“Love takes off the masks ….”, James Baldwin

James Baldwin (1924-1987), American poet, novelist, playwright, social critic

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”  James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time



The giver (for Berdis)

If the hope of giving

is to love the living,

the giver risks madness

in the act of giving.

 

Some such lesson I seemed to see

in the faces that surrounded me.

 

Needy and blind, unhopeful, unlifted,

what gift would give them the gift to be gifted?

The giver is no less adrift

than those who are clamouring for the gift.

 

If they cannot claim it, if it is not there,

if their empty fingers beat the empty air

and the giver goes down on his knees in prayer

knows that all of his giving has been for naught

and that nothing was ever what he thought

and turns in his guilty bed to stare

at the starving multitudes standing there

and rises from bed to curse at heaven,

he must yet understand that to whom much is given

much will be taken, and justly so:

I cannot tell how much I owe.

© James Baldwin estate, excerpt from Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems (Beacon Press, 2014) [recommended]

JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, and one of America’s foremost writers. His essays, such as Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-twentieth-century America. A Harlem, New York, native, he primarily made his home in the south of France.

Baldwin’s novels include Giovanni’s Room (1956), about a white American expatriate who must come to terms with his homosexuality, and Another Country (1962), about racial and gay sexual tensions among New York intellectuals. His inclusion of gay themes resulted in much savage criticism from the black community. Going to Meet the Man (1965) and Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968) provided powerful descriptions of American racism. As an openly gay man, he became increasingly outspoken in condemning discrimination against lesbian and gay people. Bio via James Baldwin’s Amazon page HERE.

Photo of James Baldwin taken in Hyde Park is courtesy of Allan warren under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, you will likely have to link through to the site to watch this video. I happened on it today, which inspired this evening post. Twenty-eight well-spent minutes.

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The Fires Have Waved, The Silence Set Out: W.S. Merwin died on Friday …

For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

© W.S. Merwin estate



WILLIAM STANLEY MERWIN (September 30, 1927 – March 15, 2019) was an esteemed American poet with some fifty books of poems, prose and translation. Merwin was an activist involved in the anti-war movement in the ’60s. He was a student of Buddhist philosophy and a proponent of deep ecology.

W.S. Merwin was born in New York City, grew up in Union City, New Jersey and Scranton, Pennsylvania and died in Maui, Hawaii, where he’d lived for many years and was active in the environmental restoration of rainforests.  He was noted for a love of nature and the condemnation of war and industrialization.  He had a difficult childhood and youth and words were his escape. He won prestigious awards, including two Pulitzers and stands tall in the pantheon of literary greats. We are grateful to have a few of his collections on our shelf.

Photo credit: The street in Union City, New Jersey, which was renamed for him in 2006 courtesy of Luigi Novi under CC BY 3.0.

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Dame Helen Mirren reads from Tennyson’s “Ulysses”

“I am a part of all that I have met.” Alfred Tennyson, The Complete Poetical Works of Tennyson




It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Text courtesy of Sparknotes

Illustration:  Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) englischer Schriftsteller. CDV-Foto 6,0 x 8,4 cm nach einem Gemälde von P.Krämer herausgegeben von Friedrich Bruckmann Verlag München Berlin. (public domain)

 


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Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”


The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

“After Reading How Poets Often Die …” . . . and other poetic responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

 

c Jamie Dedes

 “Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”  Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook



Here are the diverse, thought-provoking and engaging responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, the transformation of things, June 27, 2018. As Debbie Felio said in comment to the post, “… sometimes transformation is not a beautiful process, but hard won” … and sometimes transformation doesn’t quite happen.

Thank you to Paul Brookes, Renee Espiru, Debbie Felio, Sheila Jacob, Carol Mikoda, Anne G. Myles, Marta Pombo Sallés, Sonja Benskin Mesher and to newcomers DeWitt Clinton (whose new collection will be out soon), Vageesh Dwivedi (a novice showing much promise), and Taman Tracy Moncur (an activist poet and Brooklyn girl like me, I suspect). The work of these poets certainly enriches the day for all of us.

Contributor websites/blogs are added so that you may visit and get to know one another. I hope you do. Some don’t have sites but you can probably catch up with them on Facebook.

Enjoy! … and do join us tomorrow for the next The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt. All are welcome: novice, emerging and pro. 


