do
it…’one man said.
After Khrushchev, or let us say with the
Shoe Effect, Prince Ali became the most sought-after man in his community.
Even some women there started to look at him with different way. He
felt it. Before they glanced at him with some kind of sympathy mixed
with indifference. Now their looks were more fixed and more mysterious.
All that filled him with more energy. Some men began to feel jealous
of him. A certain level of danger brings respect. He felt it. However,
he had no more difficulties selling his news and getting better rewards
for them, and he began re-shaping or even adding some flavour to his
news, to please his audience. The more he did this, the more food and
respect he got.
It was exciting for him, he began to toy
with it more, and this community of waiting-people was hungry, from
its part, for more and more news…
They were still waiting for something to
happen. For Some big event. They did not know what it was exactly, but
they felt it would be a big event. Why should it be big? They didn’t
know, but they had spent their lives in waiting for something to happen.
The more, and more often, the news came, the more they were excited,
and nurtured an amorphous feeling that what they were really waiting
for was ever more imminent.
Sometimes Prince Ali found no major news in this world, no surprises,
and no big disasters, no matter how hard he pressed his transistor to
his right ear - which became gradually flatter than the left one as
What to do? His reputation was at stake!
Having worked so hard in his career as a reporter, he had got to know
what kind of news would please his public gathered in the shop, and
he was aware how generous they were when they were pleased. Therefore,
in the fallow periods of the news market, Prince Ali began to bring
more flying saucers to the earth and more signs of salvation for believers
in God. He found his audiences were delighted and reassured by such
news, and his rewards were accordingly better.
With a stomach stuffed all the time, our reporter discovered gradually
the pleasure of leading others by the nose, even of using or misusing
the power of his knowledge to control the main tap… and of asserting
his superiority with an uncontrolled secret desire of revenge. Especially
towards those who had until recently talked down to him as hungry, dirty
Along with this new pleasure he savoured
another one, that of his self-transformation from just a reporter of
the news, to its pudgy creator. He was selling his neighbours hope to
keep them alive for another day, and giving them an opportunity to pass
on the virtues of waiting to their offspring.
The wind still whirls the dust and papers
there, where our reporter Prince Ali died long ago from obesity, leaving
room for more sophisticated newsmongers.
As a teacher
in Afghanistan, Hasan Bamyani was attacked by the Taliban
for teaching girls. When he fled in 2001 he was forced to leave his
family behind in Iran. In 2006 he finally received leave to remain in
Britain. He now works long hours in a department store and a cinema,
and hopes to be able to bring his wife and children to join him in the
not too distant future.
His work has appeared in Exiled Writers
Ink! and in The Story of My Life: Refugees writing in Oxford, published
by The Charlbury Press, 2005. (Copies available from www.day-books.com
.) Hasan has filled three further notebooks with poetry and continues
to write every day.
Butchers of history, looters of land,
Against Buddhas of peace you lifted your hand
You treasure the worst that our fathers have
Heap death and disaster on the treasures we own
Like a bloodthirsty flood you ravage our
And savage the glory of ancient Bamyàn
Haters of beauty, lovers of pain,
On the cloth of our country you spread like a stain
Owls of the darkness, stay in your barn,
Don’t let your night darken our noon
You’re Fascists again, behind a new
So leave us in peace and leave us alone
Cry, Bamyàn – cry, Bamyàn
– cry blood, O, Bamyàn
Peak of the world and crown of our land
Let Kowà be our guide, the iron-armed
Let us stand like a band round ancient Bamyàn
Let Zohòg be defied, who was only
Like all the assassins of Afghanistan
On the brow of our land, Bamyàn is
Of our art it’s the cradle, from the great Buddhas down
So fly down from the mountains, gold bird
of our land,
And sing at the grave of the dead Taliban
This poem commemorates the destruction
by the Taliban of the famous Buddha statues in the Afghan city of Bamyàn
Kowà the iron-worker was
a hero of ancient times who led an uprising against the cruel king Zohòg
INTO MY CELL
Into my cell I’ll call her
From her honey lips I’ll drink
When her golden hair enfolds me
I am aflame, I am
I shall knock a hundred times
On her wooden gate
I shall kiss the stem of her throat
I shall blow the dust of sorrow
Off her memory like ash
And when at last she brings
The cup of her lips to me
The bowl of her arms to me
I shall tear the chain from my door
And wait no more
O golden-haired sun
A thousand tales of you
Shine in my window
Come to me
Come to me
Valbona Bashota a Kosovan Albanian
born in Kosovo, arrived in the UK in 1994 due to the Serbian repression
in Kosova. She studied psychology and journalism at City University
in London gaining her degree in 2002. Her poetry was published in
many Albanian newspapers, magazines and publications and she took
part in various literature festivals in Kosovo. She won many prizes
for poetry, achieving first prize with 'I Am Human' in 2004 in a poetry
competition for Albanian emigrants of the world. She regularly participates
in poetry festivals of Albanian women poets in Kosovo, her poetry
being published in various Albanian anthologies. Her poem "Hope"
in English, is being published in the anthology "Best Poets 2005"
by the Poetry Society in addition to another poem entitled "Passion"
which is being published in a publication called "The Spirit
Within". She works as a freelance journalist for various Albanian
newspapers and magazines, and has just started her MA in Professional
Writing at London Metropolitan University.
Why I write
I write because I live, I breathe, I feel
I write because this is what I'm born to do.
I write because this is who I am
I am the page, the pen, and the ink
I write because I feel
The thunder, sun and rain in a certain way
I write because I live, I cry
I laugh and die
In my own special way
I write and witness the miracles of life
The pain, the misery and children’s laughs
I drink the wine of other people’s blood
I crave the joy of unharmed youth
I live, cry, and rejoice all in one day
I am a writer, a messenger
I cannot be any other way
Nazand Begikhani was born
in Iraqi Kurdistan, 1964. Living in exile (Denmark, France and later
UK) since 1987. First degree in English language and literature. Then,
MA and Ph. D in comparative literature at the Sorbonne University, France.
Published her first poetry collection, Yesterday of Tomorrow, in Paris,
1995. Her second collection, Celebrations, Aras publication, came out
on April 2004 in Iraqi Kurdistan. Her third collection which is a collaborative
work with a famous Kurdish poet Dilawer Qaradaghi and called Colour
of Sand will be out in summer 2005 in Iraqi Kurdistan. She is a polyglot
and self-translates her poetry into French and English. Many of her
poems are published in French, Arabic, Persian and English. She is also
a translator from French and English into Kurdish; she translated Baudelaire
and Eliot into Kurdish.
A part from writing poetry, Nazand is an active researcher and advocate
for women’s human rights. She is the founding member and co-ordinator
of the network organisation Kurdish Women Action against Honour Killing
(KWAHK). Her researches on Kurdish gender are widely published in Kurdish,
but also in French and English.
She worked as cultural programme organiser at the
Kurdish Institute in Paris, then in the Kurdish Cultural Centre in London.
Between October 2000 to late 2001, she was the editor of RAM Bulletin
(Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the Media) at the Press Wise Trust in
Bristol. She is currently sub-editor at BBC Monitoring.
Life in a day
I was born
one morning with the dawn
The sun put a necklace of beams around my neck
and the stream in front of my birth garden
handed me a present of water
I immersed myself in the river of my childhood farm
Racing down the spring green hills
I wore rose water
Tied a wanawsha leaf in my hair
Towards the afternoon
I went with my friend
To the shores of the Tigris
Became rowing boats
Transporting us towards
what some would call
The beaches of sin
After the sunset
We found that we had been pushed
To the edge of the Atlantic Ocean
We built two tombs in the sand
And wrote “Time”
Translated from Kurdish by the author with the help of Richard McKane
and Moniza Alvi
Amba Bongo was born in Kinshasa
in 1962, She studied at the Institut Superieur Pédagogique
de la Gombe, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, where she graduated
in English and African Culture. She then went on to study Psychology
at the University of Warocqué, Mons, Belgium. Her first novel
was Une Femme en Exil published 2000 (l’Harmattan, Paris). She
has completed her second novel Cécilia soon to be published
and is currently working on her third novel which recounts the experiences
of her trips to Congo. Amba works as project director to Active Women,
a refugee community organisation supporting French speaking African
women with their claims for asylum.
I miss my mum and dad
I want to sit close to them and smile
Destiny has kept me far away
In a country cold and windy
I should have stayed home with them
Swam in the warmth
Of their tender love and care
Leant on their welcoming shoulders
To seek refuge and grow in peace
But for my own sake I had to leave
Had to start all over again
Somewhere on the other side of the world
Now I feel lonely and feverish
I feel melancholic and sad
And that's because I miss my mum and dad
One day, you see, I will go back
To my family, my land, my memories
I will caress my mum's soft wrinkles
And drink banana rum with my dad
It's only then that my life will brighten up
Profound joy and complete happiness will be mine
I miss my mum and dad so much
But I have to keep on smiling
And pretend that everything is fine
Shame you cannot read my mind
You would discover how much
I really, really miss my mum and dad
Nafissa Boudalia is from Algeria
and now lives in London. She is both a poet and painter and occasionally
returns to her country to paint at great risk to herself. She has
worked as a journalist since 1969, originally working for Algerian
newspapers 'El Moudjahid' and 'Algerie Actualites'. In 1967, she won
the Prix St Germain des Pres in Paris for her poetry. Her collection
of poems 'Reflexions sur l'Algerie (1989) focused on the political
situation in Algeria, especially the position of women.
The Silence of the Living
(Translated from French)
The silence of the living
The dead are there
They question me again
The assassins are there
Now, Howl louder
They shout again
You are a spy...you are a spy
It's easy to confess
You are a spy...you are a spy
We found this feather
It's all so clear now
The nib in the end
The spacing of the ink
The shapes of the faces
And the expression of the eyelids
You are a spy...you are a spy
We found this frame
It's all in the canvas
You believe in the spirit
Where you dip your brushes
Ethereal in different sizes
Your blues are threatening
Your reds are too deep
You are a spy...you are a spy
© Nafissa Boudalia
Noufel Bouzeboudja is an Algerian writer, poet, stage manager and chronicles writer, living in Spain.
In 2004, he played for the first time in The Voice of Truth, a personal play, and in 2005 Richard 3 by Shakespeare both staged managed in the English Department of the University of Mouloud Mammeri of Tizi-Ouzou( Kabylia). He since 2004, became an English teacher in the same department (graduated in British and American Civilisations, British, American and African English written literature and linguistics) where he supervised and stage managed several plays including: The Mask of Hiroshima by Ernest Ferlita (2007), Antigone by Sophocles (2008).
He was also an English teacher ( General and Business) in several private schools and in the University of Continuing Education of Tizi-Ouzou.
He started writing his first novel Espoirs Déchus ( Deceived Hopes) published in 2008 by Sefraber (France) at the age of 17. In 2006 he published his first collection of poetry Pensées Pensantes (Thinking Thoughts). The French Cultural Center of Algiers awarded him during a poetical competition in 2007. And in 2009 another collection entitled: Algérie: Banquet des Nonchalances (Algeria: Banquet of Indolences) was published by Edilivre in France.
A French painter, Suzanne Gouhot, inspired by his poetry in a sort of arts confluence realised many paintings.
He also participated in several collective or individual recitations in his country and in Spain where he collaborates with Cristina Rodriguez Alvarez who translates his poetry into Spanish and with whom he shares a performance entitled: Pensemientos Cruzados (poetical readings with audio-visual recordings).
Noufel published many chronicles on the web and Algerian newspapers.
-Pensées Pensantes, collection of poetry, self published in Algeria, 2006.
-Espoirs Déchus, a novel, published by: www.sefraber.com , France 2008.
-Algérie: Banquet des Nonchalances, collection of poetry published by www.edilivre.com, France 2009.
-Several newspaper articles in an Algerian newspaper El-Watan:
-Articles and Chronicles on the website Les Chroniques.free.fr:
I live there
The East and the West cross,
Love each other
Clash and struggle…
I live there
History is threatened
Where future is questioned
Where men practice survival
Life’s hand played
With my fate
Then threw me
Threw me there
Where there’s no flower
Where kisses and smiles
And I return
On the carpet of my remembrance
I went back
To days, years
Closed by destiny
Erasing them from my memory
I lost my name and address
Who am I?
We lost, in the sahara of our dreams
Our names and country
Who are we?
Who’s going to deny me?
Deny my past, my heart
My present, my future…
If I’m not me
Who would I be?
Like a passer-by
Like a rider who stops a while
Under a shadowy and a charming tree
Then he restarts his journey
Here is how the world I see
Henry Bran from El Salvador, is a singer, songwriter,
poet, author, puppeteer, storyteller, mime artist, illustrator, playwright,
presenter and artist. He has published a CD of his work. His novel
is entitled The Calvary of my People and his book of poems El Salvador
and its Cross. He has recently completed a book of short stories,
memories and poems.
WALKING THE STREETS IN FEAR
Henry Bran 1990
I walked the streets in fear.
Full of fear
When I saw the burnt houses,
The slogans on the walls
Decorated by bullets.
To walked past the soldiers
Armed to their teeth and
Looking at me
As if they were trying to recognise
My face and my name in their black list.
To hear the thunder of the helicopters
Flying above my head
Like dragon flies of war.
The checkpoints on the streets
Asking for IDs and searching my Jean.
To see the loneliness of some roads
And the many stones on the floor
The ones that were thrown at the army
Saying: "NO MORE".
The hidden secret,
The silenced truth,
The blind justice
Tortured and abused.
Yet, in the mist of all that
And behind my great fear
Something was growing as I got near.
The smiles of the people,
The children playing on the street,
The rain on my face,
The joy that said: "I'm staying"
The normal life under the storm
As if nothing was happening.
People carried on
Living their lives.
Then, I was very surprised
That I was not in my country
Or any other part of the world.
This was Belfast in Northern Ireland.
(Dedicated to the Birmingham Six, freed on 14th March 1991 after 16
years in prison and their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal)
(This poem was written as I visited Belfast to launch the book that
I publish for Richard McIlkenny one of the six. Titled: "Behind
the bars I have learned again to pray". He was still in prison
at the time of the publication).
Sofia Buchuck, originally from Cusco- Qosqo- the
mystical centre of the world- or otherwise known as the Inca Capital
of Peru. She is the only Quechua singer in the UK as well as playing
Andean and Amazonian instruments with her energetic band of professional
musicians at main folk and world music festivals.
With Latin American and cultural studies; Sofia has completed research
in ethnomusicology at the National School of Music in Mexico UNAM,
gaining an MA in cultural studies. She is currently finishing an MA
in oral history and history research. After living Peru in times of
violence, Sofia has worked both at English and Latin American events
in the UK, supporting human rights issues benefiting refugees as well
as travelling and performing as “Sofia Buchuck and Andean Band”.
In her show she shares instruments with talented musicians, delivering
haunting sounds of different genders and musical styles, mainly from
the “Ethnic groups of the Americas” such as the Quechuas,
the Mapuches, Chipchas and Mayas combining native languages with more
prominent tongues such as Spanish and English, in London - Moon Town
or Diaspora capital of the world, where being different means variety.
Her songs reflect themes of identity, exodus, respect for nature and
the cosmic energy to celebrate life in itself, reviving and reconnecting
people in a community, reinforcing a sense of multicultural development.
Poetry is added bringing memories of home and linking both, time
and spaces, rural and urban music blends with popular and modern influences
available on her different albums with her own compositions and songs
of well-known composers such: as Carlos Huaman, Manuelcha Prado, Bola
de Nieve, Julio Humala.
After singing for over fifteen years in the UK Sofia was the first
Hispanic singer to perform at the “Royal Opera House”
in Nov-2005 bringing colour and the spirit of the Andes to Coven Garden-
of which the Latin American community has it’s pride.
Sofia Buchuck, Peruvian Poet and Singer, was awarded:
“Best Latin American Artist in the UK”.
Starting singing as a child at the top crown
of the trees of her village Quillabamba or Moon Town- Sofia has develop
establishing her compact band of top Andean musicians with: Chano Diaz-
on panpipes, Quenas, Quenachos, rondador, base, Victor Palomino Mamany
on guitar, Diego Laverde on the harp, Kieffer Santander playing the
Peruvian Cajon or percussion and Jose Navarro on the armadillo made
charango (mandolin type instrument).She has been working for many years
through educational projects, benefiting the Latin American community;
and recently collecting oral histories from refugees in research for
the Evelyn Oldfield Unit to be archived and exhibited at the museum
of London 2006-2007.
In a community where the arts are at the very highest standards with
a variety of artists from around the continent, “Latin Excellence
or excellencia Latina” the yearly organisers of the awards event
had a very challenging and difficult task on selecting their best representatives.
This community is one of the fastest growing communities in London with
around a million Latin Americans in the whole of the UK; Sofia is the
first Andean artist to be awarded as best Latin American artists 2006
with over 2400 votes.
Next: CD and DVD on sale with video performances,
festivals/// Sofia in concert, plus ten musical themes including: songs,
carnivals, poetry and magical panpipes and flutes of the “New
age music of the Americas”. Contact: E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org,
Published literature: * “At the other
side of America”- a collection of poems and short histories mainly
in Spanish- reflecting issues of love, exile, memories, exodus as well
as cross-cultural issues.
* “Latin Mermaids” Myths
and legends of Latin American mermaids living in between places - London-
Latin America- in English- with -Quechua and Maya influences- mainly
for children and adults too.
Sofia Buchuck, Peruvian poet and singer based
in the UK since 1991, presents- KILLA RAYMI ADORATION TO THE MOON,-
A fusion of andean music lead by talented musicians, combining traditional
and comtemporanean isntruments such as panpipes, flutes, keyboard, electric
guitar, violin and charango. Killa Raymi reprresents the mixed roots
relfecting the transculturaization of Latin america, allowing us to
feel part of a diverse culture. Killa Raymi birngs the most happy carnivals
mixed with regaeton, and yaravis with soul as well as a ritualistic
poem paying respect to mother earth "Pachamama" and other
pre-colombian deities such as Apus mamas and Apu taitas, sacred mountains.
The mytical instruments and contemporanean rythms allow us to celebrate
Londons diversity and constrast- homenaje a los migrantes at "la
despedida" all songs- arranged by well known peruvian producer
Chano Diaz Limaco. Killa raymy involves dancers of scissors and is lead
by the evocative voice of Sofia Buchuck- Awarded best Latin American
Watch her poem 'Adoration to the Moon' here.
Dried leaves travel in circles,
The same way I search to hold on to my origins.
Yet they disappear to the unknown space of the wind.
The trains run on a threat of silver underneath
The entire platform waits for its arrival,
I travel in them, from station to station.
Still unable to reach the end of my destiny.
The wind sings in the nights of solitude,
London is dressed in the clothes of crying refugees and the exiled.
They have been whispering to the womb of their childhood.
Urging to defeat their demons, and cross the sacred border of impossibilities.
Maria Eugenia Bravo
Vahni CAPILDEO (Trinidad; UK) writes both poetry and prose. Her poetry includes No Traveller Returns(Salt, 2003); Person Animal Figure (Landfill, 2005); The Undraining Sea (Egg Box, 2009); and Dark & Unaccustomed Words (Egg Box, 2012). Her prose has featured in Iain Sinclair’s London: City of Disappearances (Penguin, 2006) and Trinidad Noir (Akashic, 2008). Capildeo's recent writing was inspired by her work for the Oxford English Dictionary. She currently volunteers for Oxfam and writes for the Caribbean Review of Books.
OF THE SAME METAL
After ‘The Wife’s Lament’ .
You hear? She’s off again.
Say I’ve been there too?
asked longer in those days
meant the crossing,
what could be on board was different
screaming at wingtilt
would not bring on the shooting just
costing invisible carbon unreckoned
the clamber and sinking of oddities
undersea I’m thinking
since I was caught
luminous as those uselessly
evolved unadaptable lodged
in the conduit
shivered with crossfire
Any newcomer cut out
new channels for strife and grief.
Like an interpreter
he cleared off.
Drought yomped the gardens.
belonging to houses.
the hardness of mountains
fires and thorns who’d put
a door in that? stow away
longlife goods binding muttering
lashing fast labelling finally
way beneath notice or the risk of news
yet not out of reach of heat?
This makes you smile?
For your sheets are cooler
indeed you choose to keep them so?
Not singed by dreams
while seeing off each hour?
Lucky for true.
So often to turn back
not to turn back.
Till something worse than no change
strikes as cold as iron
as potentially magnetic
as likely to be equal in lethal or trivial use
as kind to handle
as sure to follow
below hearing level
collecting as if escaping
a field of likes
like us or not
Keena-Diid Caynaane was born In Mogadishu, and came
to Britain in 1993, as a refugee fleeing from Somalia.She works for
an NGO. Her writing is about immigration, the Somali civil war, women,
fundamentalism, racism, criminal activities and human smuggling, injustice,
and in general the life of exile for Somali immigrants.
From 'The Interpreter'.
Four out of ten buildings on the High Road were closed with the glass
windows and front doors vandalised. Mountains of bills lay behind
the broken glass doors and the wind had blown newspapers, dried winter
leaves and rubbish to the abandoned doorsteps. Yet, the remaining
premises were occupied by solicitors, saying So and So & Partners,
So and So & Co. Then there were huge letters on the windows, saying
(Immigration, Criminal, Housing and Benefit, Divorce and family litigation,
compensation for injuries, violent neighbours and police harassment).
Finally, there was a large logo underneath which said (LEGAL AID).
Good lord, “police harassment” what was the meaning of
that? Who on earth would protect you if the keepers of the law harassed
Yet the few open shops, most of them selling cheap, poor-quality
goods from the third world, had security guards – the curse
of Britain. Everybody is suspected of some sort of crime in Britain,
shoplifting, robbery, terrorism and blowing up the entire city of
London, suspected of conspiring in some big secret. You were always
watched and followed. Spying CCTV cameras are installed everywhere,
in shops, at bus stops, on motorways and streets, on roofs, in hospitals,
on buses and trains, on trees and in parks, even in schools and playgrounds.
Yet they can’t find murderers and child killers.
The security guard stares at you as you enter a shop. Marching back
and forth like a provoked Spanish bull, his suspicious eyes follow
everybody entering, the air from his nostrils ready to carry you and
throw you through the window. He is ready to attack. Sadly for him,
no one wants to steal. But if the obnoxious looking guard does not
feel important enough or gets bored, he starts harassing the shoppers.
Finally, at 11.20 I arrive at the building and once I have noted
the location of number 978 Tottenham, High Road, I research where
to sit. I see three Turkish cafés on the other side of the
Road, but two of them are cooking and frying kebabs and greasy food,
although it is still early. The interiors are small with low ceilings,
and the day is murky and airless with everybody inside, including
the owner and bar staff, contributing to this by smoking cigarettes
I chose another one, the best of the three. The building had a high
ceiling and was newly painted in yellow with yellow transparent Turkish
curtains hanging over the large glass window. It was clean and spacious
compared to the others. It was between lunch and breakfast, so there
were not many customers, except for a few builders. There was a Turkish
family, a mother, who could not speak English, her son who looked
nasty with a local accent, a young pregnant lady, who I suspected
was the wife of the wicked young man, and a young man who spoke little
English. Apart from him, the customers were all sitting in a corner
near the window, eating and smoking, even the pregnant woman and the
old mother. The foreigner, who looked diminished and demoralised,
had been doing all the work industriously, cleaning cooking, washing,
carrying chairs, tables, sacks of food, dish and other stuff up and
down, as well as serving the customers. However, when a customer come
to the counter to pay the bill, the fat guy would come rushing up
to take the money; the foreigner was not allowed to go anywhere near
the counter. The fat guy was ill-treating the foreigner. “Do
not make me get angry with you” haah, he would say, then he
would start twisting his ear, pinching him on the stomach, pushing
him around, slapping him on the cheek and smacking his backside. “Aren’t
I good to you? Aren’t I? Aren’t I? Don’t make me
get angry.” The poor guy could not even protect himself, because
his hands were busy carrying heavy loads. “You are hurting me
or do not touch me that side” he would say in broken English,
then the evil fat man would emit his poor English, and the others
would laugh at him. The poor guy’s face would become red and
his eyes full of tears, but he pretended that he was laughing with
them. He murmured something under his breath which was a mixture of
crying and words.
I felt sorry for the poor immigrant guy. If I only could help him,
the sole way that I could take revenge on the fat dog was to leave
and not buy food I thought. Still, that would make no difference to
him, there would still be many customers going into his restaurant.
Charles is a story-teller with so many tales to tell.
He left his homeland Cameroon in fear of his life. He ran with crime
gangs in a lawless underclass in Russia.
And now, still just 26, he works hard in Wales to bring the stories
of other refugees to life.
He sees Wales – he arrived in 1999 and now has full citizenship
– as the country of his rebirth.
And, like all struggles for new life, his is a mix of pleasure and
There is joy to be finally doing what he wants to do, writing poems
and working on a book, but sadness at the distance between himself
and his family.
Eight years ago he had no choice but to leave. Throughout his childhood,
Eric had witnessed people's rights and freedoms being restricted.
His family were members of the English-speaking community in Cameroon,
but political and economic power lay with the French speakers.
By the time he went to university in Buea in 1996, he was writing
political articles and supporting the Cameroon Anglephone Movement
(CAM), one of the country's major pressure groups.
Then, the following year, opposition parties boycotted a national
election and trouble broke out. It was that day, November 27, 1997,
Eric knew he had to flee.
“There were gangs on the streets, some sympathetic to the Government
and others in opposition,” he says. “People were being
burned in tyres in broad daylight. People I knew where losing their
lives. There were riots and I was attacked and then arrested.”
Eric spent three days in prison and, once he was free, he fled the
country via neighbouring Nigeria and found himself on a plane to Russia,
where he arrived with $24 US. That was the start of a terrifying two
years in which, with no official right to be in the country, he fell
prey to criminal gangs. It is the part of his life which most helps
him aid other refugees who go through struggles to find safety.
“I hear many things in other people’s stories that take
me back to those days,” he says. “I know that criminality
is an option when you are desperate but I could never go back to that.
Being in a country the size of Russia and being illegal, being locked
up regularly in police cells, having no legal rights, and seeing the
money laundering and people trafficking, was very frightening. I was
only 17 or 18.”
His arrival in the UK changed everything. After an appeal he was granted
full refugee status and began to put down roots in his new home, Cardiff.
He started a family and, although he is now separated from wife Debra,
he relishes his role as father to step-daughter Nicole, 10, and his
own daughter Jolie, four, who is named after his mother.
He began voluntary work with other asylum seekers but now pursues
writing projects and in July will oversee the launch of a new book
Released as part of Wales’ Refugee Week events, the book features
five of Eric’s poems and work from refugees from around the
world who attended writing workshops led by Eric in Swansea, Wrexham
Now in the second year of a Modern History and Popular Culture degree
course at University of Wales Institute Cardiff, he also recently
received a £1,800 bursary from Academi, the writer’s development
agency in Wales, to work on a book, Journey To Wales.
“When I arrived in Wales I knew what I wanted to do,”
he explains. “I wanted to adapt and not be who I was in Cameroon
or in Russia – I had to exorcise those ghosts. I wanted to blend
in and go to university.
“I knew also that I wanted to write. To tell the story of a
refugee with integrity and to help other people put their stories
into perspective. I hear stories from people which are far worse than
mine and so think that by helping people write their experiences there
will be a lesson in there for others.”
As well as a desire to ‘get involved’ in his new country,
he says there were two other things which helped him a great deal.
He spoke English and he played football, joining a local side.
The sport gave him a perfect way to make friends. Many people remembered
the valiant campaign of football star Roger Milla and his team-mates
during the 1990 World Cup when they were knocked out in the quarter
finals by an extra time penalty from England’s Gary Lineker.
“I talked about Roger Milla and people understood about Cameroon.
People would tell me about the game against England, how they supported
Cameroon and so wished they had won!”
He describes the writing which occupies his spare time as his ‘nostalgic
life’, always looking back.
He has been unable to see his mother, three sisters and brother since
he left Cameroon. Another sister, Marie, who had worked for the country’s
prime minister, was killed by political rivals.
Repression and torture is still widespread in the country, according
to Amnesty International. Opposition groups, journalists and trade
unionists face intimidation and security forces use lethal force against
The legacy of British and French colonial interference in the country
of his birth as well as his personal adventures in finding a new homeland
provide a rich seam for Eric to explore in his writing. It is all
about finding out who he is.
He adds: “There is a small tree behind our kitchen in Cameroon
and that is where my placenta was buried. That will always be home
“Wales symbolizes rebirth, regeneration and the fact that I
have a daughter who is proud to say she is from Wales. Wales is like
my base, my second homeland.”
An old man climbed a mountain once
At its summit, he met a sage
Pointing at the sky the sage proclaims
“Look my son-like the stars at night
Your children shall inherit the earth”
As down approached
At the foot of the mountain
He gazed the skies-No stars
The land filled with dried leaves
The heavenly smell of “white phosphorous”
From the bags of letters, a collection of poems
by Eric Charles
Escape from Stavropol
It was early on Saturday morning when Angela called at
the hostel in Kulakova. She was on her way to work. We spent a few minutes
together sitting on the bench overlooking the Stavropol state university
football stadium. Before she left I told her I was traveling to Rostov;
visiting some friends. (Christopher a very good friend of mine and Jimmy
aka “Elange Nchou” had moved to Rostov). Angela knew something
was wrong and I was at pains trying to explain to her my reasons for
a sudden visit to Rostov. To completely remove her from my world, I
had told her the landlady had asked us to move out. There was work to
be done, first of all, we had to cut the papers into dollar sizes, we
had to paint them, and then made sure they dried enough and sealed into
a fifteen thousand dollars bundle. We used stale urine mixed with perfumes,
this content was placed in small bottles which we labeled chemicals;
we also used “fairy liquid” as part of our Chemicals. Everything
was sealed and labeled. Angela left the hostel not knowing she would
be seeing me.
About Mid-day Lena and Nadeshda came to the hostel, they
brought with them travelling documents ready for the traveling to Moscow.
Lena and I went into Nashmuddin’s room a loyal friend From Makhachkala
in Dagestan, and there for the last time we made love; I was filled
with guilt; I knew I Would never see her again, I liked Lena. Later
that afternoon Maga and his friends picked us from the hotel; it was
time to go for our final transaction.
They came to the hostel with a convoy of three cars Njappi,
Babila and I went in the first car, while Boss was in another car. The
third followed slowly behind, protecting the pack. Nkelle our
other colleague stayed at the hostel. Maga could not hide his
excitement; he said “if everything went well, they would be able
to throw plenty of business our way”. Maga had his concerns, not
that he did not believe in the business but because he thought we had
been sent by the law to try and set him and his friends up. We drove
out of Stavropol unto to “the hills and far away” into the
bushes. We drove for about two hours up the hills unto a level field
somewhere outside Stavropol. When the car finally stopped, I was relieved.
We waited for the rest of the team to join us before we made our
way to a small house in the distance.
We were introduced to about five other people; most of
them old. They had prepared roast lamb, and many combinations of different
food items including bake bread, vodka and plenty of Piva. We had some
food and a few drinks before we went into the main room via a stone
wall and a dimly lit corridor. Maga sat down alongside me us as we watched
Boss doing the packaging. Babila was going to do the “disappearing
act”, as Boss built the package and Maga starring at him in awe,
I started collecting as many dollars bills, the bills were then finely
squeezed into my sleeves. When the packaging was done, and all the chemicals
injected, we handed it to Maga. The package was then placed in a Freezer.
All the processes that we invented were just to buy us time to do a
switch between our fake dollars and their own authentic currency.
When all was done, it was Babila’s turn to perform
his role of “exchanging motion”. Because it was a big bundle
the idea was that we had to inject three doses of chemicals (this was
enough to give Babila time to switch our home made papers with their
money) into the bundle to ensure it all printed well. Everything went
according to plan and Babila made the switch. Boss then injected the
last dose of chemicals into the bundle and handed it to Maga; he was
told to put it underneath the television so as to allow plenty of compression.
It came with a warning that, “No one was allowed to touch the
bundle until twenty-four hours had elapsed. In their innocence, they
were going to make a ten thousand dollar profit. We knew twenty four
hours was plenty of time for us to make our escape.
Once done, we all sat outside and talked about the prospect
of becoming millionaires. We knew our job in that hill side location
was done; we had to go back to the hostel; but in other to do that;
we had to come up with a tangible excuse. Maga and his friend wanted
us to stay on the mountains un- till the following day, as you can understand.
This was not in our plans; our job here so far as we were concerned
was finished. As I sat down contemplating, I knew that I was safe, I
was just a mere translator, and Maga and his colleagues had bestowed
their faiths in me. After some lengthy discussions, at the end
they agreed that being just recently married it would be ill judged
if I were to spend a night somewhere outside my marital home. As this
thought played in my mind, I was momentarily save. If only I knew.
Extract from the Autobiographic text…Illegal immigrant
By Eric Ngalle Charles
Brian Chikwava, is a Zimbabwean
writer and winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing. He is currently
working on a short story collection and a novel, The Steak & Porridge
Doppelgänger. Brian is also a musician.
Zesa Moto Muzhinji
Beginning of the short story by Brian Chikwava,
the Caine Prize winner 2004
On a purple patch of earth, lent its hue by a carpet of jacaranda
flowers falling from a nearby tree, a man and a goat are locked in
a dogged tussle. The goat, sober as a monk, is 43 years his junior.
The man is still slightly inebriated following a night of gallant
drinking. Planet earth twirls through the heavens at a dizzying speed
while he pins the goat down with his chest and clings to the grass
lest he be flung off both goat and planet.The maid, Maria, is absorbing
the spectacle through the kitchen window. She claps her hands in the
customary gesture of disbelief when her madam, Mrs Moyo, strides into
‘Aizve, what is Ngoni doing? Is this
not a bad omen? I hope we do not hear that the plane carrying my son
and his wife has crashed.’ Mrs Moyo claps her hands sharply.
‘Ngoni’s madness,’ says
Maria, unusually voicing her judgement.
‘Eeeh, the people that Tambu’s
father brings us! I don’t know where it is he finds them,’
Mrs Moyo claps her hands again as she heads out for the door, Maria
supportively behind her. By the time the two women are in the garden,
Ngoni is on his feet yanking the now motionless goat’s head into
a large tin dish.
‘Ngoni!’ Mrs Moyo shouts from
‘Amai?,’ he answers, taking off
his cap, and folding like a deck chair into a servile crouch, his hands
clasped together in respect. There is no sign of his manhood gone berserk
and lunging inconsolably in the direction of the goat as they had expected.
So it wasn’t bestiality after all? The women are relieved but
don’t show it.
‘What are you doing Ngoni?’ madam
‘I was told by baba that the goat needed
to be killed and skinned this afternoon,’ he replies rubbing his
‘How can Tambu’s father
ask you to kill a goat by yourself? Did he not say he would find someone
to assist you?’
‘No he did not.’
