Tuesday, 29 March 2016

English PEN

I will be reading as part of the PEN Modern Literature Festival
Rich Mix Venue One: April 2nd 2016 – 2pm / 3.30pm / 7.30pm
35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA (just off Brick Lane)

2pm to 3.30pm

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

As part of the English PEN Modern Literature Fetival, Steve Fowler has curated a programme of 30 contemporary poets reading in solidarity with various writers across the world – all of whom are facing frightening and inhuman threats to their freedom of speech. The injustice and severity of these cases are disturbing and sadly serve to demonstrate the increasing importance of an organisation like PEN. PEN brings continual attention and support to cases across the world in which writers face injustice and danger, mainly through - and from - issues of censorship.

April 2nd will be an exciting chance to see an array of contemporary and challenging poets reading new work, but also a significant platform from which to develop and spread further support for the essential and ongoing work of English PEN.

My poem was written in support and celebration of the publisher and poet, Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury (a.k.a.Ahmed Rahir Tutul) and his continuing bravery and commitment to freedom of expression in Bangladesh.


for Tutul

self-censored beheaded hen
counts backwards from when
beak to blue it was the maybe flight
the someday roosting, broody thought
that rakes the grass and mud for scratch
and turns over kernels dropped from the empyrean
to see in them, the promise speaking
out from air to build a clutch of eggs.

Gender based attacks: I have severed myself in halves
Vexatious case: scoured through evenings and nights
Destruction of equipment/property: in the entirety of my eyes

stamped out, choked down, yoked
dumb axed like eyes shut before hatch
from open mouth spoken, to spoken for
battery said heading for no maybe light
but forced to swallow what it was
along with red feathers, no flight
burials and back to back clipped wings
brushing rumours of those that like you
have heard                                                      

Minor assault means: I am unable to breathe
Criminal defamation case: plucked the cloud
Abduction means: my head touches the concrete ceiling

so called it cramps tongue to caution
the open-eyes in breach of taking air
followed tic to louse in hounding
scared bodies leeched of any more
than just body and taught to scare
a language back inside the flesh.
this state faith; no faith in state and stateless
faith in more than a state of face-down
beaten, almost silence

Threat/intimidation means: The sky is on the other side of the window
Cadres means: born blind in your pursuit
Arrest and police remand: await my stretched hand

painted stares eye to golden eye opiate
and slick circled on a rickshaw’s pageant
to see queasy lipped a sunlit blade and watch
as elsewhere others eyeless turn, advise
‘to be careful and not to move around too much.’
to respect the impunity of threats made real
and written on the body and forget
those threatening to write or writing under threat.

Serious bodily injury means: Air and light
on the other side of the window
The term killing means: Where did you disappear?

not the compliance of headless chickens
made to cross the ode from throats, to commit
hysteric blank in shying twisted beak and head-down
from sky, as if any of these words might
be taken with the body, or found buried in the neck.
voice in grain picked like gristle from
its passage in the air – is a lie. this is as nothing
that without living still survives.

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