Monday, 26 December 2016

day or night

let me know
when we can go for a walk,
day or night

we might walk
one in front of the other
or we might hold hands

we might wade through streams
or sit by brooks

we might have a picnic
under day skies
or by moonlight

we might even bring out the canvas
and paint the light and laughter
that dance around us

Monday, 12 December 2016

no drone strikes

even though
her mother was prime minister
there was no drone strike

even though
she was going to change the world
there was no drone strike

how do you say goodbye?

there was no drone strike
(you know -
the sort that takes out a whole generation)

Monday, 5 December 2016

your goodbye

i will accept your goodbye
and keep it
in plain sight
so you can take it back
when you no longer need it kept safe

Monday, 28 November 2016

All We Want for Christmas is Safe Passage for those Seeking Refuge

at the Clock Tower in Leicester
16 December 2016
5.30pm - 6.30pm

At Prime Minister's Question Time (PMQT), on 30 November 2016, Theresa May, who is the daughter of a vicar, said: "... our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of."

At the heart of that tradition are Mary, Joseph and Jesus who, at one time, were refugees.

At the same PMQT, Theresea May also said we should speak freely about Christmas.

We are, therefore, making a giant Christmas card to Theresa May asking her and her government to: imagine how Mary, Jesus and Joseph would fare if they were among the people who are currently using the Mediterranean in an effort to find places of safety and refuge; ensure safe and legal routes to Britian for those seeking refuge; and ensure that the asylum process in Britain is fair and just.

We invite you to come and add a message of your own telling the government why it must do more to ensure safe passage for those who are looking for sanctuary and refuge.
We will also be inviting Leicester MPs to come and add messages of their own and then deliver the card for us.


1. Artwork: (c) Lizzie Hartley
2. Source of Concept for artwork 
3. The Bishop Street Methodist Church's Art at the Chapel is currently hosting "No Crib for A Bed", an exhibition of some of Lizzie Hartley's work. The exhibition runs from the 1st of December 2016 through to the 3rd of January 2017 and is a must see.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Concept for a Christmas card

A man, a woman and a child in a rubber dinghy. Three wise men at the helm. The Northern Star lighting the way.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Britain: The Independent Press Standards Organisation, the Media and the Normalisation of Xenophobia

A number of media organisations in Britain use the terms refugee, illegal immigrant and immigrant as synonyms. This use or conflation is inaccurate and is contrary to or in violation or breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the  Independent Press Standards Organisation's Editors’ Code of Practice and serves no purpose other than to incite, normalise or institutionalise hostility towards people based on their perceived immigration status.

While the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) accepts that the conflation is inaccurate and that it causes confusion, the IPSO will not hold media organisations to account for the inaccuracy and will, instead, justify and defend the conflation.

Media organisations, media practitioners, journalists and the IPSO should adopt the Australian Press Council (APC) approach and admonish against the use of illegal immigrant when speaking or writing about people.

The Editors' Code

Clause 1 (Accuracy) of IPSO Editors’ Code says:
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
Why is it inaccurate to write or speak of illegal immigrants?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says,
Refugees are defined and protected in international law. The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol ... defines who is a refugee and outlines the basic rights which States should afford to refugees.
In other words, refugee is a legal term. To use the term in a way that gives it a meaning other than that which comes from international and domestic law is to use the term incorrectly.

The Refugee Convention and Protocol defines a refugee as
a person who “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
Alternatively, as Andrew E. Shacknove (1985) puts it, “refugees are, in essence, persons whose basic needs are unprotected by their country of origin, who have no remaining recourse other than to seek international restitution of their needs, and who are so situated that international assistance is possible”.

Similarly, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a refugee as “A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster”.

The Refugee Council contextualises these definitions when it explains that in the United Kingdom, a person who has left their country of origin and has formally applied for asylum in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded is an asylum seeker and that a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an immigrant as, “A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.”

The dictionary does not define illegal immigrant.

The style guides of media organisations that include the Associated Press, the Australian Press Council, Al Jazeera, and the Guardian and Observer support the view that it is inaccurate to refer to people who, for example, come into the Britain in the back of lorries as illegal immigrants.

