John Aquilina (UK/Malta) | Asja Bakić (Bosnia Herzegovina) | Mourid Barghouti (Palestine), Lilia Ben Romdhane (Tunisia) | Mark Camilleri (Malta) | Immanuel Mifsud (Malta) | Jean Portante (Luxembourg) | Alfred Sant (Malta) | Zoë Skoulding (Wales)| Ma Thida (Myanmar) | Arvis Viguls (Latvia) | Gjoko Zdraveski (Republic of Macedonia)
John Aquilina twieled Ħ’Attard, Malta, fl-1977. Beda jikteb il-poeżija fl-1994, l-iktar bil-Malti, imma riċentement ukoll bl-Ingliż. L-ewwel ġabra tiegħu, Leħnek il-Libsa Tiegħi, dehret fl-2010 u rebħet il-Premju Nazzjonali tal-Ktieb is-sena ta’ wara. Bħalissa qed ilesti t-tieni ġabra ta’ poeżiji. John spiċċa l-istudji fil-Matematika fl-2005, u minn dak iż-żmien għadu jaħdem fil-finanzi fil-belt ta’ Londra.
Asja Bakić (1982) was born in Tuzla, but she currently lives and works in Zagreb. She graduated from University of Tuzla where she obtained a degree in Bosnian language and literature. Bakić has published a book of poetry It Can Be a Cactus, as Long as it Stings (Aora, Zagreb, 2009), which was nominated for literary award Kiklop in the category best first book in 2010. She writes a blog In the Realm of Melancholy (asjaba.com) and is one of the editors and authors of Muff (muf.com.hr), web page dedicated to feminist reading of popular culture. She translates literature from English, French German and Spanish to Croatian. Some of the names she translated are Emily Dickinson, Henri Michaux, Alejandra Pizarnik, Klaus Mann, Emil Cioran and Jacques Rancière. In addition to poetry, non-fiction texts and essays, Asja Bakić writes short stories. One of them was included in the anthology of younger prose writers Without doors, without knocking (2012). Bakić’s short fiction Mars will be released in early 2015. Read her work here.
Mourid Barghouti (born July 8, 1944, in Deir Ghassana, near Ramallah, on the West Bank) is a leading Palestinian poet and writer. Barghouti grew up in Ramallah as one of four brothers. In the mid-1960s, Barghouti went to study at Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt. He was just finishing his last year in college when the Six-Day War of 1967 started. By the end of the war, Israel had captured Gaza and the West Bank, and Barghouti, like many Palestinians living abroad, was prevented from returning to his homeland. After the war Barghouti first went to work as a teacher at the Industrial College in Kuwait. At the same time, he began to pursue his interest in literature and poetry, and his writings were soon published in the journals al-Adab, Mawaqif, in Beirut and al-Katib, “attaleea” and “Al Ahram” in Cairo. In 1968, he became acquainted with the Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali, who at that time was also working in Kuwait.
In 1970, Barghouti married the Egyptian novelist and academic Radwa Ashour. The two had met years earlier, when they were both students of the English Department at Cairo University. They have one child, a son, Tamim Al Barghouti, born in 1977 in Egypt, who is now a poet with four published books of poetry.
The couple left Kuwait for Egypt less than a year after marrying. In 1972, Barghouti published his first book of poetry in 1972 (Dar al-Awdeh in Beirut, Lebanon). He has since published 12 books of poetry, the last of which is Muntasaf al-Lail (Midnight, Beirut, 2005, Riad El Rayes Publishers). His Collected Works came out in Beirut in 1997. A Small Sun, his first poetry book in English translation, was published by the Aldeburgh Poetry Trust in 2003. He was awarded the Palestine Award for Poetry (2000). His poems are published in Arabic and international literary magazines. English translations of his poetry have been published in Al Ahram Weekly, Banipal, The Times Literary Supplement and Modern Poetry in Translation, and one of his most famous poems appeared as a cover photo of Pen International.
In the autumn of 1977, Barghouti was deported from Egypt on the eve of Anwar Sadat’s controversial visit to Israel and was allowed to come back only after 17 years. Barghouti, his wife and their son had to spend most of the next 17 years apart; Radwa lived in Cairo as a professor of English at Ain Shams University, and he lived in Budapest as a PLO representative in the World Federation of Democratic Youth and a cultural attache.
