Five Things for Friday – 25/3/16

I’m going to be putting the odd blogpost up here from time to time. No promises of regularity, but you know what they say: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing sporadically.”

So here are five things which interested me this week.

  1. The English PEN Modern Literature Festival, hosted by SJ Fowler, takes place at Rich Mix in Shoreditch on Saturday, 2nd April, from 2pm. It is free to attend, with the goal of raising awareness of the work PEN does representing writers facing political persecution. There will be 30 excellent poets (full programme here) responding to work from writers currently facing state oppression. I highly recommend getting along if you can.
  2. One of the poets whose work will be discussed is Ashraf Fayadh, still Imprisoned in Saudi Arabia on apostasy charges. You can read some of his poems, translated into English by Mona Kareem, here, here and, by the author, here. There are also some useful links in this article from The Poetry School.
  3. Okay, so we’ve “raised awareness” of some bad things going on in the world; perhaps we’ve given some money to someone who might possibly be able to mitigate some of these bad things. Perhaps we’ve even gone to see the bad things for ourselves – to “bear witness”. Here’s an interesting little bit in Granta by Eliza Griswold talking about the queasy act of bearing witness in relation to her poem, ‘Friday Afternoon with Boko Haram’.
  4. This vicarious martyrdom is the sort of thing which could make you hate poetry. And so to Hate Poetry, an interesting German cabaret night which attempts to draw the sting of hate speech by pointing out how bloody silly it is. Here’s an article from The Guardian last year giving an overview, and here is an article on one of the night’s founders, Hasnain Kazim.
  5. Finally, plenty of people hate poetry for rather more mundane reasons. David Clarke wrote a rather interesting blog post about it recently; the conversation in the comments serves as a pretty good illustration of his point, too.
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