Creative Writing Courses from @Down_Arts Centre #Downpatrick #Newcastle

I know we are still a little way from the winter solstice, but there’s a feel of renewal in the world of words, and creative writing activity, in this part of the world which makes me very happy.

While I’m looking forward to ‘Words for Castle Ward’ getting back to business early in the New Year with some, hopefully useful, feedback on new writing and new writing generation, it’s always lovely to have local opportunities to learn new skills or get other perspectives on writing/genres.

6tag_300817-175745If you’ve gotten the new Down Arts Centre brochure through the door, you’ll have noticed three adult Creative Writing courses are listed there.

(1) Creative Writing Workshop with Dr Catherine Kelly (Weds, 17 Jan for ten weeks, 7-9pm, £45/£40 conc). Welcoming back this very popular workshop for all genres from this reputed author and playwright. I know quite a few people who have taken (and returned to) this course and speak very highly of it.

Venue: Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick

(2) Creative Writing with Paula Matthews (Mons, 15 Jan for ten weeks, 7-9pm, £45/£40conc). For those closer to Newcastle, poet, playright, children’s author and all round good egg Paula Matthews will be exploring creativity and how to use writing to tap into our resilience. This course will conclude with a digital journal to showcase the work created within it. We were delighted to launch a volume of poetry by Paula at the last Poems on a Sunday Afternoon.

Venue: Newcastle Centre, Newcastle

(3) ‘I have a (children’s) story in me…’ (Tues, 16 Jan for ten weeks, 1.30-3.30pm, £45/£40conc) author/illustrator Kieron Black takes this very interesting new course to help you get your story from daydream to thumbnail sketch to workable plot. This course for adults concentrates on the creative writing aspect – don’t worry if you aren’t an illustrator though I suspect if you can whip up a sketch or two that would be lovely as well. Kieron is also facilitating an illustration-focused story workshop for teens during this first season.

Venue: Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick

HOW TO BOOK A PLACE

Info/booking line: 028 4461 0747

Find all class/performance/exhibition listings on the Down Arts Centre website.

AND

(4) Power of Words: Holocaust Memorial Day Workshop & Poems on a Sunday Afternoon

Not a course, but I’ll be facilitating a one-off morning workshop based on material from the Holocaust Memorial Trust material around this year’s topic ‘The Power of Words.‘ (Sat, 27 January, 10am-1pm, FREE, advance booking required. Places = 12). Participants are invited to share their words at the following day’s ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ at Down Arts Centre. I’ll blog separately about this, though.

Venues: Down County Museum / Down Arts Centre

 

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Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2018 – #SHANW18 – deadline approaching

Hard to believe the anthology is in its 17th year. I was fortunate to work with a wonderful Bangor group in November as part of this initiative.

Anyone living in Northern Ireland is eligible to make a submission for the anthology and the deadline is Friday, 15 Dec 2017, 9am sharp (so I’m thinking it’s a Thursday deadline with an all-nighter factored in).

The anthologies are always an excellent selection of new writing (whether the poets are newly writing or longer on the road). The winner of the Seamus Heaney Award is then selected from the poems that appear in the anthology.

This initiative is co-ordinated through the LaVA programme at Community Arts Partnership and all the details can be found on their website HERE.

 

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#ACES 16/17 Part 3 – The Middle Place: Knowing the Ropes

“We dance round in a ring and suppose, / But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.” The Secret Sits by Robert Frost.

Creating Dance~Poems

On the 22nd of December 2016, dance artist/researcher Paula Guzzanti and I began work exploring the middle place between poetry and dance, to create a collaborative piece as part of the wider ‘Knowing the Dance’ project. This was the actual interface between the two artforms*. We had a number of additional guiding principles we worked tKTDACESREPORTmontageo:

  • that the collaboration was founded on the principle of parity of esteem between the two artforms – so this wasn’t a situation where one would be the interpreter or responder of the other’s art. The creative process would happen in an equal manner with no leader or follower;
  • that the collaboration would showcase the best quality work relevant to the practice of both artists – ie that I as a ‘page’ poet would create work that was publishable in that realm and Paula would work to an innovative model of dance/performance improvisation as is her current practice. In reality, we all (the music came a little later) made artistically-led concessions for a coherent final performance but we stayed true to this as much as was usefully possible.
  • that, though this was always going to be an exploration of a new process, the emphasis would be on artistic expression and the creation of artwork.

