dedicated blogsite to Dave Wood's participatory poetry project in Northern Ireland. Started late August and finishing September 2004, it does a compare and contrast with previous visits 1988 - 1998. Also see www.sluggerotoole.com.

28 Sep 2004

got 'em

two links - the diagonal steam trap poem and the inchcape rock. go seek...

22 Sep 2004

(retrospective) poem for attical

(when I arrived at the hostel - i was tired and full with the blood of the city. i sat down outside and almost wept - attical and the cnocnafeola centre gave me peace and chance to gather my thoughts)

mist lifts itself - lifts me from its greyish beard
and across the silver dam the stillness is still 'still'
this weekend - weeping nearly broke from out my head
there was a peace moved in - that fed me to the gills

that moment then - that moment when the tractor passed
i realised the dream had settled - forced me stop
i was losing it - running round in city haste
had stretched me out to dry - now time it sudden drops

this - the thinning mist - lifts me 'wake - with goodbye sun
a yawning world that warms this traveler's passage on
that was attical (slept me down - built me up)
i leave its mountains - rocks and gentle river-run

there was a peace moved in that fed me to the gills
across the silver dam - the stillness is still 'still'

smaointí ar an ionad 'ait tí chathail,' co. an dúin

ardraítear ceo, tógtar mise ó féheasog liath an cheobhráin
agus trasna an locha airgid chím suaimhneas
an deireadh seachtaine seo - deora ar bhruach m'intinne
fuarthas suaimhneas, a chothaigh mé go smior

an uair sin-tarracóir ag dul tharam
thuig mé gur shíothlaigh an bhrionglóid - cuireadh stad dom
mé ar seachrán p I mo shíor-rith fé luas na cathrach
agus mé anois cloíte ciapaithe-titim an ama orm go tobann

ceo éadtrom do mo mhúscailt -grian le slán a fháil
an domban timpeall ar tí mhúscailt-do mo théamh le taisteal a dhéanamh
b'shin áit tí chatail-codladh na hoíche agus cothú an spioraid ionam
imím óna sléibhte a gcarraigeacha agus crónán na habhann

suiimhneas a thug beatha beatha dom go smor
trasna an locha liath - suaimhneas go suaimhneach fós

19 Sep 2004

Portaferry to Banbridge

When they said at Barholm about getting to Belfast from Portaferry, I kind of took it in but lost the advice in the printer's minutiae.

First things first - get the boat across Strangford Lough. It's about a five minute scrape across the water. No-one checked my ticket, there was more interest in the real than the human traffic. It was strange to see school children on the boat. Crossing the water still holds an excitement for them.

The traipse to the city doesn't stop there. I have to get to Downpatrick (is there an Up-Patrick - or is that a bit too Frankie Howerd?) to travel northwards. My only option is to release the tongue in my head again and do the good old traditional thing of asking.

The bus that came along was stickered with a school sign at the front near the lights. One question later and I've got a lift to my first port of call. No seats left though. All are taken up by now with uniforms of blue. This is the second time I praised the invention of the framed rucksack. Tucked to the side of the driver, the metal of the tubing pushing across my derriere made me realise what a hot cross bun felt like.

It was a long, snaking road. The bus was full but obviously not full enough for the educational establishments. More piled on…then more and more. Each time we stopped, I sardined myself into any gap I could find at the front. The bus eventually stopped and I tumbled out. Just beyond a roundabout outside the town, I stood with some older students and within ten minute, caught the Belfast cattlewagon.

Please switch off your television sets - there is a dark sleepy spot on my memory which refuses to let me through incase of complete mental breakdown.

Ok - you can switch back on now.

In Banbridge town
in the county down…

I remembered having details of how to find the library at Banbridge. There were two sides of the river I could have entered, so I just alighted at the first stop and followed my nose (no jokes please). I missed a lovely photo-shoot and quite a symbolic visual statement; a double carriage-d lorry, brimming with hay had stopped flush to pavement by the roundabout. For some reason it wasn't moving and seemed stuck. The struggle of nature in the age of development? Poem in there if anybody wants to write it.

Strange traffic set up in Banbridge. A fast-track road through flanked by two pedestrianised lanes reaching alongside. These steep lanes climb then drop down and reach across to each other by way of a road and foot bridge. The town looks healthy and everyday to begin with. Within short walks down side-streets there are dilapidated buildings and sparse areas ripe for a bit of spit and polish.

By the health centre - the library. I like this - read a book while you wait six months for your appointment or visit the doctor's then look up your illness on the many internet ready consoles. The choice is yours.

I was early so I could check in, find the room upstairs and set up ready. I was ready for an audience of nil after the experience of Portaferry. Meanwhile, time at the library was time for blogging.

One of the many welcoming librarians was to take me for lunch - on the house. By this time, because of the travelling, I was used to taking my own sandwiches or grabbing a pastie or bag of chips. The plate of fresh salad (oh vegetables - I remember them) was luxury.

There was time to quiz people too. Banbridge had suffered during the troubles but there was a plus side to it (and I'm only repeating what I've been told!) there were some buildings the town was glad to be rid of. From what I've picked up, the place would still benefit from more financial input.

I've not managed to ask a great deal about the integrated education movement. While on my journey, I've collected the occasional newspaper, so as well as the births, deaths and marriages (mostly deaths) in the local rags, I've been able to glean snippets about N.I.'s growth. About six or seven cross-community schools have recently opened and I'm still not sure what the general reaction to them have been (see also comments in Derry). One woman I talked to wasn't sure how they taught religious education - how was it possible she asked? and if it wasn't for the Catholics insisting on separation, we wouldn't need this form of schooling.

I could have eaten all day. The librarian (or the keeper of the lunch purse strings) was charming and helpful and glad to chat about the project and about Banbridge itself.

The workshop was to run from 2pm. The first woman (possibly in her sixties) had a real love of life as well as the remnants of a Birmingham accent. That was one at least. Four more came in. All thought it was more of a reading. One of them was badgered by his wife to attend and wasn't really interested…at first. All stayed and all enjoyed, even the 9 year old son of one of the participants who just sat quietly, listened in, scribbled or rolled on the floor - or was that me? (only kidding!).

