Wednesday, 30 December 2020

The Festive Backroom: Catherine Strisik

I'm delighted to feature a remarkable poet in the Backroom today. Catherine Strisik is a poet from New Mexico of Greek background. Her poetry is full of rich imagery, weaving together present and past to create a commentary on her life and on the issues that concern her. She is currently Poet Laureate of Taos, New Mexico. Taos became a haven for a community of artists and writers in the early 20th Century, DH Lawrence writing his novel 'The Plumed Serpent' there. A foundation now organises a huge range of artistic ventures across the whole of New Mexico and beyond.

Catherine is a recipient of 2020 Taoseña Award as Woman of Influence based on literary contribution; is author of 'Insectum Gravitis' (finalist New Mexico Book Award in Poetry 2020); 'The Mistress' (awarded New Mexico/AZ Book Award for Poetry 2017); 'Thousand-Cricket Song', and a recently completed manuscript 'And They Saw Me Turn To Hear Them' which is currently a semi-finalist in the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry, 2021. She has poetry translated into Greek, Persian, and Bulgarian. She is co-founder of the 'Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art'. Catherine’s poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has been awarded numerous grants and residencies, and scholarships from Vermont Studio Centre, Lakkos/Crete Artist Residency, and Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

Here she works with motifs of femininity, heritage and memory to create a marvellous, sensual mosaic of a poem:


I Wake in Heraklion with Lady Beetles

I am soft with healing after
I am luxuriant with good fortune after
I am cloaked by lady beetles a scent of salted olive, my nature after
all means spacious means rhododendron and a pretty mouth.

If I give the impression of canopied with black spots after
my sorrow believe me when I say I am in pursuit of myself and a kiss and might after
I be a ridge on Mount Ida might local winegrowers and cicadas might my hollow after
deep between my thighs be my greeting braced  ̶

There’s femininity a softening
I’d forgotten.
                                  I’d cherish the softening
Holy is the body

its roundness the flesh
its brine a sweet

secret at age 58
a shuttered

body   a cherished   resumé.
There’s so much song even in heartache   and my heart   the female body after
bird melody my simple request after

the seeded bread I’d bought at the base of Lasíthi flavored with orange rind.
I am a Greek woman’s body I was told in the marketplace after
buying a potato and sea bream
the morning planes flew overhead celebrating Saint Minas when two vendors
said    you are one of us    you look like us    the earthy

Polite. Greek.

And the lady beetles they mean I am composed of a million single cries.

Catherine's website here:

An Interview here from 'Poeticanet':

More poems from 'Drunken Boat 18'

Thursday, 24 December 2020

The Festive Backroom 9

 Merry Christmas to all and a better New Year! 
Thanks to all who have supported the #plague and all those who choose to spend time reading and writing poetry. It’s the best way I know of defining and trying to make sense of ourselves in this, or any other, time.

The Festive Backroom 8: Liz Berry

Liz Berry's first book of poems, 'Black Country' (Chatto 2014), described as a ‘sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands’ (Guardian) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, received a Somerset Maugham Award and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014. Liz's pamphlet 'The Republic of Motherhood' (Chatto, 2018) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and the title poem won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018. A new book of her collaboration with photographer Tom Hicks will be published by Hercules Editions in 2021. 

'Blue Heaven'  is what we need this morning and every morning, a prayer to the past but also a poem to the bustling, vibrant, tragic, temporary blast that is the human spirit, that is love. Liz Berry is a fine poet (she wouldn't be in the Backroom, otherwise) but she is also an ecstatic poet, so let us enjoy this moment of fierce reflection and joy, inspired by one of the photographs in her new collaboration.

Blue Heaven 

Our poem which art in blue heaven, 

give us this morning, 

daffodils spilling Spring's song like yolk, 

moss sporing on the guttering, snug 

for wet-the-beds; jenny-wren and weeping birch 

watching over us, our unanswered emails 

and half-built Lego palaces, milk cups 

and toast crumbs, photographs of us 

in the nineties, drunk and so in love 

we look like children. 

