Sunday, 15 June 2014

Bloomsday at the Olivier Cornet Gallery

To celebrate Bloomsday and the multiple language and cultural references in Ulysses, an evening of readings and music takes place tomorrow evening at JF Studios. This is a multilingual/cultural event, with English, Irish, Gallego, Cypriot, French, Korean, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Tamil and Shona some of the languages included.

Participating writers and poets: Christodoulos Makris, Fióna Bolger, John Kearns, Anamaria Crowe Serrano, Rob Doyle, Karl Parkinson, Liz McSkeane, Dessiree Ares, Phil Lynch, Antain MacLochlainn, Ola Kubiak, Vadhani, Alan Jude Moore, Yoon Kyung Chung, Lillian Ndumba and Dimitra Xidous.

Gallery artist Mark Doherty will be drawing live, responding to the words and sounds around.

This is a free event.

Monday 16 June 2014, 6pm-8pm
Olivier Cornet Gallery, 5 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1

The gallery would like to dedicate the event to the memory of artist, gallery owner and Joycean scholar Gerald Davis (1938 - 18th June 2005).

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Experimental Literature Q&A

Over on Dave Lordan's blog I discuss experimental writing as part of a short series featuring various writers & arts professionals invited to do so by Dave. This is part of the build up to the Circa Bloomsday weekend event at the Irish Writers' Centre over this coming weekend 14-15 June, which celebrates and showcases contemporary experimental literature in honour of the legacy of Joyce, and the Blast 100 modernist symposium at Trinity College in early July - in both of which Dave is participating. The other respondents so far are Rob Doyle, Máighréad Medbh, Graham Allen & Darran Anderson.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Dublin-Guadalajara poetry exchange

I'm really excited to be involved as the Dublin curator/editor of this project - part of a series of city-to-city collaborative poetry projects headed by Mexico's EBL-Cielo Abierto publishing house - as well as participating poet: at the end of last year 7 poets from Dublin were partnered with 7 from Guadalajara to exchange selections of their work and render the work of their collaborator into their language, be it English or Spanish. A resulting anthology, Centrifugal: Contemporary Poetry from Dublin and Guadalajara, is due out in September from EBL-Cielo Abierto as a dual-language volume, with support from Mexico's National Council for Culture and the Arts (CONACULTA). There are unconfirmed plans for public presentations of the book in both cities.

The poet pairings are as follows:

Alan Jude Moore & Xitlálitil Rodríguez
Anamaría Crowe Serrano & Mónica Nepote
Catherine Walsh & Laura Solórzano
Christodoulos Makris & Luis Eduardo García
John Kearns & José Eugenio Sánchez
Kimberly Campanello & Ángel Ortuño
Kit Fryatt & Ricardo Castillo

In initiating the project (whose Guadalajara curator is Ángel Ortuño) last summer, our interest lay in collaboration and experimentation, and in challenging what is understood by the term 'translation'. The emphasis is on re-interpretation rather than traditional translation: the poems were to become new in the hands of the partner poet while continuing to bear the poetic core of the original.

My versions of five poems by Luis Eduardo García are a fusion of translation and re-interpretation, riddled with misunderstandings and errors. What excited me most about this project, in addition to the cross-national and -language collaborative element, was the chance to encourage and present the differing approaches to this process that each participant chooses or is forced to adopt. Having seen the original pieces - which include 'untranslatable' material as well as some already in the opposite language - and some of the reinterpretations/versions/responses, I'm happy to report that the project's experimentally-minded premise is yielding some amazing results.

Keep watching this space for more on publication details & launch dates.

Friday, 25 April 2014

from Muses Walk (video)

A 5-minute home video made last October for the project & exhibition 'Transcapes / The Halted Traveler' in which I read from Muses Walk under fading light.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Poezija Magazine

A little over a year ago I received a request for permission to have some poems from Spitting Out the Mother Tongue translated into Croatian, which I happily granted. These poems are to be included in an anthology of contemporary European poetry to be published in Zagreb (Croatian Writers Society) in celebration of Croatia's recent entry to the EU.

I'm grateful to the redoubtable Damir Šodan for selecting my work for the anthology, and for having a go at translating my poems - I remember him suggesting to me after a reading that he could hear them very clearly in Croatian. And it's great to be joining the likes of Raymond Carver, Allen Ginsberg and Leonard Cohen in having work rendered into Croatian by Damir!

Part of a taster for this ambitious anthology - which features some really exciting young/younger poets hailing from Europe (Elisa Biagini, Valzhyna Mort, Ilya Kaminsky) alongside one or two luminaries (Tranströmer, Zagajewski, Armitage) and is due to appear in the coming months - Damir's translation of my poem 'Mötley Crüe' appears in the June 2013 issue of Poezija magazine.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Greek Onions

Though I have written a smattering of poems in Greek from first principles, these occasions are extremely rare simply because it's ceased long ago to be the language I live in. My knowledge of it at mother tongue level, atrophied though it is, does enter what I write; and I have made use of it in conceptual/experimental ways. But writing directly into Greek and/or its Cypriot dialect seems more like an archaeological venture than a current, vital one.

