Literature of Exile: the poets of Exiled Writers Ink

Exiled Writers Ink brings together writers from repressive regimes and war-torn situations, providing a space for writers to be heard. Exiled Writers Ink develops and promotes the creative literary expression of refugees, migrants and exiles, encourages cross-cultural dialogue and advocates human rights through literature and literary activism.

The following poets have all been supported and promoted through the work of Exiled Ink.Some are well-known, widely published and with large followings; others are new writers just getting started. Each has a unique voice and message about the experience of exile.

Bashir Algamar…

was born in Sudan in 1955. He came to England as a political refugee in 1993 after being imprisoned for a poem. Since then he has lived in Brighton. Since 1991 he has written and composed more than 40 poems and songs, mainly in Arabic. His poetry deals mainly with his homeland, exile, human suffering and love. It is written either in classical Arabic or in Sudanese local dialogue. The poems contain many emotions, images and metaphors; and are written in a musical and rhythmic language.

From “A Child and A Doll”

They amputated her hands, her legs
only her head remains,
witness to a minor tragedy.

The tragedy of uprooting –
uprooting human beings
their memory, and their identity
the swallowing of earth
the sucking of blood.

The past remembers the past
joins the present…
…and you grow older.

The volcano threatens to erupt
the shameful images
are burnt into the little girl’s memory.

Twenty years on, the girl and the doll’s head remain
Anger will not surrender.

Mother earth, the whole earth
belongs to everyone.

Love, true love
belongs to those who give it.

No borders, no passports are needed.

Our mother earth gives abundantly of all her wealth
of everything, joyfully
gratified when we meet our needs
angry when we become greedy.

Then she is sickened, and throws out lava
crying a torrent of tears.
Overwhelmed with fear
she shakes into an earthquake.

Yet we feel no shame
you, I, us, them
all are responsible.

Blinded by our avarice
we pushed our mother earth to destruction.

Hanna Ali…

specializes in African identity; a theme that features heavily in her creative writing. A former child refugee from Somalia, her writings are concerned with unpacking what it means to be lost. Previously published in Scarf Magazine and Case Stories, she was recently short listed for the London Short Story Prize.

Blood
When it first spills
Scatters hurriedly to corners
Creases on your body
Adorning clothes
With the stench of extremities
Moulding itself around you
Splatters of human matter
Gather on cotton
Crimson brown and metallic
A kind of graffiti of hurt

Hama Tuma

is an Ethiopian poet and writer of satirical articles and short stories. A political activist since the sixties he has been in the midst if the Ethiopian struggle for democracy, making him persona-non-grata to three successive Ethiopian regimes. He lives in Paris, where he continues to write and to be an activist in the struggle for democracy in Ethiopia, Africa and elsewhere.

Of guilt

The man ran after his fart
to slap it back
and erase the shame.
The stink lingers.
Today’s love is tepid, almost cold,
won’t dry a hankie,
no heat at all.
Time has subdued my countrymen,
they pass history twice and
leave no shadow behind.
The frog in the pond
laughed itself to death, the owl is blind.
In the Waldiba monastery, forever silent,
noisy festivities are held.
Time moves on grinding all,
changing all,
but the crocodile has no teeth
and the Ethiopian no guilt:
everyone’s heart is lost.

Hasan Bamyani

Hasan Bamyani

As a teacher in Afghanistan, was attacked by the Taliban for teaching girls. When he fled in 2001 he was forced to leave his family behind in Iran. In 2006 he finally received leave to remain in Britain. His work has appeared in Exiled Writers Ink! and in The Story of My Life: Refugees writing in Oxford.