Give us griefs and small kindnesses, 

wunce apon a time in clumsy boy's hand 

on the back of a phone bill, 

library books and Germolene, sanitary towels 

soaked with clotted rubies, 

pyjamas shed beneath the bunkbeds 

like adder skins, money spiders, stories, 

the nights we touch in darkness 

with that wild honeymilk of recognition. 

Tenderise our hearts to all that is holy: 

the dog and her blanket, the playgroup collage, 

and forgive us our trespasses - 

pulling tight the shutters on our hearts 

when others are knocking, 

cussing in the night when we stumble to the cot. 

Teach us to love each other as the tree loves the rain, 

never wasting a drop. 

Liz's Website:

Liz on Frank Skinner's Poetry Podcast:

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

The Festive Backroom 7: Eoghan Stewart

Fantastic to squeeze another young Gael Into the Backroom, proof of the language’s continued vitality. Here’s Eoghan Stewart introducing himself and his poems:

“ Here's a wee pair of poems, both improvised whilst out walking, they kind of sit together in my mind. I'm not really one for writing in response to "These Times" but what the alast few months has given me is the opportunity to explore far an wide around the formerly indigenous Gaelic speaking areas of the Aird between Beauly and Loch Ness, so I've got a lot of mileage of seeing the Gaelic words come alive. I hate using the twisted anglicized spellings so I'd rather do an awkward ENGLISH gloss where I can. That's probably where the first poem Indigenous Summer comes from, a proper "Indian Summer" day and seeing those broken spellings on the map. The second one is just about the joys of being in the Highlands on a cold winters day even in a crappy world. Anyway bud hope you like this stuff. What can I say about myself, I reckon I'm pretty much the late noughties early 2010s Arsenal of Gaelic Poetry, polling consistently 2nd or 3rd in most poetry prizes, but never winning the big deals most of the time, just playing this game for the sheer love of writings, not taking it too seriously and just loving the craic, in Northwords Now mostly. I'm a Gaelic teacher and broadcaster who loves the shinty, been brought up all over the Scotland but I'm an indigenous voice with a big interest in land rights and indigenous language rights. Should have my first collection Beum-sgeithe out next year on Acair fingers crossed."

Samhradh Tùsanach

chaidh mi a-mach 
taobh Ach a’ Phobuill
ach bha an geata glaiste
ag ràdh ‘rathad prìobhaiteach’

air Slighe a’ Ghlinne Mhòir
lorg mi slighean eile
’s thàinig mi gu Coire Foitheanais
tuathanas - baile - air fhàgail

ghabh mi an rathad
a dh’ionnsaigh
Baile a’ Chreagain
‘s lorg mi 
poit-stil fhuadan
ann an caochan fìor

bha mi air m’ iùl
tron a’ mhonadh
le sanasan air an cur
le daoine saor-thoileach
agus mapa an airm

ràinig mi mullach Càrn na Leitire
thug mi sùil a-mach air tìr
a tha air a cur an cèill
le faclan cam cèin

Indigenous Summer - I went out by (THE FIELD OF PEOPLE) but the gate was locked saying ‘PRIVATE ROAD’ on the GREAT GLEN WAY I found other ways and came to (CORRIE OF MEANING OBSCURE) an abandoned farmstead I took the road toward (THE TOWN OF THE ROCKY PLACE) and I found a mock up black still in a true (STREAM HIDDEN BY BRACKEN)I was guided through the mountainside with signage planted by diligent volunteers and the Ordnance Survey map I reached the (STONY HILL OF THE HILLSIDE) and looked out upon a land expressed in crooked alien words

Geamhraidhean Gallta

shuas mu Bhlàr na Seann Chrìche
far am bi an crodh ’s na preachain
eadar Innis a’ Chatha ’s Mam a’ Chatha
agus A’ Chaiplich Mhòr
’s eu-coltach e 
ris na geamhraidhean gallta
a chosg mi air sràidean gruamach
ann an Glaschu, Dùn Èideann, Lunnain

shuas mu Bhlàr na Seann Chrìche
tha an t-àile glan ’s tha an iarmailt glas
thoir dhomh an talamh cruaidh
thoir dhomh an talamh iarainn
thoir dhomh an deigh, an reòthadh, an fhuachd
thoir dhomh an t-siorraidheachd uaine seo
agus gealladh geal a’ gheamhraidh Ghàidhealaich
’s ceò mo bheatha ag èiridh mu mo choinneamh 

