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Notes From A Writing Life

Updated: Feb 9

In this personal series, I extend a warm invitation to join me in conversation with guests whose lives and work I am curious about. These conversations are open ended and are unlikely to follow standard Q & A formats. Intermittently I will share my thoughts, opinions and occasional essays and reviews. I welcome your input and feedback, so please if there are writers, artists, musicians, actors, directors, performers, writers, poets, photographers, composers you might like to learn more about and would like to see featured on "From the Heart", please don't be shy, stop by and say hello . . .
But first a few necessary thank you notes.


A WRITING LIFE




First and foremost I wish to acknowledge several remarkable individuals without whose dogged insistence, faith and support of my work, I would be in a very different place. The solitude of writing is very insular and reaching out, whether for feedback or acknowledgement by way of publication, is daunting at the best of times, so when a colleague or a friend does more than coax you out into the 'open', you're faced with a choice - scamper, or jump with them.


My early ventures into sharing my work began with Fictionaut where I unexpectedly found an appreciative and supportive readership from the outset. Writers such as Eamon Byrne, Mathew Paust, Sam Rasnake and RW. Spryszak were, and remain pivotal in my literary life, and my appreciation for their friendship, wisdom and encouragement is reflected always in my work.

In 2020, as the world came to halt, my publishing life was given a serious shove by none other than the man with both a sensational aesthetic, and a richly evocative and addictive voice - Mark Antony Owen. He literally pushed me off the publishing edge when he recorded Starlings





Mark then sent me an invitation to submit poems to Volume Three of his gorgeous online anthology "iamb. poetry seen & heard" and things kicked off really from here.

He has become a dear friend since then and a dearly valued collaborator.











Resonance, feedback, critique; all these are essential as oxygen to any artist and I always hold in highest esteem, someone's time and serious attention. It is never a given and when offered, in my experience, it is always offered with a generosity of spirit. Sometimes, the most deeply rewarding moments arise when you happen to discover how your work, or one of your books has shaped or changed someone's life and in so doing, you glean something of the life the book you wrote, has taken on, of its own, way beyond your expectations. These are the gems that keep me writing, keep me curious and committed.


During the 2020 lockdown I dared myself to send out work and found generous hosts in

paragraphplanet, Pink Plastic House, Pendemic, Black Bough Poetry, 100 Words of Solitude, Thrice Fiction and Book Hub Publishing. Since then, Ice Floe Press has been a brave host of my least traditional works.





Having "I Have No Face But Yours' hosted in the Irish pandemic anthology 'Pendemic' was a surprise and a highlight for me personally, during those difficult months.






Another was finding my 100 word piece 'Solitude' accepted into the print edition of the online project by Philippa and Simon Holloway "100 Words of Solitude" - global voices in lockdown 2020 and published by Rare Swan Press. It was also a feature broadcast by Alternative Stories and Fake Realities podcast hosted and directed by the fabulous Chris Gregory


Eamon Byrne and Bob Spryszak are the two because of whom, "In A Scattering of Tongues" in four acts, featuring women portrayed by Samuel Beckett is a seminal work.

It began with my reading a Beckett-response piece titled "bluer scarce" by Eamon Byrne on Fictionaut back in 2019






Beckett: (the unnameable [trilogy p48-49 calder & boyers]).

And that night there was no question of moon, nor any other light, but it was a night of listening, a night given to the faint soughing and sighing stirring at night in little pleasure gardens, the shy sabbath of leaves and petals and the air that eddies there as it does not in other places, where there is less constraint, and as it does not during the day, when there is more vigilance, and then something else that is not clear, being neither the air nor what it moves, perhaps the far unchanging noise the earth makes and which other noises cover, but not for long.

Byrne: (bluer scarce)

That night there was no question of moon, nor of any other light, but it was a night of listening, a night given to the faint and soughing sighing stirring at night in little pleasure gardens, shy the sabbath of leaves and petals and the air that eddies there in places as it does not in others, where there is less constraint, does and as it not during the day, when there is more vigilance, something and then else that is not clear, being neither the air far nor what it moves, perhaps the unchanging noise the earth makes and which they cover , but not for long than bluer scarce than stare before them deep, namely the fullness of the great and its unchanging calm.

I found this process intriguing as I was in the midst of my own delving into an authorial response to TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Earnest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf. The date of that email exchange was 22.12.2019. It was later that evening that I found myself being summoned by one of the first pieces, that was to become In A Scattering of Tongues. I was

unaware, writing that night, of it being the day, and Winter Solstice, in Paris, Samuel Beckett died, thirty years earlier, in 1989. I was tentative about showing it to anyone, let alone Eamon and yet there was his response, aligning me with the likes of Don DeLillo. Me... ?!