*The Music of the Middle Place

Those who know about, or have seen, the performance know that this is, in fact, a three-hander.  Martin Devek – Paula’s long time collaborator and husband – entered the middle place as music composer c.May/June 2017, here with a strong innovative improvisation practice aligned to Paula’s, as we moved to create the performance. I need to, as I work through what is a very long piece, make that point that I am coming from a stance of exploring dance/movement/poetry interface, and the original generative work (Dec 16-Apr 17) as part of the overall ‘Knowing the Dance’ project reflects this – in that it was dance improvisation/poetry only. When creating the project proposal, I had originally imagined any performance to be in the style of ‘pecha kucha’ type session where we could be very experimental  – here stripped back to the inter-arform seams and without music. But as the ideas took shape and grew so did our ambitions for what the presentation of the process might be like. It was a very great fortune to have Martin join us at this stage. And the creative team – in the manner of all that happened in the middle place – was three. A special word of credit is due to Martin for creating the opening short film of the performance which showcases the process and conversations that carried it from early composition to full performance.

Showcasing the Work

I am happy to report – with no small thanks due to my collaborating artists Paula and Martin that we have had four iterations of the three dance~poem sequence.

  • 6 June 2017: Evolving Fields: Sensoriality, Imagination and Memory in the Humanities (in-progress performance with accompanying workshop), QUB, Belfast
  • 12 August 2017: Dance House Ireland Residency preview performance, Dublin
  • 9 September 2017: ‘Knowing the Dance’ premiere, Downpatrick
  • 17 November 2017: ‘The Middle Place’ Brian Friel Theatre, QUB, Belfast

Find a video of the live performance (Down Arts Centre) of ‘Intertwine – Noose – Weight~Dissolve’ HERE

Acknowledgement is due to HU (October 2017) for publishing three of the poem elements

  • Ghost Net
  • Neck
  • Weight~Dissolve

Read them HERE

Paula and Martin have also been performing dance elements – particularly from ‘Noose’ and ‘Intertwine’ in various dance/performance venues.

Acknowledgements

My sincere thanks to all who supported the development and showcasing of this work. First, the Arts Council NI, with a particular word of thanks to Damian Smyth, who provided a framework to create a funded ACES project of which this was one aspect. My thanks to Down Arts Centre for being the temple of our muse for dance~poem composition, and for providing space and support for the premiere performance. Their ongoing support is much appreciated. Thanks to Dance House Ireland for an amazing environment to work on the sequence, and the Anthrology Department at QUB for accepting the proposal to have this as part of their ‘Evolving Fields’ programme in its early stages of development as a connected performance. Thanks to QUB also for support through Paula’s PhD fellowship.

A big word of thanks to the incredible, engaged audiences who attended the performances. Their questions, insights and feedback have been a cornerstone to the development of this work.


How has the work affected my practice?

This was a question from one of the audience members of the most recent performance. An excellent question – and like all excellent questions, as one might say, difficult to answer. My thanks to him for being gracious when I curved and swerved around the idea without actually answering. At that stage, in truth, I wasn’t sure. But today as I type, I have a sense of completion about this part of the ‘Knowing the Dance’ project. Below is a reflection of what I am carrying through from the work we had done.

The process works

It worked. Again my thanks to Sarah Warsop for the inspiration of her own practice and the masterclass in January 2017. I had wanted two quite challenging things to happen (1) poetry in all its glory on stage and (2) dance which wasn’t responding to or interpreting the text (in other words choreography in all its glory) – and still create coherent collaborative pieces that engaged audiences in their expression . While I’m experimenting in my own writing with stretching out the breath/movement aspects to work on them, this part of the wider ‘Knowing the Dance’ provides a template for further collaborative work – however different the artforms in their manner of creation and showcasing.

