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Conversation Poetry Quarterly

Summer 2009 & Refugee Week Special


Edited by: David Nettleingham Christopher Hobday

Acknowledgements: For their help in collecting the poetry for Refugee Week Kate Adams Hubert Moore Helen Smith Lauren Milne Henderson For their help in the development of the Conversation International Poetry Project in the last three months Federico Federici Nesrin Eruysal Roxana Djafarzadeh Mohammed Hashas Tinashe Mushakavanhu Elizabeth Noble Worod Musawi Karly & Gus Henne

Cover image adapted from the bronze ‘Courage’ by Jenny Yousif Barnette

Guest Editorial: Half Camel, Half Zebra: When the Poem Takes You Somewhere Else

p. 1

Rose Auslander Buried History

p. 3

Charles Clifford Brooks III Quartet in A Minor

p. 4

M.V. Montgomery Joshu Holds a Press Conference Darrow

p. 5 p. 7

Amylia Grace The Madison Square Five , NYC

p. 8

Colin Campbell Robinson Count the count

p. 9

Elizabeth Noble Saudades

p. 12

Benjamin A. Smith Virgin Mary Sighting February 14, 2009

p. 13

Chris Fegley the blue guitar/Lejos de la guitarra azul

p. 16

Rick Kearns A Case Of Mistaken Identity or Why I’m Usually Pissed Off

p. 18

*** Poetry for Refugee Week Haymanot Tesfa This matter

p. 24


What Belongs to Me Dark Room

p. 25 p. 26

F. Mehrban Remember Me Ageing

p. 27 p. 29

Kadour Milnyali The Trees that Live in the City

p. 30

David C. Byrne Past simple Mr Mosul

p. 31 p. 32

Sylva Portoian Slayer’s Hands, Slain Homeland

p. 33

Bekele D. Woyecha The talk is change

p. 34

Stephen Mead Immigrant

p. 35

The Contributors Submissions

p. 38 p. 43

Editorial: Half Camel, Half Zebra: When the Poem Takes You Somewhere Else Writing is a powerful weapon in difficult times. It can be a way of recording and communicating the truth in a factual way to counter distortion. It can also be a means of self expression, a release of feeling that uncovers another truth. The Iranian film maker Abbas Kiarsotami says that poetry and music “extract us from our daily reality, to bring us to a hidden truth that is difficult to access - to a level that’s not material but spiritual”. I work with refugees and migrants who are detained indefinitely because of their immigration status. I assist them in fighting for release by helping them access support for their legal case. The focus of my work is practical; it is about listening and recording facts, organizing information. Through this process I encounter something less tangible, the emotional state of someone engaged in a battle for survival (detention is deadly, many are driven to self harm, some to suicide). I am in touch with detainees’ desperation and their resilience. This has made me interested in how people survive, keeping hope alive in what can seem like a hopeless situation. In 2007 my friend Kadour was released after twenty months in immigration detention. Prior to this he was in mainstream prison (for having no documents) where he learned with great difficulty to read and write in English, having had no formal education in his own country. I spoke to him about how he had used his creativity to remain hopeful and sane. Kadour said that in prison he began writing, pieces that were neither poems nor stories; fellow inmates described them as “half camel, half zebra”. He wrote about “crows, trees and land”, things beyond the prison gates and the prison experience. This was necessary because in prison every day was the same: the same music, the same TV programmes, heard and seen in the same small room. He described feelings of sadness and denial. “I woke up and heard the keys ringing, when I opened my eyes, the door was open but I was sleeping.”


Kadour explained how the act of writing helped him - “A poem opens your mind and your heart. You think about what to say and do and the poem takes you somewhere else, far from the problem”. I asked Kadour if he thought his poem The Trees that Live in the City, which describes trees trapped and suffocating in an urban landscape, referenced his own experience of imprisonment. Kadour said, “Everything reminds me of prison: bird in a cage, fish in a tank, trees in the city”. He added, “a poem is like the sea, rough or smooth, sometimes it’s a struggle. A poem is part of life”. Kate Adams 29/06/2009

References: Abbas Kiarostami A life in Cinema Interview by Maya Jaggi, The Guardian Saturday 13th June 2009 Biographies: Kate Adams lives in Whitstable and works for Kent Refugee Help, a charity supporting detained migrants in Dover. She trained as a painter in the 1970s and has been writing poetry since 2006.


