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This article is taken from PN Review 189, Volume 36 Number 1, September - October 2009.

Swimming in the Tigris, Greenford: The Poetical Journey of Fawzi Karim Marius Kociejowski

Greenford is not where one might expect to find one of Iraq’s most esteemed poets, and, in truth, I’d never quite registered the place. The likelihood of my going to Baghdad was just a bit less remote than that of my ever finding reason to go to Greenford although I have been to Perivale. Young Poles have largely taken it over, such that ‘Greenfort’ is spoken of in Katowice, and even Gliwice, as a borough of promise. Although it sounds, and looks, like a modern suburb, it is first mentioned in a Saxon charter of AD 845 as ‘Grenan Forda’ and almost 200 years later it appears, verbally congealed, in the Domesday Book with a named population of 27 people and one Frenchman. There were no Poles. An Iraqi was unthinkable. Another interesting thing about Greenford is that its tube station is the only one in London to have an escalator going from street level to platform level and it is also the last escalator to be made of wood. The others were replaced with steel in the wake of the King’s Cross fire. True to its name, Greenford boasts expanses of green across which I saw not a soul move.

Greenford, Middlesex. It slipped into one of John Betjeman’s verses.

I first met Fawzi Karim at a party in Kensington for a New York writer who is legendary for emptying the contents of other people’s refrigerators, as he did mine once. Also, when bored, ...

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