Live in the #Layers – @TopFloorArt #AugCraft17 #Saintfield #KnowingtheDance

Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.
                                      Gustave Flaubert
Yet I turn, I turn, / exulting somewhat, / with my will intact to go / wherever I need to go / and every stone on the road / precious to me.
                             (‘The Layers’ extract, Stanley Kunitz)

LayersandReflectionsprogrammesmall

Tomorrow August Craft Month begins – it’s the annual celebration of craft and applied art across Northern Ireland and an amazing opportunity to see, meet and/or work with the finest designer-makers living and working here.

I had a bird’s eye view of all happenings when working on the digital comms side of Craft NI (the originators and the coordinators of the month) and I continue to be staggered not only by the creativity and imagination of the designs but also by the powers of mastery over materials that we call ‘handmade‘.  ‘Angels’ hands‘ was my name for it because I still find it hard to believe a human being actually made what has been made with bare hands. If you happen to be near pretty much anywhere in NI this month check out the August Craft Month programme.

Layers and Reflections @TopFloorArt

A bit of excitment this year for me as there is a bit of a reflection of my work in the ‘Layers’ exhibition that opens at Top Floor Art on Thursday (3 Aug, 7-9pm and on through the month). No making on my part, I add quickly. ‘Live in the Layers’ takes words from Stanley Kunitz inspiring poem ‘The Layers’ (below). The idea of the piece is from my investigations of the moving parts of poems, through the Knowing the Dance project.  Like the child who takes the transistor radio apart to find out how the noise is made, I’ve been digging into the layers of composition that give poems their resonant qualities.

The making part is wonderful and is the result of a conversation with Top Floor Art’s artists and proprietors textile artist Emma Whitehead and fine artist Stephen McClean who is also a sawdoctor. I had the idea of free floating letters of the phrase, like a mobile (not the telephone kind), moving, catching on each other, throwing shadows on the page. Stephen suggested carving the letters from distressed steel using saws – a sort of meeting of his two worlds.  Emma Whitehead ran interference so that the thing actually made sense as a whole piece.  I’ll have photos shortly but couldn’t wait to share the details.

BandBPaperWorkshopIf you are near Saintfield on Thursday eve (3 Aug, 7-9pm), do call in for the preview and the exhibition – including a range of makers of all craft practices and levels of engagement, a solo show by Ruth Walker (Glass), the fabric mountain and the Butterfly Cloud. Get all the details of what’s on at Top Floor Art HERE  

*Images courtesy of Top Floor Art

The Layers

By Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz, “The Layers” from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz. Copyright © 1978 by Stanley Kunitz.

 

Save the Date: #KnowingtheDance Masterclass (@Down_arts Centre, 9 Sept)

Today, I am putting the finishing touches to the ‘Knowing the Dance’ programme on the 9 September.

In-between & mid-stream in Downpatrick last January

I had the great fortune to work on an extended masterclass with artist, contemporary jewellery designer and choreographer Sarah Warsop in January this year as part of the Knowing the Dance project that I am working on. I’d seen work she had been doing bringing diverse artforms together (not only choreogrpahy and jewellery design), and wanted to investigate her technique with the hope of finding a way to draw out the movement/dance within the poems so as to understand better where the moving parts are in the poems and how to make them work best; creating a middle-place between poetry and dance (this was part of Paula and my work-in-progress), and using the middle place as a ground of creativity in its own right.

Down Art Centre Masterclass

Delighted that Sarah will be hosting a three-hour masterclass based on the techniques we worked on in January at Down Arts Centre on 9th September. The workshop is free to attend and booking will be open shortly.

Liminal 2017

Sarah was the winner of the inaugural Cockpit Arts’ Performance of Craft Award in 2016 has released her new short film ‘LIMINAL’ in 2017. See the video below – find out more about it and her process HERE.

Abridged 0_1979 Now Out – @abridged030 #StrangerthanFiction

StrangerthanFiction

The absolute antedote to this week’s strange fortunes – Abridged – the 0-1979 edition. Love this publication in the largest way. Delighted to have ‘Stranger than Fiction’ as part of this one and loving the facing image by Kourtney Roy from the Enter as Fiction series.

