Thursday, 5 July 2018

Poem commission for NHS70

Happy birthday NHS! Here's my poem for NHS70, commissioned by Northern Ireland Confederation for Health and Social Care (NICON), with support from Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
It's all about people, about everyone who uses the NHS, and the amazing staff who provide the care and support for the nation. Enjoy.

I'll be reading it at a special celebratory event in Stormont on the day. It's also going to be shared with all 70,000 NHS staff in Northern Ireland. So slightly nervous!

A big thanks to Heather Moorhead and Cliona McCarney at NICON and Damian Smyth at ACNI for their support and belief to make this happen.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Belfast Book Festival

Honoured to be reading alongside the brilliant Joan Newmann and Mel McMahon at this year's Belfast Book Festival, on the first day of the festival, Wednesday 6th June, at 6.30pm in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast. Tickets are free, but you need to book in advance.

Here's the event blurb and link:

Three Verses: Mel McMahon, Colin Dardis & Joan Newmann

Join Irish poets Mel McMahon, Colin Dardis and Joan Newmann as they read from their latest works.

Mel McMahon will be reading from his second collection, Beneath Our Feet (Abbey Press). A poetic tribute to Wilfred Owen, one of World War One's greatest poets, the book deals with the last two years of Owen's life and explores his time in France and Craiglockhart.

Colin Dardis will be reading from the x of y (Eyewear Publishing). Navigating an often complex and uneven playing field, the collection strives to find balance from a life constantly fluctuating between profit and loss, exploring questions of existence and identity, asking who we really are, and how we can possibly be.

Joan Newmann will read from Dead End (Summer Palace Press), a rumination on death which is often as playful a collection as it is a dark and hauntingly beautiful one.


Poetry NI will also be once again hosting the Belfast Book Festival Poetry Slam, on Saturday 9th June at 9pm.

Open to all poets, we invite you to take the mic and enter our annual poetry slam competition. Share your work in front of a lively and appreciative audience, with new readers always welcome.

To enter, just register at the start of the night; names will be drawn out at random, with each poet invited onstage to read. Available slots will be limited to 22 due to time constraints, so it’s first come, first served!

Readings at Dusk, Bangor

Great to read alongside Maureen Boyle, Rosemary Jenkinson, Stephanie Conn and many others at Readings At Dusk in Bangor last night, for the latest #thexofy on tour reading. It was friendly, relaxed and supportive, exactly as you want a reading to be!

Amy and Paul at the Blackberry Path Art Studios, where the event was held, also run the Bangor Literary Journal. I've been interviewed by Amy for the new issue, talking about my new collection, the x of y, plus there's three new poems (well, two new poems and one kind of newish).

We hope to be back in Bangor later in the year for Aspects Festival, stay tuned!

(Thanks to Stephanie Conn for the photo)

Friday, 6 April 2018

Cover reveal: the x of y

Here it is: the cover for my new collection from Eyewear Publishing.

The photo is one I took myself, with design my Edwin Smet of Eyewear. I wish I could remember where exactly this tree is - it's somewhere in Edinburgh anyway, taken last summer. Trees are fascinating subjects for photos, expansive and individual, flooding the frame with weaving and arching detail, allowing for tangents but firmly rooted with a centred trunk. Perhaps just how poetry should be...

I'm immensely pleased with the book, and trying to contain my excitement until the Belfast launch, which will be on Thursday 3rd May, 5.30-7pm at Linen Hall Library, as part of their Writers On Writers Festival.

More details soon...

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying

A new poetry anthology about mental wellbeing for Mind, Please Hear What I'm Not Saying, is out Feb 8th, edited by Isabelle Kenyon, featuring many great poets, and a poem from myself, 'There Must Be Ashes'.
To mark the release, contributors are being asked to talk about their own mental health journey, I've been through depression, anxiety, CBT, counselling, Lifeline, antidepressants, long periods of being too ill to work, having to fight ESA and DLA assessors who refuse to believe in mental illness. I've been blessed with an understanding GP, and great support from Action Mental Health, Arts & Disability Forum, Open Arts and others. My first big step to a better mental health was being referred to a Conditioning Management Programme run by the local Health Trust, as well as taking group classes with Action Mental Health. If anything, it got me out of the house and engaging with others, at a time when I was in a kind of self-imposed exile. I was encouraged to talk and share how I felt without judgement, simple but vital steps. And of course I was hesitant, resistant and challenging, but I also knew that I needed professional help.
The first step to change is the desire to change, and I knew that wasn't going to happen on my own. So I encourage you to look for what support networks and services are out there and avail of them if you feel you might need help. Through the Conditioning Management Programme, my counsellor starting asking me about the future. I mentioned I wanting to work in the arts, and she was able to arrange some job shadowing with the great poet Ruth Carr via Open Arts at Crescent Arts Centre. I sat in with Ruth as some of her classes in the Crescent, and helped facilitate a writing project with an Open arts group and the Ulster Museum. It was a fantastic experience to help others write and gave me a sense of self-worth. That was the start of a long process. There is no miracle leap to take towards 'recovery' with mental health. Instead, you learn, you adapt, you make mistakes, you slip back, you become more aware of yourself and you try again. And today, I'm still trying. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't, and you won't win every day. As long as you know your warning signs, and try to intervene or keep asking for help along the way, with hope and faith, we will get through. One of the ideas of #PleaseHearWhatImNotSaying is to be self-aware, and aware of others' mental health journey too. It isn't always said or expressed directly, so we need to be wiser regarding how mental wellbeing impacts on us all.
The book is being released via Amazon on Feb 8th. Launches are happening around the UK and Ireland for the book. 
Poetry NI will be heading up a Belfast event (details to be confirmed),