Save the date!

The English PEN Modern Literature Festival 2017

April Saturday 1st 2017 in Venue One, Rich Mix: London
2pm / 4pm / 7.30pm – Entrance Free but membership appreciated. 

Save the date for this year’s English Pen Modern Literature Festival, curated by Steven J. Fowler, and showcasing new work to celebrate writers at risk.

Again this year, the Festival will pair UK-based writers with Writers at Risk from around the world, to celebrate and raise awareness of English Pen Writers at Risk programme, and of the individual writers supported by it.

Details of the event can be found at https://www.englishpen.org/event/english-pen-modern-literature-festival-2017/  or below. Information can also be found at The Enemies Project website, quoted here:

 ‘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, London, on April 1st 2017. #penfestuk Visit www.englishpen.org.

Writers poets, novelists, playwrights and artists come together to continue English PEN’s relationship with innovative contemporary literature over an extraordinary day where each of the writers presented brand new poetry, text, reportage & performance on a day that celebrates and evidences the struggle of fellow writers around the world, in solidarity.

The 2017 festival will feature Denise Riley, Sarah Howe, Hannah Silva, Sandeep Parmar, Vahni Capildeo, Luke Kennard, Tom Jenks, John Hall, Nathan Jones, Tony White, Matthew Welton, Susie Campbell, Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, Chrissy Williams, Camilla Nelson, Chloe Spicer, Nisha Ramayya, Carol Watts, Larry Lynch, Kate Wakeling, Rebecca Tamas, matt martin, Zoë Skoulding, Mischa Foster Poole, Simon Pomery, Peter Philpott, Lavinia Singer, Sasha Dugdale and SJ Fowler.

Please join English PEN’

http://www.theenemiesproject.com/#/englishpen/

Woeser

It is an enormous privilege to have the opportunity to participate in this event and help to raise awareness of the Writers at Risk programme, and of the extraordinary writer with whom I have been paired: Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer whose poetry, reportage, history and cyberjournalism offer an outspoken and illuminating account of life in Tibet. She writes about forbidden subjects such imprisonment, injustice and protest, as well as about finding her own voice as a poet and commentator. As a result, she has been harassed and placed under severe restrictions by the authorities. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing here about Woeser, her work and the process of preparing for the English Pen Modern Literature Festival.

Tsering Woeser, Tiber, 2010

Tsering Woeser, Tibet, 2010

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Museum of Futures Visual Poetry Exhibition Spring 2017

Museum of Futures Visual Poetry Exhibition 2017

Museum of Futures Visual Poetry Exhibition 2017

 

I am thrilled to have work included in this exciting exhibition coming up soon at the Museum of Futures. The exhibition is curated by poet and artist Steven J. Fowler as part of The Enemies Project series, in collaboration with Kingston University London and cool Surbiton venue, the Museum of Futures, http://museumoffutures.org.

It is an exhibition of avant garde text art and visual poetry of various kinds. It includes work by some poets with whose work I am already familiar ( Lucy Furlong, Julia Lewis, Hannah Lowe etc.)  as well as many others I am excited to get to know. There is an launch event on February 23rd (more details to follow) and the exhibition will run until March 12th 2017.

My own piece is a multi-part visual poem, called ‘Suicide Is Not A Political Issue’. The title is a quotation from an article defending the government, claiming that suicides associated with the DWP and benefits assessments are entirely personal matters devoid of any political significance.  The visual poem that emerges is an attempt to disrupt a reactionary political narrative that tries to locate mental health problems (including suicide) totally within in the frailty of the individual psyche in order to deny any socio-economic responsibility. My piece takes as one of its starting points the image of  Ophelia, seeing her as a romanticised icon of madness and suicide, described by Shakespeare and later projected onto the suburban Surrey landscape in Millais’ famous painting.

Do drop in for the opening event or to the exhibition itself, if you are in the area or feel like a visit to the future….

