0202-2020 #Herstory 'World of Equals' Poems on a Sunday Afternoon @down_arts, feat: @WomenAloudNI & Creative Writing Workshops #IamWriting #Womenwriting

0202-2020 Herstory Light Festival ‘World of Equals Day theme: A celebration of egalitarian personal and professional partnerships throughout history and today. Join us for a special extended Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, with a warm invitation to join us for the usual shared space, and featuring a celebration of women writers and those who inspired them to make their voices equally heard from members of the Women Aloud NI collective.

And an invitation to make your own voice heard, with two dedicated creative writing workshops (11am-1pm) with experienced creative writing facilitators – playwright Dr Catherine Kelly, and poet Gráinne Tobin. All is free – register your attendance at your preferred workshop with Down Arts Centre on 028 4461 0747.

More info:

From 2.30-3.45pm – shared space. The usual warm Invitation to those in the workshops* and the general public to share a piece as normal for Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

From 4-5pm ‘Herstory: Luminescence & Legacy – celebrating those women who inspired courage’. Showcase by Women Aloud NI members – a collective of writers who work to raise the profile of and represent women’s writing in Northern Ireland, and who create an exciting programme of events drawing from the membership of women writers – emerging and established – which celebrate our burgeoning local female writing talent.

From 11am-1pm: * ‘World of Equals’ Workshops. Choice of two. FREE, registration required, contact 028 4461 0747.

(1) ‘Voices of the Future’ Creative Writing Workshop
Facilitator: Gráinne Tobin

About the workshop
You are welcome to come just as you are to this one-off workshop, whether you are a very experienced writer or a total beginner.
Your writing belongs to you. You will be encouraged to share it, but you have the choice to keep it to yourself if you prefer.
Nobody is going to know or care whether you can spell perfectly.
The future and the past seem to be part of the present – what do you think? Could your past self and your present self learn from each other? Could your future self tell you a thing or two? Are all these selves each other’s equals? And what about the people who come after us?

About the facilitator
Gráinne Tobin grew up in Armagh, and lives in Newcastle, where she taught English in Shimna Integrated College after working for many years in further and adult education in Lurgan. Her books are Banjaxed and The Nervous Flyer’s Companion from Summer Palace Press and The Uses of Silk from Arlen House. She has won some poetry prizes and has contributed to magazines and anthologies, including Word of Mouth (Blackstaff) When the Neva Rushes Backwards (Lagan Press) On the Grass When I Arrive (Liberties Press) Washing Windows (Arlen House) Metamorphic( Recent Work Press) and Something About Home (Geographies Publications). Her work is online in Poethead, Poetry Ireland’s archive and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s online Troubles Archive, and one of her poems is on a sculpture in the stairwell of Down Arts Centre.
(2) ‘World of Equals’ Creative Writing Workshop
Facilitator: Dr Catherine Kelly

About the workshop
All are welcome to attend this workshop – whether beginner or more experienced writer – all genres. Inspired by her own experience as a writer, and by the idea of equality in regard to the lives of Hannah and Francis Sheehy Skeffington, you can expect lively discussion on the theme, and the situation of women writers, and to create new writing of your own.

About the facilitator
Catherine graduated from Exeter University with a doctorate in Drama. She works as a teacher and a writer. Plays produced include two for radio and a student performance for Creative Learning at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. She completed a script for Greenshoot Productions as part of a project dealing with the experiences refugees. Most recently Kabosh Theatre performed her monologues about the Sheehy Skeffingtons. She enjoys working as a tutor in a range of places that includes schools, Down Arts and Open Learning at Queen’s University Belfast.

More info about Herstory Light Festival here: https://www.herstory.ie/light

More info about Down Arts Centre here: http://www.downartscentre.com

‘Where does it hurt?’ – #lettersfromladyn #Herodotus

One Eyewitness

Where does it hurt?

Not here in Eygpt

where, with an enthusiastic mind,

our son of Mnemosyne

is blown away by Nile boats.