The madam claps her hands again and sighs
‘Perhaps you could have tied the goat down instead of wrestling
it on the grass. Now, look, your overalls are such a mess.’
‘That’s what happens at work
amai. We are used to it.’
Before the exchange totters to an end, Ngoni,
seizes the opportunity to run through the obligatory morning ritual:
‘Er … did you sleep well amai?’
‘We all slept well Ngoni, what about
you?’ the madam replies.
‘I slept well amai, apart from being
bothered by mosquitoes. If I was capable, I would bite back.’
The women laugh. Ngoni has, by now,
completed his repertoire of the body language of servitude, and is carefully
placing his cap back on his head. He unfolds his gangling figure to
brush off the jacaranda flowers still stuck to his old orange overalls.
The women go back into the house, Ngoni picks his knife and turns his
attention to the dead goat. The slit across its throat is large enough,
but Ngoni is not sure whether to leave the blood to drain into the dish
for a few more minutes or to hang the animal up by its hind legs on
the low branch over his head. He knows this is necessary for good meat.
Not only does it ensure that the blood thoroughly drains away, it is
also makes it easier to skin and disembowel the goat. He wanders off
for a cigarette break in the tool shed.
Alfredo Cordal was
born in Chile and is a performance poet and playwright as well as a
journalist, interpreter and teacher of modern languages. In Santiago,
he produced literary programmes for television. He has produced four
plays in London: 'The Last Judgement', 'The Investiture of El Dorado',
'Smoking Mirror' and 'A Passion in Buenos Aires' with three further
plays awaiting production. His poetry has been published in a range
of publications including 'Anthology of Latin American Poets in London',
and 'Nomadas as Nomada', an anthology of Spanish and Latin American
Poets and Writers. He has performed his work at poetry recitals at British
festivals and for human rights organisations.
Strangers in A City
Translated from Spanish by Paloma Zozaya and the
Close my eyes
I can see you....
I'm a stranger in this city...
Close my ears,
I can hear you...
You're also a stranger in this city...
And even without feet
I can walk towards you,
And even without a mouth
I can conjure you up...
I have set myself free in this city...
Tie my arms up
I can reach you,
My heart is like a strong hand
This city is my home now...
Destroy my heart
and my brain will beat up.
And if you pour fire into it
I'll carry you in my blood...
We're not strangers in this city anymore...
My name is Yolande Deane, I’m 34 and I live and was born in London. My parents come from the Caribbean. I am an EFL teacher (English as a Foreign Language). I studied at the London Metropolitan University, where I did a BA (Hons) in European Studies and Italian. I have been writing poetry since I was a child but I have only recently begun to do it more seriously.
The past, looks like
the slug in the sink
that has slimed
up the U-bend
the late night street sick
on a Saturday night
Smells like brewing hops
the homeless man
at the back of the bus
and the milk gone bad.
cracked heels in winter
wet jeans after the rain
and a persistent mouth ulcer.
banana, repeating on me
the crushed pill
the Tom cats’ throated whining
the hissing and clawing,
the rustle of mice
in the dustbin.
Yolande M Deane
Isabel del Rio is a bilingual writer and linguist. She was born in Madrid, Spain, but has spent most of her life in London. She has a five-year degree from Madrid University and is a Fellow of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI) and of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL). She has extensive experience as a journalist, broadcaster and translator, including the BBC World Service, where she was a producer and presenter. For the past two decades she has worked as a linguist for an international organization based in London.
She has published fiction and poetry in both English and Spanish. Her book “La duda” was shortlisted for two literary awards in Spain. Her latest book of short stories “Zero Negative–Cero negativo” was written in both languages as an indictment against bloodshed in its many forms: war, torture, capital punishment, murder, martyrdom.
Spanish is her language of nostalgia, memory and exile, whereas English is her language of freedom, action and dissent.
She takes part in poetry/prose readings on a regular basis, and is an established performance poet in the London scene.
a poem on exile by Isabel del Rio
more inconsolable than being exiled in a far away place
is being exiled in the city of your birth, your youth, your past,
tougher than being an exile amongst foreigners is being
an exile amongst your own people, your family, your clan,
harsher still than the exile of the body is the exile
of the mind, condemned as you may be to a hell
of abhorrent ideas and horrific visions, a nightmare wanting
in tenderness, in generosity, in truth,
worst of all is the exile of feelings to a remote wilderness
because there is no one to share
them with, or forever exiling your ability to wonder because nothing
can captivate you any more,
the saddest of all exiles is the exile of your words
once they have been silenced, banished to where they
cannot be read, your poems misunderstood, your stories
in tatters, your speeches unheard, your writing ignored and even vilified…
if your exile is the place where you can be who you are, if
your exile gives you the words that allow you to say
what needs to be said,
if your exile is the passport to get where you have to get to,
if it is the key to freedom, to inspiration,
to discovery and invention, to desire and passion,
to calmness, to benevolence,
the path to new emotions, new companionships, to new
lands to explore, new days to live, new
intimacies to enjoy, new words to
learn, new ideas to possess,
then exiled as you may be will be your salvation,
for the lack of a home will be also be home,
the lack of a country will be your nationality,
the beginning of your exile will be the end of your search…
Amna Dumpor was born
in 1968 in Mostar, Bosnia and Hercegovina. During her youth in Mostar,
she was involved in the media and theatre which included appearances
on the local radio station, television and theatre. In October 1998,
she published her first book of poetry 'Tears in the Heart' in her home
town of Mostar. She has been living in London since 1992.
My Love is a Simple Truth
(Translated from Bosnian by Gianna Salkovic)
Yes I did love you!
Isn't this simple truth enough for you?
I loved you in the moment
As I inhaled you
Through the stretched skin of my stomach
Waiting for the Mostarian, thirsty summer.
Can't you live from the moment?
And are important, all these everyday events
Of this simple truth?
Don't look for me,
In the remains of the destroyed bridge.
Don't ask me to come back, I have left forever.
Don't search for my image from the train,
Already departed behind the hills!
Yet I loved you.
As a woman and a poet
Framing you for the most beautiful exhibition of my life.
Therefore, don't look for me beneath the
Of a finished act and a destroyed theatre.
There are no performances and no actors!
Please, tear it off from eternity
And it is your moment.
In it, I loved you with a simple truth.
Fatma Durmush is a member
of a Turkish Cypriot family and came to Britain when she was one month
old. She sees her identity as being British-Turkish as she speaks Turkish
and is steeped in Turkish culture. She worked in her father's cafe in
south London, simultaneously writing and studying for the Open University.
After a violent attack, she gave up working in the cafe to write full-time
and paint. She became a feminist from the age of twenty-one and feels
that as a women she is a victim. She writes both poetry and prose and
recently completed a novel entitled 'Dual Self'. She writes mainly in
English but also in Turkish. Her work has been published in 'The Big
Issue', Daily Express and read on a radio magazine programme. She has
won seven literary awards, including first prize in the London Turkish
Literature Festival (1998). She edits the Morley College literary magazine.
I was sitting down to breakfast,
when I began to be irritated.
I chased it to the muse.
Of course I went to the hills
Quietly, without wearing my coat,
Went topless in the morning dew.
No-one saw my foolishness except
For a little squirrel and it went
Climbing on and on it did not seem
To care and maybe God doesn't either.
When evening came, I said my prayers.
Ahmad Ebrahimi is a founding member
of Exiled Writers Ink! He came to Britain in 1974 for post-graduate
studies and subsequently worked as an economist. He recently moved to
the USA. He published his first volume of poetry in 1974 and his poetry
in both Persian and English, has been published in many journals and
anthologies. He is currently working on an anthology of translations
of the poetry of Ahmad Shamloo as well as on a collection of his own
work. In the UK he was closely involved with the Iranian PEN Centre
Return to Neverland-upon-Rupture
What would be the point of departure
To return to Neverland-upon-Rupture
at this or any other juncture?
After cycling on for years in different circles
breaking up and going round in a loop,
turning all the time, pedalling away exhaustion
turning away from friend and foe,
yet giving way to the nostalgic impulse
in our toes.
What would be the point of departure
even now that we have to stop altogether?
watching each other's hearts retire,
searching but not finding the magic glue
to repair this odd but very old puncture
with blow job
hardly meant for the tyre
to arrive, finally, in the future.
Spared from the firing squad and torture
but not from the fire of one burning wish,
yet knowing deep down that it will never come true for us,
a new wheel, a ready tyre and a gun to fire.
Dorothy didn't know that her shoes
could have always returned her to Kansas
we somehow knew, but discarded ours long ago,
to walk away from life barefoot
one the fire of only one exclusive desire.
Eventually we are bound to understand the impasse,
our limited resources and the power of black satire.
Even if the world is not burning with
our exclusive desire,
we must be thankful for our stay -
a stay of execution you may say.
But in this mix of lifeless love and crossfire -
OK - call it the purgatory of leave to stay in the UK,
we have to find a way before we retire
to be able to entertain all kinds of interests, desire:
retaining the Ashes, Dad's Army and
'England, Your England' as George Orwell wrote after
reluctantly shooting the Elephant, maybe as a farewell
To the British Empire.
Then the world around us would have a chance
To understand our unnurtured nature
and we take it to be our true home
- whether London, Karachi, Ankara or Rome.
from a distance, one can see the landscape
inviting as an intoxicating mirage - a dead sea of flesh
but when one closely inspects the texture
it turns out to be a mirage of shimmering wine
which nevertheless makes you tipsy
as long as you are asleep and dreaming.
But the moment you wake up, there is little mercy.
You have to run from one corner to another
tracing the footprints of 'the testifying Goddess of Youth'
in vain, only to see in yourself
Hagar, abandoned by the prophet Abraham
running the seven hills of despair and thirst
carrying the almost dead baby of hope
in search of the bosom of water,
but to no avail.
Samatar Elmi is a poet and a playwright of Somali heritage. He is the current poetry editor for Helicon magazine and also runs the Bristol Poetry Stanza. He has been mentored by Dorothea Smartt for three years on the prestigious Young Inscribe programme. An experienced workshop facilitator, he has taught creative writing in schools, youth clubs and for the Arvon foundation. His first play, 'The Wallet', was reviewed favourably, with a national tour planned for 2013. His poems from his first pamphlet, 'Sand Castle', have been published in the Young Inscribe Anthology, Scarf, Decanto, Exiled Writers Ink.
Transparent like the clear crust of a river.
Time holds no position
as stone and salmon swim past.
Time has no direction
in the court of conscience.
The resting moves before it sleeps,
in the court of conscience
innocent and guilty.
Some lakes are mistaken for oceans,
when one crust hides from the other,
who can tell what forms swim past
when each crust is the other?
In the courtyard of concealment
little is of interest,
in the courtyard of concealment
there are no mores to break
They tied silk blossoms to a dying tree.
So that their children missed autumn,
living in spring until they had grown.
In time the young ones shall besiege Wei,
and do what they could do not.
To the plucking harps of improvement.
The new became old and the old vanished.
But not before giving a final lesson.
That truths are discovered not made.
We go beyond our inherited maps,
and pray our knowledge is applicable.
We make our mistakes to refine our wisdom.
Our children sleep under our silk blossoms.
Watching us, hearing us, becoming us.
Each generation, edging closing to Zhao.
Amanda Epe was born and raised in London to parents who immigrated from Ghana and Nigeria. She is a published poet, memoirist and a blogger. Her work has appeared in anthologies as well as journalist reports in online and print magazines. Her blog focuses on health, well being, campaigning and empowering African girls and women www.msroseblossom.org . She holds an MA in Education, Health Promotion and International Development, BA Hons Education and a Higher Diploma in Journalism. She is currently (2013) working on memoir poems of her former life as an Anglo-African British Airways Crew.
Esbir was born in Syria in 1958 and moved to New Zealand in 2001. She
writes about women's and children's rights for Arabic newspapers and
magazines.She has published three poetry books: Like Water she
Can't be Broken (2004), Trick of Mystery (2006) and The
Flower of the Naked Mountains (2009).
The Morning Smiles but Does Not See Me
Translated By Adil Saleh
I have set the mountains free;
The flower, at its utmost distraction,
Is ransoming the far-off stars.
The sun puts my neck on,
And a fire illuminates me.
The morning smiles but does not see me;
It stumbles on
And weeps for a day whose legacy it has sold.
Love has changed me.
I am no longer Venus
I am no longer
any of the planets.
I am a woman
That roams the wilderness in rusty slippers of dreams
Jaleh Esfahani was born in Esfahan,
Iran. Jaleh finished Behesht Aeen high school in Esfahan and then worked
for a few years. In 1945, she moved to Tehran where she was accepted
at the Faculty of Literature, Tehran University. Shortly afterwards,
she married Shams Badi, a young army officer. In 1946 she was the only
female poet to attend the first Iranian congress of poets and writers
in Tehran. After the persecution of Jaleh's husband for his political
views, the couple settled in Baku, Azerbaijan where Jaleh learnt Russian
and Azeri and got a BA from Azerbaijan State University. She got her
PhD in Persian literature from Lamanosov University, Moscow. From 1960,
she worked at Maxim Gorky International Academy of Literature until
she left Russia for Iran in 1980. In the turmoil of the revolution she
left Iran for London when she currently lives.
'Jaleh has been the most active female poet in the history of Persian
literature'. She has published more than twenty volumes of poetry, most
of which have been translated into Russian, Azeri and other Central
Asian languages. Her work has also been translated into Czech, Kurdish
and Arabic. Apart from writing poetry, Jaleh has translated the works
of Azeri poets into Persian.
Portrait of the World
If I Had a Thousand Pens
The Unbeatable Alborz
Oh, the Shorteh Breeze
Every flower has a Scent: translation of Russian and other ex-Soviet
poetry into Persian
The Cry of Silence
Songs of the Forest
Whisper of the flight
Wave in Wave
The Shadow of Years: autobiography
Splendour of Silence
One of Jaleh's dramatic pieces had been made into an opera and performed
She has also conducted literary research.
Where are you from?
Where are you from?
I am a gypsy, a wanderer,
born of pain and affliction.
Look at the map of the world,
voyage across in a glance.
Doubtless you will not find a land,
where my fellow county-man
has not drifted.
I am the mystified soul
of a sleep-walker,
who at the full moon, strolls across the cliffs
of endless desires
at the foot of reality.
Where are you form?
I am from the land of
wealth and misery,
the green skirt of
the Alborz mountains *,
the majestic shores of
the citadel of Persepolis.
Where are you from?
I am from the land of love, poetry, sun.
Home of battles, sufferings, hopes
and trenches of Revolution.
My eyes are burning
with a thirsty hope
Now, do you know
where I am from?
* Alborz mountains are a range of mountains separating the green north
from dry central parts.
Alex Etchart is a second generation half-caste exile writing about what it's like to be torn between two worlds. He performs Latin American
resistence songs both in the original language and of his own translation.
Within the UK he's done songwriter reportage on the ethnic cleansing of Irish Travellers at Dale Farm and modern day rap and spoken word about a
generation of rioters and occupiers exiled on their own streets. Fresh back from Falastin he has a new set of works inspired by the harsh yet
beautiful human and physical landscape there.
Meditaciones de un Anglo Yorugua
(Escrito después de la marcha de los desaparecidos)
Presente el alma al desaparecer
Que fue asesinado ya que quizo defender
El pueblo donde nació y se crió
Y si yo no lo sufrí cual derecho tengo yo
De hablar sobre un mundo al cual no pertenezco
Pero yo soy un producto de esa historia
Así que está en la sangre, comparto la furia
Como huido no nazco sin querer ni saber
Sino que con un tierno hueco del no pertenecer
Mestizos pensamientos carecen convicción
Cuando surge de afuera la imponente visión
Del mundo político de un país entero
Mientras troca la llama y se derrite el acero
Sé que no sé pero quiero saber al saber que nunca sabré
Los cuatro vientos y rincones de las mares
Los sabios ancianos que saben lo que 'estar' es
Desde mi pequeño universo aumento el llanto
De que hay que haber reparos a este terrible insacramento.
Meditations of an Anglo-Uruguayan
(Written after the march of the disappeared)
The spirit lives on as the body is dissappeared
Brutally assassinated because it struggled to defend
The people and place where it was born and raised
But if I haven't suffered, then what right have I
To speak about a world to which I don't belong?
But I AM a product of that history
So it runs in my blood, I share the fury
As the son of an exile I'm not born wanting to forget
But instead with a tender emptiness of not belonging yet
My feelings are half-caste, they lack conviction
When from overseas surges the imposing vision
Of the political landscape of an entire country
Whilst the flame changes hue and the wax wanes slowly
I know I don't know but I want to know in knowing that I'll never know
The four winds and corners of the oceans
The wise old sages who know what is 'devotion'
From my little universe I augment the lament
That they must be reparations for this terrible insacrament
Musa Moris Farhi,
Born in Ankara, Turkey, 1935 of Turkish-Jewish
Received B.A. in Humanities from American College Istanbul, in 1954.
Came to the UK the same year and trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic
Art. He graduated in 1956 and settled in London.
After a brief career as an actor, he took up writing.
He has written many television scripts; a film, The Primitives;
and a stage play, From The Ashes of Thebes.
He is the author of the following novels: The Pleasure of Your Death
(Constable, 1972); The Last of Days (Bodley Head &
Crown, US, 1983); Journey Through the Wilderness (Macmillan/Picador,
1989); Children of the Rainbow (Saqi, 1999), Young Turk
Children of the Rainbow has received two prizes: the “Amico
Rom” from the Associazione Them Romano of Italy (2002);
and the “Special” prize from the Roma Academy of Culture
and Sciences in Germany (2003). The French edition of Young Turk
(Jeunes Turcs) received the 2007 Alberto Benveniste Prize for Literature.
His new novel, A Designated Man, will be published by Saqi/Telegram
in March, 2009.
His poems have appeared in many British, US and European publications
and in the anthology of 20th Century Jewish Poets, Voices Within
the Ark (Avon, US, 1979).
He has also published short stories in anthologies and magazines in
the UK, the US and Poland.
His essay, The Courage To Forget, appeared in Index on
Censorship (Vol.24, No.2, 2005). Another essay, God Save Us
From Religion, is included in the collection, Free Expression
is No Offence (Edited by Lisa Appignanesi, published by Penguin
Books, 2005) A third essay, All History is the History of Migration,
given at the “Know Your Place?” Conference in November 2005,
was also published by Index on Censorship in 2006.
To date his works have been translated into Arabic, Dutch, French, Galician,
German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Romanian and Turkish.
For the past twenty-five years or so, he has campaigned, from the ranks
of English P.E.N.’s Writers in Prison Committee, for writers persecuted
and/or imprisoned by repressive regimes. During 1994-1997, he served
as Chair of English P.E.N.’s WiPC; and during 1997-2000, as Chair
of International P.E.N.’s Writers in Prison Committee.
On June 16, 2001, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, he was
appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for “services
On November 2001, he was elected a Vice President of International P.E.N.
He is a Fellow of both The Royal Society of Literature and The Royal
He is married to Nina Farhi (née Gould), a psychoanalytic
psychotherapist, and has a step-daughter, Rachel Sievers, a speech
Yesterday, the poet, al-Ma’ari, told us,
there were two kinds of leaders:
those with brains and no religion;
and those with religion and no brains
yet many people somehow survived
there were still
mountains and forests
love for life and wisdom to create
and myths and prophecies
that promised clement times
Today, unquiet souls warn us,
leaders have congealed into one kind:
those with no religion and no brains
yet the people strive to survive
mountains and forests
love for life and wisdom to create
are still here,
and myths and prophecies
of clement times
are still remembered
Tomorrow, the unborn will say
there are no people left
no mountains and forests
no love for life and no wisdom to create
and myths and prophecies
of clement times
will have been effaced
I was born in St Ann, Jamaica, came to England to join my mother, stepfather, one older brother who came to England several years before me, a younger one.
My mother was expecting another child who was born just after a month after my arrival in the UK.
I attended secondary school at Langdon Comprehensive in East London, the local Evangelical church for many years into adulthood.
I live in East London, and after working in different professions all over London, settled to working as an External supervisor and Key Worker in Local Authority Youth Service. My work is with children, families and young people.
Several of my poems were published in an Anthology with Magic Me Pen friends, London in 2008. I am currently working on three poetry books, one for children and young people and the other for adults.
My work is influenced mainly by my personal experiences in life, as well as events, which unfolds during my every day encounter with other people.
From one Exile to Another
Growing up in the East End of London, and having gone through many challenges as a child, and young adult I longed to go back home to the place of my birth, the family I left behind who knew and understood me.
It was in 1980 when I decided to take a trip; one, which I thought, would put an end to all the confusion, ill treatment and misunderstandings.
I wanted to go back home to see how easy it would be to return and settle there in the country I had lived in with my maternal Grandmother, Aunts, Cousins and friends. How hard could it be to fit right back in and be accepted as me, I wondered to myself.
My trip came about after hearing Margaret Thatcher who was Prime Minister at the time, stated ‘they should go back to their own countries’.
Excited about the prospect of seeing my family again, I wrote a letter and booked my flight, so that they could prepare for my return.
I am going home at last I thought, and everything is going to be all right
Or so I thought.
My plan was to visit first, and return to England pack my bags and go back Jamaica to the family I knew and loved for as long as I could remember.
I remember thinking I don’t need her to throw me out, I know where I am from
Chester district, St Ann, Jamaica that’s where I am from
I didn’t ask to come here, didn’t even want to come. I had no choice I was sent to join my mother, her husband and step brothers. The people in my family here were all strangers to me except an older brother who I followed; he came to England before me.
I could not wait to see everyone; I tried to remember what they all looked like
When I saw them last, and smiled at the thought of seeing my family again
It did not take me long, to see how everyone had changed
What I got was requests, for all the things they wanted from me I imagined what “Santa Claus” feel every Christmas Eve trying to meet the requests from those who believed in him.
I went bearing gifts for everyone, but it was not enough for some, they wanted my last pair of shoes even the thin high heel ones which they could not walk in properly.
Several family members often asked ‘ when are you going back’?
Leave me those shoes, handbag and hat, “how comes you wear such high heels”?
I remembered how I had felt at the thought of returning to the people I left behind the excitement, anticipation, and memories flowing my mind of how things use to be when we all lived together as one big family.
After a long flight to Heathrow of about nine hours, I was back here in England queuing up to get back into this country.
I joined the line I thought I fit under and waited to be checked by Immigration and customs.
It wasn’t long before I realised that I did not belong there, and did not belong here
I know Africa is the motherland, but they speak a language I don’t understand
Where in West Africa am I from?
Is it Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal or another place on the West Coast, which I don’t know?
How will I ever find out when black people are mixed with so many other countrymen?
What I do know is this; I am in exile here and was in exile there
So I’ll carry on here for now, until it’s time to go somewhere new
If not on this side then, the other is definite that I do know
It all fits into a divine plan bigger than man
Poem by: Joan Ferguson
Predrag Finci, born in
Sarajevo in 1946, he is in exile in London. He completed Gymnasium,
Drama Studio and Philosophy at the University of Sarajevo, and a two
year Counselling Course in London. He also studied at the University
of Paris X (under Mikele Dufrenne) and in Freiburg (under Werner Marx).
He completed his MA in 1977 and PhD in Philosophy in 1981. Before finishing
his studies in Philosophy, he pursued an acting career, after which
he was involved in academic work. Finci lectured at the Department of
Philosophy and Sociology (University of Sarajevo) and gained his Professorship
in Aesthetics. He is a founder-member of Bosnian P.E.N. He now lives
in London and works as a freelance writer and research fellow at UCL.
IN PRAISE OF GRAPHOMANIA
Graphomania is an affliction. It is like one of those harmless yet
incurable minor diseases which are not fatal but for which there is
no cure, but, which with time, becomes a bother both to the sufferer
and to those around him.
The first symptoms of this infection are to be noted at an extremely
early age: the future sufferer usually begins as the school writer
and philosopher, as a 'poetic spirit' whose written exercises the
school-mistress praises and includes in the school wall newspaper,
but of which the local urchins make fun mingled with sheer malice,
spite and envy. This two-fold experience, that of praise and contempt,
follows every writer like fate the whole of his life. It was the fate
of such gifted 'graphomaniacs' as were Dostoevski and Nietzsche, whose
'graphomania' was justified by the greatness of their work, for which
it would be purely arbitrary to state that it "might have been
shorter", since its extent arises at the dictate of its subject,
which becomes clear with even a superficial insight into the various
deformed, shortened editions of The Brothers Karamazov and The Will
to Power. But, while great authors enter into writing as into destiny,
before the eyes of the scribbler, at least at the beginning, there
wavers only the bright vision in which his work is crowned with glory
and its author surrounded by every form of praise and attention. The
graphomaniac cares not for the work, but for the reputation it may
bring him. He soon begins to call himself either critic or poet, adding
this title to his signature wherever he finds the opportunity. He
systematically visits book clubs and r eading rooms, enquiring what
is new, visits public lectures at which he is more concerned with
those present than with the lectures, visits the offices of periodicals
and ritually crushes the exhausted editors who - at the end of their
tether - applaud him … He preserves in his library everything
he has ever published, and his briefcase carries at least twice as
much, which, all taken together, is as nothing compared with what
he has the unshakeable intention to write.
The graphomaniac is distinguished by his persistence: nothing can
shake him in his efforts to become a recognised and well-known public
figure, in which his writings serve as both a go-between and a defence.
Such writing is in no way creation, but a type of mental misdemeanour,
in which one may clearly discern a neurotic need for self-assertion
and pure auto-compensation. Such writing is not literature but a psychogramme.
Looking on writing as a pleasant therapy, the graphomaniac is constantly
and impatiently hurling himself into spiritual adventures in which
there is neither spirit nor adventure, and all in the hope that the
bulk of his 'work' will make up for the lack of talent. His thirst
for constant expression always results in that type of tiresome exaggeration
in which there is no trace of the particular enjambement which is
the virtue of real literary works. The difference between a writer
and a graphomaniac is that obvious difference between an author who
has something to say and a scribbler who makes an irresponsible use
of words, that is to say the difference between the need to create
and casual expression. The graphomaniac may, indeed, become a true
'authority' for the unenlightened public, who with time becomes overwhelmed
by the frequency of his incomprehensible literary works. And while,
for the naïve reader, the graphomaniac can become a mental hazard
and perceptive menace, the more serious connoisseur soon ceases to
read such writing. Nor is he taken seriously by the experienced author
for whom his every excursion is equally insignificant, since he knows
that the graphomaniac is, at bottom, a cheat, an illusionist, who
skilfully juggles with unconvincing illusions. For the graphomaniac
reads in order stealthily to copy,gathers superficial information
to parade as his own, to publish in order to flaunt his knowledge:
he is a compiler whose works give the reader a sense of déjà
lu. The graphomaniac follows cultural events so as to 'react' to them
and to be 'informed'; he echoes fashionable intellectual trends; he
presents a cross-section of current spiritual life, in which he is
capable of transforming every gold into lead. And although in principle
he deals with 'difficult subjects', of which he speaks in high-sounding
and pompous words - often creating 'his own' vocabulary and syntax,
not only because grammar is foreign to him, but because he hopes that
the language itself will express more than he himself was thinking,
although for every failure of his thought he accuses that same language
for not being capable of expressing his 'thoughts', that is to say
the 'truth' - this scribbler has something to say about everything,
since he has no opinion about anything, which he calls spiritual flexibility
and intellectual broad-mindedness. And so he may rant into his 'type-writer',
proclaiming his superficiality and lack of talent as fluency of writing.
With all his fervour and enthusiasm, he never becomes a writer: he
plays at being a writer, although in time he ceases to be aware of
his play-acting. He becomes his own mask.
Andrich said somewhere that he admired journalists, adding, in his
manner of elegant and remote cynicism, that they were capable of writing
a lot. In literary hyper-production which conforms to every other
form of mass production, it is possible even to offer reliable directions
as to how to write: there are various norms which must be maintained
even in literary work. A rigid observance of definite norms easily
becomes a pattern by whose careful application it is possible safely
and surely to create every text. Often, and each time with justification,
various versifiers and writers of nebulous articles are subjected
to ridicule. But, no matter how harsh the parodying of canonised verbosity
and unacceptable arbitrariness, graphomania has nonetheless flooded
all regions of literature as not even to avoid the islands of philosophic
stringency: in today's flood of authentic ignoramuses, uncritical
interpreters who do not interpret but merely repeat, and shameless
compilers who, without recognition, steal other people's ideas, it
becomes possible to sketch out an ever more frequent recipe by whose
application philosophers are preparing their words of wisdom. Here
is an example of how one might prepare a philosophic telly-snack.
Ingredients: two or three borrowed ideas, various seasonal literature,
quotations, paraphrases, notes, pleonasms, neologisms, archaisms.
The rest as required.
Procedure: reject all activity, refer to one's being highly occupied,
distance yourself from everything that is not for personal benefit,
express contempt for nation and society, sport, chess and for pleasurable
life in principle.
Preparation: firstly put an epoch-making title, but at once reject
it with a subtitle. Immediately after a motto in Latin, make a comparison
of various points of views and cultures, sharply criticise the European
philosophical tradition both in parts and as a whole, express regret
at one's own times, attack all theologies, especially the Christian,
reject mysticism and positivism, two or three philosophers to taste
and one of the more modern philosophic trends, making use of such
phrases as "he fails since…; he has not achieved …;
his views are narrow because of …; this view is untenable because
…", point to the fact that Hegel, for instance, "has
well noted" but - unfortunately - "did not realise that
…", which goes to prove a critical and intellectual acumen
which Hegel can in no way deny, but under no circumstances make public
comment on present colleagues, who, to judge by newspaper reviews,
have exceeded not only all living and certainly all dead philosophers,
but philosophy itself. (At the same time, between the lines, criticise
them both as people and philosophers,proving that all that is worth
while stands in inverse proportion with that failed nobody. When he
says "sense" show that it is a matter of nonsense. If he
says the concept is open, try to prove it closed.) Carry out 'a bit
of education in the public eye', informing the uninitiated public
of one's own erudition, at the same time, retelling 'in one's own
words' what one has read. One should cite as many of the latest books
as is possible and quote from them exclusively in foreign languages,
especially if they are already translated, from which everyone can
conclude that they have before them the text of a superior know-all.
In so far as something has to be translated, then translate it so
that the translation, if not utterly incomprehensible, will be at
least more difficult and more muddled than the original text. Never
quote living colleagues (only the dead can be respected without reservation),
for their work does not enter the sphere of the 'Weltgeist', but in
the case where such brochures may contain something worthy and truthful,
freely adopt it (spiritual culture is common property!) Take a relaxed
view of grammar. Write nouns with capital letters and proclaim each
individually as a category or at least a concept. Occasionally omit
the subject and treat the sentence as a fortuitous combination of
words. Regularly invert syntagms, so that 'all' is included, and adorn
with pleonasms the vacuities in long complex sentences whose beginning
and end is difficult to determine, not to mention their content. With
this, by all means, hint at the weakness and insufficiency of one's
own language and, without fail, quote Wittgenstein. Once the text
has been made sufficiently obscure, announce that such a style is
demanded 'by the thing itself (whatever is in question)',that philosophy
is 'difficult' and not 'amusement', but quite the opposite.
For the same reason exclude all humour, for philosophers are 'dead
serious'. If original ideas are unavailable, make a free choice of
those of other people.
Proportions: one original sentence to three borrowed, preferably contradictory
ideas, or, better: simply three borrowed ideas which reduces risk
to the minimum. It is best to have no opinion, or, at least, with
the appearance of each new philosophical trend or insight in a new
work, change it. Go in for alogismand paradox (the less logical the
established link between concepts, the more original the philosophy),
and turn each sentence around several times and on several occasions
(at each occasion adding one's bank account number). In so far as
you are not aiming at demonstrating your own knowledge, behind which
lurks a lack of talent, then write following exclusively your own
conviction, 'off the top of your head', originally, i.e. irresponsibly.
In so far as the text may touch upon art or some other aesthetic subject,
make the text rhyme, and in case of supporting Marxist philosophy,
make regular use of the adjective Marxist, whenever possible, as a
decorative element. Complete the whole with a list of dilemmas and
open questions. The text should abound with quotations, notes and
pages. Bring this semi-prepared product immediately to the attention
of the public. Then be dignified and important, slightly thoughtful
and, as any insufficiently understood and appreciated master of his
trade, slightly offended.
They have tried to swindle us. They have tried to convince us that
the worse the writer, the better the philosopher. Just as the auto-didact
forever heaps his statements with what is mainly chaotic erudition,
so the ungifted thinker
turns philosophy into a collection of unbearable difficulties which
are supposed to fascinate the lay public. No one goes on so much as
a bad master, no one makes more unbridgeable obstacles than does the
graphomaniac,however, never even writes very much, for he talks a
lot and says little: his
written pages are empty. There is, indeed, a particular type of potential
graphomaniac who rarely writes a single line, though he is forever
announcing some epoch-making work or even an entire philosophical,
always fundamental, system, of which, fortunately, nothing ever comes.
Fortunately, because if thepublication of every book requires the
destruction of a tree, then the graphomaniacs are not just a spiritual
disaster, but an ecological danger.
Then why do we say 'in praise'?
Firstly because your graphomaniac is never a lethargic sluggard. His
effortful and vain labour discourages all timid and lazy beginners:
the graphomaniac, in an indirect way, proves that literature is not
an easy amusement. The graphomaniac, moreover, proves the maturity
of the culture to which he belongs, though his significance is social
rather than cultural in origin. He is a derivative of enlightenment
and the product of a general growth of literacy.
He is a lover of learning and often a useful expert in literature,
reader and a tireless contributor to cultural, artistic and other
reviews. Finally he is the pre-condition for the rise of a true literature,
for, with his enthusiasm, even if against his will, he opens space
for future talents and with his work demonstrates how one should not
write, what writing is not, which may serve as a negative training
for every serious artist. But where the general level of education
and culture advances, the graphomaniac loses his significance.
And while the less advanced tradition still justifies and supports
him, in the developed spiritual life he is simply past over in silence
and rejected. There is no place for his mania, for it has grown up
at the cost of the word. The obsession that drives the true writer
does, indeed, resemble that of the garphomaniac, but never hides behind
a false licentia poetica and nightmarish 'stream of consciousness',
nor is expressed as a mere collection of exhibitionism,auto-sexuality
and vanity. The graphomaniac, indeed, has all the distinctions of
a writer, save that he is no writer. There is nothing detrimental
in his efforts as long as he does not begin to usurp the rights of
others, as long as he does not begin to impose his persistency as
an aggressive self-assertion. But, even then, graphomania remains
an empty loquacity; and if only the first accustoms us to the human
voice, then the second accustoms us to literature, to the word, which
in both cases would seem rather unlikely. For, when the writer asks
himself about the sense of writing, we experience this as an expression
of his torture, while, faced with the plenitude of the graphomaniac's
writings, we ask ourselves whether writing has any sense at all, since
they happily affirm the arbitrariness, the senselessness of what is
said and the insignificance of what is written. Led by extra-literary
motives, graphomania finally proves the nihilism of writing. But creation
is what opposes this negativity,although, but in a specially serious
manner, the destruction of the sense of writing is not alien to it.
