#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.




‘The Middle Place’ , 17 Nov, 7.30pm, Brian Friel Theatre @QUBelfast

Dancer Paula Guzzanti, musician Martin Devek and I were delighted to premiere ‘Knowing the Dance’ a sequence of three dance~poems, at Down Arts Centre on the 9 September. The content of this performance was inspired by an investigation of the middel place between dance and poetry.

We are delighted to invite you now to attend a somewhat developed performance of this piece, entitled for this iteration, ‘The Middle Place’ which further explores a little more deeply connections between the three artforms on which the three pieces rest.  The event is free to attend but needs to be registered in advance on EVENTBRITE

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I would like to thank the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for funding the development of the ‘Knowing the Dance’ project through the ACES Award Scheme, Down Arts Centre for providing creation and rehearsal space, and support for the premiere performance. A particular word of thanks is due to Sarah Warsop for her original ideas and masterclass on marking out a middle place to link artforms.

I hope you are able to make the event on the 17th November!

#KnowingtheDance #NewMovements Showing @DanceIreland #DanceHouse (11 Aug, 4pm)


Date: Fri 11 Aug 2017
Time: 16:00 – 16:30
Venue: DanceHouse
Admission: Free!

All welcome to join Paula, Martin and myself for a Dance Ireland ‘New Movements’ showcase of development work of project entitled Knowing the Dance. We have been fortunate to have had a residential residency DanceHouse in Dublin which started on Tuesday in preparation preparing for upcoming shows, later this year at the Down Arts Centre (9 Septmber Downpatrick, NI) in September and in October at the Brian Friel Theatre.  Get a sneak early preview of this new work at this New Movements showing!

Knowing the Dance is a performance of dance, poetry and live music. The piece integrates the experience of holding a shared space between dance improvisation and poetry writing, with music improvisation supporting this relationship. Within this shared space, layers of dancing, sensing, writing and conversing inform and shape a performance that will bring both expressions closely together to form a oneness. From this dialogue, we have been developing a collection of dance-poems, weaving various themes into a piece through the creation of a ‘middle place’ between dance improvisation and poetry so the art forms work together in an indivisible way.

Paula is further supported by the Dance Ireland Residential Residency Fund which enables her to work in DanceHouse, away from her regular base in Belfast. More about the ‘Knowing the Dance‘ project can be found here.

For further information:

Wine & Rhymes @ Blackberry Path Arts Studio, Bangor (15 September – 8pm to 10.30pm)

Really looking forward to reading with this wonderful bunch of people, at the invitation of the elegant, generous hosts of Blackberry Path Arts Studio in Bangor during the Aspects Festival.  A great range of diverse voices. Delighted to part of it.
Tickets cost £10 and shall be available to purchase from The Aspects website soon. (Price includes a complimentary glass of wine and canapés upon arrival. A donation bar shall be available on the night) Seats are very limited. — with Peter Adair, David Braziel, Geraldine Dardis O’Kane, Colin Dardis, Lara Sunday, Paul Daniel Rafferty, Ross Thompson, Matthew Rice, Olive Broderick, Stephanie Conn and Amy Wyatt Artist at The Blackberry Path- Art Studios.


Landing Places @CrescentArts (29 July, 8pm) – #saveheaneycountry #A6winwinsolution


Come join #SaveHeaneyCountry for a beautiful Heaney-themed evening celebrating our natural & cultural heritage

Poet, playwright and photographer Maria McManus is spearheading the gathering of poets, spoken word artists and musicians for this fundraiser at the Crescent Arts Centre. (BOOK HERE).

Lough Beg

The strand at Lough Beg, one of the most epic, serene landscapes in Ireland, and practically hidden from view, is one of the last great undisturbed wetlands in Ireland. Alive with some of the rarest species of plants and birds in Europe, archaeologists tell us that the now endangered whooper swan has come to Lough Beg from Iceland for 80,000 years…to overwinter and to breed.

This is the landscape that nourished, obsessed and inspired perhaps the greatest literary figure of the twentieth century, Seamus Heaney.  However, landscape in which the thematic triumphs of Nobel Prize winning literature are located: Mossbawn, Anahorish, Lagan’s Road, The Broagh, Creagh, places immortalized by Heaney, now face the prospect of 22,000 vehicles per day, motorway bridges & further development.

Now more than ever we need to protect our last few wild places and our cultural heritage.

The protection of Lough Beg & a creative solution to the rerouting of the A6

Judges will make a final decision on the fate of Lough Beg on 11th August 2017.  One couple have fought this in a David & Goliath battle and they need your financial and moral support. This is your chance to help them save Lough Beg and protect it for future generations. #SaveHeaneyCountry are fully in support of better road infrastructure for ‘west of the Bann’ but feel that with thought and creativity a win-win solution can be found to reroute this small 4mile section away from this precious habitat and with the recently built Homeplace Centre the value of this special landscape can truly be realised.

