Thursday, 28 March 2013

Sing for Life

I joined a new choir last year. It's called Sing for Life and was set up by Cancer Focus and the Crescent Arts Centre. The choir is for anyone affected by cancer, whether that person is yourself, a family member or a friend. With these criteria, it pretty much includes everyone.

We are a community choir of over fifty strong. None of us are particularly expert singers but we all get a great buzz from taking part. We sing a wide range of material from medieval (Gaudete) to traditional (Danny Boy) to soul (Lean on Me). We perform too, with gigs at the Black Box (16 April) and Fisherwick Church (22 April) coming up.

This year Cancer Focus is the main charity of the Belfast Marathon, which takes place on 6 May. Their aim is to raise awareness of men's cancers and to raise funds. They asked if they could use my cancer story in their publicity and I agreed.

I also suggested to choir members that we formed a team to enter the Marathon Walk (9 miles). A walking group began and we started meeting every couple of weeks to train for the event. I'm pleased to say that the walking team is now 15 strong and we're looking forward to taking part on May 6.

Is anyone willing to sponsor me (every pound will count) to complete the Marathon Walk on 6 May?

The Daily Mirror is the newspaper linked to the Belfast Marathon and last Saturday this piece appeared (apologies for the cheesy headline).

Sunday, 17 March 2013


Eggshells, yoghourt, poultry, bones,
brussels sprouts with daughter's groans,
breakfast scraps - organics only,
peelings, gristle, slice of pony,
blancmange, tapioca, scorched cake,
curled-up sandwiches from a wake,
dead-heads, clippings, twigs, leaves,
couscous, penne, spuds and cheese,
brown bin swallows with a belch,
regurgitates all as garden mulch.
A found poem,
derived from a recycling leaflet.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Found Poetry

I've begun to write poetry again. There has been a long gap. I haven't really written poetry since before I became ill.

Significantly, the first two poems that I wrote were about my illness. Both these poems are heavy with metaphor: the shadow and the sand-storm representing the experience of being in the thrall of the illness.

With these poems I was reflecting on where I had been. They were written from a different place. During the illness I could only write prose.

Over the past week I've written three new poems. Each of these has been a 'found poem': a new poem that is created from an existing text. The new poem is created by taking words and phrases (sometimes whole passages) from another source and reframing them as poetry by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.

The poems I've written this week have come from materials that arrived in the mail, texts which I would ordinarily have discarded: a promotional leaflet from a printing company, a letter accompanying my new bank card, a leaflet about recycling.

I began this process the day I received a card from a photographer friend. Terry had made a pinhole camera from an empty cocoa tin and had sent me a picture he had produced with it. He said, 'the appeal for me is being able to make images with stuff that would end up in recycling or landfill'.

I'm following Terry's excellent example by making poetry from similar materials. This is also a reversal, the making of poetry from mundane prose that had been created for another purpose. And an affirmation that creative possibilities are everywhere, if we only have the ability to look with fresh eyes.