Irregular entry does not make a person who is seeking refuge an illegal immigrant because Article 31 of the Refugee Convention provides that,
The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming from a country where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1 [of the Convention], enter or are present in their territory without authorisation, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
The UK is party to the Refugee Convention and Section 31 of the UK’s Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 gives effect, in UK law, to the provision of Article 31 of the Refugee Convention. The effect of this is that the UK, as a matter of law and practice, does not criminalise or prosecute or deport people who are seeking refuge solely because they entered the country through irregular means. This also means that a person who is seeking refuge and who enters the country through irregular means is not an illegal immigrant. That person remains a refugee within the 1951 Refugee Convention definition or, once they have formally applied for asylum and a decision on their application remains pending, an asylum seeker.

The Associated Press supports the view that it is incorrect, inaccurate and significantly misleading to describe people as illegal immigrants when, announcing revisions to its stylebook, it says:
The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term illegal immigrant or the use of illegal to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that illegal should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.
… Our goal always is to use the most precise and accurate words so that the meaning is clear to any reader anywhere.
Similarly, in 2012, the Australian Press Council said:

Most entrants by boat without a visa do not seek to evade the authorities upon arrival. Instead, they seek to establish a legal right to stay as a refugee. Their position is very different from those people, including many who arrive with a short-term visa, who seek to remain permanently in the country on a clandestine basis (that is, "over-stayers").
In these circumstances, great care must be taken to avoid describing people who arrived by boat without a visa in terms that are likely to be inaccurate or unfair in relation to at least some of them. This can arise, for example, if the terms can reasonably be interpreted as implying criminality or other serious misbehaviour on the part of all or many people who arrive in this manner.
Depending on the specific context, therefore, terms such as "illegal immigrants" or "illegals" may constitute a breach of the Council’s Standards of Practice on these grounds. The risk of breach can usually be avoided by using a term such as "asylum seekers" although in some cases, of course, the context may require reference to their unlawful or unauthorised entry or their status as unlawful non-citizens pending determination of their claims (if they do not have bridging visas).
In the UK, the Children’s Society explains further why illegal immigrant is an inappropriate and inaccurate way of talking about people who move from one country to another when it says:
The division of migrants into two mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories as either ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ is not clear in practice or legal terms, nor does it conform to migrants’ own experiences and conceptions of their status. This term does little to promote an understanding of why different individuals and vulnerable groups, such as children and young people, refugees, torture survivors and victims of human trafficking, might find themselves in this country without documentation or a legal status . It is for this reason that the Associated Press removed the term ‘illegal immigrant’ from its style guide stating that ‘illegal’ can refer only to an action, not to a person. We agree with this approach and believe that no-one is ‘illegal’ least of all a child.
Similarly, Lisa Matthews of Right to Remain says,

The term ‘illegal immigrant’ is inaccurate and dangerous. Even in the case of someone deemed to have committed an immigration offence by not having the correct papers, the person themselves is not ‘illegal’.
It is also a dehumanising phrase, treating all undocumented migrants as a homogenised mass instead of the reality: individuals with unique experiences and stories to tell, who have not had their right to be in the UK recognised, usually due to legal and bureaucratic barriers, and the government’s increasing criminalisation of migration. The United Nations and the European parliament have called for an end to using the term, promoting the use of ‘undocumented’ or ‘irregular’ migrants instead.
Rebecca Moore of the Refugee Council reiterates that it is inaccurate to use refugee and illegal immigrant as synonyms when she says:
With the issue of immigration being extremely controversial, complex and always high up the news agenda, we believe it’s vitally important that reports on these issues strive to be accurate and precise and avoid the use of loaded terms. While a person’s actions can be illegal, it is not possible for a person themselves to be illegal.
Based on all of the above, media organisations, media practitioners, journalists and the IPSO should stop using and admonish against the use of illegal immigrant when talking about people who are seeking refuge or those who have overstayed their visas.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Journeys in Translation _ a Call for Participants

Journeys... in Translation aims to translate 13 poems from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) into other languages.

The translations and the original poems will then be read and discussed at a Journeys... in Translation event that is going to be held in Leicester on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017.

September 30 is also International Translation Day.

