Do What You are Told – Rebel!

Do what you’re told, Rebel! said Bernard McClafferty, describing a line of graffiti in Belfast back in the day when he was at the Cuirt festival last week. I think it was one of my favourite lines of Cuirt because it captured both the loss of independence and the silent wit that exists in the pages of Irish literature. Interestingly, it was a theme picked up by other Cuirt performers. Declan Kiberd, earlier that day, had suggested that Irish literature was an early warning system. Keats, Edna O’Brien, Beckett, Heaney, Friel, McGahern, Boland all flagged the future social issues of Ireland in their writing and the loss of Irish sovereignty through colonialism, religion, emigration, market forces and, more recently, austerity. Kiberd also discussed the demise and ‘privatisation’ of Irish public spaces. He cited the disappearance of the Irish pub scene, particularly in rural Ireland and suggested that we learn how to use public spaces from other countries to enhance and expand our culture, culture being a stake of revolutionary struggle and space being essential to a shared voice.

Bernard MacLaverty re-iterated this later when he talked about the importance of detail in writing. He said the more local you are, the more universal it becomes. Like the Irish Pub which, ironically, while closing, also went global. This link between local and universal, public space and literature struck me again while listening and reading the poems of Imtiaz Dharker who was born in Pakistan but lived in Glasgow, India and now London. Yes, I thought, the sharing of culture, in a public space provides backbone and energy to society. Exchanging culture is a way of understanding and talking to each other. Yet, so often, all we get to read and or see is the graffiti in the wall, graffiti which says ‘Do what you’re told… Rebel.’

However, it must be said, graffiti can work. Everyone loves Banksy. Graffiti can sum up effectively in one sentence what some essayists can take twenty pages to say. Generally, I like reading essays, if they are pertinent, and have a point. I think Montaigne was one of the best essayists. Interestingly, he wasn’t mentioned at the Essays and Ideas event at Cuirt. I’m not sure that essays work when they are read aloud. I find it hard to focus on the thread, if I have understood it in the first place, and I can find myself disappearing up the writer’s back passage, along with them.

Bernard MacLaverty also said he thought that short stories are a place of loneliness while the novel is a public place. For me, that feels right. We each need our place of loneliness, but we also need those public spaces to share our voices. So, I think I’ll finish this with a poem by Imtiaz Dharker, the treasure I unearthed from Cuirt, because I love the magic of poetry and this poem, I think, captures succinctly what I am trying to say in this blog (it is not an essay). And, I like its title because it refers back to my own collection of poetry, Threads, which I published last week just before going to Cuirt.

This Line, That Thread

Draw a line from finger to heart
Draw the water from well to mouth
Place a mark where the words were said
Map the distance from North to South.

Take it apart and start again.

Look out of the window at your neighbour.
Look in the mirror at your own face.
Breath on the glass to blur the border,
Watch it become an unowned space.

Wipe it away and begin again.

Hold the end of a single thread,
Loop it to others, weave it to lace.
Spread it out to see if the holes
Are an imperfection or a kind of grace

With their open heart, their otherness. (Taken from Luck is the Hook).

I had a fabulous few days at Cuirt. Our use of ‘public space’ may be being privatised but Ireland is a wonderful country for literary festivals, and these are very important public spaces to share ideas. I now can’t wait for the Borris Festival of Writing at the start of June. Photos are Imtiaz Dharker, Declan Kiberd, and Bernard MacLaverty

If you want to purchase Threads click below

You can purchase Threads via PayPal here

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I Couldn’t Believe My Ears

You can purchase Threads via PayPal here

 

I couldn’t believe my earsCatriona O’Reilly, Cavan Arts Officer, and Philip Doherty, Cavan playwright extraordinaire, did me proud at the launch of my poetry collection, Threads,  in Cavan, last night. Truly, I couldn’t believe my ears (now I understand that expression) when I listened to them talk. It was as if they were discussing  someone else’s work. When I heard both of them read extracts , I actually nodded,  as one does when one hears an impressive poem. Then I understood it was my poems they were reading. They made them sound so good! I wanted to go home straight away and re-read the collection borrowing their eyes! Thank you, Catriona, Philip and the Johnston Library. You made me feel so thrilled and proud last night.

You can order Threads at the paypal link above.

