What is it to be a woman and a writer in this world as it is now? Jaylan Salah shares the experiences of financial struggle, shame, the expectations of a female body placed on us by society and the freedom and catharsis of the imagination. Her recording was done in Egypt on Friday, in it, she shares what compels us to make what me make, the why that moves us, and the context in which she wrote her recent poetry book, Bury My Womb on the West Bank; the honesty of our lives in loss and hope, grief and peace.
Regine Bartsch is an artist who lives her art.
She was born in Hamburg, had a nomadic childhood living in Syria, Finland, Turkey, Germany and in 1978 settled in Ireland establishing her studio where to this day she continues to create work that is vibrant, emotive and rooted in her Buddhist practice. Bartsch’s work transcends the boundaries of current conventions and often reveals a nomad’s pleasure in sense of place. Her spirit is evident in the touch of her pastels, meaning is ignited by pure colour, viewpoint is offered by dynamic composition. Bartsch is a person who is international and local at the same time and has generously worked for many decades with the Irish arts organisation Cill Rialaig, Tibetan Buddhist retreat centre Dzogchen Beara and more recently with Aldeburgh’s South Lookout in Suffolk. Bartsch’s voice reflects the myriad colours, ideas and languages she embodies.
Alexis Wolf is a natural storyteller, true spirit, champion of women’s writing and has a boundless enquiring mind and curiosity for past and present. In this recording, she shares that first fizzing swim of the year in a city of 9.3 million people; and an extract from Body of Water, her recent chapbook, published by Two Plum Press and set between public outdoor pools in the UK and the mountain lakes of the Pacific Northwest. Whether she’s plunging into frigid water on her wedding day or considering ecological collapse while swimming through wildfire smoke, creating her own mikvah or dealing with chronic illness, Wolf’s journey in Body of Water makes you appreciate all the beauty and difficulty of being in a human body on earth.
Alexis Wolf is a Polish-American writer, teacher and academic, and lives in the UK, where she teaches and researches women’s literary history. She has an MA in Creative Non-Fiction and a PhD in English & Humanities.
Phoebe Cope is an Irish painter living in Scotland and is a multi talented person filled with great imagination and wit. She grew up as one of three children in Kilkenny on a farm and had a childhood that included donkeys, teetering piles of Georgian silver, Pomeranian dogs, politicians , poets and enormous Gunnera plants that threatened to consume the garden. She studied art at Oxford University’s Ruskin School and later lived and exhibited her work in London while attending the Royal Drawing School where she still teaches. Phoebe is undaunted by the complexities of making art while raising two small children, in fact she is thriving, and so is her work.
This morning, it is not just us waking. It is the end of winter, the beginning of spring. Sarah Watkinson takes us through this hatching of light, leaflets, chicks and buds: nesting tits feed their fledglings on newly-hatched moth caterpillars, there is a longer, stronger light and we have the sun’s brilliance. Now, after the Spring Equinox the North Pole is leaning towards the sun. Listening to Sarah, lines from Philip Larkin’s poem ‘The Trees’ come to mind.
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;Philip Larkin, The Trees
Sarah Watkinson is an emeritus research fellow in Plant Sciences at Oxford University with an international reputation as a mycologist. Her published work includes three editions of a co-authored textbook, The Fungi, with Elsevier, and numerous scientific papers. With Jenny Lewis at The Poet’s House Oxford, she organises SciPo, an annual event for Science Poetry.
From 2019-20 she was inaugural Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods, Oxford University’s own field research site, where previously she had carried out research on mycelial networks of fungi which recycle mineral nutrients retrieved from remains of dead trees. She lives near Oxford and in Northumberland. Publication of her prize-winning debut pamphlet, Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight, by Cinnamon Press in 2016, followed a career as Lecturer and Researcher in plant sciences. Since then her poetry has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies.
Helen Bowell shares a reading of ‘A Woman is Laughing’ by Fahmida Riaz, translated by Ankita Saxena. This is a poem and a sharing of empowerment, honesty and defiance, of giving ourselves permission; by the incredible Dead [Women] Poets Society, which traces and offers new life to women’s literary heritage.