Those who are bilingual or multilingual who would like to take part in Journeys... in Translation are encouraged to:
[a] translate as many of the 13 poems as they would like to;
[b] blog or share the translations and reflections on the exercise on social media, blogs, and other platforms;
[c] include a link to Over Land, Over Sea in their reflections and posts, and
[d] (for those who do not live in Leicester and who will not be able to attend the September 30 event) organise their own Journeys... in Translation events in the places they are based and let us know how those events go as well.
We are open to working with people everywhere. Currently, we have people who are working on the translations in Leicester (England), Sweden and Zimbabwe. People in other places can also have a go at translating the poems if they would like to do so.

Journeys... in Translation builds on the success of the Journeys Pop-Up Poem Library which saw poets give out postcards at the London Road train station in Leicester as part of Everybody's Reading 2016. Each of the 800 postcards that were given out had one of eight poems from Over Land, Over Sea on it.

The postcards were given out to encourage reading, reflection and conversation about current and historical journeys taken by people seeking refuge.

Over Land, Over Sea reaches out to people seeking refuge and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum and Leicester City of Sanctuary.

Copies of the anthology are available from De Montfort University Bookshop (Leicester) and Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

The 13 poems we will be using as part of Journeys... in Translation are:
[a] but one country, Rod Duncan (Over Land, Over Sea, p.123)
[b] Children of War, Malka Al-Haddad (p.119)
[c] Come In, Lydia Towsey (p.16)
[d] Framed, Marilyn Ricci (p.114)
[e] Song for Guests, Carol Leeming (p.92)
[f] Stories from 'The Jungle', Emma Lee (p.85)
[g] The Humans are Coming, Siobhan Logan (p.79)
[h] The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel, Ambrose Musiyiwa (p.1)
[i] Through the Lens, Liz Byfield (p.121)
[j] Waiting, Kathleen Bell (p.62)
[k] What's in a Name, Penny Jones (p.5)
[l] Yalla, Trevor Wright (p.94), and
[m] Dislocation, Pam Thomson (p.120).
Anyone interested in the project can find out more about it by joining the group on Facebook or by emailing Ambrose Musiyiwa.

Monday, 26 September 2016

New poetry anthology celebrates the city of Leicester

Taking inspiration from the city of Leicester, the poetry anthology, Welcome to Leicester brings together poems which celebrate the city.

Like a much-loved family member, Leicester’s faults are acknowledged but tempered with a huge deal of affection. The anthology explores the story of the city, as it is seen through the eyes of the people who know it best.

The anthology is published by Leicester-based Dahlia Publishing and was edited by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa.

Ambrose Musiyiwa says:

Leicester is the site of one of the oldest known urban settlements in Britain and has made significant contributions to the development of the English language. It was at the centre of movements such as those that led to the development of parliamentary democracy in Britain, votes for women and the abolishment of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It is also one of the most plural and diverse cities anywhere in the world. There is someone from everywhere who calls the city home. We wanted to capture some of those diverse stories in a poetry anthology to show there's more to Leicester than a Premiership win and Richard III.

Emma Lee says:

National Poetry Day's theme this year was messages so we asked for poems that contained a message or story about Leicester city. We asked via mainstream and social media and 182 poems were submitted from Leicester and beyond. From these we chose 90 to go in the anthology.

Dahlia Publishing is a small press based in Leicester, founded in 2010 by Farhana Shaikh. Dahlia Publishing manages both The Asian Writer and Leicester Writes.

Farhana Shaikh says:

Our diversity policy is at the heart of everything we do: we’re passionate about publishing regional and diverse writing and have signed up the Equip Publishing Equalities Charter. Welcome to Leicester is a sister anthology to Lost and Found: Stories from Home, an anthology featuring short stories from Leicestershire writers.

Welcome to Leicester will be launched at the African Caribbean Centre, Maidstone Road, Leicester LE1 0ND from 7pm on Friday 7 October 2016 during the Everybody's Reading Festival.

Entry is free.

The launch will feature readings from the poets involved. Each poem in the anthology contains a story or message about the city of Leicester.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

World Peace Day: Leicester asks Britain to stop military intervention in Syria

Today, September 21, is International Peace Day.

Since November 2015, Leicester Against War / Leicester For Peace has been staging a weekly protest asking Britain to stop military intervention in Syria.

