Read by Paul Scraton:
We were extremely pleased to recently receive a copy of the fascinating collection of new writing from Northern Ireland On the Grass When I Arrive. Edited by Leon Litvack, this new book published by Guildhall Press is an anthology of poetry and prose that deals with ideas of place, home and belonging. The introduction by Litvack is a fascinating essay on place and literature that would be worth the cover price alone, and what follows is a diverse but always interesting collection by writers both new and established.
Having discussed in his introduction a number of ideas and theoretical approaches to the literature of place, Litvack turns his attention to how they link with the works collected in the anthology and specifically the place and places about which those works are written:
“Many pieces are set in Belfast: a place which has been… difficult to characterize effectively, because it is a complex, multi-layered, multi-classed space with a burgeoning and diverse population… The range of places treated in this collection extends far beyond Northern Ireland to include the United States, the Caribbean, South Africa, the European continent, and even (albeit tangentially) outer space. We may search in vain for an all-encompassing definition of place which will suit everyone’s needs; but the fact that the writing has moved from the local towards the global is in itself significant.”
I have family living in Northern Ireland and have spent a lot of time in Belfast over the past decade. What strikes me often both before and after each trip is the extremely one-dimensional view of the place many outsiders still have. Despite the many changes in Northern Ireland over the past couple of decades, many still see the place through the prism of what went before. The power of this collection is that in a variety of voices and a variety of styles, the multi-faceted nature of the place and each individuals understanding of their own place in it shines through in the writing. On the Grass When I Arrive is not only a valuable addition to the literature of Northern Ireland but to the literature of place in general.
I stand firm on Royal Avenue
to witness the parade.
Meanwhile, at the City Hall gates,
in Union Jack wellies
kick against the erosion
of their cultural identity.
thousands of spectators
swaying to the beat;
two grannies in the front row
jiggle toddlers in buggies.
I let rainbow waves
wash over me.
I can't believe we've got here!
My mind wanders...
In years to come
when school peers ask,
'Are your parents a mixed marriage?'
will a child respond,
'Yeah. My Da's a man
and my Ma's a woman'?
On the Grass When I Arrive, edited with an introduction by Leon Litvack, is published by Guildhall Press and is available now.
Elsewhere No.04 will be published on the 28 September 2016 – Click here for more information and to order your copy.