feature: essay

Poetry and Cultures of Feedback

Monday, 18 November 2019


"My story is a hidden one, you cannot see it written on my face as I walk on the streets."

I am proud to be contributing to Correspondences: an anthology to call for an end to direct provision in Ireland. In being paired with a writer in the direct provision system, my participation was predominantly in a mentoring capacity, that is to help bring writing by said writer (in my case, Donatien Francis) to print, but like everybody else I also contribute a short text of my own.

Correspondences is edited by Stephen Rea and Jessica Traynor, and pairs writers, photographers and visual artists in the direct provision system in Ireland with Irish artists and writers.

I was happy to be invited on board the project, not least given my own personal & family history as a child refugee of war and as a person who has migrated more than once. Comparing circumstances and severity is pointless or even counterproductive, but I can't fail to highlight the humbling effect of what I read in Donatien Francis' memoir writing during this process.

While working with Donatien to prepare his piece 'Never Again' for publication my original intention was to let his words speak umediated; in the end I decided I needed to contribute an accompanying note that gave context to what was printed:

"On receiving Donatien Francis’ original biographical piece for this project – a brisk, grounded, and at times deeply moving 23-page account of national, family and personal history originating in Burundi and landing in Ireland via refugee camps in Tanzania and Malawi, taking in tribal conflict and civil war, genocide, self-exile and asylum seeking, holding back what would be justifiable anger (which we all indulge in regularly in response to so much less) about the indignities of the direct provision system, and finally full of gratitude and hope in the face of such difficulties rendered matter-of-fact, thus step-by-step revealing a remarkable spirit behind the words – I wondered how we could do it justice within the space afforded to him by the anthology. I felt that if anything the 23 pages were begging to be expanded into a longer, multilayered piece cross-illuminating the conditions Donatien inherited, the complex family history with its collective and individual journeys alongside his personal decisions and objectives. It’s clear that we and our policymakers need constant reminders of how easily the unacceptable can become normalised; how utterly commonplace and human the forced migrant experience is and has been throughout history, and how the various comforts any of us are fortunate to enjoy at different times can blind us, often wilfully, to others’ everyday and in extreme cases (which sadly abound) brutal circumstances. At first I wanted to avoid a contribution here so that Donatien’s writing appears without any sort of mediation – and this is why I proposed to the editors to allow many of the grammatical idiosyncrasies or (from a certain perspective) errors in what ended up being Donatien’s own edited account to stand unaltered. But given my insight into so much more than is possible to be represented here at this time, I just wish to place on record this brief note of acknowledgement of his perseverance and spirit. And to underline that experiences like Donatien’s, which we must not forget are still evolving in real time, need to be widely documented, amplified, culturally internalised."

All proceeds from sales of the anthology go to Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), which is an independent platform for asylum seekers to join in unity and purpose, and a collective seeking justice, freedom and dignity for all asylum seekers.

If you are in a position to and wish to support the work of MASI, please buy the anthology - and buy copies for your friends and family also.

Correspondences features work by:

Bulelani Mfaco | Mimmie Malaba | Paula Meehan | Dr Natasha Remoundou | Adam Wyeth | Heidar Al-Hashimi | Sarah Clancy | Dr Angela Byrne | Marwa Zamir | Claire Hennessy | Donatien Francis | Christodoulos Makris | Evgeny Shtorn | Annemarie Ní Churreáin | Emilie Pine | Hina Khan | Stephen Sexton | Batur Nadir | Eileen Casey | Insaf Yalcinkaya | Katie Donovan | Nngcobo Bongamahlub | Elaine Feeney | Donnah Vuma | Arnold Thomas Fanning | Vukašin Nedeljković | Dave Lordan | Cónal Thomas | Owodunni Mustapha | Jane Clarke | Deborah Oniah Blankson | Theo Dorgan | Rehan Ali | Ian Maleney | Catherine Young | Nokukhanya Dlamini | Jessica Traynor

Saturday, 9 November 2019

The Lifeboat (Belfast)

On Tuesday 12 November I'll be in Belfast to read from this is no longer entertainment for The Lifeboat.

The Lifeboat is a poetry reading series and small press run by Stephen Connolly and Manuela Moser.

Established in 2013, The Lifeboat as a series has hosted a range of poets from Michael Longley, Medbh McGuckian, Nick Laird and Sinead Morrissey, to Sarah Howe and Kayo Chingonyi.

Expanding into publishing in 2016, The Lifeboat Press has published pamphlets by Padraig Regan, Caitlin Newby, Susannah Dickey and Paul Muldoon among others.

