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United Kingdom, Sri Lanka
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Seni Seneviratne

Seni Seneviratne, born and raised in Leeds, Yorkshire is of English and Sri Lankan heritage. Her work as a poet and creative artist is widely acclaimed. She has given readings, performances and workshops in UK, Canada, South Africa, USA and Egypt. Her performances are a delicate mix of spoken word and folk/jazz song: “She holds the room transfixed, reading poems about the Indies that Columbus never found, about war and love, her ancient grandmother. And she sings- a capella, sweet, strong and clear, folk-tinged numbers that take all the air out the room, and make everyone shiver…

Supported by the Inscribe programme, Seni's debut collection, Wild Cinnamon and Winter Skin, was published in March 2007 by Peepal Tree Press. One of the poems from this collection was highly commended by the judges in the Forward Poetry Prize 2007. In 2008 she was selected to take part in The Complete Works a National Development Programme for advanced Black and Asian Poets. In May 2010 she was selected as one of the writers on the El Gouna International Writers Residency. In September 2010 her poem Operation Cast Lead was shortlisted in the Arvon International Poetry Competition and she was awarded an Arts Council Grant to complete her most recent collection, The Heart of It, (Peepal Tree Press, April 2012). 

She has organised creative events and facilitated creative writing workshops and residences in schools, colleges and community settings working with a range of abilities (from people with basic literacy skills to MA students) and with people from a variety of experiences and backgrounds. She has been supporting survivors of trauma and abuse since the early eighties, in a voluntary capacity, as an educationalist, a trainer and since 2001 as a qualified psychotherapist in the NHS and in the voluntary sector. She currently works as a freelance writer, mentor, trainer and creative consultant. She is particularly experienced in delivering workshops that use creative/expressive arts to enhance the physical and mental well-being of participants. She has used her skills as a visual artist to deliver mixed media workshops. She is an experienced facilitator with adults as well as with children and young people.

In 2009 she was awarded a Travel Fellowship to fund an extended stay in Cape Town where she met and interviewed South African poets about the relationship between poetry and trauma and did a range of voluntary work including collaboration with a visual artist in weekly workshops to build self esteem of residents at a shelter for abused women. In December 2009 she was invited to present a paper, ‘Speaking the Unspeakable, The Poetry of Witness’, at an international conference ‘Beyond Reconciliation’ hosted by the University of Cape Town.

Her paper, 'Speaking the Unspeakable through Poetry: The Search for a Place of Healing and Witness after Trauma', formed the basis of her input at a Symposium hosted by Virginia Tech (Nov 2012) - Writing and Reconciliation: Identity, Displacement and Narrative in Sri Lanka and was presented at a conference, Engaging the Other, University of Free State, South Africa (December 2012). In November 2013, she collaborated with photographer Bill Jackson at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, creating text in response to his exhibition entitled Dark Light. She is currently working on a book based on her father's photographs from WW2.  

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