Into My Cell

Into my cell I’ll call her
From her honey lips I’ll drink

When her golden hair enfolds me
I am aflame, I am
Aflame

I shall knock a hundred times
On her wooden gate

I shall kiss the stem of her throat
I shall blow the dust of sorrow
Off her memory like ash

And when at last she brings
The cup of her lips to me
The bowl of her arms to me

I shall tear the chain from my door
And wait no more

O golden-haired sun
A thousand tales of you
Shine in my window

Come to me
Come to me

Valbona Bashota…

Valbona

is a Kosovan Albanian who fled to the UK in 1994 due to the Serbian repression in Kosova. Her poetry was published in many Albanian newspapers, magazines and publication,s and she took part in various literature festivals in Kosovo. She won many prizes for poetry, achieving first prize in 2004 in a poetry competition for Albanian emigrants of the world. She works as a freelance journalist and has just started her MA in Professional Writing at London Metropolitan University.

Why I write

I write because I live, I breathe, I feel
I write because this is what I’m born to do.
I write because this is who I am
I am the page, the pen, and the ink

I write because I feel
The thunder, sun and rain in a certain way
I write because I live, I cry
I laugh and die
In my own special way

I write and witness the miracles of life
The pain, the misery and children’s laughs
I drink the wine of other people’s blood
I crave the joy of unharmed youth
I live, cry, and rejoice all in one day
I am a writer, a messenger
I cannot be any other way

Gëzim Hajdari…

Hajdari

was born in 1957 in Hajdaraj, Albania. In the course of his intense political activity & his work as a journalist, Hajdari often spoke out against the crimes & abuses perpetrated by the Enver Hoxha regime and the post-Communist government. For this and other reasons, following repeated threats, he was forced to leave Albania in 1992. Since 1993 Hajdari, who writes both in Albanian and Italian, has published twelve collections of poetry, two travel books, a long essay in memory of the poets & writers imprisoned & murdered by the Hoxha regime, & several translations, including a collection of the songs of Albanian soldiers conscripted in the Ottoman army.

Each Day I Create a New Homeland

Translated from Italian by Cristina Viti

Each day I create a new homeland
in which I die & am reborn,
a homeland without any maps or flags
celebrated by your deep eyes
that chase after me all the time
on the journey towards fragile skies.
In every land I sleep as a man in love,
in every house I wake up as a child,
my key can open every border, unlock
the doors of each & every black prison.
Returns & eternal departures my being
from fire to fire, from water to water.
My homelands’ anthem: the blackbird’s song
that I sing at every season of waning moon
risen from your forehead of darkness & stars
with the eternal will of the Sun god.

Amna Dumpor

Anna Dumpor

was born in 1968 in Mostar, Bosnia and Hercegovina. During her youth in Mostar, she was involved in the media and theatre. Her anguish on fleeing Bosnia and becoming a refugee caused her to write prolifically, to pour out her emotions ‘like a volcano erupting. ’ She has been living in London since 1992.

My Love is a Simple Truth
Translated from Bosnian by Gianna Salkovic

Yes I did love you!
Isn’t this simple truth enough for you?

I loved you in the moment
As I inhaled you

Through the stretched skin of my stomach
Waiting for the Mostarian, thirsty summer.

Can’t you live from the moment?
And are important, all these everyday events
Of this simple truth?

Don’t look for me,
In the remains of the destroyed bridge.
Don’t ask me to come back, I have left forever.

Don’t search for my image from the train,
Already departed behind the hills!

Yet I loved you.
As a woman and a poet
Framing you for the most beautiful exhibition of my life.

Therefore, don’t look for me beneath the curtains,
Of a finished act and a destroyed theatre.
There are no performances and no actors!

Please, tear it off from eternity
And it is your moment.
In it, I loved you with a simple truth.

Lesley Williams is a 25+ year librarian and a reviewer for Booklist magazine where she specializes in African American, Muslim, and LGBTQ authored literature. As a public librarian she created public programs emphasizing the literature of colonized peoples, leading year long discussion programs on Latin American history, Muslim cultures, and the plays of August Wilson. She currently tutors English reading and writing to first generation students at City Colleges of Chicago.

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