Lowland Winters - today around the PLAIN OF THE OLD BOUNDARY where the kye and the kites are between THE MEADOW AND THE PAP OF THE BATTLE and THE HORSE PLACE it is so dissimilar from the lowland winters I spent on grim streets in glasgow, edinburgh and london
today around the PLAIN OF THE OLD BOUNDARY the air is clean and the sky grey give me the hard earth give me the iron earth give me the ice the frost the cold give me this green eternity and the white promise of the Gaelic winter and the mist of my life rising before me

Monday, 21 December 2020

The Festive Backroom 6: Elizabeth Jacobson

I am so pleased to feature another brilliant voice from across the Atlantic today, a poet from New Mexico. Elizabeth Jacobson is the Poet Laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico and an Academy of American Poets Poet Lauerate Fellow in 2020.  Her most recent book, 'Not into the Blossom and Not into the Air', won the New Measure Poetry Prize, and the 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for both New Mexico Poetry and Best New Mexico Book. Her other books include 'Her Knees Pulled In' (Tres Chicas Books, 2012). She is the founding director of the WingSpan Poetry Project, a not-for-profit which from 2013-2020 conducted weekly poetry classes in battered family and homeless shelters in New Mexico. Elizabeth is the Reviews Editor for the on-line literary journal and she teaches poetry workshops regularly in the Santa Fe community.

 Here she reads two wonderful poems about our interactions with the natural world, interactions which reveal of course as much about ourselves:  'Curator of Insects' and 'Canyon Road'. 


Curator of Insects

I started asking questions about how human bodies held together.
Already I was of a certain age,

and not seeing any usual patterns.
My mind had become fuzzier,

mirroring the now fuzzier vision of my eyes.
I read about hymenoptera vision,

how paper wasps and honeybees
can remember the characteristics of a human face.

And since a dragonfly had remembered me,
I knew that this is true for them as well.

Some insects live only a few hours
or a few weeks,

30 days for a fruit fly,
2 months for a horse fly.

I saw the age of the body
might never again match the stretch of its will,

and like Keats, who remarked on the fading animation of his hand
at the end of his life,

there grew a sadness for this former vivacity,
yet unlike Keats, I had joy in its release.

Some of the things I do seem to move backwards.
Others feel as if they have a spherical momentum.

As I grow older, it all appears to taper,
yet there is also a broadening,

and although this is illogical,
this is what happens to people.

The dropping away leaves space,
which quickly floods with small things

like blue-eyed dragonflies in flight,
facing me in the early morning,

or saving an ant from drowning
in a puddle of warm rainwater.

I cultivate flowers and trees for a small variety of bees,
offer them aspen and willow for when they are ailing.

They scrape the resin off the leaves
and secure it to their back legs.

A box elder bug has been resting on the base of the desk lamp for days,
his tender black limbs secured around the cord.

He is close to death, and waiting.
All my life, I tell him, I have been told I should not see the things I see,

the way I see them.
It is too late for all that now.

He turns his head and thorax toward my voice,
his opaque bead eyes red with inquiry.

From Not into the Blossoms and Not into the Air by Elizabeth Jacobson. (c) 2019 by Parlor Press. Used by permission.

Canyon Road

Driving on black ice—
I braked too hard,
spun into a 360

and then two more.
Like a boom of a sailboat,
the back of the car

slammed a dog.
In the midnight darkness
I got out to find a coyote,

his abdomen torn open.
The canine held my gaze
as I cradled his head,

one palm above his brow
the other on his snout,
and hugged him to my thigh

until the chasm
of his breath closed.
An aloneness,

not loneliness
came from the animal—
yellow flecks inside his eyes

flashed for an instant
before they turned to ice.
I tucked the coyote’s cooling body

under pine brush,
covered it with snow.
Nothing is made less by dying.