That skin is a ‘hard’ border

“Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat our tunes for bears to dance to, while all the while we long to move the stars to pity.” Gustave Flaubert.

I’m just noticing this quote that I’ve carried around like a mission statement since I was a teenager has both dance and move in it. One set of movements, and then another, and then (hopefully) another. I think an examination of how one movement proposes another and how it works in poetry (which is primarily for the page – I find making this distinction uncomfortable – but it was significant in this work) is at the heart of the whole ‘Knowing the Dance’ enterprise.

The most affecting proposition, in my opinion, and in terms of the strength of the final dance~poem was the one that Paula and I had used for the dance~poem that later became ‘Noose’. Suggested by Paula, we, in turns, took a number of minutes to touch two parts of the other’s body simultaneously – with the outcome being connections made with parts of the body which might not ordinarily connect. It’s an exciting proposition, don’t you think?

However, when we came to share the initial dance improvisation/free write – a touch on the neck was what had produced the most profound affect. This is where the electric connection started.

This is only the second time I’ve been in a workshop type situation using touch as the inspiration. The first was in a workshop led by Kate Newmann in Denvir’s, Downpatrick, some years ago. Again, it proved to be a powerful experience – from very inspiring to very uncomfortable. It seems that there is a beautiful skin-to-skin conversation that warrants further exploration – but with some ‘hard’ negotiations required.

It isn’t surprising that physical touch isn’t the mainstay of new-writing creation workshops, of course. We have a wonderful protective mechanism ‘flight-fight-freeze-appease’ when we feel threatened and anybody, beyond our intimates, entering our ‘space’ triggers the alarm.

As an aside, I read a very useful piece of advice for anybody who presents in any context. As biddable as it feels to step forward to come closer to whoever you are speaking to, unless you are the (beloved, trusted) parent or lover of your audience, they will instinctively frisk you for signs you are about to attack. Try this. Step back instead – you’ll hear an almost audiable sigh of relief from the bodies in front of you. And that is just invading space boundaries – no actual contact.

So while this person-to-person touch is very inspiring, it is one that requires very careful handling. Trust is a big part of that – and it seems to me trickier because hurts to trust in any regions of the person-to-person contract translates through to aversion to skin-to-skin contact. The body has its reasons.

In neither a short-term collaboration or a worskhop is it possible to create a space as safe as our most trusted, intimate relationships. I don’t know what the answer this is, but I think it bears futher exploration because my experiencesuggests that communication from skin to self is dynamic, visceral, moving and utterly poetic.

Affect was our Friend

In this instance – possibly because of creating a parity of esteem relationship between the artforms – we seemed at times to be tap-dancing precariously on a tight-rope that I’ll call loosely the ‘I-We’ continuum.

And, as in all human connection, affect was our friend in navigating this. Affect (theory) is very much at the heart of Paula’s academic work and it was happily installed in the middle-place. Hand-over-heart, I don’t know much about the theoretical dimension of it. When I use the word here – I am using it in an altogether unacademic sense of how something that happened affected the person to whom it happened.

Because the dance/poetry joins needed to be beyond the realms of response or interpretation, holding a strong sense of how we were affected by stimuli and sharing that – without a sense of this made me do that – made the conversation that underpinned the dance~poem composition (both artistic and verbal) far richer, allowing for both a sense of mutual connection while maintaining individual artistic ownership within the world of joint experience.

Not Airtime but Resonance

If this hadn’t been recorded I wouldn’t have remembered saying it. At this point I am moving into the arena of performance development rather than dance~poem elements generation.

So you have a poet who writes primarily for the page not the stage and who reads her work when a sharing of it is called for. Received wisdom for reading is that 20mins is pretty much as much as the attention span for the audience can take. A poem of 5mins is long to the ear. A haiku too short to lodge in the eardrum in a meaningful way.

