Below the Surface

An Exceptional Quartet of Poets
Music too!

Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX
(tube Covent Garden or Leicester Square)

Mir Mahfuz Ali – Mimi Khalvati
– Omar García-Obregón – Shazea Quraishi

Music: Freddy Macha from Tanzania
Mir Mahfuz Ali was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh.He has given readings and performances at the Royal Opera House and other theatres in Britain and beyond. His poems have been widely published. Mahfuz was shortlisted for the New Writing Ventures Awards 2007 and Picador Poetry prize 2010. He is the winner of Geoffrey Dearmer Prize 2013. Midnight, Dhaka (Seren: 2014) is his first collection. He is now working on his second book.
Mimi Khalvati has published eight collections with Carcanet Press, including The Meanest Flower, shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize, and Child: New and Selected Poems 1991-2011, a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. A new collection of sonnets, Afterwardness, is due in October 2019. She is a founder of the Poetry School and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Omar García-Obregón is a Cuban born, British-American academic, award-winning poet and a human rights activist of Spanish descent. He is a Professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Poetics at Queen Mary University of London, where he has worked since 1992. His new collection is Fronteras: ¿el azar infinito? (Leiden: Bokeh, October 2018) Borders: An Infinite Game of Dice?
Shazea Quraishi is a Pakistani-born Canadian poet and translator whose poems have appeared in UK and US publications. Her collection is The Art of Scratching(Bloodaxe: 2015)and she is adapting her chapbook The Courtesans Reply as a play. She has received a Brooklease Grant from the Royal Society of Literature, and an Artists International Development Fund award from the British Council and Arts Council.


Open Mic

Host: Jennifer Langer

£5 entry/£3 EWI 2018 members and asylum seekers.
If payment is a problem for asylum seekers, no problem: contact in confidence exiledwritersink@gmail.com

Africa-London: Insiders Outsiders

Music too!
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Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX
(tube Covent Garden or Leicester Square)

Christina Fonthes – Fatima Hagi – Hasani Hasani-
Amos Ruiz – Freddy Macha – Alemu Tabeje
Music: Otto Gumaelius

Christina Fonthes is a Congolese-British writer.Her
work, laden with themes of womanhood, sexuality, and mental health has featured
in several publications around the world.
In 2017 she was longlisted for the OutSpoken London Page Poetry Prize. Christina is founder of REWRITE,
a development organisation for black women and women of colour

Alemu Tabeje is an Ethiopian exiled journalist, poet, lyric writer and campaigner who left his country in the early 1990s. He runs the website www.debteraw.com and his poems have been published in Amharic, English and Chinese, as well being projected on to buildings in Denmark, Italy, USA and UK. His first collection of poems, including the script of a sketch commissioned by BBC Radio 4, Tamrat in the Cyclops Cave(Tamrat Books)was recently published.
Amos Ruiz was born in Madrid in 1984 to a Spanish father and an Equatoguinean mother. He studied Mathematics at University of London (BSc) and University of Oxford (MSc) before working in investment banking for five years. He moved away from the world of finance at the age of 31 to pursue a creative career as an author and filmmaker. Two years later, on October 2018, he independently published his debut novel: SPILT PEPPERCORNS.

Fatima Hagi was raised in London but spent her early years in Somalia during a period of civil war that saw her family flee to Kenya; her works draw on her experiences, both past and present, and reflect on displacement, hybrid identities and womanhood. Her passion for human rights has seen her revisit East Africa, working for the United Nations and using her writing skills to raise awareness on marginalised societies. Fatima holds a Master’s in Anthropology from SOAS, University of London and is a committee member of Exiled Writers Ink.

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 is a member of Freedom from Torture’s Write to Life, a creative writing group. His story ‘A life away from the Asylum’ appeared in ‘Five Dials’ magazine issue 29.

Freddy Macha is a Tanzanian born writer who always integrates his writing with his music. He has published two Swahili story collections and won writing awards including the BBC Poetry Prize in 1981. He has been writing weekly columns in the East African media since the mid 70s and does regular blogs and You Tube channels. He runs workshops in schools, prisons and colleges.

Otto Gumaelius is a London based, Botswana raised, percussionist specialising in the marimba and mbira of southern Africa. He writes and performs with his band Otto & The Mutapa Calling, and teaches both marimba and mbira music from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana through his company, Taste of Southern Africa.

Open Mic/Discussion
Host: Handsen Chikowore

£5 entry/£3 EWI 2019 members and asylum seekers.
If payment is a problem for asylum seekers, no problem: contact in confidence exiledwritersink@gmail.com



Work by London Palestinian artist, Mona Hatoum

An evening in partnership with Amnesty International: writing about and from those imprisoned for their words in Egypt, Turkey, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Includes readings, video, music
and a live performance of new work by Amir Darwish.

Part I: Ahmed Mansoor
Ahmed Mansoor is an Emirati blogger and human rights defender whose imprisonment – currently serving a ten year sentence has drawn attention around the world. To highlight his story, we will show a short excerpt of a film by Manu Luksch, who will appear in person to present to work. Afterwards, journalist Bill Law and human rights activist Drewery Dyke will share personal recollections and poetry in English and Arabic. Poet Albert Pellicer (Kingston University) will also read work in support of Ahmed Mansoor.

