Blog: July – a month of poetry

By some happy coincidence, all of our events this July are of the poetic kind. It therefore seems appropriate to declare this our unofficial month of poetry! So without further ado, here’s what we’re getting up to and where you’ll find us:

1. Poetry as Protest @ Ledbury Poetry Festival – Sabrina Mahfouz & George Szirtes

Sunday 5 July, 4:15pm – 5:15pm

MahfouzzGeorge Szirtes
English PEN is venturing outside London this month and heading to Herefordshire for the biggest poetry festival in the UK: Ledbury Poetry Festival. Join Sabrina Mahfouz, George Szirtes and English PEN director Jo Glanville in a discussion about poetry and politics.

This event is just one aspect of our festival-wide campaign Poetry as Protest – formed in partnership with Ledbury Poetry Festival. It seeks to raise awareness of poets who have been persecuted, through imprisonment or otherwise, for their poetry. You’ll find Poetry as Protest woven into the fabric of the ten-day festival with poets such as Simon Armitage and Jo Bell reading a poem written by one of English PEN’s writers at risk.

Book your ticket HERE


2. Speaking Truth to Power @ Shubbak Festival, Free Word Centre

Thursday 23 July, 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Back in London we’ll be at Shubbak Festival, the premier festival of contemporary Arab culture. Three leading writers from the Middle East will be debating the contentious issue of freedom of expression in the region and beyond. Censorship is a rising concern around the world and this is great opportunity to hear from remarkable individuals who have had to contend with it. They are:

Sinan Antoon – an Iraqi author living in New York
Choman Hardi – a Kurdish poet whose family have been forced to leave Iraq several times
Samar Yazbek – a Syrian writer and journalist now living in exile and recipient of 2012 PEN/Pinter Writer of Courage award.

Book your FREE ticket


3. Modern War Poetry @ Poetry International, Southbank Centre

Saturday 25 July, 12:00pm – 1:15pm

We’re all familiar with the Western rhetoric and stance on modern war, most notably, the ‘war on terror’. Syria, Iraq and the Middle East in general have made up a significant portion of our news stories and this event presents us with the opportunity to hear personal accounts of conflict from a Middle Eastern perspective.

Syrian-Kurdish poet Golan Haji and Iraqi poet Adnan al-Sayegh are modern war poets, recording their experiences at great expense to themselves.

This talk is chaired by BBC broadcaster Harriett Gilbert and presented in partnership with Poetry International.

Book your ticket HERE

4. Faber Social and English PEN presents: Secrets

Monday 27 July, 7:30pm

Faber and PENSecrets – we all have them. In fact, we know six writers with a whole night’s worth of them! Join Sadie Jones, Ben Markovits, Max Porter, Polly Samson, Jack Underwood and Emma Jane Unsworth as they explore the theme of secrets through stories, music and performance.

In the words of Roald Dahl, come and ‘watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’

Book your ticket HERE


So there you go, enough poetry to keep you inspired for the whole of July! We hope to see you there.

You can find our full listing of events at:


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