Framing the Landscape #Knowing the Dance

As part of the ‘Knowing the Dance’ project, dancer/choreographer/researcher Paula Guzzanti and I have been meeting up to create a performance which explores innovative ways that movement/dance and poetry can meet where there is, what I am calling, parity of esteem between the two artforms and where the base of inspiration can move backwards and forwards between the two artforms.  Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, have been the most generous hosts in providing studio space for us to conspire, inspire, experiment and create what I hope will be very interesting and affecting pieces.

Quoile Pondage


WP_20170309_14_52_25_ProOne of our experiments is to use the same landscape as a base of inspiration for a piece of work, where Paula would take the movement forward and, I, the poetry. March, here, can be so fine and last Thursday (9 March) provided the ideal conditions to try this out. Paula and I installed ourselves at Steamboat Quay right at the end of the Pondage – and took a half an hour  with our own process. It was lovely that walkers on the Pondage that afternoon seemed very content with us being there.

An interesting synergy emerged when we shared our work. Both of us had been considering where our attention was being drawn to, and how we we responded to that. When we moved to the studio to work on the piece of work which will, I think, be a key piece, this question stayed with us, acting as a kind of binding of sorts between the two artforms. This is very, very inspirational work. It is a real privilege to be working with Puala – including the fact that she has a writing practice and her current PhD research is examining ‘affect’ and this is adding a dimension to the work which won’t be there without this collaboration – a more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts situation entirely.

Images and uisce beatha (non-alcoholic variety)

No matter where experimentation takes me, I remain profoundly influenced by imagism. For me, the haiku as I understand it (a kind of happy accident between two zen moments which takes you down a third path) is a kind unit of currency in this kind of poetry.

Recently I faciliated a series of workshops which, by way of happenstance, centred on images – finding them; considering the place where verbal and visual images overlap and where they have different strengths and potentials.  We created legends for existing images, selected visual images but presented them in words (why this one and not that, why highlight this but not that?), recreated those images which live only in memory because you didn’t have your camera that day.

On Saturday, I attended a workshop facilitated by the brilliant Colin Dardis and Geraldine O’Kane looking at micro-poetry (‘little miracles’). For me, the short poem is the best because you are pushed to really look at your selected images – anything out of place is quickly discovered.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I’d bought a Hugh MacDiarmaid Anthology and what has held my attention is one of the epigrams with ‘A Glass of Pure Water’ – which reads ‘praise of pure water is common in Gaelic poetry’.  I hadn’t come across it but I love the idea. In fact, I have to admit I like the image of the pure water that he extends out from in the poem to where the poem actually goes – which I need to sit with a bit, I think.

But that idea of the praise of pure water has stayed with me in my imagination. One of my practice pieces at the workshop on Saturday was an attempt at a cinquain based on a jug of water and glasses on the table of the workshop room in the Linenhall Library.

This morning I wrote three short poems (of the non-formal form variety) – one on a selected image (as per Saturday), one giving a legend to an image that I have been carrying around me with for the right time for words to come, and finally, something from my childhood that I very much wish I had a photo (although if I had taken it I suspect that I’d have appeared stranger in my grandmother’s farmhouse in West Limerick than I already did) – two plastic buckets that held springwater, the only drinking water available.

The below is the image I have been carrying around with me. ‘Water, water everywhere…’ as the old poem goes. It’s Monevasia in Greece, July 2011. How haunted we were by the fear of dehydration.