Touch, don’t observe – #worldbrailleday @LabelLib @acniwriting #tbt

Today (4 Jan 2019) is World Braille Day and I have just taken up the RNIB’s offer to have a visual representation of my name in braille to raise awareness of braille (RNIB Connect Podcast) and happily remembering getting a better sense of braille last year.

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Label lit/Poetry Day 2018 ‘Poetry Surprises’

I loved being part of this initiative for National Poetry Day ’18 – taking to Downpatrick with a handful of labels to be found in places where poetry would not be normally found.

The individual micro-poems/labels were drawn from a deconstructed poem (reconstructed below) that I had written for a curating poetry course.

The poem’s curation element was born out of my frustration at the behind-glass at-a-distance visual presentation of art, particularly constructed or 3D artforms, where individual pieces seemed to silently scream from behind the glass, or whatever out-of-reach space, about how the best part of their innate artistic communiation was in the form of physical interaction which was prohibited.  I was also, in my own writing practice, experimenting with the sense of touch – that self-same physical interaction (skin-to-skin contact being the most profoundly inspirational but in my workshop experiments it was objects which were called upon to share their inspirational qualities through the medium of the fingers, the palms, the skin).

Working with the PageTurners – a creative writing group drawn from the RNIB NI membership – the idea of creating labels with a braille element presented itself to me. I am still so grateful to the RNIB braille team for responding to my strange request and so quickly. They said two things which I have filed away for future use. One is that braille isn’t as commonly known as it was by virtue of the advance in technology and the other is that I could, if I was a bit more organised, have organised actual brailled labels. This might have been a better awareness raising and access strategy – but my curation of braille ‘elements’ was also to invoke the language of touch, raising broader awareness of the predominance of the visual in our lives – and perhaps to create a bridge between the two.

The braille version of poem came back to me in one piece without line-breaks, so in order to create the elements I had to work out the system. I have always loved the feel of braille – words I can touch – but, up to this I hadn’t any idea how to transform the dots and indentations into communication. I am no expert now but I have a better understanding of it and even more respect for it than I had before.

Some more information about Label Lit 2018 by Arts Council NI here (video)

To Have & To Hold: A Curator’s Proposal

Let’s leave the world of the glass display case
Find a way back to our own space
Create a touch tank of the place we inhabit.

Touch       don’t observe

Impressions left on the spoon-bowl palm
Of the hand – a sustaining pleasure
Of weight and size and texture.

Touch       but with care

There are boundaries here to consider
How best to hold what’s fixed, passing through
All that contains you?

Touch      these four walls

Doors   windows   keep vigilant
For anywhere that feels like confinement
Ask yourself is this what home is?

What
Holds you
Here.

‘Things you find when Hiding’ – Poems on a Sunday Afternoon, Narnia Festival, 18 Nov, 2.30-4.30pm

“So you’ve been hiding, have you?” said Peter. “Poor old Lu, hiding
and nobody noticed! You’ll have to hide longer than that if you want
people to start looking for you.” – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

Poems on a Sunday Afternoon: Things you Find when Hiding.

Cloughmore Centre, Kilbroney Events Space, 60 Shore Road, Rostrevor, BT34 3DQ

Sun 18 November, 2.30-4.30pm

All are invited to a special CS Lewis themed, Poems on a Sunday Afternoon taking place in the Cloughmore Centre on Sunday, 18 November, 2.30-4.30pm.
‘Poems on Sunday Afternoon’ is a longstanding event which normally takes place at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick where we offer a warm welcoming space for everyone to come and share their own writing or a favourite, whether poem, story or song – and host a featured reading.

For this event, and in keeping with the Narnia Festival, we invite you to come and share written pieces – poems, stories, songs – relating to the general theme of hiding. The theme is inspired by the fact that the children in the Narnia Chronicles tended to find entry points to Narnia while hiding out – whether in play, or in fear – in their own world. Please note this theme is a guideline for the afternoon but work on this theme is by no means a necessity.