Similar to the Armagh session, creating acrostic poems from the words 'us, ourselves' and 'we', I asked this group to use the word 'community'. The second part was the slow line -by-line building of personal poems which were made up of responses to questions posed by myself. Some of the poems are already blogged and I'm waiting for the others. I hope they send them on. The poems pulled no punches. Northern Ireland could talk the hind leg off a donkey about its troubles as well as its visions.

where silence stood
now voices walk

more to come

second re-works of poems

last rush of summer sun 'fore autumn's blast
i sit beneath the world where tractors pass

this is slow down town - i (try to) spoon my soup dead slow
the hills roll dead slowly back - where rivers slowly flow

introduction

some call it gorse (or whin)
the sense of it from years ago was coconut

but now that's gone before i came

questioning the questioner

for two weeks near enough i've asked this land
the questions that has always irked its soul

so tell me of your troubles then
what ails you?
how have the visions been since 98?

the answers came straight enough like syrup from a jar

and now in attical i walk into a peace
that's loud enough to shatter bullish bones

i fall asleep the door is barred to any other
than my weary dreams

and on my waking up that could have been
like any other opening of the eyes -
i have no reference point

where i am
when i am
and why
and christ it hurt

blackberry picking in the mournes

one

along the road the filled out blackberries
are ready with their blood
i will not break their skin
it is a promise that at least my fingers make

i'll take instead their kindness to the tongue
feel the shapes of building blocks
that make them up

each taste is different
one tart
one sour as pus
one bland
one perfect holy sweet
i pick at each until a mile or so of coming to the fence


two

the gate seems fixed
but one leg
two leg
(my boot gets tethered by a hook -
i laugh and shake it off)

i'm over
the cold rocks are
brothers now to heave me up
grass shoves wet and clinging to my tread
(in every gap I take a memory)
i carry on - until a levelness
where i can breathe my sunday in
- sheep shit
- salt water far ahead
- the mountains of mourne


three

so bury me
(don't wait for me to die)
not in one place where other dead can gawp
their toothless heads at me

split my soul in two - one half in cushendall
that sits upon the east
the other side will lie below the green-ness
where i stand
let the roots of gorse
come lay their roots on me

i will sleep in bliss
that way


photographs of lake spelga

watching the sheen - there is no bird life - yet
each ripple's enough to make all action such a flight
the gaps seem like lost consonants (short waves)
there was a drowning here - now just me with my photograph

she clicks me with the dam - just catching light
the wooden shack's dilapidated (stock
still) perched as i am by the crisp black edge
the focus of this photograph will be my jacket's red

glow and the starkness of this place
she drives me further back to battle with the mournes
drawn towards the mist - it takes me long enough
i love the mountain's kiss upon my face
it has been photographed - though slieve muck
pushed me back before i passed

climbing slieve muck

i focus up and ever up
though mountains seem to have no spire
just ever rolling waves of carry on

and up and ever up

each rock lies like some lazy piece of brie

and up and ever up

i stop to see the altered angle of the slope
then race towards the mist that falls the other way

i am ever up

sheep with blood red backs
stop - move on
move on then stop
make umpteen steps

and up
and up

the ridge fills blind with cappuccino froth
its hand has spread its fatness round slieve muck's neck

i'm up
and up
and ever up
before my shoes were wet with boggy grass
now they traverse the almost vertical
where air collides with air
and more
and more
the same

and when i'm slipping
clasping
driving on
the stuff is green
but when i'm looking back

the mountain's skin is yawning brown
not muddy stuff just brown
how things that change when travelling on the up

by holywood

where sea forces coast into dark angles
i walk onto the wall
that strikes into the water

(this is my time)
ten minutes with the rocks and wanderings of birds
and passing by of aeroplanes
that skirt the earth too close

(this is my time)

and where the shingle rests so does the man o'war i find
i tip it to the water's edge - my lazy foot's a spoon
for such a beast

(this is my time)

though never quite relaxed
my eyes suck in the wide expanse
of green and black and blue and grey

(my time)

i capture it with hasty camera click
move on instead of standing
(let whispers of the world soak deep)

haiku to derry's walls

so what goes around
cannot come around because
it's had its gates locked

extinction of derry's tyger

derry derry turning white
up the hills (apartments - white)
marks and spencer and McDonald's
what's gone in belfast
now been followed

(note - I'm going to leave this open to bloggers to suggest appropriate endings to the poem - using the same style and meter as Blake's The Tyger)

st columb's

flags then - faded out and hanging in
it is with silence by my side i sit
and target out some words to find a prayer
cold woodwork seals the end of pews - i dare
not ask questions like
which side are you on?

hymn book - open out at psalms
though i'll let the others live that they may live
across the backs of pews
columb throws a sift of coloured glass like
offering gifts of waking up

prayer mats are empty of shuffling knees
and in the back - mr washington dc walks in like
rolling thunder with deep bass voice

the woman keeps the chat along
he answers questions
and then they find the volume pitch
that satisfies st columb's ears

how strange waking churches

for the centre at omagh

glass (though seeming fragile)
is built for seeing through
is like the letter o (in omagh)
that turns around like time
and strong enough to brace
this bag of truth

the river bed is fed by august rain
but this glass world's of sterner block
hope's calling of the towered dream

is mortared in the grain and solid rock

we are small here
we watch the traffic cutting
at the leash

an ulsterbus smooths round
as if it's always done
whispers on its wheels

omagh blood and omagh sand
omagh sand and blood

one pumps around the veins
one keeps the vision up

17 Sep 2004

Attical to Newry - Monday 6th September

7.30am...I should be used to this by now. The taxi's already been booked and all I have to do is get neurotic about turning everything off and putting the key somewhere safe. The weekend was lovely. Apparently I missed the gladioli blooming on the hillsides. I'll be back next year.

mist lifts
the mountains are stripped
of their skin

Back to the bus stop. The actual station is round the corner - looking really like someone's back yard. I sat opposite the Orange Hall for about twenty minutes, reading, scratching and scribbling. Mostly the middle.

these journeys are grim
the taxi driver fearing islam
the bus that judders
brings me in on time
(i can say that for
the bus service
i've not been late yet)

Newry in some ways made me think of Derry; the lead in to the area showing signs of development. The bigger chainstores sitting next to the smaller (sorry - but shabbier) looking local shops. The bus station was a gentle hubbub of commuters and travelers. Once again - the internet point was there.

