Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

The Philadelphia Renaissance

March 16, 2014

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.


Thanks for a great festival response

November 19, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. (more…)

Poetry International: Respond

November 3, 2008

In no way does this contribute to the discussions about freedom, but I thought it would be nice to show people the Respond booth in Poetry International coz it’s so very, really, pretty.

The Speechless poets were hanging out outside the Purcell Room a few hours before our show and Aoife Mannix tinkered around with one of the Macbooks and discovered the Poetry International blog where I’ve been sharing some of the Speechless moments, and she was like, “HEY! Someone’s been posting our photos on this blog! I wonder who’s doing these!”

And I was like, uhm, “me?”

lost in translation

November 3, 2008

Here’s an appropriate one for this week, when one is cruelly aware of the narrow limitations within which we all operate. The story of the Tower of Babel really is a tragedy.

The Welsh text on this sign in Swansea – which apparently arrived back with some speed when the sign guys emailed their text to the translator – begins: “I am not in the office at the moment…”