dhamma moon

Delighted to have a few new poems up at dhamma moon. It has been such a revelation to have my poems read by the monk-editors of this publication and to receive their exquisitely thoughtful and complex responses.

 

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Where did Fife go?

 

This morning the sea mist had disappeared everything… it was wonderful to be so enveloped while also feeling the warm sun pulsing through, more like steam in a jungle (not very often do I say that about Edinburgh).

It’s already gone again now and chimes with what I’ve been thinking about this week, that if we stay still everything changes around us.

 

 

 

StAnza Workshop: Between Worlds

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with curators at MUSA, the Museum of the University of St Andrews, to lead a writing workshop for this year’s StAnza Poetry Festival on writing between worlds, in response to ritual masks and portraits in the collection. A brilliant group of writers gathered and we explored art, poetry, the self in myriad cultures (and the hidden self) and more. You can read all about it here.

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Poets moving between worlds.

In other news, I am busy trying to decide if this is spring. I have seen cherry trees in flower. I wildly purchased two pairs of summer shoes a few weeks back when we had a day or two of temperature that rose above 15 degrees, but now I am wondering if that was premature… as May dawns and I am still donning my winter coat every morning. And hat. And gloves. Still, my sister is getting married this June so we will be heading to New Jersey, New York and Vermont in what does not feel like TOO long now, and I sure hope it will be sunny. HOT and sunny.

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Spring?

For my sanity, I have been avoiding the real news, which does not seem like real news. It becomes especially fun to drop in every once in a while as the novelty makes it appear even more special. Like, Kanye said WHAT? Ah, back to poetry and the LRB, that noble publication, a subscription to which a kind friend has just gifted me. At least in the LRB, the grumbling is beautifully-composed and goes on for many crisp pages that make a sort of intelligent sigh when you turn the page. Now that my kind bosses have allowed me to compress my hours and I have every Friday (every Friday!) all to myself for writing, this becomes the kind of sophisticated temptation I have to push against. Write Jennifer, write!

Music, Poetry and Creative Learning

The Festival of Creative Learning is just about to kick off and we are bouncing with excitement as we have over 130 extraordinary events taking place across the University. I will be going to a witchcraft spell zine creating workshop, AI film screenings, an introduction to contemporary circus, an event exploring the refugee crisis through legislative theatre, a jewellery and anatomy event where we will be making body part-shaped jewels and much more!

In the midst of all this, James and I – aka OPUL – will be performing at Click Clack on Thursday evening, so join us if you’re in the mood for some poetry & music and cool jazz.

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We are also preparing for a special event as part of this project: TIMESCAPES Edinburgh. OPUL will be contributing poetry & music to Looking for Lucey: Celebrating the work of filmmaker Eric Lucey on 15 March at the Roxy Art House. Booking details will be available soon.

 

 

Creative Conversations

I’m so pleased to be joining Colin Herd for the Creative Conversations event at the University Chapel at the University of Glasgow tomorrow (Monday 22 January). Colin has been such a supportive and brilliant friend, poet, editor and curator for many years and someone I enjoy talking with about poetry and the world, so it will be a real pleasure to chat with him. Also having done my MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow, it is always wonderful to return there and remember those halcyon days! Meet the students! See what’s new and old on Byres Road!

Please join us – you can bring your lunch. I’ve also heard that it can be chilly so wrap up warm.

Creative Conversations

‌Monday 22 January
1 – 2 PM University Chapel
Free & Open to the Public

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Readings in December

I have the pleasure of reading twice in early December, and my mother will be visiting from America which is very exciting. She never gets to see me read, so it will be a chance to share that part of my life with her.

Please do join us at either or both of these events if you an make it along:

An Evening of Poetry with JL Williams a Book Week Scotland StAnza event at Zest in St Andrews, Saturday 2 December 2017, 17.00

and

St Mungo’s Mirrorball Showcase 6 at the CCA in Glasgow, Thursday 7 December, 19.00

 

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Review of After Economy by Penny Boxall

So grateful for this beautiful review of After Economy by Penny Boxall in The Compass:

If Burns’s collection is like the soothing chatter of grownups, the voices in J. L. Williams’s After Economy are more akin to the half-heard voices of dreams – compelling, disorientating, moreish – leaving you, on waking, wondering what just happened. The endorsements inside the front cover contain, from Eleanor Wilner, a delicious paragraph of praise for Williams’s writing:

For some reason, slightly unfathomable, I am reminded of a forest we visited on Japan’s north island of Hokkaido where the annual winter ice festival is held. The forest is sprayed for days by the local fire department, but not before flowers and colored lights have been hung within the branches . . .

The resultant ‘crystal forest’ – ‘all so unexpected, and so extravagantly beautiful’ – is what is called to Wilner’s mind by Williams’s poems. It is pleasing to turn to the first page and read the title poem, which details this process, presumably drawn, in its turn, from Wilner’s description:

 

The first rinse takes some time, a glassy sheathing,

the second ices each branch quick and soon

the entire frozen forest glitters and shimmers

from within – each bulb encased in ice

a mouth through which the final word

of the world is shining out; light, light.

 

Wilner’s impression of the experience of reading these poems is recreated aptly by Williams’s poem and, in a further meta-move, this could be a description of the experience of reading the collection as a whole. The first reading ‘takes some time, a glassy sheathing’, but as the chill thaws there are chinks to let the light through, and a sense of the shared.

There is also a wry sense of fun at play throughout the collection. Take the cheekily-titled ‘New Aesthetic’, which runs, in its entirety:

 

the whale carcass on the beach with nearly all the flesh washed away

the taste of those salty bones defamiliarising words

 

We are cast into a strange ocean, for sure, where words have their own undercurrents. Incidentally, the cover design – an abstract whale skeleton in linocut by Anupa Gardner, blue vegetation twining the ribs, a glass ceiling above, so that it is not clear whether we are inside or out – could have inspired this poem just as much as it might illustrate it. Williams’s poetic walls are porous, and inspiration is a two-way process.

The prose-poems scattered throughout the collection, each tailed with a haiku like the moral to a Perrault fairytale, are of particular interest. ‘Watching Breaking Bad you realise both that your evil stepfather, similarly, sacrificed himself to his own personal disappointments and that Walter White is the character in the old story who forgets to ask the genie for the ship in which to bring the treasure home before he loses the magic lantern’, one opens. So the three characters – stepfather, Walter White, the character from the old story – are simultaneously distinct and one-and-the-same. The summary-haiku (which raises more questions than it answers) has it: ‘The red glittering / destruction of the self which / is also the heart.’ The heart slowly beats us into oblivion: a neat (if uncomfortable) thought, and one of many fecund ideas in this rich, strange collection.

 

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Adjacent Pineapple

I had such a nice time reading at Colin Herd‘s new/old night Snack Revenge a couple weeks back (more details here), and really enjoyed meeting and hearing the forceful, crackling work of the poet Judith Goldman. Sadly, the marvellous Terese Svoboda wasn’t able to make it, but we had a full house in the room I used to attend classes in when I was doing the MLitt some years back. Colin has been a force for good in the Scottish poetry scene for years now, and I don’t know how he manages to keep so many balls in the air, but he is lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow (while commuting through from Edinburgh), running Snack Revenge, has just started this fabulous publication called Adjacent Pineapple and his new book came out and was delightfully shared at a triple book launch with impressive readings also from Daisy Lafarge and Sam Riviere at Rhubaba last Friday. I am filled with admiration! We had a really interesting conversation on the way home about the lack of SCOTTISH POETICS and whether there should be some work done to encourage this. I think, yes!

Have a read of my contribution to the first Adjacent Pineapple here.

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