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‘I was born…already gobby and spun out of stories’

If ever a pamphlet was written fast and furiously, it is my second pamphlet The Frock Enquiry edited by Claire Trévien and published by Annexe Magazine on this day last year. It draws on material from an early 20th Century enquiry into women’s sweated labour in London but is fuelled by the contemporary inequalities in women’s  work across the world. Here it is, now available online, in all its gobby fury:

http://buff.ly/2eDNm5s

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Louise @Paris

My fascination (obsession?) with Louise Bourgeois continued during my recent visit to Paris. Surprisingly, this was not through visiting Paris’s contemporary galleries,

Beaubourg

Beaubourg

but rather the hours I spent at the Musée de Cluny,  the museum of the city’s medieval history, and its rooms of tapestries, carved reredos screens, and stained glass windows.

Cluny

Cluny

The notion of the grid as a conceptual framework is a striking aspect of Bourgeois’s work but I realised how much the notion of series and sequence features in these medieval art forms.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Of course, Bourgeois grew up in the workshops of her mother’s tapestry restoration business – she must have been, I realised, very familiar with this history. I remembered seeing a photograph of her New York studio with a framed tapestry panel on the wall – hmm, something in this? It was only when I got back to London, however, that I realised how much Bourgeois worked directly in this medium herself. My Bourgeois-inspired sequence of poems has just taken an interesting new turn…..

In Paris

In Paris

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Ferocious stitches: Louise Bourgeois

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NOTES ON VISITING THE LOUISE BOURGEOIS ARTIST ROOM – TATE MODERN

I visit the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition and the new Switch building. Buy three O’Keeffe prints and lie on the floor of one of the video rooms like an excited kid. Realise there is a Bourgeois Artist Room and make up my mind to come back the following week.

A week later. Hesitate on the threshold of the Bourgeois Room. Too many people. I don’t want to deal with them. In the end the spider draws me in. Not the giant one although this one is still pretty damn big.

Artist Room - Tate Modern

Artist Room – Tate Modern

Although a lot of the work is familiar, for some reason it all strikes me as much richer this time. Freed from the context of the Freud Museum (where I last encountered much of it) it seems more mysterious, more plural in meaning.  Takes me back to the unexpected intoxication of finding a small Bourgeois/Emin show in Venice some years ago.

I realise again – how do I keep forgetting? – how much she works with fabric and stitching (like Emin). The loose threads dangling from stitched lips fascinate me.

Couple 1 dangle from the ceiling. Like an adult ‘upside down doll’, two in one. The very thing I have been trying to achieve in poetry – voices sharing borders, scaffolding each other, permeating each other – done in stuffed fabric and blanket stitch.

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I don’t know if this is possible to do in language – does it need this three dimensionality? Do you need to be a spinner, a worker in stitches, a spider?

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Long pause

The hiatus I mentioned in my last post has stretched on for longer than I had imagined it would. Illness (not mine), cuts in public spending (and ensuing expansion in work responsibilities) and then the painful, upsetting post-referendum turmoil have all taken me away from this blog. Some good things have happened – more details to follow! – and I have been privileged to participate in some anti-racism demos and protests that have restored a wee bit of my faith in people (although there are days when I feel increasingly like one of those Bond villains who wants to rid the earth of parasitical humanity- in an entirely peaceful way, of course!).

I rarely mention my day job on here, which is in the public sector trying to improve services for disabled children (including special educational needs)and their families, but the biggest change in my circumstance has been taking on the additional responsibility of managing a children’s race equalities and minority achievement team. I am awed by the commitment, skill and knowledge of the people I manage – including ninety bilingual workers who represent an enormous range of languages and cultures. I am not at all bilingual. In fact there are days when I am barely lingual. There is much joy in this work – not least the congruence between my activism and my day job (a rare privilege) – but post-Brexit, mid-public spending cuts, much challenge too. For this reason, I will disappear from this blog from time to time…and sometimes I will disappear just because I am being lazy!

Here’s a picture to make up for my long pause between posts – I wasn’t able to make it to a dear friend’s engagement celebration (for some of the same reasons as I described above) so to make it up to her, I sat at home and watched Bridesmaids instead. So if my posts disappear for a while you will know I am either too busy with work, writing hard…. or I’m watching Bridesmaids/the original Ghostbusters/Buffy (again)/Pushing Daisies (again), beer in hand, not missing you at all.

 

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…you can catch all the amazing performances here – using this unmissably large link –  plus details of how to become a member of English Pen.

http://www.theenemiesproject.com

/englishpen

 

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April 5, 2016 · 8:05 pm