The protest takes place from 5.30pm to 6.30pm at the Clock Tower every Friday and is the longest running current protest of it type in Britain.

This week's protest will feature a performance from Leicester's leading street choir, the Red Leicester Choir which is also calling for an end to British military intervention in Syria.

In this video, United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon explains what International Peace Day is about and how everyone everywhere can be a messenger for peace:

*See also:
[1] A selection of photos from one Leicester Against War/ Leicester For Peace protest, and
[2] A playlist of videos from the protests.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Translating Tavengwa Kaponda

Tavengwa Kaponda is possibly one of the best Shona poets alive and writing today.

Kaponda is bi-lingual and is as comfortable with English as he is with Shona. He might also be conversant in a number of other languages that are used in southern Africa but he writes poems in Shona. His poems have been featured in a few bi-lingual magazines like Tsotso that publish poems and short fiction in English and Shona.

I first got a taste of his poems close to two decades ago when he used to write and give readings to a very small set of people. Then, as now, I was impressed by the depth of his knowledge of Shona poetry and how he came across as a distinct voice within the canon of Shona poetry.

Some of his poems are now starting to appear on his Facebook page. One of the first poems I came across there was "Gwenyambira":

Gwenyambira angakande mbira
mudziva otya kusara nechitima chechimanjemanje.
Mutinhimira nhemamsasa mutasvi wenguva
anowana wakamumirira
pachiteshi paanodzikira.

I loved the poem for how it could be read as a commentary on the relationship between the artist and his/her art.

In a Facebook conversation about the poem, a friend asked if I could translate the poem into English and, although I'd never tried translating anything from Shona into English or vice versa before, I had a go, and this is what I came up with:

The mbira player might throw his mbira
in the river, afraid he is going to miss the train [of what's new].
The mbira beat, rhythm and tempo, the rider of time
will be waiting for him
at the train station when he gets off.
The exercise was fascinating and revealing.

In my translation, I use 'he' and 'his' but the poem itself doesn't mention gender. The mbira player could be a man or a woman.

There were also references in Kaponda's poems that I couldn't translate into English. For example, I translated "Mutinhimira nhemamsasa" as "The mbira beat, rhythm and tempo" but that that doesn't fully convey what the phrase means. This is because nhemamsasa or nhemamusasa is a particular type of mbira music. It has particular significance in the Shona musical-social-spiritual-cultural tradition and is particularly associated with events where families or spirit mediums commune with the ancestors. Here is one example of it:

The music tends to be unwritten and it tends to be passed on from one mbira player or one group of mbira players to another. In that respect, it is very much like Kaponda's poems which, although they are written, they are mainly unpublished and can only be accessed when Kaponda gives readings or when he posts them on Facebook. And even when he does that, there might also still be need for them to be translated into other languages.

And like the mbira player who has received the beat, I took "Gwenyambira" to a South Leicestershire Poetry Stanza meeting recently and read both Kaponda's poem and my translation. The discussion that followed also looked at the mbira, the mbira player and the context within which nhemamusasa is played and the challenge inherent in trying to convey these references and contexts in translation.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The University of Leicester must offer Scholarships to People who are Seeking Refuge

Today is ‪#‎ResultsDay‬. Many students who did well are celebrating and are preparing for university.

Today is also a reminder of one of the tragedies that's inherent in how Britain treats people who are seeking refuge.

Among those who got their results today are young people who will not be allowed to go to university for no reason other than that they are asylum seekers.

People who are seeking refuge should have the same access to university as any other similarly able young person.

In Leicester, De Montfort University (DMU) is offering a number of scholarships and awards to enable asylum seekers to access university. For that, I commend DMU.

The University of Leicester should offer similar scholarships and awards to people who are seeking refuge. The university should also lobby central government and encourage it to allow asylum seekers to access higher education. By doing neither of these things, the University of Leicester is condoning an injustice.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Leicester calls for an end to British military intervention in Syria

Since November 2015, Leicester Against War / Leicester For Peace has been staging a series of protests calling for an end to Britain's military involvement in Syria.

The protests take place at the Clock Tower between 5.30pm and 6.30pm every Friday and are the longest running current protests of their type in Britain.

At the same time as these protests are taking place, a lot of people are also expressing opposition to how the British Army is targeting and selling war and military life to children in Leicester.

