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Cover of Adamantine: a young woman holding an hourglass

  Adamantine [adjective] 1. Made of adamant, or having the qualities of adamant; incapable of being broken, dissolved or penetrated.2. Like the diamond in hardness or lustre3. My third poetry collection! Welcome to the first round of celebrations of the publication of Adamantine (Red Hen/Pighog Press, Pasadena), which was published July 11th in the US/Canada and is forthcoming December 11th in the UK. Containing tributes to an international range of artists and activists, and a lyric sequence responding to my breast cancer treatment, the book honours women’s tenacity and lustre. While the book is not an eco-poetry collection, whether by serendipity or occult foresight, the image of the hourglass is a motif in the poems and cover image; and in its internationalist scope Adamantine is offered in the spirit of global solidarity that Extinction Rebellion has helped ignite this year – a grassroots uprising which may yet save us and our precious…

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A wildflower

Driven by a giddy need to make up for lost time, my first full year post-cancer treatment was full tilt with travel, art galleries, books, family and friends. I also finally learned how to use my iPhone camera – you touch the screen to focus, doh!  Fizzing with this epiphany, I even signed up for a iPhone photography course, way back in February, but what with my madcap work pace haven’t had time to start it yet.  I also remain confused by Instagram – it seems you can’t use the app on a computer, only your phone, and I like curating albums, which Facebook, for all its multitude of sins, is pretty good at. Still, I did migrate from the insanely perplexing iPhotos (I spent an hour at a festival with an award-winning filmaker trying to clear storage space without deleting all my photos, and she gave up too), to…

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  September sings, but the chords of summer echo on, not least of my visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories in late July for readings from A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry, the bilingual anthology I edited last year for Smokestack Books. Travelling with Rachel Searle, the Director of BlakeFest (Bognor Regis) – for whom I am consulting on the Building Jerusalem event in this year’s festival – Palestinian-American poet Farid S. Bitar, and performance artist/historian Catherine Charrett, I chaired two poetry events in East Jerusalem and Ramallah; visited with Jewish peace activists in Haifa; and, in the Occupied Galilee, met with poet and political prisoner Dareen Tatour on the eve of her sentencing. Rachel and I returned home sobered by the manifold injustices we had witnessed, but also inspired to ‘see the world in a blade of grass’, and motivated to continue creating poetic bridges between Palestine and…

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Lee Bul_Various Works

I used to be a performance poet. Wearing an eyeliner moustache I’d throw myself around the stage like a deranged Russian count, or adopting an ersatz German accent I’d impersonate a formidable Frau on the warpath. I never got nervous before these appearances: it wasn’t me up there, what was there to worry about? When I began writing SFF novels it came as rather a shock, therefore, to realise that only very rarely would I get invites to read my work, or even to discuss it. Instead, I was expected to come to conferences and festivals and talk about all sorts of other things, sometimes only tangentially related to my fiction, to audiences who – given I’m an SFF late starter – generally knew far more about those things than I did. It took a good couple of years to adjust to this blow to my theatrical ego. Initially I…

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Boys in a Syrian refugee camp

I haven’t posted about Syria this week because I’ve been thinking a lot about what to say. In recent weeks I’ve met people who’ve told me that: 1) Assad has to stay because otherwise Syria will end up being controlled by a US-Wahhabi-Zionist alliance, and Christianity will be wiped out in the Middle East – once there is peace, though, then he can removed from power by the UN; 2) that the White Helmets belong to ISIS; 3) that after the first gas attack in Ghouta Israeli gas canisters were found – that is to say, the attack was an IDF false flag, which is why the West never responded to it 4) that we don’t know who is responsible for the attacks, or if gas has even been used. I don’t mention these claims because I want to debate them. I’ve already debated them in person. But as everyone…

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Invite to Red Hen Press reading in London

Shivering through the cruellest month? Didn’t book your Eurostar ticket to Paris? Never mind, London is blossoming too, at least for this Brighton lilac – it would be lovely to see you at one or t’other (or both!) of these upcoming literary flowerings . . . a Red Hen Press poetry reading at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon Rd, and Spicing Up Sci Fi: The Dunes Strike Back, a panel discussion on Islam and the hybrid imagination at the British Library.    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *…

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A Blade of Grass with a bouquet of flowers

It’s here! And it’s a beaut: bursting with sharp, fresh and tender poems, and well and truly launched at a sell-out event on Thursday Nov 16th at P21 Gallery in London, a contemporary arts centre dedicated to the promotion of Arab culture. Thank you to the gallery for hosting us, to the University of Chichester for promoting the event with a press release to national media and a banner article on their website, to Andy Croft of Smokestack Books for training it down from Yorkshire for the gig, and most especially to poets Mustafa Abu Sneineh and Farid Bitar – who journeyed from New York City especially for the event – and translators Katharine Halls and Waleed Al-Bazoon for their depth-charged readings from A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry.  Thank you also to everyone who came and made the launch such an uplifting occasion. While I was thrilled to…

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  In my role as Associate Editor at Waterloo Press, I was honoured this year to help publish a book of profoundly moving poems, Disappearance without absence/Desapariencia no engaña, by Néstor Ponce, exquisitely translated by Max Ubelaker Andrade. Written in honour of the ‘disappeared’, the book is a testament to those thousands of individuals targeted for death and erasure by Argentina’s military junta (1976-1983). Now on the shelf of every school and library in Argentina, its publication is part of an ongoing process of national and international remembering, mourning and justice-seeking. Thanks to the Sur Programme of the Argentine government, Waterloo Press is proud to enable English-speaking readers to share in this vital witnessing. I am also very grateful to Elspeth Broady, a family friend and the Secretary of the Brighton and Hove Freedom From Torture Supporters Group, for offering to co-host the book’s Brighton launch in the Chapel Royal on…

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The front cover of No Enemy but Time

Being cured of cancer last year gave me a powerful sense of priorities. It seems that keeping up with this blog wasn’t one of them . . . Instead, in between a short course of radiotherapy and an unexpected return to hospital to treat a broken ankle (!), I’ve thrown myself into book production mode. Currently I’m finishing the final volume of The Gaia Chronicles for Jo Fletcher Books and editing an anthology of Palestinian poetry in translation for Smokestack Books, both of which will appear at the end of the year. In the spring I spent six weeks editing two collections for Waterloo Press, Disappearance without absence/Desapariencia no engaña by the Argentine poet Néstor Ponce, translated by Max Ubelaker Andrade, and Gratitude on the Coast of Death, David Swann’s long-awaited second collection, which were published along with No Enemy but Time, my new pamphlet which I launched at the Belfast Book Festival…

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A glass bell

What a year. When it comes to traumas we’re spoiled for choice, but as Amnesty International and Greenpeace remind us, 2016 also brought many victories for humanity and the planet. Here at home, I’ve been celebrating the official All Clear, which clear as a bell, arrived with impeccable timing on Dec 23rd. I’ve still got follow-treatments to come, but to bid farewell to cancer, I’m looking back on ten books that have enriched my journey thus far through the ‘kingdom of the sick’. What should you read during chemotherapy? I like to laugh, sure, but in my frail state I also wanted to see my suffering and that of the world reflected with compassion and insight. Thus the themes of illness, migration and climate change flow through this list of poetry, essays and fiction. Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott (Faber and Faber, 2011). Spending five months on the strongest drugs…

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