(Translated by Dennis Edward Goy and Jasna Levinger)
Miriam Frank was born in Barcelona, Spain, the year the Spanish Civil War broke out. Both her parents were émigrés, her mother having defected from her native Germany on Hitler's rise to power, while her father had left his adoptive country, the U.S., which he had reached in his childhood from Lithuania. The fall of Spain to Franco initiated Miriam's journey of perpetual uprooting and dislocation. At the age of two she moved to France with her mother where they hid from the Vichy French authorities and WWII German occupiers, finally gravitating to Marseilles where her mother managed to obtain the necessary stateless documents and passage to Mexico via Casablanca.
In Mexico City, Miriam relearnt Spanish and went to primary school, until her mother decided to join her sister in New Zealand, her adoptive country. Here Miriam learnt the English language, ways and conduct, attended secondary school, and resolved to study medicine to break the cycle of pain and confusion and - in contradistinction to the doctrine of death and destruction, that produced the Holocaust she narrowly missed - to assist in the pursuit of life, health and well-being.
Following her graduation and resident hospital work , she returned to Europe in search of her origins. She worked in Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical School Hospital and sampled, for the first time, living in a country where she was fully accepted, which paradoxically gave her the strength to dispense with nationhood and the need to "belong". She moved to Britain where she met and married an artist, once Kokoschka's chief assistant at his Austria-based, international art school, gave birth to two daughters, Rebekah and Anna, and embarked into her postgraduate studies and work in anaesthesia with its focus on pain relief, the promotion of healing and sustenance of life. She obtained her Fellowship in Anaesthesia and became a senior lecturer and consultant at the Royal London Hospital. She also helped her husband establish an art school in Italy, started translating Latin American and Spanish literary works into English, and launched into her own writing. Her autobiography, My Innocent Absence, was published by Arcadia Books in 2010. It was described by Moris Farhi as "A poignant and beautifully written saga of migrations which punctuates the history of our times and offers hope of a future wherein the spirit of humankind will finally obtain the coexistence of peoples."
My Innocent Absence was longlisted for the PEN/Ackerley Prize, and has been reviewed in various British and foreign press.
Excerpt (first page) from My Innocent Absence
“One can no longer say: ‘I’m a stranger everywhere’, only ‘everywhere I am at home” D.H.Lawrence
PART 1, DISPERSAL
A large passageway … Or was it a veranda? Perhaps more like a big empty hall. The floor was stone, or maybe well-worn marble. Tall, sweeping arches across the length of the wall looked over the street – or were they windows? – opposite our space on the floor against the solid wall. The mattress marked our place. The mattress and the area next to it where all our possessions – in my mother’s small square trunk and our old suitcase – now stood. My mother had dug out my nightdress from among our packed clothes; she was now pulling off my dress as I stood facing her on the mattress ready for bed.
The day had been exhilarating. Never before had I seen such long white flowing robes. They glided along, swathing everyone everywhere. Even those old men sitting about on the ground in the dazzling light, by the side of the dirt road, were wrapped in them. Ce vieux, qu’est-ce qu’il fait là-bas, Maman? They also flapped around the lively men rushing and shouting behind their stalls in the open air bazaar – the white canvas overhead curbed the fierce sunlight – as I tiptoed round breathlessly examining their unfamiliar wares, resisting my mother’s attempts to move on. Those crossed red and black leather sandals, Maman, please can I have them? That darling little terracotta jug! But oh, the women! Maman, why can’t we see their faces? Darting dark almond eyes tantalisingly imprisoned in the narrow gap between the white veils stretched across their cheekbones and the white cloth draped over their heads to slide down into their fluid white robes. And white here was whiter, in this hot bright light. And everywhere the bustle and chatter, the earthy smells, the dusty dirt paths.
But now it was night-time and we were getting ready for bed. Our mattress. One in a long row of straw mattresses, lying side by side, heads against the wall – on and on, as far as I could see – each lodging a family in transit from Marseilles to Mexico.
‘You know, Maman – first we had a big house, then we had a little house, then we had a room, and now we have a mattress.’
The memory of a memory of a memory of a memory … like an image caught on facing mirrors that goes on reverberating till it is almost lost …
Abol Froushan left Shah’s Iran to live and study in London in 1975. In 1979, he received his BSc (Eng) 1st class degree in mechanical engineering from Imperial College, University of London. Followed by an MSc in social and economic studies. He was awarded his PhD in fluid dynamics from Imperial College, and granted the right to live in the UK on the same day in 1986. Abol acquired a British Passport on Valentine's day 1990. Inside: Place of Birth Tehran, 10 10 1957.
Abol was set off on his vocation of writing by an encounter in 1983 and has since been pursuing a career in writing, performing, recording, translating poetry for events, video and audio recording, and publications in collaboration with literary artistic organisations. So in 2001 Abol was Poet in Resident at the BBC Outlook programme and representing Artists in Exile. He joined the committee of Exiled Writers Ink when Choman Hardi became Chair in 2001 and he was reviewed in Time Out.
In 2011 Abol was selected as the Chair of Exiled Writers Ink! Pursuing a strategy conducive to community cohesion through literary events, workshops and projects, e.g. Something Happened in Iran at the Free Word Centre (a narrative on the green movement choreographed through poetry in multi media).
Since 2006, Abol has built artistic collaborations with the well known Iranian poet Ali Abdolrezaei and together with Parham Shahrjerdi and other critics or translator/poets have formed London Skool, a literary critical band of multi-lingual poets and critics whose aim is to create poetry and text from hybridisation of languages, genres and lifestyles in order to propose new directions in the literature of exile or post exile literature.
Abol has joined the list of 30 poets from Between Two Worlds: Poetry and Translation project at the British Library, being recorded reading their poems with interview for the Sound Archives. Froushan has over 3 hours of poetry (over 50 poems) and interview recorded for the Sound Archives (Oct 2011, includes 32 of Abol’s translations of Ali Abdolrezaei.
Two selections of Abol’s poetry have been published: A Language Against Language (English) 2008 by EWI and the bilingual volume, I need your desert for my sneeze (in Persian & English) in 2009 by PoetryPub. He has also published two volumes of his English translations of Ali Abdolrezaei: In Riskdom where I lived (2008) by EWI and Sixology (April 2010) by PoetryPub. Other published translations of Abol include Parham Shahrjerdi’s Risk of Poetry, by Poetry Pub. Abol has been published in the anthology Silver Throat of the Moon Ed. J Langer and the Exiled Ink magazine, as well as in multimedia web based publications at www.photoinsight.org.uk and www.poetrymag.info (see Bibliography).
He has publicly performed his poetry in select London venues such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall, National Portrait Gallery, Poetry Café, New End Theatre, Arcola Theatre, Waterman Centre, Scala Theatre and Riverside Studios.
About Abol Froushan’s poetry
Abol Froushan’s is a poetry of phenomenal presence, a text that records the sudden, and a process of writing that invokes a frequency of imaginings. He inspects archetypes and universals with a microscopic eye, showing detail that one has either not seen or no longer sees, because of habituation of sense, thus exploring what often we don’t know that we know (those unknown knowns). Abol’s poetry is a poetry of re-visioning, re-looking which builds a new atmosphere on each re-visit.
Sometimes it seems a few lines of Abol don’t belong to the rest of the poem, but these lines play the role of renegade scores in a symphony that invite the audience to see the poem from other windows. This in fact is the uniqueness or the specialty of Abol’s poetry which gives the reader a freedom to explore/interpret the text from different angles. The last line of the poem Of Peonies is a fine example of this shifting perspective.
Abol Froushan has a multicultural approach to language, whether we consider his Persian poems or his English, we can witness this cultural discourse, one can say even between poetry and its language. Sometimes in his poems a mythical theme is knotted with a modern atmosphere and a dialogue occurs between distant times through the language of poetry.
Abol Froushan (2008) A Language Against Language. Published by Exiled Writers Ink
Abol Froushan (2009) I need your desert for my sneeze, Poetrypub.info
Trans. Ali Abdolrezaei (2008) In Riskdom where I Lived. Published by Exiled Writers Ink.
Trans. Ali Abdolrezaei (2010) Sixology. PoetryPun.info
J Langer (2006) Silver Throat of the Moon, Published by Green Leaf.
Green Trilogy (2009)
Journey on the First Person: A web exhibition
Translations of Ali Abdolrezaei
At the Priory
The Road (trans.)
Poetry International Web - Ali Abdolrezaei (translations)
Trans. Parham Shahrjerdi’s Risk of Poetry
Reviews and Essays
Fragments Part 1:
Fragments Part 2:
London’s waiting sisterly (a review of the poem Censorship)
Reading at the Platforma Festival (Ali Abdolrezaei & Abol Froushan)
Risk of Poetry event at Poetry Cafe, London
Go as the go that I went--English version
War War To Victory
Paris in Renault
Make Some Tea
In order to settle my appetite
In order to have the tea
I’ll have the chocolate chip
In order to stomach the cookie
I’ll need to make some tea
In order to have the tea
I’ll put the kettle on
and wait for the cooker to do its job
I’ll need to clear the teapot
In order to bin the teabag
I need a lined bag
In order to line the bin
I’ll use a plastic bag
In order to bin the bag
I need to move the door the bin’s behind
I don’t want it to shut
So get carried further and further
Away from settling my appetite
I bin the soggy bags
Drain the dregs
Throw in the teabag
And out the kettle
The boiling water
Then I am struck
A karmic chain
And unrolls my thought
While the tea like the universe
Is going cold
Now the water’s boiled
Like the big bang
After a waiting
Now I am as far from the original chocolate-chip cookie
As the original Adam.
I am safe and sound and image and text
and face and grace and trace upon this Earth
I am ace and a joker at some pace
that may not be but is more than enough.
I embrace the race upon the planet
as a reflection of me and my face
across the screening space
even though it is not my place this universe
but it graciously cares for me and for you
and the whole of the human race
at this very time and place.
to see more work
Gëzim Hajdari was born in 1957 in Hajdaraj, Albania, from a family of land owners whose property was confiscated during the Communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha.
He acquired his early education in his home town, trained as an accountant in the district town of Lushnje, then graduated in Albanian Language & Literature at the “A. Xhuvani” University in Elbasan and in Modern Letters at the “La Sapienza” University of Rome.
He has had a variety of jobs including (in Albania) factory worker, field guard, warehouse man, accountant, land reclamation worker, military serviceman with former convicts, & then, after the fall of the Communist regime, language & literature teacher; and (in Italy) stables cleaner, hoeman, labourer, assistant typographer. At the moment he makes a living lecturing at Italian & foreign universities where his work is the subject of study.
In winter 1991, Hajdari was among the founders of the opposition Democratic & Republican parties of the town of Lushnje, and was elected Republican district secretary. In the same year, together with fellow poet Shpend Sallaku, he co-founded the opposition weekly Ora e Fjalës & worked as its vice-director while also contributing to the national daily Republika. In the 1992 political elections he ran as a Republican parliamentary candidate. In the course of his intense political activity & his work as a journalist, Hajdari often spoke out against the crimes & abuses perpetrated by the old Hoxha regime & by the post-Communist government. For this & other reasons, following repeated threats, he was forced to leave Albania in 1992.
Since 1993 Hajdari, who writes both in Albanian and Italian, has published twelve collections of poetry, two travel books, a long essay (Albanian Epicedium) in memory of the poets & writers imprisoned & murdered by the Hoxha regime, & several translations, including Këngët e nizamit (a collection of the songs of Albanian soldiers conscripted in the Ottoman army). He is the director of the “Erranze” series for Italian publishing house Ensemble & president of the Centro Internazionale Eugenio Montale. His poetry has been translated into several languages & won many awards. A book of essays dedicated to his work was published by Cosmo Iannone in 2010. For his literary merits, Hajdari has been nominated honorary citizen of Frosinone, the Italian town south of Rome where he has lived in exile since 1992.
Two poems from the collection Stigmata
(forthcoming for Shearsman Books)
Translated from Italian by Cristina Viti
Each Day I Create a New Homeland
Each day I create a new homeland
in which I die & am reborn,
a homeland without any maps or flags
celebrated by your deep eyes
that chase after me all the time
on the journey towards fragile skies.
In every land I sleep as a man in love,
in every house I wake up as a child,
my key can open every border, unlock
the doors of each & every black prison.
Returns & eternal departures my being
from fire to fire, from water to water.
My homelands’ anthem: the blackbird’s song
that I sing at every season of waning moon
risen from your forehead of darkness & stars
with the eternal will of the Sun god.
FOR YOU MEN OF EUROPE
For you men of Europe who scrape by each day,
for you women of the East who scrub floors or walk
the old people of the West around the block for fresh air,
for you immigrants who sleep on benches & wake up
for you dossers who’ll have no bosses
& live in peace with the universe,
for you prostitutes who offer your sex to
black men white men yellow men
up to blood-point,
for you blind people forsaken in deepest eternal dark,
for you who are sick & out of work as mercy & solidarity,
for you missionaries comforting the weak before death,
for you peasants who graze your herds &
plough the fields from north to south,
for you mad people who give us free tuition in madness,
for you who are alone & fugitive like me
I write these verses in Italian
& torment myself in Albanian.
Navid Hamzavi was born in Shiraz, Iran. He graduated with a bachelor degree in metallurgy engineering in Iran.
He has published a collection of short stories entitled “Rag-and-bone man” half of which has been censored by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Having difficulties in publishing his stories, he recently came to London. He has given readings and performance at various festivals such as “East Finchley Art Festival” , “Hardy Tree Gallery” and “Exiled Writer Ink” and some of his stories have appeared in English magazines such as” Carillon magazine” .
His current novel is being translated.
Unofficial Report on Running an Election
I lost my girlfriend in the presidential election. It was dreadful: one of the candidates put an end to her life. Some events are so disconcerting that even the occurrence of other bizarre events cannot wipe them from the memory. How could I explain the image of pieces of my girlfriend’s flesh on the wall when the fortune-telling cards had anticipated differently? Indeed such an election result is unpredictable.
There are five candidates. Candidate number 1, Candidate number 2, Candidate number 3, Candidate number 4, and Candidate number 5.
Candidate number 1 belongs to a right wing party. He is so far to the right that you need to stick your left cheek against the TV screen and stare into the far left side of it to be able to see him. The only visible part of him in his poster campaign is his right eye. Candidate number 1 is going to kill Candidate number 2 with his handgun.
Candidate number 2 is ultra-right. He placed a little bomb in one of his posters that would explode at a specific time. There was a warning below the poster to keep a safe distance, though. Nevertheless, my girlfriend was reduced to pieces of flesh while reading the poster. Such a wonderful poster campaign.
Candidate number 4 is an ultra left politician. He is a Sagittarian. He has covered the right side of his body with black oil paint. Nevertheless, he will be killed by Candidate number 1’s gun.
Candidate number 5 is also supported by the left wing. If you examine his posters, you will see anything leftist you could wish for. One even had a picture of a stark naked woman. He married a movie star three times and divorced her three times. What mayhem the press wreaked.
The first encounter of the candidates was the TV presidential debate between Candidate number 1 from the right wing and Candidate number 2 from the left wing.
While speaking, Candidate number 1 banged his hand on the desk and let out such a wild holler that the TV picture started flickering. The pitch of his voice instilled fear in everybody’s heart.
Candidate number 4 hasn’t mastered the device of shrieking but his campaign advisors have come up with a genius idea to make some noise. They will hire a jazz band.
Candidate number 1 and Candidate number 2, sat side by side. The presenter was also there. The Sagittarian always looks great, because he is full of charm with lots of sex appeal. He knows exactly what to wear and how to project his looks in a flattering way. He loves public speaking and is very skilled in using abstract and intangible words. He steers the discussion to where there is nothing to discuss. A Sagittarian is warm, excitable, and restless. So he always uses his verbal skills in a way that will be noticed by the public. Regarding these qualities, if the discussion were to go on in this fashion the right wing’s votes will decline. To prevent this, during the debate Candidate number 1 produced his side gun from under the desk and shot three times at Candidate number 2 - two bullets in the chest and one in the face. What a heartrending scene.
Although there were no reliable statistics before the election, the latest polls suggested that the left wing was in the lead. Still, the outcome predicted by fortune-telling cards was likely and the presidential election among the four remaining candidates seemed easy as pie. But this didn’t come to pass.
In spite of the enormous size of the right wing campaign, the left wing had not given up. Considering the fact that they had only one candidate left, they arranged periodic visits and a vast propaganda machine against the right wing to maintain their relative superiority in the polls. In this fierce competition, helped by the left wing’s slogan about restoring the Age of Dinosaurs, their votes shot up.
Considering the bitter memory of the previous debate, a face-to-face debate between the left wing candidate (number 5) and the right wing candidate (number 2) seemed impossible. Nevertheless, when the tough contest was between candidates number 2 and 5, the right wing deemed their presence on the TV to be their only way of overtaking the left wing.
The right wing exerted their influence to give their rival the chance to be the first to take the podium. They performed this act of good will to alleviate the tension after that gruesome thing that had happened before the eyes of the audience in the previous debate. They had also intended to win more votes for themselves. However, they failed. After candidate number 5’s speech, the public firmly believed he would have a landslide victory. He said:
In the times that the firmament was so low that the people could reach up and touch it, a boy was born in the family of God - sent by Him. God commanded a spider to spin a thread for the Son of God to descend as the first man on Earth. He brought with him a fistful of dust. He poured it on the sea and there was Land, which is called Earth by its inhabitants. Generations have passed to give birth to another son whose descent goes back to God.
He has traversed from Madagascar to Malawi and then to Mount Kenya and to Sudan and .Mediterranean Sea. He is now a candidate who has never tasted power. His mission is to return people to the heavens once more.
A few days later when the support for candidate number 5 had moved beyond the nation and there was not even a dim hope of the right wing winning the election, it was candidate number 2’s turn. This speech would indeed make him the president.
Number 2 appeared before the TV cameras to sway the public opinion.
The asphalt on the street which leads to the TV station has been somewhat ruined. Two CF 170 tanks which escorted him, lent him an air of grandeur. Number 2 appeared before the TV cameras to prove that he was the only one willing to sacrifice himself for the people. So he serenely produced his handgun from behind his back and shot himself in the mouth. God bless his soul.
Choman Hardi was
born in Sulaimanya, Southern Kurdistan in 1974 and grew up there. She
has lived in Iran and Turkey before coming to England in 1993. She has
published two collections of poetry in Kurdish: 'Return with no memory'
(Denmark, 1996) and 'Light of the shadows' (Sweden, 1998). She is also
an artist and has contributed to a number of joint exhibitions in Britain
and across Europe. Choman is the chair of 'Exiled Writers' Ink which
is an organisaiton consisting of established refugee writers who write
in another language as well as English. The organisation aims to represent
those writers whose voice has not been represented in the main stream
British media. Choman studied philosophy and psychology at Queen's College,
Oxford and has an MA in philosophy from University College London. Currently
she is a PhD candidate at the University of Kent at Canterbury, researching
about refugee women and their mental health. Her father Ahmad Hardi,
who also lives in London, is a very well-known and much respected Kurdish
There is a place
where you can smell the satisfaction of the land
when the first rain falls
And you can hear the fat rain-drops
there is a place where it doesn't rain continuously,
where you can sleep on the flat roofs on the hot evenings,
and it snows to let you know that another winter has arrived
There is a house with four bedrooms
where a couple live with their three children
one, is seven years old,
and the other two are three
There was a house with four bedrooms where
seven people used to live,
And they ate around a flowery sufreh every day
and a young man used to play his flute until the women would cry
may be for what there was
for what there would be
and a father was torn between politics and
and a little girl who believed that there was a bell in her ear
and managed to avoid wearing slippers
even when the floor could burn her feet
there was a garden where the brown chicks
would grow big enough to be killed
and every death was cried over,
where a lonely fish was swimming around a blue pot aimlessly,
and a little goat once spent a night
there was a place, before the marriages taking
before the mountains attracting the men,
before buying one-way tickets
there was a place where seven people lived happily in the four seasons
and a little girl who kept dreaming about chicks, goats and rabbits.
© Choman Hardi
was born in Baku/Azerbaijan. She graduated in philology of Russian language
and Literature from Baku University in 1998. In 2000 she published her
first collection of poetry in Russian “On Wings over the Horizon”
- Baku/Azerbaijan. In 2001 she became young member of the Azerbaijan
Union of Writers. In 2001, she was awarded the Azerbaijan Academy’s
National Public Prize for the volume “On Wings Over the Horizon”in
nomination " Best poetry book of the year". In 2002 the book
“ON WINGS OVER THE HORIZON” was published in London/England
in translation of English poet-translator Richard McKane, who is world
well know for his translations of great Russian poets such as Anna Akhmatova,
N. Gumilyev, Osip Mandeshtam, Olga sedakova and ext.Her poems were translated
into many languages and appeared in translations in many literature
magazines all over the world. Negar was included in anthology of “Best
Russian Women Poets of 20 century”, which is going to be published
in London/UK and USA in September 2005. Antology was edited by Professor
at Keele University -London/Uk Valentina Polukhina. Negar took part
in many international poetry readings, and literature festivals. Her
last collection of poetry “Under Alien Clouds…” was
published in 2004 in Russian (Baku/Azerbaijan). New collection of poetry
is getting translated in UK by poet R. MacKane and world known poet-
writer Elaine Feinstein. Negar Hasan-Zadeh lives in London/ UK since
TO SING OF FLAME:
is to burn,
is to burn out,
catching the end, not feeling pain!
And so from the tips of your toes to the
tips of your hair
raise a scream naked, bare.
And so to trust its disordered
under the axe of the stranger…
Nests, trunk – all to the fire,
Eh, my head is whirling.
A song is coming.
Hasani is a writer from Zimbabwe who left his native country due to political strife. He writes poetry and short stories and advocates for the recognition of human rights and justice in Zimbabwe. He currently lives in London. He is a member of the Freedom from Torture’s Write to Life, a creative writing group based in London, and is also a member of Exiled Writers Ink. The story 'A life away from the Asylum' appeared in the online magazine called the Five Dials issue 29.
A life away from the asylum
Up here by the window, Brixton library, daydreaming. Before me an accounting textbook, open at another difficult chapter: ‘Accounting for Overheads’. I can only see little squiggles on white paper. I cannot concentrate because my mind is back home, in another era. An era when the whole country was like one huge asylum, and everything was going
wrong. When we lived in darkness, and just switching on an electric light required an Act of God
From here, I can see some school kids in rows with their teachers at the traffic light, waiting for the green man so they can cross Effra Road. They are coming from the Ritzy cinema just next door, maybe having watched Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, with the sad story of Jean Valjean stamped on their memories. The orderly crocodile! It reminds me of the queues. It takes me home again, to the asylum. Queues of people snaking for miles, and not neatly like the children down there. Those kids have their teachers to keep them in line. In the asylum we did not have such orderly queues to buy a packet of sugar, or bread, or to withdraw useless paper which we called money from the ATMs.
Instead of teachers, we had soldiers, the police, and the militia, which we called green bombers. They used the excuse of keeping order but were in fact jumping the queue to buy the same basics, no luxuries. Sometimes we did not know what we queued for. We always made it a point to join any queue and ask later what it was for, and most of the time, halfway through, sugar queues would turn into rice queues or ice cream queues or towel queues. It was worth staying, if only for the chance to barter what you eventually got for what you actually needed. A race to rid oneself of the useless paper we called money before it turned into toilet paper. Most of the time supermarkets would be so empty you might have thought they sold shelves.
The kids are now crossing Effra Road. Thank God they have road rules here and electricity. I can see cars behind the bold white lines waiting for the kids to cross . . . and red buses. I can only remember one red bus in the asylum, which was confiscated by the authorities during the election campaign period. One aspiring candidate was using it for campaigning, and it attracted a lot of people. The red bus enraged the authorities like the matador’s cloak enrages the Spanish bull, and they impounded it for good. There are no more red buses in the asylum, only small vans. The vans were designed to carry fifteen people, but in the asylum they carry twenty or more. The vans are just like the churches, which always have room for one more, or London pubs, which don’t close their doors to anybody. In the asylum those vans do not wait for kids to cross the road at the zebra crossing or at traffic lights. The traffic lights are useless poles because there is no electricity for them. The kids there wait for the vans to pass or they will get run over.
A siren wails down the road towards them. London is full of sirens. They’re busy rounding up those of us who escaped from the asylum, only to find ourselves asylum seekers – along with all the other ‘illegal immigrants’ I read about; people without papers, just like Jean Valjean.
Maybe it’s the Metropolitan police racing down Brixton Road to arrest an illegal immigrant, or an ambulance taking an illegal immigrant to an NHS hospital, maybe King’s College, or the fire brigade rushing to put out a fire caused by an illegal immigrant. The immigrants have been in the news of late, their number ‘three times more than the population of Newcastle!’, according to one newspaper headline.
In the asylum, if you hear a siren you’d better behave else you’ll be in the soup. Don’t wave at a motorcade, lest you be arrested ‘for undermining the president’. The only siren in the asylum is that of the presidential motorcade. The presidential car is like a queen bee in flight, protected by stern-faced men with dark glasses, ready to start a war with poor civilians queueing for anything. Ambulances are long gone, and you carry your sick in wheelbarrows if you can’t afford to hire a taxi. As for the fire engines . . . if their water tanks are as porous as sieves, I doubt their sirens work.
‘So, Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe,’ said Robert one day at an international environment conference. Blair managed to keep his England for ten years and Bob has kept his Zimbabwe for thirty-three years. Is that not the reason I left the asylum and find myself seeking asylum in this cold country? Sitting up here in the library with this accounting textbook before me, I can see why I am just an overhead.
was born in 1974 in Yemen.
He has dual Yemeni and Dutch nationality. He holds a Masters Degree
in International Relations and Globalisation from London Metropolitan
University. His work brings together classicism and the contemporary
with a critical perspective on society and the position of women, blending
personal themes with broader political issues. During 2005 Mogib moved
to London to meet new opportunities and to engage in the city’s
rich cultural and political life. During this period he made some public
appearances in poetry cafes and other poetry events. Besides his poetry
Mogib is also a song writer and a singer of mainly his own material.
During recent years he has been published both in Dutch and English
in a variety of journals, magazines and anthologies. He has also toured
extensively and recently recorded some of his poems for a filmed documentary
about women’s rights.
His latest released works include two CD’s - one called ‘Songs
from Guantanamo’, the other a recorded collection of his poems
called ‘Oh Life’. Also a collection of his poems called
Close Up from Far Away has been published by Exiled Writers Ink in
cooperation with London Arts Council. The launch took place at Amnesty
International in April 2008.
Mogib regards poetry as his romantic, angry and tender voice to the
world. He says “It is my helpless and powerful sigh. Poetry
is my form of revolution and my open embrace to passion”.
One of Mogib’s concerns has been cultural clashes resulting
from misunderstanding between the East and the West. With objectivity
and logic Mogib tries to create a meeting of civilizations instead
of a clash of civilizations by highlighting the positive aspects of
both cultures. Yet a thoughtful criticism of both cultures is also
present in his writing.
Mogib is a human rights activist who has been involved in several
projects with Amnesty International UK, Reprieve, The Center for Constitutional
Rights in USA and Hood, the first human rights organization in Yemen.
He was also involved in organizing, reading and singing at an international
conference held in Yemen in January 2008 opposing the US’s Guantanamo
Bay policy. The purpose of the conference was to encourage the Yemeni
government to press more actively for the release of its citizens
from Guantanamo and to address human rights issues in Yemen and worldwide.
He was also involved in organising and reading at another conference
in Yemen in January 2008 for the same purpose.
The Fonds voor de Letteren, (Dutch Foundation for Literature) selected
him in 2003 as one of its international authors of merit.
In the collaborative project World Podium, Mogib and five other poets
anchored a tour of verse together with local musicians in six Dutch
and Belgian cities in October 2004.
An anthology, The Silver Throat of the Moon, published by Five Leaves
Publications, Nottingham, includes a poem by Mogib. More poems were
published in 2006, and he participated in readings at some events.
As he has always been passionate about acting and singing, Mogib has
taken part in several stage performances in Yemen, Europe and India,
and was given a small role in the opera The Rake’s Progress
directed by Peter Sellars at the Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam.
In 2005 he was part of the Exiled Artists Arts-In-Education project
run by the Lyric Hammersmith (GLYPT), which included a placement for
a course at Oval House, a young people’s theatre. Part of this
course included organising workshops at secondary schools.
In September 2007 Mogib took part in the first Poetry International
Festival in Paris, France. This event brought together poets from
all over the world to campaign for peace. The festival issued an anthology
‘Ground of Poets, Ground of Peace’ in which some of his
poems were included.
Mogib is now involved in several intercultural and human rights projects.
One of these is the Poetry Film Festival to take place in Berlin in
June this year, and others are the establishment of an office in Yemen
for an international human rights NGO, and organizing intercultural
Musical events for NGOs in the Netherlands and Yemen for the benefit
of children with difficulties in Yemen.
once you burned me with fire
and I forgave you
for misunderstanding me
judging me unfairly.
The second time,
you banged a drum,
proclaiming with bagpipes:
“Listen to me, oh forgetful one,
happiness is not for you.”
You came to hurt me again:
why choose me from the crowd?
you are so bold
You scream in my face:
“happiness will never be yours.”
You are an obstacle in my path,
I cannot cross.
You are like a thorn in my throat,
not a mouthful can pass,
nothing goes through.
why did you take my family,
all I built.
And still I kept patience with you.
I stepped over the wreckage,
searched for survivors,
collected the remnants you scattered
and began to repair the broken bridges.
I build a bridge,
you break it down.
Today because of an album:
photos of my beloved
you make the tears flow;
you broke me, you destroyed me
you made a great calamity.
why such arrogance?
Mark Hill (M.Ofogh) came to Britain from Iran in 1989. He used to serve as an officer in the Iranian army. He spent several years in the war between Iran and Iraq and, after escaping from Iranian army, ended up in a prison camp in Iraq. Mark has two degrees (Science from Iran, and maths with computing from London). Mark has written seven novels ( “ the last scene”(published), “tree of my memories”(published), “I played the Death”, “Frankenstein of our century”, “Their eyes”, “ clinic”, “poem and war”) as well as two plays (“Fighting against Silence”, “Flying Revolutionary Guard”) in Farsi. He has also written a collection of poems and short stories “The last Scene” (published) and a novel “Nightmares” (published) in English.
It took me some time to know that Tree. I used to pass it on my way to school. In one wintry day when the roads and trees were covered in white snow and I was passing that tree, she dropt some snow on my shoulder and when I looked at her she smiled and said: hello little boy ; yes it was in a cold wintry day that I found my new beautiful friend. She was so beautiful especially when she was dancing in the wind. I introduced her to my friends and we used to claim and play with her. I remember once when I wanted to claim up I fell down and injured my self
She took me with her arm tenderly and covered all my body with her leaves. My red blood painted her body. I can never forget the comfort and magic smell of her body, after a few moment our pulses and breaths mixed up and became one. it was a moment of absolute calmness and tranquillity, I found my self in a green haven and I became the tree and the tree was me.
After that day every time that I was passing that tree I was giving her a cuddle, but first I had to make sure nobody saw us because they might have thought I was going mad.
Years passed by and I grew to become a young man, I remember the time when for the first time I fell in love with a girl and we painted our names on the body of the tree and I could feel how she was happy for us . She gave some of her yellow and orange flower to the girl that I was in love with; yes I learned from her that girls love flowers.
Some years later madness started, madness and distraction which called itself revolution, fanaticism and brutality that called itself freedom.
During one of these day when roads and all towns were in fir, and smoke and bullets came from every where, my beautiful tree got shot, when I asked her if she was in pain she said: yes pain and sadness but not from bullets but from this madness that tries to replace life with the death, love with the hate, laughter with crying, darkness with light,…yes my beautiful tree was so sensitive and bright.
I remember her death; it was a cold wintry day when revolutionary guards hanged
The girl that I was in love from branch of that tree. My girl friend was in prison for some years and after all these tortures it was difficult to recognise her, her beautiful dark hear was grey and she became so thin that the only thing that was still shining was her beautiful deep blue eyes, but my tree had a very good memory she immediately recognised her, yes in that day they had their last dance together and I lost both of my loves, my girl and my tree. It was in that cold wintry day that I felt the pulses of love dying in me.
Years later after being in darkness and loveless, I was in different place in another part of the world that it happened again. It was on a nice spring day that when I was passing a tree she dropped her pink and purple flowers on my shoulder and smiled at me and again I could feel the pulses of love with in me.
Mark hill 6/07/06
Farah Hiwad originates from Kandahar,
Afghanistan and is of Pushtun origin. She has a psychology degree and
also started studying medicine in Kabul. However, she had to leave university
for political reasons. She came to Britain in 1994, worked for the Pushtu
Service of the BBC World Service and is now studying for a Master's
degree in Broadcast Journalism. She is editor, contributor and illustrator
for the magazine 'Etifark' - 'Unity' published by the 'Afghan Society'.
She writes short stories in Pushtu and uses allegory to describe her
people's dire situation and her feelings about it. She organises women's
activities in the Afghan community.
My Village (extract)
(Translated from Pushtu by the author and Jennifer
My village was located in the most beautiful landscape
ever created by God - green, lush fields, orchards dripping with fruit,
a crystal-clear river and soaring peaks. The fast-flowing river gushed
its way through the village adding more beauty.
We are the inhabitants of mud huts but in our daily
life we were the proudest and most content people in the world. We
felt we possessed everything - joy, satisfaction, with everything
seeming to be on our side. We rose with the dawn chorus of the birds
with every dawn heralding the start of a new life for the villagers.
The song of the nightingale symbolised our elation. The pleasure of
life was there, in Afghanistan.
God was the jeweller who early in the morning covered
the green leaves and the ground with dew which shimmered like silver
and emeralds as the sun shone. The sky was as brilliantly blue as
lapus lazuli. All this enticed us to rise early and bestowed on us
the energy to work and the confidence that we were capable of anything.
After all, it was our land and we were labouring for our people.
For the young girls of the village, the late afternoon
was a time of celebration, a festival, an Eid. They made their excuses
to wend their way to the river to collect water and groups gathered
all along the bank, singing, teasing and splashing water at each other.
These were beautiful girls from the high mountains who were proud,
confident and had self-respect. Yet, they were modest with downcast
eyes and sweet smiles, girls who had only known happiness and who
had true love in their hearts. In this way, life in the village had
But with the coming of the 'Red Dragon', the village
and its inhabitants changed irrevocably. Everything was destroyed,
houses, fields, crops, with the Red Dragon, swallowing the villagers'
happiness. Day after day people left the village until it was almost
empty but for a young girl called Shaperee and her prematurely widowed
mother whose husband had been murdered by the Red Army. One day the
widow dreamed that her deceased husband spoke to her "My love,
each drop of my blood was spilled for the freedom of our land so don't
leave the village and please do not desert me. One day we will regain
freedom and people's sacrifice will not have been in vain. The land
will be covered in poppies and we will once again know happiness.