“Their boats with which they carry cargoes” he reports “are made of the thorny acacia, of which the form is very like that of the Kyrenian lotos, and that which exudes from it is gum. From this tree they cut pieces of wood about two cubits in length and arrange them like bricks, fastening the boat together by running a great number of long bolts through the two-cubit pieces; and when they have thus fastened the boat together, they lay cross-pieces[81] over the top, using no ribs for the sides; and within they caulk the seams with papyrus. They make one steering-oar for it, which is passed through the bottom of the boat; and they have a mast of acacia and sails of papyrus. These boats cannot sail up the river unless there be a very fresh wind blowing, but are towed from the shore: down-stream however they travel as follows: they have a door-shaped crate made of tamarisk wood and reed mats sewn together, and also a stone of about two talents weight bored with a hole; and of these the boatman lets the crate float on in front of the boat, fastened with a rope, and the stone drag behind by another rope. The crate then, as the force of the stream presses upon it, goes on swiftly and draws on the “baris” (for so these boats are called), while the stone dragging after it behind and sunk deep in the water keeps its course straight. These boats they have in great numbers and some of them carry many thousands of talents’ burden”. (Herodotus: Histories Book 11: Euterpe)

But here where time has travelled far

beyond the reach of memory.

They haven’t seen so don’t believe.

‘No ribs’ what did that even mean?

And here – 2,469 years hence –

where a ‘shipwreck’ breaches

the Nile’s surface, and fits the description,

as set down, of the mythical ‘Baris’.

Not here, stranger

but no fiction, Herodotus

dead, his credibility long defeated,

sings with Arion, the renowned harpist –

and one recounts to the other that fabled journey

on the back of a dolphin to safety at Taenarum.

Note: I wrote this earlier in the year – inpsired by a tweet or an article ‘exonerating’ Herodotus following the refloating of the shipwreck of what is very likely a Baris in the Nile. I’m not sure why I had a fancy to share it here today.

72 Seasons: Tristichs 1-10 April #NaPoWriMo 2019 – #lettersfromladyn

“At first their names too were borrowed from the Chinese, meaning that they did not always conform to the vagaries of our local climate. Eventually, in 1685, the court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai revised them and in their present form they now serve to illustrate a natural, poetic pilgrimage through the ever-changing landscape of the Japanese year!” Read more: https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2018/05/the-poetry-and-precision-of-japans-72-microseasons

Happy Poetry Month and hoping this finds you well! From 1-30 April, my plan-of-action is to create a three-line piece on the theme ’72 Seasons: Three Lines that are True’. Unlike other years, I am using the older proponents of haiku as my mentors with their focus on close observation and their trust in the moment-as-it-is and with an emphasis (though not strictly observed in my case) on the natural world. A nod here too, as always, to the go-between that is Imagism. Find the first 10 below.


a shade above third of the standard size –

narcissi and

makeshift vase.


unremitting, three-part-call.

unseen collared dove

unkempt backyard.


Steeped in luck”

the long dry spell is over – mammatus clouds,

as seen in photos, over the Copper Coast and Teconnaught.

the slow dragging éisssst of tyres over surface water.


a Thursday

sun, rain, gale, storm

a sense, you could say, of there being time for things


all the furnishing has been lovingly chosen

nothing inpires

only the houseplants radiate light


Mournes hidden in a heat haze

behind the Cathedral, gravestone carvings

‘good’ and ‘love’


enough funds

at this rate



yesterday now

nothing substantial

planning the next adventure


sting to the bright day

a new skill mastered

joy of an easy-to-cut turnip



only identified by her last name He

4 bees lived in a woman’s eye and fed on her tears

she was cleaning a relative’s grave when they got in

– Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/10/doctors-discover-four-live-bees-feeding-on-tears-inside-womans-eye

72 Seasons: Poetry, Precision and Three Lines that are True for #NaPoWriMo 2019 – #lettersfromladyn

“At first their names too were borrowed from the Chinese, meaning that they did not always conform to the vagaries of our local climate. Eventually, in 1685, the court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai revised them and in their present form they now serve to illustrate a natural, poetic pilgrimage through the ever-changing landscape of the Japanese year!”