Rose Auslander Buried History Gardens of carrion flowers hours +/- hours


Charles Clifford Brooks III Quartet in A Minor A man alone in prison hears God laugh at him. Tied up with thick chords there are no bird songs. The stars do not reach that scab of tortured earth. Tonight is his escape. He brought music with him. The prison is a joke as is the laughter, as is God.


M.V. Montgomery Joshu Holds a Press Conference A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master: “Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?” Joshu answered: “Mu.” [Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning “No thing” or “Nay.”] –Reps and Senzaki 1. Don’t go there. No comment. Mu and mu. The Blessed One was silent on such matters. You won’t catch me in that fox-trap, young man. 2. Stupid question! Would you set bounds around enlightenment? Is it important to measure yourself to a dog? Please retreat to your ego-doghouse. 3. Always rationalizing! Burying bones of yes and no. Measuring out the Buddha-nature in dollops, as if to purchase it by the pound. 4. Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me? No talking: doing. Shakyamuni is not your master. Better to hold one’s own leash. 5. Better still, not to have spoken or to have repeated such a platitude at all. Winter comes. Who is there to ignite your pilot-light? Answer quickly.


6. Then again, perhaps you should try dying. Voyage to Dreamland to find out answers to questions of no vital importance. Yes: you may skip ahead to the next world. 7. No: you are immediately caught napping in the garden, experiencing nightmares about not having lived. Annoying other ghosts with your tears and lamentations. Forever in two places at once! 8. Your question means nothing! When such formulations arise, pay them no mind. Acknowledge them with only a word or shrug– no more than this. 9. Was it my answer that was nothing? I have forgotten your original question. Silence fills all of the sky when an old bird is at roost. 10. Come closer. I can’t hear you. Closer. Now speak directly into this big stick. Kaa!


Darrow He was the lawyer as brave as Socrates who permitted no one to cling to received opinions or the comforts of predestination. He looked into the prisoners’ faces at the Chicago County Jail and saw what was there to see: the fact they’d been given just one lecture all their lives, from parents to teachers to the cops: they were no good. So he tried telling them just the opposite, advised them to wise up and stop being schmucks. To get into the much-richer game being staked on the outside by the likes of Mr. Rockefeller. He went on to make a monkey out of an ailing William Jennings Bryant. Then at 71, he examined his own memory and found it faulty. And so: good riddance to the persistence of consciousness. As for the body’s resurrection: pure Humpty-Dumpty. His own message was always simple. All men are mortal. Live in the present. Hold no sacred cows.


Amylia Grace The Madison Square Five , NYC I. Midnight’s Spring Cherry blossoms spring To life. Old knotted fingers Of white on black. II. Tanka from A Walker in the City By foot in New York Dodging Midtown’s noxious fumes Air above blows black Birds beat wings against the wind Frightened, remaining in place. III. Haiku of Japanese Tourists Old Birds from Osaka Savoring the Big Apple Tweet so carefully! IV. Allergy Season Trading Tanka Manhattan day dawns Downy dust travels windswept Up noses, down throats. Enemy elms, ash ‘n maple Issue par shares of Zyrtec. V. From the Park, a First Lips wet her hard mouth Tastes fresh stubble. Tongues tickling Knees nestled sideways. 8