There will be more to add to this. Please see separate posts.

16 Sep 2004

The Diagonal Steam Trap Poem

two requests

1) can anyone enlighten me about the Diagonal Steam Trap Poem?
2) I was told the main industries in Newry are beef, furniture and supermarkets. How are they doing in relation to each other?

I'd also like to say hello to Rachael V.R and hope things work out (they will - trust me).

Dave (next stop is Banbridge...)

Newry (more from...) 6/9/04

So what was I saying? Ah yes - Newry. I'd forgotten what it looked like. It still has its pedestrianised centre which comes across like lots of towns do in early September time. I don't remember the library here though, or if it was, it certainly wasn't so prominent.

I've already explained the process I'd adopted here; there wasn't time to organise a writers' group so I sited myself just beyond the security barriers at the library door and made myself ready for the thrusting public influx. And when I say security barriers, I mean the ones that beep when you've taken a book through you haven't stamped out.

Newry, I'm told is 97% Catholic. This community and the other 3% get on with no problems. Whereas (I'm also told) in Coleraine, the opposite is true in both respects. I'll leave that issue there.

There's something about library staff in Northern Ireland that makes them so completely approachable. With minimal notice, they quickly invited and accepted me in and briskly offered me a cup of tea. Apologies if I'm repeating myself btw.

They were even so good as to create an acrostic poem. They were shocked to be told it would go on the blog.

A poem by the staff of Newry Library

never ending days in the sun
examining the faces of the masses
wondering what to do next
reality of the hum drum
yonder blue wonder in the shimmering sky
looking in places for so many faces
imaginings the distant rumblings
babies crying mothers sighing
rollercoaster reeling really rocking
autumn apples
red sunset rustic city
yellowing leaves in the dying days
so much to do so little time
enid blyton excites as always
rapidly expanding minds between the sleeves
vipers twisting in a sea of venom
internet information innovation
chiming of the city's cathedral bells
exploring the world of the unknown

I spoke to a man who lives about a thousand yards from where I was sitting (no - not in the library!) who went to the Christian Brothers' School. During his early years, he moved so often (six times in twelve years), his mother said he should have lived in a caravan. For those that know the area, at one point he live in Bessbrook Mill, which was owned by the Quakers, which, during World War 2 was used to station the army. It was around this time that Newry began to have an influx of people to the town. It was outgoing and without any hang ups.

Religion though was decided by the name. The man I spoke to had a typically English name though was actually Catholic. Because of the former, his father managed to get a job which he wouldn't have due to his faith.

Thirty years ago, Newry was hit by an explosion. At the same time, there was very little work and consequently an organisation, involving my interviewee and John Hume (from Derry) called WIN was set up by local businesses. Work in Newry encourage the growth of light manufacturing and high technology communication.

high church
low steeple
dirty street
proud people

(johnathan swift on newry)

if you asked the way
in newry - they'd show you or
take you there themselves

(me - with help from my visitor)

He was the one who told me of The Woodkern (poem) and also said I should look for another one, The Inchcape Rock and the Diagonal Steam Trap poem. He was obviously proud of where he lived. Not so the next man who simply said - It's a dump, nothing to do. He couldn't elucidate on this due to time. I'm not sure if he was actually willing to anyway. Shame really. Must hold the record for my shortest ever interview.

Next patient please…

This one lived in Newry twenty five years and left in August 1998. House prices, he says have doubled since the ceasfire but people are still commuting from Dublin because of the prices there. Before the ceasfire everyone headed south for the nightlife, now he says there's a lot more to do here.

15 Sep 2004

commentary on Ceasefire (Newry Library)


From 10.30 - 12.30 I inside the entrance to Newry Library. There is a wide gap as you come in and I set up table to the left with a pile of poetry, note pad and pen.

If I could lure people over I'd give them three options for the project.

a) talk to me about Newry
b) choose a favourite poem (and I'd read it)
c) create a poem

Some whisked by, quite pleasantly. It was a Monday after all. Nobody was grumpy and I do believe that what one of the stayers said was true; the people of Newry did have a worldwide reputation for being friendly.

One man, researching the canals, stopped to talk about the poem Ceasefire which although not written about this part of Ireland's history, did carry a strong symbolic content and link. Interesting to note, in the 26th August edition of Newsletter, John Maxwell, father of a teenager blown up by an IRA bomb has sent out a plea to meet his son's killer. I asked him to write his commentary down (I'm a pushy bugger!)

Although not written about the N.I ceasefire I was very moved my the words and theme of Longley's poem Ceasefire.

The poem is based on the war of Troy when the warrior Achilles and his troops invade Troy and during the war Achilles killed Hector, son of the old king Priam.

In the first verse, the old king Priam goes to Achilles to cry for the return of his son's body in order to give him a decent burial.

When Achilles looks down on the old king he is reminded of his own father. The two men are overcome with sadness and the building is filled with tears.

In the second verse, Achilles takes Hector's body in his own arms, cleans the body for the old king's sake. The king then carries his son's body home for burial.

In the third verse, after this unbelievable gesture of forgiveness and charity both men sit and eat together. A scenario which never could have been thought of before.

In the final verse, King Priam showed a great gesture by getting down on his knees and kissed the hand of Achilles, the killer of his son.

When I read this poem, I thought of Sir Gordon Wilson who lost his most precious gift from God, his daughter. But he found it in his heart to not only forgive her killers but actually sat down at the same table and asked them to stop their campaigns. I also thought of the families of the forgotten and how they would give anything to find their loved ones and give them a dignified burial. I hoped if anybody having read this poem knew anything of the whereabouts of these remains they, like Achilles, provide the information so the families can take their loved ones' bodies home and give them a dignified burial. And then these families, hopefully in time, will find it in their hearts to forgive their killers.

I would like to hope as in verse three of the poem, the warring sides would sit together because it is only by sitting together, talking together and forgiving each other for out past mistakes, that we can live in peace.

14 Sep 2004

(updated) Attical

A lovely welcome from my two hosts. The place is entirely run by voluteers so it's even more of an honour that I stay here for free. Everywhere I've stayed or will be stating (bar Newcastle) has supported me by giving me gratis accommodation. The taxi driver told me they are planning to give the Mournes National Park status. It already has a preservation order on it.