Reading with me on 12 November will be US-born and Galway-based poet Shannon Kelly. The event takes place in The Sunflower Pub: doors 8.30pm, free entry.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Nemeses, by SJ Fowler & collaborators

My collaboration with Steven J Fowler 'The New War Machine: A Miniature Poetry Play' is included in the second volume of Steven's selected collaborations, Nemeses, just published with HVTN Press.

Nemeses "brings together over 50 collaborations and collaborators, placing poems and prose alongside musical scores, diaries, sculptures, films, photographs, scripts and more. It explores not only the grand potential for collaboration as an innovative, generative, playful and profound practice, but also aims to expand what is possible when sharing the live upon the page."

Steven writes: "It is always in compiling Nemeses that I really realised how many collaborations I have undertaken in the five year period the book covers. It presents excerpts of full collections alongside works made specifically for Nemeses. It draws from full feature films, exhibitions, commissions, installations and poems made for performances around the world. The book is finished with an essay which details, in basic terms, how it was constructed and what my thinking has become around poetry and collaboration."

Our text for 'The New War Machine' is edited from transcriptions of two semi-improvised collaborative performances enacted as part of the Arts Council-supported Yes But Are We Enemies project and 10-day tour of Ireland and London that I produced and co-curated with Steven in 2014 - the performances in question happening in Galway Arts Centre on 21 September and Rich Mix Arts Centre, London, on 27 September of that year.

Additionally, I'm proud to have played some part in a producing, curatorial or editorial capacity in bringing about or supporting some of the other collaborations featured in Nemeses: 'Subcritical Tests' with Ailbhe Darcy began at Yes But Are We Enemies and culminated in a book-length project which then became the first Gorse Editions title we published, in 2017; 'It Is What Is Love / It Is What Is Hate' with Rike Scheffler is also forthcoming in gorse No. 11; 'Beastings' with Diamanda Dramm is the result of a collaboration that began after Steven and Diamanda met at Phonica: Eight in March 2018 (where they performed storming individual sets) and with a full album release forthcoming later this month; and 'The Irish Character Study' with Billy Ramsell was conceived & performed as part of Yes But Are We Enemies.

You can read Steven's introduction to Nemeses on the gorse website. The book is available to buy from HTVN press.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

this is no longer entertainment in Russian: Cirk Olimp TV

I'm happy to report that five sections from this is no longer entertainment have just been published in Cirk Olimp TV, one of Russia's oldest and most significant avant-garde literature magazines, in translations by Maria Malinovskaya.

Malinovskaya chose to translate sections 3, 5, 6, 8 and 11 of the book through her own expertise in documentary poetics, in conjunction with detailed discussions with me regarding the material's origins and specific references appearing in the relevant sections.

Cirk Olimp's editor in chief Vitaly Lekhtsier has a particular interest in world documentary poetry, with the magazine previously publishing translations of Philip Metres, Mark Nowak, and Bernadette Mayer among others.

Much gratitude to him and to Maria Malinovskaya for bringing my work to a discerning Russian readership.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Ó Bhéal (Cork)

I'm delighted to be returning to Ó Bhéal, Cork's long-running poetry reading series, on Monday 21 October 2019, to read from this is no longer entertainment.

Founded and directed by Paul Casey, Ó Bhéal is Cork’s weekly poetry event featuring poetry films, a poetry writing challenge, guest poets and an open-mic. Ó Bhéal has hosted fifty Monday night events per year since April 2007, featuring over 900 poets from Ireland and around the world.

My first participation in Ó Bhéal in 2010 coincided with Cork winning the all-Ireland football championship the previous day, with the official return of the team and the lively public celebrations happening during my reading almost right outside the venue, radically impacting on attendance... I'm very happy to be returning to what is always a welcoming and generous reading series.

The venue is The Long Valley Bar, Winthrop Street, and proceedings start at 8.30pm.

Friday, 11 October 2019

this is no longer entertainment: a Dublin celebration

Please join us to celebrate the publication of this is no longer entertainment!

when: Wednesday 30 October 2019, 7.30pm
where: The Vintage Room, The Workman’s Club, 10 Wellington Quay, Dublin 2

Having decided against a formal launch of this is no longer entertainment at the time of publication, I'm very pleased to be celebrating it almost exactly 6 months to the day with an event generously enriched by the participation of an exciting lineup of friends and fellow Dostoyevsky Wannabe-published or -associated authors, some of whom are reading in Dublin for the first time.

I'm delighted and honoured that Nadia de Vries, Colin Herd, Dominic Jaeckle, and Joanna Walsh will be contributing guest readings. Sounds will be courtesy of Dostoyevsky Wannabe's Invisible DJs project, and the evening will be hosted by Susan Tomaselli.

The event is kindly supported by the School of English, Dublin City University.

Nadia de Vries is a poet from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She is the author of Dark Hour (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018) and is currently finishing a new manuscript, I Failed to Swoon. Her first Dutch book, Kleinzeer, was published by Uitgeverij Pluim in 2019.

Colin Herd is a poet, fiction writer and critic. He has published several books including Glovebox (Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2013), Click & Collect (Boiler House Press, 2017) and Swamp Kiss (Red Ceilings Press, 2018) as well as articles on art and literature in publications including PN:Review and The Independent.

Dominic Jaeckle is an (occasional) writer, (weak) researcher, (amateur) editor and (poor) broadcaster. Jaeckle co-curates and edits the irregular magazine Hotel and its adjacent projects, and his writings and editorial works have been published internationally.

Joanna Walsh is the author of seven books including the digital work seed-story.com. Her work has appeared in publications including gorse, The Stinging Fly, The Dublin Review, Granta, and many others. She is a UK Arts Foundation fellow.


I was really pleased with such a warm and warmly attended, as well as aptly rangy and unclassifiable reading event to belatedly 'launch' my book in Dublin. Proceedings began earlier in the afternoon with a visit by Nadia de Vries and Dominic Jaeckle to Dublin City University’s All Hallows campus on the northside, for a reading and short Q&A session with MA in Creative Writing students as well as staff of the School of English at DCU. As organiser and host of the session Dr Kit Fryatt remarked, it's always a good sign when the audience outnumbers the poets, let alone having to scramble into neighbouring rooms for extra chairs to accommodate those who filled the modest auditorium to the brim. Following Nadia & Dominic's alternate readings there was an interesting discussion on poetic and editorial practice arising from some direct, probing questions from the floor. From there we travelled to the south quays and into the Vintage Room, where the set up for the event was immaculate but for a misbehaving microphone. Maybe it was those anarchic Invisible DJs who were playing havoc with the PA system – but that didn’t deter Joanna Walsh who incorporated the weird acoustics into her whispered, “ASMResque” (as per Jonathan Mayhew) sections of her story 'i wish someone loved me that isn't capitalism' from Liberating The Canon. The evening had kicked off with host Susan Tomaselli speaking a little about Dostoyevsky Wannabe as a risk-taking publishing venture. Dominic Jaeckle read from his as yet non-existent collaborative book due with DW in mid-2020, a “cumulative journal project” encompassing prose responses to a series of photographs, followed by Colin Herd as ever delivering brilliantly witty poems from his own imminent book (December 2019) with the press. Following on from Joanna Walsh, Nadia de Vries read pithy, razorsharp, corporeal poetry from Dark Hour as well as from her new manuscript, before I finished the readings part of the evening with a few sections from this is no longer entertainment. As was fit and proper the Invisible DJs closed the event with a succession of cool tunes while we milled around until closing time, after which some of us headed to nearby Zaytoon for a well-deserved and in my case at least well-overdue bite to eat.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Reading at Pallas Projects Gallery

On Wednesday 16 October I will be reading in an event associated with the exhibition 'The wind steals music and brings it to me' by Jonathan Mayhew at Pallas Projects (115–117 The Coombe, Dublin 8).

I was delighted to be invited by Jonathan to contribute to his exhibition. There are several parallels and points of intersection between our practices, with Jonathan consistently making use of poetry, literature, technology and theory in his work, and particularly interested in "how narrative in our Web 2.0 world has become incredibly important to our everyday lives, [and] fiction is blurred into reality."

The reading takes place at Pallas Projects Gallery and it starts at 6.30pm.

'The wind steals music and brings it to me' runs between Friday 11 October and Saturday 26 October, with a preview on Thursday 10 October, 6-8pm.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Kildare Readers Festival 2019

I'm happy to have been invited back to Kildare Readers Festival. For this year's (10th) edition I will run a workshop with title 'Persona Poetry':

"Participants will be guided by Christodoulos Makris to make use of public texts to compose poetry in the personae of a range of current figures. This is a fun and interactive workshop, with the techniques employed adaptable to writing other kinds of poetry. Participants will also create an 'exquisite corpse' (a communally composed poem). Christodoulos is acclaimed as one of the leading practitioners of experimental poetry. All levels of experience welcome."

The workshop takes place on Saturday 19 October at 2pm, at the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare. Participation is free, but booking is required. You can book a place here.

