World Book Night is an annual event to promote links between literacy and well-being, organised by The Reading Agency. I was delighted to turn up for a nocturnal stint at Goldsmiths in support the campaign as part of an evening that featured from staff and students from the university’s Black British Writing MA, current Creative Writing MA students as curated by LitLive, and performances by Iphgenia Baal and Julia Calver with The Literary Kitchen. My thanks to Andrea Mason for the opportunity, and for the team at Goldsmiths’ Library for all their hard work.
In April I was lucky enough to participate in ‘Drawing Breath’, an evening of live reading and art. To take the wording from its website (from which the pictures above are taken, shot by Karoliina Helosuo), the project set out to ‘stage an encounter between spoken and visual language through a set of simultaneous performances’; without any prior introduction, and with each reading lasting only five minutes, an artist would respond in real-time to a writer’s performed text in front of the audience. Nik Nightingale was the artist I was paired with: his beautiful response to my piece can be seen above!
Other writer-artist pairings on the night include Daisy Thurston-Gent & Zeel, Ella Frears & Aurélie Freoua, Lisa Luxx & Spike Zephaniah Stephenson, Patrick Cash & Paola Pinna, Matt Martin & Claudia Juhre, Becky Moses & Sebastian T. Sjöstrand, Andrew Wells & Sarah Dawson, Francis Byrne & Helen Wyatt, Keleigh Wolf & Valerie Pezeron, Tim Kiely & Francis Byrne & Spike Z. Stephenson
I was honoured to write and read as part of English PEN Writers at Risk‘s literary festival in London this April. It was a full day in solidarity with the work that PEN seeks to achieve – defending and promoting freedom of expression, and specifically campaigning on behalf of oppressed writers throughout the world.
I was writing directly in response to the writer Tsering Woeser, the Tibetan activist, essayist and poet who has faced house-arrest and censorship. She is incredible. Some of her articles can be found here and here.
The full schedule was as follows:
Harry Man on Maung Saung Kha
David Berridge on Dawit Isaak
Kirsten Irving on Nurmuhemmet Yasin
Jen Calleja on Gao Yu
SJ Fowler on Khadija Ismayilova
Dave Spittle on Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury
Prudence Chamberlain on Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong
Robert Hampson on Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace
Adam Baron on Can Dündar and Erdem Gül
Andrew McMillan on Ashraf Fayadh
Eley Williams on Tsering Woeser
Sam Winston (with Jamie Perera) on Zunar
Lucy Harvest Clarke on Liu Xia
Stephen Emmerson on Dina Meza
Alex MacDonald on Alaa Abd El Fattah
Drew Milne on Omar Hazek
Oli Hazzard on Enoh Meyomesse
Caleb Klaces on Jorge Olivera Castillo
Tim Atkins on Liu Xiaobo
Caroline Bergvall on Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor
Emily Critchley on Mahvash Sabet
Andra Simons on Amanuel Asrat
Sarah Kelly on Nelson Aguilera
Allen Fisher on Mamadali Makhmudov
Nathan Walker on Mohammed al-‘Ajami
Michael Zand on U Zeya
Mark Waldron on Zhu Yufu
Mark Ravenhill on Mazen Darwish and Yara Bader
Emily Berry on Raif Badawi
Co-curator S J Fowler gave an excellent and important account of the day here, which includes videos of the performances, while the official PEN blog can be found here. Many thanks to Cat Lucas at PEN for her dedication and hard work; please do consider reading more about PEN’s work and what membership might mean for their organisation: https://www.englishpen.org/
As part of the Kakania project, I was able to present my commissioned response to the figure of Broncia Koller-Pinell during the symposium at the Austrian Cultural Forum dedicated to aspects of Habsburg Vienna. The day’s events were led and curated by Dr. Diane Silverthorne and S J Fowler; the Kakania poets spoke after a number of fascinating talks, including one by Dr. Silverthorne on expressionist landscapes in music and art, a paper by Dr. Leslie Topp that drew links between topics of ‘madness’, architecture and Vienna, followed by a presentation by Jamie Ruers on Cabaret Fledermaus. Other poets included Vicky Sparrow on Margarethe Wittgenstein, Stephen Emmerson on his multi-part performance art response on Rainer Maria Rilke, and by Marcus Slease writings on Max Kurzweil. There was also a screening of ALTENBERG: The Little Pocket Mirror, a fascinating documentary by David Bickerstaff and Gemma Blackshaw.
Delighted to have been awarded my doctorate by Royal Holloway, University of London. Many thanks to my examiners Prof. Patricia Duncker and Dr. Richard Hamblyn, and to my supervisors Prof. Judith Hawley, Dr. Kristen Kreider and Prof. Andrew Motion for all of their encouragement, candour and patience along the way. My thesis Unclear Definitions: Investigating Dictionaries’ Fictitious Entries through Creative and Critical Writing will no doubt be a staple addition to bedside bookshelves up and down the country.
I am delighted to be working as Fiction Editor for 3:AM Magazine, commissioning and editing pieces for this fantastic and important site. I have long been an avid reader and proud contributor; I can’t wait to be of use, and attempt to prove some mettle on the other side of the submissions’ desk. Fiction, poetry, essays, reviews and interviews all available here.
A quick announcement: for the next couple of months, I am thrilled to be Guest Editor at Visual Verse. This is a wonderful site!-journal!-anthology! that offers an ekphrastic prompt each month, and has collected so many fantastic submissions over its lifetime. It is a complete privilege to be involved and I look forward to working with Kristen Harrison and all the team at Curved House.
I am especially excited to help behind the scenes at Visual Verse just as the journal’s stalwart editor Preti Taneja received exciting news about her novel We That Are Young coming soon from Galley Beggar Press.
To see this month’s image and to submit a response, please do visit here; the headline writers include John McCullough, Helen Ivory, Helen McClory, Wendy Choi and Prue Chamberlain. And have a read through VV‘s back issues; as the journal’s tagline states, the image is the starting point, the rest is up to you.
In January I was excited to work with poet Maren Nygard for a new piece, performed at the 61st Camarade event at The Honeymoon bar in Apiary Studios. Other paired readers on the night included Lavinia Singer & Ella Frears, John Canfield & Joe Turrent, Simone Gilson & Claudia Juhre, Liddy Gilbert & James Caley, Maren Nygard & Eley Williams, Sarah Kelly & Iris Colomb, Prudence Chamberlain & SJ Fowler, Molly Bergin & Megan Haycock, Olga Kolesnikova & Richard Scott, Susie Campbell & Mike West, Keely Laufer & Emma Mackilligin, Julia Lewis & Annabel Banks, Clover Peake & Giovanna Coppola.
Our performance can be seen below, with many thanks to S J Fowler for the filming and the invitation.