Read more: https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2018/05/the-poetry-and-precision-of-japans-72-microseasons
Narcissi & Mini Proseco Bottle

Happy Poetry Month and hoping this finds you well! For the last couple of years I have set myself a daily poetry practice for what has become Global Poetry Month based around the tristich or three-line stanza. I’m working with in the three-line format again this year. From 1-30 April, my plan-of-action is to create a three-line piece on the theme ’72 Seasons: Three Lines that are True’. Unlike other years, I am using the older proponents of haiku as my mentors with their focus on close observation and their trust in the moment-as-it-is and with an emphasis (though not strictly observed in my case) on the natural world. A nod here too, as always, to the go-between that is Imagism. I’ll post them here on the blog every 10 days. What follows is a kind of meandering meditation on the motivaion behind this year’s approach.

Clear Sight: The Comfort of Close Observation

‘May you live in interesting times’

– Chinese curse

Poetry, precision and small acts of truth telling are on my agenda through the month. I’m trialling this as a kind of medicine. I have worked in the digital world through information/ communications/ marketing roles for almost a quarter of a century – mostly in the voluntary, community and arts sectors. Starting with web content management and listserv administration and graduating to social media and mobile platforms in line with changes in technology. The last few years in particular has seen an unimaginable rise in information sharing, and the task of Sisyphus that is discerning whether what is being shared has the marks of truth or not.

À la fin tu es las de ce monde ancien..’ This early part of the 21st Century is, in every sense of the word, ‘interesting’. In the noughties I carried out an act of translation of Apollinaire’s ‘Zone’ – http://www.toutelapoesie.com/poemes/apollinaire/zone.htm#. By which I mean I tried to really understand his movement through Europe early in the 20th Century, and what it’s translation-defying first and last lines were really saying, through reading everything I could get my hands on about it and all translations.

One of the commentators suggested that the start of new centuries tend to be turbulent. I’m adding my two cents worth having lived through and celebrated the change to the New Millenium, that the human spirit in those moments of momumental, but not naturally occurring, changes of calendar tends to register possibility in the new and try to ‘future proof’ so that the mistakes of the catastrophic past might not be carried into this ‘clean slate’ type new epoch.

There is no clean slate. There is now, I think, a sense of vacuum. A sense of having looked hard at the past with the wish to not recreate it, but like a horse refusing at a fence, there is a shying away from the normal task and pattern of ‘creating’ that future. I don’t know about you but I’ve often observed that while the demons from the past dance in the present, the first stirrings of the future also haunt this same premises. There they caday about together, as it were, in a fairly uncomfortable manner and are hard to organise into go or stay. And while a ten year plan may seem daunting to the average cricket, a whole millennium’s worth of forward planning, including the hope for Utopia, is beyond the human imagination. Quo Vadis. Cue the fake news artists, the snake oil sellers, and Chicken-Licken wired to the moon.

It is the end of the world as we know it. That is, of course, the true and ongoing part. In my humble opinion, however, what needs enquiry is the place where the desire ward off an impending cataclysm (I have quite a list from global to personal, as I expect you do) meets the desire to create a some sense of workable future. For me, this is aided by a clear-sighted look at the what’s here now. More simply put, information about seasonal fluctuation, no matter how reliable it may be in the location those seasons occur, aren’t at all as useful if a body is actually living somewhere else.

Foresight: Truth and the Future

“We are so far from knowing all the agents of nature and their diverse modes of action that it would not be philosophical to deny phenomena solely because they are inexplicable in the actual state of our knowledge. But we ought to examine them with an attention all the more scrupulous as it appears more difficult to admit them.” (also translated as ‘The weight of evidence should be proportioned to the strangeness of the facts’).