After Reading How Poets Often Die, I Do Hesitate to Read
Ou Yang Hsiu’s “Reading the Poems of an Absent Friend”

Some old poet friends are not dead
Yet. One even lives exiled in far
Away Japan. Perhaps I’ll disappear
As I’m too old to be discovered
By any up and coming new
Lit clique. What part of friends
Stays in the sublime end of my
Old mind? Sometimes when I read
They’ve died I’d just as soon
Close the blinds and stay reclined.
Most all stayed up all night
Just to finish their new lines.
Now they’ve got their good books.
I do hate reading what they’ve
Spent their whole lives on
And I hate it that they’re gone.
Sometimes I have not written all
Year and when I do I know it’s
Nothing more than old oatmeal.
It’s incredible how long I’ve
Been drawn to this poetry life
And how often I can’t even
Find a word or two to make
Anew, and wonder, who turned
My brain into yummy worms?
Once I found an old Pole’s
Book of lines, left the day
For nothing else except to turn
More pages all the way to night.
I never am too keen to
Reread some old medieval
Gore but I could pick out
Any poem and think it’s
Something quite new. I wish
I knew what poets do.
Most men wouldn’t be caught
Dead writing with short lines
Would rather count the scores
Of grown men running plays.
I told my wife the other day
How long I’ve been devoted
To this quiet task of digging
Through what I already knew.
So if I could I’d just sit
Right here in our red room
And gaze outside to find
What brings such joy inside.
In fact I’d take my old dead
poet friends, and a few lines
made last night, catch the next
starry ride right out of here.

© 2018, DeWitt Clinton

DeWitt tells us, “This poem is one of 114 I’ve adapted from Kenneth Rexroth’s One Hundred Poems from the Chinese and the entire collection is forthcoming from Michael Dickel’s is a rose press.

DeWitt Clinton

DeWITT CLINTON is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, USA.   Recent poems of his have appeared in the Santa Fe Literary Review, Verse-Virtual, Peacock Journal, Ekphrastic Review, Diaphanous Press, Meta/Phor(e)Play, and The Arabesques Review.  He has a new collection forthcoming from Kelsay Books. He lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin.​


Again

With bewitching beauty you walked again,
And the years of temperance, was all in vain.

The whisper’s melody was still the same,
And the longing ears ,were in heaven to acclaim.

Neither tequila nor the weed,
Your addictive eyes quenched the need.

Pattern of your long braided hair was well acquainted,
As if the steps were learned yesterday,that my fingers repeated.

It felt like the time stood still,
Unpacking each and every dimensions of my will.

And then came into play, My futile fate,
Rushing wildly through my window, as if it was in haste.

The breeze was soothing ,but brought the pain,
And my only lifeline was disconnected again,
Still didn’t open my eyes, struggling to connect again…

© 2018, Vageesh Dwivedi (dwivedivageesh)

Vageesh Dwivedi

Vageesh writes, “Currently I’m doing B.tech from mechanical engineering. I like to write and express. I’m from Uttarpradesh, India.”


The Ultimate Transformation

Seniors captured by time
now prisoners in a body
no longer in sync with the mind…
A body transformed
through ages and stages
forming the persona that resides within…
That persona forever in search of new dominions
living out dreams and schemes
reaching heights of happiness
encompassed by depths of despair…

The body grows weary
eyesight becomes dim and bleary
days flee as hearing fades…
The bones no longer dancing
to the rhythm of the heart…
The bones captivated by a falling star
shoot through the galaxy
with a proclamation
announcing a new soul ready
for the ultimate transformation…

© 2018, Tamam Tracy Moncur (Mercer Street Blues)

Tamam Tracy Moncur

TAMAM TRACY MONCUR says, “I enjoy writing. I write for the sheer pleasure of writing. Writing helps me organize my world and express what matters to me at any given moment in time. I’ve been a Civil Rights activist, taught elementary school for twenty-five years, worked with my husband, Grachan Moncur III arranging musical compositions and performing. In 2008 I self-published a book entitled Diary of an Inner City Teacher, a project that was very close to my heart. I am now a retired teacher, a community activist, and a seasoned senior who still loves to write.”


The Gift

A small dark shape on kitchen tile
Stared at by our cat,

Move closer, it is a sparrow bairn,
Chest balloons out as my sigh releases.

Scooped up, as I take it out to the garden
It stands on the scoop.

Over the fence our neighbour stands hunched
in dark tears “My mam won’t be coming out of hospital”

My breath caught.
The sparrow flies away.

© 2018, Paul Brookes (Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)

a became a river

One day atta work,
a goes for a skinny dip
in a quiet stream
a knows

Unbeknownst to me stream
were a lad called Whitey or Gain
and he falls for us.

A flits naked from his wattas
an he changes into a fella
an chases atta us.

I ran until am cryin’
an shartin fo help

r boss covers me in a cloud,

but Whitey, waits watches
where ma wet footprints
disappear.

Am so afraid break art
in a cold sweat pouring
off of me a becomes a river.

Whitey changes to watta
an mingles wi us.

