Poems on a Sunday Afteroon feat. Lynda E Tavakoli – #DownArtsCentre #Downpatrick

It’s been a month of focus on things poetic, in particular, and literary in all of its genres as well. So it’s really good to be rounding up the month with Down Arts Centre & Words for Castle Ward’s very popular Poems on a Sunday afternoon (30 April, 2.30-4.30pm) event.

As always we are inviting new writers, or writers with new material, or you who may have a poem, story, song of your own, or a favourite, to share. It’s a friendly space to read – and we love to hear new voices, and welcome back those who are familiar. By the way, if you just want to come and enjoy the afternoon – you are also most welcome!

Featured Reading: Lynda E Tavakoli

LyndaETavakoliPoSAUnderaColdwhiteMoonDelighted this time to present Lynda E. Tavakoli in the featured spot – and her reading will centre on her recently launched debut collection of short stories. We have been fortunate to have Lynda as a contributor to PoSA’s shared space over the years – as well as members of the wonderful Lisburn creative writing group she facilitates.  It seemed high time to to hear the breath of her work – she is an award winning author and has published two novels (‘Attachement’ and ‘Of Broken Things’), Her poetry and prose have been broadcast on both BBC Radio Ulster and RTE Sunday Miscellany.

Her literary successes include poetry and short story prizes at Listowel, the Mencap short story competition and the Mail on Sunday novel competition. Lynda’s poems have been included in a variety of publications including Templar Poets’ Anthology Skein, Abridged (Absence/Magnolia/Silence/Primal/Mara), The Incubator Journal, Panning for Poems, Circle and Square, North West Words, Four X Four (Poetry NI), The Honest Ulsterman, A New Ulster and Corncrake magazine. She has been selected as The Irish Times Hennessy poet of the month for her poems about dementia, a recurring theme in much of her poetry. Having recently returned from Bahrain where her poems were featured in the local press, she is presently working towards her first collection revolving around her early childhood in 1960’s Northern Ireland. Lynda has facilitated prose recitals commemorating the anniversary of the sinking of The Titanic and edited the prose and poetry anthology ‘Linen’ for the Irish Linen Museum.

The reading on Sunday will celebrate the publication of ‘Under a Cold White Moon’ her first collection of short stories – inspiring, often dark, and soulfully told; and her poetry.

About Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

This is a c. quarterly event that has been running for over 5 years and is a showcase of, and platform for, work by those writing locally, and beyond. It is an initative of Down Arts Centre and, currently, Words for Castle Ward. The next session is on next Sunday, 30 April, 2.30-4.30pm at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick. The event is free to attend and doesn’t need to be booked in advance.  Find out more about Poems on a Sunday Afternoon HERE.

‘Night Divers’ Launch Invitation #lettersfromlady

You are heartily invited to join me at the launch of ‘Night Divers’ (Templar Poetry 2017) and the launch of ‘Mapping Emily’ by Kathleen Jones happening at Keats House London on the 25 April, 7pm. Admission is free and includes a glass of wine. Advance booking is advised HERE. More info (and details about current submission opportunities with Templar Poetry) in the e-bulletin HERE.

9781911132257There will also be a Belfast launch with Paul Maddern and myself at the Belfast Book Festival on the 17th June, 5pm Crescent Arts Centre. Booking information to follow.

More info about Night Divers HERE


Some acknowledgements

‘Night Divers’ has been a long time in progress and now that it is almost here I’ve been thinking about and appreciating the many people who have been part of the creation of this collection – muses, supporters and friends.  I’d wanted to say a particular word of thanks to Templar Poetry for taking it on, the support and then the patience, it has to be said, during the final edits. There is an as-standard thanks to the Arts Council – and, while, standard, it is genuine and worth unpicking a bit. SIAP awards gave me both working time and a wonderful computer which became like a companion we were together so much, and, no less wonderful, Damian Smyth who dispensed invaluable wise counsel while being very inspiring in his own practice. It’s strange how this piece of work has had its own timeframe. I don’t know if this is the ordinary way of things, but it appears to me that my universe has moved into the future of the collection, and that there are a whole new community of people that are in my writing world now that weren’t there in the writing stages but are here now. There is a loveliness about that too. Heartfelt thanks for being part of the journey. May fortune find you.

