Poet and volunteer teacher who learned lessons from refugees

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Chichester poets will be welcoming a writer whose latest collection is based on her experiences as a volunteer teacher in an emergency asylum home in Berlin later this month. Clare Saponia is the headline guest at the New Park Centre open-mic poetry night on Wednesday 26 October at 7.30pm.

Saponia is the author of three poetry collections - Federal Gods (Palewell Press 2022), The Oranges of Revolution (Smokestack Books 2015) and Copyrighting War and other Business Sins (Olympia Publishers 2011). Her poems have featured in national and international anthologies, including Smokestack Lightning (Smokestack Books 2022), The Cry of the Poor (Culture Matters 2021), The Brown Envelope Book (Caparison Books 2021), The Robin Hood Book – Verse versus Austerity (Caparison Books 2012), and Emergency Verse – Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State (Caparison Books 2011).

She said: “My latest book, Federal Gods, is based on my experiences of volunteer-teaching in an emergency asylum home in Berlin during the 2015-17 immigration wave against the backdrop of Brexit, the rise of Ukip and widespread media misinformation. In 2015, Germany opened its doors to almost 1 million refugees, despite increasingly right-wing opinion being voiced across the continent. People were fleeing war, persecution and corruption. And yet, many countries turned their backs.

"Political poetry can get a bit of a Marmite ride in the literary world. But the thing is, the political is always personal and the personal always political. The media decides whether a crisis exists or vanishes from the world stage. It cherry-picks, and the public follows. Ask yourself why Ukrainian asylum seekers are getting a very different reception to Syrians who were escaping full-on civil war, and you might find the answer somewhat uncomfortable.

“Federal Gods documents a series of immigration stories, interactions and personal anecdotes in poetic form, our lives finely intertwined precisely because we all are human beings with the same fundamental needs and desires – and because history repeats itself unrelentingly unless we learn from our mistakes.”

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