Coast to Coast to Coast Irish Issue launches at @BelfastBookFest (9 June, 7-8.30pm)

Coast to Coast to Coast Journal designed and created by Maria Isakova-Bennett, and edited by Maria and Michael Brown, is a hand-stitched publication designed to be both a small piece of artwork, and a poetry journal. Each issue contains the work of a maximum of twenty poets, is a unique numbered artefact produced as a limited edition.

I am thrilled to  have a poem  in the Irish edition of this  beautiful  journal which also features new work from the poets including John Mee, Keith Payne, Heather Richardson, Stephanie Conn, Nessa O’Mahony, Michael Ray, Therese Kieran, Michael Farry, Annette Skade, Moyra Donaldson, James Meredith, Attracta Fahy, Paul Jeffcutt, Michael Sheehan, Karen McDonnell, Georgi Gill, Daragh Breen, Jane Robinson and Emma McKervey.

Really looking foward to the launch of the journal taking place as part of this year’s edition of the Belfast Book Festival. The launch takes place from 7-8.30pm on the 9th June with readings from poets included in the edition and an opportunity for open  mic. Further details and book HERE.

Find full BBF programme details HERE.

 

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Night Divers – first launched #OTD at Keats House @TemplarPoetry

Night flight would be triumph enough / even if we never made it back to the surface. (Northlands – Part IV extract)

Can’t let the day go by wihout celebrating the 1st anniversary of the launch of Night Divers at Keats House! Lovely memories of this day last year and many thanks to those who supported this and subsequent launches of the collection. It’s also the birthday of one of those remembered in the book and can be sad day – and I’m glad now, hands of the clock moved forward, to go back to it as being a day to celebrate.  Link to more information and online purchase HERE

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#TakeMeHome …. @labellit surprises for #PoetryDayIrl 2018

Luggage labels ready to be written

Delighted to be one of 60 or so poets who are marking this year’s Poetry Day Ireland (26 April) by leaving literary labels to be found and kept by the unsuspecting – to surprise, to delight, engage and gladden the hearts of those who come upon them.

If you find a label, it’s yours to keep. If you are on Twitter check out @labellit and @poetryireland for updates. Do feel free to tag them if you would like to share your find.

NaPoWriMo

Now global, of course. Continuing my tendency to produce daily tristichs to mark April as poetry writing month, I have a nine-piece (each with three lines) interlocking poem prepared for the labels. One tristich of which I will share via Instagram for nine days (17-25 April) in the run up to Poetry Day itself. Inst: pearldiver32

Wherever you are, and whosoever the poet, may the most delightful label find its way to you.

@Lagannavigor Storymaking Festival 2 Feb, @IslandArtsbiz

 

 

The 2nd of February seemed very far away when Alison McClenaghan and myself had our first chats with Amanda and Maire at Lagan Navigation Trust last July about the ‘Where My River Flows’ project.

Now it is tomorrow.

Many thanks to all the groups that I worked with who shared their story of their river – mostly the Lagan, though not always.  I have an insight, now, into what motivates collectors whether of story or song.  I am very grateful to all who submitted their poems and stories – both members of the groups and those who responded to the general call out – but I know that it’s just a fraction of what was shared and I had the privilege of having a bird’s-ear vista to sights, sounds and connections to the Lagan given to me by those most closely connected to it. I have come to know the River in a whole new way and the memory of the stories and accounts from various vantage points along its length are written on wall-plaques in my imagination, fixed there by the people who shared them in the workshops series accompanying the call-out for submissions.

Now there is an anthology.

Congrats to all who are included and to those who the judges chose for prizes. Tomorrow evening’s event is set to be a great coming together of all that the project hoped to achieve. I haven’t seen the anthology yet and had only seen a couple of the tapestries in their early stages, so I can’t wait to see how all turned out.

About the event

This is the Lagan Navigation Trust Storymaking Festival’s final event where we celebrate the creativity of those connected to each other by their connections  to the Lagan river. Through poetry, stories and song, affectionate portraits and links, the Lagan will come to life. Shortlisted entries will be performed and prizes given to the top four stories and poems. I think this is both a source for and a start of many more sharings of close connections to the River.

