" /> 2014 - Naomi Foyle

Farewell 2014, but may your turning tides sweep us between the icebergs and whirlpools of political despair and environmental collapse, toward the hard-won shores of a fairer world. For though global disasters and injustices only seemed to intensify this year – climate change, Syria bleeding into Iraq, Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza, Ebola, Boko Haram, racist executions on the streets of America, and in the UK the continued dismantling of the NHS and the ethnic cleansing of the poor, to name but a few on-going explosions – it was also a year of significant victories for participatory democracy. Everywhere, people power is steadily rising, and with it a tangible sense of my favourite metaphor of 2014: sea change. For if Scylla and Charybdis also represent the Right and old Left, the nimblest ships sailing through them are whole new political paradigms – personally, I’m entering 2015 buoyed up by my…

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                                             Photo: Gavin Weber. Copyright Simon Faithfull. As a writer, activist, mystic and summer sea dipper, I was very pleased this week to begin a fascinating new job: Artist-in-Residence for Fabrica Gallery, responding to the Simon Faithfull exhibition REEF. In a work that combines sculpture, video, eco-art, and installation, Faithfull salvaged and rebuilt an old boat, then deliberately sank the vessel in order to record it gradually becoming an ocean reef. My role is to engage audiences with the themes of the exhibition, ‘working with ideas of the sea as a metaphor for emotion, the imagination and psychological space.’  Concerned as I am with the complex relationship between psychology, politics and spirituality, I have taken the concept of ‘sea change’ as my central creative current; and the tempestuous blue planet Neptune as my guiding star. I will be blogging for the gallery – in a meta-hyper-blog moment, I direct you…

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Artwork by Donna Click It: ooks open with plants growing inside them.

From Palestine to eco-literature – my autumn events are rippling out into planetary concerns. Many thanks to the Havant Literary Festival (Oct 3-12) for inviting me to read from Astra at the eco-literature event on their programme this year. I was leaf-tickled to hear that my friend the wonderful eco-poet Helen Moore has been added to the bill! A half-day conference on ecologically inspired literature Sun Oct 12 2pm – 5.45pm Bosmere School, South Street, Havant £10, £8 concs. We start the afternoon with Dr Rebecca Welshman of the University of Liverpool, who is the leading authority on the life and work of West Country naturalist and writer Richard Jefferies. A long-time TB sufferer, Jefferies died at 38 in 1887. Environmental catastrophe and the human place are themes of his adventure novel After London (1885). Those who admired and were influenced by him include Edward Thomas, John Fowles and Raymond…

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Getting excited! Sept 19-20 I’ll be taking part in the second Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival, organised by Haringey Justice for Palestine. The festival is a free weekend of literature, politics, music and Palestinian food, held at the West Green Learning Centre and featuring an international cast including Ghada Karmi, Selma Dabbagh, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Brian Whitaker and Sarah Schulman. Guests will be exploring topics including Biography, Fiction, Poetry, Travel, SF, LGBT in the Occupied Territories, and – you can’t discuss Palestine in the UK without it – the Balfour Declaration. The full programme is available as a flyer here or a funky slidehow here. On Friday night I’m chairing the travel panel, with the intrepid Sarah Irving and the legendary Dervla Murphy. On Saturday I’m reading from Astra on the Middle Eastern SF panel, and discussing science, religion and Islamic SF with archivist and scholar Ruqayyah Kareem and Chair Yasmin…

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Medal with a image of Hryhorii Skovoroda

With pleasure, and no small amount of astonishment, I announce today that for my ‘poetry and essays about Ukraine’ – the latter published here on the blog – I have earned a place on the list of recipients of the 2014 Hryhorii (Gregory) Skovoroda Award (honestly, in section 7, there I am: Наомі Фойл). Hryhorii Skovoroda was a 18th century Cossack poet, philosopher, teacher and composer. Born in what is now East Ukraine, and known as ‘the Russian Socrates’, he was a thinker who believed both that ‘the Kingdom is within us’ and ‘the Sanctity of human life lies in doing good to others’. According to Wiki, his philosophy found political expression in his support for the serfs, with ‘sharp hostility to the Muscovite oppressors’. He was a gentle person, so considerate of others that he literally dug his own grave – showing up at a friend’s house to stay…