It came to me that poets who write primarily for the page are kind of anti-performers – and anarchists in the world of performance – flouting a lot of very happy performance norms. I’m going to blog separately about why my leanings are totally to the page/reading side of things – but please know here that I operate from the principle of nobody is doing anything wrong and that I believe that mostly people make decisions based on what feels appropriate to them in their practice and delivery.

What I learned was that this kind of poetry conforms more to visual art norms – or any artwork which you can buy and take home – in that the receiver, whether reader or viewer or hearer, can choose how long they spend with the piece of art. I can stay with a poem kind happily for a few years. The poets – those few who are still alive – would, I expect, find my long-term engagement difficult if it required physical presence.

Artwork here is durable across time. The work is written down, in a sense, to create a middle-place between the poets’ and the readers’ imaginations where the reader can do a certain amount of refurnishing and recontextualising in their own time – in every sense of that phrase – and all of this a fortunate part of the process of poetry.

I was working with two artists whose artwork was, primarily, in the performance. (Martin as a composer, however, has the more long-lived aspect in his other musical composition). And both their performance worlds had slightly different norms as well.

Timing was an issue because of external constraints of venue scheduling and audience expectation. And any performance that is ephemeral and embodied must take into account the needs of other bodies – toilet breaks, eating, clearing the eyes, ears, throats.

Those are things everybody knows. Exciting times came for us in trying to create a performance with three artforms, two vastly different communication styles – and one which respects but does not privilege their own artwork in its performed state.

We all made concessions but what we didn’t do is work out what duration programmers were likely to require and split it in three and say here’s your allocation, fill it. While taking into account that there are differences in airtime – our choices were primarily artistically- and midde place- driven with some tailoring relating to the communication norms of our individual practices.

Improvision in a place of Permance

You never step into the same river twice.

The first time I came across the concept of improvisation was watching Stéphane Grappelli on the Late Late Show and my awed father explaining to me that he composing the piece in real time.

While whatever familiarity I’d had previously was in the area of jazz/music composition, improvisation as a display of composer/performer virtuosity is something I have a great deal of respect for. I was interested here to understand what it meant in terms of both Paula and Martin’s respective, and joint, practices. I was also interested to understand the ‘why’ of it and what felt, for them, particularly inspiring about it in the areas of choreography and composition.

However, while an exploration of dance/movement elements within my poetry was a central focus of my own work, changing my practice in that regard wasn’t something that excited me, perhaps, mostly because I am not part of the ‘performance poetry’ world. For all that I wondered and wondered and wondered again, what are the lines of latitude that run between improvised dance practice and poetry whose normal residence is on the page.

Proposition 1: Editing & Performed Reading Curation

I wondered whether ‘in the moment’ affect-to-choreography may be approximate (and only ever approximate) in intention to what is going on in the editing process of a written piece. My editing process is an ongoing re-entering inspiration, refining, asking, negotiating, feeling my way to the next step in its creation. The final piece – and this may not be every poet’s wish – is to create a structure delicate enough that the reader/hearer can enter the piece as part-receiver, part-owner. I trust that the right words will find the right ears (whether they be the ears of the eyes or not). For me the better I know a piece, the more I can ‘let it go’ – and I have had the experience of ‘seeing’ a long finished poem take on a whole different meaning when reading it to a particular audience. Quick note here to say I find an audience can be a very potent artistic partner. And in this case, that vibrant newness that seemed to be a key part of improvised work, can come into play for me beyond the act of original composition.

I do, however, feel that improvisation is an ‘in-the-moment, in-the-same-body’ conversation between choreographer and performer. And so I did revisit also my commitment to the act of trust that happens in the time that words – whether written or spoken – are transmitted and received, and how that affects how I relay my work. It may be worth saying also that I, like many readers, will leave a reading structure loose, intending to curate a reading sequence that is affected by what’s actually happening at the event.