Last call for @PoetryJukebox submission – Curation 2 #Changingthemessage

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“You had been travelling for days….” All Legendary Obstacles – John Montague

It’s funny the way sometimes things that later turn out to be exceptional additions to your life, can come in under a fog so it’s difficult to pin point a beginning, and then sometimes they come in a way that’s marked in your memory.

The elegant, exceptional royal-blueness that is the Poetry Jukebox belongs, for me, in the second category. The most legendary obstacles I had were the timing of the call and, even more legendary, the taping of the piece. (adds excellent mobile voice recording to the list of reasons why I have to get a new phone or, maybe, Zoom HI and a new phone). The first was fine..in the end. Thankfully.

The second gave a sense of just how much ambient noise I live with in my town-centre flat near a lively establishment. Last August, the levels were of the surround-sound variety – no sooner had the band and revellers departed, than the massed choirs of the dawn chorus began, then, my landlord who I had never seen to use more than a handheld drill took to sawing what appeared to be a whole sawmill of timber from the early hours til late in the back yard. I learned that proper recording equipment is the modern poet’s friend. In the quiet tones of ‘If I only I could be still’, there is a reverb (which fits nicely I think) of ‘I am fit to kill’.

I was thrilled that ‘Friars Bush Cemetery’ (from Night Divers) was accepted. But actually pre-PJ, I was just normally thrilled – the way a person is when the bit of work is accepted for something that you’d love it to be accepted for.

All day I waited…

And then it arrived. What a fantastic idea of Maria McManus and Deirdre Cartmill to bring it here and the Cresent Arts Centre to accommodate it. There were, I know, very legendary obstacles on the road of its being here though I wasn’t directly part of that. But it is here, now – and permanently.

The first time I encountered it – even before it was fully sorted out in its spot or had labels for its buttons – I realised that it was even more of a thrill to be involved that I had imagined.

The launch was wonderful – a chance to meet others on the first-round playlist – some of whom I’d possibly not have met otherwise.

I’m a great fan of any media where you can encounter poetry – but Poetry Jukebox is special. In the middle of Belfast, out in all weathers, welcoming, ready for any comer to press a button (all or any). What has been particularly lovely since is to meet people who have visited PJ and to hear their feedback.

May it flourish – this Jukebox of joy. May you, when you press it’s button, hear exactly what you require to hear. I am really looking forward to hearing the pieces from Curation 2. Up with this sort of thing.

Submission Call for Curation 2 (closes tomorrow, 31 January 2018)

If you haven’t already submitted, there is a small bit of room to limbo under the deadline.

This second edition of curated content on Ireland’s first Poetry Jukebox will mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement –an historic peace agreement. Public discourse matters, and putting something new into public discourse really matters.

Get further details of how to submit HERE – and a video as well about the Poetry Jukebox, the idea behind it and how it’s come to be here.

 

The Power of Words – marking #HolocaustMemorialDay 2018

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“I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me. When I write I can shake off all my cares; my sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!

Anne Frank, written in her diary, 5 April 1944.

I read Anne Frank’s diary at about the same age as she would have been writing it. I knew about the Holocaust at that stage and when my father gave this book to me to read  I suppose it was that dimension of it that he was thinking. I, however, became totally immersed in this girl’s story, her family, and her wish to become a writer that I forgot the bigger picture of this kindred spirit’s one, incredibly significant, publication.

I remember arriving at the back page, the epilogue of sorts, and reading about what happened to her with such disbelief and heartbreak. I thought that such writing would make my friend-across-time immune to such an end. But it didn’t. The vibrant girl in the Amsterdam annex has stayed with me.

Just one voice. How it’s been a witness for not just her or her family but to an atrocity – an abuse of human rights – the scale of which I cannot imagine.

I worked in my twenties to build up a small specialist library on the subject of equality (and discrimination) in third level institutions. I read a lot, between the cataloguing of them and setting them on the shelf, of books dedicated to defining and removing the processes of discrimination between classes and types of people. I learned how words can be dropped in to drive a wedge between ‘them’ and ‘us’ and where that leads.

My professional path through life, also brought me a series of lectures, as a student of marketing, on propaganda, this precursor to our ‘post-truth’ era. – the reality of it – the attempt to establish some kind of ‘good’ line between what it is and what actions it produces and words generated to tempt people to buy goods and services.

Words. Words before action. The power of words to influence action. Words that can be used for good or for evil – as this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day literature reminds us.

