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Free poetry event with Jackie Kay and Parwana Fayyaz

Scotland’s national poet, Jackie Kay, and Trinity PhD, student Parwana Fayyaz, will read and discuss their work in a free Trinity Literary Society event on Tuesday 26 November hosted by Ali Smith, Senior Fellow Commoner in the Creative Arts at the College.


Jackie Kay, national poet of Scotland Photo: The Scottish Government

Jackie Kay MBE, born and brought up in Scotland, was appointed Scottish Makar in 2016. As well as numerous awards for her poetry, she won the Guardian Fiction Prize for her first novel, Trumpet, published in 1998, and has written widely for stage and television.

Her poetry, including ‘The Adoption Papers’ and ‘Other Lovers’, explores cultural identity and draws on her experience as an adopted child. Red Dust Road (2010) describes her search for her birth parents, of Scotland and Nigeria, and her love for her adoptive parents, Helen and John Kay.

Parwana Fayyaz is pursuing a PhD in Persian Studies at Cambridge and won the 2019 Forward Prize for best single poem, ‘Forty Names,’ which portrays the collective struggle and sacrifice of women who jump off a cliff to preserve their honour.

Ms Fayyaz, who was born in Kabul, raised in Pakistan and came to Cambridge by way of Stanford, speaks Persian, Pashto, Urdu, Arabic and English. Her interest in studying at Trinity was sparked by learning of the nineteenth-century poet and translator, Edward FitzGerald, who translated ‘Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’ and ‘Sálamán and Absál’, by the medieval Persian poet Jami, who is central to Ms Fayyaz’s PhD thesis.

Parwana Fayyaz, Trinity PhD student Photo: Mikwi Cho

She has been writing poetry in English for 10 years and said of the Trinity Literary event:

‘I am so thrilled for this opportunity to read next to Jackie Kay and have a discussion on poetry and writing with Ali Smith. I feel so honoured to be part of this long tradition of literary and intellectual gatherings and to read for an audience who come to hear us.’

Tuesday’s event is hosted by Ali Smith CBE, FRSL, author of nine novels and five short story collections. Ms Smith is Trinity’s first Senior Fellow Commoner in the Creative Arts, a two-year Fellowship enabled by alumnus Tom Hall, which builds on the College’s long literary history, from Byron, Tennyson, A E Housman and A A Milne, to today’s writers Sean Borodale, Sophie Hannah, Ben Okri and Angela Leighton. The current Fellow Commoner in the Creative Arts is the writer and filmmaker, Guy Gunaratne.

Trinity Fellow and Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Cambridge, Adrian Poole, said, ‘This is a wonderful opportunity to hear award-winning authors reading their work and talking about the fascinating personal journeys that inform their writing and enrich our own lives.’

The Trinity Literary Society poetry event takes place on Tuesday 26 November, 17:30-19:00, in the Winstanley Lecture Theatre, Trinity College. Free and open to all.

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