2020: first WfCW dates, Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, @Down_Arts Courses and more local writing activities! #downpatrick #lecale #ballynahinch #countydown

A new year and a new decade – much inspiration for the writing activities and some forthcoming diary dates.

New dates for Words for Castle Ward

For your diary, our next dates are:

All saturdays, 11am to 12.30pm (with a tendency to run on a bit..)

– 11 January (feedback)
– 8 February (New writing)
– 14 March (feedback)
– 18 April (feedback – please note 3rd Saturday as the previous falls on Easter weekend).

Venue: The Education Suite, National Trust Castle Ward.

Further information about the group HERE. If you are on social media like our FB page HERE.


Date for your diary: Next Poems on a Sunday Afternoon (Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick) is on 02/02/2020 – World of Equals Theme (more info to follow). Followed by 26 April 2020 featuring Linda McKenna on the occasion of the publication of her first collection (Doire Press, 2020). Further details on Down Arts Centre’s website.


Winter/Spring Writing Courses at Down Arts Centre

Wednesday is writing day at Down Arts Centre. The first 2020 instalment of two great creative writing classes begin in late January (22 January) for ten weeks. Creative Writing, 7-9pm, facilitated by Dr Catherine Kelly, is a workshop-based class for all with an interest or a practice of writing, whether poetry, prose or playwriting. ‘I have a story in me…’ (1.30-3.30pm) is for those with an interest in writing for children. Author/artist/illustrator Kieron Black will help you get your story from daydream to workable plot! Info/booking on 028 4461 0747 or in person at the during Centre opening hours. Find further details on Down Arts Centre’s website.


Ballynahinch Library Group

A monthly group has started up in Ballynahinch Library. Facilitated by author Kerry Buchanan, the group is open to all levels and abilities and meets the second Monday of each month from 12noon-13.30pm. Enquire at the library for further details.



The River Mill Writers’ Retreat

Need some time out to progress your writing or background research but can’t go too far? The ultimate Couty Down writers’ staycation, The River Mill is on the Ballyclander Road (between DPK and Killough) and offers both retreat opportunities and one-day or longer workshops. Check out the website for details of what’s available and what’s coming up in terms of courses. Details HERE.



WfCW dates, Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, @Down_Arts Courses and more local writing activities! #downpatrick #lecale #ballynahinch #countydown

Autumn Season round up of development opportunities for writers in the area as has become my custom! Here are a selection of activities welcoming participation.

New dates for Words for Castle Ward

For your diary, our next dates are:

All saturdays, 11am to 12.30pm (with a tendency to run on a bit..)

14 Sept (Feedback) 14 Sept (Feedback), 12 October (new writing), 16 November (feedback – please note not 2nd Saturday), 14 December (feedback) 11 May (Feedback), 8 June (New Writing), 10 Aug (Feedback), 14 Sept (Feedback)

Venue: The Education Suite, National Trust Castle Ward.

Further information about the group HERE. If you are on social media like our FB page HERE.


Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Our next Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is on 29 May, 2.30-4.30pm at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick with the usual warm invitation to share your own work. In our featured spot is Gerry McCullough whose first novel, Belfast Girls, (Night Publishing, 2010), was a #1 bestseller on paid UK Kindle. It was republished in 2012 by Precious Oil Publications, who went on to publish 14 other books by Gerry, including 4 collections of her popular stories of the lovable rogue Old Seamus (available in Amazon paperback and Kindle editions). In addition to her prose work, Gerry is an award-winning and widely published short story author and poet. She lives just outside Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, is married to singer-songwriter, writer, radio presenter and publisher Raymond McCullough, and has four children.. All welcome. The event is free to attend and no booking is required. More information: http://www.downartscentre.com

Date for your diary: Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is on the move for our November session. Put a hold on November 17 for a second celebration of all things CS Lewis at Kilbroney. Times and further details tbc.


Autumn Writing Courses at Down Arts Centre

Wednesday is writing day at Down Arts Centre. The autumn instalment of two great creative writing classes begin in late September (25 May) for ten weeks. Creative Writing, 7-9pm, facilitated by Dr Catherine Kelly, is a workshop-based class for all with an interest or a practice of writing, whether poetry, prose or playwriting. ‘I have a story in me…’ (1.30-3.30pm) is particulary for those with an interest in writing for children. Author/artist/illustrator Kieron Black will help you get your story from daydream to workable plot! Info/booking on 028 4461 0747 or in person at the during Centre opening hours. Find further details on Down Arts Centre’s website.


New Group in Ballynahinch Library

A new monthly group has started up in Ballynahinch Library. Facilitated by author Kerry Buchanan, the group is open to all levels and abilities and meets the second Monday of each month from 12noon-13.30pm. Enquire at the library for further details.