We hope you can make it on the night but, if not, do consider donating to the campaign clicking here.

Correspondence – #lettersfromladyn #knowingthedance

“It is not then, that things have agency; rather they are actively present in their doing – in their carrying on or perdurance. And as things carry on together, and answer to one another, they do not so much interact as correspond. Interaction is the dynamic of the assemblage, where things are joined up. But correspondence is a joining with; it is not additive but contrapuntal, not ‘and…and…and’ but ‘with…with…with’.

from ‘Correspondences’ by Tim Ingold – knowingfromtheinside.org

6tag-3088414843-1540764965929439424_3088414843(2)June was a very packed, very wonderful month and, in this wet, wintery start to July, I am just getting to take in all that happened. Early on in the month, I had the bizarre, good fortune to actually meet Prof Tim Ingold whose work I have been reading as part of the ‘Knowing the Dance‘ project. In the midst of chatting, I discovered he was coming to the end of a project that takes in art, architecture and anthrology called ‘Knowing from the Inside’. He kindly organised for me to get hold of copies of the beautifully produced publications that come from this project. I have just begun to read his volume of essays on ‘Correspondences.’ You can find pdf versions of all on the Knowing from the Inside website.

Though I will have to wind my way slowly through the ideas about how we come by what we know (or think we know), I am really loving the correspondence between this work and ‘lettersfromladyn’ which was, itself, inspired by the decades-long correspondance between Lorine Niedecker and Louis Zukofsky. This correspondence between the backwater of Blackhawk Island and bright lights of New York, not only kept two people in contact with each other, but was the medium by which their practice as Objectivist poets was teased out on a day-to-day basis.

And, the fact that correspondence, in the form of ongoing conversation with recording through video, email and in the creation of the work itself, is at the heart of the ‘Knowing the Dance’ project itself.

Le gach dea-ghuí

Olive x

PS: Edit – I have just realised that I’ve spelt correspondence as correspondance – and have hopefully corrected it – too much dancing…

June News – #Belfastbook #CastleWard & more


June begins and there is a lot happening. Just a few things coming up at my end, that all are invited to! I’ll be sharing further details of individual events in due course.

‘Knowing the Dance’ – Performance/Workshop

6 June: 4-6pm – As part of QUB’s Anthropology Department’s ‘Evolving Fields’ Conference Paula Guzzanti and I, with musician Martin Devek, will be showcasing ‘Knowing the Dance‘ – including a workshop element. The conference programme and registration details can be found HERE. Venue: Queen’s University Belfast

Castle Ward ‘OPEN BOOK’ Fair

10 June: various times – Castle Ward’s ‘OPEN BOOK’ Fair happens over the weekend of the 10 & 11 June and as resident creative writing group, Words for Castle Ward have an active programme of events happening on the Saturday. Take an ‘Open Book’ workshop in the Education Suite (10.30am-12pm – I am the facilitator), hear an impromptu reading in the Stableyard Cafe (12.15-12.45pm tbc) & join us in celebrating the launch of new works by Words for Castle Ward authors in Lord Bangor’s Sitting Room in the Main House (3pm). More info about this and the group HERE. Venue: Castle Ward, nr Strangford

Belfast Book Festival Events

8 June, 8pm, & 15 June, 6.30pm – The magnificent Belfast Book Festival is just about upon us!! What a programme and best wishes to all involved. I’m delighted to appear on the 15 June as one of the two 12Now showcase events organised by Lagan Online. All twelve writers are included over the two events and you can find, & book, the 8 June installment HERE and the 15 June installment HERE. Venue: Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

17 June, 2-4pm – Women Aloud NI bring their multi-various talented voices to Belfast Book Festival with a rapid fire readathon and then a simultaneous reading ‘en masse’. It’s a privilege to be part of this showcase that gives you a flavour of the breadth of women’s writing HERE. Get further details and book HERE. Venue: Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

17 June, 5-6pm – Not…long..now… very excited to launch ‘Night Divers’ in Belfast as part of the Templar Poetry launches – with Paul Maddern and his latest pubication ‘Pilgrimage’. I’d be thrilled to see you there. More info and booking HERE. Venue: Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, Downpatrick

25 June, 2-4pm – A very lovely finale to a busy month is the Down Arts Centre/Words for Castle Ward Poems on a Sunday Afternoon. As always everyone is invited to be part of the shared reading space – bring your own words or a favourite (songs are very welcome). Delighted to be featuring both a selection of participants on the Down Arts Centre current writing workshop facilitated by Dr Catherine Kelly and, as part of Refugee week, a special Amnesty organised reading. Further details about Poems on a Sunday Afternoon HERE. Venue: Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick

I know it’s a really busy month for very many – so good luck out there and hope to meet you in transit. And good luck to those doing exams as well!