I set the intention always now – no matter what I am writing – from poems to advertisting copy – that good, safe and life-affirming outcomes may follow on from my words.

The Power of Words – Holocaust Memorial Day 2018

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place annually on the 27 January – the aniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. It marks not only the Holocaust but is a day to remember the millions of people murdered in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. It is a chance to honour the survivors, and to work to challenge hatred and create a safer, better future.

It is a privilege to be involved on this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day Programme with its ‘Power of Words’ theme.

AFTERWORD: Thanks to all who took part in both events. I very much appreciate you being there, and the energy that you brought to the events.

Creative Writing Workshop (Down County Museum, 27 January 2018, 10am-1pm, FREE).

This poetry writing workshop will give participants the chance to create pieces exploring the theme. I’m looking forward to meeting the participants tomorrow. If your eye falls across this before the end of today and you’d like to be involved. There are some places – contact: 028 4461 5218

‘Power of Words’ Poems on a Sunday Afternoon (Down Arts Centre, 28 January, 2.30-4.30pm, FREE)

Participants from the workshop are inited to share the work from this event at a special Holocaust Memorial Day ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ happening at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, on Sunday 27 January, 2.30-430pm. This will form the normal ‘feature’ segment of the afternoon.

As always, all who attend are invited to share work – their own or, a favourite (or a mix) – that celebrates the words in all it’s forms and in this case the power of words.

Booking isn’t required. Looking forward to meeting at either or both events all being well.

Do check out the full Holocaust Memorial Trust programme in Northern Ireland, there are some very thought-provoking events, that engage beautifully with the theme, happening this couple of weeks: http://www.hmd.org.uk/events/find/Northern%20Ireland?page=1

I want to thank particulary Shirley from the Trust in Northern Ireland for her support of this event’s programme.

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#ACES 16/17 – The Body has its Reasons: Knowing from Within #lettersfromladyn

We think by feeling. What is there to know? / I hear my being dance from ear to ear / I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.  from The Waking by Theodore Roethke

Through jewellery, choreography and mark making Sarah Warsop investigates the complexities and characteristics of human movement. In metal, on paper, in performance, on film, she arrests time to reveal the intricacies of the moving body. Read more about Sarah Warsop and her practice.

KTDACESREPORTmontageIn the sleepiest part of winter 2017, jeweller/choreographer/artist Sarah Warsop travelled from London to Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick to facilitate a ‘Knowing the Dance’ masterclass, which had it’s objective to demonstrate how she stretches time to give a create a middle place where physical presence through breath, felt experience, movement can emerge.

She had asked me to bring a couple of poems for working on. A more-or-less finished poem of my own with a small part that needed to be worked on and a favourite of mine. In keeping with the time of year, I brought ‘Fallow‘ (Abridged: Silence, pg 35, also Night Divers), and Eavan Boland’s ‘The Pomegranate’. Both sympathetic to our mid-January meeting. She also asked for charcoal and a plentiful supply of large sheets of paper suitable for drawing on. We were joined by dancer/researcher Paula Guzzanti, with whom I had begun work on what was to become the dance~poem sequece.

Fight, Flight, Freeze, Appease

‘You say this time of year is treacherous / our first shoots might be bewildered’ from Fallow

I chose ‘Fallow’ because, though well published, it has always had one stanza that I’ve never been entirely happy about. My belief has always been that it is not a technical problem, the underlying fault was in my own lack of clarity about what was happening at that point.

We began with my reading the poem and then we created ‘breath scores’ for that sticking-point, three-line piece – charting the movement in the breath (mostly up, hardly a dip) on paper and noticing words where the breath eddied, halted, or dropped.

Then we drew with charcoal, and many times, not visual representations of the verbal images, but the shapes, patterns and images that emerged from the breathwork, from the words that demanded attention. Going back again and again to it.

Following that we created movement sequences that were called forth from this exploration.

I’ve been trying to clearly document what went on here over the past year, because it was a very powerful experience for me. I’m not there yet.

‘Fallow’ was written at a time when I was in a state of distress to the point of numbness (‘freeze’ or otherwise described as the ‘numbies’ – a human protective response when not able to fight or flee) but it was many years ago. I do remember that feel of dissociation in the writing of what is quite a measured piece despite its worst-of-winter backdrop. That calm – that protective instinct to go with the flow – you get when you are in shock but you have to respond to what is going on.

