Commissioned by Litfest and presented by Paul Farley

When Covid-19 stopped Litfest 2020 in its tracks in March, among the things we lost was the New Divan event that would have seen contributing poets, university linguists, local residents, including members of Lancaster’s Asylum Seeker and Refugee community, all come together in a gala poetry reading to celebrate this  ‘Lyrical Dialogue Between East & West’.

Then we realised we didn’t have to lose the event, we could create it as a podcast. So we invited all the readers who would have read at the festival to record themselves reading the poems at home. As a result we can now offer what our presenter Paul Farley calls ‘a home studio deal’.

You can download the New Divan podcast here.

The names of the readers reading in the original language are given first, followed by the readers of the English translations:



Sam O’Donoghue/
Bill Swainson

‘The Creation of the World by the Animals’ by Homero Aridjis, English version by Kathleen Jamie, based on a bridge translation by Anne McLean

Somayeh Rustaei/
Natalie Charlesworth
Delphine Grass/
Sean O’Brien  

‘Electrocardiogram’ by Fatemeh Shams, English translation by Dick Davis

‘Mind the Gap’ by Gilles Ortlieb, English version by Sean O’Brien, based on a bridge translation by Frank Wynne   

Lana Abu Hijeh/
Paul Farley

‘The Obedience of Water’ by Mourid Barghouti, English version by George Szirtes, based on a bridge translation by Khaled Aljbailli

Layla AlAmmar/
Tara Bergin
Emily Spiers/
Paul Farley

‘The Crimson Shades’ by Nujoom Alghanem, English version by Dorieann ní Ghríofa, based on a bridge translation by Suneela Mubayi
‘suleika speaks’ by Raoul Schrott, English version by Paul Farley based on a bridge translation by Shaun Whiteside

Melis Cin/
Natalie Charlesworth
Romain Nadau/

Tara Bergin

‘Knowingly, Willingly’ by Gonca Özmen, English version by Jo Shapcott, based on an English version by Maureen Freely and Özge Çalli Spike
‘The Peacock on the Roof’ by Angélica Freitas, English version by Tara Bergin, based on a bridge translation by Hilary Kaplan


Fadhil Al-Azzawi/
Sean O’Brien

‘Paradise on Earth’ by Fadhil Al-Azzawi, English version by Jorie Graham, based on a bridge translation by the author

‘Questions’ was composed and played on the Oud by Rihab Azar. You can find her website at https://www.rihabazar.co.uk

This podcast was made using the ‘Audacity’ App, a free download App available on the internet.

Grateful thanks are due to Gingko for permission to include copyright material from A New Divan  in this podcast; to the Hay Festival for permission to include extracts from their New Divan event from May 2019; to Rihab Azar for permission to include her piece ‘Questions’, which was composed for the Grenfell Tower memorial service in St Paul’s Cathedral held on 14 December 2017.

A New Divan: A Lyrical Dialogue Between East & West, edited by Barbara Schwepcke and Bill Swainson, is published by Gingko and available from all good bookshops.