The Clock Repairer’s Companion (No 11-20): #KnowingtheDance #NaPoWriMo

6tag-3088414843-1483269340422047431_3088414843Nos 11 to 20: the second installment of three line pieces (from fragment, to micro-poem to as much as I can fit and still call it, fluidly, three lines) which I have been sharing each day this April on Instagram – @pearldiver32 – as part of NaPoWriMo.

The work is a creative response to my consideration of the moving parts of poetic composition – and it is part of the ‘Knowing the Dance’ project.


20. Found Poem*

Fear of the body…

Fear of words…

Sometimes they are inseparable.

From ‘The Body has its Reasons’ page 123


19. Still dancing after all

this time, our lines close to connecting, but still a holdback –

the romance of the Latin Mass left in our fingers –

so there’s room to hold both each other and our preferred other as mystery.


18. Playing Checkers with Little Nell

I move. You move. They watch. Next move, my move – I move. Now you. You muse

watch me, watch them, then make your move. I move, then you – they watch.

We choose our moves – then move. They watch.


17. Aisling

Before the first cross-quarter day of that year, two little boys appeared

in my deep-winter drift, signalling me, with their spirit eyes, to cross-over

to join with gradual, waxing light – to rise as it rises, but not to fight.


16. Breathwork (b)

Difficult conditions, living seeds prepare to shoot through topsoil – a metaphor

she scores a dance from the breath pattern – all rise and rush, barely enough stop to refuel –

shapes of a body attacked by panic, or a cartoon charachter held in the air by ratata gunfire.


15. Shoots (mark-making exercise)

The frank stare of the double-o. She looks at it, then takes the charcoal – breathes out

through its medium an upward moving vortex – swiftly overlaying another in red chalk.

Finished, she holds her body, without prejudice, where noun and verb meet in their sense of propulsion.


14. Where they hide their anger

the ones who never, mark that, ever feel even a frisson of that emotion,

is, in temporal terms, the minutest move on the face of a clock, but the oubliette opens

in the breath-crack between side-by-side words that begin and end again with hard letters.


13. Tonight, like housekeys in my handbag

I carry

The lines of your song.

Tonight I am safe, comforted.


12. What it is

It is the stick figures that run and leap as I flick the pages.

It is the rise and drive of dark lines marked on the paper.

It is the change in the speed of my breath, the ribcage follows: I sit.


11. Anxious scanning

Digital, my fingers on the keyboard typing.

My feet are on the floor tapping out a rhythm.

In between, I am – the doubt I feel is my own.


If you sit, just sit don’t wobble (zen saying)

After last week’s intense reading, this week I sat (not saying I didn’t wobble a bit) and reflected on what I had read and the wider ‘Knowing the Dance’ project. It was a strange, ranging journey – ending with the arrival of ‘The Dance Most of All’ by Jack Gilbert – which wasn’t entirely what I was looking for, and then again it might have been just the right opening to what is going to be a sequence for the next ten days. I know this is departing from the letter of the the NaPoWriMo project but I’m hoping it captures some of its spirit as this has arisen from the energy of working day-by-day during this April.  I also went back and reread chapters of ‘The Body has its Reasons’ which has been a part of my world since I was a teenager. I was very sad to find out recently that Therese Bertherat had passed away a few years as I would have loved to have actually been a participant in one of here classes.

About NaPoWriMo

April is (Inter)National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) and the idea is to write a poem a day for the month. You can find some great prompts at the official site, and poetry support organisations like the Poetry School

Image: from Time Bug series (10cm x 10cm) by Emma Whitehead

Poetry Connects ‘Coast to Coast’ – #PoetryDayIreland event @LyricBelfast


Taking place at 1pm on 27th April, The Lyric Theatre, Belfast, in conjunction with Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive, is set to celebrate Poetry Day Ireland with a lunchtime reading by Ross Thompson and myself. The reading will combine archive material from the Digital Film Archive with spoken word contributions from both of us. It’s a free event taking place in the Cafe Bar – and will also include classic archive material featuring Seamus Heaney and John Betjeman. More information HERE.