 

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London in Spring

Last weekend, in London, the sludge of the Thames flowed with blue sky and spring lamb clouds. Park cafes were snaked with daffodils and people tottering on Spring legs. Folk flowed up the steps from the depths of the Underground into the sun strewn streets of St Paul’s, Piccadilly, Green Park, Knightsbridge. The city highways and by-ways were like a murmuration of starlings gathering, dividing, re-shaping.
I sprang back into my home town by eating, drinking, visiting the Pooh and Picasso exhibitions, meeting friends, family, theatre. The Picasso Exhibition was fabulous. A circular swoop of colour and shape, of women and sexuality with a pumping under current of lust and sensuality. The Pooh Bear exhibition was charming. I travelled to South Ken in a tube carriage over flowing with excited, neatly limbed, small children, the sort that go to exhibitions. I loved the narrative around EP Sheppard’s drawings: how to show expression with a just a dot and a dash.
On Friday and Saturday morning, I woke in bed bathed in sunshine and traffic. As I stretched, so did the day. Each morning, afternoon and evening was creased into a linen fold of coffee, lunch and tea, exhibitions, theatre, restaurants, all arrived at by way of linked arms, laughter, murmured secrets and silver service. Sirens blazed, horns blared, people forged. Prince Albert glowed golden in Kensington Gardens. Snippets of stories spilt into the Serpentine or on to cracks in the pavement as we walked, talking of work, writing, retirement, rape, child sex abuse, war and chemical weapons, and books. We single filed and dodged through traffic, hailed taxis, grabbed tables. And my world mixed the magic and sadness of belonging and un-belonging.
On Sunday, it rained. In the morning, I sat quiet in the grey of the window, watching my brother’s magnolia tree slowly bloom in his London garden. In the afternoon, I went out for tea.
Of course, my mother wasn’t there. But that’s okay. She left me London, family and friends and I am grateful to her for that. I thank her.

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Threads

Launch of Threads

A Second Poetry Collection from Kate Ennals

Thursday 19 April 2018 at the Johnston Library, Cavan. 6.30pm

 

 

As Trump continues his reign of turmoil and the Russians and Syrians poison and bomb, and as the British wreak further havoc with Brexit and debate abolishing school meals, and as the Chinese President consolidates his power for the next decade, I am launching my second collection of poetry on Thursday 19 April at the Johnston Library at 6.30pm. It is called Threads.

Adrienne Rich said, “poetry can’t free us from the struggle for existence”, but my poems and writing do help me to express the “inchoateness” (Seamus Heaney) of being. Poetry and writing are my anti-dote to the fading thread of hope in the world we live in today.

The poems in Threads were written over the last five years. The book is divided into three parts: Familiar Threads, Threads of Thought and Other Threads. In Familiar Threads, many of the poems are about my mother who died last year. They are not particularly pleasant, but they helped me deal with her decline. In Threads of Thought, the poems respond to the political upheaval and are tiny expressions of my frustration, anger and fear. The poems in Other Threads reflect on the extraneous threads of life that make up our every day.

I titled the collection Threads because it seems, increasingly, that threads are all we are: threads unravelling from a woven patchwork.

It would be lovely to see you all at the launch (there will be refreshments). I am very happy that Catriona O’Reilly of Cavan Arts Office and playwright extraordinaire, Philip Doherty from Cavan Town Hall, have agreed to do the honours. Over the last ten years, the Arts Office has provided me with tremendous support and encouragement as has the Town Hall Cavan which has put on amazing, exciting extravaganzas and productions which keeps the arts scene flourishing in Cavan. I’d love to see the broader Cavan community there because we are what make life good and I want to celebrate this poetry book with you. But, I hope, all of you friends, poets, writers will come from wherever you are for you are all threads in my fabric.

And many thanks to Nuala O’Connor for the review on the back cover.

 

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A Valentine Thought: The Rugby Rape Trial in Ulster

kate culture nightI have a lot of respect for the complainant in the Rugby Rape Trial. It must be so daunting to take on such statuesque, well known and popular men. It must be very scary to put yourself into the hands of more men (the legal team) trying to besmirch your character. It must be so stressful to face more aggression after having already experienced shame, fear and anger at their hands. It must be so demeaning to have all your actions while drunk put into the public domain.

I feel all this because I have been in many similar situations but did not have the courage or fortitude to tell anyone, let alone take a court case. On numerous occasions in my life, when I was young and drunk, I was taken advantage of by older men who wanted sex. In some cases, I had flirted, and had been flattered by their attentions, but then didn’t know how to say no. I felt like I had gone too far, and I deserved whatever happened next.  In one case, where I did say I did not want sex, I was chased around my flat by the gentleman, naked, who refused to accept I meant no. It was not a pretty sight. In the end, he had his way. He was angry and I was frightened. I worked with this guy.

