An Open House and an Empty Chair

An Open House

Two weeks ago I received a surprise invitation to a poetry reading on Tuesday 14th August at Fealty’s Pub in Bangor Northern Ireland. The event was part of the Open Door Festival which sets out to ‘create a creative town’ in Bangor by hosting arts events all through August.

The small room was packed and there was good poetry and beer. It gave me an opportunity to read for an audience consisting (almost) entirely of strangers and see how my work was received those who had never heard it before. My friend Yvonne, who invited me, and I were the last to read. Fortunately the audience were not flagging and were most appreciative. Let’s hope it is a good rehearsal for my forthcoming reading at the Kendal Poetry festival in two weeks time.

See you all there!

The Empty Chair

I read with horror this week about poets and writers from the Middle East,  Iran and Palestine in particular, and countries in Africa, who, having been invited to the Edinburgh International Book Festival to take part in events and discussions, have been refused visas by the Home Office.

One of them, a children’s illustrator from Iran, was reported as saying the grounds for refusal were given as ‘she was a single woman’.  The publisher who had invited her said that if the writer did not get here by Thursday 23rd August, she would place an empty chair on the stage during the event at which she was meant to be speaking and sharing her work, as a gesture of protest against the mean-spirited actions of our government intent on pursuing their hostile environment policy.

I intend to reiterate this gesture in support of all  artists who have been unjustly excluded by the current immigration policy here in the UK. I would like to invite all of you who read this blog to join me in this act of protest and solidarity with our fellow artists.  In my view a government which calls itself a democracy and yet which excludes artists and writers in this way has lost its way in a very serious and frightening way.

At a recent poetry group meeting one of the other poets remarked that it is difficult in these troubled times to write without an undercurrent of unease. This unease has been my preoccupation  in poems I have been writing recently. I have tried to capture the sense of normality, ordinariness and delight in hot weather, alongside an underlying feeling of uncertainty discomfort and dread, as well as a healthy dose of anger, as our country spirals downwards into political chaos and lurches to the Right following others already going that way. My poetry has always been political and at the moment it needs to stay that way.

You may notice I have changed the format of my blog. It is still primarily about my writing life but I felt it was time for a change.

Also time for a new poem of the month for August.


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