The Red Dragon will disappear and this will be the dawn of a new life.
Our dispersed people will return to their motherland and in this way
those who sacrificed themselves will be gratified."
The mother followed her husband's advice and remained
in the village because of her loyalty to her husband. The Red Dragon
with its fiery breath could not dislodge her; she was as resolute
as steel. She prayed to God saying "Dear God, my husband gave
himself for freedom; please do not ignore his sacrifice but grant
his wish." Soon the Red Dragon was no more and everywhere the
people danced and embraced each other and lit candles on the martyrs'
After two dawns, another dragon came to the country,
more dangerous and potent than the Red Dragon. Young Shaperee asked
her mother "Mother, what sort of dragon is this? With every breath
it burns people." The mother answered "Sweetheart, it's
the dragon which is hungry for power and supports the enemy. Its fire
flares between the people sowing discord amongst us." In this
sad time, the widow again saw her husband in a dream. "Mother
of Shaperee, all my hopes and desires have been destroyed. I sacrificed
myself for my land and people but this dragon is too cruel and strong;
it is immoral, uncaring, an unbeliever who will not heed God or the
people who have suffered. Your life will be in danger if you stay,
so leave now and take my blessing with you wherever you go."
Indeed the fire of discord was so intense and cruel
that more people fled.
In the end, young Shaperee and her mother had no choice
but to flee and follow the road that thousands had taken before them.
They left everything behind, walking barefoot with no head-covering
and finally arrived in an alien land where the ground was red-hot
and hard or deep in snow. They toiled hard, carrying heavy loads for
other people, working unshod, without warm clothes. Their elegant,
smooth hands became worn and rough and they were rewarded with but
a piece of bread at night.
Their labour was sold for a few rupees and rials - for
To a School Friend
How are you
I do not
Has not been
Told to us and
Do you ask yourself
We dream in a daze
We have not rested
We have not spoken
We have not arrived
So we have had
Of mine we flow
In the distance not our own
Hussein is from Baghdad, Iraq. As a fully qualified civil
engineer he worked for the
American and British authorities building
hospitals and schools for the Iraqi people until he was kidnapped by
an unknown military group for several months and had to seek asylum in
Britain on his release. He has published many short stories in Iraqi
magazines such as AFAK ARABIA and ALFA – BET.
The Way Home
When the sun occupies the heart of the sky in summer, like nowadays,
it is not so easy to leave.
At that time of day, outdoor workers like me are compelled to look for
any slithers of shadow that remain for use as shelter, even though they
have all escaped. My eyelids used to close automatically to avoid the
dazzling sunlight reflected on the sharp teeth of the new, America-made,
barbed-wire which squats on the top of the old corroded mesh fence from
Every day, at such times of work, I remember that I must bring my sun
glasses next time to avoid getting back memories of the pain that I felt
before when I fell on wires like those (barbed or concertina wires) on
one of my visits to an American base to find work. At such times, and
especially when my young manager is in his office watching the site from
his large, clean window, I have to show more activity in giving guidance
to the concrete casting Iraqi workers. I hope to become a permanent employee
in the near future instead of temporary because this company would allow
permanent employees to stay over night.
The land which was given to this company by the US authorities is much
bigger than the lands given to other companies working inside Baghdad
International Airport, which is part of an American base called Camp
Salt spots started to appear on my shirt sleeves (because of sweat evaporation)
when the manager sent one of his servants to request my presence. The
shock of the cold air currents flowing along the corridor that leads
to the manager’s office have their own way of convincing my body
to stop crying. Gesturing with his hand, the manager asked me to sit
then turned to his laptop. When he turned again to me after his little
show of being always busy, he said: I want this concrete structure to
be finished today even if you and your workers are delayed by 1 or 2
hours and for goodness sake don’t start talking about danger. We
are all in the same situation. I didn't answer him, not because I know
he is a huge liar, but because I really need a safe home here even if
it is temporary. Delay in leaving is dangerous.
The sun was still fighting to stay on its throne when I stood in line
with the other Iraqi workers to replace the electronic IDs with our Iraqi
ones. Then we had to walk a long way to reach the main road. I looked
at the long line that the Iraqi workers were forming with their tired
bodies. The line was parallel to the long line of the concrete barriers
forming no. 11. I thought that the soldiers who were resting in their
steel cabins on top of the observation towers could clearly see this.
When I reached the main road I was struggling to find a solution to another
equation, how to reach home, which is even more difficult than the equation
of our new American friends who always seem suspicious of our friendship.
Unlike other days I didn’t find the small number of minibuses that
used to wait for the workers at that time of day, but I wasn’t
surprised when I saw the same long line of tired workers walking to AKARKUF
roundabout where the nearest civilian traffic could be seen. I hadn’t
walked more than fifty meters when the earth started to shake under my
feet as if there was an earthquake. Then a blast of dust hit my face.
I started to run back towards the base again with the other workers,
checking my body with my hands for any unexpected injuries. Behind the
barriers we gathered ourselves, sitting randomly while the dust started
to diminish. We saw each other’s dusty heads and tired faces, as
if we had grown older by thirty years.
When we heard the crying and yelling of the injured I don’t really
know why I thought that the time had come to think seriously about not
forgetting to buy new sunglasses.
Kusay Hussein with Sue Reid Sexton
Ghareeb Iskander (born in Baghdad 1966) is an Iraqi poet & writer living in London since 2002. He published the following books: Sawad Basiq (High Darkness), collection of poems, 2001, Beirut, (in Arabic); Semiotic Trends in the Critique of Arabic Poetry, 2002 Cairo, 2009 Baghdad (in Arabic); Mahafat Alwahm (A Chariot of Illusion), collection of poems, 2009, Beirut, (in Arabic); A Chariot of Illusion, selection of poems translated into English, 2009, Writer Exiled Ink - London and Af’a Gilgamesh (Gilgamesh’s Snake), collection of poems, 2012, Beirut. He also translated many poems from Arabic into English and from English into Arabic.
By Ghareeb Iskander
The vocabulary of illusion
which I learnt
has abandoned me
I am alone
save for these remnants
blinding by their light even the true likeness of reptiles;
and insisting always that language
escaping from their pockets
is an absolute
If only I could cultivate solitude
if my soul could cling by its fingertips
to my unfinished phrases
if I could have another fantasy
become a stutterer
say: my final farewell was about you
not for you
There is such a great difference
between my intention
and the emptiness of the wounded nights
What can surpass the fluency of the body
when saying: no to death
let this forgetfulness be eternal
Yet the gardens of my night and their flowers
and your darkness - in the hour after midnight
when all the sorrow of melancholy returns -
and my life too
was breaking apart
as the last seed watered by your hands
So you emerged again
a Princess of tragedy
A chariot of illusion
It does not matter
that my defeat before you
was caused by the rose
we abandoned there to fade
so long ago
as we reached the end of the game of illusion
we had created on the cold rooftops
I was close to biting one of your tender fingers
when the sky poured its wrath upon us
It does not matter
if others too may speak of despair
for you were and always will be
the single shining falsehood
of memory eased by forgetfulness
So we think of you
as you turn aside from passion
you cut down anger with tenderness
as if it were a spreading fig tree
That last night before our separation
I don’t know why
the flowers of longing fade
I don’t know why
the falling tears sigh
I don’t know why”
Your eclipse was gentle
like your hands
pointing to the wasteland of the night
and the descending gloom
In that box of ashes
entitled family history
I try to subdue my soul
with the dew from which you drink of happiness
whilst you make good their endless lies:
“The wars we lost were absolutely sacred
the men returning after a long night
to nameless tombstones”
Our glorious life
shone like stars before you
as you adorned yourself before the mirror
who gave to life its false history
So come then
clouds and thunder of my life
as I try to subdue my body also
with the perfume you exude
I know the coming nights will meet at your centre
and in your glow
the ugliness of the world will dissolve
as you pass across the bridge of ancient memory
untouched by pain
you are mistress
of the conscience of the world.
Translated from Arabic by Fathieh Saudi & Sally Thompson
I will gather my poems
from the claws of ancient writing
And like him
I will foretell catastrophe
told in the cawing of his titles:
the Book of sand 1
or the book of the soul
the rose of the sand
or the rose of the soul
There is no difference
Across his pages
floated our bloody history
his heart full of the portent of loss
For he foretold the tragedy!
I too see what cannot be seen
I see my end
And I name our days a promenade
and our history
our entire history
a night of ashes.
A book by Borges
Ismailov's novel, The Railway, originally written before
he left Uzbekistan, was translated into English by Robert Chandler
and was published in 2006. A Russian edition was published in Moscow
in 1997. His forthcoming novel, will be entitled Comrade Islam and
is about a poet in Uzbekistan who ends up in the Taliban's ranks when
the Americans bombarded Afghanistan. Born in 1954 in Kyrgyzstan, Ismailov
is an Uzbek journalist and writer forced to flee Uzbekistan in 1992
when he came to the UK. He now works as head of Central Asia and Caucuses
Service at the BBC World Service. His works are banned in Uzbekistan.
He published numerous books in Uzbek, Russian, French, German, Turkish
and other languages. Among them are collections of poetry: "Sad"(Garden)(1987),
"Pustynya"(Desert) (1988), of visual poetry: "Post
Faustum" (1990), "Kniga Otsutstvi " (1992), novels
"Sobranie Utonchyonnyh" (1988), "Le Vagabond Flamboyant"
(1993), "Hay-ibn-Yakzan" (2001), "Hostage to Celestial
Turks" (2003), "Doroga k smerti bol'she chem smert'"(The
Road to Death is bigger than Death) (2005) and others. He translated
Russian and Western classics into Uzbek, and Uzbek and Persian classics
into Russian and some Western languages.
WAY & STATION
(Kazakh and Uzbek National Consciousness)
There is an Uzbek anecdote about the Kazakhs. An Uzbek came as a
guest to the house of his fellow Turk, a Kazakh. Before his departure,
as a memento of his visit, he planted a tree in front of his friend’s
nomad tent. The next day, when the Kazakh came out of his tent he
felt uneasy. “Oh!” he thought. “This tree obscures
the view of the steppe,” and he immediately cut down the tree.
This anecdote is more than a symbol; it is a reality. If you travel
by train to Tashkent, passing through the Kazakh steppes, you will
see that the real frontier between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is marked
by the transition from burnt steppe to flowering oasis. But I do not
intend to imply that Uzbek culture is a higher of better culture than
Kazakh culture, or vice versa. They are simply different.
Let me tell you another story. One day I proposed to the well-known
kazakh singer (“jirau”) Almas Almatov that he sing one
of the ghazals of Akhmad Yasavi (an ancient poet of the 12th century
considered a Kazakh poet by the Kazakhs), with the Radif (repeated
word) “Utaro”. We tried to make a Kazakh version of this
poem (written in ancient Uzbek) and Almas tried to put it to music,
but without success. “Why can’t you do it?” I asked
him. “You’ve told me that you sing the “Shahname”
of Firdausi in Kazakh.” “I don’t know,” he
replied. However, we than counted the number of syllables in his lines;
there were 11, the same number as the Mutaqorib metre of the “Shahname”,
while the number of syllables in the lines of Yasavi’s ghazal
was 15. This was the cause of his failure. It was also the basis for
my following thoughts and ideas.
Kazakhs and Uzbeks are peoples of the same Turkic ethnic group, but
as you have seen above, their cultures, traditions, modes of life
and world outlooks are rather different. In order to understand more
fully the grounds of this difference, let us begin by comparing two
poems on the same subject: a snow fall.
Nahida Izzat was born in Jerusalem; she was forced
to leave Palestine as a refugee in 1967 at the age of seven years,
during the “Six Day War”.
She moved around, living in several different countries, until finally
settling in the UK in 1985.
She was inspired to write these poems after the start of the second
Intifada in 2000. She is a full-time mother of three, and has a degree
in mathematics. Her dream is to return to a free and peaceful Palestine.
Will I ever grow up again?
Life on hold
My internal clock is shattered into pieces
The 37 years of forced exile
Have no record in my book of memories
Chapters of lost titles
Blank sheets; Page after page
Unseen Pictures with no lines
Mysterious characters with no faces
Images that have no shape or colour
Invisible words that have no letters
A sad story with an unwritten script
Life on hold
Ageing by the day
The head inflamed with grey hair
Swallowed by the dark sea of shame
Having to flee without facing the storm
Shaken by the gales of hurt and pain
With my roots uprooted
A freezing gloomy everlasting winter
Watching over my shoulders
Awaiting my decay
Life on hold
I was seven
I am seven
I will be seven
And I will stay seven
Until the day of my return
The pieces of my shattered clock
Will be put together, that day
And it will start ticking again
The pink and white blossoms of my spring
Will be something more than just a dream
Mahmood Jamal was born
in Lucknow, India, in 1948. He came to Britain from Pakistan in 1967.
His poems have been published in the London Magazine and broadcast
on BBC Radio and he has performed at leading poetry venues in London
and around the UK. He has also featured in several anthologies including
New British Poetry and Grandchildren Of Albion .
In 1984 Mahmood Jamal was the recipient of the Minority Rights Group
Award for his poetry, translations and critical writings. In the same
year he published his first volume of poetry, Silence Inside a Gun's
Mouth. Mahmood Jamal works as an independent producer and writer and
has produced several documentary series, notably a series on Islam
entitled Islamic Conversations. He was also a lead writer on Britain’s
first Asian soap, Family Pride, and wrote and produced the groundbreaking
drama TURNING WORLD for Channel4 television. Mahmood Jamal has a degree
in South Asian Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies,
University of London.
Sugar Coated Pill (Word Power 2006/7)
Coins For Charon (Courtfield Press 1976)
Silence Inside A Gun’s Mouth (Kala Press London 1984)
Penguin Book Of Modern Urdu Poetry (Penguin Books, London 1986)
Modern Urdu Poetry (Farida Jamal/Translit Kuala Lumpur 1995)
Song Of The Flute (Culture House, London 2000)
Angels Of Fire ( Chatto And Windus 1986)
New British Poetry ( Paladin Books 1988)
Grandchildren Of Albion ( New Departures 1992)
The Republic Of Conscience (Aird Books 1992)
Voices Of Conscience ( Iron Press 1995)
POW ( New Departures 1996)
POP! ( New Departures)
VELOCITY ( Apples & Snakes 2003)
GARGOYLE ( Paycock Press 1997)
RANTERS RAVERS & RHYMERS ( Collins 1990)
RAINBOW WORLD (Hodder Wayland 2003)
SUGAR COATED PILL
These poems are a series of conversations that I have been having
over the years with friends, opponents, those in power and those I
love. Sometimes the conversation is loud and argumentative, sometimes
subdued and reflective, sometimes it promises and sometimes it warns.
The poems I hope, cover as many moods as any thinking and feeling
individual goes through and I hope they convey something of what I
believe and hold dear and a bit of the wisdom which comes with age
and experience. They are personal , political and philosophical as
most of us are at different times. In other words they are the voice
of one human being amongst many.
DEDICATED TO ALL MY FRIENDS- Past, Present and Future
YOU & I
You want to speak of War
I want to speak of Peace.
You say Punish
I say Forgive
You speak of God’s Wrath
I speak of His Mercy
Your Quran is a Weapon
My Quran is a Gift
You speak of the Muslim brotherhood
I speak of the brotherhood of Man
You like to Warn others
I like to Welcome them
You like to speak of Hell
I like to speak of Heaven.
You talk of Lamentation
I talk of Celebration.
You worship the Law
I worship the Divine.
You want Silence
I want Music
You want Death
I want Life
You speak of Power
I speak of Love.
You search out Evil
I warm to the Good
You dream of the Sword
I sing of the Rose petal
You say the world is a Desert
I say the world is a Garden
You prefer the Plain
I prefer the Adorned
You want to Destroy
I want to Build
You want to go Back
I want to move Forward
You are busy Denying
I am busy Affirming
Yet there might be one thing
on which we see eye to eye
You want Justice
So do I.
Mahmood Jamal, November 2001
I, Mohammad Akbar Kargar
was born on 14/08/1953 in Kunar province of Afghanistan. I was seven
years old when I went to a primary school in my own village called Mazar
Valley. When I finished my primary school, I was admitted to Avecena
High school I Kabul, capital of Afghanistan.In 1974 I went to Kabul
University and studied the faculty of literature and Humanity Department
f Philosophy and Social Science. I graduated in 1977 and started working
in the science academy of Afghanistan.
1978 –78 Ministry of Culture and Information, Kabul Afghanistan.
After ten months in detention for political reasons I started working
1980 –81-Deputy Chief of Radio Afghanistan (National Radio) in
Kabul. Then appointed as deputy of Haqiquti Enqelabi Sour Newspaper
(a formal newspaper of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan)
1981 –85 Director General of Radio Afghanistan Kabul .
1985 –87 President of Press and Publications, State Committee
1978- 89 President of Press and printing department of PDPA. Kabul
1990 – 92 Elected Deputy of Writers’ Association of Afghanistan,
1992 94 Unemployed in Kabul Afghanistan.
1995 – 98 Scriptwriter of Drama, Input Coordinator. Input Synopsis
coordinator, Translator in BBC, Afghan Educational projects based in
Also from 1985 until 1992 I worked as an Assistant Professor in the
Department of Philosophy and Social Studies in Kabul University.
1, Shebie, collection of short stories published
2, Senda za senda bahega collection of short stories published in 1986
3,Da Zamano Sandra collection of short stories, published in 1991
4, Ghani DA shago pa Mahal kee’ research about life and poetry
of Ghani Khan published in 1985.
5- So adabee yadawani’ (Literary articles about Pushtu literature)
6- Mystic and Philosophical Profile of Bayazid Roshan as reflected in
Halnama’ (research) published by Sciences Academy of Afghanistan
7-Member of the Commission for Cultural Policy for Afghanistan (UNESCO).
8- Che MASHOMAN SANDARA WA WAEE, collection of short stories published
in Peshawar in 1998.
9-Since 1974 I published many different articles in newspapers and magazines
in Kabul and Peshawar
10- Grand Assembly and Great Decision.
11- Literature and endocrinal world. (Research)
12- Terrorism and War (Translation)
13- Short stories, (New volume unpublished)
I got married in 1973 in my own village in Afghanistan.
My wife is a house wife. I have six children .My elder daughter Negeen
Kargar studied Medicine. My second daughter Zarghuna Kargar studied
Journalism. My third daughter is studying Economic in Utrekht University.
And my other daughter Hina is currently studying her A levels. My son
Wader Kargar and other daughter Shahernaz Kargar is currently studying
in High school.
Ziba Karbassi, one
of the rising stars of Iranian poetry, was born in 1974 in Tabriz, Iran.
She left Iran in 1989 and now lives between London and Paris. She has
published five volumes of poetry in Persian, all outside Iran, and continues
to write prolifically. Her poetry tackles difficult themes with a mastery
of craft and has received wide critical attention. She has been translated
into several languages. An entire volume of her poetry is being translated
into English by Stephen Watts. She was recently voted as Director of
the Association of Iranian Writers in Exile. Ms. Karbasi tours on a
regular basis to present her work and participate in various events.
Death by Stoning (extract)
translated by Stephen Watts and Ziba Karbassi
little morning star
are you here with
your star-gaze gone?
are you staying in the bushes
when you go to the skies?
little silver coin
are you coming up heads
when you fall down tails?
my always-greening pine
is it winter when it's spring,
will you tell me?
your sisters are here
and your brother too
and I am here but
where are you?
why don't you?
why don't you
come and see
the red little shoe I am knitting
apple of my closing eye?
and from the petals
of my heart
the red little shift
I am making
and from his deepest bones
the cradle that your brother's
baby roe deer, just
and from their hair
pillows that your
everyone today is looking at me kindly
they are looking at me with coloured eyes
and their shy withheld charities
are killing me and are
little baby roe
everyone is here excepting you
who the flower meadows of my broken
mind are craving
and I want to make of my holding
arms a hunter's pit
so you would never
what I am saying
little baby roe deer:
I don't want anything, anything
I want you to always be free and to go
wherever you will
to sit by with whoever you choose
my free-flying bird,
How I Saw Ziba
I heard about the Ziba Karbassi poetry evening by chance.
The latest recession has forced me to “reconsider my options” (to use the business terminology) so I’ve already spent all my time, and money, on professional development. Essentially I’ve always been an artist, I’ve specialised in the art of making ends meet. My life has been very creative, I’ve become a master of stretching the budget go further.
So, who’s got the time for poetry? And who is Ziba Karbassi?
Also I have to admit, I didn’t consider myself sufficiently qualified to follow this kind of poetry. Persian - Polish is not my language pair of expertise. How am I going to understand this particular poetry? I knew the translations were provided, but I still remained doubtful. Besides I didn’t feel that I culturally belonged to the part of the world where Persian languages are spoken.
What can I possibly have in common with anyone from Iran, or any other country in the area? How can a young and good-looking woman with a flower in her hair from the poster advertising the event, possibly appeal to me? What do we have in common? My life’s journey hasn’t been covered in any kind of flowers, let alone roses. It’s been thorns and thistles all the way, with an occasional collision with a cactus.
Also, when was the last time I read poetry? My life has mostly been a prose, sometimes lyrical, sometimes ironic and cynical, sometimes comical, but most of the time it was a hard and harsh realism.
At times I was a Julia waiting for her Romeo to turn up under the balcony, then I was Pushkin’s Tatiana, wooed and rejected by Onegin, but most of the time I was a Don Quixote fighting against the wind mills, but sadly I didn’t have a Sancho Panza in tow, so I had to fight my battles all on my own (occasionally, I did have a donkey though).
Life hasn’t always been kind to me – not only do I come from a broken and no longer existent country but also from a broken up language. What language do I speak? The first part of its hyphenated name has remained in the east, while the other one has gone west. That is why I am in a constant search of identity. Who am I, why am I here, where do I belong, where am I going? These are the questions I have to ask myself very often.
I had to redraw my maps and re-establish borders countless of times. So, how does Persian poetry fit into my map?
And after the poetry evening on 13 February this year, I can confirm that it fits very well. Poetry has a language of its own and doesn’t need much translation. You don’t need an interpreter to understand sadness or joy, you already know it yourself. Unless you’ve lived your life under a bell jar, which is very unlikely.
This isn’t only a Persian poetry, this is a poetry of an individual, a human being. A young woman, Ziba Karbassi. Her poetry is a poetry of loss and sadness but also of love and joy. There is nostalgia in reminiscing of the past. And every poem tells a story. I am slightly taken aback by the intensity of the emotion and its raw nakedness. The story erupts then reaches a quick climax. Ziba reveals it all. She bares her soul for all to see. She doesn’t hold anything back. The pace varies, it is slow at times and then speeds up again. Even though I am sitting back, I feel like I am on the edge of my seat.
There are three people on stage but I see a lot more. A whole new landscape opens up right in front of me. I see a faraway city somewhere unknown. A city with houses and gardens, trees and blossoms. With spices and bazaars. I can hear people talk and I can hear laughter. I can smell oranges and pomegranate. I can taste coffee and Turkish delight. I can hear water gurgling from a fountain. I can see the sky as the sun sets down on the horizon. I smell happiness.
But then a storm gathers and rips the fragile fabric apart. A lightning strikes and hits at the very heart of the family tree. Cuts the branches off. And the storm blows them away. But it’s only just the beginning. I can hear steps.
A sinister dance begins and gathers speed. There’s a thud of heavy boots approaching. The pounding begins. The pace quickens then slows down.
My mind floats. I am exiled into a different world. In exile from reality. Reality is a far away galaxy. Time has stopped. I travel and on my journey I don’t need either a ticket or passport. My thoughts wander to my own family tree. Scattered around the world like plant seeds prevented from taking root. Exile is implanted in my genes. I think of two aunts of my father’s who only lived in the memories of our family and reminiscences of my grandfather. We never knew where they were or what happened to them after a certain revolution, now long forgotten.
Another beautiful voice, this time different, angelic and heavenly, starts singing and alleviates the pain. This time the instruments, santur and tambourine weave a melody, to transport us to yet another world. An invisible dancer swirls and unravels the many layers of her dress.
“Aman, aman”, the singer in a red satin dress implores.
The dancer on the podium suddenly turns and winks at me. “Come on, go on. Stop saving yourself, go and live a little,” she whispers as she removes yet another layer.
Ziba, Ziba, Ziba. Ziba the Beautiful. That is what Ziba means. Beautiful. Ziba is beautiful and so is her poetry. Her poetry is beautiful even when it tells a story of cruelty. And the reason it does so is to help eradicate it.
Ziba, the princess of Persian poetry. The Persian Sheherzade who keeps telling her story not to save her life but to save her soul. Her poetry is a kingdom. A kingdom where her country lives. A country no longer needs a territory. A country can live in ideas. In our mind. We no longer need to be physically present in a country in order to live in it. But what we do need is people. People who are the citizens of our own personal kingdoms. And they don’t need a permit to reside there. Ziba’s poetry transcends all continents and time zones. And all states of mind. And Ziba’s poetry is about all of us.
At the beginning of the evening, I didn’t know much about Ziba.
By the end of the evening I knew everything about Ziba. I know how she breathes, articulates the sounds, how she pulsates. I know how she loves. I know the sound of her voice. Ziba has a distinct poetic voice.
What has this poetry evening taught me? It taught me how blind we can become with ignorance. How prejudiced we can be about some countries and cultures of the world we don’t know much about nor do we make an effort to learn. And what we find out from the media doesn’t tell us much. On the contrary, it only perpetuates our ignorance.
We shouldn’t fear the unknown places of the world. We should embrace them. And the most unknown places are deeply buried inside us. Ziba has chosen to share the wealth of her inner self with us.
Just as Khaled Hosseini gave an excellent insight into the life of ordinary Afghans in his book “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, Ziba has done the same for Iran with her poetry. I do hope that the day will come when Ziba will be able to read her poetry in her own country. And when that day comes she will have a well deserved place on the throne of Persian poetry.
Despite having doubts on the translatability of Ziba’s poetry, Stephen Watts has brilliantly transposed Ziba’s work into English, and Fenrych has done the same in Polish. They both poured their soul and breathed life into Ziba’s verses.
There was another question that initially troubled me: how can the two men translators possibly understand Ziba, a woman? There is more to poetry than translation of words. There is a matter of images and emotion, sensibility and rhythm, also culture. On this occasion it was also a gender issue. But my doubts were dispelled as both translators have done an excellent job of capturing the very essence of Ziba. They made Ziba accessible to readers in both languages.
I had an advantage (or disadvantage) to flit between English and Polish, so I could choose both to create images in my mind. Even though Polish sounds familiar to me, I do not speak it. I know that the familiarity can be deceptive.
Whilst I perfectly understood the term “roe deer” in English, the Polish term “gazelka” gave me a more familiar concept. To me it suggested vulnerability and being hunted. That worked for me.
Read Ziba’s poetry, but better still go and see her. Hear her read her poetry.
And if you are Polish let Fenrych guide you into these morsels of delight, into the sweet centre of this rahatlukum of poetry. Let Fenrych whisper to your ears those sweet sounding words, spelt with so many cszs, szks, rszs and other szs, it will mean something to you. To us non-Polish speakers Polish language sounds like a permanent chuchotage, a whisper of words, like “rustling of leaves” as a Serbian poet once said.
Interpreter and Translator
Published in Nowy Czas, 1-14 March, 2010
Her memoir is entitled In Search of Fatima: a Palestinian Story and
her new book is Married to Another Man, Pluto, June 2007. She is a research
fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University
of Exeter, England. She was born in Jerusalem, but left with her family
in 1948. She was brought up in Britain, and gained a doctorate in the
history of Arabic medicine from London University.
Vida Kashizadeh was born in Abadan,
Iran and is a singer, poet and songwriter. She started writing poetry
as a teenager and developed her song writing at a later stage. She has
been in the UK since the late seventies.
dogs are not allowed
To die gradually.
My neighbour from up the stairs
if I mind him
burying his dog
in the garden
but my lips were sealed
and my compassion
I heard me say
of course it was alright.
Now in the early hours of my birthday
a white dog
and the weight of his body
bearing the weight of the soil
is within me.
when my ribs move with each breath
I'm a dog's body.
Just this afternoon
I was picking another white dog's hairs
off my coat almost swearing
a dog I hadn't seen for nearly a year -
as this one has truly one
remembering Lisha now
makes it easy to accept
the still warm body of the dead dog
within the soil of the garden
A dog's life
and for me.
Abdulkareem Kasid, born
in 1946 in the city of Al-Basra, Iraq and later graduated in philosophy
from Damascus University 1967 at the age of 21. I later went on to obtain
an MA in translation from the University of Westminster, London (1995).
My occupation for a great number of years was to teach psychology and
Arabic literature in both Iraq and later in Algeria.
I initially left Iraq in 1978 due to the brutality of the Iraqi regime
(at the beginning of Saddam’s reign), and fled to Kuwait. The
journey to Kuwait was via the desert and altogether took seven days,
our only means of transportation was a camel. I was in hiding in Kuwait
for four months, for fear of being discovered by the government and
told to go back to Al-Basra, I then left Kuwait for Yemen.
I Settled in Aden, where I worked as an editor of the New Yemeni Culture
magazine for just over a year I then departed in 1980 and went to live
in Damascus, Syria until 1990. I now currently live in London with my
two children, after the death of my wife in January 2002.
During the years I have published several collections and translated
poems from French into Arabic. Collections include; "the bags"
1975, "tapping on the doors of childhood" 1978, "Epitaph"
1981,"Bicagy's rose" 1983, "Promenade of sadness"
1991, "Sarabad" 1997, "ticking unreachable from light"1998.
"Paroles" of Jacques Prevert , "Anabas" of Saint-john
Perse , "Papiers" of Ritsos were all translated from French
into Arabic. My more recent publications have been; “Kifa Nabki”
(2002), which translated means “Halt-let us weep”, “The
insane do not tire”- short story collection, (2004) and “Zihariat”
(2005). My poetry has been translated into English in the first Anthology
of translated Arabic poetry 1987 (Columbia university press), and in
“Iraqi Poetry today” 2003 (King’s college, London).
I am also featured in the dictionary of Contemporary Arabic authors
published in 1985, published in Arabic and German.
For my daughter Sara
yes, my child,
I am that faithful mongoose.
Who will return my blood to me?
I am the bewitched gazelle
resting her head on the sky
I am your crown of gold,
the little princesses
In your dream-cart.
A little house I’ll find you
In this vast kingdom
to fit in your palm.
In this vast kingdom
You’ll give me a thing so grand
it will fill all the sky.
That will be you.
when I enter your kingdom unseen
bewitched, a beggar or king,
I am at ease in my heart’s window,
looking up at your balcony,
lighting a lantern
with my stories.
If you are a fish
I am the lake-
have you seen me?
You might be a bird-
Then I am your rushing air.
have you heard me?
I leave with one basket
and come back with two.
going off with a barrow
I return with two horses.
While walking together
we shall laugh,
a doll keeping us company,
and a big inquisitive bird
whom we shall not answer.
You might spot me,
A bird, in a flock of birds.
if you can’t find me
watch that one, flapping ineffectively.
Do you hear,
In my poetry, the sickle, scything by night?
That’s the harvest.
Alia' Afif Sifri Kawalit
Alia' Afif Sifri Kawalit was born in Jordan. She is currently a research postgraduate student under the supervision of Prof Janet Montefiore and Prof David Herd. Ms Kawalit is an associate lecturer at the Center of English and World Languages/ University of Kent. Previously, she worked as a lecturer at Petra University in Jordan. She has her work published in Best of Manchester Poets, Route 57 and Petra Voices and was featured in Manchester's Not Part of Festival. In addition, she participates in various open mics around the UK.
Sample of her literary work:
The Crossed Man’s Burden
“I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.”
-St Matthew 7:23
These are the fatal weights, as dense as the dryness of the desert:
the age of forty and everlasting insiders I have to take in.
This is my journey back to Hades, another one to set broken bones
with re-umbilical cords and bring melancholic souls to deliverance.
Yet, I see myself groan as I grow into an old olive trunk
with spikes extending like arms to embrace the macabre dance.
Call it mercy. Call it patience.
Yet they trade with the sacred in the name of peace
and use their stony scabs as holy abundant seeds,
to be showered and give birth to orphans and outcasts,
on the shattered pieces of my cross.
They teach them, this is the loving sacrifice,
that I know, I am no more what I am
for them. For them I Am What I Am Not.
Who dwells upon beauty will retain it.
This is what I told you when you said,
The train is about to leave, Eve
The train is about to leave.
Let the wheels roll when they wish.
With age, I’ll learn how to sip from
the morning dew without waking up the night.
With age, I’ll have more sun – texture on my skin
and my body will be filled with more light.
With age, I’ll resemble the ancient celestial flute
too tempting to be left without giving birth to a tune.
With age, the train, as well, will break down and burden the rail.
(Please, don’t hinder the train today.
Nor force the year to stay!)
you wait for me,
leaning on my door
as though someone forgot you there.
You can tell by my footsteps,
the pinpointed heels ‘here
she comes , and will soon say,
hello instead of marhaba’
I speak aloud, I repeat
while you have the recorder on
to hear yourself repeat
when you go home.
When you go home
you learn how to recognize
the present tense
through the sounds
of the hissing ‘s’
and the buzzing ‘z’.
And for the sake of retention,
You remind yourself that ‘is
sounds like miz,’
a word for the bitter taste of Eastern olives.
As always you impress me with these mnemonics.
But today, the last day
You manage to ask me
what I look like.
I think of colours.
You say you can feel them.
‘Red is warm, blue is cold’
But how will you know what white is.
With a smile you say,
‘If you can tell me what the smell of snow is.’
As usual, you place the recorder in the handbag,
but this time, none of the buttons are pressed.
Albanian poet Jeton Kelmendi
was born in Peja in 1978. He completed primary and secondary school
in his native town and his studies in Prishtina. He works in media in
Kosova and co-operates with others abroad. Kelmendi is known for his
articles on cultural matters. His poems are translated into various
languages and are included in some anthologies. The essentially poetic
thought of Kelmendi is the ethics of expression. His themes are about
domination, creation, the reality of time and include love lyrics. Jeton
Kelmendi is a member of Professional Assocation of Journalists of Kosova.
Shekulli i Premtimeve, 1999 Përtej Heshtjes,
2002 Në qoftë mesditë, 2004 Më fal pak Atdhe, 2005
Ku shkojnë ardhjet 2007 Zonja Fjalë 2007 Sa forte jane rralluar
letrat, antology in Rumanian language.