Pierre-Simon Laplace

“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

Carl Sagan

Foresight, as no one ever said, is 20/20 vision, like poet and prophet is the same word in some language which I forget now. This is in the category of a lovely lie I was once told (here as convenient lie is to the inconvenient truth, the lovely lie is to the plain truth) by someone who knew how to conjure and wield words you’d be forgiven for wanting to be true.

In the midst of all this début de siècle hubbub it’s hard to get an idea of what is actually going on. If truth is that which is in accordance with a sense of fact or acuality (broad brush strokes…), how is the truth related to the future?

I have a fascination with all things divination. Longer than I can remember. My first beloved toy was a small blue lion with a sunlike mane that I called ‘Leo’. Tea leaves, tarot, divining rods, crystals, horoscopes, dead sea scrolls, ‘gifts’ of extra sensory perception, bibliomancy, Novenas, apple cores, the yarrow, Nostradamus, Cathbad, John Dee, scrying… I once did a poetic listing for my own entertainment and to show that pretty much every stick and stone was inspiring some ‘fortune-teller’ somewhere to have a revelation or insight. I think this fascination is true for almost all those who write poetry, even those who ‘doth protest too much’.

It’s also the province of crack-pots, conspiracy theorists, the business of government and corporate strategists. (In the interest of full disclosure, my academic training is in the area of business strategy – creating sustainable prosperity going forward – whether at the level of individual firm, sector, and national state).

For me it’s a triangular, or maybe a circular interest. If you look at the places where alchemy, religion and science cross lines you find that the emphasis on ‘that which is not yet known or is potentially unknowable’ – whether actual or future – sticks an exceptionally creative stick in the wheel. The drive to see around corners, to know the unknowable, to explain the inexplicable, makes the task to get the wheel in forward motion very compelling.

Whether increasing the probability of beneficial outcomes, a get-rich scheme, or a hope for immortality, this drive has configured all we know about our known world. In the mainstream, the forecasters – from frameworks to assess probablity of future outcomes to news programme pundits, are the voices crying out in the desert for better understanding of what is going on now in order to create a more favourable negotiation of circumstances at some time that is not here yet, given that what is not here yet may have some of its own elegant tricks up its epoch sleeves.

Nevertheless when I am inspired to write poetry, it has never yet been in the spirit of ‘prepare ye’ with a Michaelangelo-like sketch of a helicopter in the margins. I have rarely seen this type of poem and I’d probably, with no harm to the writer, not choose to read much further if I did. For me, there are clear lines between poetry and prophecy. The reason that I’m talking about it now is, however, that by the matter of clear transcribing of what is the poem-coming-into-being, there is a hard to account for, after the fact, enlightening sense of prescience which I am far from alone in experiencing as a writer, which is why the digging ground of the two being the same is an argument for which I can make a case.

So that’s a long winded walk back to where the car is parked.

The Three-line Trick

This year’s NaPoWriMo practice is a small good thing. That’s all it is. Day-by-day observation of what is there – poetry and precision. On the one hand, a good discipline in the kind of precision that is connective tissue in poetry and makes it long-lived. On the other, a kind of grounding, anchoring, that may be at least a tracking of the truth in reference to a present actual rather than the past or projected fears – which have their place, but here in the sense of being able to discern what is likely to yield good information going forward. A practice that while remaining true to itself also transforms simply by being recorded and where no transformation has actually happened in real terms.

#SeasonsGreetings2018 – Lines in Celebration

Lines in Celebration of this SeasonLinesinCelebrationNovemberCastleWard

The grim, bleak thing
that took hold in my imagination –
don’t call that winter.

Don’t furnish it with snow
or hand over to its power
the grove’s magnificent withering.

I release the failing metaphor,
return with ease to this time
when the deep-breath dusking world

sighs a lullaby to its residents.
No mammal, the seeds in their buried
coffers benefit from a hard covering.