Part II: Ashraf Fayadh

Ashraf Fayadh is a poet and artist of Palestinian origins whose death sentence in Saudi Arabia has been commuted to 8 years in prison and 800 lashes. The subject of a worldwide reading at the Berlin International Literature Festival in 2016, our event will highlight his work, read in Arabic and English, by poet and translator, Jonathan Wright.

Part III: Galal El-Bahairy

Galal El-Behairy is an Egyptian poet and lyricist who has been imprisoned in Cairo since March, 2018. Sentenced by a military court for three years, he has case still pending for the lyrics of one of his songs. Songs with his lyrics will be featured along with his poetry.

Part IV: Nedim Türfent
Nedim Türfent is a journalist and poet currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for “terrorist activities” in Turkey. The subject of a campaign by English PEN, his poetry will be read in translation and the original Turkish by Ege Dündar. Poems in support of Nedim Türfent will be read by James Miller.

Part V: Amir Darwish
Amir Darwish is on the Board of Exiled Writers Ink. A British/Syrian poet of Kurdish origin, born in Aleppo in 1979, he came to the UK as an asylum seeker in during the Second Gulf War. He will be reading from his recently published memoir, From Aleppo Without Love.
Co-host Simone Theiss blogs about human rights and freedom of expression under CiLuna27. A member of the Amnesty International Westminster/Bayswater Group, she has organised the event with the support of Amnesty and English PEN.

EWI Host Catherine Davidson is a novelist, poet, teacher who runs poetry workshops for Exiled Writers Ink and the West London Welcome for Refugees.

During the break and after the event, there will be an opportunity to participate in actions on behalf of those imprisoned writers featured, including postcards, and links to petitions.

Audience response & Open Mike

Monthly Exiled Lit Cafe

Fresh off the Page:
Exciting New Writing by Exiled Writers
With Music too

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image: Reza

Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX
(tube Covent Garden or Leicester Square)

Alireza AbizHamid Ismailov with John Farndon
Fawzi Karim with Anthony Howell
Shabibi Shah NalaEdin Suljic

Alireza Abiz’s book Censorship of Literature in Post-Revolutionary Iran: Politics and Culture since 1979 is forthcoming in 2019 by Bloomsbury. Dr Abiz is an Iranian poet, literary critic and translator. He has published six collections of poetry in Persian and has translated some leading English language poets into Persian.

Hamid Ismailov’s latest book is The Devil’s Dance the first of his Uzbek novels published in the UK and the first major Uzbek work to be translated directly into English. Hamid fled authoritarian Uzbekistan for the UK in 1992, and works for the BBC World Service. He is known for novels, such as The Dead Lake that were originally written in Russian.

Fawzi Karim’s latest poetry collection is Incomprehensible Lesson published by Carcanet (Jan 2019). Fawzi is a well-known Iraqi poet, writer and painter. He has published over twenty-three books of poetry and sixteen of prose.

Shabibi Shah Nala’s novel is Innocent Deception. From Afghanistan, she is also the author of the powerful memoir Where Do I Belong?

Edin Suljic’s poetry collection is Personal Things and the Rest published by Hafan Books, 2018. Born in the former Yugoslavia he has been an active member of EWI since its formation. Part of Bards without Borders poets’ collective Edin is developing a new project on patriotism in modern Britain.

Music: Pete Evans and Mark Braby

Open Mic/Discussion
Host: Amir Darwish
£5 entry/£3 EWI 2019 members and asylum seekers

This Merry Merry Month of May
In celebration of all things foreign in Britain


Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX
(tube Covent Garden or Leicester Square)

with Leonardo BoixAmarjit Chandan
Abol FroushanLaila Sumpton

Leonardo Boix is a poet, translator and journalist born in Argentina. Boix has published two poetry collections in Spanish and has been included in many anthologies, such as ‘Ten: Poets of the New Generation’ (Bloodaxe), Why Poetry? (Verve Poetry Press), and the forthcoming Contemporary British Poetry (Platypus Press) and Un Nuevo Sol: British LatinX Writers (Flipped Eye). His poems in English have appeared in POETRY, PN Review, The Poetry Review, Modern Poetry in Translation. Boix has been the recipient of the Anglo-Chilean Poetry Society Competition (2016), Brittle Star Poetry Competition and the Exiled Writers Ink Poetry Competition (both in 2018). He is a fellow of The Complete Works Program and co-director of ‘Invisible Presence’, an Arts Council funded national scheme to nurture young Latino-British poets.

Amarjit Chandan from Punjab, has published eight collections of poetry and five books of essays in Punjabi and his poems have appeared in anthologies and magazines world-wide. He has edited and translated into Punjabi about thirty anthologies of Indian and world poetry and fiction by, among others, Brecht, Neruda, Ritsos, Hikmet, Cardenal, Martin Carter and John Berger. His poems have been variously anthologised and broadcast – notably in All That Mighty Heart: London Poems, Edited by Lisa Rus Spaar, University of Virginia Press, 2008.