After tea and malt bread they give me the run of the whole place and I settle outside in the sun and the green to watch the sunshine and the tractors

last rush of summer sun
'fore autumn's blast
i sit beneath the world
where tractors pass

this is slow down town
i (try to) spoon my soup dead slow
the hills roll dead slowly back
where rivers slowly flow

At this point, with all the stress and the traveling and the rush to gather information, I felt incredibly weepy. I knew I'd overdone it.

I cleared up - washed up and napped up to wake an hour later not knowing where I was, what day it was or who I was. My hosts were coming over later to see how I was.

introduction

some call it gorse (or whin)
the sense of it from years ago
was coconut

but now that's gone
before i came

poem

for two weeks near enough
i've asked this land
the questions that has always
irked its soul

so tell me of your troubles then
what ails you?
how have the visions since 98?

the answers came straight enough
like syrup from a jar

and now in attical
i walk into a peace
that's loud enough
to shatter bullish bones

i fall asleep
the barred to any other
than my dreams

and on my waking up
that could have been
like any other opening
of the eyes -
i have no reference point

where i am
when i am
and why

and christ it hurt

blackberry picking in the mournes

along the road
the filled out blackberries
are ready with their blood
i will not break their skin
it is a promise that
at least my fingers make

i'll take instead their kindness
to the tongue
fell the shapes
of building blocks
that make the up

each taste is different
one tart
one sour as pus
open bland
one perfect holy sweet

i pick at each
until a mile or so
of coming to the fence

(o ireland
- i thought barbed wire
was over now for you)

the gate seems fixed

but one leg
two leg
(my boot gets tethered by a hook -
i laugh and tug it off)

i'm over now

it seems i could remember this
last visit scrambling

this time - i see the cold rocks
as brothers now to heave me up

sheep pose for me
stand still

the grass is wet and clinging to my tread
i carry on - until a levelness
where i can breathe it in

- sheep shit
- salt water far ahead
- the mountains of mourne

so bury me
(don't wait for me to die)
not in one place
where other dead can gawp

split my soul in two

one half in cushendall
the other side will lie below
the green-ness where i stand

i will be in bliss

so let the roots of gorse
come lay their roots on me

i repeat

just let the roots of gorse
come lay their roots on me

sunday walking

My host takes me for a drive out and an explanation of some Irish grammar. We discuss my next idea which is to set up an exchange between Irish language groups in England and similar classes in Ireland. She takes me to Spelga Dam. There is absolute peace here - too much peace in fact. There is no bird life whatsoever. The only drama is when a ripple occurs. I feel a poem coming on...

poem one

watching the sheen - there is no bird life - yet
each ripples enough to make action a flight
the gaps seem like lost consonants (short waves)
there was a drowning here - now just me with my photograph

she takes me with the dam - just catching light
the wooden shack's dilapidated (stock
still) perched as i am by the crisp black edge
the focus of this photograph will be my jacket's red

glow and the starkness of this place
she drops me further back to battle with the mournes
drawn towards the mist - it takes me long enough
i love the mountain's kiss upon my face

it has been photographed - though slieve muck
pushed me back before i passed

poem two

i focus up and ever up
these mountains seem to have no spire
but ever rolling waves of carry on

and up and ever up

each rock looks like
some lazy piece of brie
just lying there

and up and ever up

i stop to see the
altered angle of the slope
i am captivated

i race the mist
that falls the other way

i am ever up

sheep with blood red backs
stop move on
move on then stop
make steps

and up
and up

the ridge fills
blind with cappuccino froth
its hand has spread its fatness
round slieve muck's neck

i'm up
and up
and ever up

before my shoes
were wet with boggy grass

now they traverse
the almost vertical
where air collides with air
and more the same

and when i'm slipping
clasping
drivign on
the stuff is green

but when i'm looking back

the mountain's skin
is brown

not muddy stuff
just brown

how things that change
when traveling on the up

Saturday 5th September - Newcastle - Attical

I'd asked the Belgian lad to wake me up and say ta ra before he go go (song in there somewhere). The hostel is so close to the beach, you could almost spit in it. The morning sun wriggled its finger at me and I went for a walk, hoping the library would be open so I can get a quick posting. It was closed. No matter.

The Shimna river was still there pushing out to the sea and it didn't matter that I couldn't find someone who could tell me how to pronounce the name of my next hostel -Cnocnafeola Centre. The hostel keeper said she wasn't really interested in the Irish Language. I went a-pootling to a still stretch of tourist water where giant swans masqueraded as boats. Or is that vice versa?

below the mournes from newcastle
(their side of the river)
an entertainment rests
it is a corrugate slope

you climb up
and as you go down
your arse is pushed
into your spine

slope's placement
(from this vision)
seems as if it is
fixed to the mountain side

my eyes making jokes
out of nothing

I found Newcastle's life at the bus station. There was a boy's football team - full of sugar, excitement and joie de vivre (how would you say this in Irish?). The chocolate wrappers were off, sweets skidded across the floor and the leaders weren't too jumpy. There was also internet access perched on the counter of the refreshments stall. Northern Ireland's attitude to internet access is stunning. Well done!

The bus was pretty much on time and eventually I was fed with the Welcome to the Kingdom of Mourne sign. There's truth for you. The hand made signs issuing extracts fro mthe bible are still around; in Annalong for there is no difference - for all have sinned'

safe ride to kilkeel
old bus - swaying - rocking - me
dropped at orange hall

I'd been warned that the bus service didn't reach Attical (accent on the al)so I needed a taxi (after I'd blogged at the library) to get me there from Kilkeel. He advised on where to go for the best Guinness and kept assuring me that there shouldn't really be any places that are a bit more risky than others - nowadays. Though you never know - he seemed doubtful.

Kilkeel I'm told is losing a lot of its industry (beef and fishing) and is missing out on the regeneration going on in other parts of Northern Ireland. There's obviously a Loyalist community here with Union Jacks and a fair sized Orange hall. It seems busy enough with its smaller shops sitting alongside its Safeways.

The sign on the hostel (also a community cetre) said 'talk of the things that make people better for listening to you'. Oh - you can pronounce it Crocnafoil (Ulster Irish) or Kernok-na-foil.

