Sisters in Verse

I’ve been preparing over the past weeks for the half-day symposium I’m running tomorrow here in Oxford. The title is ‘Sisters in Verse: Contemporary Women’s Poetry’, which also seemed like a good title for a blog post on International Women’s Day.

With the notion of sisterhood in mind, I’d like to draw your attention to Tal al-Mallouhi, a Syrian blogger and poet who is two years younger than me. She was arrested in 2009 and has been in prison ever since. You can read more about her from English PEN, and I’m re-posting one of her poems here in the hope that you will take some form of action, like me.


You will remain an example

by Tal al-Mallouhi

I will walk with all walking people
And no
I will not stand still
Just to watch the passers by
This is my Homeland
In which
I have
A palm tree
A drop in a cloud
And a grave to protect me

This is more beautiful
Than all cities of fog
And cities which
Do not recognise me
My master:
I would like to have power
Even for one day
To build the “republic of feelings.”

(Translated by Ghias al-Jundi)


I haven’t blogged in a few weeks, but I’ve been very busy writing up my third chapter (which is about half way there now). In other news, an interview I conducted with poet Alice Oswald in January has been published in the new issue of Mslexia. You can read a sample from it on their website. I’ve also started my work for the Great Writers Inspire project. I’m doing all sorts behind the scenes, but I did publish a blog post on Sylvia Plath which is provoking some discussion over there.

Writing for outputs that aren’t my thesis is something I’m getting more and more comfortable with. Initially, I struggled when moving from regular reviewing work to my thesis writing. The issue was not so much a difference in register, but a difference in critical rigour and brevity. I was reassured when I discussed this issue with a PhD student friend who is also an occasional poetry reviewer and he confessed to meeting the same issue. Now, I try to make a self-consciousness about my register, topic and intended audience into a positive. It forces me to think about the writing as a presentation, rather than as a way of dumping my thoughts. That said, my blog is for dumping my thoughts (sorry about that).


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