(Jeton Kelmendi Translated by Fredi Proko)
Your body weight
Your air power
The speed slowdown
There are no limits to your light
There is no measure of your radiance
You are superlative that exceeds all dimensions
I swear to my word's soul
A crumb of forgetfuless
Beyond the ear or the eye
For hundreds and thousands of years
A bright thought
Has anybody ever been able to appraise you
My god given homeland that conferred me my name
Auderghem, February 2007
My day will come
If indeed it's true that
Every dog has it's day,
And I will know how to welcome it
Then the soil will be as bountiful in bread
And the spring in water
That it will fill all the gaps
What are we to do with you
Distrust in tomorrow,
Deplorable is that day
Vienna, summer 2006
MISS WORD AND MR THOUGHT
I've spoken rather
You take no offence
They are after all
Merely a poet's words
And you know that it's permissable
To strip the dressed thoughts
And the bare ones
To dress with suits I fancy
Has it been just as well for you
That I simply tell you I love you
The words everybody tells
As a husband to his own wife,
I beg to differ
Thought is no good without the word
Or the word
Means nothing if mind is not engaged
You are such a dear,
You are Miss word
And I Mr. thought
This is how I've always seen it
Myself with you and yourself with me
This love formula
If at all it survived
So Miss word, you are attractive
When Mr. thought
Lends you his charm
Let's make up 'cause
Is anxiously watching
What's gonna happen with us
I feel like giving you a kiss
As I'm not sure how
A second or third may come
Let freedom live unfettered
Let the word
I now want
The first kiss
Paris, July 2006
CHATTING WITH MY BROTHER IN ARMS
Before I have a chat with you
I would like to ask you about the highlands
The torrents which used to rush in the past
How's been the weather like this year
I far away, and you close by
The word has gone cold
The summer doesn't feel like staying with us
Where the slate pierced by the drop dwells
Who is singing on the slopes
How early we've set out
And we're not nearly there yet
Brussels, 20 February
Fawzi Kerim is a poet born in Baghdad
in 1945. In 1968 he graduated from the University of Baghdad and published
his first poetry book Haith Tebda' al-Ashia'a (Where Things Begin).
He migrated to Beirut in 1969, where he published his second collection
Arfa'au Ydi Ihtijajan (I Raise My Hand in Protest). He returned to Baghdad
and published his third collection Junun min al-Hajar (Madness of Stone),
and two books of non-fiction, one on exile and the other on the Iraqi
author, Admon Sabri. In 1978, he migrated to London where he still lives.
In exile, he published three more books of poetry. His Selected Poems
was published in 1995 in Cairo. In 2000 his Complete Poetry was published
in Damascus by Dar al-Mada. In addition to his regular writing for newspapers
on classical music and on painting, he edits his own quarterly al-lahdha
al-Shi'iria (Poetic Moment).
Translated from Arabic by Lily Al-Tai
Pastures are bedewed this Sunday
I will drink straight from the bottle
A piece of cheese is enough
enough a spark in your pipe
to keep you warm
No café this Sunday
I will drink out of the bottle
till my shirt dampens
while the dawn spreads
Frightened by my footsteps will be
Through the mists of dawn — a door opens
I enter “Who are you?”
the doorman asks
“I am he who writes in metaphysical verse” I reply.
Thereupon, the dewy leaves are swept
This Sunday, I deserted the house
crossing the crucial boundaries
between dreams and awareness
I deserted the house
crossing paths to reach a myth
no one else has crossed but me.
I drink out of the bottle
my hands fatigued
resisting a desire to roam in the pastures
for dawn is imminent
Through the mists of dawn — a door opens
I enter “Who are you?” the doorman asks
“I am he who writes metaphysical verse” I reply.
Like a cotton fountain
embittered, muffled silence,
My feet so flickering
vanish almost in my footsteps.
Waves of water
Propellers of palm on the banks
How to answer your call?
I will drink out of the bottle
till my breath smells bloodied
and spirit is cured
from the flesh.
I will toast to this ill-fated land
vanishing from the sight of days a house in Karch.
A friend melting in a pool of acid.
Another, like a scarecrow shepherds
the mine fields
What splinters and skulls
the mire giving them a dense presence
Sight of abating spirit
Is this the resurrection of the lame or
is dawn imminent?
A piece of cheese is enough
enough a spark in your pipe
to keep you warm
No café this Sunday
I shall return home
and listen to the radio.
Mohammed Khaki is a Kurdish poet from Iran who writes
in both Kurdish and Farsi and has written four volumes of poetry. When
he was 16, he was imprisoned for three years for possessing an unauthorised
poetry book, having originally been sentenced to twelve years. He left
for the Kurdish area of Iraq where he worked for a broadcasting station
for eight years and, in addition, edited a newspaper. In the UK, he
works voluntarily for refugees as well as running his own business.
(for my daughter Alan)
Hey! Migrating birds
Returning from the East of homesickness,
Have you seen my little daughter?
Why are you silent?
have you seen the tresses of my sad, tiny bird?
Waves, be calm.
Reed-beds, be still
Wind, don't disturb the forest.
Butterflies, flap your wings gently
Else you'll startle the sleeping gazelles
From my daughter's eyes.
If one day
Your jasmine sweet memory
came with he zephyrs of spring
ruffling the pages of my poetry
Which drop of rain -
would wash away my homesickness.
In my dreams
I come to your tent
filling my shepherd's basket with
the songs of mountain starlings.
I am making a bed of sweet violets
entwining my arms as honeysuckle
Amadu Wurie Khan (pen-name: Pa-Wurie Khan) is from
Sierra Leone and currently lives in Peebles, Scotland. He is a human
rights journalist, a performance poet, storyteller, academic at large
and a community development practitioner. Since arriving in the UK,
he has undertaken research on asylum and the refugee condition, social
inclusion, participative democracy, environmental injustice, global
development adn British media coverage of asylum issues. His previous
academic research includes journalism and armed conflict in Africa,
African literature, verbal art forms and folklore.
Most recently he has held research consultancies with the Open University,
Article 19, Refugee Survival Trust and Oxfam-Scotland. He has published
in UK poetry and academic journals.
'The Ceasefire', 2002, The Eildon Tree, Issue 8: Autumn 2002, p8
'The Pentland Buttocks' 2002 The Eildon Tree, Issue 8: Autumn 2002,
'Bee Jamboree' 1995, For Di People, Dec 1995
'Bulldogs' 1996, For Di People, March 1996
'Elders of Tomorrow', 1996, For Di People, April 1996
'Trinity in Nature', 1998, Journal of Language and Language Education-JLLE,
vol. 1, 1998
'Labelling', 2003, Multicultural News, Issue No 12, Feb 2003
(observed over TV)
Poor thing pressed the keyboards…
defecating a maze of thunderbolts
Sirens wail in the dusk of night
wee humanity under Godly skies await
The fireballs fizzling, into emeralds
they descend on roofs and playgrounds in turbulent blizzards
Scary mums dashed to cuddle
Poor angels rudely shocked in their Coty slumber
with wands cupped to muffle
frantic screams of panic over their plunder
But when tremored, innocent tots
In Baghdad, Basra, West Bank, Kabul, Gaza, Belgrade, Freetown …into
little one is fantasying: Uncle Samta’s bonfires at Xmas are
on the other side by jet bombers and ballistics for their friendly
Esmail Khoi is a patron of Exiled Writers Ink! He
is a major voice of the Iranian Diaspora. Born in 1938, he was educated
in Iran and England and returned to his country as a lecturer in philosophy.
In the 1960s and 70s, he was opposed to the monarchical state in Iran,
and in his poetry he advocated revolutionary change for his country.
After the Iranian revolution of 1979, however, he found himself faced
with an even more oppressive system of government. In the early 1980s,
as a leading member of the intellectual opposition to clerical rule,
he spent close to two years in hiding before fleeing his homeland.
Over the last decade or so, he has emerged as a most articulate chronicler
of life in exile, and a fierce defender of political freedoms and
human rights the world over. Khoi's poetry bears eloquent testimony
to his experience and thought, and to his lifelong quest for a more
humane world. He has published over thirty books in Farsi with selections
in English translation including: 'Edges of Poetry' and 'Outlandia:
Songs of Exile'.
Poems translated by Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak and Michael
The Lyric of the Dark Woman
Woman of dark
and dawn-soaked epiphanies
summed-up in her eyes -
Woman of the cold
and vernal blossoming all in her soul.
Woman of the snow
and all summery things in the milk white of her breasts
the sunshine that is me
on the icy white apex of melting, ah
the sunshine that is me
joyously drinking in her summeriness.
On the tall body of the gazelle, ah
the lion that is me.
On the flowing waterfall of nectar, oh
the wayward bee
that is me.
I wake up.
there's the sun
but not on the shoulder of Mount Alborz.
On the table
the empty ring from a coffee cup
next to it
the cold cup of loneliness
filled with the black coffee of sorrow.
Berang Kohdomani is a poet who was born in Afghanistan
and started his career in the Department of Folklore and Culture. He
was later appointed a lecturer in the Faculty of Literature at the University
of Kabul. From 1989 to 1991, he was based in Tajikistan working for
the Academy of Science in matters related to literature. He has lived
in London since 1995 with his wife and five children. He has had many
collections of poetry published including: 'Greeting to Corn Poppies',
'Spiritual Meaning of Words' and 'The Bitter Chapter of God'. He has
also published 'The Birth of the Sun', a collection of contemporary
Afghan poetry, 'Towards the Sun', a collection of Latin American poems
and 'Morning Ballads', a selection of Latin American short stories.
In the Name of Kabul
Translated by Suhaila Ismat and Jennifer Langer
My presence is here but
My heart is in the alley-ways of Kabul
My tongue utters its name
My lips sing a song of Kabul
The trees are shrouded in inky-blue,
Years, months, weeks, days, mourning Kabul
Oh traveller! Traverse my town silently
For in mourning is Kabul
He who is cognisant with its streets, its palaces
Murmurs 'Where am I?' Kabul
Oh God, you who are both benevolent and wrathful,
Your munificence is disposed elsewhere
Your anger is vented on Kabul
Mother of Rostam undeserving of this cruelty
Undeserving of this affliction, Kabul
It complains, screams, shouts, this was not pre-ordained.
Dark days, dark times
Sombre days, the destiny and misery of Kabul
Only the plant of sadness grows in the deserts of its memories
Mourning is the morning of Kabul, sadness is the night of Kabul
All adventures are with beginning and end
An adventure without conclusion is Kabul
The Hand of God must surely intervene
The hand of Satan powerless to relieve the agony of Kabul
The living are miserable and wretched
The sorrowless are the deceased of Kabul
Died before their time, without healer, without remedy
The sick children and orphans of Kabul
It should be released from destruction and annihilation
My permanence, your permanence, is the permanence of Kabul
At dawn, the water-seller carries his empty goat-skin
He dreams of water, the water-seller of Kabul.
From annihilation, liberate Kabul
Let its citizens survive.
If I live out all my days, so too surely will Kabul.
The yellow leaves of the tall and gracious poplar
Rise up - a hand praying for Kabul.
Years, months, weeks of destruction How can you destroy it?
From the dawn of time, God was omnipresent in Kabul.
As tyrants Yazed and his followers spill the blood of innocents
Oh Hassan, oh Hassan, is this the Karbala of Kabul?
The Taliban surged forth, broke down the gateways of knowledge, the
windows of learning
They who are illiterate, now become the spiritual teachers of Kabul.
We are plunged into the abyss of the Stone Age
The painters of vanity now emerged as leaders of Kabul.
Dah Afghanan transformed into the abode of strangers
The age is sliding relentlessly backwards, these are dark days for
Dahsavaz now the grazing land of primitive beings
The advantaged are the heathens of Kabul.
In Zandabanan every second the keepers of life await death
Alas, my poem is an elegy for Kabul.
Dah Mazang and Baghqazi, Shahernow with Takhtapol razed to the ground
All these places obliterated, The Jeljta of Kabul.
Soil and ashes overlay Pamanor and Chindawol
A celebratory place, it once was
Now transformed into purgatory for God's people of Kabul.
This avenging sky spilling the blood of the innocents
The descendents of Ashaquan and Arifan of Kabul
Unyielding sky, even Mount Asmaye has relinquished its pride
Wise statesmen degenerated to beggars of Kabul
From Polmastan, joyful voices no longer heard
Grief, disappointment, moans, pain - commonplace in Kabul
Shaher-I-Ara, Bagh-I-Bala, Dah Dana, Chil Soton
Their tears flow constantly beneath the feet of Kabul
Where is Ghobar, where is Khalili, what the fate of Hazret Shaiqu
Ashquari in his grave yearns for Kabul.
Kocha-I-barana rain no longer falls
Wearing impure garments is Khowja Safa of Kabul
Joie Sheer the stream of blood, Bala-I-Hesar location of lamentation
Looting, slaughter, fear reside in the house of Kabul.
Musicians no longer dwell in Kharabat
Before the Judgement Day, observe the punishment of Kabul.
The leader of looters strips bare Afshar
Abode of the poor of Kabul
The alleyways of Khawbgah do not slumber, for everywhere is warring
Cries and howls emanate from Kabul.
And the back of 'Peer-l-Boland' is bent double
Alas! In the robes of Satan is attired Kabul.
The streets of Ahangar forgetful of Kawe the hero
The demon Kohak metamorphosed into King of Kabul
The river of Kabul has shed tears of blood
Oh God! Open your eyes. Swimming in blood is Kabul.
They are embattled in the forests
Armies of anguish, attempting to conquer and destroy Kabul.
From Gozarga marches the army of strangers
Flag and throne crushed underfoot by the enemies of Kabul.
Neither Hindu nor Muslim pass through
Doors of cinemas shut in Kabul.
Destroyed by Jihad and discordance
A judgement laid down to solve the problem of Kabul.
If God one day pours forth his anger on this Earth, spills blood,
That would be the retribution for Kabul.
Her poetry has been published in Jewish Renaissance and Across the Divide and she has given poetry readings for Second Generation Network, Limmud, Alternative Arts Festival, FLO Literature Festival and the Poetry Cafe amongst others. She has edited four anthologies of exiled literature including Crossing the Border: Voices of Refugee and Exiled Women Writers (Five Leaves 2002) and If Salt has Memory: Jewish Exiled Writing (Five Leaves 2008). She holds an MA in Cultural Memory from the University of London Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies and recently completed a doctoral thesis at SOAS on literature by exiled Iranian Jewish women. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors from Germany.
I Could Have Been
Dedicated to Freddie, murdered by the Nazis in 1942 aged 1
I could have run along silent streets sheltered by fluttering trees
Past gloomy church spires rising to the sky
I would not have entered to genuflect on my knees
I could have been a child of Uruguay
Skipping past the café sounds of scratched songs soaring
Into the sun-filled desert of the naked square
The shaking mirage of the hidden house imploring
This is a house of trauma but of that I am unaware
I could have knelt on a window seat
Staring at the snow rush and flee
Cousin Freddie would have come searching for me
I could have been a child of Germany.
Scampering along the dark corridor
Smothering him with kisses, more and more.
What Can I Say?
March 2001 at the beginning of the Second Intifada
View from ancient Massada
Placid, languid lake
Its heaviness palpable
The Dead Sea
Hot as an oven
Ferocious brown hills
Quiver in the heat
Steel phosphate plant rises up
Lorries rumble back and forth
Whirls of desert sand and phosphate dust
In their wake
Massada – rock fortress
In the Roman era
Zealots entrenched themselves
Built cisterns, granaries, storehouses
To never bow down
Before the Roman gods
Descending and ascending steps
Clusters of Arab women
Disdainful, proud eyes
Still, cool gardens
Mosque Al Asqua courtyard
Sit in the shade
I am an intruder
A single majestic date palm
Do not tell anyone you came
Zayyad Abu Zayyad’s voice
In the silent afternoon
I have some stones
I picked them up at Auschwitz
Stones to remember
Stones to throw
Arms drawn back, elbows bent.
With the ancient sling of David
Energise the stone
Trajectory straight or soaring
The clang of metal – stone on tank
Understand the language of the stones
Ferocity, hatred, despair
Of a people
Spiders weave their webs
In many dark nooks and crannies
For Middle East Peace.
Andréana Lefton grew up in the United States and Israel, and now lives in London. She spent time with the Bedouin in the Negev and Sinai Deserts, and the Roma in Hungary. These experiences opened her eyes to people who have been marginalised for centuries, yet have so much to offer. In 2010, she won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship due to her concern for literacy among Europe’s largest and most disadvantaged minority, the Roma. While completing her MSc at the London School of Economics, Andréana provided arts and literacy mentorship to Roma children in East London.
Currently, Andréana is learning how journalism and documentary filmmaking can be used as tools for social justice. She has contributed to documentaries for National Public Radio, the Guardian, and the BBC. She is now working with journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari on a documentary about the persecution of Baha'i university students in Iran.
Andréana is also an Associate Artist with Eastside Educational Trust and runs workshops on journalism, poetry, and creative writing for children and teens. Her poetry and essays have been recognised by several awards including The Atlantic magazine's Student Writing Contest, the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics, and the Bernard Levin Award for Journalism. For more information and examples of her work, please visit www.aelefton.com.
On this, first morning of my life,
hosannas are not enough.
I walk and walk,
up streets with Jewish names,
down streets with Arab names -
all in celebration of great poets
Men who were both poets and killers.
May my pen draw blood and pour wine.
I walk through old monuments,
tombs of alabaster, car soot.
Slogans half hid
behind green bombs of melon,
grenades of black and purple grapes.
In the end, who will history anoint?
I forget who was Isaac, who Ishmael.
I walk and walk,
forgetting my own language, my alphabet,
the one carried by Phoenicians
from port to port -
trading letters aleph bet
that were rounded like stones
by a lapidist alif ba
and passed from mouth to mouth
until they lost all but essence a b
and continue to be worn and smoothed,
until, as jewels,
only their memory is left -
as I limp through harbours,
the bilge of refugees -
in this, last moment of the day,
when the sky burns purple
and the ocean breaks black,
when the streetlamps tremble and,
the noise of guns and worship -
Andréana Lefton, aelefton.com
"Let a man in a garret but burn with enough intensity and he will set fire to the world."
Yang Lian, poet and literary
critic, was born 1955 in Bern, Switzerland, where his diplomat parents
were stationed. He grew up in Beijing and struggled through the Cultural
Revolution, which swept him up at the age of 11. Yang Lian began publishing
poetry in China in 1979. His most recent poems, essays and theoretical
writings have been collected and reprinted in two volumes as Yang Lian
zuopin(1998: Shanghai Wenyi Chubanshe, Shanghai), a work amounting to
a total of over 1000 pages. Yang Lian was based in New Zealand until
1993 and became a New Zealand citizen. He worked for a time in the University
of Auckland Library, which holds some rare early publications and associated
manuscripts. Since 1994, London has been what Yang calls ‘Central
Station’ for extensive travel in Europe, the US and Australia.
His poems have been published in English in literary magazines in Hong
Kong, Australia, USA, Canada, and the UK. His major English-language
books include the following: 'Masks and Crocodile', translated by Mabel
Lee (1990: Wild Peony, Sydney), 'The Dead in Exile', translated by Mabel
Lee (1990: Tiananmen Publications, Canberra), 'Where the Sea Stands
Still: New Poems', translated by Brian Holton (1995, 1999: Bloodaxe
Books, London). This book was named “Poetry Books Society Recommended
Translation” (1999) in the National Competition of Foreign Poetry
Books in English Translation, UK and 'Yi', translated by Mabel Lee (
2001: Green Integer, Los Angles).Yang Lian currently lives in London
and continues his writing career. He is married to the novelist Liu
Translation by Mabel Lee
Time passes like a fish swimming towards
its own flavour
Cliff not under your feet Years
Emptier than a word Sea wall
Sharp nipples suckling the storm
Rocks are not there You are turned like a brass screw and rust
In the armpits of sparkling waves Epitaph of a sunken ship
A name swathed in fish scales
Sloughs off fleshy curves Art of cloistering jellyfish
This blank expanse called water Turns sweet
Is called old Sunlight with the pull of a magnet
Ten summers in your lungs
Trims back The black water level in a haemorrhaging garden
Reflections in the harbour dance upside down
Trying to remember A nature like yours someone had left behind
Gulping down a glass of sour self-brewed beer in the kitchen
Like pouring it into the sink The graduate skeleton spits out
Valbona Ismaili Luta is an Albanian from Kosova who
was born in 1966 in Prishtina. She started writing at an early age,
but her first poems were published when she was a teenager. She used
to write for a student newspaper, 'Bota e re', published in Prishtina.
She came to London in 1993 and is currently a correspondent for a Kosova
Albanian women's monthly magazine called 'Teuta'.
Translated from Albanian by Ragip Luta
NEVER fight against life
DO NOT let the horses get lost on the paths
REMEMBER the dogs barking like mad
and the sofra* laid without bread
DO NOT open the doors to the wounds
THE BLOOD will flood
A WHOLE DRAMA on a small stage.
* sofra - dinner table
THE TEAR-DROP OF A CHILD
The beginning of the new,
they say, is there
and perfection of the old,
This amazes everyone
just like your beauty...
They say people there
make love dining,
and bohemians enjoy wandering
up and down your boulevards
Homelands have been betrayed for you
by those who loved art
poets, buried their lovers there
and, those souls
that do not breathe
were woken up by your chansons ...
But yesterday I had
my ideal shattered
by the imprisoned tear-drop
of the child,
behind your wires....
is a Tanzanian born writer and musician. Recently, Bongo Celebrity Blog
portrayed him as amongst influential artists in East Africa. He has
published two Swahili story collections, won writing awards, recorded
several albums and fronted bands in Tanzania, Germany, Brazil and UK.
Currently he runs workshops in schools, jails and colleges; while performing
live music regularly and is fervently keen on television, media and
film work, e.g. the recent launched Africans In London Television
Freddy Macha’s blogs promotes the unreported, unknown sub-cultural
world : www.freddymacha.blogspot.com
TWELVE OF NOVEMBER
When Mr. and Mrs. god made the world they both knew
houses would glow, flowers shine, cars screech scratch with laughter
Mrs. Goddess was the ultimate princess
just like the kings and queens who rule earth’s kingdoms with
so much evil today
forgetting the past working for the future that seems bleak
like star trek video games
distorted ,dignified , but worried
Cockroaches used to live in palaces
with mosquitoes as their efficient servants. then came Adam-Eve and
they invented : conquer, plunder, investment with multi-pesticides pollution…
elephants, snakes, lions, ruled the jungles
the fish decided waters should be best hiding. everybody started killing
everyone. multi pesticides, bullets: survival of the fittest
Mmmmh….today. ladies walk tall (feeling
men’s eyes hide in fears , guns & beers
the drunk, drugged, stoned shout their myths of a lost
…erection. Viagra, Viagra, Viagra…
parents sleep in separate bedrooms. kids learn to die of loneliness,
restlessness, confusion very early on loving hip-hop, ecstasy
becoming masters of spiritual emptiness
(the law of the jungle that god knows so well)
families eat, belch, embrace
but soon running back to snow, jobs & taxes
extremists, meantime blow bombs : create fear
talking of the end of the world. they love to terrorise those with a
power of peace, innocence, providence, excellence, prudence, intelligence….
you are never sure when is your next meal!
you are never sure how long you will live!
floods! hurricanes! famines! earthquakes! wars! AIDS! ozone
sp i r i t u a l h u n g e r!
God! Goddess! God!
don’t just sit there ! you made this movie , please sir!
heal your house ! recreate us! bandages are needed…
Mrs. goddess give peace makers and lovers more power!
Lets dance the choreography of optimism …
God, do something your highness!
© Freddy Macha
Quebec, Canada, 12th November ,1994
Faziry Mafutala was born in the Democratic Republic
of Congo. Whilst working at the Ministry of Education, he became involved
in political activities for the main opposition party but had to flee
because his life was under threat. Since 1996, he has lived in exile
with his family in the UK. Inspired by the story-telling tradition,
he describes his culture, praises the noble deeds of his ancestors and
echoes the suffering of refugees worldwide. He is currently reading
Politics with Economics at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
My Ancestors' Fire
During the night of Africa
Shining and black night
I have learnt the deep mysteries of the god of my ancestors
The first breath of humankind
It is a tradition among my people
To settle around the fire made by the ancestors
To hear a talking drum
To sing and dace
To hear legends and myths from the lips of a griot
While he communes with the night spirit
The griot gives birth to words
A truth of deep mysteries
The sea that fills my stream
That raises me high above all
I pass the words on to my children
As father told them to me
Who was told by his father's father
To fuel the ancestor's fire
My words are silent
Anyone can steal them
No-one can destroy them in my mind
My words have power over anything
Let me play a tune on the soft wood likembe
The art in my heart
Listen to my first words as likembe talks
From my ancestors
Who lived among the Bantu in the tropical rain forests
Among the Pygmies in the deep bush
I gathered the mysteries
How the strongest ancestors sank in the sea
In my mind's burning
Into chaotic dreams
My memory is as dry as the Sahara desert
I want to drink from the old calabash
To remember my ancestors' history
In the nightmare of the monster city
Stranger in the intoxicating beauty of the swarming city
Where crowds flow over high-rise islands of power and wealth
I get lost under the brown fog of a winter dawn
In the dark night of winter
All the dogs bark
The stars are dead
The moon, queen of the night realm, hosts her memory
Time seems to stand still in my brain
But it does not halt for those outside
In the splendour of the public gardens
Where streets in full daylight confront the passer-by
My grandchildren are ignorant of how the old calabash was broken
Tomorrow the words will cease to fuel the ancestors' fire
My grandchildren won't drink from the old calabash
The first breath of humankind will drift away
teacher, poet and translator has a Doctorate in Literature from Patna
University in India and a Masters degree in Education from the University
of London. Roohi has studied poetry at the City Literary Institute,
L.U Institute of English and attended workshops in Finchley, Arvon
Foundation and Poetry School Venues in Britain & Abroad.
She writes mainly in English, also in Urdu and translates to and from
English, Hindi and Urdu. Roohi is widely published in U.K, and India.
She has contributed to magazines & anthologies, some of which
are mentioned below:-
• The Redbeck Anthology of South Asian Poetry U.K
• Reflections: An Anthology of Mystical Poetry. U.K
• HumanTide& Years of Plenty-The Camden Poetry Group
• Online Archive of Poetry Magazines, The Poetry Library
• INDIAN LITERATURE: Sahitya Akadimi Journal India
• AAJ-KAL New Delhi
Roohi has read regularly at Poetry Venues including
• Barnet Multicultural Centre
• Bruce Castle Museum, Haringey
• Bull Theatre Art Depot, Bamet
• Haringey Literature Festival
• Lauderdale House, Highgate
• Poetry Cafe Covent Garden
• Torriano Meeting House, Camden
• The Gate Library Newham
• The Troubadaur « UrduTahrik SOAS
• The Poetry Societyof India at India International Centre
• Sahitya Akademi New Delhi
Roohi is founder- convenor of Multilingual Poetry Forum which promotes
Translations to and from English and World Languages through Poetry
meetings and Events in London.
SHORE OF MANY SEAS
Memories of spaces left behind
have no mirror images nor
are they etched on skins and bones.
The world, a huge glass bowl.
Fugitives from the past- scattered
rose petals on a fluid existence.
At best an amber case, made
to measures polished , furnished
to entomb a lifetime of desires.
Converging boundaries across waters.
Wind changes, storms, hail stones.
Shifting positions on water margin
where properties are neutralized.
Differentials smoothen out
with the unburdening of ego.
Waves under feet as pure as
the virgin waters of kanya kumari.
My soul cleansed, spirit lifted,
I live on the shore where many
seas meet, clinging
to nothing, belonging to all.
The southern most tip of India where the Arabian Sea,the Indian Ocean
Robert Kabemba Mangidi is an academic, novelist,
playwright and poet. He was born and grew up in the Democratic Republic
of Congo (former Zaire). He studied for an MA in Political Science
and a BA Honours in Sociology at Wits University in South Africa and
an MA in Political History at Lubumbashi University in DRC. He is
married to Jeannette Munamundi Mulamba antd they have two children:
Aristote Nzialu Kabemba and Thati Kabemba.
He is the author of " United Kingdom"," Black am I",
" Cry of Africa", " No free man in Africa","Mulamba,
femme noire", " Deep in my heart" , "UK the Rainbow
Nation"and many more. To date, he has written 140 poems. His
drama piece has been performed at the Contact Manchester.
He is currently searching for a publisher.
Your name is United Kingdom
You are our nation
You are in the heart of our people
You are in the heart of our children
My nation, mboka na ngai
Your nation, mboka na yo
Our nation, mboka na biso
We are one people
We are one nation
We are brothers
We are sisters
Let us be together
Let us work for our nation
I am black, moto moyindo
You are White, mondele
His Indian, India
All we are one
Biso mbaso eloko moko
Let us love each other
In the government, we are one
At school, we are one
In the market we are one
In football, we are one
In the hospital, we are one
At work, we are one
In the church, we are one
Everywhere, we are one
Say no to racism
Show a Red Card to it
Say no to discrimination
Show a Red Card to it
Say yes to social cohesion
Say yes to unity
Diversity is a privilege
You are in the heart of our nation
You are the future of our children
Let us be together
One world, many people
Pari Mansouri, Iranian writer
and translator, was born in Tehran, Iran in 1936. She studied at Tehran
University and has a BA in English Literature and an MA in Social Sciences.
She was a teacher of English language for 20 years until 1975, when
she asked for early retirement and a year later she moved to England
with her husband and children. She has translated and published 10 books
by such writers as André Maurois, E. Nesbit, Jules Verne, George
Eliot and Ivan Turgenev. Several of her short stories and translations
of other writers’ works have been published in Persian journals,
both in Iran and abroad. She received two awards for the best translated
book of the year in 1963. Her latest book of translation is a selection
of short stories by notable writers of the world. Among her own published
work is her novel Above and Beyond Love and two books of short stories
Entertainment in Exile and No, I was not Dreaming. Her latest book due
for publication is The Hidden Wound. The English version of her short
stories The Glass Marbles and Anxieties from Across the Water have been
published in the following books: Crossing the Border, Editor: Jennifer
Langer, published by Five Leaves Publications and Another Sea Another
Shore, Editors: Shouleh Vatanabadi and Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami, published
by Interlink Books
David Margolis, a journalist and novelist , can be
reached through his web site www.davidmargolis.com
His novels, Change of Partners and The Stepman, are available from Amazon.com
David is available for writing assignments and consulting.
A WING AND A PRAYER
Praying in an airport always feels like a special category of exile.
It’s almost never possible to find a place that’s completely
out of the way. And its difficult to develop concentration while donning
prayer shawl and tefillin in public view, becoming a subject of conversation,
one imagines, for other travellers who find you interesting, weird
or even, one worries, a Jewish provocation.
Coming through Amsterdam recently, I was hunting for a place to pray
when I found myself under a sign reading "Business Class Lounge
/ First-Class Lounge / Place of Worship." A place set aside for
prayer? I hopefully followed the pointing arrow to the mostly unpopulated
upper level of the terminal, where other arrows led me all the way
to the far end of the corridor, as if to some sort of distant no-man’s
land, where the non-denominational "Place of Worship" waited:
a large, sunlit, carpeted room with bookshelves containing all the
words any Jew, Muslim or Christian might require.
As in places of worship all over the Western world, attendance was
down, but I was not completely alone. Two Muslims using prayer rugs
off the shelves were prostrating themselves in one corner. A directional
vane thoughtfully inlaid in the floor near them pointed them south,
toward Mecca. Two Americans, a black woman and a blond, beefy fellow
whom I pegged as a Midwesterner, were sitting in chairs at the center
of the room, their backs to Mecca as they read from their Bibles.
Shedding my anonymity, I took off my Los Angeles Dodgers cap, exposing
the kippah underneath, and dug my tallit and tefillin out of my carry-on.
A slender, bearded 40-something fellow who wandered in a moment later
gave me the eye, then doffed his New York Yankees hat to reveal his
own kippah, showing me that we were on the same team.
And so we prayed, Christians, Muslims, Jews, graciously ignoring one
another. The Muslims finished and left. As I segued to the amidah
(the silent, standing prayer), a middle-aged man with a broad, pleasant
face strolled in. I couldn’t get a clear geographical fix on
him – middle European, I speculated, and therefore generically
Christian. But he surprised me by taking a prayer rug off the Muslim
end of the shelf, and then he too began to pray.
I took my time with the amidah, and he and I finished at about the
same time. Catching my eye, insisting on making the contact, he threw
me a warmly affirmative nod. He was glad to see me, I realized with
some surprise. Beyond all the current miseries of politics, cultures
and "clashes of civilization," he wanted to let me know
that he, a Muslim, appreciated that I, a Jew, was here in the Place
of Worship with him. I smiled and nodded back to let him know I felt
It was a very slender moment, really. The more I say of it, in fact,
the less it might mean. Because, after all, it was only the way things
should be, a little brotherhood between spiritual cousins, an acknowledgement
that we were cooperating in matters of the spirit, working on the
central project from slightly different locations on the periphery.
But given the current context, I felt immeasurably pleased that he
had made the gesture and that I had reciprocated.
Packing up tefillin and tallit, I headed back out toward the impersonal
airport corridor. He was still sitting in the little anteroom of the
Place of Worship, reading a magazine now, and we exchanged another
warm smile and nod. Outside the Place of Worship, the blank hallways
of the international terminal were anonymous, inoffensive, purposely
bereft of special meanings. This Muslim man and I didn’t speak
the same language, but in the protection of the "Place of Worship,"
we had a shared vocabulary. We weren’t enemies, and these days,
that was special meaning enough -- almost a homecoming.
Mauleen Mashiri was born in Zimbabwe in March 1967. She has had an interest in writing since she was thirteen. She came to the UK in 1999 and is a human rights activist who writes on several websites about the rights and wrongs of human rights. Mauleen lives in London with husband and children. She is also a Secretary for MDC South East London Women's Assembly. She is in the process of writing a book about African Marriages.
Abdul Karim Meesaq
was born in the village of Sarbaid, province of Gekhato, County of Ghazni,
Afghanistan in a farmer’s family. His date of birth like many
other farmer’s children has never been recorded. It is believed
that he is now in his 70’s.
There was no formal schooling in the village
where Karim Meesaq was born and brought up. He received private tuition
from the village Mullah (Islamic religious priest).
In his youth, Karim Meesaq was forced to
leave his village due to a drought and headed to Kabul (Capital city
of Afghanistan). In Kabul he began life by doing various physical jobs
and at the meantime improved his education and fiercely followed reading.
He sought jobs as an office clerk and gained knowledge and experience
in various educational and governmental posts. It was then that he started
interest in literal and political writing. Since then his many work
including collection of short stories books, collections of poems, many
political and social assays and articles have been published.
Karim Meesaq is one of the founder of the
“Afghanistan’s Peoples’ Democratic Party” and
on the 1st January 1965 he joint the party’s 1st Congress and
later became a member of the party’s political office.
