Jan-July 2022 Roundup

It feels like a very long time since any posts have come up here – and indeed, it’s because it has been. It’s been an incredibly busy year. I’ve completed my first year of teacher training (got my QTS, but one more year to go for the PGDE on the track I’ve chosen). Somehow, I have managed to keep afloat with my poetry and writing. I’ve not done much standard publications because I haven’t had time to put myself out there – but I have been lucky in many ways. A new role for the city of Manchester has allowed me to pursue my passion for multilingualism that cuts across all my recent work.

Please note: I keep my About page regularly updated with all my publications as both a writer and a translator (though I don’t typically list all the workshops and events I host or participate in).

Manchester Multilingual City Poet

In February, I was appointed as one of the 3 inaugural Multilingual City Poets of Manchester, working in both English and Arabic and alongside Anjum Malik and Jova Bagioli Reyes.

I should have made a bigger fuss about it than I have! This has been a lucky and amazing break. It is an honour to represent the city in this way, and to bring to it both my languages, mother tongue and other tongue. I’ve done several things as part of this – Al-Usra walSufra, which I’ll get around to beneath, a key part amongst them.

Our City Poet roles were announced on the 17th February – a hectic day, given I was teaching and had to leave my school early to rush to the Manchester Poetry Library.

You can watch my poem for the city, In Prisms of Knowledge, on YouTube:

The Arabic version, Fi Noori Bayt al-Hikma, is ready and will be published soon.

As part of my work as City Poet, I’ve also translated and performed the Arabic version of Anjum Malik’s poem This Here, and will be doing the same for Jova’s poem later in 2022.

Al-Usra wal-Sufra at the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival

On 17 July, my art exhibition Al-Usra wal-Sufra featured on the last day of LAAF, at the Family Day festivities in Sefton Park. You can see pictures from the event here.

Al-Usra wal-Sufra, or Family and Feasts, was an attempt to bridge the language gap British Arab children face. I conducted workshops in two Arabic schools – the Manchester Arabic School and the Liverpool Arabic Centre. We played games with our language, enjoyed our dialects, and read the poem Good Morning Tea by Jawdat Fakhreddine, translated by myself:

We make good company with tea:
Greet morn with it, for that’s our way,
For tea must come up with the sun,
Just as the night’s tail drags away,
We meet with morn, all’s said and done,
Then part our ways for all the day.

The children wrote their own poems inspired by this, and the results were astounding! We wrote about food close to our nationalities, and the students wrote about maqlooba, mendi, koshari, aseed, baklawa, coffee and so much more.

These poems were displayed alongside a doll house which was made with local multidisciplinary artist Rosie Stanley to resemble a typical British Arab household, complete with a majlis where all the family and friends may gather for big weekend meals.

Inspired by the pupils, I wrote the following poem:

الأسرة والسُفرة
مقلوبة سيدو تقلِّبُ قلوباً فلسطينية
ومندي حبابة يولِّعُ عواطفاً يمنية
سمكة جِدَّة تقرِّبُ سواحلاً جزائرية
وكشري تيتا يفوِّقُ عجائباً مصرية
صالونة أمي العودة تلألِئ بحوراً بحرينية
وجدتي، كجدتك، جدة بلا مقارنة

كما نرحب القمر بقهوة المساء
كما نلتقي الشمس بشاي الصباح
لهجاتنا المختلفة بهارات ألسنتنا
عند السُفرة نستهلك قصص أصولنا

استلهمت القصيدة من حاتم، طالب في مدرسة مانشستر العربية، وقصيدته “مقلوبة تقلب القلب”.

Al-Usra wal-Sufra: Family and Feasts

As Sido’s maqlooba spins hearts Filistini
And Habaaba’s mendi fires passions Yemeni
As Jida’s grilled fish recreates coastlines Jaza’iri
And Teta’s koshari eclipses ancient wonders Masri
As Ummi al-Auda’s saloona sends me to seas Bahraini
And mine, like yours, is the world’s greatest granny

As evening coffee meets the moonlit night
And morning tea greets the dawning sun
As dialects reflect our Arabic varieties spiced
The feast on the sufra is our flavour of home

Inspired by Hatem, a Manchester Arabic School student and their poem ‘maqlooba tuqallub al-qalb’

Events, Workshops and Multilingualism

Multilingualism and translation really have been at the heart of what I’ve done:

  • January: A consultation with Young Identity and Manchester Poetry Library for an Over 26 poetry group which we are still working towards doing – this is something that we hope to be fully funded when it becomes a reality.
  • January: ArabLit Quartlery, FOLK launch event! Hard to believe that was so long ago now but yes, it featured presentations, excerpts, conversations and more. Check it out below.
  • February: I translated the opening of Ghazi Al-Haddad’s beautiful praise poem for Imam Ali, Are You The Moon Itself? Published in time for the Mawlid of Imam Ali.
  • March: Mother Tongue Other Tongue 2022 Launch Event with Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • March: Stephen Spender Trust CPD alongside Nisah Sajawal on doing translation workshops in the English classroom. This blended my school work and poetry work in a wonderful way.
  • March: In this time I was also a reader for New Writing North’s annual Northern Writers Awards, reading collections for the two poetry competitions and selecting towards the judges – a valuable insight into this process.
  • May: With Young Identity and Manchester Poetry Library again, I co-hosted a workshop with the masterful Anthony Joseph, who brought surrealism to our writing.
  • June: Performance at the 1st Street Festival with Young Identity.
  • June: Also published a short translation in ArabLit Quarterly: THE JOKE! You can see it here.
  • July: Two events at the Shared Futures conference for English teaching – one in a performance with Young Identity, the other in a panel with the City Poets.

About alialjamri

Young journalist, blogger, trying to make sense of the world we live in.
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