From Paul’s collection The Headpoke And Firewedding,  Alien Buddha Press, 2017

© 2017, Paul Brookes (Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)

Lass Is Stone

Spunk sees Cruel lass from afar
gobsmacked by her looks
he gets smitten hard
and determines she’ll be hooked

Asks her mates for her mobile number,
and all her social media pages,
scours internet for details,
winds himself up in rages.

Gets his message through once
or twice but she mocks him
” Fancy me. You do right. I’m gorgeous”
and promptly blocks him.

Finds her home and knocks
and her Dad answers and says
“She don’t want to know, son.
Thinks your a stalker. Away!”

Writes his first letter and posts
it personally through her door,
it tells her she’s won and he’ll be gone
she can celebrate and more

she can see him lose his life
which is all he has left for her.
Cruel scoffs at this but goes along
for the crack and laughter.

She sees him throw a rope
already knotted around a beam
put his neck in the noose
and let out a scarifying scream.

Then she feels herself harden
stone thoughts
stone mouth
stone neck
stone chest
stone limbs
stone heart

calcified flesh and bone
a statue.

© 2018, Paul Brookes, (Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)

Biddy To A Young God

You have planted fresh
delight in these eyes
that sprout visions again
as when I was a young girl.

You have breathed
through my cold embers
and stroked warmth
into this thin skin.

My face has plumpness
and reddens
as your hands find flesh
for my angled skull.

My limbs no longer bare
begin to dress themselves
with buds and colour
for your lustful eyes.

Perhaps these changes
are only in your eyes,
and this puddle reflection
may be false, a false Spring.

© 2018, Paul Brookes (Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)


The Usher

The wind bears no animosity
nor is it fickle
inherently

as appearances
are always in flux

though transformative it will be
ushering in both life
and death

for the Anemoi brings forth
all seasons
in turn

where one day the breadth of it
blows clear the darkest clouds

emanating life giving sun
sweet scented
flowers
erupting

the next morn could bring
a stillness of breath
pollution a miasma
of death

yet still always ushering in
tempests and squalls
a familiar to rain

leaving a swath of destruction
to change yet again
with the softest
of breezes

that seem to settle within
touching, reflecting
life’s gentle
rhythm

Anemoi the gods of wind
are the ushers of change
a transformative
jinn

© 2018, Renee Espriu (Renee Just Turtle Flight and Inspiration, Imagination & Creativity with Wings, Haibun, AR, Haiku & Haiga)


Once Upon a Time

Working with children is what I said I would do
Eight years of higher education said I was ready
Children from poverty, neglect, abuse
I’d create safety to help calm the unsteady

of their worlds where parents weren’t there –
out searching for something to calm their addictions
leaving the young ones abandoned and scared
easy to make that outcome prediction

I’ll work with the children and not the abusers –
the parents, their friends, whoever committed
these horrible acts – I am the accuser
and judge and jury – against them I’m pitted

’til I heard their stories of their own horror
and I realized abused children grow up
without anyone being their restorer
to sanity and filling their self worth cup

imitating was all they could know
trying to be different had no guide
resulting in return to the old ways, though
reassured them of something to hold on inside

so I’ll work with the children and just their families
but I can’t get involved in all the systems
that confuse and contribute their own brutalities
often retraumatizing rather than helping the victims

But who am I kidding when I say I will not
it’s all so related – system, child, family
there’s no way to separate it all out
that is what I’ve come to see

So whoever you are, whatever’s been done
I know there’s much to your history
No one has to go it alone
who can judge your journey – certainly not me.

© 2018, deb y felio


Fern

How would it feel
to be you, green
and generous fern,
spores wind-lifted
last winter, rehomed
in my garden’s earth?

In July’s humid heat
I hanker to slip
from my carapace,
shrink beside ribbons
of grass, mingle with
star-trails of ivy.

Would I sense
my uncoiling,
my spearing upward,
fanning outwards,
filling spaces
of air and light?

Would I hold
race-memory
in my spores, dream
ancient forests where
ferns swayed billions
of years ago,

grew tall, wide,
helped shape
the landscape?
Patterns repeating.
Images imprinting.
Fossils in rock.

Fern, you’ll outlive
my flesh and bone.
I high-five
your nearest frond.
Sun warms
your silent nod.

© 2018, Sheila Jacob

The Shell

Yours was the first corpse I’d seen
though I wince at the word: harsh,

impersonal, which in a way it was
when I stood in the Viewing Room

that midwinter morning, half-afraid
to kiss you, say a final goodbye.

I recognized you at once, pleased
they hadn’t lacquered drifts of white

hair, replaced pink pyjamas and cardi.
But your arctic face chilled my lip

and I knew if I knelt close, pressed
the curl of my ear against your breast

I’d hear no crash of waves trawling
the coral and driftwood of ninety years,

no echoes of a gushing, hushing ocean
scooping your sacred breath in its tide,

turning at the moon’s far rim where
your soul left its shell and took flight.

