As 2013 comes to an end, I realise that a lot of my year was spent studying and writing haiku, something that seems to have become more a way of life for me than a poetry form. It’s as if I have started to see the world through a ‘haiku lens’, allowing me to focus more on little things, like dew on a spider’s web, a perfectly striped pebble on the beach or a rainbow reflected in a puddle. This may sound strange, but it’s a good strange.
Writing and translating French haiku is another also activity I’ve enjoyed this year and I have recently been helping an online poet based in Paris to translate her poems into English. This was largely conducted via private messaging on Facebook, which was a very immediate way to exchange ideas. Having also read a lot of wonderful French poems on the site ‘Un Haiku par Jour’ (A haiku a day) I have come to the conclusion that French haiku is a lot more descriptive than its English counterpart, but it’s quite beautiful in its own way.
In July I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to attend the full week of the John Hewitt International Summer Scheme at the Marketplace Theatre in Armagh. I enrolled on Stewart Neville’s three-day crime writing course and by drawing upon his experiences and giving us one-to-one feedback on an exercise, Stewart provided participants with a great insight into this genre.
In September, my writing pal, Sue Morgan, helped me to organise a weekend writing break for our online writing group Splinter4all in Banbridge, County Down. We hired two beautiful stone cottages and the members of the group spent the time attending and presenting a variety of poetry and prose workshops. I facilitated a session on emotive poetry which was inspired by an event I attended in Belfast earlier in the year led by the great performance poet, Tony Walsh and he kindly allowed me to read some of his work at the event, which went down well. Meeting the Splinter gang ‘for real’ for the first time (they are scattered all over Ireland so I had never met the others in person) was a bit daunting, but when they started to arrive, it really did feel like meeting up with old friends again.
In October, I attended a very useful workshop in Banbridge library on editing poetry, run by the excellent NI poet Moyra Donaldson. By encouraging me to be ruthless and lop off the beginning of an old poem I’d brought along, she showed me that less is often more. Kill those darlings!
In November I had my first job as a ‘real’ poet when I conducted a series of six workshops in a school in Newcastle as part of the Belfast-based Community Arts Partnership Poetry in Schools Programme as Poetry Facilitator. It was great fun and I cried when reading the letters of thanks I received from the pupils – all twenty of them!
Just before Christmas I was pleasantly surprised to hear I’d made the longlist in the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Competition and my kids recorded me reading my entry to send off, as there was no way I was going to get to Limerick on a Wednesday evening to read. Sadly, I didn’t make the shortlist, but getting that far was a real boost to he morale, as I hadn’t written any longer work for quite a while.
So, hopefully this year will bring more poetry facilitation in schools and although I intend to continue writing haiku in both languages, I will start concentrating on longer work such as flash fiction (still not very long!) and short stories (which are by nature, still quite short!) I’ve already written a bit of flash and micro fiction in the recent past, including work published over at Postcard Poems and Prose. Starting to write a novel is something I can only dream of, as I tend to agonise over every sentence before moving on to the next which means that it would probably take me a few years to complete the first chapter!
So, these were some of the writing highlights of my year which I found immensely enjoyable. . I hope that whatever you do in 2014 is a great success and that it is your most productive, healthy and happy year to date.
Black and white version of my ‘Winter Woodland Scene’ painting. Thanks to Dave Morehouse at Postcard Poems and Prose for helping me with the text for my cards on Redbubble