On other occasions, the men were colleagues of my father. They worked for human rights organisations. One came to my hotel door, suggesting a night cap. I was sixteen. I was undressed. I was flattered. I will never forget the way his hairy body grazed my young flesh as he rubbed himself on every part of me, or the scrubbing of the hot shower afterwards. Another man was my father’s colleague with whom we were staying who came to my room. Yes, I had been chatting and flirting with this man over dinner. I was his guest. I was my father’s daughter. Mea culpa. And I couldn’t tell my dad. They were his friends and colleagues.

These events when I was young and impressionable, led me to have a blasé relationship with my body and sex which wasn’t healthy. There were numerous times when I ended up having sex I didn’t want with men I didn’t like because they expected it.

On all occasions drink was involved. On each occasion the men felt that they had the right to act, that my behaviour had warranted it, and I complied. But, every single time, I felt abused. Then, I would not call it rape. Rape has so many connotations: it means victim, oppression, violence. I was a middle class young woman who fought for women’s rights, went on protests. I did not like to think of myself as oppressed; I was not a victim, just an immature, silly, drunken girl. And I did enjoy sex. I thought I knew it all. The generation of the seventies who understood sex. I loved the intimacy, the love, the exploration of each other. I loved the gentleness, and physicality the body brings to the relationship. But I didn’t enjoy sex with these men. It was nothing to do with love, intimacy, appreciation. There was no relationship. I had been afraid and ashamed. And I hadn’t known how to stop it.

So, I think this woman is very brave to come forward, and in effect, put herself on trial. She is showing us how honest, honourable men can assume that what they are doing is consensual and it is not. They are imposing their will. They are taking advantage. They are raping women because they are drunk.

I would hazard a guess that, like the ‘me too’ campaign, there are a lot of women with the same experience. My heart is with this young woman, and I thank her for taking the stand on behalf of us all.

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Food For Thought in Doolin

The writers’ festival in Doolin not only whetted my appetite, but sated it too. Every workshop was shared with scones, Danish pastries, chocolate drop strawberries, cheese, exotic crackers, fresh fruit, shell fish, bagels, tiny savouries. There is no better inspiration than food for thought: thank you, cooks, at Doolin Hotel.

On the Friday morning, I didn’t know where I was when I woke up in Limerick after spending the evening with my son in an extremely nice wine bar. A very, very nice, ‘will we have another’? wine bar. So, rather poorly prepared, I set off for Doolin (leaving my poor son rolled in a hammock trying to avoid daylight). Rain swept Clare had not changed much since I was there twenty years ago when I was flooded out of my tent. Barren, and bleak wilderness swooped across the shoulders of boulders, muds of puddles and isolated signs of life that dot the landscape and there I was, bobbing alone in Doolin, in a sea of a writers, feeling a mere pebble among celebrated rocks.

However, my first workshop with John McKenna was excellent. He is a great performer who gave of himself with humour and gentility.

The reception later was hosted by two divine, cucumber cloaked salmon, curled in yin and yang connectivity. When I delved under the silver threaded skin, my fork yielded a beautiful cream of pink flesh, that the fish was definitely worth dying for. And there were crab claws, and clams, oysters.

The Saturday morning workshop on advanced fiction was lugubriously intense with Sean O’Reilly. He took us through the perils of narration and language, instructing us to delve deep into the borders of our character, and keep ironic distance. It was fascinating. You could hear a pin drop.

This was followed by three hours of blurring the lines with Rob Doyle. The workshop was great fun, with lots of exercises, chatter and ideas for different writing. We did auto portraits, wrote Wikipedia pages, and filled suggestion boxes – great writing tools.

From experimental writing to the Mad Hatters Tea Party which served prosecco, G&Ts in jars with cucumber and poetry (with a particularly beautiful performance by Raven). And so, it went on, as it does, with greetings and meetings, dancing and prancing, arguing and barking, blisses of kisses, exchange and arrange until after the Blessing on Sunday morning with Susan, June and bagels and bloody marys, I went home in a blaze of Burren and sun. Now, sadly, it’s time for the weighing scales.

Thank you, Donal, writers and performers for an absolutely fabulous (yes, Ab fab) week end.

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