April 16th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
Things you are allowed to say to the poet Anne Carson, if your proper name is actually Julie Anne Carson:
- You are half the woman I am.
- We are a rhyming couplet, you and I.*
- I also enjoy a well-placed appendices.
- Sometimes, I like to read through your impressive list of accolades and substitute my name for yours.
- You could well be my mother. This would have made everything a lot simpler for me; also more complicated.
*Are we a rhyming couplet? I’m not what you’d call “up” on my poetic forms, Anne?
April 17th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
Despite everything Gary had been led to believe, there was plenty of life on Mars. The stores were open seven days a week, even on public holidays, people of all ages cycled in designated cycling lanes and, in the suburbs and newly constituted urban villages of the capital, many people knew their neighbours personally and hung out at the weekends, grilling meat and drinking cold beer on the front porch. Team sports were still a really big deal on Mars, as was singing.
“It’s pretty neat here,” Gary found himself saying to everyone he met – bartenders, baristas, little old ladies with fancy hair. “It’s not at all what I’d expected.”
“Don’t tell them that when you get back to Earth,” all the people on Mars said, quite adamantly. “Tell them it’s red here and too warm, like Arizona. Otherwise, they move here and the property prices’ll go through the roof again.”
April 18th 2015 – Castlereagh Road, Belfast
Last night in the car, between one place and the other, the words “Bob Dylan” were spoken by an actor on Radio 4 at exactly the same second you were saying the words “Bob” and “Dylan” in the customary order.
This led to speculation about imperceivable radio waves, plagiarism and prophetic impulses. You wanted to see if the same phenomenon might occur a second time with different words and sat on in the car, listening. It didn’t.
This, you agreed was not a coincidence but not quite strange enough to sustain an entire novel, (like the football which fell out of the tree exactly at your feet or that thing with the hats outside Connswater).
“Small coincidences,” you concluded, “are just there to remind you that bigger coincidences are still possible.”
April 19th 2015 – East Belfast
In the autumn of last year we bought a fixer upper on the edge of Saintfield. Imagine our surprise when we received the keys to our ne home, only to discover that the house came with a cooker, washing machine and previous resident, installed in the living room.
At first we decorated around her avoiding the central section of the living room where the old lady had hunkered down with a year’s supply of “The People’s Friend” for distraction. Later, we would grow accustomed to her, call her Mags, (though we’d no idea of her given name), rest our drinks on her lap and lean against her while recounting our anecdotes at cocktail parties and informal soirees. She did not object nor seem particularly glad to be included.
“I’m not leaving,” she’d say from time as if we were asking, or even insisting, “it wouldn’t be home if I wasn’t there.”
April 20th 2015 – East Belfast
“You only think you’d have fancied Flannery O’Connor.
“Look at her,” you say, pointing to her author photo on the back of Wise Blood. “She was so cute. I’d totally have fancied her if I was alive back then.”
You are thinking of Flannery O’Connor as a lady in her early thirties with kooky vintage glasses and a hipster haircut, an immense eye for the well-fired sentence, and a thing for peacocks.
“You only think you’d have fancied Flannery O’Connor,” I say.
In reality, which is not like the fly leaf of a novel, the Catholicism would have driven you mad, also the fact that she still lived with her mother at thirty. You would have had little sympathy with the lupus. You are not, after all, good with illness of any kind.
You would have expected Flannery O’Connor to be movie strange, as girls who write and keep blunt fringes are expected to be nowadays. Back then, Flannery O’Connor was just plain, ordinary strange and this would not have done for you at all.
April 21st 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
Linda and Gary Craig
At night the mermaids gathered beneath the pier in clustered huddles. Their eyes, like cats’, could see in the dark. They did not need flashlights nor candles. They watched the parade of human feet through the lined holes in the boardwalk and, from time to time, commented upon this shoe or that in mermaid speak, (which was much like Braile, only quieter). Trainers. Flip Flops. Light summer brogues. The occasional naked foot, calloused from a beached childhood. Heels of all varieties; particularly the heels.
The mermaids bobbed around the pier posts like drunken apples and wished for feet which could be used for walking sometimes, but definitely heels. The good sense mermaid hung back with the jellyfish and the other unsociable types. She had no interest in feet or shoes, understanding as she did that most all of the world’s wonder was air or moving water and only accessible to those creatures with tails.
April 22nd 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
We wrote our individual lies on pieces of file paper. I was using a blue pen and he made me switch to black.
Then, he said, “no, this will not do. We should type them out so we can’t tell the difference in handwriting.”
We typed the lies out in Times New Roman, cut them up and put them in the biscuit tin.
“Now,” he said, “you lift out eight separate lies and put them together. This will make a poem. It is called a cut up. William Burroughs did this to Rimbaud and other poets I’ve never heard of.”
We picked four lies each, keeping our eyes closed to avoid intention. He arranged them on the kitchen table. They did not look like a poem, lying there beside the fruit bowl, more like a shopping list.
“They’re still lies,” I said, “in any order, and I can tell which are mine so all that nonsense with typing was pointless.”