Featured Reading: Colin Dardis

Colin Dardis is a poet, editor and arts coordinator. His work has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and the US. the x of y, his debut full-length collection, was released in May ’18 from Eyewear Publishing.

Having had a childhood speech impediment, attending speech therapy classes throughout primary school, Colin’s initial interest in language and words grew out of this formative experience. His personal history of depression and mental illness is also an ongoing influence on his work. Known for his devotion to supporting and developing the Northern Irish poetry scene, he was one of Eyewear’s Best New British and Irish Poets 2016, an ACES ’15-16 recipient from Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and recently shortlisted in the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2018. Colin co-runs Poetry NI, a multimedia platform for poets in Northern Ireland. www.colindardispoet.co.uk

All welcome, no booking required. Further information from wordsforcastleward@gmail.com

This event is part of the Narnia Festival on this weekend, supported by Newry, Mourne Down District Council – find further events on the Cloughmore Centre’s Facebook page. Little promo for the centre HERE.

Fast & Absent friends: A Lament for Eibhlín Dubh, & Lorca

Mo ghrá go daingean tú!

In the mode of my pros(aic) side, I have beeen doing some digital comms work with the Armagh-based John O’Connor Writing School and Literary Arts Festival for the last couple of years. I tend, as much as is financially possible, not to work literary festivals. I know this seems a bit illogical – what could be better than working around writers when you are a writer yourself?  But for me, metaphorically speaking, and in the manner of John O’Connor, there is always the temptation to throw the post in the river and stretch out in the long grass with pen and paper.

I curbed my impulses well enough except, if I did nothing else to fill my poetic well last weekend (1-4 Nov), I didn’t want to come away without seeing the new translation by Paul Muldoon of Caoineach Airt Uí Laoighaire – with original music by Jim Lockhart of Horslips.

Fast & Absent Friends 1: Far North & Deep South

I was very taken with the performance. I’m not masssively au fait with the original (see below) but know enough about it, and the Kinsella translation, to have markers to locate myself.  I loved the music – and was glad to get the chat about the inspiration behind some of it. These things you can’t know without those useful afterwards Q&As.

I particularly like – in general – translations of Munster text by Ulster poets. It’s a strange thing. It took me a few years of being here before I realised that there was a Munster temperament. A friend of mine from Belfast, when I was trying to explain, asked me where Munster was – while straining, I suspect, to pick up a hint of German in my accent. I am at the advantage as there is one of me and the majority of everybody else in my day-to-day life is from here. It would be easier if the temperaments were diametrically opposed – you say ‘Eibhlín Dubh’ (pron Evelyn Doo) and I says ‘Eibhlín Dubh’ (pron Eileen Duv) let’s call the whole thing off sort of thing – but actually they are simply different.

While I am from East Cork, there was a joy in hearing even the names Gougane Barra, the Gearagh – and knowing that there has been somewhere, somehow even a hint of interest in that geography which is so much of my inner landscape. That introduction all the better made by not coming from me, I’ve learned that well. But more than that, there is the translating of cultural ties and relationships. I’m going to humourously amend this to ‘improving upon’ in the translation, safe in the knowledge that both temperaments are very confident in their own excellentness. Seeing the translations, for me, can either confirm or explain dissonances that I negotiate everyday in my ordinary conversations. The reimagining of family relationships here is a case in point.

Fast & Absent 2: Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill

You have taken the east from me, you have taken the west from me.. (Donal Óg)

I was so glad to have the opportunity to see this in Armagh last weekend. One thing about it, however, caught me off guard and being a woman with a temperamental mix of charm and uncalled-for honesty attempted – unsuccessfully and skirting round the borders of what my grandmother would have called ‘a mighty display of ignorance’ – to explain the reason for my unease, in a kind of two-pronged attack, to both translator and composer.

The truest thing I said – and it was a suprise to me the vehemence of an impulse that I had long forgotten – was that Eibhlín Dubh was/is a hero of mine.