The River Mill Writers’ Retreat

Need some time out to progress your writing or background research but can’t go too far? The ultimate Couty Down writers’ staycation, The River Mill is on the Ballyclander Road (between DPK and Killough) and offers both retreat opportunities and one-day or longer workshops. Check out the website for details of what’s available and what’s coming up in terms of courses. Details HERE.


Not the queue for Words for Castle Ward 🙂 – Antiques Roadshow being filmed here in July.


72 Seasons: Tristichs 21-30 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

For Poetry Month 2019, 1-30 April, I have been creating a daily three-line piece on the theme ’72 Seasons: Three Lines that are True’. I haven’t been quite as disciplined as in previous years, letting a few days lapse at a time. I am remembering that my grandfather kept a diary where he entered fragments of facts of the day – amount of seed ordered, a visit, a doctor’s appointment. I always wondered about keeping a diary with such spare wordage coupled with a consistency of updating. I have found the process very anchoring – enough that I might continue it for my own pleasure. There is a real, but easily forgotten, wonder in playing a day-to-day life part in the earth’s turning – and the continual joy of feeding! The final 10 below. The previous two lots of ten are also on the blog.

21.04.2019

‘new ruins’ on display at the Abbey

lonesome hoot of a reclaimed CIE train

memories of the level crossing at Buttevant

22.04.2019 (Earth Day)

not wasting things that might-not-come-again

moveable feasts and coinciding celebrations

the last of the stash of easter chocolate

23.04.2019

freckles on fresh eggs shells

chilli jam

seeded wholemeal bread

24.04.2019

wednesday: the working week

wondering about the truth of weather forecasts

the usefulness of sodium bicarb for brown bins.

25.04.2019

a windy day is not a day for thatching

april is not a month for hay-making

being a hoarder is not without advantages

26.04.2019

middle parts are mandatory

at times neither memorable nor noteworthy

friday is not the end of everyone’s work week

27.04.2019

another 10 year milestone

food and friendship are the best of company

relief of boarding a double-decker bus

28.04.2019

middling news from home

comfort of clearing out old stuff

wild garlic pesto, locally foraged, is a gift

29.04.2019

wildflowers

a patch of daisies that escaped the cut

dandelions half blossom, half clock

30.04.2019

last day of April

nothing unusual about rain

always, nonetheless, a little extra to the ordinary

WfCW dates, Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, @Down_Arts Courses & more local writing activities! #downpatrick #lecale #ballynahinch #countydown

Loads happening around here for those developing their writing skills. It’s great to see all that’s on. Here are a selection of activities welcoming participation.

New dates for Words for Castle Ward

For your diary, our next dates are:

All saturdays, 11am to 12.30pm (with a tendency to run on a bit..)

11 May (Feedback), 8 June (New Writing), 10 Aug (Feedback), 14 Sept (Feedback)

Venue: The Education Suite, National Trust Castle Ward.

Further information about the group HERE.


Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Our next Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is on 12 May, 2.30-4.30pm at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick with the usual warm invitation to share your own work. In our featured spot are selected readers from the flagship Queens Writers’ Group, including John McAlister, Mary Montague, Ray Givens, Martha McGonagle. All welcome. The event is free to attend and no booking is required. More information: http://www.downartscentre.com


Summer Writing Courses at Down Arts Centre

Wednesday is writing day at Down Arts Centre. The summer instalment of two great creative writing classes begin this week (1 May) for six weeks. Creative Writing, 7-9pm, facilitated by Dr Catherine Kelly, is a workshop-based class for all with an interest or a practice of writing, whether poetry, prose or playwriting. ‘I have a story in me…’ (1.30-3.30pm) is particulary for those with an interest in writing for children. Author/artist/illustrator Kieron Black will help you get your story from daydream to workable plot! Info/booking on 028 4461 0747 or in person at the during Centre opening hours.


New Group in Ballynahinch Library

A new monthly group has started up in Ballynahinch Library. Facilitated by author Kerry Buchanan, the group is open to all levels and abilities and meets the second Monday of each month from 12noon-13.30pm. Enquire at the library for further details.


Deep Down Arts and Wellbeing: Lived Experience Arts Festival (11-19 May)


From 11-19th May 2019, County Down based ‘Deep Down Arts and Wellbeing’ celebrate the mental health benefits of creativity with partners Voluntary Arts, Get Creative and The Ivy Bar. The theme for the festival is Keep Holding On. The programme includes Poetry NI, Natalie Smith, Kate Smeltzer, Leigh Stirrup, Kev Hatton, Rebecca Magee, Eve Williams, Beverley Healey and other wonderful artists for a programme of music, poetry, creative writing, visual arts, comedy and film beginning on 11th May with a Darkness into Light walk and finishing on the 19th May. There will be a group participating in the Get Creative Createathon at the Ulster Museum on 18th May, when they will provide creativity for children of all ages. All this at a low cost and with the added bonus of a chance to raise funds for Ards Suicide Awareness Group. Programme details HERE.