As the three of us re-entered the piece but with full physical/emotional connection, I relived that time. This could, I suppose, have been a very painful triggering, but things happen at the right time, I believe.  What became very clear as we worked on was that there is nothing wrong at all with those three lines, they simply marked, in their uneveness, an uncomfortable preparation for those first shoots that signalled an end to that instinctive numbed state back to some kind of return to feeling.

I found this depth of connection with the work really powerful, and the physical presence aspect a more anchoring kind of knowing. Even if the breath score spoke clearly of deep panic, I was in control because I could step away from that breath pattern.

‘Beautiful Rifts in Time’

‘But what else / can a mother give a daughter but such / beautful rifts in time’ from ‘The Pomegranate’  by Eavan Boland

In the same poem, she says “..the best thing about the legend is / I can enter it anywhere..”. The funny thing about Fallow is that this is not the first time I have re-entered this particular territory. A few years on from Abridged publishing ‘Fallow’, I was invited to submit a piece tp them for an issue which of poems which revisited earlier pieces that they had published. Unwittingly, another january, I had written a piece called The Time Bug (aka Fallow II) which is a far less comforting piece. The storm was closer then and there was neither blanket nor spectral company. I am pretty sure there isn’t an in-breath to be found in the piece.

This most recent January, the re-entering was gentler. I’ve written a further piece ‘First Shoots’ which is more a meditation on two other artists, without any interest or knowledge of the background, entering the work and responding to it – and how strangely eloquently the work proclaimed its strictured emotional roots despite the poem not giving much away of the context.

Nothing has done real justice, however, to the full clarity that this masterclass gave me, not on the poem, but on my own life at the time – a time which has been at the heart of my writing over the last while.

In the week that followed raw material for the ‘Knowing the Dance’ poetry collection began to come through.

‘Knowing the Dance’ Open Workshop

With thanks to Down Arts Centre, Sarah returned to Down Arts Centre to facilitate a three-hour open workshop using similar techniques. Again, I was suprised at how close this connection to breath, the allowing of charcoal to wander where it would as the words moved through me, the creating of movement, drew me to the work. Here I looked at a piece to which I have, against all odds, a really strong emotional connection. It’s one or the pieces that I’ve written this year that I like best, but the subject matter  – water drumming: traditional with women of the Baka people – is something I don’t have any connection to at all.

My thanks to all who attended. This work, though seemingly gentle, is a powerful way to engage with a practice of poetry that counteracts the distancing of, not so much the mind, but explanation or description rather than sharing direct experience (telling about rather than knowing). This embodiment is, in every workshop you’ll ever attend – mine included – what makes poetry the living thing that it is. But sometimes, that safe distance from what our inner realm is communicating up from the depths (the voice beneath the voice) via the periscope that is poetry, is a length of road that needs to be travelled softly. I wonder whether in the future, if showcasing these techniques using a published piece – not written by anybody in the working group – might be a good introduction of this more physically direct experience of poetry.

The Body has its Reasons: Knowing from Within

“Movement – along the ground, in walking, in the air, in respiration – is not what a body does but what it is. That is why any attempt to describe human movement in terms of some notion of embodiment is bound to fail. For it makes it sounds as though the movement were wrapped up inside – that has been packaged, sedimented, stilled, rendered quiescent or tacit. And it is why theorists of embodiment feel compelled to invoke a notion of agency in order to set the self-digested body-package back in motion. Movement, for them, is an effect, agency they cause. To undo this causal logic – to exorcise the spectre of embodied agency – is to recognise that as a bundle of potentials in an ever-unfolding field of forces and energies, the body moves and is moved not because it is driven by some internal agency, wrapped up in the package, but because as fast as it is gathering or winding itself up, it is forever unravelling or unwinding – alternatively breathing in and out. But breathing out and breathing in are not the precise reverse of one another. The one is a movement of propulsion; it is haptic. The other is a movement of gathering; it is atmospheric.” – Tim Ingold ‘Knowing from Within’

A list of reading material that accompanied my exploration of the middle place, including The Body has its Reasons can be found HERE.

Final Words

I am still processing a lot of this particular exploration because it represents more than simply a change in how I approach composing and editing my work. Like myself, there is nothing surface-level about it and I am wondering if the work itself isn’t the way forward for processing. That said, even for myself, I do want to document this process.