Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sinead Morrissey

The Saturday before last I was in Belfast doing a bit of book promo business. It was a strange day to be in the city: there were riots in East Belfast and there were a few paramilitary manned road-blocks preventing people travelling into the city centre. The place was deserted. So deserted in fact that at one point I was the only person in the Marks & Spencer's Food Hall (a sight more eerie than any post apocalyptic Will Smith movie). The reason for all this was the continued protests on the part of Loyalists over the non flying of the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall. I don't want to get into the whole flag issue here, politics ain't my bag, and the New York Times does a very good job of unpacking the issue here. (Basically the issue isn't really the flag - it's demography). (I also don't want to write about the riots because the Friday night before I went out for a run in Carrickfergus and literally ran into the centre of a riot on The Albert Road, which is a kind of comic story and deserves a blogpost all of its own some day.)
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Anyway I was in Belfast paying a visit to my old pal Dave Torrans of No Alibis bookshop and as I was coming in he was on his way out. He said he was going to a poetry reading and would I like to come. He must have noted the suspicious look on my face because he quickly added "don't worry, mate, it's right up your ally - it's Sinead Morrissey." 
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We walked down to the Ulster Museum and despite the road blocks and the trouble 150 people had shown up to hear Morrissey read a dozen of her new poems. Ireland is one of the places in the world where poetry is still taken very seriously, where many people still memorize poems for pleasure, where people write poetry and read it, and where the poetry section of bookshops is bigger than, say, the self help section. Perhaps because of the bardic tradition poets in Ireland have always garnered respect, more so, I believe, than in America or even England where the job of poet can be seen as something slightly dodgy.
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I've blogged about Sinead Morrissey before although I'd never been to one of her readings until last week. She doesn't read as a matter of fact - all her poems are in her head and the words tumble from her memory easily in a flow like a song. My favourite of her new poems was one about the film A Matter Of Life And Death which was playing on BBC 2 as she was going into labour...A truly beautiful piece of verse which I haven't been able to find online but which - I assume - will be in her new collection out later this year. 
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It was nice of Dave Torrans to introduce me to Sinead and I hope I didn't make a complete fool of myself, being such a big fan of her work for years. Anyway here's a little youtube of Sinead talking about her work in 2012 and do look for her collection when it comes out in the Spring...