Walking the next morning,
in the early fog,
I watched a Cooper’s hawk

fly up and up, above the road
to scan the world for prey,
then spiral down, effortlessly, 

as if it were a single feather—
hollow shaft travelling
toward the white frost.

Canyon Road first appeared in Zocalo Public Square 

Her Profile and more poems in Academy of American Poets:

Her Website:


The Festive Backroom 5: Michael Crump


A great treat for you today folks! Many people have said how delighted they were to come into contact with poets in the course of the #plague with whom they are unfamiliar. Well I bet very few folk know this one.

We have made much quite rightly of the doughty Josephine Neill, the Dumfries and Galloway Scots language poet of great renown now in her 85th year but she is not the oldest surviving Makar from these airts. That honour goes to Michael Crump, a poet who is unknown virtually nowadays, partly because he appeared only in a small number of places, in locally published pamphlets such as  ‘like track of birds’, and partly perhaps because of the scant regard paid to poets from the south west in the past. Crump was an English teacher and hill farmer who lived near Thornhill and his poetry is a beautiful and image-full exposition of people and place. His poetry flows from the landscape and its seasons like a bright clear unstoppable mountain stream. He is 87, and now lives in Edinburgh.

Auchenstroan which he reads here beautifully,(unfortunately the first line is lost in the recording) and 'heron' which he reads like a mid Nithsdale Ted Hughes, are only two of a mesmerising body of poetry which deserves to be much better known..


Half a moon and a midnight mist
whiten the walls of the cottage.
The tall ash is still. A dream ago
witches were cursed, gages given,
priests killed, bad bargains driven;
but now this night lies like loam
about the coffined past.
I stand here under the hill
on the very edge of the real world.
Wraiths rise outside the gloom
and finger our fate without spite
coldly. There is no wind, no sound.
The nether rock is held
by the weightless gravity of silence
and from the tunnel of the air
no star shines. This is the grey
crystal ark of the present.
The house, the tree, the grass,
tremble only in the moonlight of my mind. 

This film, and the longer section below, exist as a result of a brilliant project initiated by teachers Pat Kirkby and Gregor Ross in 1984, to record the existing poetical talent in the area. Already featured here has been Willie Neill and the Dumfries poet Kirpatrick Dobie is still to come.

The longer film on Crump here:

Sunday, 20 December 2020

The Festive Backroom 4: Jim Ferguson

Jim Ferguson is a veteran of the written and spoken word scene in the West of Scotland. If the poetry scene was inclusive and democratic and not a cross between a bear-pit and the Prefects room, folk like Jim would be getting awarded the Queens medal for Poetry just so he could turn it down. He's an example of what keeps poetry going and what makes it worthwhile, people who write and organise for the joy of the word and its communication. He's still waiting for his invite to the Makar to Makar sofa but we're delighted to feature him and his poetry here. 

Jim Ferguson is a poet, pamphleteer, novelist and critic based in Glasgow. Born in 1961, Jim has been writing and publishing since 1986 and is a Creative Writing Tutor at Glasgow Kelvin College. His poetry collection 'the art of catching a bus and other poems' is published by AK Press Edinburgh. Two other collections of poetry 'When feeling fully at home in the drifting living room of time' (2018) and 'For Eva' (2017) are published by Famous Seamus Publishing. In 2011 he was the 'Poet Laureate' of the Scotia Bar, Glasgow. He has also written a short monograph on Robert Tannahill: 'Tannahill: The Soldier’s Return.' This was based on his PhD thesis 'A Weaver in Wartime.' Jim has worked as a Creative Writing Tutor in Preisthill, Govan, Lochwinnoch and Easterhouse.

Ferguson's work has appeared in anthologies, on-line publications and in numerous journals and literary magazines, such as: Edinburgh Review, Common Sense, Minted, New Writing Scotland, Northwords, Cutting Teeth, Scottish Child, Nerve, Echo Room, Rebel Inc., West Coast Magazine, The Wide Skirt, Variant and Air.