The poem was published in Modern Poetry in Translation Magazine Origins of the Fire Emoji: Focus on Dead [Women] Poets, guest edited by The Dead [Women] Poets Society Helen is one of the Co-Directors, alongside Jasmine Simms, Katie Byford and Sarah Fletcher.
Introduction to the poem by translator Ankita Saxena:
Loud, ugly, unashamed and sometimes disrespectful, laughter can be an unexpected form of liberation. We rarely laugh in rooms that do not make us feel welcome. To laugh with someone, truly and not consciously, is to think yourself their equal. In ‘Ek Aurat ki Hansi’, Pakistani poet Fahmida Riaz portrays a woman’s laughter as a sign of her ‘azadi’ (freedom). Like many of our foremothers, Riaz fought for her right to laugh – to laugh at the religious separatism in post-partition India and Pakistan (which she captures in her poem ‘Tum Bilkul Hum Jaise Nikle’) and at the continued suppression of marginalised voices.
Riaz also spent a lot of time honouring her lineage, working on translations of the female Farsi poet Forough Farrokhzad, as well as Rumi, into Urdu. Despite her often radical gaze, when Riaz passed away in 2018, she was celebrated on both sides of the border as an extraordinary voice of authority. In an interview, Riaz said: ‘I am not an exceptionally politically over-charged poet. Perhaps the only exception is that I am a woman.’
I have grown up with women who laugh. My mother, who starts laughing midway through a story she is trying to tell you. My beautiful best friend, whose laugh emerges first in her eyes, then in the ‘lush tremor’ of her open mouth, before erupting finally into full-blown ecstasy. My translation is for all the women in my life, who have given, and continue to give me, me the permission to laugh.– Ankita Saxena
Pre-dawn: the excitement and possibility of snow is what greets us in Melissa Fu’s sharing, which is so vivid it makes you crave the moment of friends arriving at your front door and of heading out to the mouth of a forest, a slope, a hill, or just to step out and feel the ground crunch under your boots. Melissa takes us to the liminal place between night and day, winter and spring, melting snow and ‘more certain birdsong’. It is a space and time of readiness, of how swiftly our bodies can stream down and across winter landscapes.
Melissa Fu grew up in Northern New Mexico and moved to Cambridge in 2006. With backgrounds in physics and English, she spent many years working in education, both as a teacher and a curriculum consultant. Melissa was the regional winner of the Words and Women 2016 Prose Competition and was a 2017 Apprentice with the London-based Word Factory. Her work appears in several publications including The Lonely Crowd, International Literature Showcase, Bare Fiction, Wasafiri Online, and The Nottingham Review. In 2019, her debut poetry pamphlet, Falling Outside Eden, was published by the Hedgehog Poetry Press. Melissa was awarded an Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice grant to work on her first novel and is the 2018/2019 David TK Wong Fellow at the University of East Anglia. Her debut novel Peach Blossom Spring will be published in January 2022.
Snow can show us what other creatures we share our spaces with, which way they turn and how our tracks meet and overlap. In this recording, poet, Jack Thacker takes us along widened footpaths, desire paths, across bird, sheep and cow tracks, beast trails… and through a familiar landscape made unfamiliar. Jack Thacker is deeply attuned to rural and agricultural life and the earth seems to rise up to our eyes through his writing.
Z. R. Ghani is a marvel, whose writing spans both poetry and prose. In this recording you’ll hear her read her piece Wires. From a single tree and seed it reaches back through Deep Time and across and through the hyphae of connections to meadows and mindscapes. This is writing and a way of seeing ourselves in the world that is completely interdependent and connected.
Maria Isakova Bennett is a positive force of nature, an extraordinarily talented artist, writer, publisher of hand made books, nurturer of ideas and interests. In this recording she offers an abundance of winter in language that itself embodies the cold and is fine tuned to the music of weather.