How Can Poetry Respond to the Present?
Yang Lian was one of the original Misty Poets who reacted against the strictures of the Cultural Revolution. Born in Switzerland, the son of a diplomat, he grew up in Beijing and began writing when he was sent to the countryside in the 1970s. On his return he joined the influential literary magazine Jintian (Today). His work was criticised in China in 1983 and formally banned in 1989 when he organised memorial services for the dead of Tiananmen while in New Zealand. He was a Chinese poet in exile from 1989 to 1995, finally settling in London in 1997. Translations of his poetry include four collections with Bloodaxe; Where the Sea Stands Still (1999), Concentric Circles (2005), Lee Valley Poems (2009) and Narrative Poem (forthcoming in 2017), as well as his long poem
Kayo Chingonyi (pronounced kai-o chin-gone-yee) is a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry and the author of two pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016). His first full-length collection, Kumukanda, was published in June 2017 by Chatto & Windus. As well as being widely published in journals and anthologies, Kayo has been invited to read from his work at venues and events across the UK and internationally. In 2012 he represented Zambia at Poetry Parnassus, a festival of world poets staged by Southbank Centre as part of the London 2012 Festival.
He was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and shortlisted for the inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize and has completed residencies with Kingston University, Cove Park, First Story, The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Royal Holloway University of London in partnership with Counterpoints Arts. He was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016. He co-edited issue 62 of Magma Poetry and the Autumn 2016 edition of The Poetry Review.
Choman Hardi was born in Sulaimani, Kurdistan, and lived in Iraq and Iran before seeking asylum in the UK in 1993. She was educated in the universities of Oxford (BA, Philosophy and psychology), London (MA, Philosophy) and Kent (PhD, Mental health). She was awarded a scholarship from the Leverhulme Trust to carry out her post-doctoral research about women survivors of genocide in Kurdistan- Iraq. The resulting book, Gendered Experiences of Genocide: Anfal Survivors in Kurdistan-Iraq (Ashgate, 2011), was chosen by the Yankee Book Peddler as a UK Core Title.
Hardi has published collections of poetry in Kurdish and English. Her first English collection, Life for Us, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2004. In 2007 one of her poems from this collection, ‘My children’, was featured on the Poems on the Underground programme in London. In 2010, four poems from the same collection were selected onto the English GCSE curriculum in the UK (AQA and Edexel). In August 2014, another poem, ‘Summer Roof’, was chosen by London’s Southbank Centre as one of the ’50 greatest love poems of the past 50 years’. In November 2014 she was awarded The Woman’s Prize by Andesha Cultural Centre in Sulaimani for her academic and creative achievements. Her latest English collection, Considering the Women (Bloodaxe Books, 2015), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2016.
She was former Poet-In-Residence at Moniack Mhor Writers Centre (Scotland), Villa Hellebosch (Belgium), Hedgebrook Women Writers’ Retreat (USA) and The Booth (Shetland). As an academic researcher she has been a visiting scholar in The Centre for Multiethnic Research (Uppsala University), Zentrum Moderner Orient (Berlin) and The Department of Humanities (University of Amsterdam). Between 2009 and 2011 she was a Senior Associate Member of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford. In 2014 she moved back to her home city of Sulaimani to take up a post at the American University of Iraq (AUIS), becoming chair of the Department of English in 2015.
Athena Farrokhzad was born in 1983 and lives in Stockholm. She is a poet, literary critic, translator, playwright and teacher of creative writing. After several years of collaborative poetry projects and international collaborations she published her first volume of poetry in 2013, Vitsvit (White Blight) at Albert Bonniers förlag. The book circles around the topic of revolution, war, migration and racism, and how these experiences condition the lives of different members of a family. Vitsvit has been translated to several languages and turned into a play. The same year, her first play, Päron, premiered at Ung Scen/Öst.
Farrokhzad teaches creative writing at Biskops-Arnös författarskola, and has translated writes such as Marguerite Duras, Adrienne Rich, Monique Wittig and Nicole Brossard to Swedish. In 2015, her second volume of poetry, *Trado*, written together with the Romanian poet Svetlana Carstean, was published.
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