Incomprehensible Lesson – Poems by Fawzi Karim – English Versions by Anthony Howell – Fawzi passed away 16/17 May 2019


Very pleased that a new book of my versions of the poems of Iraqi poet Fawzi Karim have just come out from Carcanet

M3361S-3034Incomprehensible Lesson:  poems by Fawzi Karim in versions by Anthony Howell after translations made by the Author. Born in Baghdad in 1945 and now living in London, Fawzi Karim is has established a reputation as a major figure in contemporary poetry.  Plague Lands, his first book of poems in translation was a Poetry Book Society recommendation for 2011.

Anthony Howell’s first collection, Inside the Castle, was brought out in 1969. His most recent book of poems is From Inside, The High Window Press, 2017.

Incomprehensible Lesson explores the experience of becoming at home in London, a period of transition, from a sense of exile to a sense of uneasy belonging. The book is prefaced with an introduction by the poet.


Close to my home…

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cyrene coin crp

Do you know how long ago it was that the heart
Vanished at last from the face of the earth?
Once it emboldened the coins of Cyrene:
Double-chambered emblem only Cupid’s dart
Could ever penetrate. The last stalk it ventured, Nero ate.
Those sylphs who stole through the Silver Age of consent
Would have sworn by Silphium. Libya had the monopoly
Since the heart refused to grow anywhere else;
But might it be that originally Minoan civilization
Nurtured it or managed to appropriate its cultivation?
Hearts adorn their signet rings and seals:
Canny serpent witches as inventive with their herbs
As Daedalus with mazes, his engineers commissioned to devise
The self-sealing chambers of the pyramids.
But neither as immobile as the pharaohs,
Nor into marauding – like the patriarchal horde
Sweeping into mainland Greece from the North –
Crete and Santorini were islands of sophistication.
Maybe they stole both the heart and its soil
So that they could bed the love-seed in their seas.
Magical societies that blossom into wonder
Always know the art of contraception, wise to desire
Being seen as an end in itself, rather than a recipe
For drudgery. Better than the dogma of “Go forth”
There is that Boustrophedon return
Of the plough to where it was, adjacent to
Its previous furrow; one direction steered about
And tacking back, then back again, as if the share
Sheared the turf simply for the sake of it,
The seed scattered afterwards for the joy of doing it.
In that fair age, a bond adored was not constrained
To pregnancy or mother’s pride. Getting nowhere happily,
Hearts would fuse for fusion’s sake, until, when time allowed,
There was that entirety of a field finally ploughed
As it was done in the day of the ploughman’s father.
Did you know their threshing circles gifted us the theatre?
Dancing with bulls, regaling the Nile with their henna,
Intercourse then was as carefree as any Etruscan’s
Or as the Languedoc’s later – blown to bits by eruption
Sadly, then overwhelmed by the ensuing tsunami.
As for the heart-seed, a bead of its resin sufficed
To bring on your menses, after having dallied with Adonis.
Queen Anne’s lace is a relative, wild carrot, penny-royal,
Pomegranate too, but none have quite the properties
Silphium possessed; as a scent, a relish and a medicine.
Killed by demand, it vanished, as the empire of the Caesars
Entered its decline. Nero must have been transitioning;
Or perhaps, to have ate the very last
Guaranteed the laurel of magnificence, like being the guy
Who hunted down the one remaining Dodo.
But this is how the heart has vanished from the face of the earth,
And do you know what happens to those empires that are
Relieved of their heart? First they blow others to bits for a while,
Libya, for instance, while they seek to multiply
Progressively; but in the end what’s needed is an ark.
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SATIRE for the Millenium

Woman killing a nasty tree

Very pleased that my essay on satire is now posted on The Fortnightly – Satire for the Millenium

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Outside Belmarsh for Julian

Anthony outside Belmarsh for Assange 2020

Click The RUPTLY LINK for the video – and here is The Duran 

Veering below us, the railings go optical.
When did you last see a tree?
Way up above, there are clouds hemmed in
Between the plutocratic heights
Of Barclays and HSBC,
Breath-defying, and co-opting all
Below their peaks: us, that is, who’re less than ants
Lost among electric mazes, taking platform selfies
Since we doubt that we exist.
Tate and Lyle believe meanwhile
In ‘Keeping the Nation sweet!’
I’m on my way to Belmarsh to protest,
But you can prove you’re living if you eat;
So most of us are heading for the halls.
Me, I like my hot-dog pretty mustardy;
A preference on which I can’t insist.
Speech has been remanded, is in custody
Somewhere behind those walls.


Update 6 May 2019: Read this appalling account of how the public are being treated by the courts now, written by my friend Elleanne Green:

Attending the court for the Julian Assange hearing today left me frustrated and deeply angry … I got there really early to grab a good place in the queue some hours before the scheduled moment … when we got inside there was nothing organised to make sure people who had waited longest could retain their spot … no queuing and NO system … chaos and mayhem ruled and the most important case in the world today had been shunted into Court 3 which had very few seats for observers … so I stood my ground near the door and would not move for hours … if any of the public had been allowed in I would have been the one … but when the moment came they called for Press with a Purple permit … most of the Press had Green permits so it was only the preselected who were allowed in … not one single member of the public was allowed in to support Julian … just elite establishment press representatives … how is that even legal? It certainly is not ethical … as we all chanted afterwards ‘British courts are kangaroo courts!’ … what an outrage … a disgrace … someone said the judge had decreed that no non press were to be admitted … but they let us all wait (and fight and squabble about our places in the queue) for literally hours knowing it would all be for nothing … I no longer have faith in our judicial system … it has clearly been corrupted … I have rarely felt this angry or disappointed before … we live in sinister and cynical times … tell the world the truth of it … this should be known …  


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seagull inland

Gulls on the pitch sound faint through the night at five.
Lights are wasted on streets forsaken even by foxes.
Hooked beaks inspire each other’s desolate, distant mewing
Over the somewhat more diminished drone of one lone juggernaut
Orbiting the 406 as pallor tries to streak the curtains
No one wants to pull apart on a day of, yes, yet more delay.
We lie twisted in suspense, caught in some perpetual hour
Before dawn – our fate, it seems; whereas it’s always sunrise
For the Japanese. Gulls on the pitch mean evil on the sea.
The channel’s chopped up savagely: it’s widening with each tide;
Europe’s drifting further and further, further and further
Away. The inland gulls crying why, why do we stay?
Icebergs break off; causing congestion on the North Sea.
Disassociated homes get walled against theft from a neighbour.
The battered gulls perch on our walls, watched carefully
By patient foxes. As for that Japanese sunrise, it doesn’t appear.
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Paris Summer Academy 2018

Summer school 2018 Rosella

Two performances

From Anthony Howell’s performance art workshop in Paris 2018

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5G freak-out! The fox guarding the henhouse?

Terrifying documentary by Sasha Stone – 5G Apocalypse

The whistle is given into the hands of the manufacturer. What chance do we have?

Interesting that Brussels has become the first major city to halt 5g due to health effects.

Meanwhile this is how it is seen by the Defense Industry

– no mention of safety or risks to health of course. As the documentary points out: all regulation of 5g has been handed over to its developers. Look up the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) – entirely in the hands of employers or CEOs of mobile and telecommunications networks. Thus there is no regulation outside the industry itself. Meanwhile the adverse effects have been overwhelmingly shown by scientists. It is worth watching the documentary all the way through.

And if you add this warning about indoor air pollution, the prognosis gets ever more grim.


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