From April 1978 to December 1979 he worked
as Afghanistan’s Finance minister. In December 1979 when the Soviet
army invaded Afghanistan he and many other of the Afghanistan’s
Peoples’ Democratic Party cabinet members became imprisoned. After
his release from prison he lived in Kabul under house arrest for about
10 years and was not allowed to publish any of his work.
After the Soviet army left Afghanistan and when Dr. Najeebullah (Former
president of Afghanistan) proposed National Peace Compromise Policy,
Karim Meesaq, became the Mayor of Kabul city in June 1989. He worked
in this post till September 1990. In December 1990 he immigrated to
London, Great Britain.
Since living in Britain he has written many
books and poems in Farsi-Dari, some of which have been translated into
English. Some examples among his translated work in English include.
Short stories: A Sum of Money, Apple, Cascade
of Human Mind, Image on the Waves, The Defence, The Pomgranate Tree
Poems: The Soul of Anemona, Poetic, The Home of Human
Being, Green Words, Poetry
By Karim Meesaq
It was a winter evening. The neighbour’s wife had
already been in labour for three nights and her cries of pain resonated
all over the neighbourhood.
Nazir had tried everything to block out these cries but
without success. There remained nothing for it but to close his book
and pull the bedclothes over his ears. But even in bed, the cries followed
him and every time he shut his eyes, the screams penetrated his being
like poisoned arrows. They tortured his body and prevented him sleeping.
It was unbearable. He got up and dressed. His mother asked “Where
are you going at this time of night?” Full of pity, he said “To
the doctor’s, after all, this woman is a human being too! A woman
suffering, surely she must he helped.” His mother for whom the
pain of birth was nothing new, said nothing. He took her silence for
agreement, left the house and ran quickly to the doctor’s home.
His footsteps, crunching on the ice, cut through the anxiety-ridden
silence of the night. On his face was the icy cold of the wind; in his
ears were the wails and whispers of the neighbour. Although he had drawn
up his collar over his ears, they stung with the cold and the ever more
pitiful cries echoed after him. Sometimes the cries were drowned by
dogs barking, but not for long; they resounded in the air and tormented
About an hour later, shivering with cold and accompanied
by the doctor, he knocked on his neighbour’s door. No one answered.
Only the distressed, imploring cries of the woman responded. “Oh
God, have pity on me. I am burning. It is like fire. Good neighbour,
help me. Save me. For the love of God, help me.” Occasionally
the cries stopped, sometimes they grew louder and then again developed
into howls, to very loud, pitiful howls. He knocked harder on the door.
At last, someone answered “Who is there?”
The door chain rattled and the door opened. Under the
porch light a man of medium height could be discerned. He had a short,
thick neck, a long, dark beard, narrow eyes, flat nose, yellow teeth
and a pot belly. There was a dirty white turban on his head and he wore
a shirt and wide trousers of coloured cotton. Over these was a colourful
jacket. He stared in shock at Nazir and the doctor and asked ‘What
do you want?” Nazir stepped forward respectfully “I am a
neighbour of yours and have brought a doctor for your wife.” The
man muttered incoherently into his beard and said after a pause “I
know you. I know you.”
Other than that, he said nothing. He blew his nose, spat
out snuff, turned around silently and shut the door. Nazir and the doctor
waited, not knowing what to do. They could still hear the heartrending
moans of the woman. They shifted from one foot to the other with the
cold, waiting expectantly. But the door was shut and remained shut.
Nazir knocked once again. No answer. He knocked again
and again. Still no answer and again he knocked. No reply. The desperate
cries of the woman were heard, louder and louder. The doctor, whose
patience was at an end, hit the door with his fist. Then he kicked the
door. At this, all the neighbours stuck their heads out of their windows.
When they saw Nazir with the doctor, they were relieved and came out
one by one to greet them and join them at the door. They all knocked,
one after the other, until a voice from inside said “Go away.
We don’t need a doctor. I won’t allow a stranger to touch
When they heard this, they looked at each other astonished.
On of them banged hard on the door and called out jokingly “Open
up, open up or we’ll knock down the door.”
The man answered from within “Alright, wait. One moment. I’ll
open the door right away.”
After a time the door opened. The man, who stood in the
doorway with an axe in his hand, said in a hurt and sad way “Well
here I am and I’d like to acquaint myself with the fellow who
dares to come into my house. Don’t think that I would bring shame
upon myself, that I am a coward. It is a point of honour. It is to do
with my honour. Go away or I’ll defend myself with this axe –
with this axe.”
He swung the axe threateningly in the air. Then swung
it again. Everyone was speechless and so they went away into the bitter
cold and eerie darkness, towards the respective lights of their homes,
one after the other.
The next morning the woman’s cries were not heard.
All the funeral mourners, full of sorrow and sympathy, said to the man,
who was draped in a long cloak and stood in a reverent manner by the
grave “We are very sorry, very sorry for your loss.”
Hilton Mendelsohn was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in
November 1970 to the Mendelsohn family of the then coloured neighbourhood
of Forrest Vale in the racially segregated Country. His father was an
Army Officer his mother a home maker with Hilton being the second last
born of 8 children.
Hilton began taking an interest in writing when he was in high school
taking particular interest in the subjects of literature, History and
English. In the fourth form at Northlea high he co-wrote his school
house play receiving special commendation and finishing second overall
with the only original play in the school contest. During this time
he received marginal success in the few school writing competitions
despite being generally reluctant to enter. Hilton generally preferred
writing love letters for his friends delivering scribbling his thoughts
out in private note books.
In 1992 Hilton began working for a marketing company whose offices were
based next door to the Chronicle Zimbabwe’s second largest newspaper
at the time. Encouraged by the editor of the sports desk Shaun Orange,
Hilton began writing a twice weekly column covering basketball for the
newspapers sports desk. An avid sports fan he also founded one of the
largest basketball clubs in the country, at the time initially formed
as a youth project to help keep the kids of the city off the streets.
During this time Hilton had short stories and poetry published in various
periodicals in Zimbabwe receiving limited but encouraging recognition.
After moving to London in 1998 Hilton continued to write working with
Apples and Snakes at the Battersea Arts Centre, Exiled Writers Ink!
and co founding a group of exiled Zimbabwean Writers called Writing
Wrongs. By this time the social and political situation in Zimbabwe
had deteriorated with an escalation of the violent oppression of opposition
and many of his former colleagues being forced to flee the country.
Hiltons writing began to take a new direction becoming more contemplative
and patriotic. Hilton began work with the Movement for Democratic Change,
the main Zimbabwean opposition party, and human rights organisations
The Freedom or Zimbabwe Campaign, The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO forum
writing and publishing several articles critical of the Robert Mugabe
regime. He also co founded one of Zimbabwe’s most successful UK
based projects of recent times, the London based charitable organisation
WEZIMBABWE. In the process he has become an outspoken and well known
Zimbabwean Human Rights Activists placing him amongst the hundreds of
thousands of Zimbabweans who would not be safe in their country of birth.
Hilton continues to write, working on a play to be staged at the Blue
Elephant Theatre in London with the Writing Wrongs group and is still
working with Exiled Writers Ink! He is currently based in Manchester
and is working on his first anthology of poetry for submission for publication.
Another African catastrophe
Another African catastrophe
born out of apathy.
Black men and women
will always talk
bring up Apartheid,
and slave boats,
by white folks.
but what about when it's our own?
You all join in
when we fight colonials
but when we fight to be free
from the brutality
of African Tyranny
I don't see you,
Proud black man,
do a God damn
So I put it to you,
That you would leave those
you claim to be your own
to the beast
just because you
share the colour of his skin?
That you would leave
I just don’t know.
Surveying a trendy London street
Surveying a trendy London street.
With all it's manufactured cool,
The new commodity.
No need for a free spirit,
thought, belief, or will
The faded jeans
look lived in.
The faces worn
from numerous trips-
and anti aging creams.
do people die here?
Or is this slow cycle
too slow to notice.
They've already mapped the road.
We have lived with death
Sometimes a visitor next door,
sometimes our own guest.
His scent constantly in the air.
Here death seems to be a celebrity
In magazines or on the news
When he visits me.
There will be a large gathering of my family.
My people will crying sing
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see
Then bury me.
Each a hand full of dust
'He was a strange one.. him
like his father
he stared at clouds.
Far beyond the trees'
Anna Maria Mickiewicz
Anna Maria Mickiewicz – a Polish born author living in Great Britain. She received her Master of Arts degree in 1984 from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University. She also obtained a certificate in Media Studies from Birkbeck College.
As a student, she was involved in a democractic and civil rights movement in Poland. She was one of the editors of the civil rights independent magazine Wywrotowiec (The Rebel).
After moving to England, she worked as a London correspondent covering literary and cultural issues for the Polish press and radio, both in Poland and abroad: Wprost in Poland, Dziennik Polski in London, Nowy Dziennik in New York.
Since 2003, she has been a member of The Union of Polish Writers Abroad and editor of the annual literary magazine of the association, Pamiętnik Literacki – London.
Her first anthology of poetry, entitled Dziewanna (The Mullein) was published in 1984 by an independent (underground) publisher in Poland. Her second poetry volume, Proscenium will be published in August 2010.
She has published poetry, short stories and critical essays in the literary magazines: Akant, Obyczaje, Quo Vadis, Pamiętnik Literacki, Kritya poetry on-line. Recently her poem has been published in the USA in the anthology Chopin with Cherries.
A Tribute in Verse. She has also translated British and American poetry and drama.
In 2000 the author’s selection of short stories and articles Okruchy z Okragłego Stołu (Crumbs from the Round Table) was published by Norbertinum in Poland. She contributed to an academic literary publication: Proza polska na obczyźnie. Problemy-Dyskusje-Uzupełnienia (Polish Prose in Exile) dedicated to Polish migrants’ literature (published by the University of Rzeszów in Poland). The second edition is in progress.
Poems by Anna Maria Mickiewicz
The sound of lawnmowers, global, pervasive, mundane, universal.
By the refuse containers, an old woman.
From a distance you can see her diminutive figure, summer lacing shoes, flowing dress with collar, on her head a pink steelon headscarf.
She positions a plastic pail upside down, jumps about on it like a child.
She sinks up to her waist in the refuse, searching deeper and deeper.
She capsizes the container by force, throwing out bags, scraps of material.
She hangs on the metal lips of its green jaws, keeping her balance by waggling her legs. Net shopping bags on the tarmac.
A blond with a little dog looks on, she wants to go up and investigate, take a peek, check what's in the shopping bags.
She looks around. People are returning from work.
You can't just go up and pry.
The old woman loses her balance, a vigorous movement of the legs doesn't help.
She clings on the pail, sways.
She regains her original position, carefully puts her feet down, jumps out,
puts the black bags into the pail,
and the rest into a shopping bag with the logo Boss.
She leaves briskly, looking ahead of her.
The tired lawnmowers wheeze in the sweat of their brow with what's left of their strength.
The sun, its yellowy red rays at full force, decides to dim their glare.
Anna Maria Mickiewic
Chopin in Manchester
He did not like the smog
He did not like the damp English weather
Or overcrowded Manchester
Standing at the lake in Prestwich
I can feel his longing
Far away from home
Music is dripping like rain from his thin fingers rapidly
In the Gentlemen’s Concert Hall
His statue is silent in Manchester
A frail figure
Is it longing for music or for the homeland?
Other fingers of another musician
Ryszard Bakst is playing Chopin
Anna Maria Mickiewicz
Reza was born In Afghanistan in 1979. He studied Philosophy at Tehran University, and is now studying for an MA in Globalisation at London Metropolitan University.
The voice took me out of my body
The voice changed to a man and embraced me
The voice was the royal horse pulling my soul
Taking me to the mountains, valleys and deserts
What delusion that from the beginning of my creation
Drew me Strange and irritable temper, and wanderer
Cut me to two half then drew you of me
Then took me away from you
Painted a door of death among us
Then made me a peg outside the door
I did not like this so I erased this painting
Began to Paint you and me again
Painted us as two birds in two cages
Didn’t like it then erased my wings
Didn’t like this, so erased all the painting
and then, Painted you a father and me a son
We were freed
you became a moon and me a stone
Watching you changed me to blood again
Did not like it again so made you a desert
Because of you made me aurora breeze
Did not like it again so angrily erased and erased and erased all
Painted me a cup of tea of good and evil
Made you sugar and resolved you in me
Then took it to her lips and drunk me for ever
My name is Abdul-azeez Mohammed
I was born on 21st December 1956 in Keren town, in the then fourteenth
province of imperial Ethiopia, now Eritrea. I received the first of
my short-lived education at Government Primary School Keren. I had then
proceeded to St, David secondary School where I studied for a period
less than one year before I discontinued that owing to a host of circumstances.
My family comprising- four brothers, four
sisters, the youngest of whom was by then under one year and my mother
sought refuge in the northern part of the Sudan where I begun to work
as a painter and occasionally as interpreter for tourist. I have travelled
to a number of central and West African countries in the process of
which I was able to study for a higher diploma in arts education and
English language. I have staged a number of arts exhibitions for my
painting mainly portraying themes of human conflicts with special emphasis
on the three decades that characterised the repressive reign of Ethiopia
in Eritrea. I also composed post-independence poetry, reflecting on
internal conflicts, social justices, ethno-nationalism and the exodus
of thousands of Eritreans out of Eritrea.
Since I came to live in London in 1991, I
have staged three painting exhibitions under the auspices of the Horn
Reflections that generated great interest from those who came to see
it. Besides, I have deeply rooted interest in writing poetry as I always
found it to be one of the most compatible medium through which I expressed
my personal and general feelings. In deed poetry became more than a
medium; to me poetry became an intense form of catharsis. All the poems
I write stem from events that have left an engraving impression in my
feeling. I therefore experienced profound relief whenever I composed
Since the poetry I write is based on
actual events and always wished readers to share the core experiences,
I always endeavoured to render expressional clarity without necessarily
compromising the poetic qualities hence I adopted a narrative form of
poetry. I recited poetry to numerous audiences in Africa and the United
Kingdom. I was greatly encouraged by the response I had that I have
now completed a poetic anthology comprising over 130 poems which I also
illustrated and am writing a novel entitled ‘Paradisal Soil’
which is still in its initial stage.
Poems by abdul am
The misty night staggered drunk
When the nebulous moon lent laden lunacy
And no one seems to be safely laminated
My worth in the unforgiving revelations
Of urban scale-markers
That stretched high from the jewels
Of city slickers
Down to the indignity of rampant junk
And in the darkness of urbanite eyes
read my image as a crank
thus I existed between the bubbling rhetoric
Of the sinking and sank
The night staggered,
And I levelled to the stillness
Of disenchanted monk
I exited the hauling hours of the city
And plunged into the surreal
Amid the colourful fuss of glass,
The infinite shaping of cement
And the sealed fate of steel
More distorted became I than me shadow
The palaver of passion I vacated off my heart
I dropped the horror of glandular alchemy
With all its temporal pleasures and cacophony
Freed me heart and soul
Thus, I was in a planet but alone
Unaffected by the flame of desire
Sidetracked the gaudy rose flowers
As they wallowed in folly of fragrance and colour
And of the darkness of loathing
That I deposit back to the originator’s tank
Let my iris be a free lodge for the grandeur of beauty
And to the down drop of incurable ugliness
I have no eye
So, alertly I think
And I was drunk
That clear in the night I rank,
Even more than tarnished wine cask
For I sipped from the wine of wakefulness
That brewed in the amnesia of vine gods
And in the crystal clarity of me stupor
I begun to weigh up and appraise cobwebbed chapters
Why I loved life-flame, sky?
Why levelled the blindness of id, that I `
But I knew the sun’s facial veil
was her brutal shine.
Sozan Mohamed was born in Suleimanya, Iraqi Kurdistan
in 1973 and worked as a radiographer. She came to Britain as a refugee
with her husband who was forced to fleeand they walked across the mountains
in a nightmare journey (shown on TV News), finally arrriving in Turkey
and subsequently London in 1995. She is currently studying for a Law
degree at the University of Westminster. She has always written short
stories in Sorani but has never had them published. Her special interest
is women and several of her articles were published in Kurdish newspapers.
Here and There
My steps are dragging me along the road
My remote imagination demanding an inspiration
They are sailing through the ocean
Walking in a dark field
And flying through the space
Just to find an inspiration
I used to be inspired by the sun… the moon
…..the sea and the sky
Even the walls of my bedroom were inspiring
Ideas were pouring through my pen
Splashing on pages after pages of my writing
While now they are out of my reach
I am now an unfinished symphony
Left in front of a sick composer
I am an unfinished portrait
Left shattered in the middle of nowhere
I am a lost individual
Left divided between here and there…
I looked senseless, emotionless
My eyes on the folded letter
Reading the crying words
Listening to the deep voice inside the words
I could hear her crying
Feel her shaken handwriting
I could even see her tear
Pouring all over the letter
While she was writing
Now her tear are dried golden spots
Hanging over the surface of each word
I felt she was holding me in her arms
Fixing my picture inside her circle eyes
Dancing with me in her empty house
Inside an empty land
Back to here again
Where day and night
Crowds and remoteness are passing by
While I remain like a senseless statute
Like a standstill picture
Framed and hanged
Beside my mother’s bed
The song which is still in my ears
I was sailing through an endless ocean
Dancing with the ocean’s vigorous waves
Heading toward a bleary horizon
I was perceiving all my hidden memories
They are taking me back to where I was belong
To the place I want to visit once more
To the late summer night
When I was laying in the grass
Underneath the red and blue lights
Listening to the cool night symphony
In harmony with my mother’s voice
While she was whispering into my ears
Singing her gentle song
The song which is still in my ears
However those memories are flying out from my imagination
Throwing me back to here,
To my empty house
Where I am sitting by the piano
My fingers are striking the keys
Playing the dead musical notes
While my mind is playing
The song which is still in my ears…
Simon Mol, who hails from Cameroon,
was forced to flee political persecution and has been living in Poland
since 1999 after being granted asylum. He has been published in several
anthologies and Africa My Africa is his first collection. The book
may be purchased at The Warsaw Voice office, 64 Ksiêcia Janusza
St., the Institute of Developing Countries at Warsaw University, Casablanca
Cafe, or by ordering directly from 0 603 434 930.Africa... My Africa.
(A bilingual poetry collection in English and Polish) by Simon Mol.
VERBINUM (Wydawnictwo Ksiê¿y Werbistów, Warsaw
Ja w Polsce!… Hmmm. (Me in
Article written for a book by the Polish Humanitarian
Action on Refugees in Poland.
Time. What a mystery! How it bridges distances!
Early last year I went for a walk in £azienky Park. My companion
pointed at the monument of Henryk Sienkiewicz and asked me,
“Do you know who he was?”
“No.” Came my reply.
“He wrote Quo Vadis” she went on.
“Ah!” I exclaimed, “I remember now!”
And we started talking about it.
In my high school days I don’t remember
exactly how many hundreds of books I read in my quest for knowledge.
The famous Quo Vadis was one of them. I had completely forgotten that
the author was Polish. Then and until I got here, my knowledge of Poland
was furnished by history books that retold the origin of World War II
and depicted concentration camps and images of the other side of the
iron curtain. Many literary scenes were often partly plotted around
something to do with Poland and no famous World War II movie was ever
complete without a Polish scenario. Cameroon Television would from time
to time show a film about an escaping Jewish family or a victim whisked
to Siberia and his brave attempts to escape. My first real contact with
Poland was through missionaries. I was brought up in a Catholic family
and attended a Catholic Primary School. It was obligatory to go to doctrine
every evening and I was one of those who had to clean the church. We
often acted plays during Xmas in the church and attended mass every
Sunday. This was how I came across a priest who had been nicknamed Father
Box by us. He was a Polish Missionary who was serving our parish. He
was a good priest, and was famous for giving a knock on the head of
a stubborn child with his huge forefinger. It was fun. He had mastered
pidgin English very well and communicated with the local people perfectly.
From time to time people in our parish would come along bringing gifts
comprising of fruits, fooditems, etc., especially on Thanksgiving Sundays.
We were the ones to carry the items to the boot of his white Volkswagen
When I fled my native Cameroon to neighbouring
Ghana, History and Fate had more in store for me. Things went the way
they went and I had to flee from Ghana once again. Again on the road
to an unknown land. Poetry was my saving grace as through it I was admitted
into the global PEN family and given a chance to escape. The chance
came through the International PEN congress in Poland. When I received
an invitation from Polish PEN, the posted letter had a zodiac designed
postage stamp, with the sign of the zodiac on it! I admit my heritage.
I am a superstitious breed. I didn’t view the above incident as
a mere coincidence. I reasoned that Fate had something in store for
me in Poland. Perhaps the most unusual thing about my contact with Poland
was that I even received a visa from the Polish embassy in Nigeria,
and that I successfully travelled to Poland. It was a miracle. I had
applied for a Geneva Travelling Document from the Ghanaian government
and because they were determined to frustrate me, the passport they
granted me was falsified. My name was written and cancelled twice and
what’s more? My date of birth was not written on the passport!
They issued me such a passport to make any attempt by me to travel impossible.
For no embassy would normally grant a visa on a passport that has no
date of birth written on it.
But somehow because my case was abnormal,
because Fate always has the final say, the authorities at the Polish
embassy in Lagos (Nigeria) overlooked (?), underlooked (?) this. They
were made humble servants of Fate and the visa was granted!
I had a tough time boarding Bulgarian Airways
because of the apparent suspicious-looking invalid passport and in Sofia
they even threatened to deport me back to Ghana. Again Fate had the
final word and I made it to the Okêcie Airport where also it was
the Polish PEN invitation letter that saved me after the migration officers
threatened to deport me as well. The morning I was to leave Ghana, the
radio played a Polish folk song. It was the first time ever I was listening
to Polish folk. It was as if the radio station played it uniquely for
me. When I arrived in Poland, I felt what freedom meant for the first
time in my life. I could look at the sky! It awakened something in me.
While in prison in Ghana for six weeks, nothing was so tormenting like
the fact that I couldn’t look at the open sky. It was the most
frustrating thing. I didn’t bother about the horrible condition
or about the food. The simple fact that I couldn’t look at the
sky almost drove me insane. Freedom should never be taken for granted!
I was forced to look at the sky inside of me, until I was freed and
finally made it to Poland! I had a swell one week as the World Congress
of PEN lasted and under the license of the august body I even dined
at a diner party with President Aleksander Kwaœniewski as special
host. On my second week in Poland, I ended up in Dêbak where I
spent 65 weeks. Looking back over these phases, reviewing things I have
been through, I am forced out of uncompromising respect to Fate to be
very, very humble. Why shouldn’t I be? I have been helped and
saved by different races; unknown people and others in faraway lands
heard my cry for help and came to my rescue. How ironic is this world!
Where exactly do I belong? I am still searching. Just yesterday December
14th 2001, students of the Advanced School of Social Psychology during
a lecture on African Culture, asked me if I would like to stay in Poland
or return to Cameroon. This question has been asked me so many times
that I have lost count. I told them that at this point in time, I am
suspended in space. I miss Cameroon. For sure I do. However when I will
return there, I will have a little bit of the Pole in me. And this Pole
in me will cling to its cradle. It will always remind me that I have
left something behind in Poland just as the South African, the Gabonese,
the Ghanaian and Cameroonian in me are reminding me now.
Still I think that the Pole in me has been
rooted so deeply that only the Cameroonian in me rivals it. For the
experiences I have lived through here are more than anything, anywhere
else… not even in Cameroon. The greatest irony of all life is
here. A few months ago, for no apparent reason except for the colour
of my skin I was attacked twice in less than two weeks by racist groups.
It was a nasty, bastard and cowardly encounter, which I wouldn’t
wish on my worst enemy and the culprits were never caught. The Pole
in me felt guilty.
Just last November after the match Cameroon
vs Poland in Poznañ, it was late and I stood by a bus stop to
wait for a bus to the train station on my way back to Warsaw. A huge
fellow walked up to me as I stood alone. He offered me a beer, which
I refused. He insisted and finally went into a nearby shop and bought
some candies, which he offered me. I couldn’t refuse. I realised
that he was trying to be nice in spite of a mental difference between
us, which I had perceived. He told me boldly that he was a skinhead,
but that he had nothing against the black skin, that he hated only Jews.
I listened. He told me not to be afraid and offered to accompany me
to the train station. I admired his courage. I sensed that he was on
a course, inherited from someone above him, who wouldn’t dare
admit it in public the way he did. I learnt something from him. That
the most dangerous ones are those who pretend in public and hold high
offices and those who dream up philosophies and escape the responsibilities.
I was moved by my new pal’s attitude. It complicated my comprehension
of the world. “How come that I was attacked by racist gangs in
Warsaw, and protected by another racist in Poznañ?” I asked
myself after we parted at the train station. How ironic is this world!
Where then is the Truth? A few weeks ago, two Cameroonians based in
France who carry French passports took advantage of another African
footballer who was playing with Legia Warsaw to swindle an I³awa
businessman off a huge chunk of money. The Cameroonian in me felt guilty.
So where exactly do I belong when evil lurks everywhere, following me
wherever I go? I often describe Poland as an exotic European country…
as exotic for me as Europeans view Africa. She has much in common with
Africa. There is Mr. Andrzej Lepper, the highly instinctive image who
reminds me often, in various ways of an African politician in the opposition!
I describe him as a poet politician (komentarz?), as he says things
straight from the heart. Another feature of Poland that bridges the
distance with Africa is that she was colonised by foreign powers just
like African countries were. She had to fight against an anti-progressive
political doctrine, a one just like many African countries are struggling
with now. She commands respect because even when under captivity her
illustrious sons held their heads high. They were the real warriors
and their songs of victory are sung today and forever. The Sienkiewiczs,
Mickiewiczs, the S³owackis, etc. These are names that command respect,
for they fought and triumphed not with weapons but with their brave
minds through the silent scribbling of pens that flamed patriotic words
in exile. It saddens me enormously to see that their victory is being
marred by a new unchecked culture under the license of civilization.
The silent social war raging between aggressive capitalism and old values
that depicted a moral code for the people through simple values that
stemmed from respect to others is heart breaking. This country has something
which other western countries envy. And this something is gradually
giving in to more powerful and morally trying promises dressed in the
wonderful rob of materialism. While homosapiens everywhere are breaking
old history and building new ones, only small victories last, and Nature
also that alone keeps her promise in shores, skies, landscapes and awe-inspiring
scenarios. Here is where the African and Pole in me meet and marry.
Agim Morina is from Kosova where he gained degrees
in both Albanian Language and Literature and Graphics. He worked as
a journalist, designer, editor and lecturer. In the UK he has worded
as a tutor of printed media and of Albanian. He writes poetry and is
also an artist.
I Fear For Freedom (extract)
Translated from Albanian
I'm afraid freedom will come one day;
And I will not know her,
I will not notice her,
She will sit next to me in the bus,
Get off in some distant land,
And I will be told:
'There goes freedom! Didn't you recognise her?"
Freedom will come, like my father's death,
That I could never believe.....
I fear freedom will come very bright,
I fear freedom will come quiet, very quiet,
I fear I will die
While she is in the hall taking off her shoes
I fear freedom is a beauty
I will never make love to,
I fear freedom, poor freedom,
will come, and I'll have her in my hands,
but I will lose her like the most loved
I fear freedom will fail to stop, rushing by,
the train driver will fall asleep,
Or she will not see me, like the sailor
missing the shipwrecked in the sea,
I fear I'll say to her: "Get lost you dirty whore!"
Or "My dear, where have you been upto now?"
How could you come to Kosova this late?"
I fear she will miss her plane,
terrorists will kidnap her,
Or she will lose her ticket.
Something unexpected will happen.
An Irish dancer will try to teach her to dance in Dublin.
Some Italian will take her to Rome,
Or some Eskimo will freeze her in his igloo
Trying to make her smile by giving her smoked fish.
Nkosana Mpofu is a poet and performer who writes
in English and Ndebele. He does workshops in schools, museums and
libraries and also performs at openings e.g. art galleries, museums,
and public events - commemorations / celebrations, weddings, to name
a few. He has a collection of poems in Ndebele and English which cover
different subjects including lived experiences, nature, economics,
politics and national and international concerns. He lives in Oldham.
Who cares about dead leaves?
Dead leaves trodden
Damp, mouldy, pliable,
Floating trash without destiny
Winds care to distribute
Deciduous trees timely drop the leaves
Nurture the nascent on short leases
To regale their trunks and feed them
Like the trees, autocrats in fashion
Shed their nationals
Litter for refuse collectors,
Rack, blow and burn
Dead, damp leaves lack lustre
Refuse material for composting,
Only a few they pick, press and frame.
Green movements for oxygen
Who cares about dead leaves?
Dead leaves a nuisance
Train delays – foliage on rails
Blow away dead leaves
Dead leaves nutritious
Beneficiaries snub and scoff
The system feigns ignorance
Collects taxes to feed scoffing mouths
Who cares about dead leaves?
Otilia Tsvegie Mukozho
Otilia Tsvegie Mukozho was born in 1979 in Zimbabwe. She attended Girls High School Harare from 1992-1997. She is a published writer, artist and poet under the name Tsvegie. Author of 'Gift of the Past' (Minerva Press. London. 1997), and a contributory poet in a 'A Woman's Plea' (Zimbabwe Publishing House. Harare. 1998). Tsvegie started painting abstracts and still life in the 1990s and has had an exihibitation at the Matombo Gallery and Zimbabwe National Gallery in 1996-1997. She received excellent reviews on 'Albino Lacking Reality and Dejected' titled paintings from The Herald and Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe). A member of Zimbabwe Women Writers Organisation between 1994-1997.Her paintings portray the life of ordinary Zimbabweans in a multi cultured society. She has worked as a youth worker for Zimbabwe Family Planning, Zimbabwe Mental Health Organisation and Zimbabwe Red Cross whilst she was in High School 1992-1997.
She left Zimbabwe in 1997 on completion of her A' Levels and went on to study Social Work in the UK and qualified in 2006. Still awaiting her asylum application decision, she continues to write and paint about current affairs and International issues.
Black or White
Black or white?
Isn’t the case my friend
Mugabe must go.
Bury him in the DRC mines.
Like a Pharaoh buried with all his riches.
Black or white
Isn’t the case my friend
Whose side are you on?
The killing of Zimbabwe
Or the success of Zimbabwe
Once a nation of great wealth and stability
Black or white
Isn’t the case
Never has been
Mugabe is intimidating you
His grip is choking you until
nothing of you is left
Alas for the uneducated
who follow like bees to the nest
Only to find no honey
Black or white
Has never been the case my friend
If so, where do you the
coloured or albino fit in?
Whose side are you on
Black or white??
By Tsve’gie (11.09)
Born so beautiful
and loyal to her culture
Mutilated at a young tender age
A loyalty she doesn’t question
Always giving always toiling
A beautiful melodious laughter
explodes as she toils all day
for her family
Born so beautiful
yet so disadvantaged
to circumstance by birth
Her blackness is
An unwanted people
Rejected by the land of her fathers
Her religion can not even
from her decided fate
Mutilated a suffering
beyond her imagination
Broken soul left
Left to die and be forgotten
Before coming to the UK as a refugee in 1993, he was professor of
French Language and Literature at the University of Mostar. During
his studies in France (1957-59), he wrote some poems in French. Before
the war, he published many poems in Serbo-Croat: the chronicle 'Skrivena
tvrdjava' (Hidden Fortress). After the Bosnia-Herzegovina war, he
published a lot of true stories concerning himself and the suffering
of people around him. As a refugee in London, he succeeded in finishing
his first novel 'Da je bilo srece..' (If there were any luck...),
which was published eight years after the end of the war. He has just
sent another novel to his publisher 'Unutrasnja ogrebotina' (Internal
From 1970 to 1975 he was director of the National Theatre in Mostar.
Prior to this, he wrote a play 'You too father!' that he translated
into English with Martin Taylor. This play has not yet been staged.
Kiss of the River Banks
Translated by Ivan Danicic
& Tom Harrison
Stone by stone
Stone upon stone
Stone against stone
And through the stones
The banks hold out their hands to each other
Binding one to the other
(And destroy them)
With their hands...
...Two banks became one
Each gives itself to the other
Kissing in the sky
That stone embrace
Becoming in turn a part of heaven
A part of ourselves
Nora Nadjarian is
an Armenian Cypriot poet and short story writer. A lot of her work focuses
on the loneliness of the "foreigner", the "exile",
the "homeless". She has published three collections of poetry
and her work has won prizes or been commended in various international
competitions, including the Scottish International Open Poetry Competition,
the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, and the Féile Filíochta
International Poetry Competition 2005 (Ireland).
Her second poetry collection Cleft in Twain
was one of the books from Cyprus recommended in an article in The Guardian
on the literature of the new member states of the European Union (1st
Her first collection of short stories, Ledra
Street, was published in 2006.
You asked me what I was
doing last Sunday, when
you called and didn't find me in.
I was standing in front of a waterfall
in the Tate Gallery. Not back, like most
people, but close, right up close, looking
looking at, into, this abstract landscape
behind white cascades. I was not sure whether
it was the trees first, or the water, or the shadows
I was recognising. It was all a haze - like
tear- but I clearly knew that the eyes of the land
watching me, lost, here, somewhere in London
were making me shed all my rough edges
to become a soft body full of contours,
ready to step into pounding water
to meet others clinging like me
onto the rock of their identity
in this never-ending, flowing,
falling, falling waterfall.
You asked me once what
it means to be Armenian.
It is quite difficult to explain.
© Nora Nadjarian
Inspired by Arshile Gorky’s
The Waterfall (1943)
Arshile Gorky (1904 - 1948) was born in Armenia and emigrated to the
USA in 1920. He has been referred to as an artist-in-exile, for whom
art became a homeland.
Majid Naficy was born in Iran in 1952. His first collection
of poems in Persian, In the Tiger's Skin, was published in 1969. One
year later his book of literary criticism, Poetry as a Structure,
In 1971 he wrote a children's book, The Secret of Words, which won
a national award in Iran.
In the seventies, Majid was politically active against the Shah's
regime. After the 1979 Revolution, the new theocratic regime began
to suppress the opposition, and more than ten relatives, including
his first wife Ezzat Tabaian and brother Sa'id were executed. He fled
Iran in 1983 and spent a year and a half in Turkey and France. Majid
then settled in Los Angeles where he lives with his son, Azad. He
has since published eight collections of poems, After the Silence,
Sorrow of the Border, Poems of Venice, Muddy Shoes (Beyond Baroque
Books, 1999), Twelve Poems in Love: A Narrative,I Write to Bring You
Back, Father & Son (Red Hen Press, 2003)and Galloping Gazelles
as well as four books of essays In Search of Joy: A Critique of Death-Oriented,
Male-Dominated Culture in Iran, Poetry & Politics and Twenty-Four
Other Essays, The Best of Nima and I Am Iran Alone and Thirty-Five
other Essays. He holds his doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and
Cultures from the University of California at Los Angeles. His doctoral
dissertation, Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature: A Return
to Nature in the Poetry of Nima Yushij was published by University
Press of America, Inc. in 1997. Majid Naficy is a co-editor of Daftarhaya
Kanoon a Persian periodical published by Iranian Writers' Association
On the Booksellers' Street of Baghdad
Written after the March 5, 2007 blast on the booksellers' street
named for Mutanabbi, the great Arab poet (915-65).