So when Dimitra Xidous asked me to translate her poem 'Onions' from her debut collection Keeping Bees, just out from Doire Press, I initially had some reservations. But I decided to take the task on: Dimitra wanted to speak the poem in Greek at the book's launch (which took place quite successfully in Dublin last Saturday) and I thought that would be an interesting exercise given her own removal from all things Greek in linguistic, generational and geographical terms.

Below is 'Onions' as rendered by me into Greek, followed by a video of Dimitra performing it in her Canadian-English original.


Η γιαγιά μου διάλεγε εγκυοφανείς ντομάτες επειδή
έλεγε έκαναν τις καλύτερες σαλάτες.

Καθόμουν στη κουζίνα παρακολουθώντας την να κόβει,
να ξεφλουδίζει προφυλακτικό δέρμα από αγγούρια.
Με τα χρόνια είχε μαζέψει σοφία που θα ζήλευαν
ακόμα κι’οι πολίτες της καμένης Τροίας.
Τα χέρια της έτρεμαν από τα γηρατειά και τη χηρεία
μα τίποτα δεν της ξέφευγε: το μαχαίρι ήταν τώρα ένα βαρύ
εξάρτημα που αντικατέστησε τη μήτρα – που κάποτε
αναπτυσσόταν σ’όλων των ειδών τα θρεπτικά μεγέθη. Η πρώτη αληθινή
οικειότητα που διάκρινα διέμενε σ’αυτά τ’άγουρα αγγούρια,
που το νερό τα έγλειφε στις εκτεθειμένες τους τις κόχες.

Τα κρεμμύδια, τ’άφηνε πάντοτε για το τέλος.
Μου πήρε χρόνια αλλά τελικά κατάλαβα
ότι ο διαμελισμός ενός κρεμμυδιού δεν είναι παρα φόνος.
Σαν χειρούργος αδασκάλευτη στους σωστούς τρόπους σκαφής
του ανθρώπινου σώματος, η γιαγιά μου έγινε ανελέητη
προς τα κρεμμύδια επειδή ήταν κι’αυτά ανελέητα μαζί της.

Δεν μπόρεσε ποτέ να κλάψει τους νεκρούς όπως έκλαιγε μ’αυτά.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Colony Issue 1

Colony is one of a flurry of recently-established Ireland-based journals interested in a break from a traditional-institutional understanding of literature (or at least, as Colony's first editorial statement puts it, in an area of "healthy tension" between the traditional and the avant garde). A group of exciting writers and artists make up its editorial team. It's to appear online three times a year, with a fourth, print issue including the best of the online material plus new work set to be published annually.

Colony's inaugural issue presents work that "exemplifies [a] spirit of playfulness, glee, and anarchic invention" by "some of the best writers and most gifted artists and thinkers in Ireland (and beyond)." I'm delighted to be contributing two poems to it: 'xxxxx' and '16 X 16' are concerned with ideas of appropriation, re-framing, constraint and process, while extending a sideways glance at the issue's theme of Counterfeits/Fakes/Hoaxes. My thanks to poetry editor Kimberly Campanello for taking a chance on them. And also for embedding into the issue the sound file of my speaking of '16 X 16'.

Across its various sections, Colony's inaugural issue also features Billy Ramsell, Giles Goodland, Dimitra Xidous, Mia Gallagher, Raymond Deane, Dave Lordan, Kit Fryatt, Robert Sheppard, Alan Titley and Bernard Clarke among several others. Well worth a read, watch & listen in its tumultuous entirety, and a very welcome addition to Ireland's artistic/literary scene.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Speaking poetry at the Ranelagh Arts Centre

I look forward to taking part in this reading alongside two of the other poets featured in the Ash Wednesday Series: How to Speak Poetry, this coming Wednesday 5 March 2014:

Kicking off the Ranelagh Spring Salon, a reading of poets featured in the Ash Wednesday Poetry Series: How to Speak Poetry will be held on Ash Wednesday March 5, 2014 at the Ranelagh Arts Centre. The evening will start at 7pm and it will feature the following poets:

Christodoulos Makris
Billy Ramsell
Máighréad Medbh

The musical act for the evening will be the lovely and melodic Red Sail.