About the Digital Film Archive

Launched in November 2000 as part of the British Film Institute (BFI) Millennium Project, Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive (DFA) is a free public access resource for teachers, students, historians and anyone who has an interest in moving images. It contains over 90 hours of moving images about life in pre- Partition Ireland and Northern Ireland from 1897 to 2014. There are items covering drama, animation, documentaries, news, newsreels, amateur and actuality film. Unlike other regional film archives across the United Kingdom, the Digital Film Archive is entirely digital and does not maintain a physical archive of film. Browse the DFA HERE.

About the ‘Coast to Coast’ project

Ross and I were involved in just one element of the wider ‘Coast to Coast’ project, currently in progress, which showcases Northern Ireland’s profound relationship with the coast and sea and its impact on our society and culture.

We were both (independently) commissioned to create spoken word pieces in response to moving image content drawn from the archive. These pieces are incorporated into short films which combine both elements. It is one of a series of initiatives to highlight this wonderful resource.

On the back of a February wind

On the 2nd – also a Thursday – with a gale blowing and weather warnings all along the North Coast stretching down to the Portaferry Road, candles lighting here, I settled to watch a happy number of hours of coastal footage from the archive.  It was an incredible privilege to have access to this and it was easy to lose myself in it . Like so many, I have a real draw to water and I have always lived close to bodies of water which lead out into sea. I also find documentary film-making – whether silent or with narration – a sort of poetry in its own right.  By the next morning, I had the first draft written and ready to be edited with the help of Downpatrick’s resident seagull choir whose memories stretch back to before the tidal barrier, and are insistent that this town is still coastal. I am really looking forward to seeing both finished pieces and the wider ‘Coast to Coast’ project as it emerges.

My thanks to all who have been involved.

Image: The above image is Steamboat Quay, Quoile Pondage, Downpatrick. Quick note to say that it’s not part of the archive.

The Clock Repairer’s Companion (No 1-10): #KnowingtheDance #NaPoWriMo

6tag-3088414843-1483269340422047431_3088414843Nos 10 to 1: the first installment of three line pieces (from fragment, to micro-poem to asmuch as I can fit and still call it three lines) which I have been sharing each day this April on Instagram – @pearldiver32 – as part of NaPoWriMo.

The work in this case is a creative response to my consideration of the moving parts of poetic composition – and it is part of the ‘Knowing the Dance’ project.


10. Late afternoon full moon seen behind telephone wires

Held note. Between the lines
I am, you are, all we encounter
here, moving as we move, a dancer.

9. Pattern

in my hand,
the chalk across my palm.

8. Water Drums

The women. How they stand. Their hands as they beat
the river. Its resist, follow. The rhythm. My hands. Call
across continents. The songs in different languages.

7. Poiesis

Parchment, paper, tablet, stylus, pencil, ruler, plumb-line, quill-pens, inhorn, inks, desk, goodlight, chair –

Whatever the instruments, what moves this scribe is not to bring forth, exactly, what is imagined –

But making the marks of a map by which others can make their own journeys along these lines.

6. Illusions of Movement

In corners:
intimations of intrigue,
wall-to-wall intricate spiders’ weave-work.

5. A three line monograph on walking and writing poetry

Walk: find Basho, Raftery, Mary Oliver in the grove, town, forest.

Walk: let your steps fall in with the rhythm of the wind, river, traffic.

Walk: ideas, images circulate as blood does: always now.

4. Breathwork (a)

As you read this (or
are you hearing it really), ask
yourself where the breath is.

3. Mobile

A breeze triggers it, makes the strings, frame,
and dangling baubles all swing and sway:
the movements are followed by the baby’s gaze.

2. Still life with moving part

Indoors in late August, he paints ‘nothing but large sunflowers‘,
like this one – fifteen head-turners: yellow on yellow – while
outside a Mistral wind bloows over the still Arles landscape.