The Oslo Accords finally allowed Barghouti to return to the West Bank, and in 1996 he returned to Ramallah after 30 years of exile. This event inspired his autobiographical novel Ra’aytu Ram Allah (I Saw Ramallah), published by Dar Al Hilal (Cairo, 1997), which won him the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in the same year. Important Palestinian cultural personalities including Ghassan Kanafani and Naji al-Ali also appear in the book, which has been translated into several languages, including English, with an introduction by Edward Said. Mourid Barghouti has also published many essays both in English and Arabic on poetry.
Mark Camilleri, born in 1977, is from Malta. He studied to become a teacher, and between lesson plans and marking of home-works, he found time to create the world of Victor Gallo, a police inspector working in contemporary Malta. His first publishing break came in the form of a Gallo short story, published in ‘45’ a compilation that marked 45 years of Merlin Publishers in Malta. After that he wrote Prima Facie, Volens and Nex. The novels dealt with sexual abuse, serial killers, corruption in soccer and politics. He is currently researching his fourth novel, also featuring Victor Gallo. Camilleri’s style is raw, harsh and realistic, only mellowed down by the rich and sensual use of the Maltese language.
Ma Thida (tw. 1966) hija tabiba, kittieba, u attivista tad-drittijiet tal-bnedmin li ntbagħtet il-ħabs minħabba l-prinċipji tagħha. Bħalissa hija l-editriċi ta’ rivista li toħroġ fi Myanmar (Burma), Shwe Amyutay, u ta’ ġurnal li joħroġ kull ħmistax bl-isem ta’ Info Digest. Taħdem bħala voluntiera fi klinika bla ħlas immexxija minn għaqda mhux governattiva lokali.
F’Ottubru tal-1993 intbagħtet 20 sena ħabs talli “pperikolat il-paċi pubblika, żammet kuntatt ma’ organizzazzjonijiet illegali, u qasmet letteratura illegali.” Iżda fl-1999 inħelset minħabba raġunijiet ta’ saħħa, iż-żieda fil-pressjoni politika, u l-interess fil-każ tagħha ta’ organizzazzjonijiet bħal Amnesty International u PEN International.
Ma Thida rebħet diversi premjijiet internazzjonali għax-xogħol tagħha fil-qasam tad-drittijiet tal-bnedmin, fosthom ir-Reebok Human Rights Award (1966), il-PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award (1996), Freedom of Speech Award (2011), Disturbing the Peace; Courageous Writer at Risk Award (2016).
Bejn l-2008 u l-2010 Ma Thida għexet l-Istati Uniti bħala membru tal-proġett International Writers Project fi Brown University u r-Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies fl-Università ta’ Harvard. Bejn l-2013 u l-2016 kienet l-ewwel president eletta ta’ PEN Myanmar u f’Ottubru tal-2016 ġiet eletta bħala membru tal-bord tal-PEN International.
Ma Thida (ca. 1966) is a medical doctor, writer, human rights activist and former prisoner of conscience. She currently edits at a Burmese magazine, Shwe Amyutay and a two-weekly journal, Info Digest; and also volunteers at a free clinic run by a local NGO. In October 1993, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “endangering public peace, having contact with illegal organizations, and distributing unlawful literature.” But in 1999, she was released due to declining health, increasing political pressure and the efforts of organizations like Amnesty International and PEN International. She was awarded several international human rights awards, including the Reebok Human Rights Award (1996), the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award (1996), Freedom of Speech Award (2011) and Disturbing the Peace; Courageous Writer at Risk Award (2016). From 2008 to 2010, she lived in the US as an International Writers Project Fellow at Brown University and a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University. She was the very first elected president of PEN Myanmar (2013-16) and also elected as a board member of PEN International since 2016 October. Ma Thida’s most recent book, the English translation of her prison memoir Sanchaung, Insein, Harvard was published worldwide with the title of Prisoner of Conscience: My Steps through Insein in 2016 (Silkworm, Thailand). See also here.
Gjoko Zdraveski was born in Skopje in 1985. He writes poetry, short prose and essays. He has published four books of poetry: Palindrome with Double ‘N’ (2010), house for migratory birds (2013), belleove (2016), daedicarus icaral (2017). His poetry is translated into several European languages. He has been a part of several European poetry festivals including Festival Voix Vives de Méditerranée en Méditerranée, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Europejski Poeta Wolności (The European Poet of Freedom) etc. Since 2015 he has been part of Versopolis project.