Abol Froushan is a poet, translator and critic. He was born in Tehran but left Iran in the Shah’s time to study at Imperial College where he gained his PhD. He then embarked on a career in technology alongside poetry. His poetry collections include ‘A Language Against Language’ and ‘I need your desert for my sneeze’. His translations include Ali Abdolrezaei’s “In Riskdom where I lived”. As the Iran Editor at Poetry International he introduces the works of contemporary Persian poets world wide. He was the Chair of Exiled Writers Ink from 2011-13 and 2016-17.

Laila Sumpton of dual English/Indian heritage performs and delivers poetry projects in galleries, museums, schools, hospitals and parks. Laila is a member of Keats House Poets, co-founder of refugee and migrant poetry collective Bards Without Borders and is a writing programme leader at The Ministry of Stories. She is working with the Ishami Foundation speakers on creating poems for the anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide.

Open Mic/Discussion

Host: Edin Suljic
£5 entry/£3 EWI 2019 members and asylum seekers

Monthly Exiled Lit Cafe

There’s No Place like Home

Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX
(tube Covent Garden or Leicester Square)


Suhrab Sirat – James Ragan – Amir Darwish –
Caroline Maldonado
Singer, Michal Ish Horowicz

Suhrab Sirat With three books published in Afghanistan, Suhrab is a poet, writer and journalist. Born in Afghanistan, he moved to the UK in 2014. He wrote the first lyrics for the first Afghan female rapper criticising patriarchy and taboos and represented Afghanistan at the Rio International Literary Festival in 2013. He has extensive experience working with prominent media networks such as the BBC in Afghanistan.

James Ragan a Czech-American, is an internationally recognised poet, playwright, and essayist. Translated into 12 languages, he has authored 8 books of poetry. He is the subject of the documentary “Flowers and Roots” (Arinafilms, 2013). Ragan’s plays have been staged in the U.S, Russia, Greece, and China. For 25 years he directed the Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California.

Amir Darwish is a British Syrian poet and writer of Kurdish origin who came to Britain as an asylum seeker in 2003. His two poetry collections are Don’t Forget the Couscous and Dear Refugee (Smokestack). From Aleppo without Love is an autobiographical novel. His work has been published in the UK and internationally. He is currently on an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Caroline Maldonado is a poet and translator who lived for several years in Colombia and currently lives in London and Italy. Her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines and in anthologies such as Poems for John Berger (Smokestack Books 2016) and Poems for Grenfell Tower (Onslaught Press 2018).

Open Mic/Discussion

Host: Aviva Dautch, poet
£5 entry/£3 EWI 2019 members and asylum seekers

Monthly Exiled Lit Cafe



Painting by Francis Akpata

Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX
(tube Covent Garden or Leicester Square)

Ghareeb IskanderNada Menzalji -Shirin Razavian – Denise Saul

Open Mic/Discussion

Ghareeeb Iskander was born in Baghdad. He studied Arabic literature at the University of Baghdad and the University of London (SOAS) where he completed his Ph.D. in 2018. He published ten books including A Chariot of Illusion (Exiled Writers Ink, London 2009); Gilgamesh’s Snake (Beirut 2012);Translating Sayyab into English (London 2013); Gilgamesh’s Snake and Other Poems, a bilingual collection, which won Arkansas University’s Arabic Translation Award for 2015, published by Syracuse University Press (New York, 2016). Some of his poems appear in The Keystone Anthologies (Dempsey & Windle, Guilford, 2014, 2015). He has taken part in Erbil, Reel, Edinburgh, Wigtown, Bath, Niniti, Poetry International, Shubbak and Iskele festivals. Ghareeb was the featured writer of Scottish Pen 2014.

Nada Menzalji is a Syrian poet and author. She studied at the University of Latakia, her hometown, but left Syria to live in exile in London since 1998, where she works as journalist. She taught Arabic language at SOAS for years. Her published poetry collections in Arabic are “Withered Petals for Dinner” and “Thefts of a Nameless Poet” as well as many articles and poems published in prominent Arab papers. She is member of the Union of Free Syrian Writers. She has performed her work internationally.

Shirin Razavian is a Tehran-born British poet whose poetry has appeared in Poetry London, Index on Censorship, Exiled Ink, Agenda and Persian Book Review among others. She has published five Farsi and English poetry collections in the UK, the latest of which was Which Shade of Blue featuring original works and translations of her work by the poet and translator of Russian literature, Robert Chandler. Her publications are: “Words to thoughts” Selection of poems in Farsi -1995, “The Sad Universality of Oyster” Selection of poems in Farsi- 1999, “Sweet Sonnets” Selection of 50 Ghazals in Farsi – 2005, “Free Fall” Selection of poems in English – 2008, “Which Shade of Blue?” Selection of poems in Farsi and English – 2010.

Denise Saul, a poet and fiction writer, was born in London. Denise won the 2011 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for her poem ‘Leaving Abyssinia’. Her pamphlets, White Narcissi (Flipped Eye) and House of Blue (Rack Press) were both Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Recommendations.

Host: Danielle Maisano, novelist
£5 entry/£3 EWI 2019 members and asylum seekers