Admission: 5 Euro

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Ash Wednesday series: How to Speak Poetry

The Ash Wednesday Poetry Series is part of the Ash Sessions initiative, a poetry and music showcase (named after a Leonard Cohen quote) curated by Dimitra Xidous and taking place at Nick's Coffee Company in Dublin's Ranelagh village. This year the series examines "the line, real or perceived, between the page and the stage, the written and the spoken, and how and where these two worlds collide (and whether or not they are best conceived as two worlds at all)." Taking its cue from Cohen’s ‘How to Speak Poetry' (from his book Death of a Lady's Man) the series will feature the work of 8 poets and their thoughts on Cohen’s positions on speaking poetry.

The series began on Wednesday 8 January. Each week it showcases the work of one featured poet on the chalkboard at Nick’s Coffee Company. In addition, the 'How to Speak Poetry' series blog includes a small interview with each poet, as well as a soundcloud link of a performance of the poem showcased in the series.

My contribution to the discussion went live yesterday, 29 January, featuring the poem '16 X 16', spoken below:

The (excellent) line up in full is as follows:

8 January – Doireann Ní Ghríofa
15 January – Stephen Murray
22 January – Elaine Feeney
29 January – Christodoulos Makris
5 February – Sarah Clancy
12 February – Billy Ramsell
19 February – Máighréad Medbh
26 February – Dave Lordan

A reading on Wednesday 5 March 2014 - Ash Wednesday, I'm reliably informed - at the Ranelagh Arts Centre will celebrate and conclude the series. Details closer to the time.

Friday, 17 January 2014

On SJ Fowler's Enemies

It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that SJ Fowler has charged the poetry scene in London (and elsewhere) with a fresh vitality. Since he entered the ring of writing, editing and, particularly, event-organising some years ago, the diverse factions that poetry habitually splinters into seem to have converged that little bit. The scene(s) have brightened that little bit. It's probably for his relentless curatorial efforts that he is known best - for Steven a worthy and totally valid way to grapple with poetry. The byproduct being that he has created fertile ground for those working under the umbrella of avant-garde and literary writing to begin conversing anew.

His poetics, residing squarely in the avant-garde, are not altogether distinct from his role as event organiser. Enemies, his recently-published book from Penned In The Margins, which collects extracts from his numerous collaborations, is a comprehensive statement on his perspective on writing. Benefiting from coming to poetry on the back of what are on the surface unrelated longstanding concerns, Steven's nonlinear and outward-looking approach offers a route out of the insularity typifying much of it. It punches a hole through poetry's preciousness. His commitment to collaborative practices is also a way out: out of the poetic ego - as he writes in his introduction to Enemies, "a testament to my refusing to be alone in the creative act." It's also a "record of friendships." Steven refuses to see writing as a way of separating himself from other people, whether these people are fellow artists or readers/audience.

His numerous collaborators over the years, some featured in Enemies some not, range from poets to visual artists to photographers, musicians, illustrators, sculptors, filmmakers... He strays not only from English (linguistic & national) territories but also from accepted literary patterns of expression in order to seek appropriate modes for a confluence of form and content - in what seems to me an attempt to get closer to something crucial. There's a healthy lack of respect for convention; at the same time there's deep respect for the avant-garde tradition. He is frighteningly prolific. The seemingly inexhaustible energy he pours into arranging events - the list seems to be lengthening year on year - to showcase the work of so many of his contemporaries and forerunners in experimental poetics, and to encourage innovation with processes of composition, is also evident in his publishing endeavours. Humility and generosity are recurring themes. The quickness of mind he displays on stage, whether in the role of producer or performer, is a vital element of his writing. Fretting about inserting the right word at the right place seems not of overriding importance or interest: if an element doesn't materialise at the primal compositional stage then there's probably no reason for it to be there at all. In this sense, his work is as close as you will get to live literature on the page - and the results are incisive, exhilarating and bursting with potentiality. The key lies at the pre-compositonal stage: already pregnant with a conceptual turn, and with a mind in perpetual take-and-give-back-in-spades mode, the act of writing becomes, in Steven's work as much as anybody else's, the content itself. This is at the core of what we get and what's inspiring in this book of collaborations, as has also been the case with previous books like Minimum Security Prison Dentistry or Fights.

Since he wrote to me a few years ago seeking to feature my work in his 'Maintenant' series for 3:AM Magazine, Steven and I have worked together several times (apart from one or two occasions, our relationship consisting of him showcasing or promoting my work...) so much so that on greeting me at the book's launch the publisher of Enemies congratulated me on being part of it, which I'm not. "Probably better off not being associated with me," according to Steve! Nevertheless, plans are afoot for us to work together as curatorial partners and, in extension, as writers: in Yes But Are We Enemies?, part of the 2014 programme of Steven's extraordinary Enemies Project, we will be bringing poets in/from Ireland together with poets in/from England to produce and perform new work in rolling cross-border collaboration. Format, dates, venues and participants TBC. Watch this space.