Saturday, 13 May 2017

January - April 2017: a recap

The year has started pretty full on, and this is far from a complaint. Taking advantage of a couple of hours of lull, I've put together this recap with some thoughts on a selection of my recent activities on various fronts (news on publications will follow on separate posts):

I'm proud and excited to be working with Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler to bring their collaborative book of poetry Subcritical Tests, the first title in our emerging gorse editions, to print. Quite apt since the book has its roots in the collaborative poetry tour Yes But Are We Enemies from 2014 - the extension of Steven's Enemies Project into Ireland which I produced and co-curated, and for which Ailbhe was one of the core poets. Cover and internal artwork is by the ever-brilliant Niall McCormack; there's also a short trailer film made by Conor Friel inspired by the material in the book. Preorders and launch details soon.

Issue 10 of gorse will be a special collectors', commission-only issue which I’m editing in full, with the interlinked and ongoing commissioning, editorial & curatorial process underway. All contributions to gorse no. 10, which will be published in a form that slightly deviates from that of the 'regular' issues, respond to a specific subject... More to be revealed over the coming months (the issue is due out in September) but I wanted to note how excited I am to be working with some amazing writers and artists from across Europe and the Americas towards it. gorse no. 9 will precede that, of course, to be published in July, and I’m currently in the process of editing the poetry section out of open submissions and invited contributions.

Phonica: Five took place on Monday 24 April, "a triumph" according to an email I received a couple of days later. From the vantage point of co-curating and hosting the event, all performances in their full range and impact were greatly enjoyable. Making use of the facilities afforded to us by our new partner venue, the stunning Boys School space at Smock Alley Theatre, enables us to showcase the work of our guests in more complexity that we could before. The professionalism of the technical staff at the venue in responding to our guests' vision ensured that the cross-pollinating, multidisciplinary aspect which is at the core of Phonica came through. I'm convinced the material on offer both delighted and challenged our audience, even if, inevitably, to varying degrees for different people. And that's a strength of Phonica, I believe. Thanks to my co-programmer Olesya Zdorovetska for wonderfully orchestrating the technical requirements and for documenting the event. Thanks also to Bernard Clarke at Nova on Lyric FM and Therese Kelly from RTÉ Arena for requesting and broadcasting work from some of our guest artists in advance of the show. I look forward to Phonica: Six (Monday 17 July) already!

My long weekend in St Andrews as StAnza Festival's Digital Poet in Residence for 2017 was an early year highlight. Aside from catching up, briefly or at length, with some old friends in poetry and otherwise, and meeting some great new poets & people, I enjoyed presenting my work to an attentive audience that made the effort to come along early on a Saturday morning to listen to me speak about my approach to poetry. What was billed and began as a talk by me morphed, as was in fact my intention and hope, into a multi-pronged discussion with most people in the audience contributing something valuable to the conversation. Thanks to Andy Jackson for his introduction and management of the event. In my capacity as 'in residence' I remained active for the entirety of the weekend, and therefore found it an intense experience - a challenge I quite enjoyed meeting, especially as I watched each piece I produced over the five days of the festival departing my laptop and being installed, both physically and digitally, in various positions and locations in The Byre Theatre. Special thanks must go to the indefatigable Annie Rutherford for all her work in making all of this come together.

A couple of weeks prior to St Andrews I was in Nicosia, and very happy to read at the Neoterismoi Toumazou space in the old town as a guest of the Neo Toum collective in partnership with Moufflon Bookshop - an established hub of literature and art not only in the island but also the Middle East and beyond. Reading from recent work to a mixed art & literature audience, as well as an Irish contingent that included the Irish Ambassador to Cyprus, I was pleased to receive some enthusiastic responses to the work. One of these led to an impromptu improvised collaboration with sound artist Pan Mina, to be released eventually in some form... Maria Toumazou, Orestis Lazouras and Marina Xenofontos, collectively Neoterismoi Toumazou, have made a mark on a vibrant art scene in the island in a short space of time with their blend of fashion, art, design, poetry, publishing and performance, and it was great to learn while I was there that they would be special guests at the Cyprus Pavilion during this year's Venice Biennale.

A pleasure also to be involved in Poetry Now 2017 as part of the Mountains to Sea festival in Dun Laoghaire. Poetry Now curator Alice Lyons’ intention when she sought to involve gorse in the festival was to present a multidisciplinary event with an innovative/experimental edge as exemplified by the material we publish – and I thought that through the performances of Aodán McCardle and Suzanne Walsh, as well as the presentation of my own work from if we keep drawing cartoons, we went some way towards achieving that. The event ended with a reception launching gorse no. 8, with Dimitra Xidous reading from her excellent essay ‘We Cannot Be Trusted With Chairs’ that opens the issue.

Two more readings in April bring us (more or less) up to date. On Saturday 15th I was the 'literary' representative at the long-running, primarily music series Listen At, which currently takes place upstairs at Arthurs Pub on Thomas Street. It was an eclectic affair, and I was particularly struck by the collaboration between experimental composer and pianist Martin O'Leary & uillean piper Mick O'Brien, which though on the surface appeared slightly counterintuitive I thought worked brilliantly. I felt my reading divided the audience: some wondering what the hell I was reading and whether this was poetry, and some responsive to and expressing keen interest in my approach.

And on Sunday 30 April I read upstairs in another Dublin pub, this time Devitts on Camden Street, as part of an event called Cross-Atlantic Readings which was organised by Julie Morrissy in conjunction with the Canada 150 Conference at UCD. Three Dublin writers (Julie, Sue Rainsford, and myself) 'opened' for four writers from Canada presenting varying approaches to writing. An excellent evening of readings through which I was particularly interested to encounter the work of Gregory Betts.

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