Colin Campbell Robinson Count the count Verlaine never wanted to write a novel because he would eventually be forced to write ‘the count entered the room’. The Count entered the room. It didn’t have to be that way. A story could be told without his entrance; a poem could be written without his presence. Some, however, didn’t believe this was possible. The impossibility of the Count entering the room was not countenanced. Which room? Now we have a story my friend. You are forced to admit it; forced to admit the Count into the room. Music and maudlin reflections dominate his world. All the experiments he made led to drunkenness, turmoil and a little adventure. Ah! The latter is the curl, the grin, the sly salvation. Never beaten, always high. Sex was part of the picture, perhaps was the whole picture but that’s jumping ahead to the moment. It’s the languorous ecstasy It’s the amorous fatigue So here we are in a fallen street near Camden Town, Royal College Street, hanging out the window stroking, being stroked by the fine shower, hanging out the window. to a spirit in pain there is only soft rain Verlaine and Rimbaud, can you believe, lived down the road from you and me. And this is what happened. In London they found plenty of bohemian amusements and a group of admirers. The Count entered the room. Rimbaud looked up and instantly felt a revulsion. Verlaine was not home. He was out with Molly from Number 62. The details were never revealed. Nothing was revealed, everything was traumatic.


Verlaine shot and lightly wounded Rimbaud during a heated argument, an event that ended their relationship and propelled Verlaine on the road to faith. Languor tired of love Verlaine spent two years in a Belgian prison for the shooting. Upon his release from prison in 1875, Verlaine visited his mother and then lived for a time among Trappist monks. He then travelled to Stuttgart Germany to convert his former lover Rimbaud, but the pair immediately fell back into their debauched ways, which ended with a violent quarrel. The two men never saw each other again. Dream we our dream! The Count entered the room and shot them both. This is the story Verlaine did not want to tell. Coda. Languor tired of love his heart gripped by cold breezes a soul complains a sleeping lament a refrain breathed quite low * Over the skyline a pale moon stares in every room air sighs


two willow trees waver and weep one in the breeze one in the deep stream of glass dream the dream * As it rains on the town a dull possession grips his mineral-soul to a spirit in pain there is only soft rain on the ground on the roof the rain scatters clatters a heart-sick heart but my love we have the rain whispers Verlaine.


Elizabeth Noble Saudades I left my home so long ago And I never will return Something is lost forever Something new has grown Saudades Saudades Saudades Something is lost forever Something new has grown I left my home so long ago And I never will return.


Benjamin A. Smith Virgin Mary Sighting February 14, 2009

When the miracle melted away We gave our time,

working with

Sister Alicia packing lunches; five years ago, it’s hard to believe, the brown grocery bags were overfull with food, and the workers Brought home yogurt and sugar and koolaid sometimes. When the miracle melted away The paper bags Grew thin and empty Riquenos wearing black glasses and black suits Wiped their feet on the bienvenido mats Stole the warmth from the houses and homes The heat thieves Moved old furniture onto the sidewalk. And we’re screaming, we are crying From the acidic pits of our stomachs “The hands and eyes of heaven have no Heart!” And I know that. The authorities left When injustice had been served


When the miracle melted, man, I saw 10 people living in a crumbling foreclosed Basement On the same street As the Sovereign Bank headquarters The fucking headquarters And the people who have all the money Don’t have a dime to spare, Not on freezing hungry children Not on skinny mothers. This ain’t anything new And that’s what sickens me To wear my own skin When the miracle melted away, We had to ask ourselves: How do the poor fend for themselves when they are enslaved to fend for the rich? Yeah, I’m talking about the entrepreneurs and the corroded politicians and the lackluster academics, alcoholics, I’m sure, every one of them. How in a city of Latinos, the only people making money are White How is it, in a city overfull with Latinos, the only people making money are white? You tell it to them El Presidente. You tell it to them Governor. You tell it to them Mayor. You tell it to them. 14

Explain to them how

Jacob’s ladder is in the streets of America,

That you’ve seen one or two angel climb back to heaven

When the miracle melted away

Firemen and women took their axes to the ladders and shoved them over:

Here the streets are still horizontal! Here on this ground, now, no,

Not one of us Marching outside your white house Is leaving.


