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Chichester lecturer edits Palestinian anthology to create poetic conversation with English-speaking world

A Blade of Grass anthology

A UNIQUE book expressing contemporary Palestinian experience from war-torn region to the Australian diaspora has been produced in part by a University of Chichester lecturer with the intention of creating a poetic conversation between Palestine and the English-speaking world.

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry, a bilingual anthology released this month by Smokestack Books (Yorkshire), has been edited by Dr Naomi Foyle of the Department of English and Creative Writing.

Just the second anthology of Palestinian poetry to be published in the UK, and the first in England, the anthology is unique in translating poetry from and into both Arabic and English. A Blade of Grass takes its title from Palestine’s late beloved poet Mahmoud Darwish, and was part-funded by a research development award from the University.

Dr Naomi Foyle, also a science fiction writer and poet, said of her role as editor: “As a non-Arabic speaker, I initially intended to solicit English translations of Arabic poems, and focus my editorial skills on the English texts. But I soon realised that, in order to be truly representative of the Palestinian experience, I needed to publish the work of exilic poets who write in English.

“Some of these poets provided their own translations into Arabic, while I commissioned other English-to-Arabic translators, including my colleague, Visiting Fellow Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon. A poet himself and, as an Iraqi, all too familiar with war zones and the refugee experience, Waleed was dedicated to the project, and he and I also co-translated two poets from Arabic into English.

Naomi Foyle by Yvo Luna

“Thanks to feedback from a small international team of contributors, who worked intensively with me over email, I feel confident in all the translations. I am also pleased with publisher Andy Croft’s decision to print the Arabic texts, not opposite the English texts, but all together from what will seem to English readers like the ‘back of the book’.

“This makes the reading experience familiar and enjoyable for Arabic speakers, for whom books are bound on the right. After paginating that half of the Word document, I am happy to say that I can now at least count in Arabic."

Bringing together new work by poets from the Palestinian territories, from the diaspora, and from within the disputed borders of Israel, A Blade of Grass features poems by Marwan Makhoul, Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, Fatena Al Ghorra, Dareen Tatour, Ashraf Fayadh, Fady Joudah, Naomi Shihab Nye, Deema K. Shehabi, Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Farid Bitar, Sara Saleh and Mahmoud Darwish.

Also including a thirteen page introduction by Naomi Foyle, the anthology celebrates the flourishing cultural resistance of the Palestinian people to decades of displacement, occupation, exile and bombardment.

Naomi Foyle books

Dr Foyle, who has previous published novels about post-apocalyptic eco-science fantasy, above, added: “Smokestack is a small press that receives no public subsidy. As a grateful recipient of a Research Development Award, I was glad to use some of my award funds to pay contributors.

“I also ran a successful crowdfunding campaign that enabled me to increase that fee, and to make donations of £240 each to the legal funds of Ashraf Fayadh and Dareen Tatour, both of whom are in prison, respectively in Saudi Arabic and Israel, on charges relating to their poetry.

“Poetry publishers are usually happy to break even, so I am proud that A Blade of Grass, even before being published, has been able to make a significant financial contribution to the defense of basic human rights.”

A Blade of Grass will be launched in London at the P21 Gallery, Thursday Nov 16th, 6:30-8:30 pm. Celebrations in Chichester are being planned for the New Year.

Appearing at the launch in London will be poets Mustafa Abu Sneineh (Jerusalem/London) and Farid Bitar (Jericho/New York), translators Katharine Halls and Waleed Al-Bazoon, editor and translator Naomi Foyle, and the publisher, Andy Croft. The venue is child friendly and alcohol-free. Light refreshments will be provided, and a cash cafe available.

To find out more on A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry visit Alternatively for more about Dr Naomi Foyle and her research at the University of Chichester go to or