Photo: Gavin Weber. Copyright Simon Faithfull. As a writer, activist, mystic and summer sea dipper, I was very pleased this week to begin a fascinating new job: Artist-in-Residence for Fabrica Gallery, responding to the Simon Faithfull exhibition REEF. In a work that combines sculpture, video, eco-art, and installation, Faithfull salvaged and rebuilt an old boat, then deliberately sank the vessel in order to record it gradually becoming an ocean reef. My role is to engage audiences with the themes of the exhibition, ‘working with ideas of the sea as a metaphor for emotion, the imagination and psychological space.’  Concerned as I am with the complex relationship between psychology, politics and spirituality, I have taken the concept of ‘sea change’ as my central creative current; and the tempestuous blue planet Neptune as my guiding star. I will be blogging for the gallery – in a meta-hyper-blog moment, I direct you…

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With pleasure, and no small amount of astonishment, I announce today that for my ‘poetry and essays about Ukraine’ – the latter published here on the blog – I have earned a place on the list of recipients of the 2014 Hryhorii (Gregory) Skovoroda Award (honestly, in section 7, there I am: Наомі Фойл). Hryhorii Skovoroda was a 18th century Cossack poet, philosopher, teacher and composer. Born in what is now East Ukraine, and known as ‘the Russian Socrates’, he was a thinker who believed both that ‘the Kingdom is within us’ and ‘the Sanctity of human life lies in doing good to others’. According to Wiki, his philosophy found political expression in his support for the serfs, with ‘sharp hostility to the Muscovite oppressors’. He was a gentle person, so considerate of others that he literally dug his own grave – showing up at a friend’s house to stay…

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1. Rebelling against the old Arab adage, the Palestinian novelist Emile Habiby ‘believed that it was possible, and even useful, to “carry two watermelons under one arm” – that is, to take up both literature and politics’. The risk, of course, being that you will drop and smash both. Everyone who knows me knows I care about Palestine. And Ukraine. And Syria. And feminism, and diversity in media and publishing, and climate change and the godawful iSore tourist tower planned for Brighton seafront . . . But this year I realised that I could not do two full-time jobs – write an SF novel a year and be a 100% committed activist – and two part-time jobs – teach and read Tarot cards – and stay sane, let alone keep even one of my passions tucked snug in my armpit. I decided to prioritise my writing and, while always allowing…

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With Amazon now placing even greater pressure on publishers to relinquish control of their own products, just how well the book industry will adapt to the digital media revolution remains an open question. One common prediction, of course, is that books will never become extinct, but rather rarer and more beautiful. While the mass market paperback has yet to evidence such an exotic transformation, the artist’s book may yet be rising to the challenge. Though arguably avant-garde – the crafted interplay of text and material object treating the book itself as a form to be explored, its possibilities extended – the artist’s book is also as democratic as Lulu, often placing the writer at the centre of production and distribution. Over the last several years Lancaster-based poet Sarah Hymas has been building a fine reputation as a maker and purveyor of limited edition poetry art-pamphlets, most recently Lune, runner-up Best…

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Houses of the Dead, a new poetry pamphlet by Fawzia Kane, is a beguiling tour through abandoned dwellings, at first still and empty, but increasingly stirred by the lingering traces of departing souls. May I tempt you with some titles? ‘House of the Vicar who Loved Too Much’, ‘House of the Penitent Bookseller’, ‘House of the Actor of Mystery Plays’ all give a flavour of the ghosts who haunt these powdery pages, though one of my favorite poems was simply called ‘House of the Sculptor’. I heard a echo of Louise Bourgeois in the sculptor’s sometimes brutal renovations of her ill-fitting tower, culminating in a solitary night vigil: ‘When she was satisfied, she placed a red armchair on the roof. There, from the midnight of her saint’s day, she would sit alone, watching for dawn.’ An accomplished sequence of prose poems, verse, and carefully cropped black-and-white photography, the book is…

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              I promised another post on Ukraine, and after the warm welcome I was given in Oxford, there may well be more. My on-going correspondence with translator Steve Komarnyckyj (right, in photo) has evolved into conversations with his partner S.J. Speight, with whom he runs Kalyna Language Press; and, in Ukraine, poet Ihor Pavlyuk (left, in photo) and his wife Lyudmyla Pavlyuk, herself a professor of journalism, so there is plenty to share. Today I’ll give some brief impressions of Ihor’s poetry and, at her request, reproduce a political article by Lyudmyla, published yesterday by The Wilson Centre. I am already convinced of her central point that the invasion of Crimea must cause the world to look very differently at Russia, and I was struck by her argument that Russia should pay reparation for its crime there. Like boycott, reparation is a non-violent response…

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          Given the current crisis in Ukraine, and my own lack of expertise in the country’s history and politics, it is humbling indeed to be included in English PEN’s Ukrainian Poetry Evening in Oxford this Thursday, featuring poet Ihor Pavlyuk and translator Steve Komarnyckyj reading from A Flight over the Black Sea, published this month by Waterloo Press. As well as an honour, it is also a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I therefore wanted to take the opportunity to publically thank Steve Komarnyckyj and Susie Speight of Kalyna Language Press for extending the invitation, and English PEN for approving it. I would also like to express some of my own thoughts and feelings about the worsening situation in Ukraine – an analysis that is indebted to Steve’s dedicated Tweets and personal emails over the last weeks. But to begin by introducing Ihor’s work, to…

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TELLING TIME a poetry course with Naomi Foyle Structured around the themes of past, present and future, this six week poetry course will address traditional forms, free verse, and speculative writing. A mixture of reading, writing exercises and workshops, led by an experienced tutor and published poet/novelist, this course is suitable for writers of all levels Tuesdays March 4 – April 8  //   7:30 – 9:30 pm  // £60 Ground Coffee House / 34-36 St George’s Rd / Kemp Town, Brighton. Please email me at anothercountry@yahoo.com to arrangement payment by cheque/Paypal OR book in person at the counter.

The publication of Seoul Survivors made 2013 a busy year for my writing career. With the next two SF novels pawing at the door, however, at times I feared my reading was suffering. In line with my random book-grabbing habits, I made a haphazard effort to post reviews on Goodreads, but found it impossible to keep up regular appearances. So when Charles Boyle kindly asked me to contribute a title or two to his cbeditions Books of the Year blog post, the invitation provoked a bout of serious year-end reflection. Compiling the following more fulsome list helped me to pick out recurring themes in my reading and writing, and set some intentions for 2014; it may also bring to your attention titles that may otherwise have flown under your radar. For those who really like this sort of thing, The Rules were: 1) Contenders did not have to be published…

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Midnight Mass isn’t really my tradition. I was brought up a Quaker, and while my ex-Anglican parents would occasionally take us to a hymn service at Christmas, I much prefered being tucked up in a duvet on the sofa listening to Twas The Night Before Christmas, read to us from a little red book with a sellotaped spine. Christmas was also pink grapefruit with brown sugar for breakfast, a Terry’s chocolate orange, a snowy walk in the Saskatchewan prairies, then home to the traditional feast served on a pink and orange tablecloth. After my parents’ divorce my mother’s staunch commitment to the decadance of the holiday became more apparent: while my budget doesn’t stretch to a shopping trolley full of speciality alcohol, and my own taste in decorations runs to pine-cone hedgehogs and felt robins, I always pick up a box of liqueur-filled chocolates in her memory, and adore tinsel-dripping…

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