September’s song is soaring, but the chords of summer echo on, not least my visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories in late July for readings from A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry, the bilingual anthology I edited last year for Smokestack Books. Travelling with Rachel Searle, the Director of BlakeFest (Bognor Regis) – for whom I am consulting on the imminent Building Jerusalem event this Friday in this year’s festival – Palestinian-American poet Farid S. Bitar, and performance artist/historian Catherine Charrett, I chaired two poetry events in East Jerusalem and Ramallah; visited with Jewish peace activists in Haifa; and, in the Occupied Galilee, met with poet and political prisoner Dareen Tatour on the eve of her sentencing. Rachel and I returned home sobered by the manifold injustices we had witnessed, but also inspired to ‘see the world in a blade of grass’, and motivated to continue creating poetic bridges…

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As promised, here are my photo diaries from my recent week in the West Bank. I made it in to Israel-Palestine safely from Cyprus, though what possessed me to put a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet in my hand luggage, I do not know! Although it is not illegal to visit the West Bank, you have to do so via Israel, and will be refused entry if you announce your intention to travel on into the occupied territories. I had half-baked notions of posing as a Christian pilgrim, but on finding The Prophet the Israeli security guard in the departure lounge decided I was ‘studying Arabic’ and brought in a higher-up to question me. ‘It is love poetry!’ I cried – ‘My mother had this book!’. When I said I was visiting an Israeli friend, he wanted to see her photo. I didn’t have one, and they let me…

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As FB friends know, I’m just back from an incredible two weeks in the Middle East; first in Lebanon, as a member of charity Interpal’s Bear Witness women’s convoy, visiting refugee camps; then the West Bank, where I was exploring the Palestinian eco-resistance to the Israeli occupation. I chose to write about my trip on Facebook partly because I didn’t have time to travel, share on social media *and* blog, but also for security reasons: Israel and Lebanon are not the best of mates, and I was worried about storing my photos of the camps and Beirut on my camera and laptop, which Israeli airport guards have been known to rifle through. Posting my pix each night to Facebook was the answer, and it was only natural to turn my albums into photo diaries, a habit I continued in the West Bank, again because I wanted to delete any evidence…

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