Proposition 2: Improvised Editing

A little magical. I discovered as we progressed that I couldn’t edit the poem elements of the dance~poems out of context. I needed to hear/feel/see all that was going on to keep the integrity of the joint work. Three, out of the four, settled into a format that had enough openness in the writing to accommodate largish changes in the dance/music elements that came through the improvisation process. One element – a longish piece called (for now) ‘The Round Dance’ defied capture. Altogether. Like the other piece it had structure enough and openness but… I never read the same piece twice.

On the night before the second full performance, I was in despair. Then I had a break-through. What if the ongoing ‘edits’ were in fact new pieces created as a result of new inspiration in the moment. On each iteration I seemed to be adding new layers and/or stripping out ones that seemed to have slipped through the net of the current dispensation of the dance~poem.

What if I challenged myself to do a full scale recalibration on stage (by which I mean change an element/s of the whole thing and retune the whole structure so it still holds up – a bit like moving round a stud wall). Which is more or less what I did. I don’t think anybody else would have realised what was going on but it was an interesting challenge.

The line between Poetry and Poetic Hokey Pokey

You put a word in here, and a phrase in there…

Did you do the Hokey Pokey as a child (some call it the Hokey Cokey)? I can still be an enthusiastic participant when the situation calls for it.  It’s a good old workshop, great for entertaining smallies, and I don’t know about you but I’ve found as I enter the middle place of middle age there are vast amount of new body parts that can be ‘put in’ or taken out…

Aligned to the guideline that the poem elements would function as publishable poems, I found, in this collaboration, I was often navigating the territory of what poetry is. And then beating a nihilistic retreat into a knot of writhing words, some of which were shaping up nicely, and others were just missing something.

So what is Poetic Hokey Pokey?

Not only does the Hokey Pokey provide a fun break for you and your toddler or preschooler, it also helps your child’s physical and mental development. From an intellectual perspective, it also teaches parts of the body, opposite sides and motor skills. Dancing the Hokey Pokey creates self-control and coordination, even if your little one isn’t naturally athletic. Source LINK – http://living.thebump.com/teaching-children-hokey-pokey-17210.html

Sometimes we recognise things by what they are not. As light-hearted as the name is, Poetic Hokey Pokey isn’t a particularly flippant concept. It’s a name that I’ve given to a recognisable, excellent art practice – in this instance in the world of poetry composition – but I believe elements of all artforms have Hokey Pokey transfer potential.

The Hokey Pokey, itself, while being fun and fabulous, is also a skilled tool to teach those who need to learn it (often, but not always, small children) – by creating complex connections – the link between object names and those objects whose names belong to body parts under motor control. Artform Hokey Pokey, I have noticed in a range of contexts, has a similar artistic function of making connections – causal, casual and/or creative – between indivdual words, phrases, repeated refrains and elements of the wider artform/s where they appear.

An example of this, which I came across during the year, was a fascinating exploration of memory and social/political landscape. A video piece with an emphasis on the visual, it also included a sound score with poetry – in this case the heavily repeated phrase ‘the cookies are in the kitchen‘.

I experienced this as adding to the overall artistic expression, working well as an integrous part of the overall piece of art, and using, very creatively, mechanisms that are stock-in-trade in poetry-making. But every part of my instinct said while this is really good, it isn’t poetry.

Because you asked me about the line between poetry and Poetic Hokay Pokey

I am rephrasing the title of Howard Nemerov’s poem that I use as a marker of where poetry ends and prose begins.

I think everyone one who writes poetry will/should find themselves from time to time negotiating boundaries. For me, it’s generally more a feeling than a set of rules or regulations. What was useful about this collaboration is that it allowed me to gain more understanding of what lay on either side of the border – and make an educated choice on how I wanted to particiate on both sides.

Poetry is made up of so many versatile elements – all with fascinating artistic applications in their own right. Weight, size, shape, resonance, sound, movement, depth, feel, rhythm, echo, phsyical presence, space, grammatical scoring and so on. And the joy of words as an art material is that you also have meaning and communication packed in whereever you put them. I would argue even if you just use shapes of letters.

