A Long Overdue Update

Hello to my old and new readers!

It’s been a while since I took proper care of my website, but it’s time to change that. I’ve given it the upgrade it deserves, and I hope to write for it (as regularly as I can) once again. My last post was in February, to announce I had 11 new poems out, in addition to the publication of my debut collection. A lot has occurred since then, a great deal of it too painful to talk about right now. I will focus on my writing, my profession, since it at least has gone from strength to strength. In fact, it has been more than a little surreal. I’ve had a further 9 poems published in that time, with three more forthcoming.

In February, five of the poems I had published were in Spanish, as commissioned by Alí Calderón and translated by Andrea Rivas for Circulo de Poesía. In June, I flew to Mexico City as a guest of the international poetry festival run by the very same exceptional crew and was beyond privileged to meet them in the flesh. Every one of them lived and breathed poetry. I’ve never known such hospitality, and I tell you honestly that no festival I’ve attended has matched what I experienced in Mexico. It was extraordinary. Poets read in Arabic, in French, in Greek, in Danish, in Lithuanian, in English, and for each of us there was a translator to read those works in Spanish.

My final reading in Mexico

Too much of the arts is funded by governments, and too much of those funds comes with restrictions, so arts festivals are often small and limited in their scope and vision. This was a festival that dared to reach for the world, and was commensurately grander for it. In order for literature to thrive, this must become the norm, an embrace of other languages, visions, forms of poetry. I’m so lucky to have seen that truth with my own two eyes, and for that I will forever owe Alí Calderón and everyone else who worked so hard to put that festival together.

I’ve been hard at work on my second collection of poetry all year, titled An Inheritance, and I’m pleased to say it’s finally done. I’m grateful to Varuna House and WestWords for enabling me to spend a week in residence working with editor Elena Gomez to whip it into shape. Alongside my poetry, I’ve also been readying myself to work on my debut novel, currently titled A Boy unWoven. I received a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship for Fiction earlier in the year on the basis of the concept and the first 500 words. Later, thanks in part to the work I did then, I received an Australia Council of the Arts grant that will enable me to take off most of 2018 to complete the first draft (insha’allah).

It feels so strange to have worked for so many years at my craft, getting nothing and going seemingly nowhere, only for it all to start coming together in a comparatively fast time. I know how quickly potential can slip into nothing, however, so I keep working at it. I was also invited to perform at the Queensland Poetry Festival, the Melbourne Writers Festival, and the Tasmanian Writers & Readers Festivals–to their directors and programmers, I give thanks. I had to live precariously off freelance writing gigs to ensure I could accept those invitations, but having survived it, I’m glad I did. They were one and all invaluable learning experiences. Most recently, last Sunday in fact, I read at the Men of Letters event in Sydney, and this coming Saturday I will be appearing at the Boundless festival for diverse writers.

Men of Letters, Sydney 2017

Lastly, I’m so happy to say that my book These Wild Houses was shortlisted in the Queensland Literary Awards, for the Judith Wright Calanthe prize for poetry. It didn’t win, but that feels like such ugly language to use for poetry which has not only saved my life, but taken me across the world. For all my personal troubles, all the heavy grief I’ve suffered this year losing family members and friends, I have been blessed. To everyone who has bought my book, or shared my poems, or followed along as I stumbled down this forever strange road, I am forever thankful, and hope you’ll carry on with me.

Salaam

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