Beautiful welcome.

low and squat we are protected here
lapped in sunshine (soft combings of time's beard)
they know i seek my peace (peace is my seer)
the door came greeting wide when i appeared

lapped in sunshine (soft combings of time's beard)
now i can fall apart - all taps on-turned
they know the precious lifting of the heart
where sunshine shines - there's movings from the birds

they know i seek my peace (peace is my seer)
the cities i have walked have worked me hard
my nerves were fraught - my tensions baying sheer
i'd written every friend on every card

the door came greeting wide when i appeared
lapped in sunshine (soft combings of time's beard)

a note found on the public telescope at Newcastle

observe the view
and at night - the moon
don't look at the sun

this machine had double doors
and double locks and is enptied daily

(i just like the wording 'and at night the moon')

(working) poem based on newcastle - a retrospective

tasting freedom - stark mist comes tumbling
its brother (cruel) wind boxes it (just
so) its other sibling's dour earth (stumbling
sand) this is our world - our eyes fed with rust

and shall we be enveloped in wetness?
cloud fall - sea swollen - then like mirror breaks
wind throws its saddle off - its harness
snaps - full moon rides wave on wave on wave on wave

september's hush lays down its bones for us
lulls with seaweed eyes - we're (drowned)sleepy
with its tricks though we never learn - wind throws
its arms - barricades the eyes and weepy

then we retreat - glad of our punishment
where earth and wind and rock and sea have sent

13 Sep 2004

Friday 3rd September - Armagh to Newcastle

Pupils travel a ridiculously long way to school. I witnessed students alighting from the bus from Armagh after 45 minutes. Has this always been the case? None of them seem bothered though - seeming to take it all in their stride. The route wasn't that tedious at least.

I've got to compliment the various towns on having a credit unions with their own premises. Some boroughs of Nottingham really struggle so it gives a bout of encouragement. I even popped into the Omagh C.U and asked the manager to take a photograph of my angelic being (hey - shut up) at the counter.

It was by Castlewellan on the way to Newcastle that I noticed the mountains rolling with mist. The town, like a few others that have escaped retail development are still earmarked by old style Gaelic lettering.

view from castelwellan - a kind of shanty

blow the mists hard boys
o blow the mists hard
get mountains unburdened with clouds boy
yes blow the mists hard

drive the wind wild boys
o drive the wind wild
blow sand in their hearts boys
yes - drive the wind wild boys

Not sure what to say about Newcastle. It's cleaner than the English version I remember and like. It's similar to an English seaside town with a rough and ready coastline scoured with the views of mountains and cut in half by a rivulet into the sea. The hostel was cosy enough and the weekend which as normal started here. Whew (ahem). I'm thirty nine soon you know.

I met up with a lad from Belgium who seemed to have been traveling the length and breadth of Ireland and Northern Ireland. He was bored with the town and had decided to move on but was begrudging the fact he's lose the money he'd paid for two nights accommodation. We took a walk along the coast battling with the wind - an experience I lap up after being cooped up on a bus for what seems like twice as long as a stretch of Irish linen. Previous to that, I'd done some wandering myself. Just close to the hostel was a circular Catholic Church. The pews weren't quite of the same ethos - preferring to keep the horse-shoe shape and a backdrop to the altar.

This was music in pubs weekend. I'd cooked for both myself and the lad (sorry - no names)and off we pootled. We found ourselves (o there we are!) in a fairly posh pub/restaurant which happily accepted children and families.

So much more I'm noticing that music in pubs is becoming like strips of wallpaper. There were approx five players in all. They all looked as miserable as sin. Even the Irish describe the music nowadays as diddly i-del. Think I've mentioned this before - but a valid point.

The Guinness did me good - it took me through to Saturday

the nutkern

just a band of prowling mates
who respect no more a country's birth
than those of the english race
they spoil and burn and bear away
and think the greater ill they do
the greater pay deserved
they pause not for a poor man's cry
or yet respect his tears
or rather joy to see the flame
that flash about is ears
to see both flame and smouldering smoke
to dusk the crystal skies
after their prayers they're in i say
their second glory lies

though still need to know the author

for armagh (first working)

two patricks then - one's grey
cleaned up and far sits
from where the town keeps bustling on

one sits by theatre space - the latter white
the former twisted out with long gone

age - what joins them is the shops - the long
stretch - that drops along the merest hill
the cranes seem almost still
but we know their tricks!

what they do is what they do - not wrong
or right to me - i am a mere recorder there
a devotee of pattern changing and things that shift

but two patricks then?
do they (at night)have wrestles here?

do they re-arrange the history of each other's ways
one's old enough - one's made of cleaned up greys

Thursday 2nd September (evening) Armagh (update)

We weren't sure how many we were expecting that night for the creative writing workshop I was to run. In the end, there was about seven or so in the upstairs room of an accountants. It was less than my host had hoped for. But seven's ok. I've worked with numbers from thirty down to one 'student' before. The group will be put through as a WEA course soon and the session fitted quite neatly into the module. The group was the Armagh writers and have recently publsihed Hometown, edited by John McAllister (who organised the session). They can be contacted at the ABC(ARMAGH BANBRIDGE AND CRAIGAVON) Writers' Network. 11 College Street, Armagh, BT61 9BT.

Here's what I did.

We took the words us, ourselves and we and used them as acrostics. The first was left sided, the second was right sided and the third, we split so the w was on the left and the e was on the right.

Line by line we created poems passing them around each time a new and different image to the poem was added.

u............................
s............................

............................ o
............................ u
............................ r
........................... s
............................ e
............................ l
............................ v
............................ e
............................ s

w............................e


The first two lines were about what we did in groups, the second section was how we worked as a group and the last line summed the poem up. I hope you're following this.

They then produced a memory being inspired by one of these lines. The piece was alternated with fiction which seamlessly fitted together as if narrated by a story teller.

The third piece was a monologue as if told by one of the objects in the story.

I'm still awaiting the results to be e.mailed.

There were two new students to the group that night. I hope they carry on.

That night, I sat in the bar of the hotel chatting. An interesting comment came out about Belfast, that Belfast was a political mess and the struggle which was a two sided affair was now four sided - there were now middle and working class Protestants struggling in the equation with the same two classes of Catholics. I sat and watched the German Cell documentary about the 9/11 bombers while another group drowned the sound out with their laughter and talk.

