06 June 2022

Let there be... lighthouses

I've had such a great time researching and writing about Plover Scar Lighthouse (pictured, with geese) for the Lancashire Stories project that I'm sad to stop. I even reached the maximum word count of 5,000 words, which is unheard of. I've found out lots about all kinds of things, from cotton trees at Sunderland Point to salt marsh lamb, and from the adaptability of plovers to the fact that of only 60 tidal bore phenomena world wide, eleven are in the UK, six are in the North West and three are in Morecambe Bay. I've written a poem about shipwrecked cargo and I've even read a Psalm.

My desk is adorned with pictures of lighthouses, including Leasowe, Point of Ayr and one on the River Mersey that's no longer there; Ince Lighthouse was a casualty of the construction of Manchester Ship Canal, and was demolished in 1891, 68 years after it was built. I might keep them up and perhaps ponder some poems or shorter stuff. I'm off to the seaside next week, so will try and gather more inspiration in my nautical notebook; see where it takes me. The Lancashire Stories anthology will be out in November, launching to tie in with Lancashire Day, and will be produced by Uclan Publishing in conjunction with Lancashire Libraries. There will be readings and events and so on, so watch this space...

04 May 2022

One Minute With... me!

This week sees the start of my book tour, when I'll be reading different bits and bobs from my debut poetry pamphlet, cache-cache. On Sunday, I'll be performing on the line-up at Switchblade Society, when guests read some of their own work and a piece by one of the other people on the night. Michaela and Will at Switchblade Society asked me to answer some questions for their One Minute With... interview, which I duplicate here...

21 April 2022

Book tour!

All my upcoming performance dates in one handy place... may I present "sarah-clare conlon's cache-cache book tour flyer". cache-cache is my debut poetry pamphlet, out with modernist poetry press Contraband Books very soon, and I'll be reading bits and bobs from it at all these fabulous dos! I'll try and read different extracts at different events, if that's possible, just in case you have the misfortune of being at them all. cache-cache is hide and seek in French; thanks to David Gaffney for this photo peeking through a hole in a door at Victoria Baths, where I've had the pleasure of being their first-ever writer-in-residence.

02 April 2022

March into April

Yesterday was 1 April, so the annual event of Daily Permissible Exercises In Style – one hour of observation, from the window where I work onto the street where I live. I note down everyone who passes on foot, on bicycle, en voiture, and any birds and planes that fly over, and if no one passes I note down any other points of interest: washing on a line, flowers in bloom, cats atop walls, noises off, the weather. I then, eventually, type it all up, condense it down to a specific wordcount, and play… swapping nouns, messing about with translations, relating the “story” backwards, that kind of thing. 

This is the third year I've done it, having started during the first UK lockdown (lockdown measures legally came into force 26 March 2020, I’m sure you’ll remember), basing it on Georges Perec’s Tentativement d’épuisement d’un lieu Parisien (available in English as An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris) and then sprinkling over some of Raymond Queneau’s Exercices de style (Exercises of Style) magic. Some of the results from 2020 and 2021 will soon be available for your delight and delectation in my debut pamphlet, cache-cache, due out with Contraband Books next month! 

It's interesting, and très Perecian, to record specific places on an annual basis, and the other thing I've been doing three years running is pose for a photograph down by the river Mersey in Didsbury, Manchester, near Simon’s Bridge. The photograph is taken each year in the dying days of March by Nicholas Royle, after we met him there the first year to swap DVDs and gather wild garlic, obviously with a suitably spatially aware, socially distanced gap. Nick sits on an adjacent bench; David and I sit on the Bench Of The Two Susans, a bench bearing two plaques, both dedicated to people called Susan. 

I wrote a poem mentioning the Bench Of The Two Susans, partly written there. Will Finches Inhabit Me? appeared in The Interpreter’s House last October (submissions are currently open until 14 May, and I recommend sending something over – they are a joy to work with, taking such time and care typesetting my piece) and it has also found its way into cache-cache (you really must buy it; pre-orders available 29 April!). Pictures, top to bottom: March 2022, March 2021, March 2020.

02 March 2022

All aboard!

In a couple of months, as April converges with May, I'll be donning my galoshes, salopettes and sou'wester and taking to the water, as I have been lucky enough to have been picked for one of the Writers Residencies on board the rainbow-hued narrowboat Furor ScribendiThis forms part of my research for the Lancashire Stories project, for which I have been commissioned to contribute a piece relating to water and waterways; I'm currently exploring lighthouses and the lives of lighthouse keepers, and thinking about shipwrecks and shorebirds, tidal bores and coastal flora…

Picture, above: Studio Morison, The RV Furor Scribendi, part of Small Bells Ring, 2020. 

Photography by Charles Emerson. Image courtesy the artists.

In related news, my poem about the painter Joan Eardley's seascapes at Catterline, where she lived up to her death, has just been published in the All Becomes Art anthology to celebrate the centenary (last year) of her birth, complete with a ripple-like blue cover – a slightly more recent version (with the inexplicably missing line breaks reinstated) will appear in a third pamphlet I've been chipping away at, and I'll be reading this and other watery pieces at an immersive art reading at Cheadle Village's Greenhouse Books on the afternoon of Sunday 13 March...

So, back to my residency afloat Furor Scribendi, I'm hoping to re-spark the strange feelings of bobbing about up and down and from side to side and the unique sounds and patterns and colours tied up with being so close to the water. We'll see what comes of it!

Here's a bit more about The RV (Research Vessel) Furor Scribendi... she's a fully functioning sculptural narrowboat operating as a living research vessel and a retreat for writers and readers, housing a floating library of short stories for members of the public to visit and borrow books from. Furor Scribendi forms part of Small Bells Ring, an artwork created by artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison of Studio Morison, and co-commissioned by Super Slow Way and Coventry City of Culture Trust in collaboration with Lancashire and Coventry Library Services and their communities, and Canal & River Trust and British Council. In 2021, Small Bells Ring joined the Coventry City of Culture celebrations (you might have heard a feature about it on BBC Radio 4's Front Row in September) and, in 2022, the project will cruise the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the longest canal in Britain built as a single waterway

Check out @Superslowway on Twitter, Super Slow Way on Facebook and @smallbellsring on Instagram for more on the project as a whole and the Small Bells Ring Writers Residencies.