Chris Fegley the blue guitar I can’t hear it anymore I can’t hear it, the guitar driving G sharp and indomitable flamenco cries the stamping dancers’ feet stomp, ¡ole! The slapping cajón and discordant horns are tears for “the sins of our fathers” and grandfathers. When Tanya sings, the saints weep and God sees the wretched. I can’t hear them anymore, the sounds of the gypsy kitchen after dark creole rum fellows and absinthe dreams, Charles’ blue bird song

all are lost in noise I am too far from home... 16

Lejos de la guitarra azul No puedo escuchar eso nunca más Yo

no puedo



la guitarra

compás G agudo e gritos duende de flamenco las bailaoras muy fuerte del talónes, ¡ole! El cajón rápido y trompeta de desacuerdo son las lágrimas de nuestros padres y abuelos. Cuando los santos lloran Tanya canta y Dios ve a los pobres. No puedo escuchar eso nunca más, los sonidos del gintano tablao por la noche compadres de criollo ron y ajenjo sueños, pájaro azul de la canción de Carlos

todos se pierden en el ruido Estoy demasiado lejos de patria... 17

Rick Kearns A Case Of Mistaken Identity or Why I’m Usually Pissed Off The man appeared waving a large knife, “A machete?” Could be. Anyway he was latin, puerto rican, and he robbed us last night. In the harsh light of the pizza house moment the manager saw a Latino man draw out a long knife and quickly put the tip to his sweaty neck. “He got about $80,” he said to the cops, “probably Puerto Rican, 5’10” or bigger thick moustache, stocky build, dark skin. Probably Puerto Rican.” And so the word crackled across nightstick radio, 10 hours later Arturo was “apprehended” while leaving his uncle’s house, under suspicion of armed robbery and being Puerto Rican in Harrisburg.


Arturo-with-nopast-criminal-history 5’6” slender clean shaven Arturo with 5 eye-witnesses, was sent up. $30,000 dollar bail set and so Arturo, was given the privilege of free room and board at Chez 501, orange jump suit and a roach on the pillow, free-of-charge. Enter a hung-over yet aggressive social worker stage far left, I walk slowly to the table and sit across from a stone silent brother with an Indian face, “Where were you on the sunny afternoon in question?” He smiles and it quickly fades, “I was making love to my cousin’s wife.” Silence. Jaded as I am smirk and roll my eyes, “Do you have anyone


to back up your statement.” “Five people.” In a moment I’m on the horn with his lawyer he’s telling me in court-appointed numb tones that the police do not consider his witnesses valid. This lawyer, who I remembered had been a human when we first met, was explaining that they would not consider the testimony of “the others” being 5 Puerto Rican “others” because their testimony was biased. I tried explaining this to Arturo and he looked at me with pity and said “So you’re surprised? Shit my boss called yesterday to tell me I’m fired. But at least I’ll be out real soon.”


Eventually, I was able to uncross my eyes and made it to the Preliminary Hearing, the first step in the digestion process of the injustice system. They led Arturo to the table handcuffed and watched closely, and for the first time the pizza manager got to look at him and yelled “Hey, that’s not the guy!” Case dismissed. Life ruined. Fuck you you’re only poor and Puerto Rican in Harrisburg in the 20th Century.



The poems that follow have been collated with the help of the Write to Life programme of the Medical Foundation and the Kent Refugee Help charity, as well as contributions from individual poets. In support of Refugee Week in the UK we are pleased to be able to present a range of poetry from those who have been displaced, currently residing in Britain and the US, and from those who have worked closely with them.


Haymanot Tesfa This matter (“This matter occupied the time of the Court from 10.20 a.m. to 10.28 a.m.”) Eight minutes they gave for the light of me to be switched on or switched off. But that was OK. All that was on the agenda was my small past, my small future only a bangle of handcuffs that suited my tiny hands; only being dragged by the arms so it polished the lucky airport floor and saved me walking; only three times staying behind the eleven locked doors of my holiday home. I cried every day but it wasn’t too bad. My tears washed my cheeks. Eight minutes they gave.