This is a pure and cleansing cold,
a revitalising dark, a protective skin,
a generous beauty with abundant promise.

Not indulgent. Nourishing.
Not the dreary, unkind spectres
that held me to ransom. The opposite.


Season’s Greetings

With every good wish to all I have connected with this year in any avenue of life for peace and prosperity in the coming year. Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís, mar a dearfá. See you on the other side of the calendar change, if not before.

Olive x

‘Linen on the Lagan’ Submission Deadline – @lagannavigator @linenaliveni

It was a pleasure working with workshop participants creating stories/poems around theme of ‘Linen on the Lagan recently’.  It was incredible to hear all the work and I am hoping that, if participants haven’t already, they will submit their work for consideration for the Lagan Navigation Trust forthcoming publication.
A gentle reminder that the submission date is tomorrow, 4pm, 26 October. Submit online on http://www.lagannavigationtrust.org -. All the details can be found there or email admin@lagannavigationtrust.org if you need any further information.  They have had a really good response this year – but still time to add your piece!
Please note there will be an open creative writing session, THIS SUNDAY, 28th October at 3pm at Navigation House during the Purple Turnip Festival. Poems and stories can be submitted on the day.
Events Ceremony (change of date/time)
Finally, all the great storymaking and tapestry creation from the festival will be celebrated at an Awards Event in the Odyssey on Saturday, 2 Feb 2019 ( time tbc). All are invited – more information to follow in due course from LNT.
2018-08-27 12.15.22

‘Where are ye now?’ – after @FiredIrishPoets – name checks and notes

Picking up from a conversation from the inspiring ‘Fired’ event that took place on Friday night (14 September, Aspects, Bangor) where tracing the names and work of those Irish women poets of the previous generation was discussed, I am writing this post to name check and link to those poets who were read, and the contemporary poets who read  both these and their own work.

I chanced on the (not-Irish) poet Lorine Niedecker through a throw-away comment on wikipedia, or some such site, that she was the one woman poet associated with Objectivist movement. I was lucky enough to be able to find enough of her work freely available via internet search to know this was a voice I needed to know more about in the context of my own writing. It took some years before I was able to get a fuller sense of her work and contribution.

It’s my belief – hence this post – that the more name checks and links there are on the WWW, the more there will be an e-trail to the poets of the country of our imagination, whether sharing or not, geographical territory.

For a compendium of women poets, a first port of call is POETHEAD.

In order of appearance on the night:

Maria McManus read a piece of her own and two by Rhoda Coghill

I (Olive Broderick) read a piece of my own and two by Lorine Niedecker (US)

Amy Wyatt Rafterty read a piece of her own and two by Alice Milligan

Gaynor Kane  (see also Women Aloud NI) read a piece of her own and two by Katherine Tynan 

Chris Murray (Poethead) read a piece of her own and two by Frieda Laughton

Katie O’Donovan read a piece of her own and two by Eithne Strong

This was followed by a panel discussion featuring poet Katie Donovan, Chris Murray of Poethead and academic Alex Pryce, introduced and chaired by Dr Lucy Collins (University College Dublin) author of Poetry by Women in Ireland 1870-1970: A Critical Anthology (2012).

Thanks to Moyra Donaldson for organising this particular event, and Aspects Festival for hosting it.

Note: A trail of breadcrumbs and ‘caveat googler’

A person can while away many a happy hour in the grip of a good internet search. The good news is, for those of us out of the realm of inter-library networks, you can get information readily enough. But you do need to approach what you find with an enthusiastic kind caution.  I like wikipedia but, when in the grip of a subject, I like to read pretty much anything at all I can find on that subject (it is no wonder my eyesight is in the state it is). The net result is generally a useful kind of confusion, rather than a limited kind of certainty.  It’s this delicate balance between reliable information and one-stop-shops (of which I am a bit nervous). While approaching with caution, the more searching that’s done, the more the search engines will produce results – this is my thinking here.