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Mark Huband: The Siege of Monrovia

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The Poetry Café

22 Betterton Street

London

WC2H 9BX

United Kingdom

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The poet Mark Huband will read, in full, his booklength poem ‘The Siege of Monrovia’, introduced by
Live Canon director, Helen Eastman.

About the poem:
In 1989 a young foreign correspondent, looking to make a name for himself, set off for a new life in
West Africa. Writing initially for the Financial Times and subsequently for The Guardian, Mark Huband
travelled far and wide, from the tumult of Mobutu’s Zaïre to the Saharan homeland of the
Touaregs, telling the stories of West Africa during that tumultuous time as the Cold War came to an
end.

When a small group of Libyan-trained fighters crossed the border into Liberia on Christmas Eve
1989, the series of wars which followed tore Liberia to pieces. Ostensibly launched to bring an
end to the ten-year dictatorship of Liberia’s President Samuel Doe, the ensuing decade of
bloodshed left the country brutalised, its people traumatised, and its economy ruined.
Rebel factions formed around Charles Taylor, a renegade government minister, and Prince
Johnson, a former government soldier who broke away from Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of
Liberia. Characterised by the use of child soldiers, rape, drug-fuelled violence, and tribal slaughter, the
Liberian civil war rapidly lost its purpose of liberating Liberians from dictatorship.
Mark Huband was the first journalist to reach behind rebel lines, and reported on the war from
all sides. Most journalists left when Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, was besieged by both rebel
factions in the summer of 1990. Mark remained for the three months that the city was under attack,
and his award-winning journalism provided a unique account of the conflict and its atrocities.
But it is only now, almost thirty years later, that Mark has been able to write his own personal
account of that time he spent among the rebels, killers, victims and warlords. He has found a way
to do this in poetry, the terza rima form of the narrative poem The Siege of Monrovia allowing the
verse to speak the unspeakable and describe the indescribable, in a work which bears witness to a
time of chaos and bloodshed, but which also has space for light and humanity.

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The Poetry Café

22 Betterton Street

London

WC2H 9BX

United Kingdom

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