The Philadelphia Renaissance

March 16, 2014 by

The Philadelphia Renaissance was a conglomeration of young/younger artists in Philadelphia in the Aughts all working under the aegis of a similar ethos: enlightened elitism, enlightened classicism, overt/overtly expressed, intermittently queer sexuality, and reverence for the human brain. I hope many of you in London will enjoy these links, this pdf, and its sequel, Over the Schuylkill.

“SIX SEASONS”, Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

November 27, 2008 by


 The harshness of climate-related disasters is often what makes Bangladesh newsworthy. It has however, arguably contributed to the exemplary resilience of its people. And the country’s six seasons – instead of the familiar four  – have also inspired generations of Bengalis to create music, art and poetry.


‘Six Seasons’ is one in a series of projects I have undertaken to try and secure a place for Bangladeshi art and culture in Britain’s rich and diverse mainstream cultural scene. I would like to thank Rachel Holmes and her team of experts at The Literature and Spoken Words Festival for their support towards achieving this end. My thanks also to Drishtipat Creative and the musicians for their commitment and whole hearted participation in the production. We hope that the contemporary placing of the poetry and songs of Tagore, Nazrul and Jibanananda will draw in a more diverse audience and introduce a younger generation to Bangladesh’s cultural heritage. It is once again an opportunity to give recognition to the plethora of world class British Bangladeshi artists and musicians based in the UK today. 








Rabrindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was a Bengali poet, songwriter, playwright, novelist and philosopher whose work reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He became Asia’s fi rst Nobel laureate when he won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature. 


Kazi Nazrul Islam was a Bengali poet, songwriter, revolutionary and philosopher whose work espoused spiritual rebellion against orthodoxy and oppression. Nazrul wrote and composed nearly 4,000 songs, collectively known as Nazrul Sangeet, which are widely popular today.


Jibonananda Das is one of Bengal’s most cherished poets, who introduced modernist poetry into Bengali Literature. His Bengali poetry inspired a pride in Bengali nationhood, which was apparent during the war of liberation in 1971, which gave birth to Bangladesh.







Script and Director Leesa Gazi (Drishtipat Creative)
Music Directors Kishon Khan, Soumik Datta, Sajib Azad
Music Director (Vocal) Imtiaz Ahmed
Choreography Rubaiat Sharmin Jhara
Performers Mita Chowdhury, Arun Ghosh, Jimmy Martinez, Pinu Sattar, Sujit Mukherjee, Nobonita Chowdhury, Sohini Alam, Faisal Gazi, Aanon Siddiqua, Labik Kamal Gourob
Artwork/stage design Shankha Iqbal
Light Ishrat Nishat
Backstage support Rohini Alam
Production coordinator Aneire Khan 




Leesa Gazi was a member of the Nagorik Theatre Group as an actor in Bangladesh for many years. She is currently leading the London-based cultural group Drishtipat Creative as director, actor and script writer. She is a novelist and a writer of short stories. Her recent plays include Shopno Bilash, and Sonata with Tara Arts.


The music of Bangladeshi born Londoner, Kishon Khan, fuses a medley of world influences with a London sound, consistently crossing boundaries. As pianist, arranger and composer, Kishon has worked with a wide array of prestigious world artists, living and collaborating on numerous projects across continents. He is founder and director of the Cuban funk outfit Motimba and the band Lokkhi Terra – combining his Bangladeshi heritage with music from Africa and the Americas. He has recently finished composing music for the feature film The Last Thakur (London Film Festival) and is about to release Lokkhi Terra’s new album No Visa Required.


Soumik Datta was trained by the legendary Sarod maestro Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta. Having authored three solo albums, he is recognised as a young talent within the British Asian classical music world. He has won several awards globally and runs his own world fusion band Samay. Presently completing a Masters in Composition at Trinity College of Music, Soumik is working towards connecting the improvisational aspects of Indian classical music with elements of orchestra and electronica.


Sajib Azad is a local composer, DJ and is in the experimental electronic band After Art. He has previously performed at a number of London Fashion Weeks and Tokyo Design Tide Festival. He has also composed pieces for a number of theatre productions, television and advertisements.


Imtiaz Ahmed is an exponent of Tagore songs. He has accomplished a distinguished style and regularly performs in countries around the world. His album on Tagore songs in India has acclaimed appreciation in both East and West Bengal. Imtiaz is also well known for rendering the songs of ‘Pancha Kabi’ – the five famous composers of Bengal. He is the lead performer and music director of Drishtipat Creative.