The River Mill Writers’ Retreat

Need some time out to progress your writing or background research but can’t go too far? The ultimate Couty Down writers’ staycation, The River Mill is on the Ballyclander Road (between DPK and Killough) and offers both retreat opportunities and one-day or longer workshops. Check out the website for details of what’s available and what’s coming up in terms of courses. Details HERE.



72 Seasons: Tristichs 11-20 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

For Poetry Month 2019, 1-30 April, I have been creating a daily 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 middle 10 below.

11.04.2019

talking about art

artificial air

a real fear of falling

12.04.2019

scent-notes non-blending

garlic sweat and aftershave

blocked sewer and sweet magnolia

13.04.2019 – Castle Ward

first bluebells

a dandelion clock poised for take-off

animal scat mostly composed of seeds

14.04.2019

last sunday of advent

adding lemon juice to warmed fresh milk

curdled milk to baking soda

15.04.2019

high wind

sirens

a recorded version of Fauré’s Requiem

16.04.2019

a day for looking forward

weather forecast – good and bad in it –

making lists

17.04.2019

new takes on old recipes

top-hat types: hen-shaped mallow and candy eggs

frozen berries with experimental crumble

18.04.2019

this walk by the river is called Jane’s Shore

I don’t know who Jane is

the hollow stump seems to have become hollower.

19.04.2019

hot cross buns

gluten-free crumpets

everything is improved by melting butter

20.04.2019

im Lyra McKee

holiday saturday, spring sun on a bluebell path

and were you there? did you see which hands held the gun

that, just last night, took the life of this sacred woman?

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.


01.04.2019

a shade above third of the standard size –

narcissi and

makeshift vase.

02.04.2019

unremitting, three-part-call.

unseen collared dove

unkempt backyard.

03.04.2019

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.

04.04.2019

a Thursday

sun, rain, gale, storm

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

05.04.2019

all the furnishing has been lovingly chosen

nothing inpires

only the houseplants radiate light

06.04.2019

Mournes hidden in a heat haze

behind the Cathedral, gravestone carvings

‘good’ and ‘love’

07.04.2019

enough funds

at this rate

today

08.04.2019

yesterday now

nothing substantial

planning the next adventure

09.04.2019

sting to the bright day

a new skill mastered

joy of an easy-to-cut turnip

10.04.2019

(found)

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

Poems on a Sunday Afternoon is 10 – @Down_arts #Downpatrick 30 September

6tag-3088414843-1483269340422047431_3088414843For men may come, and men may go / But I go on forever. – Tennyson

The fact is the assocation between writer’s collective ‘Write! Down’ and Down Arts Centre is actually longer than a decade. The first of the ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ forerunners was a Burn’s Night in 2005 (in or around).

Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Another fact is, I am a little hazy on the day and date that Rachel Kennedy, then Arts Officer with Down Arts Centre, rang me at my Voluntary Arts Ireland desk based then at English Street, Downpatrick, to ask whether Write! Down would be interested in a proposition she had for DAC and Write! Down to partner.

On the plane home from an AMA conference she told me, there had been a discussion about Sunday afternoons and what might work well in programming terms in that time slot and she’d had an idea.  I agreed, on behalf of everybody, with this idea – immediately and wholeheartedly.

The format – a platform for writing in this area, a showcase of new writers, and new writing by established authors and a connection point for those interested in writing in all its forms locally;  a featured reading and a shared space where all were welcome to share a their own work (poem, story, song) or a favourite – drawn from the Write! Down way of being in the world, has not changed to any great degree through the ten years of its existence.

Plus ça change

While Sunday Poems or PoSA as it is better know to its regulars has retained its motives and make-up, almost everything else has changed. Write! Down – a dynamic combination of Maria McManus and myself, joined by Matt Kirkham, Vi and Emma Whitehead and Donal O’Hagan – dispersed after five burgeoning years of operation. Rachel Kennedy took up a new post as Director of Eastside Arts, I can’t think of any of the current ‘regulars’ who were with us at the very start – even Down Arts Centre itself was remodelled and reconstructed in the time period (leading to some very interesting other venues while the work was in progress).