Aso What Belongs to Me I came here on a day that nothing belonged to me Except my crutch, which at any time they could take away Even though I could not walk without it. On that day, things happened very quickly, I was exhausted But the time was very enjoyable Because every hour brought new things. Bad or sad Cold or warm, Hunger and pleasure New places... New people... New air! But still, nothing belonged to me except my crutch. I had brought many things with me; My stories had a thousand colours, But my face had one, which was the colour of smoke. I came here with the memory of those starless evenings which I had left; they did not belong to me. I came here with the frightened smiles I’d found in the back of the lorry; I left them in the interview room; they did not belong to me. I came here with my key in my pocket, the key of the small dark box which was full of white dreams; it did not belong to me. Before I left my country I did not belong to myself, and nothing belonged to me. I was owned by other people. The day I came here, I owned nothing and nothing belonged to me except my crutch... the only thing that gives me direction wherever I choose to go.


Dark Room In this dark room Open the window, I need to meet the wind! Wind comes from nowhere Nowhere, the place we all come from. In this dark room, wind will bring the song of swallows. Please open the window! I need to meet a wind Carrying unending dreams. In evening, when the sun is too exhausted to stand It holds a breath of blooming stars As the wind dances with the waves of skyline. And I am in the room, waiting, waiting. Who understands the mystery of the dark? Maybe the wind does. My feet are stuck to the floor But my eyes are flying A moth sings by the window Open the window, I need to meet the wind Only the wind knows what I’m thinking.


F. Mehrban Remember Me To my hero, Feridoon When you see a big tree broken by a storm and fallen on the land When you see a spring that has turned in on itself to form a lagoon When your heart is full of the pain of injustice but your lips are sewn When you’re tired of solitude and loneliness Remember me If nobody hears your cries for justice, or hears and ignores you anyway If hurt and cold and hunger prevail As you writhe in pain at the inexorable whip But your pride doesn’t let you cry Remember me If you sit all day long in the dark, thinking and thinking Darkness behind you and, in front of you, annihilation Without a friend to remember the past Suffering in a continual nightmare Seeing everything dimly Waiting for years and years to see a passerby through your small window, hoping for any short message Losing your youth Without any pleasure Remember me I watered freedom’s tree with my blood But instead, I saw oppression growing I watched the thunderstorms through the window I heard the raindrops on the roof But I wanted to see the drops on the flower petals in our garden I heard birdsong at dawn But I wanted to see the birds flying in the blue sky And one day I knew that although they’d imprisoned me They couldn’t control my dreams Then, in my small, damp cell, I dragged my wounded body to the darkest part of it In my dream I made myself free In my mind I created the voice of the wind scuffling and streams tumbling


I saw birds flying in the blue sky I rode for hours and hours on my red bike I put my head on our father’s shoulder I even smelled our mother’s roses Yes... I was free Darling, remember life is magnificent when in the middle of a rainy night, in the dark, wet streets, you see two lovers walking When you pass a garden and see a small sparrow with a broken wing, take it in your palm. Stroke it, mend its wings and help it fly Fly beside it and feel free, with your whole body, then... Remember me On the big oak in the corner of our garden, carve my name Close your eyes and imagine me beside you Feel my arm around your shoulder Listen... Pink Floyd are singing... I wish... I wish you were here Turn it up loud Think of me.


Ageing Once I was a garden, green and prosperous Filled with prolific trees The colours of my flowers were inspiration for a poet The greens of my trees borrowed for a painter’s palette The chatter of my waterfalls soothed weary ears The shadow of my trees sheltered tired travellers My soil had a fresh fragrance, like a pretty girl My twisting foliage danced delightfully My silver spring water was purer than tears My silence was magnificent Life was flowing in my veins I was so proud of the way the moon climbed slowly in the sky and Smiled down at me A thousand stars sighed jealously But one day... The sky sulked Ceased its rain The sun didn’t smile at me any more I burned under its dreadful light And I saw that I was dying Felt life drying in my veins I heard my roots sobbing The fear of ruin consumed me Now... what was I? Dessicated, a wasteland Bare of any movement Empty of any flower or grass No excitement about spring coming Only anxiety about winter’s reach Surrounded by blackness and rottenness My pulse getting weaker and weaker Like a spider, stuck in my web Waiting for death


Kadour Milnyali The Trees that Live in the City I see trees humble and waiting to die. They have no life. Everywhere I look, A canopy - buildings with glass windows Blinding me. The trees are crying out. I cannot speak to them, speak their language. Sad, miserable, trapped in the city, Between building and building. No one notices. Unless you love nature You will not see the sadness of the trees. Trees should be next to the river, behind the mountain. They would be happier. I hope one day they won’t plant trees in the city. If I had the power I’d change it.


