An interview with Zadie Smith. Turn the volume up, sit back and enjoy.
An interview with Zadie Smith. Turn the volume up, sit back and enjoy.
Historical Fiction and Research
Guest Writer William Gallagher tells us
With Guest Writer Heather Wastie
With Guest Writer Charlie Jordan
includes video – Nina Lewis
I had the great pleasure of FINALLY seeing Inua Ellams perform in Birmingham this Spring, he also did a blinding set at the Swindon Poetry Festival this Autumn.
This is a poetry film, featured as part of 2015 INKSPILL writing retreat.
Nigerian-born Inua Ellams, a London-based writer, created the story “Dolphins” as part of “The Refugee Tales”, works about the journeys of refugees and migrants seeking safety in Britain. Ellams worked with children who have made treacherous journeys across desert and sea, and wrote the stories based on their experiences. © Film for Action
Guest Poet Interview with Daniel Sluman on his 2nd collection
Come back to the Library tomorrow where we will have more links for you from INKSPILL 2015 & 2016.
Now you have met Antony and heard about his latest collection The Nagasaki Elder, we hear more from him on poetry in this second part of the interview.
Antony Owen reading at the Restless Bones Book Launch 2014 © Rang-Zeb
1. What are your plans for 2018?
To rest, to spend more time with loved ones who I have avoided over the years. Five poetry collections in 8 years on gruelling subjects take a toll. So, to rest then and find some joy again.
2. What advice would you give to poets writing about conflict?
Write about it but be aware of the impact it will have on you. I hope all writers pen even one poem because poetry has to say something or it says nothing. What will our future generations say if artists are silent? In many cases propaganda and art were bedfellows in WW1 and WW2 but we remember the revolutionaries and poets like Sitwell, Owen, Douglas, Scannell, and not the doom merchants.
We must right that wrong and make art fight against the nefarious tabloids and avarice of media moguls out to brainwash us with apathy and front page headlines of wardrobe malfunctions of Z-list celebrities whilst 70 million refugees are ignored.
One of my friends who died last year wrote about the Jewish holocaust and she was one of the most under-rated and courageous poets I know. I thought of her a lot when I wrote The Nagasaki Elder. We are responsible to move the mirror from the vanity of selfies towards the issues like displacement and show the forgotten people and those hushed atrocities.
3. Why is poetry important?
It defines us in the most eloquent way. Poems are epitaphs for the times we inhabit. Nations like Britain are in a period of violent re-definement. For example, The focus on British Values is now being taught in our schools but what about human values? This is where poetry and art comes in as an equilibrium to reflect what is happening and suggest the malfunctions of society including government imposed changes.
School teachers and students deserve more respect and consultation in what poems should be taught. When I speak to school students they are more interested in modern poetry dealing with current issues. They crave to be heard and poetry and art are part of the clay that sculptures who we become as adults and how we respect art. Poetry is only important if it connects with people and sees them as important.
4. What prompted you to start writing poetry?
I was poor at formula subjects like Maths where you were right or wrong. Maths made me write poetry in the lessons and I found the sum of people, of language.
5. Where do you write?
Anywhere. I love writing to the music of Gabriel Yared, Hans Zimmer, Angelo Badamenti. Movie composers help create a cinematography in my mind which transcends to the page.
6. What books are you reading right now?
Everyone Is Now Unhappy by Fergus McGonigal, An anthology of unknown WW1 war poets, Genbaku poets (A-bomb poets) David Wevill and Edith Sitwell.
7. Do you have any creative rituals/ patterns?
No. Don’t snap the wand to see what it’s made of or you overthink things which kills the alchemy. I do like quiet though because my mind is always active filtering and processing the world and all its black magic.
I talk with Antony about his latest collection The Nagasaki Elder, his work as an Ambassador for CND Peace Education in the U.K, The Coventry Hiroshima Society and his hopes for this incredible book.
1. How did the idea for writing The Nagasaki Elder come about?
It was less of an idea and more of a promise to a Hibakusha that I would do all I could to raise awareness through poetry about the ghoulish consequences of nuclear weapons.
The seed was planted in 1984 when I watched Threads by a hugely overlooked writer called Barry Hines.
Threads was a BBC docu-drama that caused much controversy about its graphic portrayal of a one-megaton bomb being dropped over Sheffield. This was a working-class city like the one I was from and the people who became victims were my kin, toolmakers, mechanics. Cleaners, wives, mothers and fathers all decimated from the multiple faceted horrors of a nuclear weapon. The bomb depicted in Threads was around 70 times more powerful than the one that detonated over Hiroshima.
By today’s standard of nuclear weapons the one megaton bomb shown in Threads can be made 50-100 times more powerful. It is truly frightening and we cannot bury our heads in the sand. The idea for writing it is to show people what these weapons do and we will not get a 2nd chance to prevent them from ruining the human race and innocent blameless species that have been around long before us.