Austerity Times

Some of those were difficult years. A number of years in, the first ‘austerity’ cuts came in, and like the canaries in the coalmine, the voluntary and arts sector were the first to get a foretaste of what has become the new ‘normal’. These cuts had a lot of reprecussions, the loss of key funding for Write! Down being one. However, with Down Arts Centre’s continuing support – and the sense that this was a small but valued initiative – we have rode out the bad and enjoyed the good by turns. I had my own difficult times – though I haven’t, to date, missed any PoSA event (with thanks to Vi Whitehead who on a number of occassions came with the express purpose of taking up the reins in the event of me keeling over) – and the upshot of that is that I didn’t record anything. My memory is a blur of featured readings, first time at the podium for new readers (many of whom have gone from strength to strength), acts of the most incredible bravery by ‘ordinary’ people for whom PoSA has been a vehicle to share heartfelt and/or difficult life experiences creatively, beautifully, and an almost divine generosity between attendees, and a very strange almost expected, synchronicity of theme that arrives without any invitation on almost every occassion.

Reading isn’t Compulsory

Despite what you may have heard. But the thing is, when everybody is responding to the noble call, it’s hard to sit it out. From my silent teenage years, I know what it was like to burn to be part of things and to have my own self-consciousness cut me off at the pass. It’s like the First Nation’s talking stick – there seems to be something not quite right until all voices have shared, even one’s own. So I do love it when people share their work or favourites that have moved them.  And PoSA continues to be a very supportive space for that all important ‘first time’.

From Featured to Fabulous

Again it isn’t compulsory to go from strength to strength, having been featured in the ‘featured space’ – however, that has been about the size of it. I’m again cursing myself now for not having kept a record because every time I think about a poet or author in the area or connected to the development of writing locally, I think – ‘oh yes’ they read (or sung) here at one time. Both Brigid O’Neill and Damian Smyth, who are with us for the celebration, are both returners. Meeting the new work of established writers criteria, renowned Downpatrick poet (among other things) Damian Smyth, read from ‘English Street’ in it’s earlier stages at an earlier PoSA. It feels very good to be launching the full collection here.

All the thanks

To be honest, it’s been a cast of thousands. My thanks to Write! Down – more loose affiliation than collective now but still the connections are all there – and to all involved in Words for Castle Ward, which is the operating partner currently, and the most generous heart of the Sunday Poems afternoons.

An almighty thanks to all who have come and shared your work. Everyone. Entertaining, heartfelt, heartbreaking, brave, engaged, campaigning, gifted. You never know who will come through the door or who has been touched by the words that have been shared. To those who have come once, those who came for years and then let it slip away, those who have been coming these last few years, those whose first time will be the next one, those who always mean to get there and will one of these days – you are what makes this what it is.

To the featured readers, thanks for bringing your best work and selves to this space. It has been heard and appreciated, with a particular word of thanks to the writing group features. There has always been a lovely sense of natural networking (oh how I hate that term) about PoSA and a sense of the whole writing project as being valid and ongoing by your being there.

To the staff of Down Arts Centre, the biggest thanks of all for all the support over the years – Rachel, Denise, Donna, now Janine,  keeping the show on the road with their seasonal calls for the next PoSA events, marketing them, supporting the endeavour in every way. Sunday Afternoon isn’t exactly the most delightful time to be coming into work and, I need to express big appreciation to those who work the slot – Rita at the beginning, now Greg and many more – with a great deal of enthusiasm, and excellent refreshments, and patience with the amount of chatting that could happen at the end of the afternoon.

Celebrate with Us

All that is a rambling preamble (which may function as some kind of future record) to invite everybody to join the 10th anniversary celebrations on 30 September at Down Arts Centre.

Shared Space, 2.30pm – 4.30pm: At this, as all previous events, you are invited to share your own work or a favourite as usual. We are delighted to be joined by local songwriter Brigid O’Neill whose own song writing career we have watched go from strength to strength over the past ten years.

Featured Reading, 5-6pm: We are delighted to welcome internationally recognised poet Damian Smyth for a local launch of his most recent collection English Street (Templar Poetry: 2018). This is his sixth collection follows Mesopotamia (2014), Market Street (2010), Lamentations (2010), The Down Recorder (2004) and Downpatrick Races 2000.

All is FREE, doesn’t need to be booked in advance, and while we’d love you for the whole event, this PoSA is constructed so that you can come to all or either parts. More info from wordsfromcastleward@gmail.com if you need.

Final Words

In the event that this sounds like I am going away on a long trip, I am delighted to announce that PoSA goes on tour for the first time in November. The show goes to Kilbroney Park (indoors I need to say) on the 18 November as part of the CS Lewis Festival. We are delighted to have Colin Dardis in the featured spot reading from his recently launched collection ‘the xofy’ and the shared space has a loose theme of ‘things you find when hiding’ – inspired by a tendency for people to find incredible things when hiding out from something else that you find in CS Lewis writing. And.. January’s PoSA is also going to be very interesting…but one season at a time… Slow and steady had definitely got us through this decade.

PoSA10

Image at head of piece: ‘Time Bug’ by Emma Whitehead.