11 Sep 2004

a reply to the woodkern query

http://www.hull.ac.uk/renforum/v4no2/gardiner.htm

i still need a copy and link to the poem if anyone's got it

dave

a request

I'm trying to find the poem 'the woodkern'. I've no idea who wrote it. It was recited to me by a visitor to Newry library. It's a diatribe agains the Irish and i wanted to put a link to it. Can anyone help and comment on the poem?

It begins - Just a band of prowling mates/who respect no more a country's birth

I'd also appreciate any comments on the poem ceasefire

If there are any poems you'd consider adding to the commentary, please do.

Thanks

10 Sep 2004

The final leg - Reflections of the Northern Ireland Project – just scratching again 7/9/04 (and challenges)

That night was to be my last in Northern Ireland. I was to fly back the next day to England and its glorious Nottingham East Midlands Airport. I still find it strange to talk about the difference between where I'd been traveling for two weeks and the geographical north. How can you describe Teelin Point near Donegal as part of the south? When I talk about the Mourne Mountains, I say they're in the south of the north. Perhaps a new compass should be invented which takes in not only south-southeast etc but also north-south-north or north-north-north. Is this feasible? Would NESTA fund me? If Ms Vorderman would like to post a comment…

I've only stroked the skin of Ireland this journey. Maybe that's good. The intention was to view the place from a position and vision of neutrality. - it was difficult at times and I had to keep steadying myself. My background in politics always dictated 'if in doubt - move to the left'. There is a changing tide between Loyalism and Nationalism. With the economy becoming more gluttonous there are further class issues - Republican and Loyalist working jar and (at the same time) meld with middle class of the same. Conspiracies of old are still in the mindset and the 'can we trust any of our representatives?' of the English is seeping in with the coffee and shopping sophistications of the city. We all suffer from it - including myself.

But at least people are talking. For example, I was told by one interviewee, that when she applied for some lottery funding, the paramilitaries tried to take the pot of money over. She stood her ground.

Up until 1997, few that I met would mention the troubles. Now it can feel like a reminiscence workshop; the growth, the developments, the road-building and the settling into a kind of peace all being like a shock of the new. Though this may just be my observation, it would be interested to find someone who's been diary-ing the re-building and re-hydrating process. I walked into a changing way of life and the billboards said so.

I've brought back very little for other people. Kurt and Sharon, who looked after the flat have exactly what they requested - a bookmark each. Illuminated with Celtic knotwork they sit nice ethnically-flush with the stone from Cushendall beach, where the sea would pull the pebbles back over each other to make the bona-fide sound of beauty. I picked one up myself - a rugged heart shaped one - I'm still a romantic even at the age of almost 39 (13th October - same day as Thatcher's and Currie's Birthday). A pine cone from one of St Patrick's Cathedrals in Armagh, albeit battered and bruised (the pine cone that is) went to my boss who was poorly sick at the time.

Everyone in the address book has pretty much had a card too - if not the address book itself. I did promise to send one to Arts Council East Midlands but didn't take the address with me - so my apologies to Simon and Lou.

There's lots of things I'd do (and will do) different next time. I'll give myself more time to organise the trip, make sure I get the forms right, make the process pay and let Ireland have the time she needs to take counsel with me.

There are still poems to write. I've not forgotten my creativity. The new term has started and I've had to ride the rollercoaster (could be a song in there somewhere) of finding out whether I've got enough enrolled on my courses to warrant them running. Not everybody wants to do creative writing nowadays - and they all think I'm weird anyway.

After the press release I sent out on return, there have been a few well dones but no real strong contact from local authorities here; no book deals, no bunting, no proscenium welcome back or Bruce Forsyth, Didn't he do well? Whereas in Northern Ireland, the press were contacted by the hosts and I had first-rate coverage. According to a local Stapleford drunk (slurring and glassy eyed) The Ilkeston Advertiser used the picture from the Newry visit as well as the information sheet I sent out.

Good news. The Cnocnafeola Centre (Attical) are putting my poem on the front page of their website and I've just handed my first article to Incorporating Writing. Some of it you'll have read before on these pages, but as I go along, I'll no doubt be re-calling a little bit more. I think I've just got a solid offer to translate one o the poems too. Anyone else out there willing to give it a go?

There's a few out there who are ready to throw in some more comments on the blog. Always welcome more...

There's not a great deal of use describing the journey home. The view of Ireland came and went and I was back in half an hour. He must have been pedalling really quick to knock those ten minutes off the time.

There are some challenges I still wish to set you. Whilst I was sitting in a class room I heard the modernised songs now sung at harvest time. I was impressed.

My challenge is for each town of Northern Ireland to create its hymn. There's no prizes and no spangly outfits - sorry. The hymns should have a tune which uplifts and hopefully be performed by the end of the year. Good luck. Post me the results - we'll see if we can get them as music downloads.

poem based on newry visit 6/9/04

short notice then - from friday morning frantic calls
of i'll be there to Monday where i set up stall
a table - clean wiped - round - edgeless
and by the library door
i offer them five minutes - see if they will talk

to me - the space is formidable
gasps wide with shelves and internet malls
by my side - i have built a pile of books
enough for eyes to climb

the irish reciter - modern irish poetry - the rattle bag
each one smooth skinned - my thoughts note the colours in
- their reference points - and now one visitor rolls in
(inches by)

the ease of newry came to him 2000
before that turning of the age – his dream
would not allow the visit here
he came to me with smiles and a poem
and belfast? he called it beautiful
made his pilgrimage in 96

but he loves newry – the old buildings here
dublin? he says its crammed to hurting – bumper to bumper
bigger and busier

and when the ceasefire made its mark
the border took a deep breath out

another question

Why is there such a difficulty getting students for creative writing sessions in Northern Ireland?

more poems from the Banbridge Library workshop 7/9/04

charitable and thoughtful also comical at times
ordinary folk trying to do what’s best
making compromises to move forward
muttering in silence under our breath
umbrelas and the noise of the street
neither noticing each other’s beat
interestiong features
townsfolk from ever increasing ethnic groups
you and I meet them all when we go for our soups

collective moaning – then creative
ordinary of feature
meaning well
murders don’t happen here – do they?
united ireland or unionist member of human-kind?
now let’s put that kettle on – have cake
interesting – but for who’s sake?
trust in the future
yes – trust in the future

yes i am your conscience

i ask you questions
stealing your time
you scream
no!

i have no axe
to grind
deed’s done
won!

do i bother you?
good – i should
give in
pray

i am but me
part of you
your shoe
tight

underlying the conscience where gapes

the warmth of capes
where writers gather
is the salon a lather?
yes – ok!

the warmth of capes
burgundy indigo and scarlet
are you real?
yes – i am your conscience
revelation!

where writers gather
dreams are no bother
fill the days
in many was so we
see

9 Sep 2004

poems from workshops

two poems using the word community to create an acrostic poem. the second poem came as a response to a series of questions and a tight format where I stated the amount of words to be used. this poem was created at Banbridge and will eventually be shifted to be part of the blog-diary for the area. The letter I put in just to say how things went.