Photos by Simone Sultana & Nasser Gazi

Thanks for a great festival response

November 19, 2008 by

A big thank you to all the bloggers in residence, and those who read and commented, for your responses to Poetry International – creative, critical and thought-provoking. We hope you enjoyed participating. The site will stay live for now, but if you’d like to stay in touch with more current literature and spoken word events at Southbank Centre, please join our community at Facebook.

the eternal gazelle speaks: Heaney, Hughes and Brodsky on the inner language

November 10, 2008 by

It’s that old translation business again, but as we all deal with it: the inner translation each of us must do whenever we put pen to paper. I wrote about it the other week, in relation to the Catalan poet Joan Margarit and his image of a crypt, which is the first language, opened perhaps by a secret password, and the “cathedral” of the common cultural language. Now we have Seamus Heaney (and, at second hand, or rather peering over Heaney’s shoulder to do a bit of back-seat driving, Ted Hughes) at it as well:

“Every writer lives between the vernacular given – whether it be the vernacular of Oxford or of the Caribbean – and some received idiom from the tradition. Ted Hughes had a marvellous little parable about this. Imagine, he said, a flock of gazelles grazing. One gazelle flicks its tail and all the gazelles flick their tails as if to say ‘We are eternal gazelle’. Most writers, Hughes says, have a first speech of that sort – a dialect of the tribe or the class or whatever. Suppose they are in a foreign city and they hear a familiar accent, it’s like a gazelle tail flicking, so then the other gazelle flicks and thinks, ‘Ah, I’m at home here, I’m strong here’. For every writer, there’s that first language and then there’s the lingua franca.”

SEE! I was right. I said at the time that I thought this was the same for everybody, and I’m vindicated. Not that I needed vindicating. Here’s what I said:

“It strikes me though that there is another way of reading this idea, too, which is less about empirical – or “cultural” – language, and more about each person’s own private language – our unconscious lexicon, our dream world which has its own language, unknown even to us except in translation. In other words, we are all simultaneously translating our inner material, our crypt-material, as we go. (For Margarit this will add another layer to his process…)”

Three weeks ago I asked what Brodsky would make of it. According to Heaney: “Joseph Brodsky believed we must keep to the lingua franca of the forms, but I am equally inclined to the gazelle-speak of south Derry.”

There we have it. Well, that was from the Guardian’s extract from the interview with Denis O’Driscoll (and they are in conversation on a stage in London even as I speak. Shame…) More to follow, I hope, when I’ve seen the book.

I’m posting this at Baroque in Hackney, too.

Moniza Alvi, Katia Kapovich, Joan Margarit & Andrew Motion: Arvon Foundation Gala Reading

November 9, 2008 by

Saturday was the last day of Poetry International Festival at Southbank, celebrating the Arvon International Poetry Prize. This last event was, for me, one of the most inspirational poetry readings I have been to so far and a great way to finish this amazing project.


Andrew Motion was the first reader and, due to the closeness of the Remembrance day, he read out a couple of poems inspired by war heroes. One was based on an interview he did  with a man who fought in the First World War- last man alive from that period. Now aged 109 years, ‘the man is very frail physically but still quite intact in mind, the kind of person who has lived so long, that he might as well live forever’(Motion). The poem very well expressed the idea of getting old but also just the idea of an old man like Harry Patch reflecting on his life seemed very vivid and frightening yet kind of familiar in one way or another.


Suddenly everyone you know


And they visit you

And you visit them


Another one of his poems was based on the words of a young soldier James Farrer- a bomber pilot who died aged 20 during Second World War. This poem looked at the complete opposite side of the life spectrum. It was inspired by his diary entries that Motion got access to through Farrer’s mother. This idea, to me, seemed very interesting. I felt as if there and then on the dark stage, Motion was speaking through Farrer’s voice, bringing him back to life this one last time- or rather, ironically bringing back Farrer’s thoughts on life and his fear of dieing young.


We live by death’s negligence

And I believe that


Katia Kapovich- a bilingual Russian poet, came next. She is a tall woman with a strong voice who beneath the darkness of her poems manages to entertain the public with her jokes and reflections on her first visit to London-stories of how she ended up carrying an empty take-away coffee cup for half a day because she just couldn’t find a rubbish bin and when she finally got rid of it on the side of a street, she got charged by the police. Kapovich doesn’t like sentimentalism and this is reflected in her poetry with it’s rather gloomy rural settings. Here’s what I managed to note down:


She seemed happy with my paper coffin


To stare at nothing

Seemed to be her hobby,

Same as mine ( from the poem A paper Plane to Nowhere)


Sometimes truth necessitates madness ( from the poem Hero)


A man forgets man

Rather than forgives


After Kapovich came Moniza Alvi who started off with a few poems based on her reflections of 9/11 and what came after. These poems had titles such as How the world split in two and How the words feared the mouth, drawing our attention to the emotional hurricane that followed 9/11 and a set of questions with no answers- answers that perhaps the readers could contemplate on. The poems were electrifying, especially since Alvi’s warm voice is the kind of voice you would want to hear reading a children’s story before bedtime-not poems about 9/11 and rape. Yet I believe this approach is a part of her unique style.


Alvi then introduced to us Joan Margarit, one of Spain’s major modern writers, whom she has invited to read – a man with a strong handshake and a deep voice who also happens to be a great speaker (even though he read out most of his poems in Catalan). Alvi was right, his poems are great in translation and I felt such warmth and humanity both listening to his Catalan and by reading the translations on the screen behind him (I also realised the power of reading poems in Catalan and how I definitely must learn to speak it!). His poetry is full of melancholy and candour, reflections on life, aging and grief at the death of his beloved handicapped daughter. Standing there on that stage he looked like some kind of a prophet- teaching us and guiding us from his rich life experience yet not imposing anything on us; Simply inviting us to reflect on life with him. He makes everyday emotions seem mystical and unusual- connecting them with the deep realms of sub consciousness. He was truly inspirational and I just had to buy his book- a perfect ending to the Poetry International Festival.

