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immigrating back to where you come from . . .

Cold toes and cold hands in Wood Green. Trying to save on heating.

Smashing Time is done and needs to find a home. I am 60 pages into Nerve Movie (poems written during my commute on the underground from Wood Green to Hammersmith then Hammersmith to Richmond).

When I first came to London in 2008 I had high expectations. Expectations of home. Expectations of coming back to the world of poetry. It was tough year.  I had to adjust my expectations. I had lived too long in North America to expect to find a sense of home. Something about coming back to where you come from and finding it is not the same place at all. My mind creating narratives and images of Northern Ireland and the U.K. Childhood. No matter if we stay in the same place all our lives we still travel. Childhood.

On my second return to my country of origin (in December 2010) I had less expectations. I wanted to re-connect with the poetry world. I wanted to do readings. I wanted to settle down and get more comfortable and re-start my library. I missed having a library in my world travels. I missed having a sense of place. At the end of six years of world traveling and living very feebly at times out of one suitcase, I wanted to just allow myself to feel some of the comforts of a more settled life.

So here I am. One year into my second go at London. I lived in London when I was seven or so. First in a homeless hostel. Later in Elephant and Castle. This was the 80's. It wasn't a good time to have a Northern Irish accent.

This time I have found some good friends. I have found what I love about writing and poetry. Call it a world view. An epistemology? Kenneth Koch, Philip Whalen, Bernadette Mayer, Tim Atkins, Lisa Jarnot, Jeff Hilson, Cathy Wagner, Peter Jaeger, Steven Fowler (especially Minimum Security Prison Dentistry and his Maintenant Series of collaborations and readings of U.K. and European poets).

These are a few of the writers and artists that matter most in terms of living my life. Their work is intimately connected to how I experience life.

And writing through what I love. I have seen this especially in the work of Tim Atkins. And getting out of the way. I have seen this in the various exciting conceptual work of Peter Jaeger. And being child-like in terms of curiosity. Letting everything come in. Including the risk of humour. I have seen this in the work of Jeff Hilson and Tim Atkins. Plus the punk poetics of Cathy Wagner. And the life writing life of Bernadette Mayer. And letting in the multiplicity of voices in the work of Hannah Weiner. And the nerve movies (quicksilver moments of being) of Philip Whalen.

I am having mint tea. It is time to grade final exams. London is not really a home. Perhaps it never will be.

But then again my mindfulness practice has benefited a lot since I have been here for the last year. And I have grown much more comfortable with the North American part of my cultural background. I have learned to create my own America through exile. I thought myself an exile from Northern Ireland when I lived in America. Now I realise my choices are much wider. Much more varied.

I am from the Milky Way.

Good friendship are vital. Writing is vital. Books are vital. Love is vital. Mindfulness and compassion are vital.

And so it goes . . . .

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Another Ireland: Part Two
Maurice Scully, The Basic Colours. Durham, UK: Pig Press, 1994.
Geoffrey Squires, Landscapes and Silences. Dublin: New Writers' Press, 1996.
Catherine Walsh, Idir Eatortha and Making Tents. London: Invisible Books, 1996.

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I began the first half of this article (Notre Dame Review #4) by mentioning some of the limits to the legendary hospitality Ireland has shown to its poets. If you arrive in Ireland from any point of departure outside of Eastern Europe, you will indeed find a public far more willing than the one you left behind to grant poets the recognition all but the most ascetic secretly crave. However, this hospitality has never extended to Irish poets w…