So it stands to reason that these elements have been – and will continue to be – used in wider art works. Those who write poetry are liable to be excited by this (well I am) but the problem with Hokey Pokey is that – and I mean this kindly and gently – it can lack a certain contemporary/sophistication when set against poetry which exists in it’s fullest form – and I’m back to ‘not airtime but resonance’ here.

This dividing line is one which has caused me discomfort to the point of considering stepping back from poetry/non-word based collaborations.  And that coupled with the fact that I always want poetry to stand ‘eye to eye’ with high end, raw intense, but largely non-verbal explorations of human experience – in the way that I know it can.

This collaboration provided a framework for full-orchestral poetry composition to function in equal artistic partnership, without needing to strip back the words until they were operating elements of a wider artform. Appearing here as an integral, and still connecting, whole in their own right. The process allows for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#ACES 16/17 Part 1 – Poetry Moves: Knowing the Dance #lettersfromladyn

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.

from The Layers by Stanley Kunitz

KTDACESREPORTmontageIn late spring 2016, I began to put together a proposal that would allow me to explore dance/moving elements within poetry generally, and my poetry particularly. The inspiration to do this work came from my own noticing that motion, movement and momentum were naturally occuring parts of my own work and I wanted to take this further.

I was also very interested in the work of choreographer/contemporary jewellery designer (among other things) Sarah Warsop and how she created connections between artforms through creating a middle-place – and how this might be used to isolate movement within my work in order to understand what was and was not working in that respect. A workshop with two lovely dancers early in 2016, also made me question how poetry and dance could creatively come together.

The ‘Knowing the Dance’ proposal was accepted for funding and the year-long project began in October 2016. I very recently supported the final report of the project and last week, saw the second performance of a dance~poem sequence created as part of the project. I begin this week looking back over the year’s programme of creative exploration, with a wish to report back on all that’s happened as a springboard to what comes next.

Looking Back to Go Forward

This the first a series of posts about all that’s happened (hopefully in reasonably quick succession – links to follow as I create the posts).

Part 1. Poetry Moves: Knowing the Dance

Part 2. The Body has its Reasons: Knowing from the Inside

Part 3. The Middle Place: Knowing the Ropes

Part 4. Reading Poetry: Knowing by Heart

Part 5. Collecting Myself: Knowing what’s next

Acknowledgements and Appreciation

First, however I wanted to say a word of thanks to a mighty crowd of people for being part of my year of accelerated ‘Artist Career Enhancement’.