Here are his notes that accompanied the video.

" I made this video on the morning of Wednesday December 9th 2020. I got out of bed put on a woolly jumper, tea-cosy-hat on my head, and proceeded to film myself doing three poems from a new collection called ‘Weird Pleasure’. Unfortunately, with my gibberish between poems and being in the process of eating breakfast, the whole thing went on much longer than the three or four minutes I was asked to do. I therefore had to do some basic editing and remove the middle poem completely. The poems I originally recorded were, ‘Song of the Deep-fried Dug’, ‘Wiseblood’ and ‘If I was Pablo Picasso, or The Porridge Song."


song of the deep-fried dug


i’m so hungry

i’m so hungry

i’m so hungry

i’m so hungry i could eat a deep-fried dug

(deep-fried dug)


it’s my west of Scotland working-class poverty narrative

and i hope that you won’t think me too pejorative

when i say:


those West of Scotland toffs are much too greedy

with their brats in private schools they’re oh so needy,

while our weans love white bread and food-bank beans

—our obese, diabetic, future does not gleam


i’m so hungry

i’m so hungry

i’m so hungry

i’m so hungry i could eat a deep-fried dug

(deep-fried dug)





pin-point of light
do you think that it’s easter
the angels can't dance for you anymore
they can't dance for you anymore...

pin-point of light
do you think that it’s easter
nothing comes back
and no one can help you

in the cold river clyde
where sanity drowned
there’s a hole in your head
to let in the sun

pin-point of life
you’re a pick and an axe
the tip of a needle
and the angels in boots

can’t dance for you anymore
they can’t fly for you anymore
feet swollen fat and marble lungs
and the box never floats

it just carries you off
back to atoms and flame
as burst stomachs look on
pus dripping down cheeks

pin-point of light
peeping out your black coat
the pus all pours in
closes everything down

closes it all down forever
closes it all down forever

pin-point of light
do you think that it’s easter
the angels can't dance for you anymore
they can't dance for you anymore...


if i was Pablo Picasso

(or The Porridge Song)


if i was Pablo Picasso

i’d be smaller and balder and Spanish

but turns oot i’m taller and Scottish

cause huge bowls of porridge i eat


i have porridge at dawn for my breakfast

i have porridge soufflé for my teas

and after a good porridge curry

i go for long runs on my knobbly auld knees


if i was Pablo Picasso

i’d have porridge tae the end of my days

i would be not lonely or sad

and i’d smile as i go on my way


but i am not Pablo Picasso

i’m just some auld dude farting words

i have nothing to say that is royal:

can’t wait to be dancing in mud.


or burnt to a crisp in a box.

Link to Jim's Website here;

A Chat with Jim here;

Some more Poems:

Saturday, 19 December 2020

The Festive Backroom: Dr Hannah Lowe

How great to find a poet who writes about Muzzy, a major character in that great series of language instruction CDs. I remember them barking constantly in the background as my daughters played, in the hope that they might learn Spanish by osmosis. One of them has gone on to be a linguist at university, mind you, though in a completely different language. Hannah's poem here is not about Muzzy, though, but about definitions of loneliness, or peoples' ideas of loneliness. It's fantastic to feature Hannah here in the Festive Backroom, she is a thoughtful, edgy and very contemporary poet.

Dr Hannah Lowe is a Lecturer in Creative Writing whose work draws on first hand account, memoir and history, particularly post-colonial history. Her PHD used historical research "to narrate the 1947 journey of the SS Ormonde, the immigrant ship predating Windrush." Her current research is on Chinese arrival and settlement to the UK.

Her first book-length collection 'Chick' (Bloodaxe Books, 2013) won the 2015 Michael Murphy Memorial Prize, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry, and was selected for the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets 2014 promotion. Her second full-length collection, 'Chan', was published by Bloodaxe in 2016, and a third, 'The Kids', is due from Bloodaxe in 2021. She is former poet-in-residence at Keats House, London.