I’d had a chat with Trish Bennett who was there as well and we tried to work out if it was on the Leaving Cert Syllabus (we are, I think, a year apart). I am almost sure that the answer in my case was yes. I have no recollection of the poem itself. There are two possible reasons for this. The first being my ability to remove myself to the world of day-dreams when I was bored by anything in school. I was like dearest him that lived alas away for all but the contemporary poetry on the Irish Leaving Cert poetry syllabus. However, our Irish teacher very wisely also refused to teach us the letter of the law of the Irish course, preferring to give us a sense of the spirit of the words – poetry and prose – that he so loved and so hated to see mangled and jeered at by teens who were not a bit interested. I am very grateful for this.

I do remember very well that he introduced us to the author of the Caoineadh – explaining her position, explaining the bravery in the authorship. It is, I think in retrospect, to his credit that I don’t remember a whisper of doubt or suspicion, or, indeed, any sense than that this was anything other than a fine and praiseworthy deed. While I didn’t know anything about losing a beloved husband, father of my children, my own position due to an untimely death that had ramifications across the community, I did have a strong sense of the kind of imperative that, when the chips were already down, might move you to a measure that was most assuredly not going to improve matters – i.e. take the words out of the mouths of those who felt such declaiming was their entitlement. Mo ghrá go daingean tú.

It was later, at UCC, the whispers behind the backs of the hand got to me. The Caoineadh was more than likely written by a man posing as a woman. Such things are, to be fair, done. They are. Their was, it seems to me, a good deal of self-congratulation that ‘feminists’ should be trying to create a woman-poet tradition on the back of a high octane poem of the canon – within the lament tradition and more generally – that was not in fact written by a woman. It certainly took the wind out of this woman who writes poetry (I’d rather you called me a feminist than a not-feminist)’s sails.

To the extent that when I spat nails at the almost – almost – complete stripping out of the voices of women in both my Irish and English language education at the Fired event in Bangor in September (that would be one poem by Máire Mac an tSaoi that set my teeth on edge, and a slua of poems by Emily Dickinson which provided a sort of life blood) – I completely forgot about Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill.

Last Friday night, the woman on the stage was not my Eibhlín. That is true and it is also no matter. I am as happy to register her absence and through the words of this mighty act of lamentation, reinstate her, her uwavering presence through the generations, as she is in my imagination.

Fast & Absent 3: Lorca

A LAS CINCO DE LA TARDE

‘To fight a bull when you are not afraid is nothing, to not fight a bull when you are afraid is nothing, to fight a bull when you are afraid is something’ – is a Spanish saying I once heard. My return to Lorca’s keen for the bullfighter/writer Ignacio Sanchez Mejías was prompted by talk and thinking about the offhand comments about the lament tradition. Those comments are always made – in the style of etc. Elegiac, isn’t it? I do have, I suspect everyone who is community based has, a feel of what this tradition of lamentation sounds like. And yet how many actual laments could I count?

Not so very many. Two ‘canonical’ ones that I could quote. One being the Lament for Art O’Leary – but how well did I know that really? The other being Lorca’s Llanto  – which I know with the red veins of my heart. Or more accurately, the ‘Alma Ausente’ section.  It came to me, after a very good friend of mine died. My desire to translate it, to get inside the spanish words to extract what I needed, felt like part sickness and part healing. I couldn’t understand, because I had written and published poems of my own dedicated to him, why I was so fixated on this poem and translating it. As much as I can think is that I wanted to remember the person I knew as a friend and the legend (in my case possibly the manner of his death or some elements of his life of which he was much more than the sum of). Or perhaps more accurately to recognise – in as many senses of the verb conocer as fitted – the person I knew. And this poem – as Art O’Leary – connected me to all the complexity of what it is to lose somebody that you know deeply  – crossing the lines from private individual to public person.

