Barbican Young Poets 2018

I feel so peaceful and fortunate now after having the time to get to know the wonderful Barbican Young Poets and getting to be part of the work shared at the 2018 showcase on March 18th. It was something special to just experience so much energy and a room full of changemakers on stage and in the audience.

Forever grateful for having the opportunity to be part of this community and to learn with such good people. To support one another on this path we walk on is always going to reinforce the fact that light propels light.

I’ve been reading through the Barbican Young Poets 2018 anthology and I know I keep saying it but I really do feel so thankful to be part of this community of talented creative people. Soon the book will be available to buy in the Barbican Centre gift shop and online.

I have written a blog for the Poetry Translation Centre about some of my feelings about the programme which I will be sharing soon but there will never be enough words and even though this photo may not reveal how ‘jumping up and down happy’ I am, I really can’t stop smiling whenever I realise that we did it. We made a thing! We are part of a process that will go on to inspire more people as it has in the last 9 years. Even for those who don’t read or who find the world of poetry a bit unapproachable, I feel like now more than ever is a time where we should be encouraging one another to come together and feel part of a community.

Every action we take has a wider impact upon the world and when we step beyond ourselves and mix with people, laugh and create, that’s when we can enact the change we want for the world. I went to a talk yesterday where environmentalist monk Dada Jyotirupananda spoke about the need for us to see the ‘We in Me’ and flip the script on our relationship with the planet. Someone in the audience accused him of spouting hippy rubbish but actually there’s a bravery in admitting we need to come together to do the truly great things. You don’t need to do everything alone and there will be always be someone around you that you can share your path and energy with. As much as certain motivational posts on Instagram and beyond will say otherwise, the answer is just as much in the world around you as it is within yourself.

Photo by Catarina Rodrigues, Barbican 2018

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International Women’s Day 2018

This International Women’s Day I am thinking about the free spirited woman. The women with falling leaves spinning around their feet. The ones that take time to look up at the sky. The wanderers. I think that it’s important to understand that we all have a place in the world and it’s essential that we find the place that feels most beautiful for us. You must find a way to be still in this room of your own building and enjoy the way you have decorated it. The way you have painted the walls, opened the windows, aired the space.

Marginalised people are often not given the luxury to choose their own way. The tides move against them and they aren’t given the tools to move against those tides.

Never forget that in order to inspire positive change and meaning in a world that’s full of injustice you need to celebrate the dreamer within you. The one that hopes for more. Change is as close as your heart is to it.

To all the strong women in my life, my mother, sisters and friends, I wish you all the strength and courage to stand for your place in the world, as tall and as powerful as I know you are.

I take the time to share a few poignant lines from Karin Karakaşlı’s chapbook Tarih-Coğrafya (translated by Sarah Howe and Canan Marasligil):

You need a place to go

A door to enter

People here don’t like wanderers, the road

must lead somewhere

No one looks up at the sky

those evening hours

when the seagulls seem to glow like neon

London Student 2017 Top Ten Albums

The London Student writers got together to share our Top Ten Albums of 2017. My full review is below:

Dog Heart City – dub poet Roger Robinson guides us through a London haunted by the voices of the invisible.

This is my pick of the year. The production quality brought in with the work of dub artiste disrupt connecting the archive tracks of Jahtari with the indomitable presence of Roger Robinson has made something totally new and ambitious. Robinson carefully grows a picture of London that takes you into the moulding crevices, an examination of a divided society that is bold in its approach.

This doesn’t feel like subpar spoken word nattered over hollow tunes. Dog Heart City is a well-rounded album that is as musically intense as it is poetically beautiful. Robinson’s clear poetics are gritty and cut through the warbling synth and eerie clatter of drum-kit. From the playful retro chiptune of “Corridors” to the rippling bongo of “Ruins”, the layered instrumentation of this album is pleasing and adventurous. A highlight on the album is “New Maps”, the moody bass and lyrics focusing on the alienating impact of gentrification and the way that it can serve to feel like an invalidation of established and diverse communities. Robinson asks, “Does man making a living selling fruit for 18 years mean nothing to you?” and his distress is palpable in its plea for humanity.

There is a bittersweet element to this album. Its muddiness and blurring of soundscapes serves to emphasise what escapes representation. The listener is left with more questions than answers with this attempt to recall the city and not allow its many characters to be erased. Like a dissolving photo, the homemade delays and industrial reverb fade away Roger Robinson’s passages of poetry so that the stories he tells feel incomplete. He introduces us to the callused feet of the hardworking nurse, cleaners cooking with gari and children playing in carparks but we are left feeling a sense of loss and no solution. Crucially, the problems that Robinson brings light to have not been solved and are ever relevant in our tumultuous political climate. This album breaks the bubble of the oblivious and reality hits them like cold fresh air.

“Welcome to Dog Heart City, where it’s hard to leave and hard to stay.”

I have been looking for an album like this for a while, one that speaks for voices that are hard to find and yet feels tightly woven musically.

For the rest of the London Student article on the top 10 albums of 2017 follow the link below: http://londonstudent.coop/review/2018/01/09/2017-top-ten-albums/

Björk – Utopia: “Good strangeness” | London Student

This album is a positive, self-aware, and delicate revival for Björk, intermixing humour with bolshie string accompaniments that come shoulder to shoulder with sweet lyrics and fairy-like flutes and harp.