I saw Mutanabbi returning from Persia
He had heard the sound of Tigris, by the Kor River
Calling him back to Baghdad.
On his way, he had given his sword
To the Qarmati rebels in Gonaveh
Because he knew that from then on
He would have no friend but the pen.
He had told himself,
"I, Mutanabbi, poet, prophet and swordsman
Moved into the desert from Kufa
With the bedouins of Qarmati revolt
Looking for the secret of brotherhood.
I went to Aleppo with Prince Sayf of Hamdan
To stand against the Frank crusaders
And traveled to Persia with King Azod of Daylaman
To spread the seed of Arabic poetry.
Now I want to return to Iraq
Only to look from the bridge of Baghdad
At the fishermen in their nutshell boats
Who are gently rowing on the Tigris River.
I want to see the gnostic Mandaeans in their white towels
Making ablution in the shallow waters
While looking at the North star,
And from the diners on Abu-Nuwas St.
I want to buy lentil soup and Mazgoof fish
Barbecued on pomegranate sticks.
How happy it is to walk around
Near the reeds by the river
And watch the kisses of a young couple
From behind a palm tree
How happy it is to sit by the old harpist
And listen to the story of the Tigris River
Rushing from Mountains to the Persian Gulf,
How happy it is going to the Turkish bath
Before muezzin calls to prayer
And surrender one's body to the caressing fingers,
Cotton washcloth and bubbling soap
And when taking dry towels
Ask the receptionist for a glass of ice water
Then in a happy mood
Going to the House of Wisdom
And seeing the dazzles of joy
In the eyes of the youth."
Mutanabbi told himself,
"I am becoming a child again
Enchanted with playing words".
Looking down from the bridge of Baghdad
Mutanabbi saw nothing but blood
Running constently in the Tigris River.
Fishermen were hunting the dead
Farmers planting human bones
Mothers giving birth to headless babies
Behind bushes and sand domes
The beheaded running in the shallow waters
And the water-sellers shouted in the alleys:
"Fresh blood! fresh blood!"
On the booksellers' Row, a red fog
Had covered the sky and the earth
Muhammad, the binder, was looking in the ruins
For the cut-off head of his brother
Father of Hussein, the hummus-pedlar,
Was talking to one of his son's shoes
Shatri, the book-seller, was shedding tears
Running behind the half-burnt leaves of poetry
In the alleys on the east-side of the Tigris River
He was humming one of Mutanabbi's couplets,
"Even the blind can see the letters
And the deaf hear the sound of my poetry."
His robe clung to his skin
And his headdress was wet with blood.
He asked himself,
"People or Books?
Books or people?"
Should he put down the pen
And take the sword again?
The Tigris did not answer
It was running fast
Like an arrow shot from a bow.
March 19, 2007
Thabo Nkomo, the 'Border Voice Poet', was born in
1973 in Zimbabwe and came to the UK as a refugee in 2000. His languages
are Ndebele, Zulu and English. He trained as a praise poet and is
also a musician, artistic director and teacher and he has recorded
four music and poetry albums. One collection has been published in
Zulu and he is expecting 'Tears of my Dreams' to be published in 2006.
He performed in 'And the City Spoke': an Exiled Writers Ink production.
He has a diploma in education as well as a diploma in journalism.
Song of the hungry spirit
As we are drawn
in hunger and poverty,
bind us together
with codes that cannot be broken;
blend and refine us and
gently glide and sail with us
safely through the unfriendly storm.
Sea waves long for our souls,
jaws of the shark for our flesh and blood.
Darkness has fallen,
the moon refuses to shine;
the stars have fallen,
danger knocks at the door;
claws of death confront us.
Demolish fear and ignorance,
unite us to the bridge across;
tell the Western mountains to give us a warm welcome.
Paint the carpet of mother earth green –
red carpet we fear.
Gently wipe away our flowing tears,
bring back our smiles
and promise us a delicious Sunday roast of true justice.
We salivate for the fried potatoes of love,
green veggies of kindness,
a peaceful and warm Royco gravy.
Beef roast, pork, lamb or chicken?
Give us the freedom of choice
lest you forget the Yorkshire pudding,
lest we forget the grace before meals.
Playwright Jean-Louis N’Tadi was born in 1964
in Congo-Brazzaville. His works include the play Le Chef de l’Etat,
a parable highly critical of the presidency of Sassou-Nguesso which
has been performed in various venues in Brazzaville, the plays Vendu,
Verve d’une Creature and Monsieur le Maire which were destroyed
by the Brazzaville security services, and L’Acte de Naissance,
two volumes written during his detention at Campsfield. N'Tadi's new
play Cries of the Cricket was performed on the London Eye on 21 June
2005 as part of a celebration of African culture in advance of the
G8 summit in Scotland in July.
A political activist with the main opposition party and a Red Cross
humanitarian worker, he was dubiously charged by the government with
“trafficking information” and defamation in connection
with the disappearance of 400 refugees in 1999 during the civil war
in Congo Brazzaville. After his imprisonment, during which he was
tortured, he went into hiding until he obtained a visa for the UK
in December 2003. However, upon his arrival at Heathrow Airport in
February 2004, he was refused asylum in the UK and sent to Oakington
detention centre. Since then he has passed through five detention
centres and seven different lawyers, and endured countless interviews
and humiliation. He was detained at Campsfield House immigration detention
centre until his release on bail last year.
(Information provided by English PEN)
The glass of water
Translated by Irene Wyndham
It cleanses the soul, or the spirit of man,
The conjunctivitis which blocks the vision of the blind man;
And, like an eraser, it washes away the black blood, anointing an
Then elevates the sacred beauty of the fingers above that of the fingernails.
It buffers the shock of grieving and overheated hearts
It eases the digestion of food consumed on the run
Exhorts the throat to assuage its thirst
Dampens the hair so it can be moulded into a pretty style.
It holds the key to life
And sprays man with its perfume
Until the final days of his life
When he transforms into a dolphin.
With its limpid flavour
It facilitates rapid benedictions through its nourishing pores
Oh water! It’s the source of all life
And its gentle aroma makes us forever long for more.
Saint Francis House, Oxford, 3rd August, 2006
Son of a Superintendent of schools, Nkwachukwu Ogbuagu,
Nigerian poet, novelist and short story writer, was born on 16 January,
1968. He began writing fiction at the age of fifteen, and since then
has written five novels, eight collections of poems and two books
of short stories.
His third novel, BOSHETH WILLIAMS, was published in England in 2003.
A political, recommendable literary fiction for colleges and universities,
the novel was to generate controversies that riled the anger of the
northern section of his country. For this reason, Ogbuagu seeks santuary
in Britain as an exiled writer.
THE EYE OF AN EXILE
The eye of an exile,
A kaleidoscope of piercy range,
Sees frontiers of distant lands
The blue rim of the horizon
Stretches beyond its beginning,
Haunting spectres of banishments.
The eye of an exile
Reads the blooded refrains of
Satanic hymns hummed from home
And tears drip from the corner
Of the lone eye - a monocle in search
Of venues for communal funerals.
No pince nez for the eye of an exile,
Which forms a globule with an aperture
Of grief, nurtured in the chambers of the sinciput
And the exile follows his own sleuth
From the scent of broken shadows to the
Distorted vistas of truths.
IN THE DIARY
Walk on stilts,
High above stercoraceous grounds.
Waterstones crumble on
In one stertorous plunge of
Raising the belly of waters
To the consternation of sleeping shores.
Earthdrums sound now and then
In line with hostile rhythms
Of censured bliss.
In the distance, sternutative chorus
From a vainglorious choir, dampens the deep.
A cataplasm for hewn boulders, steal tears.
Beckoning on the soft touch,
(Gaping eyelet of springing metaphors)
Madness yawns for the very first time.
THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND (b. 1938): I am a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent writing for global syndication mostly from London and Eastern Europe. I survived the Holocaust as well as the three-month Soviet siege of Budapest as a Jewish child hiding from both the Nazis and the Allied bombers. I took part in the 1956 Hungarian revolution against Communist rule as a journalist on the staff of A Magyar Függetlenség. I later read philosophy at Acadia University in Nova Scotia and trained as a journalist on United Press International in Montreal and The Times and The Financial Times of London. My poetry has been published by the BBC World Service, The London Magazineand The New York Times, my reviews and polemics by The Times Literary Supplement (London), Foreign Policy (Washington) and The Jerusalem Report.As a journalist, I cover international affairs, society and the arts; and I pride myself for producing lively and authoritative copy, written to length, on time. My books include eight collections of poetry in many editions, some of them English translations of work by little known, major Holocaust poets. My next book will beThe Survivors: Holocaust Poetry for Our Time (Smokestack, England, 2014). I can be reached at Thomland111@Hotmail.Com
Adapted from the Renaissance French of Francois Villon (b. 1431) & the Hungarian of György Faludy (1910-2006)
Villon the vagabond was one of Europe’s first modern poets. Faludy, a Jewish-Hungarian master, spent some of his best writing years in exile or political imprisonment. This poem about the massive Westward flow of abused stateless migrants that characterises the 21st century is dedicated to The Exiled Writers Ink! organization of London.
I've proudly wrapped my dazzling sky around me
yet I have found one faithful friend: the fog.
In banquet halls I've heard my hunger howling.
By fires, I have endured the test of frost.
I am a prince of human kind: I've reached out
and to my thirsty lips, the mud has swelled –
My paths are marked by wilting wildflowers: even
the festive seasons wither from our breath.
I stare surprised in disbelief when genial
warm sunshine holds my frame in calm caress.
And thus across three continents I've traveled
and been despised and welcomed everywhere.
I've wrestled with the storms on shriveled wastelands.
My dress: a leaf that graced a bygone tree.
And nothing's clearer to me than night's fragrance
and nothing darker than high noontide's blaze.
My rising sobs have burst in wary taverns
but in the graveyards I have laughed my fill,
and all I own are things I've long discarded
and thus I've come to value everything.
Upon my stubborn curls, the spell of autumn
collects its silver while, a child at heart,
I cross this freezing landscape never pausing,
and live despised and welcomed everywhere.
Triumphant stars erect their vast cathedral
above me, and dew calms my feet below
as I pursue my fleeing god in sorrow
and sense my world through every pore in joy.
I've rested on the peaks of many mountains.
I’ve sweltered with the captive quarry-slaves.
And at my cost, I’ve learned to shun the towers
of state and curse our rulers’ power games.
My share: the worst and best in every bargain,
and thus I've come to find an equal ease
in squalor and beneath the whitest pillars,
a guest despised and welcomed everywhere.
I have no state, no home – nor choice but freedom.
Between my legs, the playful wind alone
performs a merry duet with my arse-hole.
I wish that I could quell the foolish fears
of local folks, that they would see the person
I am, beyond my status, and receive
my gift of words I’ve brought to share with them.
The time may come when all my words will rhyme
and I will dip my pen in molten gold
...before I find a restful spot beneath
some wizened thicket, and remain forever
a voice: despised and welcomed, everywhere.
A poet has been murdered by Hiva Panahi
the distances unfolded everywhere
17. 2.1997, Kurdistan - Iran
the gazes were scattered everywhere
the sounds searched for you everywhere
your eyes were found in the streets
covered in snow…
Hiva is a poet, translator and short story writer.
Hiva Panahi was born in Sina (Sanandaj) of Kurdistan, Iran, in 1980. Her first poem appeared in the Kurdish magazine, Serwe, when she was thirteen. Today she collaborates on a regular basis in very well known magazines of Iraqui Kurdistan as well as of Europe. In 1997, she with three other young women founded the new feminist movement in Iran, as a reaction to the condemnation to death by stoning of colleague of theirs by the theocratic regime, with the consequence of a few months imprisonment. Because of these conditions, she had to take refuge in Iraq, where she stayed for two years. In 2000, she came to Greece with a scholarship from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She is a member of the Kurdish Academy which is based in Paris.
Hiva studied at Athens University and Social and Political Sciences at Panteion University. She has a degree in sociology from Panteion University and is a candidate for a doctorate in the same department.
She is active in the socialist democrat party (PSOK)and in the management organism for women for peace (kede)and she worked with Nanos Valauritis, the famous important Greek poet. She has published many articles in Kurdish and Greek languages.
1.The Secrets of Snow, was published in 2001,in Arbil Kurdistan of Iraq
2. Interviewing Techniques of writers rand Researchers By Suzan Dune, translation
3.Our Home ,by Anna Mary Shaptoton , translation
4.The Epic of The Blue Flowers, By De Paola, translation
5.Golden Coin ,by Alma Flur Ada, translation
6.In This Night, by Irmiga Loschet translation
7.The Epic Of Love, by Samad Behrangi, translation
8. Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, Published 2005 Sulaimaia , Iraq
9. Aristotle’s Politics, Sulaimaia 2007
A collection of her poetry:
10. Secrets of Snow”, published in the Greek language in 2008 bay Maistros publication, translation by Hiva Panahi
was a South
African lawyer and political activist before coming into exile in the
UK in 1987. Her short stories have appeared in many anthologies and
magazines and have won several prizes, including the Booktrust London
Award. She also writes articles and reviews for newspapers and magazines.
Lara Popovic is a 27 year old poet and visual artist of Serbian origin. Her work has appeared in magazines across the U.K and U.S, including Adanna, Inclement, and La Reata. She lives in London. www.larapopovic.carbonmade.com
Divided (from A Botanical Guide to Love)
The gate from joy
The root from the stem
Who is your mother; eye of a winking moon?
Who is your soil, this gumption under your boots?
Who is your beloved; a tendril ripped from the whole?
Divided, go forth
Divided, run away again
Was the pressure of his mouth too much?
Was the sensation of his skin too much?
Divided, the ram-rod of the branding iron
Divided, the run-around thoughts in your mind
Who is your father; this wrinkle in a cloud?
Who is your teller; this God you imagine to be watching?
Who eats your feast; this dry scattering of crumbs?
Hadi Qarachay was born in 1966 in a village near Tabriz called Suyari and completed high school in Tabriz. Since then he has been exiled in many different places including Baku and Germany. He was a political prisoner in Iran. He now lives in Finland. His first book was published in Germany and brought him fame in the Azerbaijani literature world. His second book entitled Garden of Almonds was a great gift for Azerbaijan poetry. He is editor of the journal 'Suzonsozu' which is one of the most prestigious in the Azeri world.
Sun be our Witness by Hadi Gharachai
Sun be our witness
Soil be our witness
Tree be our witness
Leaves be our witness
Of what is transpiring
Our reverie resembles a childhood dream
From speech to speech and from words tasting of love
We planted a tree
That was our sin
If only words were just combinations of sounds
When I say that I just fled soldiers armed with guns
You imagine that I talk about stars twinkling on your black dress
When I say „bullet”
You somehow smell a flower in this word
When I say that Sun is blindfolded and led away with his arms bound behind
You hear a heart pounding during lovemaking
You imagine a woman in the pangs of childbirth
Far from all the images, beyond all the words
I will look at you with my hungry eyes
And you will unbutton your red dress for me.
Out of all colours
It is as pretty as a birthmark, a little star on your chest
Out of all flowers
It is as pretty as a freckle on your neck
Out of all women
The only one to wear white dress in my whole life
Please spread the honey of your voice
On the bread of my name
And give it to the silver-haired child that I am
In a valley of my verse
A group of barefoot boys
Kick a ball around
Nazanin Rakhshandeh born in Iran studied
Literature then Sociology. Later went back to study Garden Design. She
has worked in the community development area and was a member of the
editorial team of an Iranian feminist journal for nine years. She now
lives in London and works as both an English as a Second Language teacher
and garden designer. She has two children. She has been writing poetry
since her youth and her favourite word is 'life' and the least favoured
one is 'never'.
27th may 2000
in the warmth of the night
i hung the wet day to dry
and let the weight of memories sink
into the land of dreams
the trellis is of bamboo
of the hollows inside with the outer shell hard
words like marble roll:
haruko hiriko ma'hi
yukiko and mi young
ginki yuji oscar
honeysuckle intertwined into that trellis
i sensed the scent of the words
in that warm floating twenty seventh of may night
this sky, has a new moon
situated in the language of blue
in all shades and hues;
for lack of light we image the night black
glitters of the night are hung from the ceiling of my longings
passion and lust
undifferentiated in the greys
the grammar of indigo transforms into a gem
boasting of this blessed crescent
i catch sight of the heavens
and say: ah!!!
an e-mail message
dearie dear me oh me oh my! the idea's to connect....
click on checking mail enter password the four letter
word so closely guarded as if your only treasure or the dark
secret shared with absolutely no one....getting ready for
connection sign comes on ...all reaching out... preparing for
transfer ppp statues dialling 214 1515 starting ppp
authenticating starting network protocols..the cancel key is
there too always if need be...later a pensive snake-that's the
symbol on my apple - comes on to say you have no new mail!
the deeper your love the greater that missing feeling when it's
not with the OK box to click on for acceptance that we also
do with due perception..this time it says: the pesky mac tep is
acting up again there are udp streams open udp
maybe unidentified delirious purposes, the news of a new mail
appears as a rooster the one one hopes to hear...born to
touch and be touched we are growing into future generations
of life on earth oh yes we were meant to be together like the
green in the forest that bonds the trees to the ferns and the
moss to... and with loneliness comes a feeling of without and
not from within the idea's to connect love is a human
condition were born to touch and grow into future
generations of life on earth and loneliness comes when love's
not..once again the pesky mac tep is acting up again and I'm
so living the life of the god of small things time rolls on
and on and this is a message in an e-mail yes you
have mail! from nazanin
Mehrangiz Rassapour (M. Pegah) was born in south
east of Iran ( Khoram-abad).
She started writing poetry when she was nine and had her first GHAZAL,
published in a prestigious literary magazine when she was thirteen
and married at the age of Eighteen.
She received her B.A. in Literature before coming to live in England
Her first book of poetry entitled “Jaragheh Zood Mimirad”
(SPARK DIES AT ONCE) published in Iran in 1992. This was followed
by her second collection “. . . AND THEN THE SUN” ( .
. . Va Sepass Aftaab) published in England.
Her third book “BEYOND The WINGS Of The BIRD” (Parandeh
Digar,Nah) published in Germany, won great acclaim for her unique
Her works including her two famous poems “STONING” and
“LASH” has been published in several languages, such as
English, German, Norwegian and various others.
Since living in London, she has been invited to give lectures and
recitals of her works, both in England and overseas.
In 1999 she founded “Today’s Review” a forum for
classical and modern Persian Literature inviting scholars from everywhere
At present she is the chief editor of “VAJEH” (Word )
a very well know magazine for literature and Culture that she established
in 2002 which can be seen in this address: www.vajehmagazine.com
Her two new books are in the process of publication.
Translated from the Persian by Robert Chandler
Where is the stolen morning?
In the continent of blood!
Trying to be provocative?… lash!
In what state were you arrested?
I was stamping morning’s passport
Smuggling contraband?… lash!
Where is your husband!
He’s lost in his dark wedding-suit.
Wanting to ban marriage?… lash!
Where did you steal your fever?
Eh… Eh… From the wounds of day.
Coughing an ancient cough!… lash!
Display your dreams!
They’ve sought asylum
In the navel of a star.
The star of a fortunate tomorrow.
Trying to instil hope?… lash!
Your dreams have been seen.
Your thought clamour has been heard.
What do you have to say?
My fever… must have betrayed me.
Still don’t surrender?… lash!
Say out loud what you’re murmuring!
I can see you clearly in the darkness.
We’ll take out your eyes… lash!
I can see with my skin.
We’ll peel off your skin… lash!
I’ll see with my bones.
We’ll burn your bones… lash!
I’ll see with my ashes.
We’ll cast your ashes to the winds… lash!
You will multiply my eyes.
The sky will be full of my eyes
What will you do with the new buds?
With the birds?
With the water?
Put the air in quarantine?
Trying to be clever?… Lash!
Where have you hidden your destiny?
In what follows on from day.
Needling night?… Lash!
Where have you stored the power of your hate?
Yesterday I sent it off to my child.
Your child? Ha-ha. Ha-ha.
We snuffed out his life… the day before yesterday!
…?! …?! …?!
May light… shine…
May light shine… on his place.
What was your father’s job?… lash!
He ran the length of his ill-fortune.
Where is your mother?… lash!
The moment I was arrested, she left.
Where to?… lash!
To visit the grave of her hopes.
Where are her hopes?… lash!
Under your lash!
Laughing at us?… lash… lash… lash
* * *
Ha-ha Ha-ha Ha-ha
Her spirit laughed
Opened the stolen morning
Put her head on the horizon
onto the surface
Translated from the Persian by Robert Chandler
I was all in red
My clothes were the colour of my blood
Blood- red is rude
My long hair longed for air
But we can’t have air here
My footsteps called out
Sound excites lust
Seeing is forbidden
Kissing is forbidden
Drinking is forbidden
Sobriety is forbidden
The past is forbidden
The future is forbidden
I’m a woman
I have eyes
I have a tongue
I have a brain
You who were not born of a mother!
Shirin Razavian born in
Tehran, has been writing poetry since the age of 9. She has studied
Persian and English literature and due to the present situation in Iran
and lack of freedom of expression and censorship she fled her country
and started building a new life in London. Her first Persian poetry
book was published in London in October 1997. She has worked with the
Iranian P.E.N Centre in exile as the International Secretary for 2 periods
of 2 years. Presently is member of the chair committee of Iranian Writers
Association in Exile. Shirin's second book was published in June 1999
called " The sad universality of Oyster". Third book named
"Sweet sonnets" was published March 2001 includes 50 "Ghazals"
in social and political themes. Her Farsi-English book called "Season
of the Crow" is being published at present.
August Is Already Winter
Translated by Sudeep Sen and Shirin Razavian
The ground is ice-cold
with many layers of frozen water,
like diamond cut at their edges.
my hands freeze
as my heart turns
blue, and more blue
An old myth says
that everyone's a snowman-
and on them, I carve
they lie through their teeth.
Their heart is too cold, white
like frozen earth. It's only August,
but the weather is sheer winter
Vesna Ruzicka; Her varied career began in her home
town of Sarajevo where she lectured in English language and literature
which was followed by many years of active journalism. Coming to London
in 1983, she worked as a producer for the BBC World Service and as
a foreign correspondent for the Sarajevo Daily 'Oslobodjenje', as
well as for the news agency SENSE. Theatre was one of her passions
and included writing, directing, performing and producing plays for
the University of Sarajevo Theatre company, as well as training young
actors. She published The Use of Drama Techniques in ELT. She has
completed a bilingual collection of poems and is in the process of
finishing her first novel in English. She has also written a musical
about the life and traditions of an old, now deserted Dalmatian village,
which she hopes will be staged in London in the near future.
(from the collection Thanatos & Eros in
the Abode of Invisibles)
his homeland groans
Powerless he sits
turning to stone
In his dispair, alone
darkness he faces
His memories bleed
his face motionless
On the surface
the tension mounts
unless you look deep
inside still deeper down
the anguish abides
A merciless intruder
eating him away
London, Spring 2000.
Zemlja daleko, stenje
Od nemoci, ne krsi ruke
vec skamenjen sjedi
Na licu ni trzaja
a napetost nagriza
Ne vidi je
ko ne gleda dublje
cemer se nastanio
raste, jaca, razara
kao nezvani gost
kao uljez izvana
kao ubojica iznutra
London, proljece 2000
Hastie Salih is originally from
the Kurdish region in Northern Iraq and spent her childhood in Wales
and Germany. She has published short stories and poems in Germany
and Britain. Hastie worked as a journalist for the magazine “
Kurdistan Heute” ( Kurdistan Today ) in Bonn, Germany. At
present Hastie works as a G.P in London . She is currently writing
her first novel and is a member of Exiled inc.
Poem in the Anthology “The Silver
Throat of the Moon” edited by Jennifer Langer
Whoever thought liberty was dead?
It’s just mountains ahead!
Watch the silver-streaked streams
Bouncing freely through fertile fields so bright,
Of Liberty, of Life.
Inhale the dew of the meadows
Inhale the sunlight
Whoever thought liberty was dead?
It’s just mountains ahead!
Ravaged rivers may be tainted with blood
Watch them wriggle through the tiniest crevice of sun-
They say they see contorted bodies
In a sea of despair
But even these defy
The piercing sun’s glare.
Whoever thought liberty was dead?
It’s just mountains ahead!
As jagged mountains emerge
Sliding shadows are cast
Upon sleeping sheep, ready to graze
By the sky’s boundless rays.
Of all the battles in the past
Of all the passages through time and place
Of all the trials of our human race
Freedom has always been achieved
Humanity eventually retrieved
Whoever thought liberty was dead?
It’s just mountains ahead!
Yashar Ahad Saremi, born December
29th, 1972 Iran in city of Tabriz. Graduate 1994 from film school
in Turkey. Came to United States, California Los Angeles in 1994.
Married to Guner Akgun in Turkey. Have 3 children.
Published books in Farsi:
Arthur's house: selected short stories, 2000 Los Angeles, published
Yashar's quartets 2004 Los Angeles
Selected short stories published by Narnejestan
Tabrizian sonnets poetry 2005 Tehran Iran Vistar Publishers
The song of ibn- salam 1
Translated by : Richard McKane
because i believe the word of the red rose
i'd say you are the red rose's son
because i know all the receivers are hopeless
i'll put red phones at each table
so you can call those who have
hands wounded from birth
please check your emails
before you begin the last supper
i bought the airplane tickets for you
if you are able to come
i give you my word that
i'll change places with judas
so the price of wine and cigarettes won't go up
now for my sins
and for the goats who wag their tails on the edge
do not give away your flesh and your blood to them,
your deep redness,
come over, smoke, and give life to the woods
The song of ibn- salam 2
Translated by : Richard McKane
i had been listening to memories of iron bars and chains
then i started flying
the indian face that was behind the wheel
was not smiling and said:
“ there it is, sinbad’s tower “
the waiter with a smile from outer space
took me to one of the tables
that were flying in the air
as soon as i saw the bird in the saucer
the deepest scent of rose
came out of my hands
- what would you like to eat tonight?
you lover, the waiter asked.
when i extended my hand to the bird,
suddenly my friends appeared around
the table still sitting on their chairs
and words wandered from mouth to mouth
"we desire your flesh and blood, you red rose”
while i was looking for my father,
the phone rang
it was judas who was calling me, he said
“stravinsky ordered the fire bird for you”
…when he showed up he was wearing
a red shirt and leather jacket
this time he had his hair cut short
he extended his hand to the bird
when he bit the wing
he turned into a swarm of golden flames
i saw my father leaving on his wooden horse
Dumi is an internationally acclaimed poet and children’s book author born in Zimbabwe. He has performed in honour of Mandela at the invitation of BBC Radio Leicester and has been a guest speaker at the 2014 UN Human Rights Council 25th Session in Geneva and the Houses of Parliament, UK.
He has been personally mentored by Civil Rights legend Clarence Thompson, OBE. His poetry has been published in several countries including Ghana, Canada and Germany. His debut children’s book “The Day the Sun Promised to Smile FOREVER!“ was published in Geneva and translated to five languages to help raise funds for “Innocence In Danger”, a children’s foundation established at the initiation of the UNESCO Director General. He has shared the stage with leading African personalities at the Oxford University Pan-African Conference including HM King Letsie III of Lesotho, Hon. Pravin Gordhan Minister of Finance, South Africa and Dr. Guy Scott, Vice President of Zambia.
Dumi has appeared on stage and performed with the world famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, been a winner of the Zimbabwean Achievers Awards and nominee for the BEFFTA Poet of the year Award. In 2014 he was appointed the first ever Ambassador of the Zimbabwe Educational Trust. He has gained international reputation for peace activism and work to inspire young people.
Black, White, Brown, Mixed… So What!
Need I blow the vuvuzela?
To make you understand my brothers and sisters
That a rainbow is a rainbow because of all its colours
I’ve been watching children play, watching them grow
They miss nothing and see everything
Everything but the colour of skin colour
Life in their eyes
Is like a big lollipop with stripes
Why can’t we all be children like?
Black, white, brown, mixed… so what!
Oh yes! I am aware of history
Aware of its ugly faces I am
Evil too and its recycled phases breeding doom
But history just like the seasons transitions with time
There are times of winter, droughts and famine
But just as sure as day will follow night
The rains will come
Times of plenty and plenty of sunshine
Black, white, brown, mixed… so what!
That fleeting illusion Bob Marley sang about
That dream alluded to by Martin Luther King
on the hill
That robbed Mandela’s freedom on Robben Island
Village pitted against village
Nation against nation
That valley of human values the trough beyond which we cannot fall
And claim to be human at all
That line has been crossed
And I for one am cross
To see such great work
By such greats
Put to such great waste
Black, white, brown, mixed… so what!
Does it count?
That I count as the minority of the county
Why does the colour of my skin break the banks of their patience?
They that are not gifted with colour blindness
That see not beauty deeper than skin pigment
Carry they excuses hollower than elephant tasks
That will not forgive the past
Their ignorance can be trusted to take more to the grave than flying bullets
And their hate to enslave more than binding chains
How better are they than cats and dogs?
That hate for the sake
How sad are we to feed off the hate bowl?
For goodness sakes
Black, white, brown, mixed… so what!
About the poem
Black, White, Brown, Mixed… So What! Is one of Dumi’s flagship poems written in honour of heroic figures like Mandela who have influenced his outlook on life and humanity in a very personal way, but also for many unsung heroes and heroines daily struggling for racial equality throughout the world. Dumi has performed the poem at the Exiled Writers Café on three occasions. The performance invites the audience to participate and answer back, which makes the poem enjoyable and accessible.
Rouhi Shafii is a social scientist and author. She
has a BA in English Literature and an MA in Social Sciences from Tehran
University and an MA in Women's Studies and Education from the University
of London. For 17 years, Rouhi worked at management level in the Iranian
private and public sectors, including Iranian Airlines, Ministry of
Labour and Social Affairs. The revolution of 1979 brought an enforced
end to her career. Since 1985, she has made London her home. As a social
scientist, Rouhi has focused on social problems, particularly those
of women. She writes articles and lectures on women's issues. As an
author and translator, she has translated and published two books in
Iran :'Women of Vietnam', 1982 and 'Argentina, National Resistance and
Peron's Dictatorship', 1981. She has edited a book on the history of
women's movements throughout the world. Her recent book, published in
Britain, is entitled 'Scent of Saffron' and she is currently completing
a historical novel.
Scent of Saffron
My grandparents' house
My grandparents' house in Kerman was typical of desert houses. The
rooms, all surrounding a desert courtyard, were spacious and bright,
with high ceilings and colourful glass at the top of the doorframe.
The biggest room, with two doors opening on to the verandah, was kept
spotlessly tidy and always looked ready for guests. Carpets covered
the entire floor area of all the rooms. Mattresses were spread on
the floors, on the top of the carpets from wall to wall, and handmade
cushions were laid against each wall for guests to lean on. Curtains
were embroidered with lace, and oil lamps, colourful crystal and glasswork,
decorated the shelves. The courtyard was bordered by cypress and pine
trees and all types of flower-bed. A pond stocked with goldfish was
located in the middle of the courtyard and vases of geraniums were
laid around it. Summer evenings began by the splashing of cool water
over the hot stones of the courtyard. Water would spread on the wide
verandahs, in front of the rooms and over to the 'pashuyeh' (borders
of the pond). Moist air would fill the courtyard. The carpets were
spread around and cushions laid against the wall on the verandah.
Dinner was placed on a white sofreh, on the floor. The family shared
such summer evenings, sitting around the sofreh. cross-legged, eating
and conversing. The main evening entertainment was story-telling by
the elders, poetry reading or talking about ordinary events of the
The house had a thick wooden gate at the entrance which opened onto
a long, enclosed corridor. The courtyard appeared at the end of this
corridor. The gates had big metal handles, with which people had to
knock hard in order to be heard. Couples had their own quarters but
the kitchen and the guest-room were shared by all. Sometimes, a widowed
aunt, mother-in-law or a single uncle lived in the same household.
Servants had their own rooms, usually located by the gate.
Ruhangiz Sharifian, born in Tehran, Iran. Education:
M.A. in child psychology Vienna University. Married, two children.
Living in England since 1981. Published two volumes of short stories
1993, 2005, three volumes of essays on child education 1993, 2001,
2002. The novel (Cheh kasi bavar mikonad, Rostam) published in 2004.
One short story ( translated to English) was short listed in the London
Art Board, 1995.
The novel received the award for the best first novel of the year
in 2004 by the Golshiri
Foundation in Iran, and in addition to receiving many favourable reviews
reached the finals of other awards during 2004 and 2005.
London - March 2000
This fear always comes over me, whenever I am at the airport.
I don’t know if it is an obsession or a fear. It always comes
while I am waiting for him, looking at other passengers. It is an
obsession, without any reason.
I must buy him a suitcase or a coat, one which would be different
from all other coats. I must do this otherwise, what I am most afraid
of will happen.
My fear is that, he will arrive, pass me by and we won’t see
each other. I keep looking carefully at every passenger, and then
say to myself : what if he has been hanged ?
As the passengers begin to appear through the exit, my anxiety worsens.
Maybe he is this one, but his hair is so white. Maybe during this
time his hair has turned white. How could I possibly know, I wasn’t
there.What if he has lost weight, Just like him, there the one dragging
his suit case behind him.
No not this one, definitely. He could not have put on so much weight.
How about the one with the dark glasses, or the one with a camera
around his neck?
What if he has cut his hair short, like before?
Or this one who drags his suitcase with him instead of using a trolley?
I haven’t seen that suitcase before.
What about the one with that hat? Is it him? May be he has put on
a hat on purpose?
Someone is coming with a sunburnt face, is it him? You could get a
tan if you stayed in the sun for a long time.
I’m not worried about the one with skiis, but what about the
one on crutches?
It would have been better if we had arranged to wear particular clothes
or colours, then I would see him at first glance.
With the speed these passengers are passing through, I am afraid
to even blink. He could pass me by, in the twinkling of an eye and
we’d lose each other.
What about the one who is coming now? I suppose it could be him. He
looks so old. No it is not him.
But, what if he has had a very hard time.
I must buy him a suitcase, that is the best way. A shiny red suitcase.
It would be even better if I could afford an expensive one. They are
very distinctive and not everyone has one.
But a red suitcase is a better idea, you can see it from a distance.
I could see him from afar with no problem. No matter how late he was.
As soon as I saw the red suitcase, I’d recognise him.