1. Who can know?

I am moving
I am not

A note about what I have been reading

The work in this case is a creative response to my consideration of the moving parts of poetic composition. This is part of the written element of the ‘Knowing the Dance‘ project – and the technical end in a way – so the pieces are very much concerned with the writing itself. Should it be of any interest, this ten days has seen me rereading sections of ‘Rules of the Dance’ by Mary Oliver, ‘Lines: A Brief History’ by Tim Ingold, ‘The Making of Poem’ by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland. Revisitng objectivist poetry (?) gently, getting to grips with ‘Poiesis and Art-making: A Way of Letting-Be’ by Derek H. Whitehead. and I’ve also put my toe in the water of ‘Affect Theory’, without getting much of me wet as of yet.

About NaPoWriMo

April is (Inter)National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) and the idea is to write a poem a day for the month. You can find some great prompts at the official site, and poetry support organisations like the Poetry School

Image: from Time Bug series (10cm x 10cm) by Emma Whitehead

Ordering Collection Contents – #Lettersfromladyn

To whom it may concern :),

One of the most difficult aspects of putting together the collection, for me, was gathering the work into some kind of coherent running order.

The work in both ‘Darkhaired’ and ‘Night Divers’ was created over a timeframe rather than to a theme – although, that said, I am in great agreement with something I’d heard Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill say at one time about how poems actually collect around a subject even if you believe you are working in a whole new universe in each individual poem.  In retrospect, there does seem to be an underlying, obsessive working out of things. At least at my end.

For ‘Darkhaired’ the order kind of apppeared under my hands…after about 10-15 different runs of creating the pamphlet.

For ‘Night Divers’ I was bewitched, bothered and bewildered. I had about twice the amount of work and no shape and make to it. I was lucky to have a title that stayed the course. I asked for suggestions and it was said to me by more than one (and very helpfully as it turned out) that there is a kind of inspired magic about composing the collection, in the same manner that you’d find in the composing of a poem (I think the magic you find in the editing process is in question here – when you find a word and it’s totally throwing the right kind of shadows in every direction, for example).

I think it was Sinead Morrissey who had mentioned the possibility of finding gaps that needed to be filled, in the process.

And so I shuffled the pages like a deck of cards, I dropped them from a height and saw if an order would emerge from where they fell, I left my printer to spew them out in a mighty scatter on the hall floor, I created an external-structure based on the movements in Night Divers (the poem), and after awhile something did begin to take.

And in a rather magic manner – a gap appeared – and a in a rather magic manner – it was filled. (That’s a story for another time). After awhile something ressembling a final order began to emerge, for good or for ill.

What I wanted to share is something that I found very useful thWP_20170316_10_27_45_Proat I only happened upon very late in the day.

In one of the final edits, I discovered two overleaf verses had gotten lost. When we added them back the resulting extra page messed up what was appearing on the left and right page – which also plays a part in laying things out as I discovered.

In order to get a visual perspective I laid the pages out – side by side – on the floor in the order they appeared, and immediately I could see not only what was falling on the left and the right hand pages, where the ‘overleaf’ poems were splitting, but also what came before and after at a glance – and further back and futher forward. I wished I’d thought of this strategy much earlier in the process – so I thought I’d put it out there should it be of any help to anyone.

In the meantime, happy collecting!

Night Divers (Templar Poetry, 2017) launches at Keats House, London, on the 25 April.

The Clock Repairer’s Companion- #KnowingtheDance #NaPoWriMo

April is (Inter)National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) and the idea is to write a poem a day for the month. You can find some great prompts at the official site, and poetry support organisations like the Poetry School.

The Clock Repairer’s Companion

A strand of the ‘Knowing the Dance‘ project, that I am currently working on, is to investigate the ‘mechanics’ of movement in poetry in order to better ‘choreograph’, for want of a better word, where the dance is in my poems.  I’ve been considering this for the past few months.

My plan of action for 6tag-3088414843-1483269340422047431_3088414843NaPoWriMo is to write a three line piece (from fragment, to micro-poem, to as much as I can fit and still call it three lines) each day which focus on the technique as much as the art. A creative response, as you might say, to my considerations of the moving parts of this word-based art.

I’ll be starting today (1 April) and continuing – hopefully – everyday on Instagram – @pearldiver32 – and I’ll post a digest here at the end of ten days.

Image: from Time Bug series (10cm x 10cm) by Emma Whitehead