  • Heartfelt thanks to Damian Smyth for accepting this proposal and being, as always, an excellent sounding board for it. Many thanks to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for supporting the project through National Lottery ACES funding. The amount that has been accomplished would not have been possible without it.
  • Much appreciation to Sarah Warsop – who despite not knowing me, not having worked with poetry before – responded to my mad request for a masterclass which would involve, among other things, pulling a piece of a poem apart..extracting the breathing, feeling, moving parts..and then putting it back together again.  The masterclass has had a profound effect on the way I create, inhabit and edit my work.
  • Big thanks to dancer/researcher Paula Guzzanti who I knew through other circumstances. It seemed slightly miraculous that the one dancer that I knew in the general vicinity would be interested and already have a background in movement/text work.  We have worked closely through the year, from the dancer-to-poet early composition/choreography experiments, and then the performance creation which expanded to include music by Martin Devek.
  • Love and appreciation to all the team at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick. A particular word of thanks to Donna Rogan – who I approached at a time when staff resources were low – who said yes without turning a hair to my request for creative space for the dance/poetry meet-ups, extended masterclass, and performance rehearsals as they happened throughout the year. Janine, Denise, James, Marie, Ciara, Greg and all at Down Arts Centre for programming and supporting the premier performance of the dance~poem sequence on the 9 of September and supporting Sarah Warsop to come back to facilitate an open workshop using some of the masterclass techniques.
  • A special word of thanks to artist and composer, Martin Devek – and longterm collaborator with Paula (in life as well as art) who came on board a bit later in the day. As the original idea had been a very stripped down, see-the-joins, silent kind of performance, music hadn’t been factored in. As plans changed, however, and much gratitude is due for his generous, enthusiastic in-kind support.
  • Acknowledgement is due to HU for publishing three of the poem elements of the dance~poem sequence
  • Acknowledgement is due to Lagan Online’s 12NOW initiative organiser Colin Dardis and his lovely wife (the wedding of the year) Geraldine Dardis O’Kane for promoting my work through the year and this project throughout and for accepting two new poems created as part of the Knowing the Dance poetry collection for a 12NOW showcase
  • Acknowledgement is due to Abridged for accepting ‘Stranger than Fiction’ also from the new collection.
  • In connection with the dance~poem performance, I would like to record my thanks to Federica Banfi for accepting the proposal to host an in-creation sharing as part of the anthropology conference in June, Dance House for a residency and a sharing platform. Brian Friel Theatre and all the team there who worked with us, QUB DEL scholarship, which though applicable through the PhD research Paula has been doing in the realm of affect and dance improvisation, allowed us space to create and showcase this work. A special word of thanks to Rodrigo for being bollard-maker, sound engineer, camera man and much more through all the performances. He has loitered long in the Middle Place – and all credit is due.
  • In the wider scheme of the proposal, thanks are due to Templar Poetry for publishing and organising the launches in London and Belfast of ‘Night Divers’ in April and June 2017, respectively.  Thanks also to Shirley and all at Castle Ward for supporting Words for Castle Wards’ three-book launch – including Night Divers.
  • Wider thanks is also due to the NI Screen Digital Archive, the Poetry Jukebox belles – Maria McManus and Deirdre Cartmill, the entire Woman Aloud Network. My own networks here in East Down through Words for Castle Ward and Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, and the Ol’ Daffs for feedback on some of the emerging work.
  • Thanks also to Emma Whitehead and Stephen McClean for their support but also for creating a visual representation of the moving parts in poetry (‘Live in the Layers’ as below).
  • Finally, to my family and friends of the non-writing (or even dancing) world for engaging with the madness of the year and their support of all natures.

It’s been a cast of thousands and there is always the possibility that you’ll have left out someone prominent in a big list – but thankfully websites have a good edit function. I suspect, I’ll be back with additions.

Live in the Layers

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.  from The Layers by Stanley Kunitz

LiveintheLayersFull

Letters carved from bandsaws and suspended on silk thread, 3d, black frame with a white background. This piece created by Stephen McClean and Emma Whitehead is a representation of all the different elements – with an emphsis on the moving parts – that come together in make-up poetry. Weigh, depth, shape, texture, materialness, unevenness, shadows, white space, movement and limits, sound as the letters and words touch off each other, the interplay with breeze and breath, suspension, representation, meaning, artistry, lexicon, reference.

It was created for the Top Floor Art ‘Layers’ exhibition for August Craft Month 2017.   I love it – it is on the wall opposite me as I type – and it sings to me as I move past it.

Looking for love in Samhain Light – #lettersfromladyn

‘It’s those skills slow-learnt in the depths of love / That  I’m working at.’                (Pearl Diver final line – Lady Nakatomi, trans Graeme Wilson from the Manyoshu)

6tag_041117-144404A proper letter on this occassion – even if brief. I had attended the John O’Connor Writing School and Literary Arts Festival (2-5 Nov) and had the incredible fortune to attend the Poetry Workshop, three sessions from Fri to Sun, with Lemn Sissay.

I don’t attend creative writing workshops that much any more but I had a real wish to work with Lemn as I admire his approach and his sharing his own story through the medium of poetry. I’m not a performance poet by any manner of means but there is always a lot to be learned about how you present yourself and the poetic choices made in the face of the context that you are expressing.