David C. Byrne Past simple Everyday routine at nine o’ clock, the students copy the plan, the register tick tick, all smiles, ‘good morning sir,’ the whirr of silence, the think of pens, the ‘what did you do at the weekend?’ is as far back as it goes. The session unfolds and all boxes are ticked ticked, learner goals and achievements, aims are all in place, faces beam and stand attention to instructions, functional language, situational utterance, the blend of methodology would surely get a 2, a possible 1 if Ofsted should drop in, lend a hand to the curriculum with panache, drive, a 3rd conditional observation, but they don’t. They don’t see the them and me, the wrenched frown of formality, the lack of family, the mewled tree of war, just present simple routine. I get up, I eat lunch, I think teacher, mind busy sir, problem me. The disclosed fist under a table, the only sister somewhere else. They don’t see the old boys and girls sad with a world of headlines and bribes, tribes melted in a yawn, they don’t see shelf life aged seventeen. These suits and starch, these march of paper, these statistic tick tick do not see the them and me trying to tease from routine and talk about yesterday.


Mr Mosul For Shahab Kader When he turns into light he bounces off walls, his grin is a rainbow of teeth and lips, words slip and fall in beams. You hold his verbs between tips of fingers; see his thoughts in your hand as he refracts, bends reality as eyes shrink and swell just looking at him. You can not tell him to stop, you would not want to and he would not. The room inhales when his laugh blooms from curve to roar and you swear you never saw corners blush in awe, never saw a roof raised or four walls split, and we are only the audience who sit, clap and cry: want more.


Sylva Portoian Slayer’s Hands, Slain Homeland We are phalanges of vanished hands, Penning a narrative that left decades unsound. Knowing exactly what the slaughters’ brutal rule did, Ending innocent lives; unknown in known’s creed. Let our screams from bleeding, tearful souls Reach senators, MPs dressed in men’s clothes, Who solemnly pretend, unable to announce, Unable to face the criminal’s dice. Let us help every soul who speaks in a true voice. On terrain where flesh decays, uncanned, Where recognition of human rights remains just Even if almost a century of cruelties has elapsed Since all that was committed by vicious hands and vile minds!

Armenian Genocide began on April 24, 1915, and continued until 1923. There were many massacres before, but they were not defined as genocide.


Bekele D. Woyecha The talk is change Obama talks change, So does McCain, Brown and Cameron. Politicians talk, So do students, So too teachers, So do others. So what is wrong, If those who seek sanctuary. Talk change, And voice their concerns, On the change they all dream. That allows work And safeguards education, That uses experience and knowledge And restores confidence That goes for family union And avoids family breakdowns That encourages full participation And helps to come out of misery Many hoped for Spoke about for years This should come at last For justice to prevail For life to be normal For that sends a message for hard work So as to pay back to the host And discharge self responsibly And get recognition and dignity, That is the change we all dream.


Stephen Mead Immigrant 1 dreams on waves horizons of leaving how to get back this foreign dialect‌

2 am I deaf (lapping freedom) am I dumb (like a stray) there is a man (praying to) left behind (keep pride)


3 & returning

4 oh I will work (veins) listening to (blistering) birds (under sun) & for (a strange) word sent (continent) pure as (with the) Mother Russia’s (same hard) driven (ethic) snow