2. How long has this collection taken to write?
About 2 years. I work full time (not relying on poetry for an income) so all my free time was spent pretty much in researching, writing, re-writing etc. An old friend told me once that poetry is endless revision trailing through miles and miles of slush to find the purest, whitest snow.
One of the poems called The Fisherman’s Daughter in The Nagasaki Elder is about writing war poetry and the danger of doing so, if you go too far into the darkness you forget what light feels like. This happened to me and I think it is inevitable when writing about something so devastatingly sad.
3. Can you tell us about being an ambassador for CND Peace Education in the UK?
It is a role I take very seriously. The payment is not fiscal but active participation. CND Peace Education exist on minimum funding but maximum collaborative passions. All the people who work there make me very proud and make a pivotal difference to peace education and allowing tomorrows generation to make a difference today.
School students deserve to express themselves, there is no right or wrong answer in peace education, just the route we choose from being informed in a balanced way.
We plan to spend over 150 Billion pounds on weapons of mass destruction yet invest a pittance into peace education resources and peaceful weapons of mass instruction. It is wrong, places like CND Peace Education and the PEN Network deserve more sustainable funding so they can plan for legacies instead of day to day survival. It makes me very frustrated so I am pleased to help CND and will do so to the last.
More information on CND Peace Education can be found here.
4. How did the Coventry Hiroshima Society help support your peace work. Can you tell us about The Coventry Hiroshima Society?
They nurtured my social conscience with encouragement to pursue a path of peace and express it through poetry. It has helped further tighten the peace links between Coventry and Hiroshima.
The founder, Hideko Okamoto, has done more for peace than anyone else I know. The Coventry Hiroshima Society was a labour of love for Hideko after her time at Warwick University she was impressed with Coventry’s international links and advocation of peace and reconciliation. It moved her, particularly how Coventry which was badly bombed in WW2 remembers the anniversary of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Coventry Hiroshima Society is a beacon of reciprocal remembrance that burns bright through all this human darkness in the world at the moment.
That it touches people, inspires them to research more about nuclear weapons and do something rather than nothing. I want the collection to break down walls and build bridges because we need them more than ever.
Check out the INKSPILL Bookshop for more information and links to Antony’s Poetry Collections including The Nagasaki Elder.
BIOGRAPHY: ANTONY OWEN
Antony Owen was born in Coventry and was raised by working class parents. His poetry subjects are diverse with a general focus on forgotten people and the consequences of international and domestic conflicts.
He is the author of five poetry collections by Pighog / Heaventree / Hesterglock / and most recently V Press .
His work has appeared in several literary journals worldwide including Magma, International Times plus translated works in both Dutch and Japanese war poetry anthologies by Poetry International Europe and Coal Sack Press (Japan).
In 2015 Owen self-funded a trip to Hiroshima to interview A-bomb survivors and meet various schools who have been taught some of his poems. His work has been exhibited at various peace centres including the International Convention Centre, Hiroshima.
In recognition of his work, CND Peace Education UK selected Owen as a patron in 2015 alongside award winning writer AL Kennedy.
Other past recognitions include being selected to meet Irish President Michael D. Higgins in 2014 on the first state visit to the UK by an Irish President. This was to acknowledge Owen’s voluntary work on co-organising the Coventry / Cork twin city poetry exchange.
His latest collection The Nagasaki Elder was launched with V. Press this year. It is the result of years of work. It is a powerful collection (understatement) and is much needed in this world. Launched in September and currently on the 2nd print run.
You can buy a copy from the INKSPILL Bookshop.
Bridges Over the Wall – Antony reading at the Peace Poetry Vigil – Coventry Cathedral.
Antony arranged a voluntary peace poetry vigil for victims of conflict at the Chapel of Unity (Coventry Cathedral) on Sat February 4th.
This poignant remembrance project titled ‘Bridges over the wall” will consist of bridging poetry and spoken word for those without a voice from places of conflict across the world. The event will also bridge conflicts past and present eulogising those affected from the bombings of places like Coventry, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki to recent conflicts in Syria and Yemen. During the course of the vigil hundreds of dedicated poems will be read by Owen and selected poets throughout Warwickshire and beyond. Owen also plans to engage a local school and refugees to take part. For each poem read a candle will be lit in the Chapel of Unity creating a universal candle for world peace made up from places of conflict and peace poems.
Owen said “I wanted to show the social conscience of poetry and how important the role of art is in these difficult times. It is vital in these hard times that we build bridges to bring each other together and not walls to keep us apart. War poetry historically has always shed a light from the darkness of war and evoked some sense of the senseless”
Owen also acknowledged how Coventry was the first city in the world to twin with another (Stalingrad in 1944) and wanted to keep that spirit of reciprocal remembrance alive, Owen said
“In 1944 it was 900 of our women from Coventry who demonstrated human empathy to civilians caught up in the battle of Stalingrad, they embroidered their names on a tablecloth and sent messages of sympathy to the women of Stalingrad for the huge losses they suffered in World War II and their message was this: “From our city of Coventry, scarred and ravaged by the arch enemy of civilisation, our hearts go out to you, who now face slaughter and suffering even more fearful”.