The army was at it again on June 25.

June 25 was also the second day of the 2016 Street Choirs Festival.

Given all of the above, it was fitting that the massed sing that took place at Jubilee Square on June 25 started with over 30 choirs from all over the UK singing Roxane Smith's "Ain't Gonna Study War".

Monday, 27 June 2016

letting go is easy

letting go is easy
you wrap your arms and legs
around the object of your desires
you cling on as if for dear life
you sink your teeth into it
and through the nose
you say you've let go

Monday, 20 June 2016

you know how it is

i will lie to you

i will say
we are done

i will tell you
life has never been better

i will say
i don't think about you
at all

i will tell you
i am so over you

i will say
i have moved on

Monday, 13 June 2016

how to write brilliant poetry

start with a rant

the rant

situate it
in post-
postmodern theory, perhaps

reference it

call it poetry

Monday, 6 June 2016

How Leicester Square became part of the Independent Socialist Republic of Leicester

riding on elephants
it was raining
when we got to Leicester Square

our spirits were high
so we wore sunglasses

dressed in an orange jumpsuit
the Chief of Leicester Square
promised the natives free wifi
as they gathered
and we annexed the Square
on behalf of
the Independent Socialist Republic of Leicester

Monday, 30 May 2016

Monday, 23 May 2016

as the sun goes down

in another universe
each time you come back
we watch bumblebees flirting
among flowers
along the white picket fence
and as the sun goes down
you speak of the old souls you met
on your last travels

Monday, 16 May 2016

a love that's turned

does it ever come
with streets filled
with the beat of drums,
a love that's turned?

when i see you again,
do i look away, turn away
and keep the streets
between us?

Friday, 19 February 2016

Leicester & the Historic City legend

So, there are these signs, that are popping up all over the place, that say:

Welcome to
Historic City

Is there anywhere (an online photo album, for example) where images of all the signs can be seen?

Was there a public consultation on the wording and images featured on the signs? If so, where can one find details of the consultation?

Also, does anyone know how many of these signs have been put up so far and whether there are plans to put up more? If more such signs are being planned for other access points into the city, is there any chance this too could be subject to consultation so that the people of Leicester can have a say on where the signs appear and what the signs say?

Given that all cities everywhere in the world can claim to be 'historic' cities, the signs as they are currently worded and as they currently look, rankle the senses because they aren’t saying anything much about where Leicester is coming from, where it is currently or where it is going.

I suspect the signs came about because City Hall is aware that Leicester doesn't tell its story well.

I hope this also means there's a willingness to listen and a willingness to explore other ways through which that storytelling can best be done and that, in this and other ways, the city will eventually find a way to enthuse visitors and citizens alike about all the things that Leicester is and all the things it could be.

City Hall could, for example, commission a series of multimedia works exploring where the city is coming from, where the city is currently at and where it might go. The works could include video, still and moving images, animation and music.

In addition to that, the city could sponsor a poetry and short fiction anthology inviting Leicester citizens, residents and/or anyone who has a connection of any sort with the city, to respond to the 'Welcome to/Leicester/Historic City' legend.

The legend could also be the title of the anthology.

The city would need to give the anthology's editors a free hand and leave it to them to select the poems and short fiction that work best as standalone pieces and as part of the anthology.

The call for submissions would also need to avoid being too prescriptive and give poets and writers room to interpret the legend as they will.

The other option would be for the city to hire a public relations or ad company and have that company do all the storytelling. But doing things this way could sideline communities and the story that ends up getting told won't necessarily be one that anyone who has any meaningful connection with the city can relate to.

Similarly, if the call for submissions is too prescriptive, the stories that might end up getting told might not necessarily be the best ones that people can tell.

If it is to sponsor the anthology and other multimedia works about the city, City Hall would need to trust the talent we have in Leicester and it would also need to trust the process.

An earlier version of this blog post was published as, "The making of a city's legend", a letter in the print version of Leicester Mercury on 13 February 2016.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

securing borders

Everything that can be done will be done to make sure our borders are secure and make sure that British holidaymakers are able to go on their holidays.
— David Cameron, June 2015.

whistling sand
off bones
in the desert

cradling babies
onto shores

thudding through things
in the tunnel

securing borders