5 oh dreams on darling, we waves of must not horizons of lose touch

6 leaving


The Contributors Rose Auslander’s six word memoir is: “Mathematician’s daughter: has trouble counting.” She is a second-generation American, and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her blog is at http://rausland.wordpress. com/, and her creative writing has been published by The New York Law Journal, and by Form Reborn, of Folded Word Press. See http:// Charles Clifford Brooks III is a poet and freelance writer living in Georgia USA. He was inducted into the National Creative Society his senior year at Shorter College where he also obtained a BS in History/Political Science with a minor in English Literature. Along with his creative endeavors, he also contributes articles to three magazines and a newspaper. Charles Clifford has been published in over 40 magazines, 3 anthologies, and printed in five foreign countries. He is currently Poetry Editor for Literary Magic Magazine. Ghost Shadow Press picked up his first book of poetry “Whirling Metaphysics”. M.V. Montgomery has poetry forthcoming in Muton and quarrtsiluni. More on Montgomery can be found in the notes to Issue 7. Amylia Grace is from the American Midwest. She teaches and writes creative writing in her native Milwaukee. Colin Campbell Robinson is an Australian writer and social researcher now based in Edinburgh. He has had poems, prose and essays published in a number of journals both here and in Australia. He has also published a number of well-received reports on social issues such as homelessness. Currently he is working on a project with the Roma community in Glasgow as well as experimenting with poetry and new media. He is particularly interested in breaking out of the mouldy moulds that characterise most British writing. He draws much inspiration from French, Italian, German and Polish writers although, to his shame, he can only speak rough strine. Benjamin A. Smith is a nonviolence activist and writer out of Reading, Pennsylvania. He currently edits the “Swords into Plowshares” newsletter and has enrolled in Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing program.


Chris Fegley has been published in local poetry zines like It Wasn’t The Chili Dog With Onions by the Young Artists Cooperative, Harrisburg PA. And the Harrisburg Review. He had the privilege of assisting Fulbright Scholar Kerry Shawn Keys with his Pine Press first English publication of Vytatus Bloze, a Lithuanian poet freed from Soviet reeducation facilities after the Wall fell. He wrote a third-world travel feature for New Voices Magazine. Currently, he works as an anti-violence community organizer in a rust-belt city of the northeastern United States with a large, and mostly disenfranchised Latino/a population. He has been a member of the original “No Nukes” social movement after surviving the Three Mile Island nuclear accident as a child in 1979. He has been a human rights observer in Haiti the first time President Aristide was exiled. He worked on the committee to elect the first Latina City Council member in Reading, Pennsylvania. He also worked for the Trade Unions to educate the retired steel workers about President Bush’s Social Security fiasco, and in said capacity, also helped raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania. Rick Kearns, aka Rick Kearns-Morales is a poet, freelance writer and musician of Puerto Rican and European background based in Harrisburg, PA. As a journalist Kearns has written for daily, weekly and monthly news publications since 1986. In the last decade his work has focused on Latino and Native American issues. Since 2006 Kearns has written about indigenous Latin American issues for “Indian Country”, with special focus on the administration of President Evo Morales of Bolivia along with stories from Ecuador, Columbia, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, Paraguay and Puerto Rico among others. By May of 2009, ICT had published 80 of his articles, several of which have been reprinted in over 30 online publications including a few in Latin America and Europe. His article, “Native Environmental Hero” will be included in the next edition of Native American Voices, a collection of poetry, prose and articles used in Native Studies courses in over 50 universities. In 1998 he won Best Interview of the Year from the National Federation of Hispanic Owned Newspapers for his interview with Manuel Rodriguez Orellana, spokesman for the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Since 1999 his articles have appeared in national magazines and newspapers such as Hispanic, Native Peoples, Native Americas.