Here she reads Nĭ hăo:


Nĭ hăo

In bed this morning, reading Adrienne Rich,
Rory beside me watching a lime green monster
called Muzzy on his Ipad. Muzzy is teaching
my son Chinese. Nĭ hăo, the boy says, over
and over. Outside the birds have been saying hello
for hours, and the early sky has finally bloomed
to blue. Someone somewhere playing a piano.
Every man I bring into this bedroom

says Books! regarding the shelves, the jamboree
of books in every colour, stacked two rows thick,
who knows how many words, not all of them read.
But this April morning, it’s Diving into the Wreck
and I think, is this what aloneness is? A warm bed,
my books, this small boy flowering beside me?

Friday, 18 December 2020

The Festive Backroom: Ceitidh Campbell

We have Ceitidh Campbell in the backroom today, our first woman Bard, I'm ashamed to say. Ceitidh is one of the current 'Champions' of the Scottish Poetry Library, commissioned to choose emerging Gaelic poets for the SPL's digital platforms. She is also responsible for addressing a glaring oversight in the SPL's list of Scottish poets by promoting the inclusion of Mary MacDonald, the poet from Bunessan, Mull, whose life spanned, just about, the whole of the 19th century, and at whose memorial my mother always insisted on stopping in the old days, whenever we were on the island of her own birth.  During Mary's lifetime, another woman, Janet MacKenzie, of South Rona, having lost her husband, son, a brother and two brother in laws at sea, was given a pension by the Admiralty after making sure that, every night, a light showed in her window to guide ships. Ceitidh's poem here tells us that story. It's a striking image, and one very much for all times: 
a light in the window while the storm rages.
Ceitidh Campbell has connections to Raasay, Lochalsh, Inverness and Penicuik and started writing Gaelic songs and poems whilst at the School of Scottish Studies. She gained an honours degree in Scottish Ethnology and Celtic Studies with a focus on Gaelic song and poetry and its historic significance. She achieved 3rd place in the Oran Ùr do Mhuile song writing competition in 2008 and as part of Fèisean na Gaidheal’s An Taigh Oran project in 2012 produced a series of new songs with other Gaelic writers. In 2018 she won the Gold Medal at the Royal National Mòd and regularly performs both traditional songs and her own work. A Gaelic teacher at Millburn Academy in Inverness she is currently developing work for her first collection. 

Here she reads  Moladh Bean Rònaidh:

Thàinig am bàs air an t-sluaigh, 
tubaist na mara a bha cho chruaidh. 
Bhàthadh maraichean sa chuan 
air beulaibh Bean thùrsach Rònaidh. 

Ged nach b’ i ach banntrach bhochd, 
gach oidhche las i solas còir. 
Gun ìmpidh, gun ghearran, le earrann bheag ola. 
Moladh Bean bhuadhach Rònaidh. 

Fad còrr is fichead bliadhn’ ’s a trì 
dheàrrsadh solais na mnà gun dìth, 
chumadh na seòlaidearean bhon strì. 
Taing, A Bhean thuigseach Rònaidh. 

Fhuair ceannard an nèibhi litir bheag 
bhon chaiptean a’ Chomet is thuirt e ris, 
“Feumaidh sinn airgead a chur dhi.” 
“Cò i?” “Bean shuicheanta Rònaidh.” 

Eadar an taigh ’s an Acarsaid Mhòr 
thall a Phortrìgh chaidh sòlas an ròis. 
Gu bràth, bidh cuimhn’ againn air Seònaid. 
Moladh Bean uasal Rònaidh. 

Death ravaged the people, 
maritime disasters that were so severe. 
Sailors drowned in the sea 
in front of the distressed woman of Rona. 

Although she was only a poor widow 
every night she lit a gentle light. 
Without persuasion, without complaint, with a little store of oil 
Praise to influential woman of Rona. 

For over twenty-three years 
the woman’s light shone without fail, 
keeping sailors from danger. 
Thanks, to the understanding woman of Rona. 

The Lord High Admiral got a missive 
from the Captain of the Comet which said 
“We need to give her some money.” 
“To whom?” The iconic woman of Rona. 