Hi Dave,

firstly thanks so much for the workshop you facilitated today at Banbridge library. I was the one with the little boy who arrived late and had to go early, but my experience was a very positive one nonetheless.

Actually some of the material that came out of almost an hour was moving, thought provoking and comical too.

Thank you for all your efforts and I'm really glad I went along.

Here are my poems as requested.

Poem 1.

Crumbling, children dying.
Over the way - there are pens scratching
Matching the sounds to sighing
Making do.
United we stand - and fall
Nobel peace prizes, for it all
I've found my peace where there is gorse
Today believe it or not I rode a horse.
You and I all live and die and go back to our source.

Poem 2.

Ordinary of Feature.

Blank, bland, bare, bald.
It is Everywhere.
What makes you, Everywhere?
God's soul.

Blank, bland, bare, bold.
Black, brown, red.
What makes you?
Light and shadow, like you.
Exquisite.

What makes you, Everywhere?
Quasars, Neutrinos, Atoms, God
All natural energy
Change frequency for the better,
Free.

Wednesday 1st September

With trusty dictaphone, I got the two interviews done. Jennifer was off, so I spoke to one of the men who had been with the musicians' collective since its first conception fourteen years ago. The interview will be transcribed at a later date but the gist is that the Nerve Centre on Magazine Street (just follow the walls...)was set up as a collaboration with the collective and the Film Festival. It's now a state of the art educational provider, cafe, internet access point, provider of performance and rehearsal space and has aincredibly busy schedule. It showcases both local, fesh and national established perfomers.

Best be quick - I have to follow the walls to the Verbal Arts Centre and get my new tape in. I hope my choking on one of their cakes isn't a bad omen for transcribing the chat. One thing taht did come out of the conversation was a view on Omagh. previously I'd said that I felt that the people of the area were 'just getting on with their lives'. My interviewee described the feeling of the people in Omagh as holding a painful tight kernel inside themselves. I hoep i've not paraphased this too heavily. I'll transcribe soon.

7 Sep 2004

Bank holiday Tuesday 31/8/04 afternoon in (Stroke) Derry

I still haven’t done any real interviews; it’s been gleanings and talking withs and ear-wiggings. It was now halfway through the scheme and I began to worry that if I did a what was it like when…? and what is it like now? it would be less my input and reaction as an observer and more a quasi-reminiscence project. Added to that, having built fifteen years of life on poetry, I’m struggling to put it all in prose. So I went off to do a couple of interviews on spec.

But first the postings up on www.sluggerotoole.com and davewoodinireland.blogspot.com as well as sending my missives (or missus-ives) to incwriters. It had been a while since I registered in Belfast as a new library member, so the pin-number had given up on me. It was soon rectified. The library service in Northern Ireland is bang up to date and incredibly helpful. It’s a service industry that’s an absolute essential in dissemination of information and I suspect Northern Ireland had been lacking an open-ness in this for quite a while. There’s also a strong tradition of the love of literature (then there’s also a strong tradition of the love of Guinness. But wait, I haven’t finished yet.

So postings up, I’ve got five minutes left. I type in the search bar Pictures of Derry. I get back…You have been blocked by the marshal from entering this site. Excuse the paraphrasing but it still threw me. I confessed and pronto.

Well, if you’re looking for pictures of Derry, began the male librarian, you can go into the Derry City Council link Site ane he began a hamfisted search.

It doesn’t matter really, I said, and explained the situation.

Well, if you get something like that, we can’t do anything about it here…he continued. I gave up trying to explain, he left me alone and out I went. Derry’s library is high tech, new and tucked near to the shopping centre by the river. Follow the vision of Iceland and you’ll get there. The painted sparkly tourist buses around the Bog, the Fountain and the rest of Derry’s history were waiting like a temptation. Of course, I can resist anything but temptation and a set of tourist buses. Could be a good quote in there.

So much of Derry’s mapping depends on its history. Being useless at cartography, I have tended to ask directions. Invariably, I’ve been told to follow the walls... I’m sure a certain ice cream vendor could pick up on this.

I found the Verbal Arts Centre (gathering, performance, exhibition and debating arena with a myriad rooms and corridors equal only to the centre at Omagh) squatting behind the old barracks near the courthouse. The debate as to what happens to the former continues. Meanwhile, The Verbal Arts Centre, dedicated to language in all its forms still feels hidden away behind an institution which puts the fear of God still up the skirts of a few members of the community. However much high quality work it offers, it’s profile gets over-shadowed by grey wires and towers and the uncomfortable feeling from potential punters of walking by its difficult past.

On spec was not a good idea. The office was hosting quite a sharp Powerpoint based talk. The building is kept on its toes constantly, so I arranged to meet Zoe, from the centre the following day.

The same happened with the Nerve Centre (with its eaterie and internet-erie), Café Nervosa). All was arranged. I strode off looking for work from Mr Hewitt to balance up my expanding poetry collection. The only collection was £35 in the second hand book store in the craft village, again the directions were ‘follow the walls then…

Oh you read that contemporary stuff, I overheard the man behind the counter say to a customer. Book Snobbery will go next to Fahrenheit 451 on the top shelf.

I left with two overpriced books and a disgruntlement the size of something which is rather bigger than a disgruntlement.

St.Columb’s gave me an interview. The woman at the door selling souvenirs convinced me it should be Billy I’d need to interview.

