Special Event on Queer Poetry: Poetry Reading

In this poetry reading, we heard from two works of contemporary queer French poetry, published in translation by the87press, which were introduced by Azad Ashim Sharma, Director of the87. In French, Laura Doyle Péan read from their book Coeur Yoyo and Édith Azam read from her book Oiseau-Moi. In English, Lola Olufemi and Calliope Michail read from Stuart Bell’s translations, Bird me and Yo-yo Heart.

In Yo-yo Heart, two female lovers separate. Alone in her apartment, surrounded by books and memories, the narrator learns to heal her wounds as the days pass by. Written in the form of a personal diary, the collection is made up of five parts, each a rite of passage, as the voice navigates the main stages of grief.

The twenty-seven untitled poems in Bird me turn upon four recurring symbols, timeless images akin to those found in a dream state: pebbles, a river, a chestnut tree, and a bird. This final image, the most central to the collection, is one which haunts and inspires the poetic voice. This voice may or may not be Azam herself, or else a hybrid, lyrical ‘I’, as unfixed as the haunting bird of the collection’s title. This bird, referred to as ‘Hannah’, is addressed in each poem. The eponymous palindrome takes on different rôles and guises: there are moments in which Hannah is celebrated as muse, love object, mediator between the poet body and the natural world; at other times, she is an all-consuming force, deadly and destructive to a point where the poetic voice is afraid even to say her name out loud.


Édith Azam was born in 1973 in the southern French region of Occitanie. She worked as a schoolteacher for three years before devoting herself to full-time writing. Her collections include Mercure (2011), Caméra (2015), and Pour tenir debout on invente (2019), co-authored with Liliane Giraudon.

Édith Azam est née en 1973 dans la région Occitanie. Après trois ans d’enseignement dans une école, elle se consacre à l’écriture. Elle a publié de nombreux recueils dont Mercure (2011), Caméra (2015), et Pour tenir debout on invente (2019) écrit avec Liliane Giraudon.

Born in Nionwentsïo, Wendat territory (also known as Quebec city) , to a writer father and a teacher mother, Laura Doyle Péan (they/them) has had a passion for words since early childhood. Communication & cinema graduate, McGill Law & Gender Studies student, poet and activist, the 22-year-old Haitian-Quebecois artist is interested in the links between language and identity, and in the role art plays in social transformations and social movements. Laura published their first book, Coeur Yoyo, in 2020, and has participated in many artistic productions with the queer feminist collective Les Allumeuses.

Né.e dans le Nionwentsïo, en territoire Wendat aussi connu comme la ville de Québec, d'un père écrivain et d'une mère enseignante, Laura Doyle Péan (ille/iel) raffole des mots depuis l’enfance. Diplômé.e en communications et cinéma, étudiant.e en droit et études de genre, poète et activiste, l’auteur.e haïtiano-québ' de 22 ans s’intéresse aux liens entre langage et identité, et au rôle que joue l’art dans les transformations et les mouvements sociaux. Laura a publié son premier recueil, Coeur Yoyo, en 2020, et a participé à plusieurs productions avec Les Allumeuses, collectif féministe queer.

Calliope Michail is a London based poet, artist and translator from Athens, Greece. She is the author of the poetry chapbook Along Mosaic Roads (the87press, 2018). Other work has appeared or is forthcoming in Penteract Press' Science Poems anthology, Snow Lit Rev, Datableed, Pamenar Press, Prototype, Lumin Journal and more. She is currently poetry editor at the online literary magazine, Berfrois. Calliope holds a BA in English & Creative Writing from Royal Holloway and an MA in Critical Methodologies from King's College, London.

Lola Olufemi is a black feminist writer and CREAM/Stuart Hall foundation researcher from London. Her work focuses on the uses of the feminist imagination and its relationship to cultural production, political demands and futurity. She is author of Feminism Interrupted: Disrupting Power (2020), Experiments in Imagining Otherwise, forthcoming from Hajar Press in 2021 and a member of 'bare minimum', an interdisciplinary anti-work arts collective.

Azad Ashim Sharma is based in South London. He is the director of the87press. His work includes Against the Frame (Barque Press, 2017) and the forthcoming collections of poetry and prose Ergastulum (Broken Sleep Books, 2022) and Boiled Owls (Nightboat Books, 2023). His poems have been published recently by Stand Magazine, the Asian American Writers Workshop and Gutter Magazine. His prose has been published by SPAMzine, MIR Online, Magma Magazine and is forthcoming in the Bloomsbury Companion to Contemporary Poetry in Ireland and the UK. Azad is a recipient of the CHASE Studentship to pursue a PhD in English and Humanities at Birkbeck College, University of London which will see him produce a novel and a book of aesthetic theory.