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.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

'Spitting' reviewed in Cadences Vol 9

More than two years on from publication, Spitting Out the Mother Tongue continues to receive attention (I'm happy to note). A "rigorous" review by Paul Stewart, an author and professor of Literature at the University of Nicosia, appears in the latest (Fall 2013) issue of Cadences, 'a journal of Literature and the Arts in Cyprus.'

Stewart chooses to focus on what he calls "the real issue concerning this volume, which is not how it deals with the Cypriot exilic, dislocated experience, but how it deals with the business of poetry," and attempts an analysis of the craft of the poems ("upon which Makris has placed such store," as he contends).

The review is not available online, but subject to clearance from the journal's editor I intend to archive it in its entirety on this site's relevant 'what they said' page.

You can always construct your own reading of Spitting Out the Mother Tongue by buying a copy directly from Wurm Press, or from all good online or brick-and-mortar bookshops, or from me at any of my readings.


A further note on volume 9 of Cadences: it mainly consists of work offered in tribute to Niki Marangou, a widely-respected and award-winning writer, artist and bookshop-owner who died in a car accident in Egypt last February.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Transcapes / The Halted Traveler

Part of the exhibition Other Indications at the Municipal Arts Centre in Nicosia (NiMAC), 'Transcapes / The Halted Traveler' is a project co-curated by artist Maria Loizidou and researcher/curator/journalist Elena Parpa - within Parpa's larger proposal 'Exercises on Orientation' - which takes the form of a workshop of "memory recall". It makes use of work by a group of artists, architects and poets (Meletis Apostolides, Leto Kattou with Leontios Toumpouris, Marianna Christofides, Kyrillos Sarris with Giorgos Hatzimichalis, Yves Sabourin, and myself) to "approach the concept of landscape as a mnemonic and psychographic space, which is composed through personal narratives, memory overlapping, but also through travels – real and imaginary – which at times activate the desire for repositioning in space and time [... and] attempts to create the conditions for such a reorientation."

To realise 'Transcapes / The Halted Traveler', Loizidou worked with the contributors towards creating a 'carnet' (notebook) with work from each. The notebooks, though identical on the outside, contain individual and specific treatments of the question of urban landscape and memory. In my case this takes the form of having a copy of my book Muses Walk embedded into the notebook, encompassed by fragments from older posts on this blog concerning themselves with the process of the book's conception, composition and production. This material is intended to provide take-off points for discussions & workshops on the themes under consideration. The project also includes some complementary material, such as an additional notebook with a bibliography suggested by the participating artists, and a number of films, including a 5-minute 'home video' in which I read from Muses Walk, shown on a loop.

This ambitious exhibition - "with an aim of renegotiating and re-examining the procedures of curating art exhibitions" and "an experimental approach to curatorial practices" - in which I'm delighted to have been invited to take part, also marks the 20th anniversary of the centre. It opens this coming Saturday 30 November 2013 and runs until 30 March 2014.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

New Planet Cabaret

Edited by Dave Lordan and published by New Island in association with RTÉ, New Planet Cabaret is an anthology of new writing prompted by an on-air creative writing course co-ordinated by Lordan that ran on RTÉ Radio's arts programme 'Arena' between December 2012 and June 2013. The anthology includes the best of the entries out of its series of competitions along with work from a number of specially-commissioned writers, intermixed and broken down into thematic sections. New Planet Cabaret attempts, in Dave's words, to "bring to print and to radio an anthology in the explicitly cross-genre or even Trans-spirit of the generation of collaborators, hybridisers, experimenters, and mutual inspirers I’m so happy and proud to be a part of".

The list of writers featured in the anthology includes Colm Keegan, Kevin Higgins, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Billy Ramsell, Sarah Clancy, Dimitra Xidous, Jennifer Matthews, Jinx Lennon, Sarah Griffin, Raven, Paul Casey, Abby Oliveira, Kit Fryatt, Máighréad Medbh, Elaine Feeney, Temper-Mental MissElayneous and Karl Parkinson among many others.

My poem 'Daddy, Why did you Call me Bastard?', composed out of fragments overheard over a single day in 2010 around Dublin city, appears in the section with title 'Sluminosity'.

New Planet Cabaret will be launched on Friday 22 November at the Gutter Bookshop, Cow's Lane in Dublin's Temple Bar. The launch will be broadcast on RTÉ radio as a full 'Arena' programme from 7pm to 8pm.

All proceeds from the sale of New Planet Cabaret go to the Writers In Schools project which supports young writers.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Camaradefest: report & videos

Last month's Camaradefest delivered what it promised: an all-day extravaganza of poetry collaborations from some of the most exciting poets currently practicing in the UK and elsewhere. From its 2pm start all the way to a finish time of 10.30pm, the main ground floor space at the Rich Mix was a hub of conversation, connection, cross-pollination, mutual-inspiration - and much fun; it unravelled organically, facilitated by the genuinely positive atmosphere cultivated over time by series curator Steven Fowler.

For the piece we premiered that evening, Kimberly Campanello and I had taken as our theme objects placed on or intended for public display. And to deliver our collaboration we decided to go retro, and slow: we constructed a conversation through letters sent via An Post and Royal Mail, ending up (for now) with five letter-poems each. Our intention is to build on this collaboration and to present it, with its extensions, to other audiences.

I can't remember there being a mediocre or even a merely good performance. Boundaries were trampled on and territories queried. It was fairly clear to me that everyone had taken their place in the lineup fully aware of the quality that was bound to surround them. Still, it would be disingenuous to say that I didn't have favourites. In the order of their presentation, then, the pieces that stood out for me were from Zoe Skoulding & Ondrej Buddeus, Sophie Collins & Rachael Allen, Holly Pester & Emma Bennett, Sam Riviere & Joe Dunthorne, James Davies & Philip Terry, and James Byrne & Sandeep Parmar.

The entire video report of the event is available on Steven's YouTube channel.