I am an Anglo-Welsh poet, playwright, translator and songwriter and I teach poetry at Oxford University. My main interest is in cross cultural, cross disciplinary work that fuses poetry with other art forms and reaches new, diverse, often hard to reach, audiences. My work has been published and performed widely and gained recognition with prizes and awards such as a Hawthornden Fellowship (2012) and the Ty Newydd Prize (2014). My first book, When I Became an Amazon (Iron Press, 1996) was dramatised, toured in the UK and US and broadcast on BBC Woman’s Hour. It was translated into Russian (Bilingua, 2002), made into an opera with music by Gennadyi Shizoglazov and had its world premiere with the Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Company in Perm, Russia, November 2017. A song I co-wrote with the singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan in the 1960’s, ‘Train Song’, has been used on TV commercials by Reebok and Samsung and for several TV series including the hit US crime drama, True Detective. It has had over five million hits on YouTube. Since 2012 I have been working with the exiled Iraqi poet Adnan al-Sayegh on an award-winning, Arts Council funded project, ‘Writing Mesopotamia’, which aims to build bridges and foster friendships between English and Arabic-speaking communities. It has produced a huge range of outcomes including art collaborations, films, three chapbooks published by Mulfran Press - Now as Then: Mesopotamia-Iraq (2013), Singing for Inanna (2014) and The Flood (2017). A major exhibition of the Writing Mesopotamia project was mounted at Goldsmiths, London University from 6 September-25 October, 2018.
Our Poetry for Peace project involved partnering the Ashmolean Museum, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Poetry Society to work with Oxford schoolchildren and young people from diverse communities, including BAME and Arabic-speaking, to write poetry for a competition judged by the Director of the Poetry Society. The winning poems were published in an anthology, published by the FCO and performed at a special event at the Ashmolean Museum in 2016. The overall winner was produced as a film poem by the Poetry Society. Our cross cultural theatre piece, Who Can Climb the Sky, directed by Yasmin Sidhwa, Director of Mandala Theatre Company, Oxford in collaboration with Hassan Hadi, Director of the Modern Theatre Group, Malmo, Sweden, was performed at the Enheduanna Festival, in Sweden, (2016) and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (2017).
My work for Pegasus Theatre, Oxford includes Map of Stars (2002), Garden of the Senses (2005), After Gilgamesh (2011) and, with Yasmin Sidhwa and Adnan al-Sayegh, Stories for Survival: a Re-telling of the 1001, Arabian Nights (2015). I have published two further collections, with Oxford Poets/ Carcanet, Fathom (2007) and Taking Mesopotamia (2014). 55 poems from Taking Mesopotamia were published in Farsi (Soolar, Teheran 2017) and a Selected Poems in English and Arabic, Even at the Edge of the World was published in 2018 (Dar Sutour, Baghdad & Dar Al-Rafidain, Beirut, 2018). My most recent publication, Gilgamesh Retold, published by Carcanet in October 2018, was a London Review of Books Bookshop 'Book of the Week' on publication and a New Statesman Book of the Year, 2018. It is currently being recorded as an audiobook. As part of the ‘Writing Mesopotamia’ project, Gilgamesh Retold won the Warden’s Prize 2016 at Goldsmiths for work that engages the public in innovative ways and it was also shortlisted for a Gladstone’s Library Award. I'm currently completing a PhD on Gilgamesh and Translation at Goldsmiths, London University.
I also teach poetry and organise events through my organisation, the Poets' House, Oxford