(From left to right): Ali Al-Jamri, Anjum Malik, Jova Bagioli Reyes
Submitted by Tom McGarva
Manchester City Multilingual Poets’ inaugural team has been announced ahead of International Mother Language Day on February 21.
Three poets have been appointed by Manchester City of Literature and its partners to produce a series of original works on behalf of the city, and throughout 2022.
The New Poets have already created works in Manchester city center and will act as ambassadors for the city’s residents, communities and literary organisations.
The launch of Multilingual City Poets took place at the Manchester Poetry Library and included a welcome from Ivan Wadeson, Executive Director of Manchester UNESCO City of Literature, an address by Councilor Luthfur Rahman, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, readings from three multilingual city poets, plus the music of Pringle Gulzar, an Oldham-based, faith-driven tabla player celebrating South Asian culture.
New City Poet Anjum Malik is an acclaimed screenwriter, poet, performer and lecturer in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University who has written several highly acclaimed original plays for the BBC, ITV and theatre.
His first languages were Urdu, American English and Punjabi; born to Pakistani parents in Saudi Arabia, she was multilingual and international before she could walk.
Joining Anjum will be Jova Bagioli Reyes, a queer and neurodiverse immigrant from Colombia and Chile.
As a poet and a musician, they are strongly inspired by the long history of struggle of Abya Yala (the so-called Latin America) and therefore their work deals with themes of decolonization, autonomy and liberation.
The City Poet team also includes Arab poet, teacher and producer Ali Al-Jamri; a writer of prose and poetry and passionate about translation and its role within the Arabic-speaking diaspora communities in the UK.
Ali’s Between Two Islands project was funded by Arts Council England and offered poetry workshops to the Bahraini community in the UK.
City Poet roles carry civic responsibility, much like conventional Poet Laureate designations, and appointees will be tasked with producing five original poems on behalf of the City.
Three of these poems will respond to Manchester Day, World Poetry Day and the Festival of Libraries; all of which will take place in 2022.
The other two commissioned poems will be delivered to meet other exciting public events, projects and community outreach programs coordinated by Manchester City of Literature and its network of partnerships. Poets will also translate the writings of other poets.
Anjum Malik said: “Being a Manchester City Poet with Manchester City Of Literature in partnership with UNESCO is a huge, exciting honour, to do so in our fantastic city of Manchester.
“Celebrating multilingualism through poetry, working across communities and being at the heart of the literary scene over the coming year is absolutely incredible and still so representative of the amazing creative work going on in our city.”
Jova Bagioli Reyes said: “For me, being a city poet means having my reality as a queer immigrant in Manchester recognized.
“My voice is one of hundreds of thousands that make up this city and it’s both cathartic and intimate to have it heard.”
Ali Al-Jamri added, “Like so many people raised between cultures, I haven’t had the opportunity to nurture my bilingualism and celebrate my mother tongue.
“Manchester is the city that made me a poet and a translator, so I’m thrilled not only to represent the place I call home, but also to share my passion for multilingualism.”
Manchester has a rich literary tradition, home to outstanding and high-level poets, a thriving poetry and spoken word scene, award-winning publishers and writing development agencies and libraries that place writing and awareness of the community at the heart of their work.
This heritage is represented in Manchester’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017.
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