Coventry now has 27 twin cities and Owen plans to contact as many of them as possible to share news of this event. The Chapel of Unity is a consistent beacon of remembrance and for decades has been a centre point of remembrance including the annual remembrance event for Hiroshima & Nagasaki where civilians of those cities also remember victims of the Coventry blitz. The vigil will be further enhanced by a separate event in the main Cathedral taking place in the afternoon which will bring Coventry Cathedral boy choristers together with those of Derby Cathedral, Leicester Cathedral and Southwell Minster for a combined service to take place separately from the vigil. They will be rehearsing in the Nave during the afternoon from about 2 pm and so providing a gentle backdrop to the Peace Vigil as it continues in the Chapel of Unity. Antony Owen hopes as many people will come to support this peace vigil by asking for a poem to be read for a place they want to be remembered. Optional donations to the Chapel of Unity and/or Cathedral can be made directly in the allocated boxes for any poems read and/or the other event in the main Cathedral. Please note that whilst entry to the Chapel of Unity is free of charge there is a separate fee to visit the Cathedral.
Antony Owen is an acclaimed and prolific author with four poetry collections. Some of his poems have been translated in Mandarin, Dutch, and Japanese in notable anthologies by Poetry international (Europe) and Coal Sack Press (Japan). Following a self-funded trip to Hiroshima in 2015 to interview A-bomb survivors amongst other work Owen was awarded the winner of Coventry’s 2016 Peace & reconciliation award at the Coventry Community Cohesion Awards. In recognition of his work, CND Peace Education UK selected Owen as their first male UK patron in 2015 alongside award winning writer AL Kennedy.
©2017 – Coventry City of Peace
It is important that you don’t censor yourself in this writing activity. It is just for you (unless you want to share it in the comments). Try to write freely, do not filter your thoughts, just get them all down. You can always redraft later.
Write a letter to yourself at a younger age, it could be your child-self or the person you were just a few years or decades ago.
You can offer compassion, forgiveness, advice, whatever you feel comes through.
It helps if you try to imagine the younger self you are writing to as a different person.
In the comments below maybe you would like to share the core message of your letter.
Most of us have them right? They may be long term, monthly or daily or a combination of all three… but just like New Year Resolutions we fall off that wagon a lot don’t we? We get too tired, or procrastinate by doing housework, paperwork or reading the news. We blog to feel like we are writing, we get trapped on social networks and suddenly it’s the afternoon and we have nothing accomplished.
Well, you have made a start in the right direction this weekend because you are here, gifting yourself writing time.
Long term goals are necessary but can often feel far away and can make us feel unaccomplished on a daily level.
Try to start small. Sit for an hour to write or use a word count limit. Remember to reward yourself for this.
The reward is key here because the satisfaction of writing isn’t tangible and sometimes we know we have put the time in but the result is bad writing, so it becomes too easy to beat ourselves up and lose motivation. Avoid the ‘what’s the point valley’!
Sit for a while and create a list of rewards.
Scroll down to see mine.
Make sure your list is personal to you, it has to include things you really want/to do, otherwise what is the point of working towards your reward?
It also needs to be something you can do easily after you achieve your writing goal. You may want to return to your writing space and repeat another hour of writing afterwards. I wouldn’t recommend gin/wine options as rewards unless you have reached the end of your daily writing. Although Hemingway would beg to differ!
Your reward has to be special, it shouldn’t be something you would normally do. TV for me is an indulgence nowadays. If I watch any at all it is on the planner or to spend time with Mr. G.
The secret of motivation: you provide your own motivation and we all know hard work reaps rewards, eventually. ‘You get out what you put in’ and all that.
The secret of the reward: after several months of tracking daily writing with rewards you will reprogram your brain. You will associate writing as a good thing not some painful, uphill endurance task.
Paul Martin puts down antiques (although he does mention them) to talk about British Poets. A short documentary video featuring Thomas Hardy, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen and briefly Siegfried Sassoon.
Every writer is encouraged to read, to read widely and to read often. Sometimes despite the library, internet and our own over burdened bookshelves we wonder what to read next.
I love it when someone points me in a new direction – this is why reading groups are such a good idea. Since starting my WMRN Reader in Residence role I have reignited my fascination for a reading list.
Here is a link to The Culture Trip website where Lani Seelinger focuses on 10 inspiring women writers (in case the title didn’t give you enough ‘in’). You may not agree, you may have read some of the titles. Let us know what you think in the comment box and if a title jumps out at you send a note to yourself (or write it down), read it and let us know what you think after.
Originally posted November 2016
Watch this short video.
Choose a person, think about their character, write their story.
200 max. GO!