I must admit, I’m a sucker for quirky ways of distributing poetry. There’s something very enjoyable about watching the reaction of the public when they have been unexpectedly exposed to a poem.
Belfast-based, Fermanagh poet Maria McManus is the artistic director of two literary projects that do just this, and I was fortunate to have been involved in both earlier this year.
The most recent- LabelLit – went live on Poetry Day Ireland last month and involved the distribution in public places of over a hundred brightly coloured luggage labels from sixty poets. On each label the poet had written or typed a ‘teaser’ line from one of their poems.
Whoever found a label was asked to Tweet a photo and, on the first day of the project, the person who found one of mine fluttering at the end of Warrenpoint marina turned out to be the daughter of an old school friend with whom I’d lost contact decades ago. Small world and all that…
This year LabelLit introduced the Poetry M’App, a feature that enables you to click on a location and listen to a poem inspired by that place. To hear a poet reading his or her work just visit the map below to go directly to the site. Wherever there is a map pin, there is a poem!
Two of my poems were included in this project, the first inspired by a stiflingly hot afternoon in the French countryside of Courtemanche, Picardy. ‘Placement Year‘ is also available on Soundcloud. The second, ‘The Island Affair‘, was inspired by a memory of a special time spent on Owey Island, just off the coast of County Donegal.
As an added bonus, participants the LabelLit project received these inspirational words on a luggage label from former Beirut hostage, Brian Keenan, which I will always treasure.
“What I knew for sure from the start was that there would be poetry because Ireland and poetry have become collocated in world literature. Think poetry and think Ireland…The actual job of choosing the 20 poems that would be exhibited was tougher than I expected.”
The second project involved the strange, tube-like contraption that is The Poetry Jukebox. The theme, In a Deeper Country, was inspired by the work of C S Lewis and jointly curated by Maria McManus and Tade Ipadeola, Nigerian poet, essayist, translator and lawyer. On the launch day in Belfast I watched members of the public approach, obviously intrigued by the jukebox which, just like its musical counterpart plays your selection at the press of a button.
Maria McManus has curated several of these installations in Belfast and Dublin and my haibun (prose plus haiku) Finding Narnia was selected for this curation that featured twenty poems from around the world, inspired by the work of CS Lewis.
Overlooked by this huge statue of Aslan from Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, the square was the perfect location for the launch of this curation. Tade Ipadeola maintains a keen interest in all things CS Lewis-related and it was a real honour to have been involved in this amazing project.
Poetry Jukebox is a Quotidian–Word on the Street Ltd Project supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Some images from my label distribution day…just because Warrenpoint is such a pretty place to live. 🙂