‘Black, Strong and Sweet’ A Retrospective.

3AM on a blackboard :)
3AM on a blackboard 🙂

Firstly, what a grand idea eh?

Poetry on coffee-cups, poetry chalked up on cafe blackboards – accessible, on-view – this is what poetry should be about, right?

I found out about the ‘Black, Strong and Sweet’ Poetry Series through an image doing the rounds on Facebook and I thought it a brilliant idea; it was something very new, very fresh, and most of all very open. Ordinary people doing ordinary jobs popping into their favourite coffee shop (in this case Nick’s Coffee Company) would leave with a coffee wrapped in a poem (essentially). Some might meditate on the poem at their desk, others might ignore it completely, perhaps a few might add their own lines, maybe the lines will appear in their dreams, what if those few lines got them into reading poetry, or trying to write their own?

As a poet I submit to literary/poetry magazines regularly (or, at least, I’d like to think so – I’ve been lax of late) and the stuff that does get through turns up in lovely anthologies, magazines, books or online. Great, cool, awesome (it really is fantastic), but these publications are often poetry-centric, sold to people who love poetry already or placed in the poetry section of a library (again, for poetry lovers) and it can be very difficult to engage those outside of that community. Poetry isn’t really taught at school and has been sitting on the fringes of society for some time now. THAT’S why I loved the idea of the Ash Sessions Poetry Series; rather than moaning about dwindling audiences and the difficulties of publishing it attempted something new, it tried to change the way in which we interact with poetry.

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When I wrote my first poem, I did so not expecting it to be read or enjoyed. When I wrote my 100th poem, I did so not expecting it to be read or enjoyed. After a poem finding it’s way into Popshot, after being accepted onto a Creative Writing M.A. I wrote a number of poems (you guessed it) expecting them never to be read or enjoyed. That some people have enjoyed them and that people want to read that which I’ve written is wonderful! Brilliant! And so for me every reader is as important as the last. Whether you read poetry religiously or have never come across it at all I’m going to treat your criticisms and praise with equal importance, which is why doing these things – poems on coffee cups, poems displayed in frames, electronic poetry, collaboration – is important. To test new forms, to test the way we interact and share poetry, to radicalise and alter the poetry we find in these magazines, all of these things keep the form fresh and exciting and engage with more and more people (which in turn opens up more and more forms).

Anyway, I’d just like to say I’ve really enjoyed the poems that have appeared in the series and the interviews with the various featured poets, and I’d like to mention that there will be an evening of poetry readings with the poets featured in the series  on September 24th as part of the Ranelagh Arts Festival. You can find a Facebook album of all the coffee cups, standing proud, here.

Unless I can magic up some money (and a passport) I will, sadly, be unable to attend but someone there will read my poem for me! Anyway, more details to follow, and I’ll try to keep you updated.

Also, if you’re Dublin based (and even if you’re not) then keep an eye on The Ash Sessions, there’s always something happening 🙂

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