It seems to me – and I am still as per Ingold ‘in between and mid-stream’ in my thinking – that the caoineadh is like the sermon at a Requiem Mass – and the difference in register from universal recognition to going-through-the-motions-of-what’s-expected (which has its own comfort), is the celebrant’s a true knowing of the person in the coffin.

As I’m writing, I have another ‘window’ open about the appointment of a Poet Laureate to follow Carol Ann Duffy – that’s where my train of thought is taking me. Such positions, saoi, laureate, whatever the title, confer more than an entitlement but an expectation that the person would be proficient in the formal arts of lamentation. But the lament, that carrying creative grief, seems to me, on reflection, to chose wisely its own adherents.

Notes:

Paul Muldoon’s translation is included in ‘Lamentations’ (Gallery Press, 2017). The performance is well worth attending, imho.  Find Irish/English (Kinsella) versions HERE.

Lorca’s poem is HERE.

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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.

 

 

 

‘Experimental Procceses’ Launch Invite – @theduncairn #Belfast 13 Sept 6-8pm

Very inspiring to have had the opportunity to work with artist Lucy Turner on what is shaping up to be a stunning exhibition which brings together Irish Linen, shibori practice, indigo dye, and things found/gathered from the natural world and the artist’s evolving practice: with poetry from Words for Castle Ward associated writers as we worked in and through the weave of Lucy’s experimental processes.

My thanks to the writers who assembled for what was our ‘normal’ June new writing workshop and have stayed the course through the process.

Words for Castle Ward writers include Shirley Bork, Olive Broderick,  Colin Dardis, Helen Hastings, Wilma Kenny, Malcolm Kidd, Robert Kirk, Geraldine O’Kane, Alison Ross, and  Henry Shaw.

The full sequence REBORN created from this workshop is by turns affecting, beautiful and thoughtprovoking. Lucy has drawn words from this and incorporated them into artwork.

A word of thanks is due to Debbie Young at Duncairn Arts and Cultural Centre who originally invited meand Lucy in for a conversation/consultation about the possibilities around visual / literary art collaboration, and to the staff at Castle Ward who so generously make their Education facility available for the Words for Castle Ward’s monthly workshops –  and who have been very supportive of this initiative which has seen not only the writers, but Lucy herself, drawing inspiration from this beautiful National Trust property on the shores of Strangford Lough.

Really looking forward to seeing the full exhibition on the 13th September, 6=8pm. Launch reception invite below and all are very warmly invited.Lucy's invite FINAL

Walking by Water WIP – #knowingthedance #knowingfromwithin @ACNIwriting

cropped-a8fbfebe-04a3-4337-a6e5-d9e051ef26c8.jpeg

My erstwhile blog has been true living up to its reputation that past month or so. I’ll be playing catch up in the next little while.

First on the catch up list is an acknowledgement of SIAP funding 17/18 for the Arts Council NI to do some further development work on the sequence of poems which emerged from the ‘Knowing the Dance‘ work of last year.

This collection incorporates the poem elements of the dance~poems (published in HU) created with dancer Paula Guzzanti and musician Martin Devek, some reworked elements of my three-line meditations on movement in words and poetry from April 2017 (National Poetry Month initiative).

For this development phase I am looking reworking ‘The Clock Repairer’s Companion, and then, particularly, at two other sequences of poems which emerged while doing this work. The first has the working title of ‘Walking by Water’ and the second is as yet untitled, though the work has coming together nicely.

I’m prepped and ready to do a bit of work on this during July – and the plan is to get a bit of mentoring support on the overall piece following that. Very appreciative of the support from the Arts Council NI for supporting me to do both.

It is worth acknowledging, as I am here, a professional membership bursary for the Irish Writers’ Centre which I very much value. My ‘income-generation strategy’, if I may call it that, sometimes means it’s difficult to be physically present at writer development opportunities, but I really value being part of these networks.

Image: Strangford Yacht Club, Castle Ward, June 2018.

 

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

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

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

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

Find full BBF programme details HERE.

 

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