Hope you can pick up the paper version (it’s free as well as being utterly fabulous). The online version can be found and perused HERE.

In-between and midstream – #KnowingtheDance #EvolvingFields

“Where between is liminal, in-between is arterial; where between is intermediate, in-between is midstream.” – from The Life of Lines by Tim Ingold

WP_20170529_15_23_39_ProVery excited to be sharing a showcase space with dancer/researcher Paula Guzzanti and musician Martin Devek as part of postgraduate conference ‘Evolving Fields: Sensoriality, Imagination and Memory’ taking place at Queen’s University, Belfast. We are sharing some of the Knowing the Dance work with some creative engagement for the participants as well.

Within the framework of the Knowing the Dance exploration of the middle place between poetry and dance, this performance/workshop will throw a spotlight on some of the fascinating features of the dance element and how the explorations in our collaboration may inform research practice generally.  While we are still on the arterial route, I think this is going to be particularly useful because dance – like creative writing (never mind the subset that is poetry) – covers a multitude of different approaches and fields of endeavour. Paula’s particular practice is, in itself, a key component of how the converation between us has been developing.

Paula is currently in the midst of a practice-as-research PhD at QUB. In her research, she uses movement improvisation as a philosophical tool, which means that the theories she is investigating and her practice are deeply interwoven. She uses movement to expand her her level of awareness. You can read more about her work and the Knowing the Dance project from this perspective in an interview created to complement the ‘Evolving Fields’ conference programme HERE.

The Conference itself is really interesting with it’s emphasis on the imagination, memory and sensorial perception (but are the latter part of, or feeders to, the imagination – I wonder?) across the humanities.

And I am out-of-my-mind with excitement that the keynote speaker is Tim Ingold (the key-correspondant of all that moves in lines – straight or otherwise – in this lovely world). I’ve just finished ‘The Life of Lines’ – his latest book and it is all of my favourite things and that is all I have to say.

The conference takes place on the 6/7 June. The full conference programme can be found HERE.

Time to Change – #NIMHAFF2017

NIMHAF
‘Hold them cheap. May ne’er hung there’ wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins in one of his terrible sonnets. If April is poetry awareness month, mental health belongs to May.

On now (16-29 May), the Northern Ireland Mental Health, Arts and Film Festival – is specifically there to celebrate mental health but also to foster sustaining creative connections between the arts and the world of mental/health.

On the talking about it front, I want to flag up that there are spoken word/poetry and word-based events on the programme.

I am hoping to be able to be part of a ‘A Phoenix Longing’ – a showcase of poetry from an anthology in the process of becoming that is taking place at the Arts and Disability Forum on Saturday 27 May, 11am-1pm. (I have a little difficulty with the timing so have my fingers crossed). I’ll be there in spirit in any case because the compilers have very kindly used the title of my poem as the event title, and indeed the title of the anthology. My phoenix longed for company and it would be great if you were available to attend.

Saturday, 27 May, is a day for poetry on the festival programme and there is a workshop with Poetry NI, and then a reading, in the afternoon at Eastside Visitor Art Centre.

There’s a Red Pill Showcase on this Saturday (20 May) that’s  on the theme- and some great films on the programme also! And, of course, it’s wider than words..

   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
(Windhover (final stanza) – Gerald Manley Hopkins)

 

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

SteamboatQuayBandW

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.

Intertwine (Work in Progress) – #KnowingtheDance

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This evening (Friday 31 March), dancer/choreographer/researcher Paula Guzzanti is sharing work-in-progress of the dance element of ‘Intertwine’ – a piece which is being created in collaboration with poet Olive Broderick, as part of the Knowing the Dance project.

The sharing happens as part of Dance Mash 2017 at The Patrick Centre Birmingham Hippodrome, with thanks to DanceXchange and the dance community in Birmingham for offering this opportunity.

Knowing the Dance is an Arts Council NI ACES supported project which explores the meeting places of poetry, dance and movement. The collabarative dance/poetry work will be launched at Down Arts Centre in September.