The light from the peninsula shone between the house in Big Harbour 
and over to Portree. 
Forever, we will remember Janet 
And praise the noble woman of Rona. 

Hear the 5 Gaelic poets chosen by Ceitidh as part of the Champions project here:

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Poetry as the Struggle for Truth: Dareen Tatour

At a time when so many poets are still recovering after dangerous months of walking the dog and fighting for a Tesco Home Delivery slot, it’s salutary to remember there are writers who risk imprisonment or worse for bearing witness and telling their truth.

After a three-year ordeal of prosecution, jail and house arrest Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was sentenced in August 2018 to five months in prison for a handful of social media posts and a poem titled ‘Resist them my People, Resist Them’. She was convicted by an Israeli court of “incitement to violence” and “support of terrorist organizations.”

Tatour, supported by PEN International, defended her poetry as a protest against Israel’s persecution of her people. After her release she was awarded the 2019 OXFAM Novib/PEN award for Freedom of Expression.

I am delighted to say that Dareen has recorded a poem for #plagueopoems. She is a strong woman determined still to use poetry as a weapon against discrimination and injustice, no matter the consequences. When I asked her about the role of poetry in today’s world, she answered

“ Through poetry we can break all boundaries and exchange cultures and feelings.
I feel that the world without poetry and poets is a dry world that contains nothing. Poetry, particularly political poetry that comes through the poets, is a basis for change, and the way to say no to all aspects of dictatorship.”

Strength and support to the thousands of poets worldwide who are risking life and liberty to express themselves.

Here Dareen reads 'Don't Stay Silent':

Don’t stay silent!

(Translated by: Mohammed Mousa)

You, daughter of existence!
Don’t stay silent.
Ask them: 
Who burnt the olive branches in the face of peace? 
Who turned off the colours in the eye of daylight? 
Who injected misery into the laughter of kids?
Who shackled the melodies in the canary’s song?
Don’t stay silent !
In your suppressed voice, a wail and a dying.
Don't be ashamed!
Don’t weaken!
Rather, shout!
Don’t acquiesce, but resist!
Ask them:
Who made damage live in our lives?

Don’t stay silent!
In your wounded voice, a killer rejoices.

Don’t stay silent!
Silence is a killer and your voice is the deterrent.
Spread the word and resist.
For they fear your rebellious writing.

Don’t stay silent!
Silence is a crime.
Rape is a crime.
Occupation is a crime.
These crimes are against you.
The effortless gestures of so called men.

Don’t stay silent.
Don’t be afraid!
Break up the chains .
Break up your fears
And melancholia.
Be the echo!
The bird was never afraid of the grip of the oppressor.
Chains never silenced the songs of canary.
Bars never stopped it from playing the melody of life.
Don’t bend down!
Be the poem, be the story, be the phrase, 
be the words
Oh, my friend,
don’t stay silent.
Be like the bird —
Unafraid of the cage.
Be the sun in the sky with its brightness.
No need for a star that does not light up
Destroy fatigue
Be suns!
I know the sun always shines with good news
Don’t stay silent!
In your slaughtered silence an oppressor smiles/
Walk with me—
For a revolution.
And throw a stone in the face of the oppressors. 
You are the civilization!
The beautiful sights!
And hope.
Revolt against all the injustices.
The scruples
And distress.
Revolt against beliefs that come from idols

Don’t stay silent —
for silence ruptures the heart like a dagger
Makes the meanings and images bleed.
Don’t stay silent—
for the voice despite its pain will be victorious.



