Tuesday, March 29, 2011

dlr Poetry Now : Pause. Breathe. Plunge.

Photo : Mischa Haller

Considering dlr Poetry Now essentially takes place over a long weekend, over time it has developed a unique shape and impact that nourishes the Irish poetry community, at home and abroad, throughout the year.

The festival has ended now. Over for the year. Or rather year-and-a-half, as the next festival won't take place until September 2012, when it will run in tandem with the newer Mountains to The Sea Book festival. This year's audiences were assured that dlr Poetry Now is to retain it's own identity alongside that festival, with its own curator. Whoever that should be, they will have the unenviable role of following Belinda McKeon, whose agile and progressive oversight has, for the last four years, honoured the heritage of the festival and the poetry itself, while fine-tuning to fresh, contemporary frequencies.

I'm still reeling. This year was a classic. The calibre of featured poets, precision of introductions, themes and organisation, and the vitality, generosity, insight and inclusivity of the audiences made for a fitting end to McKeon's tenure.

Whither from here? The move to Autumn is a significant change. There are aspects to the Spring timing of the festival that are hard to quantify - a vernal spur to tap into, or absorb, which may be underestimated. Perhaps autumnal energies will bring their own, unforeseeable fructuations. Let's hope so. Let's hope, also that the ground is well prepared over the longer than usual interim - that the incoming curator is selected promptly, clearly and efficiently resourced in order to establish continuity and maintain the quality of programming that a loyal audience will wish to support.

Some personal highlights;

- Anne Carson's keynote address (here in a slightly alternate version) was a meditation on translation, the smithing of meaning from silence, risk - the dreaming of new languages into being. Illustrated by the work of Francis Bacon and Tyree Guyton.

- The Friday afternoon fringe reading in Readers Bookshop. Little Old Man: "Is this a party?" Helena Nolan: "No, just poetry."

- The inspired teaming of Joseph Woods, Luis García Montero & Paul Farley - a three course serving of place, dreams and wit throughout.

- Don Paterson's workshop - acute generosity of craft from a remarkable artist, "Allow words to magnetize to the initial rhythms."

- The planned and accidental sychronicities - specific silences from Jaan Kaplinski & Paul Farley, the spirits of Czeslaw Milosz and Giordano Bruno

- Michael Longley's transmutation of the language of war into a new kind of citation, even new life.

- Seamus Heaney, in accepting his Irish Times Award... "the poem... read by two is autobiography... by six or seven, becomes culture."

- The audiences; poets, peers, friendships new and old.

Far too many other individual high points to recount in detail here - so I'll share some impressions from other attendees:

Thursday's Keynote address, by Kenneth

Saturday, by Michael, Kate and Lia. And Kate again!

An excellent overview of Saturday's Don Paterson workshop , again by Michael.

Grace Wells, winner of the Strong Award for a first collection, reviewed and interviewed a little while ago by Nuala  - who was there in spirit ;-).

Kenneth again, wrapping up with an overview.

Thanks to all. Here's to sharing inspiration, continuity and change in Dún Laoghaire again in eighteen months or so.

Friday, March 25, 2011

dlr Poetry Now 2011

In glorious sunshine, this year's dlr Poetry Now festival got off to a flying (and quite cerebral) start yesterday. I went along to Belinda McKeon's inaugural lecture 'The Eye of The Poem' at lunchtime. Beginning with a mention of The New York Times' recent celebration of World Poetry Day via Twitter, McKeon moved into a consideration of what happens within a poem from the reader's perspective and otherwise. Quoting from a number of the festival poets, she visited the place of the poem in today's world of information overload, referencing William James and the Psychology of Attention.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the keynote address by Canadian poet Anne Carson. Carson's presentation, The Untranslatable (In All of Us), looked at the difficulties of actively representing in translation the various unknowables which fill the spaces within, around and among words. Sounds heavy, yeah? Well it definitely required a level of concentration which the audience seemed intent on reciprocating. (There may have been one drowser - but we'll allow him the excuse of jetlag!) Illustrated with a variety of imagery, from paintings by Francis Bacon to photos of the snowbound exterior of a house dressed with soft toys (I kid you not), a key theme was Hölderlin's translation of Sophocles which, though widely derided on it's publication, has evolved to become a key moment in the initiation of modern principles of poetic translation. Phew.

It was nice to meet blogging pal Emerging Writer and that most vigorous of poets Dave Lordan at the event, sharing memories of previous Poetry Now keynotes, somewhat more 'agitated' in terms of audience participation.

Lots more activity today - the full programme is here - including a new development; a fringe reading at Readers' Bookshop in Dún Laoghaire, featuring poets Helena Nolan, Mark Granier & Jessica Traynor among others.

Loads to look forward to - hope to see you over the weekend!

*** UPDATE : Get Kate's take here. ***

Friday, March 11, 2011

Exhibition : Graphics Unleashed

The image above is a new painting entitled, 'Conduidiot'. It's one of three pieces of mine which feature in an upcoming Blue Leaf Gallery show "Graphics Unleashed" at their project space at The Observatory Building, 7-11 Sir John Rogersons Quay, Dublin 2. The show itself will run March 15 - 25 (although unfortunately closed on Paddy's Day itself, I think?).

I'll be showing alongside a number of my IGI colleagues, including Una Gildea, Chris Judge and Steve Simpson. A round-up of some recent work from these and other IGI Members can be seen over here on the Scamp blog.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Poetry Bus : Pancake Day

So, time to dust off the bus ticket again.

This time the prompter is the one-and-only Peter Goulding, with a selection of prompts over here. I went for the option of writing an homage to Pancake Tuesday (tomorrow, yay!).

The requirement was to write in the voice of a wellknown poet. I felt that the particular mix of religion and sensual pleasure involved might suit a certain Canadian Troubadour - one of the first poets that ever hooked me with his work - AND I thought I might as well go the whole batterin' hog and record the damn thing too. So, as a Fierce Pancake treat(!?!) - Nolan sings;

Happy Pancake Day, fellow passengers :-)

Pancake Day by scalder

Pancake Day
(with sincere apologies to Leonard Cohen)

Epiphany passed
and the time came at last
to shrive our omissions and misdeeds away

We met in the middle
I brought flour and a griddle
what you brought you just couldn't say

the future was fast
riding free in its stirrups
we buried the past
turned gold into syrup
and danced

and we danced
we danced
on pancake day

As twilight grew angry
we pillaged the pantry
hardly seeing each other for smoke

A crackle of light
turned linoleum white
thunder muffled the words that you spoke

the future was meagre
the past tried to smother us
hungry and eager
we battered and buttered
and danced

and we danced
we danced
on pancake day

The sky boomed and rain fell
we cracked open the shells
mixed the yellows down into the whites

The gutters were flowing
The storm it was blowing
Like Lucifer and all of his lipsmacking sprites

I asked would you rather
Azores malassada
but you just lay stroking your legs

I sprinkled mine
with cane sugar and lime
and we gorged in the night till we ran out of time
and eggs

and we danced
we danced
and we danced
on pancake day

we danced
oh we danced
and we danced
on pancake day

with Mardi Gras spent
we woke up in Lent

© P Nolan 2011