Podcast of Seamus Heaney Centre Summer School Students, 2020
Topics Poetry Dance Jazz
Thursday, 20 August 2020
Writers' Rooms(Seamus Heaney Summer School)
"I began to appreciate the qualities of a wide range of poetry styles, and also to see that I should stop trying to write like other people but to write like myself."
We're dancing in the kitchen with Steph, as she tells us about her writing plans and memories of the Summer School.
Where are we?
In a corner of our kitchen in Edinburgh. This is where I type up on the computer or have Zoom/Teams calls. The danger is my husband coming in and asking if I’d like a cuppa - the man from Porlock, so I use our son’s former bedroom for concentrated writing where I am undisturbed and there is no wifi link to tempt me. This bedroom has become a junk room since our son left home. I’m far too ashamed to show you a photo of the piles of old chairs, towers of books and files on the floor and the tiny walk-way I squeeze through to get to my desk-space, an old table. I thought I would get to grips with it during lockdown but one day of it was so depressing I gave up. I kept thinking I could be writing a poem instead.
What are you working on?
I am editing/rewriting poems that were discussed in the Summer School workshops or in 1-1s. I am polishing poems that will go in my first collection ‘The Further North’ (working title), poems inspired by landscape, history, folklore and myth of Shetland, Orkney, St Kilda and Iceland. I also have a completely different second collection about half way there: ekphrastic poems, colour (as in paintings), and women reclaiming herstory or the male gaze. I usually work on several collections at once (like Monet, though mine are worked on over several months not in the same day.)
What’s that over there?
That is a Balanese shadow puppet, Tuban, a comedy character which I bought in Bali whilst researching wayang kulit (shadow puppetry) and sacred dance. Tuban’s jaw can be manipulated to open and shut.
What’s that sound?
It could be the fridge, my husband munching toast, or the cacophony of seagulls, and magpies from the garden. I don’t mind the pigeons and pretend their cooing is doves.
Time for a break…?
Sitting on the bench in the sun (if any) in my tiny garden with a cuppa or weeding (a meditative activity) - aware I’m so lucky to have this Hortus Conclusis. After lunch, I go for a walk in the nearby grounds of a former lunatic asylum, (appropriate as we all feel a little mad now). I used to wade through a lake of buttercups during lockdown but now sadly mown as council workers return. If gales (which we seem to have more of this summer) I might do Tai Chi or just dance around the kitchen open space to something inspiring. At the moment, it’s Jamie Callum or ‘María de Buenos Aires’, Piazzolla’s tango operetta. I used to go to Contemporary Dance classes at Dancebase in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh but since lockdown, the kitchen has had to do. I don’t write in the eves as that way lies insomnia. Instead we watch telly/Netflix/Google Play together - the brilliant ‘My Brilliant Friend’ at the moment.
Was there a particularly striking moment during the Summer School?
Fellow students in the group workshop critiques were both incisive and uplifting and I was grateful for the time they must have spent preparing. I began to appreciate the qualities of a wide range of poetry styles and also to see that I should stop trying to write like other people but to write like myself - I don’t mean stop reading and learning from others - and also how to push my own writing to be more arresting.
What's next for your writing?
I hope to get my first collection published.
To see other Writers' Rooms click on Writers'Rooms
Friday, 10 July 2020
Friday, 3 July 2020
A week long of poetry critique, discussions and readings - but this year, due to Covid - all online. A fantastic way to hear and 'meet' poets of such talent and different approaches. A bit of craic too, even though through the internet. Our tutors were all brilliant: Nick Laird, Leontia Flynn, Simon Sexton.
TheBlackbird is the emblem of the centre, named after a beautiful early Irish poem, translated by Seamus Heaney and many others. 'The Yellow Nib' is the SH Centre's poetry magazine.
A shame not to have been able to go to Belfast itself but certainly in the future I'll go in the flesh next time.
Sunday, 19 April 2020
Valerie's artwork is inspired by the poetry and sounds of 'Berlin Umbrella' but she also included her own experiences of walking along the river Spree and Landwehr canal and so her exhibition is entitled 'Berlin Water.'
Saturday, 14 March 2020
Sonja Heyer and I outside the Byre Theatre, centre of the Scottish Poetry Festival, at St Andrews.
Everyone came up and enthused saying how much they enjoyed the poetry/walk. We had sun, but one windy day when a few umbrellas fell victim, turning inside out, one rainy day but that didn't matter as they are real umbrellas.
A punter listens to Berlin Umbrella in the Byre courtyard,
sheltered from the wind.
The Meet the Artists event led to a lot of hand waving -
in the background on the wall are Valerie Coffin Price's artwork
inspired by my poetry in Berlin Umbrella and accompanying
Sonja whilst she made natural water sound recordings.
of the poetry.
on the Sound Art.
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