لا تَصْمِتي


يا أَنْتِ، يا بِنْتَ الوُجودْ       

لا تَصْمِتي

قولي لَهُمْ

مَنْ أَحْرَقَ الزَّيْتونَ في وَجْهِ السَّلامْ؟

مَنْ أَطْفَأَ الأَلْوانَ مِنْ عَيْنِ النَّهارْ؟

مَنْ أَدْخَلَ الآهاتِ في ضَحِكِ الصِّغارْ؟

مَنْ كَبَّلَ الأَلْحانَ في صَوْتِ الكَنارْ


لا تَصْمِتي

في صَوْتِكِ الـمَكْتومِ وَيْلٌ وَٱحْتِضارْ

لا تَخْجَلي

لا تَضْعُفي

بَلْ فَٱصْرَخي

لا تَرْضَخي بَلْ قاوِمي

قولي لَهُمْ

مَنْ ذا الَّذي قَدْ أَسْكَنَ العُمْرَ الدَّمارْ؟


لا تَصْمِتي

في صَمْتِكِ الـمَجْروحِ يَفْرَحُ قاتِلٌ

لا تَصْمِتي

الصَّمْتُ سَفَّاحٌ وَصَوْتُكِ رادِعٌ

بُثِّي الكَلامَ وَقاوِمي

فَٱلكُلُّ يَخْشى حَرْفَكِ ٱلـمُتَمَرِّدْ


لا تَصْمِتي

هٰذا السُّكوتُ جَريمَةٌ

وَٱلاِغْتِصابُ جَريمَةٌ

وَٱلاِحْتِلالُ جَريمَةٌ

كُلُّ ٱلجَرائِمِ ضِدّكِ

مِنْ إِشارَةَ تَبْدَأُ

مِنْ ذا ٱلـمُسَمَّى بِالرَّجُلْ


لا تَصْمِتي

لا تَرْهَبي

لا تَجْزَعي

قُدِّي السَّلاسِلَ وَٱلـمَخاوِفَ وَٱلكَمَدْ

كوني الصَّدى

لَمْ تُرْهِبِ ٱلعُصْفورَ قَبْضَةُ ظالِمٍ

لَمْ تُسْكِتِ ٱلأَقْفاصُ تَغْريدَ ٱلكَنارْ

لَـمْ تَثْنِهِ ٱلقُضْبانُ عَنْ عَزْفِ أَلْحانِ ٱلحَياهْ

لا تَنْحَني

صيري ٱلقَصيدَةَ وَٱلحِكايَةَ وَٱلجُمَلْ

صيري ٱلكَلامْ



لا تَصْمِتي

كوني كَما ٱلعُصْفورِ لا تَخْشَيْ قَفَصْ

كوني ٱلغَزالَةَ[1] في السَّماءِ وَنورَها

لا حاجَةٌ لِجَوْنَةِ([2]) لا تُبْرِقُ

بيدي الكَلَلْ

كوني الشُّموسْ

إِنَّ الشُّموسَ عَرَفْتُها

في كُلِّ صُبْحٍ بِٱلبَشائِرِ تُشْرِقُ

مُنْذُ الأَزَلْ


لا تَصْمِتي

في صَمْتِكِ ٱلـمَذْبوحِ يَسْعَدُ ظالِمٍ

سيري مَعي

في ثَوْرَةٍ حَتَّى ٱلأَبَدْ

وَٱرْمي ٱلحَجَرْ

في وَجْهِ أَشْباهِ ٱلبَشَرْ

أَنْتِ ٱلحَضارَةُ وَٱلـمَعالِمُ وَٱلأَمَلْ

ثوري عَلى كُلِّ ٱلـمَظالِمِ وَٱلوَساوِسِ وَٱلقَبائِلِ وَٱلكَدَرْ

ثوري عَلى هُبَلٍ يُسَيِّرُهُ هُبَلْ


لا تَصْمِتي

فَالصَّمْتُ يَعْبَثُ في ٱلفُؤادِ كَخِنْجَرٍ

يُدْمي ٱلـمَعاني وَالصُّوَرْ

لا تَصْمِتي

ثوري فَإِنَّ الصَّوْتَ رَغْمَ ٱلآهِ

حَتْمًا يَنْتَصِرْ

([1])الغزالة: الشَّمس عند طلوعها؛ لأنّها تمدُّ حبالًا من نورها كأنَّها تغزل. 

([2]) الجونَة: الشَّمْس.

An interview with Dareen by Salon Magazine:

Two more poems by Dareen:

Overview of work by PEN International: