I was really happy to organise another poetry reading with Atlantis after the last reading I gave there. It was intimate and filled with fascinating people. I performed poems from The Lock And The Key and Rocking Underground. I had planned on reading four new poems but ended up reading six. I had the two extra with me and I wanted them to be infused with the energy of last night. And everybody was really listening. You can see the set list from last night, the poem Fifth Circle of Hell, I performed for the first time at Atlantis in September 2016. The two additional poems I read were called Scorpio and Take Your Shoes Off To See The Doctor.
I'm so grateful to Geraldine and Bali for the opportunity to read there again. They're amazing ladies, and I believe it's so important to support independent booksellers such as Atlantis, that nurture and support independent artists and writers as well. Atlantis is in its 95th year this year!
I'm looking forward to organising my next reading with them.
I connected with the artist Jeanie Laub last year. She is someone who lives and breathes her aesthetic, works hard and is an accomplished artist, having had work exhibited at the iconic Royal Academy summer exhibition in London. She drew her interpretation of my poem Ocean, a study in pencil, which was unexpected and beautiful.
I have been a study of some of her oil paintings. One which was inspired by a photo taken of me in Marrakesh, that was exhibited at Jeanie's last exhibition at the Doubtfire Gallery in Edinburgh. I attempted to buy the painting but it sold in the first ten minutes of the private view. So I was very pleased to be able to buy this second portrait. It looked great in photos, but its presence in real life is incredible. It's vast and the way the light catches it, makes me stop and look each time I walk past. It reminds me of a symbolist painting.
I'm honoured to have been painted by Jeanie Laub, who is just as elegant and unique as her work, her work I'm so proud to have on my wall.
I was asked to be the headline performer for a new poetry event: New Word Order.
Held on the second Saturday of each month, it promises to be a really engaging night and I loved taking part. It's located at the award winning RoseMary Branch theatre, I was excited as soon as I arrived, the whole interior has character, history and charm. The company behind the night are Bourne West, who are Nell King and and Jon Stephenson.
They succeeded in curating a fabulous night that mixed featured poets like myself, Max Rinehart, Abi Unwin Smith and Nell King. They also had open mic, and in the second half it was challenge the poet! Audience members were encouraged to write out a subject, simile and a word to rhyme with in the first half, the poets wrote something in the interval and then delivered the results in the second half Mock The Week style, running up to the mic.
A hauntingly lovely two piece band called For Freda performed in the first and second half, I loved the combination of their guitar, violin and voice. I gave a 20 minute performance featuring work from Rocking Underground, The Lock And The Key and also four new poems.
It felt really good to share them with an audience, to give them life in a theatre. After the reading I was filled with joy, to be surrounded by positive, creative people, coming together, getting to share my work and hearing work that was hilarious, disarming, satirical and also touched on love and death, and politics.
I wish Bourne West luck, and I'm looking forward to the next New Word Order.
Along with Rosalind Jana and Greta Bellamacina, I gave a poetry reading for the launch of Constellation Magazine. I had a great night, chatting with friends, making new ones, sharing our progress on our work. It was intimate and engaging and inspiring, all at the same time. Just like some of my favourite female friendships. I went home feeling very grateful indeed.
I was honoured to be featured in the first inaugural issue of Constellation Magazine, founded by Jaclyn Bethany and Olivia Aylmer, an online publication to celebrate and showcase established and emerging female creative talent from across the globe. The photo shoot for the piece was shot by photographer Jessie Lily Adams, and it was such a nice experience to be photographed by her.
The interview for the piece was thought provoking asking what it's like to be a young women in the arts today, etc, many questions I hadn't really stopped to ask my self. I guess we don't really assess ourselves on our gender whilst going about our work and daily lives. Even if others do. I prefer to let my work speak for itself. Essentially, women needn't apologise or explain or justify themselves.
It's a pleasure to be in Constellation Magazine, alongside women I respect and admire, like Andrea Riseborough and Sophie Kennedy Clarke. And some ladies who have become friends like Rosalind Jana, Chloe Primrose, Sadie Brown and Greta Bellamacina.
"You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.."
The theme of tonight's poetry reading, which saw around fifty of us gather in the basement of The Troubadour, was weather. I read my new poem The Fifth Circle Of Hell. It was great to read it, the last night of this season. It was wonderful to hear journalist Mark Huband read his poetry again.
We also heard Katarina Grabowski read for the first time, which was very moving. Thank you to Anne-Marie Fyfe for inviting me and curating such an eclectic, vibrant mix of poets.
I was asked to take part in a radio program "Van Morrison and Me", hosted by journalist John McCarthy. It spoke not only to Sir Van Morrison about his creative journey but to other writers and artists about the impact Morrison's work has had on them.
It was a pleasure and an honour to meet John McCarthy, and discuss the effect Van's iconic album Astral Weeks has had on me. I also read The Way Young Lovers Do for the program. It was humbling to hear John McCarthy and Brian Keenan discuss how Van Morrison's music had helped them keep their faith and memories alive during the five years they were held hostage by Islamic Jihad terrorists in Lebanon.
Testament to Morrison's music and the power that music and poetry have. It can be life changing and life saving and these seemed to be the touchstones for all of us taking part in the programme. Dr. Eamonn Hughes was interviewed, and also crime novelist Ian Rankin, who also spoke of the power Morrison's music has had on him at crucial points in his life. Musician Glen Hansard also took part in the programme and performed Into The Mystic a song of Van Morrison's that he was particularly moved by.
Click here to listen on BBC iPlayer (before Tuesday 21st February 2017)
A while ago, I wrote a poem that was different to others I've written recently. It was a love poem dedicated to a friend, my friend Greta Bellamacina. And not so long after I wrote it, I was walking around barefoot in the garden, talking to Greta on the phone. Half an hour in she asked if I had any poems for women because she was putting together an anthology. An anthology for girls, by girls. So it was all serendipitous.
The name of the anthology SMEAR, is enough to make any woman wince slightly. Maybe that's the point. I love Greta for putting this together, published by her and Robert Montgomery's New River Press. I'm honoured to be featured alongside talented ladies I've had the pleasure of getting to know this year, like Greta, Rosalind Jana, and Luisa Le Voguer Couyet. And I look forward to discovering a whole selection of new poetic voices.
In an article on the anthology Dazed and Confused magazine noted that SMEAR is the first time Russian poet Galina Rymbu has been published in English. So it's exciting to be part of it, to have a poem on the inside, and my eyes on the front cover, outside.
Anne-Marie Fyfe invited me to read a poem at the final Coffee Hose poetry night of the year. It is always with such joy and pride that I get to read at The Troubadour. Established in the 1950's and through the 1960's it became a focal point for London's burgeoning creative outpouring. Private Eye was conceived there and distributed, and Bob Dylan performed there in the early 1960's. Anne-Marie Fyfe and Cahal Dallat have been running the the Coffee House poetry nights for the past 20 years. It is not open mic. Anne-Marie chooses and curates the evening through poets she believes in, some she has encountered and heard through her workshop, some reading their poems are also war correspondents and professors. Anne-Marie and Cahal are both prolific poets, and recently went on a tour of the U.S reading their work. Anne-Marie was also head of the Poetry Society. It is always an evening packed full of high quality work, very rich in variety.
The theme was Here Comes The Night, I read my poem Possession from my second collection The Lock And The Key. Surely a capturing of an element of the night. The spiritual and the sexual channeled through the conduit of love. That's how the poem came through me. The only way it could. I felt extremely emotional reading, full of joy and gratitude. I led a round of applause for Anne-Marie, to thank her for the evening, her faith in me, everything. I will always be grateful to her. I respect her deeply. After my reading I sat back on the wooden bench in the basement and let the poetry wash over me. Everyone listens intently to everyone else, the focus is the work, the art, the person, who has left, whatever obstacles or privileges or limitations behind as they step onto the stage and share their words. Everyone else in the room willing them on.
Ron Villanueva was present, it is always a pleasure to hear him read. I also got to see my friend Katarina, a young writer herself, who I look forward to hearing perform. We teamed up with her and managed to get the third prize in the quiz held in the intermission.
I look forward to the start of the Coffee House poetry season next year.
I had a great time tonight reading my poetry at No Alibis Bookstore here in Belfast. No Alibis is an independent bookstore in its 20th year run by Dave Torrance and his wonderful team. Stephen Connelly acted as MC and introduced Andy Eaton, the first poet of the night. Andy and I had met before at the Lit Up Inside event in September, but this was the first time I heard him read from his new collection Sprung Nocturne. I loved his stark, haunting words and although it was a full audience of 50 in the shop, they were completely silent and receptive to his every word. I was particularly moved by a poem he had written about his grandfather who had been a POW in Indonesia.