All poetry is love poetry

We tackled the lovely world of anaphora – I’ve been all over it myself in workshops these last few months. The first exercise was to write about someone we love (could be ourselves) using an opener and a bit of end rhyme. Challenging for those for whom end rhyme does not feel a support. For me the most challenging was the subject matter.  While I subscribe to the old saw about all poetry being love poetry – between one thing and another, the humour has not been on me to write full-out poetic tributes for some time. I struggled with this most normal of subject matters and produced a piece with end rhyme and jagged edges. It was a joy to hear the sharing of the other workshop participants. It was a gorgeous group of people gathered there – some I knew before and some I met for the first time.

‘Overused and much abused promises of delight’

Sang Janis Ian and I’m one with George Orwell’s sentiments in 1984 and the contaminating influence of ‘doublespeak’. The Saturday writing  exercise was to create a poem beginning ‘Let there be…’ (after Lemn’s ‘Let there be Peace‘). I’m a fan of the more sticky aspects of the love spectrum – anger, falling out, hatred etc so that you can get back to love. I decided having had so much trouble the day before to risk doing something that is like nails on a blackboard to my ears. Here is where I got to. Please know that I am addressing myself here rather than lofty wishes for humankind. But I’m sharing for anybody who might be going out in sympathy with me – whose life isn’t quite the cosy or picturesque world of family or lovers that we glide along looking like we might be, for the sake of not sticking out, or simply because rowing against that current is just too tiring.

Let there be love

Love

so the harsh, strong tick of the clock is in favour

and the maggot-food flesh is welcome at table

and the sun and the moon swap places

with chairs, graves, winter gardens

 

Love

so the past is all possibility

and the chill before dawn is a saviour

and Charismatics in the front seat of the car

lead with ‘They’ll know we are Christians by our..’

and mean it.

 

Love

let’s find Orwellian words to express it

where the wreck that’s not recorded

is accepted for the exhibition

and rifts move on to other landscapes

 

Let there be love

and let it grow – stubborn as dandelions –

through the concrete we pave over it.

 

Thanks & Acknowledgements

I wanted to thank the organisers of the John O’Connor festival for having the opportunity to be part of this workshop. Lemn Sissay’s reading of ‘Something Dark’ and the discussions around the work and wider, and the participants all adding to this being a very thought-provoking workshop from my perspective – just what I needed, I suspect. The rest of the festival was just pure class. So fantastic to have caught up with some many great people. Looking forward already until next year.

 

 

 

 

‘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!

The @PoetryJukebox @BelfastFestival launch 12 Oct @CrescentArts

 

This innovative project from Belfast based poets Deirdre Cartmill and Maria McManus is part of the Qoutidian – Word on the Street project which seeks to put poetry into public space, to surprise and delight the unsuspecting. The Poetry Jukebox is brought to you in collaboration with Piana na ulici, Prague.

A special launch of the Poetry Jukebox on 12 October as part of Belfast International Arts Festival celebrates the arrival of this new, funky and permanent landmark to the island of Ireland for the first time. Come to Crescent Arts Centre and hear some of the first round of Poetry Jukebox poets read their works at 7pm. The event is free to attend. Just come along no need to book.

The Poetry Jukebox (now with its own twitter feed @PoetryJukebox ) first curation is a combination of open call and invited poets:

Joan Newmann
Michael Longley
Eavan Boland
Celia de Fréine
Stephen Sexton
Mark Granier
Paula Meehan
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Katie Donovan
Padraic Fiacc
Mary Montague
Adam Trodd
Adrian Fox read by Matthew Rice
Nessa O’Mahony
David Braziel
Seanín Hughes
Olive Broderick
Eamon McGuinness
Afric McGlinchey

Find out more about the initiative in this Irish Times Article.

Here’s a sneak peek of me, courtesy of the Belfast Telegraph, reading ‘Friar’s Bush Cememtery’ (Night Divers 2017) – HERE

Find the sneak peek preview of those recorded in Belfast during the week HERE.

The Poetry Jukebox is a gorgeous new fixture. Contents will change every few months. If you are passing the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast, you won’t miss. Do have a listen.