Meanwhile there was manicure sets, alarm clocks, c.d.’s (neither of us could work out what the contents were), postcards and (I think) torches all connected in some way to St Columb’s history, all no doubt to raise funds. During my stay here, there have been statements leading to the presumption that religion is losing its flock. There are still church goers, but some out of habit or guilt (what the percentages are, I’ve no idea)

tongue twister

she sells souvenirs on st.c’s floor
when she sells souvenirs on st.c’s floor
imagine the amount of souvenirs on st.c’s floor
that she sells (so well) on st.c’s floor

I was dispatched into the cathedral with a leaflet as guide and gathered inspiration. I’ve never seen British flags in an English church and returning after all these years, it still jars with me to see blocks of red, white and blue so strong in a place of worship,
though there is a long tradition (does the state have a DNA structure or (swimming) gene pool of its own?) linking church and country.

I moved onto the Fountain, a Loyalist area which had a book based on and written by the community but facilitated through the verbal Arts Centre. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before. This time I went in. What I thought was a small wedge of Derry, opened out to a sprawling series of winding working class streets bedecked with bunting, painted kerbstones and a tower museum dedicated to those that died in the service of the Queen (excuse my paraphrasing again). There was nobody there who remembered the book and no-one really to interview. I’ll post the pictures of the murals soon or put some kind of links in.

You’ve already read the poem. The interview should be blogged (word for word) soon, so should be the interview with The Verbal Arts Centre link and The Nerve Centre. My libertarian friend also gave me an interview, which will be posted up soon. I’d appreciate comments on all of them.

Tuesday evening 31/8/04

...was relaxed. Me and the host went to the pub, looked at the (relatively abstract) prints of Irish writers (Heaney, Joyce et al) on the wall (the other customers didn't know what the hell they were) and drank Guinness.

I'll fill you in on Wednesday soon. It's next week now, I'm well behind and running a wokshop soon in Banbridge. Plenty to post. but not yet.

4 Sep 2004

poems for derry (bank holiday weekend)

title - haiku to derry's walls

so what goes around
cannot come around because
it's had its gates locked

title - extinction of derry's tiger

derry derry turning white
up the hills (apartments - white)
marks and spencer and McDonald's
what's gone in belfast
now been followed

title - st columb's

flags then - faded out
and hanging in
it is with silence by my side i sit
and target out some words to find a prayer
cold woodwork seals the end of pews - i dare

not ask questions (which side are you on?)

hymn book - open out at psalms
(i'll let the others live that they may live)

across the backs of pews
columb throws a sift of life
of coloured glass like
offering us some gifts
of waking up

of beauty to our sound bashed shoulders
prayer mats though are empty
of shuffling knees
and in the back
mr washington dc walks in like
rolling thunder
with deep bass voice

the woman keeps the chat along
he answers questions
and then they find the volume pitch
that satisfies st columb's ears

how strange we wake up churches
then realise our mistakes

a question

can someone explain a little about planting a liberty tree? aparrently some reference to the french revolution. some kind of symbol of regeneration

Bank Holiday Monday evening in Derry. 30/8/04

from moville
we work our way back
along the stunning coast
talk of families

she's thirteen sisters
and quite normal for those times
mother had no choice

she asks if i think
the pace is slower (not noticed)
it might be old myth

or truth outlived days
it's been a beautiful day
i've euros in change

(they'll go on guinness in the north sometime)

We stop off twice. The first time at a friend's who's having family tussles. The second instance at my female host's sister. We talk alot about television and the celebrity who says he's psychic. We went on to tarot, the cards and dogs that made mucky footprints on the window.

The youngest daughter of the family was a question asker

who are you? my name's Dave.
what are you doing here? I'm travelling around writing poetry, so I need to chat with people and visit lots of places.
Why do you write poetry? Cor - that's a stinker (everyone agrees) I like the sound of words, I like being playful with words and I like poetry.

At this point, she fell backwards because an adult moved her chair by mistake and she laughed and she laughed and she laughed. It also saved me from anymore questions (like 'does your mother like spaghetti?)

We move away and back in Derry (or since then I've found out it's also called stroke Derry) the couple pop in briefly.

Not much else to say about that day. Been sort of restful. The at night I went with the woman with the family tussles. We spend the evening tryin to work out whhat each other was saying above the droning over-amplified Irish music. I need to take a rest from writing and will scan my notebooks for gleanings I've missed in this blog. I'm sure there are some things...

more from David Todd

Hi,
Feel free to post it on your blogsite.
May I suggest I post your request for a "poem (roughly 100 words) on any changes that poets have noticed in N.Ireland?" on http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/CyberScribe_Corner/ and post it on http://belfastpoets.proboards12.com/index.cgi I could also e-mail a few other local poets and ask them about it and see what response you get. Makes it a bit more interesting :-)
All the Best!
David Todd

3 Sep 2004

response from press release in Newtonards Chronicle

Hi Dave,
I've just found out about your trip around " Norn Iron" via an article in The Newtownards Chronicle. I'm hoping to call in @ The Barholm on Mon night to say hello. I've recently started a local online writers/poets group "CyberScribe Corner" http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/CyberScribe_Corner/ so I've let them all know about your blog and hopefully you may bump into some of the CyberScribers on your travels.

If you're having any difficulty with the local lingo check out http://speaknorniron.8m.net/ :-)

Have a nice journey down the Ards Peninsula
http://www.greyabbey.com/http://ballywalteronline.co.uk/
http://www.kircubbin.com/index.php
http://www.portaferry.freeserve.co.uk/

All the Best!
David Todd
c_y_b_e_r_scribe@yahoo.co.uk

making contact with belfast poets

Hi Dave,

I have just stumbled across your web-blog about being in Ireland
looking for
poets and poetry and writing and things and was sufficiently (sorry,
had to
use that word) interested to click on the link and send you a quick
email.

I am a member of a crazy band of performance poets based in Belfast and
we
have been established for about 4 years performing regularly in a
number of
venues. We have a website called www.belfastpoets.com set up as a
showcase and
resource for local poets and you are welcome to view it and use the
forum!

Anyway, we have a gig in the John Hewitt bar in Belfast on the 10th
September
at 8pm if it would be something you might be interested in….its a 6
team slam
and has teams from across the UK! Also, it would be nice to meet up
with you
for a chat to talk about performance poetry in Belfast!

I’ll leave my contact phone number and most night are fine to meet up!

Good luck on your trip and hope to see you round.

Regards

Ruairi Mc Nally
Webmaster and Editor
Belfastpoets.com