See for yourself:


Midsummer night’s dream by Joan Margarit


We have stopped the car

beside a wall of cypresses.

It’s thirty years we’ve lived together.

I was an inexperienced youth  and you

A warm and helpless girl.

The last opportunity is casting

Its shadow over the moon.

I am an inexperienced old man.

And you a helpless middle-aged woman.



November 8, 2008 by

What  can I say? Workig with Lucy and Yem has been a real blast of fun. They are super awesome people, i never knew adults could be sooo fun (no offence).🙂 I loved the little shortcuts we’d take to get to places on time and working in the office made me feel like I was really important, especially because the office staff were so welcoming. Seeing the shows and the being able to blog about them was a real treat. Because, usually when I go to shows I tend to forget to record or snap pictures of the event and I have to make do with memories in my head, and I have a very weird but huge imagination so you know….. Hehe. But when I had to blog about them, it made me feel responsible for actually taking bits and pieces of footage away with me, so it’s almost impossible to forget. Overall it’s nice to write or show to other why a show was exciting, or sad, or deep etc. Usually all people have to make do with is word of mouth.

I intend to keep blogging either on the poetry international bolg or my own blog (which i made by accident) on my page. It was an exciting festival, and being the late person that I am, I will probably bolg up media from the early parts of it. Lol. take care.😀


November 6, 2008 by

A few years back, when hyper inflation first started rearing its ugly head in my country, witnessed backyard money lending quickly establishing itself as also one of the country’s leading business ventures.  The other businesses of this ilk that were also thriving in this environment were dealing in foreign currency on the illegal (black) market, human trafficking, and, if you were a government employee, just plain old corruption. This poem is dedicated to all unwitting victims of the Shylocks of the world


Pay Day Hell


Today is pay day

But for poor me

It is Hell Day –

So I have lived to see.


It weighs heavily on my mind this day

So sluggish and suffocating is the air

Even the vocal birds are not singing this stormy morning

They sit on the electricity line

Shoulders hunched as if in mourning.


The telephone squats at the corner so silent

A sickening punch to the tummy

Is its ring on this day sometimes so funny.


And the unannounced visitor

Standing at the doorway

To hell and back

Takes the frightened heart wildly racing.





But, despite all the adversity that we sometimes are faced with, God gave life a gift called Spring, where the mopane tree shall give bud, and from where all our dreams shall spring forth, and the world resound to love, song, and dance…


Spring Flower


 Branches supple

And buds swollen tight

With all the aching agony

Of a new spirited life

And the sweet laughter

Of fresh petals in infancy O!

When frail butterflies iridescent

Daintily flutter past with the gay scents

And all the invigorating bursts

Of the vivid sunlight of my spring…


….singing down the beaten dust track

Softly coiling into the sunset mopane trees

Their wafting petticoats a luminous green

Stiffly pointing at the blue sky

With erect spears of echoing melancholy

Of nice sunny days gone by

Of more pursuing

Of more sunny days still to come by


Of dreamy creamy petals floating

Of heavens showering misty confetti drizzles

Of green fantasies wildly sprouting out into the roseate light

All the heavenly birds not singing the beauty of nature

But shrieking for all life’s worth

Transcendent beyond earthly song and dance

You laughing and whispering –

Be the mopane flower of my spring



It truly was good to be blogging for the Poetry International 2008.  I am humbled, not to mention the spiritual enrichment that I feel part of in the higher creative arts sphere that all lovers of literature, be it writers, performers, or the audience, all belong to. Ngiyabonga.

it’s a good farewell for now!!

November 5, 2008 by

hey everyone it’s micheal, just want to say it was a real good experience being intangled into the poetry international event and i would like to thank all the staff at southbank for being bright and wonderful to us blogger’s even though we came and invaded your space lol nah not really, i woyld like to thank yemisi and lucy because they are fantastic people who lead me to find inspiration i will keep in touch.
poetry international was a touching week for me i have never been more inspired!
in the space of a week i have learnt more about spoken word and poetry which has boost my levels a bit higher thanks to all the artist and performers there!!

see you all in a not to distant future peeps!!!

come on poetry!!!!

yeah!!!! yeah!!!

On Listening

November 5, 2008 by

poetryinternationallisteningSo. I joined this project late in the day, but I went to the final gala reading and wanted to respond to the idea of listening to poems in translation. Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry Library Tour – Michael Oladeji & Chris McCabe

November 4, 2008 by

One of the great things about Poetry International this year is that the Street Genius placements not only got to experience new poets, but they also met the people being the poems, poets, programmers and also librarians. This video is part of an interview between Michael Oladeji and Chris McCabe from the Poetry Library.