To read more of my review of Björk’s album Utopia, follow the link below to my piece for London Student.

https://londonstudent.coop/review/music/2017/12/04/bjork-utopia/

London Student Preview: Daphni and Floating Points at Ministry of Sound, Sunday 26 November

As part of the new stripped-back ‘In Stereo’ series at Ministry of Sound, some of the most talented producers in the industry are arriving to share their work on the Ministry’s custom built Martin Audio six-stack system. The organisers, The Hydra, state that this surround-sound experience will focus on “the simplicity of artist and sound”. It is this poise and definition that is quickly carving out the Ministry of Sound as a space for electro-rumination: not just the ecstatic 4am twirling (although that too remains joyously present) but also a venue for the serious audiophile searching for the intricacies of sound and detailing, that make acts like Floating Points and Daphni so well-loved.

Follow the link below for the rest of my preview for Ministry Of Sound’s event bringing together Floating Points and Daphni:

http://londonstudent.coop/review/2017/11/24/preview-daphni-floating-points-ministry-sound-sunday-26-november/

Free Ahmet Altan 

“I am a writer. I am neither where I am nor where I am not. Because, like all writers, I have magic. I can pass through walls with ease.”

Ahmet Altan’s writing has been translated around the world. He is the founding editor-in-chief of Taraf, a daily liberal newspaper, and spent five years as its lead columnist. But following the attempted Turkish coup in July 2016, he was taken from his home in a dawn raid in September 2016.

Charged with “giving subliminal messages in favour of a coup on television” and allegations of putschism placing him firmly as a terrorist, Altan went on trial in Istanbul on Monday 13th November 2017. His prosecutors are asking for three aggravated life sentences to be given to Altan and his brother Mehmet Altan despite there being no evidence behind the charges.

On the day of the trial, the judge even ordered the defense lawyers to leave the courtroom staying that they were “speaking without permission.” Chief of Turkey’s High Court, Yargıtay, says there are nearly 7 million terror suspects in Turkey. This is roughly 9% of the country when you consider the country’s population of 80 million. Given that more than half of that figure can be allocated to children, those bedridden with illness and the elderly, it seems that Yargıtay’s estimation is directed at a number closer to 25%, a quarter of the whole population.

Ahmet Altan has written some controversial works including the powerfully written article ‘Atakurd’. He was fired from the Turkish mass-circulation daily, ‘Milliyet’ on April 17, 1995 for this piece. One of the lines in this work of alternative history that resonates is: ‘Here we are, those who say: “No it is not justified.” We want democracy.’ Looking through his body of work, Ahmet’s writing is both careful yet daring, sensitive yet challenging. He definitely does not write with the hasty scrawls of a journalist trying to milk political upheaval for his own personal gain. His work addresses basic lacks in equality and democracy that need to be voiced. A voice that is becoming increasingly rare in a state full of people with opinions, full of people whose words would make them suspect.

While spending summer 2016 in Cyprus, I visited the small cell in Mağosa where the writer Namık Kemal spent 1873 to 1876 in exile for his opinions on national identity. Peering through a small barred window in a room with a single pallet laid out on the floor, I couldn’t imagine how someone could be incarcerated simply for writing beautiful and brave words. Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, often remarked how Namık inspired many of his ideas. On the 10th of November (10 Kasım), while remembering Atatürk on the anniversary of his death, mourning poured from social media with a sense of loss that felt absolutely hopeless. Wistfully admiring his political and social ethos, Atatürk’s words were circulated around the world. In government speeches. On the radio. “Peace at Home, Peace in the World”. In Turkey at the moment it does not feel like peace at home. The country holds a record that is not acceptable. In 2016, one-third of the world’s imprisoned journalists, media workers and executives were in Turkey’s prisons. A country with limited debate is a country where our roots begin to feel less like something to grow upwards from; instead, they wither as a flat surface. Still. Slow. Sad.

My mother went to the mountains of Yayla in Mersin and met with a few writers two years ago. They told her that they didn’t feel safe with open speech. Fast forward to 2017 and a country known for civilised debate is cast under a shadow – all to protect a state that has both flaws and beauty. Rich with humanitarian efforts and community spirit, Erdoğan has built schools and mosques in almost every town in Turkey and North Cyprus. In my village in Cyprus, you see communities regenerated by his investments. Yet how bittersweet this is when the right to free speech and the limitless pen is taken away.

Please support English PEN and their Writers at Risk programme so we can raise awareness for these authors.

#AhmetAltan #FreeTurkeyMedia

Florence

And when I think of you,

I think of baby’s breath.

How your trill blows give life,

Steaming curls around lidless pots

 

Set limbs in sterile fire

Those little white spores dotted

Around red roses, small lung leaps

Falling to your mercy, the leant knee breaking away

 

Caught as the whispering arm teases

Another cold moon from the sky,

Light hanging on his limp pallor

A grace of connective tissue cleaned of

 

Tears that we lost in movement,

Carried from swaddling hammocks to tomb.

Frozen in that motion, your back

Tilted as a feeding bird, bent towards open mouths:

 

You once said, ‘nothing in life but death.’

The sequelae of truth-seekers

Are pure water seeping through

Your incomplete book of mystics.

 

Weaving your web, you hold crimson torment

And marching maggots climbing limb to limb.

Enlisted to end – by these artisans of disaster –

Still I watched you paint a million murals

 

With your face cackling, a gathered and powdered saint.