It’s been an inspiring few months. Writing has helped me to heal and find my voice, and I love helping others do the same. I’m really enjoying my time as the Irish Writers Centre Writer In Residence with Womens Aid. The work coming out is heart-warming and eye opening.
I was delighted to be part of the second curation of the Poetry Jukebox, alongside Maria McManus. There are many powerful poems on here looking both directly and indirectly at the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Have a listen outside the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. This curation runs until 10th June.
I’ve really enjoyed some mini residencies with schools in the north as part of Poetry Ireland’s Writers In Schools scheme. I was moved to tears by some beautiful feedback from one school where every pupil sent me a personal note. One said she always thought poetry was boring but now she knows it is beautiful. Another said she’s now keeping a poetry notebook and writes in it every day.
I’m looking forward to the next few months when I’ll be working with people who have eating disorders. I love helping people to find their voice again.
I’ll also be running another Heartfelt Writing Weekend. Here’s a lovely comment from a previous weekend: “This was the first workshop where I was ‘given permission’ to be myself, to write from my spirit – my heartbeat. I feel free.”
It’s a real joy to see some of my mentoring clients getting published and being shortlisted for awards.
And I’m working away on a new sequence of poems, thanks to a SIAP Award from the Arts Council. Here’s hoping the rest of 2018 is just as inspirational.
I had a fantastic night reading at Muldoon’s Picnic alongside Paul Muldoon, the Horslips, Maria McManus, Martina Devlin, Peter McVeigh, Stuart Neville, Ann Enright and Michael Longley. It was one of the many great events as part of the inaugural John O’Connor Writing School in Armagh.
This was the first time Paul Muldoon hosted one of his famous ‘picnics’ outside of New York. It was wonderful to be a part of it.
Sometimes you do your best writing in bed. Give yourself permission to do this.
When I was writing for Fair City I used to lie in bed in the mornings running a scene over and over in my head until it was perfect, and then get up and write it down. My partner at the time used to ask when I was getting up, and laughed when I said I was thinking. I wondered if I was kidding myself until I got speaking to another writer on the series who said she did the exact same thing.
I remembered all this this morning when I was having a lie in. During this lie in I wrote a blog, a course outline, some tweets, this post and the answer to a question that’s been bothering me for a long time. Now that’s what I call a lie in.
Whatever works for you – do it!
PS During my lie in I also got this in a dream – God does not always come in lightning strikes but in a series of small kisses. You can replace God with the Muse, Inspiration, writing angel, whatever – just grab those kisses when they come.
I’m running a Creative Writing Masterclass at Rockport Arts Centre on Saturday 9th May and a Poetry Hothouse on Saturday 16th May.
In the Creative Writing Masterclass we’ll look at how to structure any story, create vibrant characters with a deep inner life and discuss some good writing practice to enliven any story. The day will involve a mix of writing exercises, ideas, inspiration and feedback. It is suitable for all levels of experience.
The Poetry Hothouse will explore what makes a good poem, how you put emotional depth into your poetry and how you create vivid imagery. I will use inspiration, tips, guided writing exercises and feedback to get you writing. This day will increase your skills and confidence, whether you’re a beginner or are already writing.
Bring a notepad, pen, packed lunch and your imagination. The room overlooks the sea and there’ll be a chance for a sea walk over lunchtime.
Both courses run from 10.30am-3.30pm. The cost is £30. Booking is essential and places must be booked through Rockport Arts Centre – via paypal at RockportArtsCentre.com, tel 028 9042 8372 or email email@example.com
My dad would have been 76 yesterday. As I head up to Laurel Villa in Magherafelt to read this Saturday 12th April, on the eve of what would have been Seamus Heaney’s 75th birthday, I want to share one of my poems for my dad which was inspired by Digging:
My dad spent the day ferrying the dead to the barrack’s makeshift morgue.
His bloodstained nails fleshed out the truth behind the first tense headlines.
In a daze, he decommissioned his paramedic uniform,
dumped jacket, shirt, socks, trousers, even his shoes in our kitchen bin.
He smashed the lid down hard, lashed out, until the tears crashed over
the no-man’s-land of his eyes. Powerless, I watched him surrender to his cries.
I’d spent that day firing words at a blank page, trying to breathe life
into their dead weight. I surveyed my cache of notebooks, suddenly aware
my vision was useless to this man who gave life back to the dying.
It’s lovely to be able to look back on the year and go that was a great one. The publication of my second collection The Return of the Buffalo was a real highlight. I was lucky to do some great interviews about the book, including this one on Culture Northern Ireland. The relaunch and enhanced web presence of my publisher Lagan Press means you can view interviews and see me reading my poetry on You Tube.
Taking part in the Corners Expedition to the Basque Country with 25 international artists was an inspirational and life changing experience. My residency in the beautiful environs of An Creagan will stay with me for a long time. I was also lucky to be able to do many poetry readings, including in some unusual venues like the Arts Council’s MacNeice House and a funeral home!
My short film Two Little Boys was featured in the Belfast Film Festival. I was also commissioned for Terra Nova’s new theatre project Arrivals and I’m looking forward to the first reading of my play on 9th January.
My creative writing teaching has allowed me to meet many wonderful people. This year I’ve worked with the Belfast Book Festival, Artscare, the BBC, the WEA, Poetry in Motion, NI Libraries, Monaghan Libraries, Small Steps, Consensus and many schools.
Here’s to a great new year and everything it may bring.
I’d love to see you at the launch of my new poetry collection The Return of the Buffalo on Tuesday 24th September at 7pm in the First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street, Belfast. Everyone welcome. Maria McManus and Myra Vennard are also launching their new books on the night. Check out the invite above. You can read more about the book in my interview with Culture Northern Ireland.
Here’s what it says on the back cover:
Whether dealing with grief at the loss of a father, a devastating personal tragedy or the vicissitudes of married love, Deirdre Cartmill’s The Return of the Buffalo attempts to make sense of an often harsh and seemingly meaningless world.
Central to the collection is a poem regarding a visit to Alcatraz in San Francisco – the site of a Native American occupation in the 1960s. Struck by parallels to her own experiences, Cartmill finds hope and consolation in this meditation on the Native American myth that the birth of a white buffalo calf and the revival of the buffalo population will herald a new age.
Other poems in the collection echo and deepen this desire to begin again.
While refusing to shy away from painful realities, The Return of the Buffalo is ultimately about the possibility of redemption.