Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Poetry Upfront: A Note of Resignation

When I conceived of a poetry series in the summer of 2005, the motivation behind it was to create a space in which people interested in reading and writing poems would use as some kind of refuge. I knew there was an interest in poetry but little in the way of events catering for it in north County Dublin, and I felt I had the energy to provide an ongoing forum. Around the same time I became aware that Jane Carroll, unknown to me before then, had a similar idea, so we pooled our efforts to come up with a venture we called Poetry Upfront.

In the (nearly) five years that have passed my priorities in terms of writing have shifted. Jane and I were never absolutely compatible in our poetics or our attitudes towards things such as the writing practice and editorial/curatorial input: but these differences energised our venture. As our sessions were coming and going the excitement first soared, then peaked and then began to wane. As far as I'm concerned we reached the peak around the middle of 2008. After that I found it harder to get excited by each upcoming session. There are specific reasons for this, which have no place in this note. But they did convince me that, for Poetry Upfront to continue being relevant, it had to change into a something more flexible and imaginative, and shed a somewhat provincial strain.

So, taking advantage of an enforced break, I came up with a 'second phase', which aimed to be more fluid in its machinations and forms. It renewed my interest, even though I knew that doing it right required a large input of energy and time, both creative and enterpreneurial; despite my growing writing-related and other commitments I was very keen to explore it. When I put the concept to Jane she agreed to go along with it, so we went ahead to plan and execute the Poetry Upfront sessions 'on the beach' and 'in the shop'. We later also held a more conventional event in our original venue - which many people saw as something like a homecoming.

My decision - taken some months ago - to quit from organising Poetry Upfront events is not one I arrived at lightly, as I do generally like to see projects through to some kind of conclusion.

The more I think about it, though, the more I recognise that this is my conclusion. Even at an early stage in the 'second phase' I could see that the reasons behind the loss of excitement from a year or two back still held, and in all likelihood would continue to hold. There are several poetry initiatives I would like to try out, and I may well do so in the near or far future: but I am now certain that attempting them under the Poetry Upfront banner would be counterproductive.

I was involved in some great sessions, met people who have become friends and collaborated with some excellent poets. I have also seen writers grow to much more accomplished and confident levels. For all this, it was worth it. But it's important to know when it's a good time to stop.

This feels like the right moment to stop.

P.S. It's also important to add that I intend to continue supporting Poetry Upfront - should it carry on its activities.

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