Kearns’ poems have appeared in the following anthologies: El Coro/A Chorus of Latino and Latina Poetry (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1997); In Defense of Mumia (Writers & Readers Press, Harlem, NY, 1996); and ALOUD; Voices from the Nuyorican Cafe (Henry Holt & Co., NY, 1994. Winner of the American Book Award.) His work has appeared in literary reviews such as: The Massachusetts Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Chicago Review, ONTHEBUS, Poetry Motel, The Blue Guitar, Drum Voices Revue (So. Illinois University Edwardsville), The Patterson Review, HEART Quarterly, Big Hammer, Palabra: A Journal of Chicano and Literary Art, Yellow Medicine Review, Fledgling Rag and others. His poetry has been published in three chapbooks and two full collections: Street of Knives (Warm Springs Press, 1993), Boricua In Between (1997), Jazz Poems (1997), Endtime Poems, (1998, Pacobooks), and in 2007 he published “The Body of My Isla”. Red Pagoda Press has published five of his poems in brochure form since 2000. Elizabeth Noble is a poet and writer from North Yorkshire, living in London. Also known as Buffy, she performs with her Brazilian musician partner Bruno, fusing her words with Bruno’s music. She has also performed with Italian prog-rock ambient funk project ‘ANIKI in Lazio, Italy, and also with the legendary psychedelic-folk band Circulus. She finished her as-yet unpublished first collection, ‘Creatures After All’ in 2008, and is currently working on a collection of Cantigas, inspired greatly by the music of Caporeira. Elizabeth is the co-founder, along with nature-writer friend Helen Babbs, of the free arts event and collective Look Both Ways ( in London. In her spare time she can be found making money, dreaming, drawing, walking, swimming, and playing the oboe in Bethia Beadman’s band. She will shortly be moving to Brazil with Bruno, where she looks forward to putting together the Brazilian Portuguese edition of the Conversation International Poetry Project, in the spring of 2010. Her greatest ambition in life is madness, and her beating heart is a pursuit of freedom. You can listen to Buffy&Bruno’s music at: Haymanot Tesfa is a singer and artist from Ethiopia. Her artwork was on show in West Hoathly, Sussex, as part of the South East England Open Studio scheme in June. Since her arrival in England she has had three spells of detention in Yarls Wood Centre.


Aso wishes to remain anonymous. F. Mehrban was born in the south of Iran and before becoming a writer worked in a big company for more than twenty years. She started writing when she was a child and had many short stories and poems published in magazines in Iran. She came to England in 2002. Kadour Milnyali is originally from Algeria. As a stateless person he has lived in many countries and wishes to settle permanently in the UK so that he can fully develop his creative talent in painting and writing. David C. Byrne is a Manchester based writer with a lengthy and rewarding experience of teaching Refugee / asylum seekers for about 10 years. His completed portfolio entitled ‘Foreign Bodies’ for the MMU was mainly based on issues and lives that he has met throughout his career. He is also a performance poet with verve and wit that likes to convey the truth about what he does and those who make him do it. Sylva Portoian-Shuhaiber is a pediatrician trained in England, who has articles in well-known medical journals: Lancet, Archives of Diseases in Childhood, Tropical Pediatrics, Annals of Genetics (Paris), Journal of Inherited Metabolic Diseases and Journal of Cardiovascular Surgery. She has presented her medical publications at international medical conferences. She started rhyming at age seven and discontinued after specializing in medicine. Recently she was able to start once again and has released eight collections of poetry in less than a two-year period. Each book breathes a genuine, passionate new poetic story that may be modified to a humanitarian theory. Bekele D. Woyecha is a Human Rights Activist currently living in Wales. He is originally from Ethiopia and fell in love with writing during his high school and university days in Addis Ababa in late 80s and early 90s. He has written on a range of issues and relishes writing. Stephen Mead’s poems began appearing in literary journals in the 1990s, but after moving to Massachusetts, Stephen concentrated on painting. In 2000 Stephen started seeking publication again for his writing and art combined.


Since then his work has appeared internationally. In 2004 Stephen began experimenting with poetry/art hybrids, creating award winning e-books such as “Heroines Unlikely”. From there Stephen began experimenting with his art/poems as films. In 2006 Stephen released a CD of poems set to music, “Safe & Other Love Poems”, (CDBaby. com), as well as three DVDs, ( In 2007, print editions of his work began being distributed by


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ISSN 1759-9393

© 2009

Conversation Issue 8 Summer 2009  

This issue is split mixing poetry from the UK and US with the work of refugees and migrants in support of Refugee Week.

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