Afterwards it was my turn, I moved from the front row to the lectern on stage. From where I stood, I could make out the silhouettes of the audience. I opened with Functioning, and did five more poems, before it was time for some music from Darkling Air. Dave had said they were good, but he didn't say how good. Rachel McCarthy has a truly beautiful, evocative voice, and it's paired perfectly with the wonderful keys from Michael Keeney. I don't think they realise how good they are. They were really mesmerising. After they gave us some songs from their album Untamed and Beloved, I was back on for my second half. I had so much fun. Although I've said many of these poems continuously through the course of readings during this year (and loved every minute of it) I was aware that, because, this was my first time reading my own words in Belfast, it was being heard for the first time by the audience. Once I'd finished we had more poems from Andy, who read us two new pieces to close. The Darkling Air then rounded off the evening with some more beautiful music.
Afterwards I got to chat with members of the audience and sign copies of The Lock And The Key and Rocking Underground. I was overwhelmed with their positive feedback, glad the night had been as electric for them as it had been for me.
I spoke to one lady who said she had enjoyed the new unpublished poem I had read. She also told me that she had been using some of my poems at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast for workshops with adults recovering from cancer. I was incredibly moved and honoured that my work could be of service in that way. Surely, the purpose of art is to be of service, to move its audience in some way. I bought a copy of Darkling Airs album, Untamed and Beloved, (great name no?) and also Andy Eaton's collection Sprung Nocturne.
Also in attendance were Sir Van Morrison and Kerry Adamson, two dear people who have been so supportive and encouraging of my work and who have become friends. Being one of my creative hero’s, I’m honoured whenever Sir Van has attended one of my readings. And it was because he asked me to read his lyrics at the Lit Up Inside/Aspects Festival that I became acquainted with No Alibis. At the Lit Up Inside event I also met Dr.Eamonn Hughes, and it was great to catch up with him at the reading. Eamonn and I are also collaborating on a project for the BBC which will be out next year.
Later on we all headed to local French restaurant L’Etoile, that had a relaxed, welcoming vibe. We hung out and chatted till midnight talking music, poetry, books and travel. Dave impressed everybody when he announced he’d once found a first edition of Ulysses in Colorado.
I truly feel so lucky and grateful that I get to do what I love, and share it with new people all over the world, from all walks of life, and have the privileged to meet such talented artists.
No Alibi presented me with a hardback book of my collected works, both Rocking Underground and The Lock And The Key in one binding. The front cover papers were designs by Frank Lloyd Wright and the binding had been done by Liam McLaughun, a craftsman local to Belfast who had learnt the trade when he was sixteen, and has bound books for the Vatican. I was blown away by such a beautiful gesture.
No Alibi are passionate, their ethos and commitment remind me of our friends over at Shakespeare and Company. People who believe in craft and literature and nurture new, emerging talent. I can’t wait to return.
My dear friend and fellow poet Greta Bellamancina asked me to read a few poems at a poetry reading she was hosting at Burberry at their Thomas Burberry Café, off Regents Street. As Burberry is such a great British institution, the theme of the night was poems based loosely on the idea of Great Britain.
The first person I saw when I arrived was Rosalind Jana, although we hadn't met before we recognised each other and began discussing the pro's and con's of the city Vs the county side, and which was more conducive to writing. We were quickly joined by our fellow poets George Khayat, Greta, and Robert Montgomery for the poetic communion. I read my poem Ocean and a new unpublished piece. George also read some new work from his laptop, something he had written that day in fact. It is always great to see George, he took part in my first poetry reading at the Worlds End Bookshop in 2013, so it always reminds me of how far we have both come.
It was such a treat to finally hear Rosalind Jana read her poetry live, she is a wonderful performer and there was a strong voice in her poetry. She too read something she had finished that day. Greta and Robert both read from their collections, published by their New River Press, and as always I loved hearing them. Robert said how great it was to see so many creative women together, in true Bluestocking Style. He also emphasised that we were all peers and that anyone who wanted to should get up and read a favourite poem or something that is meaningful to them even if they are not a "poet". Musicians Rae Morris and Oscar Dunbar read some of their beautiful lyrics, and Poppy Jamie, Lillie Rage and Gala Gordon shared some poems that were dear to their hearts.
Everybody was connected and attentive to each reader. I loved it, and sometimes feel most relaxed when I'm able to share and listen to poetry. Thank you to Greta for inviting me and having the vision to pull us all together and thank you to Burberry for having us!