But perhaps he wouldn't accept a red suitcase? May be he wouldn’t
It is better if I buy him a special coat. I can easily recognise
a coat. A coat that nobody else has. Then I’ll wait for him
with peace of mind and no anxiety. I will be able to find him amongst
a thousand people.
What if he does not recognise me? Who knows, maybe I have changed
too. I won’t be able to tell. You don’t look at yourself
every day in the mirror. You can’t see the changes.
Yes it is better if I go and wait in front of the gate.
Anouche Sherman was born in Paris and spend her childhood between
Paris and Jerusalem. She writes short prose and poetry in both
French and English, translates, and is a Multi- Media artist. Some
of her work has been published in French literary reviews and a
selection of her English writings can be read on her website.
www.anouchesherman.com. She has been living in London since 1987.
N O B O R D E R S
He gets into the shallow end of the sea. That is where the water meets the sand. He likes neither.
He won’t get his legs wet past the ankles. He walks a few steps. He gets into the water to get away
from the sand. If the water reaches his knees, he turns back towards the sand. He gets into the shallow end because one must get into the water. He gets into the water but he does not want to get wet past his ankle. He does not like the dry sand either. He gets into the shallow end of the sea to show staring faces on the sand that he is not scared of the deep end. “Sink or swim,” they shout in his head. He won’t get wet past his ankles, his knees are knuckled and weak. And in his head faceless figures shout from the sand, “Swim or sink.” This is not a question one asks oneself. He gets into the shallow end of the water.
Nothing is an obstacle in this world
Not frozen sounds painted thick over white words
Nor nature’s voice locked in as time stands still
Forgotten for a while as ages cease
And obstacles are nothing if nothing is not a thing
Or else nothingness would not sleep underneath
Frozen grounds a canvas to buds that spring
A splash of pink between the trees
And all fades
And nothing is
N o B o r d e r s. 2010
At the end / when you think of it / and what you got from it / and that it made you feel good // whichever way you look at it / and all you gave up for it // to get away from it //
there is nothing else to it // it was air & water.
We stand divided
Hearts and eyes weep
Eyes and hearts
Variation ≈ Aria
Together divided we weep
We stand divided eyes and hearts divided
We fall together we weep
Hearts and eyes weep
Richard Sherwin, a long time member of the Bar-Ilan
faculty, has published two books of poems, A Strange Courage and Nomad
in God, and has translated some of the work of Israeli poets Shmuel
Shatal and Miron Izaakson.
His research interests include Creative Writing, Bible, Medieval Chinese
and Japanese Poetry and Culture, Ancient Greek and Roman Poetry and
Culture, and digital photography.
Drunk on Heaven
In between the rains we prayed for and got
our ceilings walls and windows dripping mold
--if we’d had faith we would have fixed them summers
but God had faith in us and poured us gold—
the air a blessing in the lungs and throat
the sun and wind a kiss upon the skin
the cloudless blue an ease inside the eyes
a bottle day from cellars of the sky
The crowds came out to watch the placid sea
and drink their day cafes upon the beach
or crunching shells and pebbles trekking sand
along the tide still high on storms to come
Each step each breath each wave distilling how
so drunk on heaven grace on earth is now.
2 Mar 03
to listen to poem by Richard Sherwin - 'Drunk on Heaven'
A poem by r.e. sherwin
little rock d.c. nightclubs
southern all my wars
waited eighty years
to say what i thought and felt
and all of it gone
not even the groan of night
trains echo thru my dreaming
not even sixty
years ago saxophones blasts
thru fogs of drunk and smoke and
music for tin ears
dancing rattling to and thru
moons never quite full
suddenly suddenly old
suddenly suddenly dark
all my wars unfinished the
night trains rolling still
Published by VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) MENORAH REVIEW Winter/Spring 2014. Number 80 [Richmond, Virginia] www.menorahreview.org
Darija Stojnic was born in Sarajevo,
Bosnia and lived there until the out break of war in 1992. She worked
as a lawyer/manager in the General Office of the Radio TV Sarajevo.
She lives in London since March 1993. Darija writes short stories. She
works as a counsellor for the Minster Centre and the Mapesbury Clinic
in London and as a journalist for the Bosnian Paper edited in Norway.
Her stories were published in three books, and magazines in London.
She is finalising her first book of short stories about her life as
a refugee in London. She is a committee member of the EWR.
(Translated from Bosnian by Branka Danon)
Even in her late years, my grandma Dragica, was a beautiful
woman. Her thick black hair, her big piercing green eyes and her stiff
upright posture elicited a strange respect. She did not talk much, she
did not laugh. She used to work in the house round the clock. I can
hardly remember her ever sitting. She was well educated and uncompromising,
sharp and acidic in her dealings, especially with the women from the
neighbourhood. For me she had a soft spot.
This Grandma of mine divided her life into two parts:
Before the Occupation and after. Like her, this division was rough and
bitter. Quite often, almost daily, whenever making comparisons, all
the pleasant and good things took place before the Occupation. I was
a little girl at that time and was confused by the word Occupation.
I could not understand what it meant. I could not even pronounce it
properly and would ask my Grandma time and again: "What does occupation
mean?" In response to all my chatter and questioning, she would
just wave her hand and talk to herself; "God forbid that such a
thing should happen to anybody ever again".
Later I learnt that Occupation actually meant The War,
but even then it was not clear to me why she didn't simply say - before
and after the war, as this was easier to understand and sounded less
pathetic. It never occurred to me that the time would come when these
things would explain themselves.
Memories of my childhood and my Grandma's house are a
strange mixture of the magic of childhood and reality. I felt wonderfully
well, warm and protected in her house full of aromas. She was constantly
cooking or sewing. It was the peak of my happiness when, while baking
bread or something, she would give me a piece of dough to make my own
product, or when she would let me comb her hair. Nevertheless, I have
still not forgotten the shock I would experience from the cockroaches
behind the settee in the kitchen, nor have I forgotten the famous "icy"
room in which the dampness rising halfway up the walls and window panes
would freeze and remain frozen all through the winter. Nor the "horror"
when I had to leave the warm kitchen in order to go to the freezing
cold bed in the "icy" room. It makes me shiver even to think
of it now.
At the same time, when the two of us lived together, I
did not think of these strange things, of her unusual behaviour, of
her long periods of silence. To put it simply, I was too small to understand
why, but not too small to notice that it was hard for my grandma to
live every day of her life. I paid no special attention to the thick
old carpet which was carefully rolled up and placed on top of a wardrobe,
or to the old chairs covered with cloth and put away in a corner, not
to be used. I also remember the old never-used crystal glasses. They
were kept in the kitchen cupboard to be taken out only for dusting.
And the photographs, when they come to mind; some of them in albums
bound in thick leather and some in frames. On each of them an extraordinarily
beautiful and happily smiling Dubrovnik lady with her handsome husband
and two sons. It never crossed my mind that all these "precious"
objects were from before the Occupation, and that they were the only
things my Grandma had left from a life she had led some place else,
some time before.
I have learnt that my Grandpa was killed during the war
and that my Grandma was left with two children. That she had to sew
for people she never knew before, in order to provide for her children.
But I could not envisage this other life of my Grandma's nor could I
comprehend it clearly.
I did not understand her comparisons, nor the division
of her life into these two periods and it was my firm opinion that we
were lacking nothing. When we got our new flat it was not clear to me
why she dragged all these old things with her. The carpet was old and
too big, the chairs were not appropriate and the glasses were nothing
Grandma died in 1972, as bitter and unhappy as she had
been during this part of her life. Later, the Sarajevo War happened.
Ugly and disgusting. Occupation happened to me. And as if everything
was repeating itself, another generation has started living on its memories
and irrational comparisons.
THE WAR OF THE ROSES
Once I had a garden of roses.
I used to celebrate their smell and worship their forms.
Many passers-by would stop on their way and bend their heads to their
Until one night a rock-slide destroyed my garden, mashing rose petals
with the soil.
On the ruins of their smells I have built again the garden
and enclosed it with a wall.
Passers-by said -
We will help you to build a taller and stronger wall.
And they built it. And they set night-watches to protect my garden
from the rocks,
and other misfortunes.
Now many more strangers were coming from everywhere to offer admiration
this Kingdom of Beauty.
We want to look after them too, they said to the night-watchers.
We want to be close to them and to drink from their petals.
No, said the night-watchers, we are the only keepers of the Beauty.
And the others said, they belong to us as much as to you.
Why are you hiding them from us?
That is how the war of the roses started.
In anger and hatred they destroyed my garden.
So I began to cultivate the garden in myself.
The garden of the imprinted smells and colours of my roses.
Since then, I have met many others
with gardens inside themselves.
Fiona Sze-Lorrain is a poet, editor, translator (in three languages), and concert zheng harpist. Born in Singapore, she graduated from Columbia University and New York University, and also holds a PhD in French at Paris IV-Sorbonne. She has published two volumes of poetry,My Funeral Gondola (Manoa Books/El Leon Literary Arts, 2013) and Water the Moon (Marick, 2010). She has published several books of translation from Chinese to English by contemporary PRC poets (Zephyr Press and forthcoming from Tupelo), and two books from English to French, most recently the work of Mark Strand. She lives in Paris, France. (www.fionasze.com)
Until the quavers become feathers of a fountain, Ravel remains a beast that charges through the room. G sharps and B flats are four times as restless. Phrases unshapely, notes flutter like fish out of an aquarium. Arpeggios, says Martha, must be water, touched at
room temperature and without edges. Staccatos are black stones you go inside. You can’t
jump too high, you must weigh less than the stones. I am nine and here is where wisdom
should begin. Très doux. Très expressif. Très rapide. I am working on three ways to enter a fountain. I found five. Imagine butterflies in a lightful dome. Imagine clouds a belt around your waist. These are the best two to sustain the flight. To spend the pedal. To betray the title. If only I knew fountains never look the same.
© Fiona Sze-Lorrain, My Funeral Gondola (El León/Mãnoa Books, 2013)
© Edin Suljic
Adina Tarry was born and educated in Romania. She left the country to become a “global expatriate” and live in five other countries on three continents, working for blue chip organisations. In recent years, based in London she is an independent organisational consultant, coach, business psychologist and associate lecturer. Passionate about people, cultures and languages, Adina has always rejoiced in the beauty and diversity of the human creativity. Her other passion is photography, and her literary style has often been described as quite pictorial. Adina fist published some of her writings in Bucharest in 2000, launched that year, at the International Book Fair and also the prestigious book shop “Dalles”. Adina continues writing mainly professional articles, whilst remaining active in literary circles in London.
By Adina Tarry
In full bloom,
Bunches of elongated bells, hang so thick...
Hiding the leafy fresh green,
Under petals of butterfly wing, deprived of scent,
Instead, sending off vibrant particles of colour dust,
Matte lavender mist of odourless fragrance ...
Just a few days of grace,
To show this fragile splendour,
Before being blown away by the gentlest of breeze...
Yet their delicate and ephemeral beauty,
Naturally carries their shadow,
Through the times when they are not,
Into the new times, when...
they will become again,
Magnificent Jacaranda trees.
Saeed Tavakkol was born in Ahvaz , a city in southern
Iran. He emigrated to the United States in 1983 a few years after
the Iranian Revolution. His chaotic childhood, his participation in
the revolution and the turmoil of the post revolutionary society engaged
in a war, compelled him to write.
His life in the US as an immigrant and his personal experiences after
September the 11th have greatly motivated him and inspired his creativity.
He published his first book "Confessions of a Writer" in
2005. He lives in Dallas and paints when he is not writing.
GIRL BEHIND THE WINDOW
She peered out the window. Everything was so different than where
she grew up. The street below was overrun with the crowd - mostly
young people. They gathered in small circles, passionately discussing
issues among themselves. Some held signs, waving them furiously in
the air. Heads moved back and forth and hands cut the air like knives.
She had never seen people that angry—what could have made so
many people so angry?
She could not read Farsi but recognized the curved letters with dots
in their bellies like pregnant women with triplets. Letters with mouths
half open, hungry enough to swallow the character sitting silently
next to them. The sharp blades of other characters like the sickles
peasants used to harvest, the letters she had seen in books her father
The warning from the Center for National Security and Public Safety,
on the radio this morning echoed in her head, “Any gathering
of three or more persons on streets is prohibited and illegal. Perpetrators
will be arrested.” She could not imagine the number of buses
required to haul all these felons to jail. If people back in America
took to the streets so passionately like this, obesity would not be
an issue. She grinned.
She sipped the hot Darjeeling tea her BeeBee, grandmother—whom
she’d never met before today—had prepared for her. The
young woman wasn’t sure if her shakiness resulted from jet lag
or the crowd of cousins, aunts, and uncles vying for their first glimpse
of her. On this, her first trip to her motherland she was overwhelmed
by unending platters of food and constant kisses blanketing her cheeks
and forehead. Her nostrils burned from Espand, the scented seed, grilled
to prevent the evil eye.
Her mobile phone rang out the first few bars of “Yankee Doodle”.
This was the first time it had rung in the three days since she left
America. Enthusiastically, she pushed the talk button, “Hello?”
“Hello. My name is Peter Burton from Prudential Insurance.
I hope my call has not disturbed you? ”
“Not at all. How interesting. I am thousands of miles away
from home. I can’t believe I am receiving calls from America.
What can I do for you?”
“It’s amazing how connected we are in the world.”
Outside, a uniformed officer snatched the pamphlets from a young
man’s hands and threw them in a ditch. His actions agitated
the crowd around him.
“I am calling to offer you the best life insurance at the lowest
A second officer approached the same young man from behind and quickly
pounded him to the ground with the butt of his gun.
“All you pay is a few dollars a month and we insure your life
The young man coiled in agony. An old woman stood a few feet from
the scene, watching them with her trembling hands clamped over her
“I need to ask you a few simple questions just to fill out
“Shoot,” the girl nervously responded.
A shot cracked the air. The crowd scattered in fear.
“Are you between 18 and 25?”
A line of soldiers flooded out of a military vehicle and took positions
on the both sides of the street. Their helmets reflected the sharp
rays of light into her eyes.
A running woman tripped as she was escaping the chaos. Her scarf
fell to the sidewalk. Now she had broken the law by not wearing her
Hejab in public. She knelt to retrieve it, but the explosion convinced
her otherwise. She ran leaving her scarf and her right shoe behind
to disappear under the feet of others.
“Are you currently a full time student?”
“Any demonstration is considered a threat to national security
and perpetrators will be severely punished,” the words echoed
in her ears.
The armed forces surrounded two young demonstrators. As others rushed
to their rescue, the soldiers shoved them away. A military Jeep approached
the circle and the uniformed officers wrestled the two men and a woman
in their early twenties into the vehicle.
“You don’t smoke, do you?”
“No.” She shifted her glance from out the window to her
sweating palm. She found herself wishing she did smoke.
Another Jeep plowed through the crowd. Soldiers leaped out taking
positions on the sides of the street; their guns aimed at demonstrators.
“By not smoking, you have done yourself two favors. First you
haven’t shortened your life. Second, you have drastically reduced
She squinted through the window and noticed a soldier on the roof
across the street aiming. She could hear her heart pounding. A young-looking
woman, one who looked quite like herself, wandered around confused,
lost in the crowd. More shots echoed across the buildings. People
scattered. Some crowded into a sandwich shop, a few rushed into a
bakery. Others ducked behind cars.
Apparently, everyone else knew what to do in a chaotic situation,
but the young girls. Neither the girl in the street nor the one behind
the window knew what to do, or even where she was. They didn’t
understand the chaos, strangers lost in the pandemonium.
Another shot was fired.
“You are in the prime of your life.”
She collapsed. Everything turned gray except the growing red spot
on the front of her shirt.
“Congratulations! You are qualified for the lowest cost life
The young girl touched her heart; she now was drenched in blood.
Pots 2007 - © Saeed Tavakkol
Face 2007 - © Saeed Tavakkol
Teddy Teddern born in Hamburg Germany September 14th,
1923, only child of a doctor in General Practice. Loving family life
but overshadowed by the Nazi's rise to power who deprived father of
practice and resulted in expulsion from school by national edict following
Krystallnacht, November 1938. March 29th, 1939, Left home and parents
on Kindertransport. 14 months in Edinburgh, the unhappiest time of my
life, loneliness, homesickness and cultural differences with well meaning
but not understanding family. May 1940, Interned, 6 weeks in Lingfield,
transported to Canada on Nazi dominated ship, Nazi-camp (fights, hunger-strike),
wooden huts throughout Canadian winter until January 1941. Camp near
Quebec, work, social activities, sport. Volunteered for Pioneer Corps.
June 1941 Returned to UK. Lived happily with my mother's sister and
family in Oxford, joined Pioneer Corps in March 1942. Served in Pioneer
Corps, learned in September 1943 that my parents have been sent to Theresienstadt.
Volunteered for Tank Corps and transferred December 1943. July 1944
Landed in Normandy and served as Tank Crew in combat for remainder of
war when my unit was one of the first to enter my native city. Found
home of my childhood bombed to pieces. May 1945 Met transports returning
from camps, learned that my parents had perished in Auschwitz. A traumatic
experience which haunted me for the rest of my life. November 1947 Demobbed
with rank of Sergeant after service with Military Government and War
Crimes Trials. Returned to a lonely London. Autumn 1948 Met Gaggi, June
1949, Married. Difficulties regarding jobs and housing but happy with
the woman I love. Ruth and Susan arrived '51 and '54 resp. August 1955,
moved into our own very much loved home. 1957, Studied 'City and Guilds'
Handicraft Teachers Diploma. Started teaching in Fulham as woodwork
teacher then promoted to Head of Social Studies and Careers' Departments.
Enjoyed and became completely involved in teaching and my school. Organised
school journeys to N. Africa, and other European places, enjoyed pastoral
aspect of teaching. 1963 Became interested in Cinématography
and joined Ciné-club. Deeply committed to this hobby together
with Gaggi, took part in competitions, served as Club Chairman for 13
years. 1981 Retired from the same school where I had started. Enjoyed
full retirement with travel to America, India and other, looking after
my garden. 1993 Deteriorating mobility resulted in gradually giving
up film-making but devoted my time to Creative Writing. 1999 Visited
Auschwitz and said 'Good-bye' to my parents in the gas-chamber in which
their lives ended. 1999 Celebrated Gloden Wedding with friends and family.
September 25th 2001 Lost Gaggi whose health has been deteriorating over
the last couple of years.
FIRE - FIRE!!!
‘’WHO THE HELL LEFT THE CHIP PAN ON? THE WHOLE KITCHEN
IS ON FIRE!! CALL 999!! - HURRY UP!!!!’
I grab the mobile and frantically punch the three vital buttons.
‘The number you have dialled has not been recognised. - Please
check and try again!’
On the third attempt and with smoke belching from the kitchen, I get
connected at last. A cyber voice rattles off at commendable speed
‘Emergency numbers have been changed. Please use the prefix
059237 before dialling 999.’ The nearest pencil is in the now
merrily blazing kitchen. Three more attempts before I can memorise
the number and connect with an angelic synthesised voice.
‘Thank you for calling the “WE’RE HERE TO SAVE
YOU’ privatised Emergency Service, sponsored by ‘Emirate
and Helsinki Assurance Plc’‘If you are struck by a disaster
Give us a call We’ll be there faster!’
If you require ‘Fire-service’, press 1, if it is Ambulance,
press 2, if it is Police, press 3, if it is Coast Guards, press 4.’
Frantically, I press 1. while I watch the paint on the staircase
bubbling up in pretty patterns, to be welcomed by another jingle.
‘If your home goes up in smoke we’ll get there before
you choke! If the fire is in the living area press 1, if it is in
a bedroom press 2, if it is in a kitchen press 3, if it is..cat up
a tree, press 4, if it is flood, raw sewage press.....’........
Although the description ‘kitchen’ no longer applies,
I press 3.
If your home is all alight, We’ll be there, - you’ll
be alright! I’m sorry, all our lines are busy right now, but
as soon as one of our operatives is free, you’ll be connected!’
Tile the roof begins to cave in, I am being regaled to snatches of
Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird’, badly recorded and interrupted
‘Sorry to keep you waiting, - your call will be answered shortly’
Followed by more Stravinsky. After the 8th ‘ Sorry to keep you........’
a real voice answers. ‘Gooood morning, - this is Kathy speaking;
- how can I help you? Fire, - Oh dear, Can I have your address please.
- Manor Crescent, Kingsbury? Is that Kingsbury, Brent, Kingsbury,
Warwickshire or Kingsbury, Nevada? Just keep the fire going until
one of our appliances becomes available. Meanwhile can I interest
you in this month’s Special Offer? 20% off our regular charge
for Asteroid Strike Cover.........’
I rush outside as the walls crumble about my ears. The entire street
is ablaze; cars explode, The petrol station at the corner sends pillars
of flame skywards. My phone still plays ‘Stravinsky,’
‘Sorry to have kept you waiting , one of our appliances is
on its way to you right now!’
I gaze sadly along what used to be our lovely, leafy suburban street.
The fire has burned itself out. Smoke rises from bits of wall which
stick up like decayed teeth. In the distance I can hear the sound
of a fire-engine. A familiar cyber voice tells me.
Thank you for calling ‘WE’RE HERE TO SAVE YOU’
was born in Braila, Romania, and currently resides in London. He has
worked as an English language teacher and as an artist. His work has
appeared in various magazines including Orbis and Aesthetica, and
he has published four books including Romanian For Sale.
didn’t excite me
but I was told
he kept painting
when his real life
so my scene is this:
a small tree
dark and rich and deep
growing in a tidy garden
the heat and storms have
harmed some branches
blue and green
Our tiled roof dripped
and the four walls threatened to fall apart
but we were to go home soon,
we grew papayas
in front of our house
chillies in our garden
and changmas for our fences,
then pumpkins rolled down the cowshed thatch
calves trotted out of the manger,
grass on the roof,
beans sprouted and
climbed down the vines,
money plants crept in through the window,
our house seems to have grown roots.
The fences have grown into a jungle,
now how can I tell my children
where we came from?
Shadab Vajdi was born in Shiraz, Iran in 1937. She
studied Persian literature as well as Social Sciences a the University
of Tehran. In 1976, she obtained her Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University
of London (School of Oriental and African Studies). While in Iran,
she taught Persian literature. In Britain she worked as a producer
and broadcaster for the BBC World Service (Persian Section). Since
1992 she has been a part-time lecturer in Persian Language and Literature
at the University of London (SOAS). Shadab Vajdi has been a poet since
childhood and her poems have been published in Persian, English, German
and Swedish. In English, a collection of her works was published in
1992 by Forest Books under the title Closed Circuit. She also has
non-poetic publications. Her Persian translations of Paul Harrison's
Inside the Third World and Judy Shapiro's Return to China were published
in Tehran in the 1990s.
To the memory of the thirst of the southern mountain slopes
(Translated from Farsi by Lotfali Khonji)
I can hear the rain
I can hear the rain
It has been raining all night,
and my heart has been singing all night
in the memory of the great salt desert
thirsty as ever for every drop of rain
in memory of southern mountain slopes
in memory of droughts and their heart-breaking remoteness
in memory of the innocence of the familiar soil, so close to my heart.
It has been raining all night
the whole town is filled with the melody of rain
my whole memory is submerged in your distant voice
the tiniest particle of your soil
is my dearest jewel.
I can hear the rain
Behold! Here, in memory of your soil
I rain in unison with bountiful clouds
rise in loving hope of greener springtimes
moments of budding are the dearest ones
and the springtime yields
springs of uniform, clear water.
Rise in loving hope of greener springtimes
your springtime will be mine too.
A Heart Blows in Every Storm
It is a woman’s singing, blowing with the wind.
The disturbed, scattered rain of her voice
plays the worn out nocturnal strings
and washes the dust of exhaustion
off the town’s back alleys.
It is a woman’s singing, blowing with the wind.
The fiery heat of her melodies
touches the shy faces of tulips, turning them red hot.
The fiery heat of her melodies
touches the spirit of elated wheat ears,
making them ever more ecstatic.
Oh, my endless melody!
For how long will you remain the companion of the spirit of the storm
in the green rebellion of the forest
and with the struggle of everlasting rivers
curling around mountains like autumn clouds?
For how long
will you set pace along the isolation of the wandering road?
What is this spot on the blackness of nocturnal clouds?
It is the shadow cast by my heart.
It is the shadow of my heart
crawling on its chest
along the streets wet with tear drops.
O, passers by! O, love-sick creatures,
tread more carefully, more slowly.
All along difficult mountain passes
and in the vastness of deserts bearing famine
there is a heart blowing in every storm, murmuring:
“Where am I? Who am I?
I am an agitated wanderer
in the storm-bearing waters of the ocean;
I am no wave;
I am a mere colourless drop”
Behold how your songs
mingle with the lovers’ blood tonight.
Behold how amidst galaxies
planets move swiftly and with disharmony.
A pain tears the town asunder
and a town throbs with exhaustion
awaiting the explosion of the moments of
patience and silence.
It is a woman’s singing, blowing with the wind.
And on the wire of her voice
settle a flock of sea-gulls.
Bart Wolffe was born in Harare, Zimbabwe
in 1952 and left in 2002 for exile in Germany via London. He is currently
in exile in London. He is a Zimbabwean leading playwright with work
performed in nine countries. His fourteen plays include The Sisyphus
Road (2002), The Art of Accidental Stains (2002) and Killing Rats
(2001). He worked extensively, not only in Zimbabwe, but throughout
the countries of Southern Africa as well as in Edinburgh running theatre
and play writing workshops and touring shows as well as performing.
He has several published books, mostly poetry, including of coffee
cups and cigarettes (1991) and Changing Skins. His work has been included
in numerous anthologies such as New Accents, a joint anthology of
five African poets and his collection of short stories is entitled
A Twist of Tales (1989). His novel Eye of the Witness (1995) is unpublished
for fear of political repercussions. His novel Worm Head was published
in 2006. Persona Non Grata, is a collection of stories based on exile
and alienation and his biography is Bastard of the Colony. He was
a freelance journalist and was involved in the media in film, television,
print and radio. Sitcoms and features included observations on society
and its issues in Zimbabwe. Waiters, Dr Juju and many more, and his
theatre columns commented on the use of stage as a social platform
where government control had not altogether taken over the artists'
voices. However, the banning of all independent newspapers and the
jamming of radio stations curtailed his freedom to continue to make
a living as a writer and free thinker. The lack of freedom of expression
meant that continuing as an artist in Zimbabwe became impossible.
Pin-prick of dull hope, smallest coal
Clutched in such cold night;
African, the soul, sucks out his prayer
From a tobacco-stub’s comfort zone
Whose hands cup a memory about the glow
Of an old fire of home;
But it is not warm in his chill soul
Where this ill of other worlds is now.
- That other place where huts circle
And swells the sweet smell of woodsmoke
Round roasted maize’s warm cob in the hand
Is very far away, history, another day,
A perfume of acacia pollen and rain kissing dust
And the lost pounding of a distant drum…
It is something the wind blows through hollow bones,
A dead man’s flute, a broken reed,
Gone, in a far-off land, from the dream of another room
With an open-always door unlike here
Whose strangers know not his ways nor he theirs
For no horizon beckons the low of his boyhood cattle
Beneath the blanket stars and other-way moon.
No frog familiars nor fruit bat songs
Fulfil these dead walls where wild buffalo-horns bellow
Their electrical blaze of London or beyond.
Understand how simply he wishes,
How he wishes without words,
Without his own tongue even,
How he only wishes he could go home
But there is no now return to the life-joy stolen
And he knows no here belonging
Neither beckoning back.
Instead he cramps, coughs, gasps his last straw
Clutching for ancestors in a cancer of limbo
In the country we all call - No-Man’s Land.
© Bart Wolffe
Haifa Zangana was born in Iraq and is half Kurdish.
Until recently she used Arabic as a medium for communication but is
now turning to writing in English. Haifa Zangana came to London in 1976.
She studied pharmacy and later worked for the Palestinain Red Crescent
in Damascus. She is an illustrator as well as a writer. As a writer,
she has collaborated on 'El Kalima', 'Aswat', and 'Al Ightirab al Adabi'.
She edited a book entitled 'Halabja' in 1989. Her novel 'Through the
Vast Halls of Memory' was published in 1991. Her latest book is 'Bayt
al-Namal' (The Ant's Home), 1997. Her book of short stories due to be
published in 1999, is entitled 'The Presence of Others'. She has completed
a novel also due to be published shortly, which is entitled 'Baghdad,
(Translated from the Arabic by Judy Cumberbatch)
The women arrive at the Hammam grey faced and leave sleepy and red-cheeked.
They place their bundles on the benches. They take off their clothes
and slip on wooden clogs, then enter the hot rooms of the Hammam.
Mother accompanied by their children, young girls and boys under seven
who have not yet transferred to the Hammam next door. Quickly...quickly...they
hurry to reserve a good place to sit.
At the first curtain of steam, they pause and inhale deeply. The
women push through them until they find what they are looking for.
Somewhere clean, where they can sit down with their children and devote
themselves exclusively and completely to the beautification of the
body. Time passes by, unnoticed, as they sit in the gloom of the three
interlocking chambers, under the arches and the domes which are like
the cupolas of a mosques. One chamber leads to another.
First and nearest to the outside door and the changing rook is the
cool room. Here, the old congregate, and those who are short of breath
and the children. It is lighter than the other rooms and not so hot.
The women here are busy and their chatter is distinctive.
Nabiha prefers the middle room. It is not as cool as the outer room
nor as fierily hot as the inner. She only ventures there to fetch
water. Amal runs about and starts playing with a groups of children
in the outer room. The rest of the women crowd round the tap in the
hot room. They remove their pails of water as quickly as possible,
so as not to spend too long there.
A few women choose to remain in the hot room. They stand swaying,
Allah Hayy, just like a circle of chanting dervishes. First to the
left and then to the right. Allah Hayy. The masseuse kneads their
flesh. Steam rises from the pails of water, from the ground and the
women's bodies. Their faces glisten and glow. Their bodies ooze sweat,
which trickles down drop by drop.
- Shall I wash you?
- Please, God bless you.
First she soaps her with riqi soap, a light lather to remove the
grease, then after a few minutes, she puts her hand into the black
mitten and begins to scrub. Shoulders. Back. Upper haunches. She rinses
her body and then turns to scrub the back of the woman beside her.
Their bodies have an intimacy and friendship of their own. A silent
language based on touch and a response of the senses. Naked bodies
need no lengthy introduction. A harmony governs their nudity. A kinship
unites them, the instant they are stripped of their clothes and enter
the nakedness of the soul.
The young girls hate their bodies being scrubbed. they hate the mittens
and loofah and soap. The Hammam resounds with the children's wails.
The women laugh as they caress the boys' genitals, marvelling at the
slight tremor which courses through their bodies, putting an end to
their tears. The boys giggle, asking for more. A mother cradles her
daughter and leaves the warm room for the cool to feed her near the
- Do you remember? She was a thin as a reed before she got married?
- All the girls let themselves go once they get married.
There is a constant coming and going. The women walk deliberately,
fearful of slipping. The clogs clatter loudly across the floor. the
babble of noise rises like steam and the words hang from the ceiling.
Stray black hairs twist and snake their way down the drain.
- Next time..we ought to come at 9 o'clock.
- We would have been better off sitting next to the wall.
It is cleanest close to the wall, away from where the floor slopes
down toward the opening to the drains. Bodies gleam, glisten, smoothly
hairless. The overpowering smell of Dowa al Hammam* mingles with the
scent of henna and riqi soap. The rough hair from under the armpits,
the pubes and the legs slides down and with every douche of water,
forms itself into little pellets which roll over the ground to the
drain. The bare feet pick their way among the strands of hair. Pails
draw near, pails move away. Some women wear their underpants, others
are totally naked. there are bare breasts, full breasts, pendulous
breasts, firm bellies, jutting out proudly, and bellies scarred with
the stretch marks of six, seven pregnancies. Here's a youthful body,
And there's a women whose stomach drapes over her pubes and the upper
part of her thighs like a thick sheet. She is surrounded by her five
- What a shame. Look at her, like a slave. She rushes about day and
night and what's the use? She's been pregnant nine times and he's
not satisfied and has gone and married someone else.
- The bastard!
The riqi soap melts slowly in their hands. The warmth of the hands
and the warmth of the bath transforms it into a viscous jelly. Its
pungent smell is familiar, a perpetual evocation of cleanliness.
Floarea-Maria Zoltan, also known as Florina she
is an academic and activist. Florina is a survivor of the Hadareni
pogrom 1993 where her husband and two brothers were murdered. Since
1993 she has dedicated her life to human rights and believes in equal
access to equal rights. Persecuted by the Romanian Government after
leading the Hadareni Case to the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights,
she has settled in the UK as a political refugee. After 13 years of
unbelievable fights - her continuing battle for justice in the Hadareni
Case showed the results: In August 2005 Romania was found guilty of
racist treatment to Florina's family and 20 other families from the
Hadareni Case. With a rebellious mind, at 14 she started to describe
in poems her feelings about her tradition and the society she lived
in, without being able to escape the wrongs of the school system and
the discriminatory attitudes of the teachers towards minority children.
Later on, she burned her feelings of leaving in a unjust world in
poems addressing the fights of persecuted people and claiming justice
for all of them without regards to gender, ethnicity and religion.
A WISH, A DREAM OR PRAYER
The day of freedom's coming -
A bright new day
When forgotten tears
Will shine - crystals of happiness.
I wish ! I long for a day
Of childlike innocence -
When, and this I must believe,
there will be no hatred
Only love and play.
When everything will be
And I will feel like the emperor's child.
There will be no stereotypes like;
" - I know you, Conman!
You're a common black bird
And you don't even know that
We don’t want you, we will never
Accept you as our equal...
You were once a slave under
The command of my ancestors.
And if they so desired
They would torture you and beat you,
And take your life if they wished.
What do you want now?...
To be like me ?...
Gypsy, sit in your place! That's better!
If you are our equal
Where will we find another nation
To torture in your place
To murder if we want?
Because, Gypsy you see…
History repeats itself;
Your freedom today is ...
You have always been
...a common slave
without rights or liberty…
But you just don’t know …"
It's hard…it's very hard to say
If this is a wish, a dream or a prayer!
Or maybe the enraged howling
Of an abased soul
Of a sentenced nation
Throughout the tortured centuries.
Reason who cries out for justice!
And for rights and for equality!
For the future of our little kids
And presents for all who want them !
But…ah it's a dream ?!…it's a wish ?!…it's a prayer...?
It's hard…It's very hard to say !
But really much harder to change.
We have to start immediately!
To change the dream into reality
And let all the prayers be heard.
May racism, prejudice, discrimination…
Be found only in old books,
Let's build TOGETHER immortality
Of the world's nation – HUMANITY !
INTERVIEWS WITH EXILED WRITERS
- Interview of Noufel on Algérie News speaking about his work and other issues: http://www.djazairnews.info/images/pdf_fr.pdf
- Sofia Buchuck: http://retratosdeindependencia.weebly.com/video-interviews.html