Workshop participants will have the opportunity to share the poetry they produced in 'Hot Off The Press', an event directly following the workshop which will also include the Dennis O'Driscoll Literary Awards presentation. I will also be giving a short reading as part of this event.

With thanks to Kildare County Council Library and Arts Service.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Norway's European Poetry Festival: Ålesund & Bergen

I look forward to travelling to the west coast of Norway for events in Ålesund and Bergen on 17 & 18 September, part of the Nordic & European Poetry Festival.

First at 7pm on Tuesday 17 September I'll be in Ålesund reading from this is no longer entertainment in a showcase of solo readings by poets from across Europe as well as a selection of poets from Norway.

Venue: Mottaket (Nedre Strandgate 2A, 6004 Ålesund). In association with Ålesund Literary Salon. Free Entry.

Line up: Hilde Myklebust / Kaisa Aglen / SJ Fowler / Jon Ståle Ritland / Harry Man / Maja Jantar / Endre Ruset / Dan Andersen / Eli Fossdal Waage / Christodoulos Makris / Maria Malinovskaya / David Spittle.

Then the following evening Wednesday 18th (7pm start) I'll be in Bergen for an evening of poetry in pairs, where I'll present a brand new collaboration with Endre Ruset.

This takes place in Bergen Public Library (Strømgaten 6, Bergen). Again, entry is free.

Full line up: SJ Fowler & Dan Andersen / Harry Man & Fredrik Stenhjem Hagen / Maja Jantar & Erlend Nødtvedt / Christodoulos Makris & Endre Ruset / Maria Malinovskaya & Eli Fossdal Waage / David Spittle & Jon Ståle Ritland.

With big thanks to project curators & organisers Jon Ståle Ritland, SJ Fowler & Erlend Nødtvedt.

Sponsored by Stiftelsen Kjell Holm, Norsk Forfattersentrum, Ålesund Kommune, Bergen Kommune, Møre og Romsdal Fylkeskommune.

Report (20/09/2019)
An intense and beautiful couple of days on the west coast of Norway. Around 100 people gathered at Mottaket in Ålesund to witness our short solo readings which alternated between Norwegian and English. The audience was particularly attentive, with an unusually high degree of our textual and performative nuances noted and responded to, especially given that some of the material tended towards the avant-garde. I read three sections from this is no longer entertainment (the line "I see Norway is top of the happiness chart" from Section 7 serendipitously sneaking in there...) which I felt hang in the air for a little while before settling into the audience's consciousness, and by the end of the second section the thrust of the material hitting home nicely. After the event we moved to a nearby bar restaurant for the launch of the latest book by the generous and brilliant organiser of our tour, Jon Ståle Ritland. The trip to Bergen began at 1am and consisted of a 13-hour ferry ride down the coast, a magnificent and richly picturesque interlude made even better by the (mostly) clear weather and (relatively) calm sea. Most remarkable, however, was the synergy between the ten of us travelling together, a rare case of collective and individual relationships rekindling or forming, and growing in real time. So many conversations and connections made on so many things: docupoetics with Maria Malinovskaya; the peril of erstwhile friends becoming estranged following our editorial decisions with Dan Andersen; east Mediterranean politics and community trauma with Eli Fossdal Waage; family dynamics with Jon Ståle Ritland; and much more. Our collaborations in Bergen public library delivered a range of brand new material, from the straight literary to the documentary (mine with Endre Ruset was a verse-and-chorus structured piece drawing directly from the massive and publicly available document detailing the official investigation of the death of Prince in 2016), the subversive of the literary analysis trope to the cross-linguistic and the improvisatory - and closing with a collective sound poetry piece scored and directed by Maja Jantar. There was not enough time really to properly explore either place: a few hours the morning after in Bergen gave me the chance to roam the narrow streets at the foot of the hills surrounding the city, and to take the cable car to the hilltop with Maria Malinovskaya and David Spittle for a spectacular view of the city and a brief venture into the forest. Thanks to Jon Ståle in particular for arranging and for taking care of everything, and to Steven Fowler for being the ongoing catalyst for these connections.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Poetry and Cultures of Feedback

My short essay 'Poetry and Cultures of Feedback', which discusses some of the impulses, concepts, processes and influences behind my book this is no longer entertainment, was published in The Irish Times on 9 May 2019.

Read 'Poetry and Cultures of Feedback'.

Fragments from the essay while in progress were previously presented as elements in two performative, audience-participation papers I gave at two separate conferences: Gestures (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 15 February 2019), and Text / Sound / Performance (University College Dublin, 25 April 2019).

Thanks to Martin Doyle, Books Editor at The Irish Times, for publishing the essay.