Published two years ago in Ben Barnyard’s webzine Clear Poetry

© 2016, Sheila Jacob


( transformation )

changes one.

transform metransform me too.jpg

transform me three

transform me four

transform me five

 

transformed

© 2017, Sonja Benskin Mesher

. preparing the way .

 

check the task, ready the mind.

let thoughts mellow and compute

nicely.  we will be all ready on the day.

we have a plan, whilst gratitude guides

us. nothing is necessary, except

collars and socks.

some will understand,

while others will not.

it was a hay loft, converted

now, the upper room.

listen.

© 2018, Sonja Benskin Mesher


Constant Change

Everything you are made of begins
in a gigantic transition
as universe explodes into being
stardust becomes everything
transformation begets you,
your sister, your cat, the bees,
the tree, stones, water,
so: stop. Cease all striving.
Stop all struggle. Breathe: in, out,
like a butterfly coming and going,
to this flower, that flower.
Rest. Stay in this tender space. Before
you know it, without aid of will or anxiety,
you arrive in a new place
the right place, just the right
place. No harm will come to you
as your divine self
slides gently into that personalized
pocket on the overalls
of The Universe of Now.

Because what can we do but laugh?
Because what can we do but laugh?
Because what can we do?
Because what?
Because?
Be.

© 2018, Carol Mikoda (At the Yellow Table)


The Other World

At eighteen, I stepped into the other world,
the one that sounds fantastical but is not.
Drainage pond at the bottom of a hill on campus,
behind it a small straggle of winter woods,
beyond that, a path towards the sports fields.
Grass still green in the mild mid-Atlantic,
twiggy dried milkweed standing and fallen.
Plain as plain, just hidden, just waste.
An ordinary afternoon, and I felt surfeited with reading;
walking down the hill, I cast away my mind.
At the water’s edge I looked at the surface;
the water looked back at me. The world had eyes:
perceived me as I perceived it, all the same.
The bare treetops in the distance moved in my arms.
I felt the cawing of the crows that rose inside my chest.
But no crows there, no chest here, only that cawing,
that burning and empty annunciation
of how we too are the shine in the tufts of the cracked pods,
falling and lifted in the wind through everything.
All of this I could see, while I rubbed my eyes,
as if to dislodge a film that was not there.
This happened. I was a freshman, with no one to tell.
Why do we seek imagined worlds? We know nothing
of what is real, how wondrous and complete.

© 2018, Anne G. Myles (How public — like a Blog —)


I Danced the Night Ferociously

I danced the night ferociously
before I couldn’t learn to walk.
I heard all winds wanting to talk
but ignored them atrociously.

I cut them all with fearful sword
and showed my ridiculous mask
which was for me an easy task
blind as I was dancing aboard

a ship of horror to instill
my ugly laugh on anyone
who thought my doings were ill-done.
I laughed with my most perverse will

unaware of the coming change
that would lead to a transformation
to be expressed with great devotion
displaying a wonderful range

of what I could never suspect
but just love showing its beauty
colors dancing with their duty
to the rhythm of new effect

© 2018, Marta Pombo Sallés (Moments)

And so was the dance:

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, it’s likely you’ll have to link through to the site to view the video.

Afloat

Upon the highest cliff something awakes

Below is the turquoise-blue ocean glare

While the sun reflects on its silent waves

A butterfly rises up in thin air

My wings felt the warmth of a cloudless sky

I breathed the air and found pleasure, yet

My heart was afraid of flying too high

A sudden descent and I became wet

I saw myself sinking relentlessly

Into the depths of the darkest ocean

Radiant sun and blue faded callously

As I sank with vertiginous motion

A butterfly turned into a falling rock

Could I possibly change my destiny

Could I ever recover from this shock

Or stay in the dark, its immensity

Direful sinking, the dark blue around

Yet looking up, the sight of turquoise-blue

And sunrays despite a fall, that profound

Spoke of the anchors I could hold on to

My arms and legs started to swim upward

A rapid ascent as its previous fall

Reached the surface of the sea so awkward

And saw myself at peace as I recall

Across the ocean so confidently

I swam and could have even sailed a boat

Looked at the world with some complacency

The butterfly can fly, I am afloat

© 2016, Marta Pombo Sallés (Moments)



VALUE ADDED

Unlife, a voiced video from Paul Brookes’collection A World Where (2017, Nixes Mate Press).  Painting by Jenn Zed.

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, it’s likely you’ll have to link through to the site to view the video.


ABOUT

Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman.

My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”