A Garw Valley cairn © Phil Cope
I am writing a collection of poetry on the theme of sanctuary.
This collection will not be written by me alone. Four other poets will each contribute a poem, written in collaboration with me, though originating with them. This approach is prompted by the notion of opening up a space, hosting, welcoming and also from my desire to open myself up, to learn.
Our collaboration will take whatever form seems mutually beneficial. I may edit a poem or have mine critiqued; I may write a poem in response; there could be a response through another medium − anything that prompts further engagement and growth.
Two of these poets are from Wales and two from Northern Ireland. Because I live in both places. All have experience of migration or a particular interest in sanctuaries.
Given the sanctuary theme, I have sought two of these four poets, one living in Northern Ireland and one in Wales, with experience of having been a refugee.
I will also benefit from having my own poems mentored by Glen Wilson.
At this point (mid-March 2021) I have received a first draft from three of the poets so it is a good time to let people know about this enterprise.
I am still looking for a poet in Northern Ireland who knows what it is like to seek sanctuary. For gender balance, I am looking for a woman, with some experience of writing poetry and a serious interest in craft. There is a welcome for work in a language other than English. Finding this woman poet is part of this journey.
Glen Wilson lives in Portadown. He is a civil servant and Worship Leader at St Mark’s Church of Ireland Portadown. He studied English and Politics at Queens University Belfast and has a Post-Grad Diploma in Journalism studies from the University of Ulster. He has been widely published having work in The Honest Ulsterman, Iota, The Paperclip, amongst others.
He has had work commissioned by the Irish Football Association and has appeared on Sky Sports. Glen’s work has also appeared on the Poetry Jukebox in Belfast and Paris.
He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2017, the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award in 2018 The Trim Poetry competition in 2019 and just recently in 2021 won the Slipstream Poets Open Poetry competition.
His first collection of poetry is An Experience on the Tongue (Doire Press). He is currently working on his second collection of poetry for which he was awarded a SIAP grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Portrait of Phil Cope by Gordon Farmer
Cardiff-born Phil Cope is a photographer and poet, writer, and exhibition and book designer. His five photographic studies on the Sacred Springs and Holy Wells of Wales, Scotland and England have been published by Seren Books. They are about to publish his The Golden Valley about the Garw in south Wales where he currently lives, and in the pipeline is his book, The Living Wells of Ireland.
Phil has been a Drama and English teacher, spending two years as the principal of an isolated Algonkin Native Indian Reserve in Northern Canada and teaching at the Shah of Iran’s Imperial Court in Tehran as well as in Wales, Greece and Haiti. After wide experience in community theatre and theatre in education, in 1980 he set up Valley and Vale, Wales’ largest community arts team, which he led for sixteen years.
Phil’s books and touring exhibitions have focused on themes as diverse as Paul Robeson, John Charles, the Spanish Civil War, the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Haitian vodou.
Viviana Fiorentino is Italian and lives in Belfast where she teaches Italian literature.
Since January 2020, she facilitates creative writing workshops for cultural minorities (Quotidian Word of the Street Limited). She is a recipient of two SIAP grants (2019/20 and 2020/21) from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to write a collection of poems about migration and ‘prisons of life’.
In 2019, her poems appeared in the anthology ‘Writing Home’ (Dedalus Press) “a major new anthology of writing from Ireland that acknowledges and celebrates the contribution of those whose roots lie outside of the country”.
An award-winning poet in Italy, her poems, short stories and translations have appeared in international literature magazines including Nazione Indiana, FourXFour NI, Poethead, The Blue Nib, Paris Lit Up, Honest Ulsterman, The Trumpet 9. In 2021, in the anthology ‘Days of Clear Light’ (Salmon Poetry). In Italy, she published a poetry collection (Controluna Press), in anthology (Arcipelago Itaca Edizioni) and a novel (Transeuropa Publishing House).
‘Moon’ is a pseudonym for an Iranian poet who lives in Wales and says of himself, “I am Moon, a wanderer who was wandering around the outside world to find Sanctuary but found it inside himself. “
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has given me a Support for the Individual Artist Award towards the drafting of a collection of poetry on the theme of SANCTUARY. I am honoured to receive this funding and greatly appreciate the encouragement.