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As I discussed in my last blog, for various reasons I don’t want to discuss my inner world in detail online. But the current moment, however, feels like the right time to at least publically acknowledge that, like so many others, I am affected by mental health issues. While I’m not a particular fan of Robin Williams, as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, I was sad to hear of the circumstances of his death. I have since found the public response to his suicide moving and, in a quiet way, hopeful. While, predictably, some mainstream reaction to the tragedy has been cruel and ignorant, blaming the man for his illness, other media outlets – The Guardian, Facebook, Twitter, writers’ blogs – have hosted compassionate and informed discussions about the nature of depression. This is a conversation that we need to…

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1. Rebelling against the old Arab adage, the Palestinian novelist Emile Habiby ‘believed that it was possible, and even useful, to “carry two watermelons under one arm” – that is, to take up both literature and politics’. The risk, of course, being that you will drop and smash both. Everyone who knows me knows I care about Palestine. And Ukraine. And Syria. And feminism, and diversity in media and publishing, and climate change and the godawful iSore tourist tower planned for Brighton seafront . . . But this year I realised that I could not do two full-time jobs – write an SF novel a year and be a 100% committed activist – and two part-time jobs – teach and read Tarot cards – and stay sane, let alone keep even one of my passions tucked snug in my armpit. I decided to prioritise my writing and, while always allowing…

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Over my five years teaching at Chichester University, its been a pleasure to get involved in West Sussex literary events, including the annual Poetry & Jazz cafe and the Havant Literary Festival, where I will be appearing again this autumn. Poetry audiences in the region, I’ve discovered, have been keen, Green and open to a wide range of verse from Hardy to performance poetry.   It was a treat, then, to be asked to bring my fiction to the Festival of Chichester this month. I’ll be reading from Astra (Jo Fletcher Books, 2014), my new science fantasy novel about a young warrior heroine coming of age in a post fossil fuel world. I will also take questions about the book, my research and my first science fiction novel, Seoul Survivors (Jo Fletcher Books, 2013). If you’re in the neighbourhood, please do come along. Waterstones Chichester // Monday July 7th 6pm…

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With Amazon now placing even greater pressure on publishers to relinquish control of their own products, just how well the book industry will adapt to the digital media revolution remains an open question. One common prediction, of course, is that books will never become extinct, but rather rarer and more beautiful. While the mass market paperback has yet to evidence such an exotic transformation, the artist’s book may yet be rising to the challenge. Though arguably avant-garde – the crafted interplay of text and material object treating the book itself as a form to be explored, its possibilities extended – the artist’s book is also as democratic as Lulu, often placing the writer at the centre of production and distribution. Over the last several years Lancaster-based poet Sarah Hymas has been building a fine reputation as a maker and purveyor of limited edition poetry art-pamphlets, most recently Lune, runner-up Best…

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I have been wondering about Green politics in Ukraine: as all over the world, it seems that the more energy self-sufficient a country is, the better it will be able to resist dependency on any foreign power. My correspondent in Lviv, political analyst Lyuddmyla Pavlyuk, answered my questions, and with her permission I share her letter here. Green Voices in Ukraine: a Letter from Lyuddmyla Pavlyuk Green voices in Ukraine are individual than rather than party-related. The official structures of the green movement are not really popular. For example, the Green party of Ukraine had parliamentary representation only until 2002. The reason is very simple: Ukrainian oligarchs wanted to use the party’s brand to get to parliament, and people felt that the party was not really independent and concerned with the environment. So, if ecological problems appear at the nationwide or local level, people create problem-oriented groups and look for…

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