Seven Last Words

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You may have noticed that despite the fact I publicly proposed to read nothing but short stories during this, the shortest month of the year, I appear to be consuming very little aside from poetry collections by Northern Irish poets. There is a reason for this. I am in the middle of a commission to write seven new prose pieces loosely based on the Seven Last Words from the Cross. This is part of an exciting/slightly terrifying collaboration with a string quartet of Northern Irish musicians, headed up by fellow Cambridge House alumni and fabulous viola wizard, Laura Sinnerton.

On Easter Saturday in the Crescent Arts Centre the string quartet will be performing Haydn’s Seven Last Words from the Cross. (nb. have recently discovered Haydn is pronounced “Haydn as in hidin'” rather than “Haydn to rhyme with made in” – learnt this the hard/rather embarrassing way- don’t want any of you to make the same mistake). Haydn’s piece is traditionally performed with seven bespoke pieces of liturgy read between each of the movements. Many poets and writers have had a stab at creating new versions of this liturgy. Now it’s my turn. Yikes.

The seven themes loosely translate to be forgiveness, comfort, relationship, abandonment, need, fulfilment and reunion. I was instantly struck by just how pertinent these themes are to our situation here in Northern Ireland. So, I’ve spent the last month reading as much Northern Irish poetry as possible, particularly looking for how our poets have engaged with each of these themes. I’m now spending my evenings bouncing ideas off each other, trying to craft seven short pieces of writing that speak to contemporary Northern Ireland, mostly getting tied in knots, but sometimes hitting gold. It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever attempted creatively. I have no idea how it will turn out but I am thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with another bunch of immensely talented artists. I’ll keep you updated on how things are going, and you can book your tickets for the performance here via the Crescent’s box office. If nothing else, I can promise the music will be sublime.

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