Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pussy Riot & Poetry Divas

At our Poetry Divas gig at Electric Picnic this year, we dedicated our reading to the girls from Pussy Riot. We said, before we got started, how much we appreciated that we lived in a society where our freedom of speech was not curtailed and that we could pretty much say what we wanted, poetry wise.

Little did we know that a few hectic weeks later, we would be involved in a mammoth protest project, co-ordinated by English PEN and some very hard-working writers and poets. Two weeks ago, I noticed a call on Twitter to submit poems to Eng. PEN to show solidarity with Pussy Riot, in time for their appeal, which is this Monday, 1st October.

I responded with Pair Bond, a poem that Poetry Divas usually do together, taking various stanzas each. It's a poem about the many words for breasts, and began life as a sort of riposte to Alan Gillis' poem in Hawks and Doves. My poem has taken on a life of its own, and always seems to go down well at live gigs, especially when we use our visual aids.

Well, us Divas got ourselves together very quickly, got my son roped in and recorded ourselves all reciting various stanzas. Big son went off to UL, where he studies multimedia and music, and used our visuals and voices to bring a short video to life:

Then I discovered that there was an e-book in the offing as well: Catechism  - but wait! The book only goes live on Monday 1st Oct, so you will have to wait to read what George Szirtes says in his introduction, and to read all the varying voices contained. They are distributing it on a 'Pay What You Think It's Worth' scheme.  I've had a sneak preview, so I know what I think it's worth. Enjoy and think of the girls in Russia on Monday; here's hoping that they are freed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More camping, Electric Picnic highlights

A busy summer is rapidly turning into a busy autumn. I've been on the go at a few readings lately, but I'll start back with the Electric Picnic experience, with the Poetry Divas, once of the best festivals I was at in a long time.

This is held over the last weekend of August/first weekend of September, so can be a little hard to get going to, what with the six kids and all. But this year worked out sweet, as the kids were more or less back at school anyway, and I wasn't back myself to work until after the 5th.

I actually didn't mean to go for the weekend, we thought our reading was on the Saturday, originally, and I had planned to just go for the day, taking in The Cure later on before retiring gracefully.

That didn't happen: turned out our Divas gig was on the Sunday, so I went and bought a pop-up tent (always practice putting them down at home beforehand, if you don't want to look like a right eejit) and dug out me blow-up bed and mummy sleeping bag.

Good job too. Saturday 1st 2012 was a fab day, with warm sunshine, but a bit of a nip in the breeze. I spent the entire afternoon in the Mindfield, taking in acts in Marty Mulligan's Spoken Word tent, the Arts Council tent and the Science Gallery tent.

I saw Declan Burke and muscian Ken Griffin doing a double act: Declan was reading from his latest Slaughter's Hound, and Ken was playing a few tracks; lovely voice, excellent guitarist. At home I went on to buy Declan's first book Eight Ball Boogie, and will be getting Slaughter's Hound soon, but I need to finish my Raymond Chandler triple-decker first. I also saw Eoin Colfer and John Banville in the flesh: they were in the audience for Declan's set. And I heard Banville will be writing a new Chandler novel soon, if it's not already in the bag.

I was also present for the Poetry Ireland Saturday contribution in the Spoken Word tent, catching Stephen Murray, Alan Jude Moore, Kit Fryatt (out-there poetry, pushing it right to the limit), and Jennifer Matthews. Missed Mairead Medbh, raging about that.

Later on, it was back to the Arts Council tent for John Cooper Clarke. The tent was stuffed to the guy ropes with bods. We were sitting next to Fintan O' (wish I was) Cool and Roddy Doyle. Cooper Clarke has a steady patter thing andin the hour and ten mins he was on, I think he actually only did about five or six of his pieces. Still, it was fantastic to see him, he's someone I've admired for years. Saw Patti Smith very briefly. She rocked!

Needless to say The Cure were bloody brilliant, doing a three hour and twenty min set. Lots of the older stuff: 10:15 Saturday Night, Boys Don't Cry to name a few, but my legs were beginning to give way around midnight so I retired to the performers area for a sit-down and some beer.

After a surprisingly refreshing sleep, on Sunday morning it was back to the Mindfield, this time in prep for our own Divas gig at 1.30pm, which got moved out a bit due to other acts. There were four of us this time, and we had a cracking, kickass set. It can be hard work doing the spoken word with the bass from the main stage competing with you, but we had a good crowd, and the highlight was a red-headed man popping up for Kate's Flaming for Vincent poem, which begins, 'O give me a red-headed man...' You need to imagine quite a seductive voice... The poor chap near choked on his noodles!

Got to see the Icelandic band, Of Men and Monsters later on. A big crowd turned up for this one, and they were really brilliant. They started their set by getting the crowd to sing Happy Birthday for Nanna's dad, which she recorded on her iPhone. There was also the amusement of a blow-up beachball that surfed the crowd as people hand-tapped it up and around the Crawford tent.

Meanwhile, back in the Mindfield, Roddy Doyle and Glen Hansard were on together - bravo to the Arts Council for doing the author/musician thing, it made for some really interesting listening. Again, another packed tent. Also caught three comedian lads (no name, sorry) and Colm Keegan reading from Don't Go There, this time back in the Spoken Word.

By this stage, the old back and neck were screaming at me, so I headed on home, and had to make do with Elbow, the main stage act, on the car radio going home. Reckon I got a good deal there, as I made it home in two hours, before everyone else got on the M7. All round a brilliant EP, definitely thinking next year is a goer.