The English PEN Modern Literature Festival sees 30 contemporary UK-based writers present new works in tribute to writers at risk around the world at Rich Mix, 35–47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA, on April 1st 2017. It is organised by English PEN and the indefatigable Steven Fowler. Each writer is allocated an imprisoned or persecuted writer, and produces brand new poetry, text, reportage & performance in solidarity, and to inform and move. The range of writers within the Innovative Poetry community is wide, including Nisha Ramayya, Denise Riley, Hannah Silva, matt martin, John Hall, Tom Jenks, Zoë Skoulding, Jeremy Noel-Tod, Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Vahni Capildeo. The event lasts all afternoon and evening, with segments at 2, 4 and 7.30 pm. Admission is free — but, understandably, PEN would really like you to join. And you ought to (if you can afford it!) We innovative poets are usually ignored, occasionally faintly sneered at or condescended to, increasingly individuals tapped up for recuperation — but we are free to write to free to write as open, critical, incitatory as we can manage. In many other countries there are imprisoned, tortured poets, novelists, journalists (especially!). Our culture is pretty sneery at journos, and we laugh knowingly at "fake news". Journalism, simply the account of what is happening now in this world, is as vital as poetry, and more dangerous as a vocation in many countries. If the truth can't be written, in whatever form, horror and oppression result. Join PEN! Support its campaigns!
Dawit Iaac is an Eritrean journalist and writer. He has been imprisoned since 2001 (bar a day or so!), for publishing a letter by 15 leading political figures proposing a different future for the country than the one its President was and is leading them on to. Those of the letter writers who were in the country were arrested; those who published or wrote about the letter were arrested; all independent magazines or newspapers were suppressed. No one of these individuals has been released; several have died. The conditions under which Dawit Isaak (and others) are kept are appalling — long periods of isolation in darkness for example, and torture; no trial,charge or notification of length of sentence. All typical of the regime. I have written a poem, How Dawit Isaak Lives, which is my response to his situation, and to his whole country's situation. A recording of me reading the poem is available online, on the page with the poem, or here. Thanks to David Houssart for recording it!
I have also written Eritrea and the Imprisonment of Dawit Isaak, giving the brief history of the country, which is one of an long, genuine people's struggle to create their own state. It ends up as that people's imprisonment in a totalitarian nightmare. Eritrea is of course one of the main sources of international refugees, increasingly so indeed since that time. The present famine in the Horn of Africa undoubtedly affects the country — but its government denies this, and denies entry by international aid organisations. And Britain has even a minor, but typically shabby role in its past, with a brief period of colonial rule during and after the Second World War.
The project of Great Works is that of publishing innovative poetry in modernist/postmodernist modes. This is is a site for innovative writing: modernist, postmodernist, archaic. It proclaims the need to let a thousand flowers bloom, and rejects any single definition of what writing is. It welcomes alternative poetries and other writing. It proudly offers no retrieval of coherence at a higher interpretative level.
modernpoetry.org.uk contains background information on contemporary British avant-garde poetry. It has not been updated since 2013; but may re-erupt at any time.
Great Works is emphasising the writings and translations of Amos Weisz (1962–2008) to help publicise the publication of his selected poems, Worksongs, launched in London on November 4, at Iklectik Art Lab, near Waterloo. There were some memories of Amos Weisz, by people who knew him, some accounts of and responses to his writing, and of course reading of his poems, in the presence of his daughters, Shula Weisz Quinn and Éadaoin Quinn. Ian Fairley, Worksongs' editor, very successfully created a moving and positive event, a model of how to commemorate and bring attention to a writer such as Amos, published only posthumously. We celebrated together a proud and intense poetic voice, that catastrophically silenced itself. You will find information on Amos Weisz on the Amos Weisz page of Great Works, and links to all the writing by him on the website on the Texts page, including all the texts added in the run up to the book launch. The FaceBook page Amos Weisz, Worksongs Launch Event has photos taken at the evening. Don't forget you can buy Worksongs! It is available via Waterstones Marketplace, or from this site using PayPal, at £12 including p&p:
New! A sequence of poems from Calum Hazell, a poet I encountered at Writers Forum Workshop — New Series, where he read even the milk, and I asked to see the text. It's a beautiful riff upon communication and communication language and bodies (not necessarily human). The words (and their arrangement & presentation) are glittering and energetic. I like its constant invention of itself. Read it here, with a brief biobibliographic para on Calum on the Texts page.
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March 23, 2017 — Peter Philpott top