UK performance poet Aisling Fahey who is also the Young Poet Laureate for London, is in India for a session of readings as part of the Long Night of LiteratureS literary event this month. She will also be travelling to three cities: Chandigarh, Guwahati and Pune for readings. She shares how she was drawn into poetry in this blog:
- Can you tell us about how you got into poetry
Having always loved reading and writing stories, when I got involved in a poetry project at school, the London Teenage Poetry Slam, at 13, there wasn’t any looking back. That vibrant introduction to poetry showed me the power carefully crafted words can have. They are a way to interrogate, understand and record. When you experience the impact poetry can have, and feel the atmosphere of a live event where somebody is holding the whole room with their words, you cannot help but become addicted to the art form. At 15 I joined Barbican Young Poets, a programme run by Jacob Sam-La Rose. This provided a regular space to learn about, read and write poetry, along with opportunities for publishing and performing. Still now, I use the community of writers established in various projects I’ve been a part of over the years, in order to push me, inspire me and keep me motivated.
- How did you become Young Poet Laureate of London? What has your role entailed?
There is a relatively lengthy application process for Young Poet Laureate for London. It involved initial applications, a long-listing day where you perform for a panel of esteemed judges, then a residential week for the shortlisted six filled with workshops, before a final interview. Last year, it was Lemn Sissay who announced the result on National Poetry Day in October. The role has entailed interaction with various communities and groups in London, from five to six year olds in my old primary school, to sixty year old women from Ireland, where my family is from. It has involved performances, events, workshops, panels, talks, and what has underpinned all of this is an engagement with poetry and people. I hope that I have successfully shown some of what poetry can do, and how it fits snugly into so many different environments.
- What are you looking forward to about your trip to India with the British Council?
I’m looking forward to discovering, learning and immersing myself as much as I can in a way only travel allows. I am also interested to see how my work, with its influences and references, will be received by new audiences. How will the sharing of my work in such a different place transcend any cultural differences that may be present? The literature that I love most is that which may be very far from my scope of experience, but still manages to speak directly to me. It will be really interesting to see if my work manages to do this in any way.
Also, the Long Night of LiteratureS event taking place in Delhi on 25 September will be incredible. That event brings together artists from across Europe and India, I’m always excited to talk to artists from different places and learn from their practice and experience. Most of all I’m looking forward to letting all of the new people and experiences soak in, I’ll be collecting stories that I can bring back home to savour, and retell as winter settles in an attempt to conjure back some of the heat.
Extract from ‘Cab Rides At Dawn’
In the place where dawn breaks continuously,
I am relearning the properties of light.
I used to go hunting for stars on my aunt’s farm,
come back with them between my teeth
like the flesh of an exotic fruit.
We don’t have these in the city, I’d say,
swallowing them until they settled in my belly,
before exploding, making me shine outward.
I confess more to strangers than to friends.
I am discussing Poetry and God in a cab
with a driver from Bulgaria.
If I recorded my conversations with cab drivers
I think I’d be closer to my dreams.
I always ask them where is home
as they drive me to a place that is meant to be mine.
Extract from ‘Foreign Bodies’
When a stranger pronounces my name right
I want to cut our ears off,
dig for other sounds we share.
There are names I cannot pronounce.
Each time, my tongue becomes a guilty weight,
I score a tally on my thigh
of all the countries I have not been to.
We love what is foreign
because it reminds us of ourselves.
My face is my parents’ homeland,
sometimes they look at it and cry
for all the things they’ve lost,
their lost things crawl under my skin,
look, there is the river we never did swim in,
I don’t know which one of them spots it,
the vein at my temple,
but by the time they turn around
the other one has long gone.
Entombed in my face is what they built together,
when they were in the business
of making love and lives
in foreign lands.