Recently, I was struck again by my relative safety as compared to what faces great swathes of my fellow human beings. Unlike many women, I am not scratching around for enough to eat, or walking miles for (supposedly) clean water, or living in a flimsy shelter, or under the constant threat of physical or sexual violence. Unlike many writers around the world, I am not worried that the next poem I create will mean I will end up in prison.

In this country, we have mostly come to see poetry as something safe and fluffy, comforting, perhaps, on ocassion challenging. But dangerous? Yet as I lie in my snug bed, I listen to a Lybian reciting poetry which has landed him in prison and caused him to be tortured. The authorities found these words (which, of course, I cannot understand as they are in his own language) so menacing and intimidating that they had to shut the perpetrator up. Incarcerated, he had no access to paper and pens, so he spent hours committing his poetry to memory, another act of difiance.

Words, these things we often use irreverantly or with little thought or effort, are seen in some parts as if they had the force of grenades and the power to topple regimes.