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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I used to be a performance poet. Wearing an eyeliner moustache I’d throw myself around the stage like a deranged Russian count, or adopting an ersatz German accent I’d impersonate a formidable Frau on the warpath. I never got nervous before these appearances: it wasn’t me up there, what was there to worry about? When I began writing SFF novels it came as rather a shock, therefore, to realise that only very rarely would I get invites to read my work, or even to discuss it. Instead, I was expected to come to conferences and festivals and talk about all sorts of other things, sometimes only tangentially related to my fiction, to audiences who – given I’m an SFF late starter – generally knew far more about those things than I did. It took a good couple of years to adjust to this blow to my theatrical ego. Initially I…

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It’s here! And it’s a beaut: bursting with sharp, fresh and tender poems, and well and truly launched at a sell-out event on Thursday Nov 16th at P21 Gallery in London, a contemporary arts centre dedicated to the promotion of Arab culture. Thank you to the gallery for hosting us, to the University of Chichester for promoting the event with a press release to national media and a banner article on their website, to Andy Croft of Smokestack Books for training it down from Yorkshire for the gig, and most especially to poets Mustafa Abu Sneineh and Farid Bitar – who journeyed from New York City especially for the event – and translators Katharine Halls and Waleed Al-Bazoon for their depth-charged readings from A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry.  Thank you also to everyone who came and made the launch such an uplifting occasion. While I was thrilled to…

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