Threshold of White


Famished and forgetful, singing songs of the dead, this rendering; mournful reversal in the death of invisible things, of body offerings; sage and lime, salted at the rim.  These are our sniper tales; reimagined spells untwining voodoo, like ancient herbalists reading the old forest floor. I read your sunburnt prose of sage and wishbones of bird flight across Sumaria by fowls having to crawl for wings glued together. There is nothing to mourn there; to herethere still in the fleeing, and in the departures of staying.  Heartbeats crack the ceiling of the sky suddenly the rain has a fear of falling, there's a colour of dusk that falls at the curfew of love, amber in its distillation of taste and desire for immortality. Reckless notation emptying us of our usual recognisable objects. In the pavilion of beauty, we throng to the celebration of our gaze, playtime stories a sparse game in the witch hunts of kiss ’n tell. This threshold white has no rules of engagement, none of that surgical precision of satire to lose one’s body in morse-code possibility of its illusion of such a thing as its future. Blindly ground by such flaws of scavengers in the de-boning of poems served in burnt fig leaves, we leave seeds displaced into countries, experts in desalination and waste; flowers paralysed by all that erroneous smoke. Scraping thorns from the insides of cheekbones blood dreams open to anything but rapture in the monotony of joy pickled hearts in saran wrap lovage, the seasoning of foreign fish in their mysterious hush. In the paucity but not for long, your bluer scarce stare before them deep, namely the fullness of the great and its unchanging calm blooms deepest meaning, deeplove of mournful blasphemy, wide eyes unfelt forever waiting to take hold. Librettist of bodies.


I posted this on Fictionaut and what felt like an instantaneous response came from RW Spryszak of Thrice Fiction. A year later, almost to the day, December 21st 2020, the full piece, "In A Scattering of Tongues" Beckettian Women in Four Acts', plus 'The Anaphora House', was being featured alongside the likes of Ann Bogle, Eckhard Gerdes, and Franny Forsman.





FALLING SLOWLY followed all this with a very attentive and considerate Preface by Marcelle Newbold in which she observes,



"The images explored are founded in a deep found belief in the indistinguishable essence of women. A strength, that through grief, loss and living, creativity and through the waypoints, at which women find themselves, create a resilience and resistance that persists. These explorations are are vital, especially seen through the lens of those who have been subjected to the cruelty and abuse of power.

Some of these poems act as a commentary on the forces behind the writing process, in itself an act of defiance, as a fallout, as a record of evidence of existence. Amantine talks about making the invisible visible, placing the liminal front and centre and highlighting the edge of possilities. A reader's feast. "




Paul Brookes and Alan Parry are also champion of writers with their indefatigable contributions to showcasing work and both generously reviewed Falling Slowly.


"It is the fluidity of Amantine’s poetry that strikes me first. “Falling Slowly”. Inner and outer indistinguishable. Fluid movement between both. Blocks of text. Imagery evolves out of imagery. It is a brilliant, amazing read from page to page. Inspirational..."

from Paul Brookes in  Growing into Book Reviews 2022


Of Falling Slowly, Alan Parry writes, in his Broken Spine review;


"There is, quite suitably given the subject matter, a toughness; a tenacity; a true grit. This reviewer is especially interested in representations of gender, masculinity and femininity; and to find that these texts shake things up some, and rattle the walls with their noncompliance is especially pleasing. Language choices throughout the collection testify to this, in Home Is My Forgotten Place the poet-speaker discusses the sting of a sordid story, storms, lightnings, blood-dry mouths; collectively a powerful and evocative series of images, that on first reading do not appear to tell what it ‘means to be woman’. But of course, they do. From the outset then, this writer challenges our perceptions. Indeed, the work is never ‘In danger of being too feminine and forgettable’ – but this reviewer asks what is it to be feminine? "


The most rewarding commentaries on this collection, drawn from my experiences of loss, come from Mab Jones in her response to On The Outskirts of Attraction, a Gogyohka series

at the close of Falling Slowly....




Dear Amantine, thank you for your thanks, but thanks in turn for gifting me your poetry book! Do you like the writing of Hélène Cixous? Your fine poems remind me of her, they are bold and brilliant ' ecriture feminine', as she called it. This poem is a great example as you subvert form and expectation, as does the I of the poem. How I wish I had the bravery to proclaim myself "the soil of my own inventiveness"! This one's a better heroine than many I have read about. ah. A truly terrific piece of literature."




 


I often feel, reading comments and praise of this ilk as if I am reading about the work of someone else. Other times I reread work, occasionally pieces I have forgotten I have written and wonder how I ever wrote that and the proverbial panic sets in of whether I'll ever write anything again. A common enough experience I think. And yet, I would not not have anything but the writing life, for all the pitfalls, the agonising hours, the silence, the isolation,

when I discover how something I have written has connected with a reader, it's a staggering moment of disbelief, joy and grace for my gratitude is immense for finding myself among those through whom poetry and literature chooses to make ' the essence of a thing visible, whatever that thing may be'.


Elizabeth Kiem, Robert Frede Kenter and Sam Rasnake have been among those willing to read, comment, and support my writing through moments, when I could barely stomach the agony and the raw feral pain of process. All writers should be this blessed.






Ice Floe Press has been quietly marking the indie literary landscape with Robert Frede Kenter's tireless and committed vision to bring a diversity of styles and voices to the poetry reading public and is now among my publishers too, having published my two most recent projects: "Arranged Women" and "Songs from Quarantine Bay".



And then there is Sam, a writer after my own heart who keeps me on my toes, and whose consistent praise and encouragement has shaped my poetic voice more than any other over

the past decade.



I thank you all, from the heart !


Amantine




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