About mariamcmanus

I am a poet and playwright based in Belfast.

Label-Lit – information video

Hi everyone, here is a short information video, made by my friend, the Portuguese writer Inez Lampreia, in Lisbon, Portugal, about the Label-Lit Project. You can watch the information video here: https://vimeo.com/204550531

There are blogs about most of the interventions in the Label- Lit project on the Label-Lit wordpress page. See here: https://labellit.wordpress.com

So far, Label-Lit projects have happened in Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Cill Railaig Co. Kerry, in addition to Sweden, Portugal, The Czech Republic, England and Wales. The next major project is with other poets all day during Poetry Day Ireland on the 27th April 2017….. and watch this space for a Spanish Project in May.

Watch this space for more information, but in the interim, have a look at the video!

Thanks for the film Inez!

No Recourse to Public Funds

This is a further blog post by Nandi Jola, a Poet, and an activist. She was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and now lives in Portadown, Northern Ireland.

I have been flooded by images of America and that man who like many man that have power do, and really to be honest, I have no time to spew anger, I am trying to move forward without any anger but spread words, beautiful words and by doing so I want words to build bridges, plant the seeds and touch people.

In my understanding of life I have come to realise that throwing stones and breathing tear gas is not revolution, in my youth I did all that in South Africa. I took to the streets in anger with my fist up in the air shouting Amandla! The songs are still ringing in my ears, and the passion will always be there, now and again I rally or hold a pluck card and speak in public, but what has all that achieved?

My friends always say “All this activism has brought you nothing but heartache” and I have to agree with them to some point, what have I gained from it? Respect maybe, but I don’t want respect and I don’t want recognition, it is change I want and when I don’t see it I ask myself why did I even bother.

I am now in the trade union, and the more I push the lonelier it gets and I somehow think now that I am getting old, if only I went to the pub and got drunk instead of being a speaker on International Women’s Day or if I went to Glastonbury with all the money and time I have spent trying to make a difference, would I be happy? The thing is I didn’t choose this life, It chose me, I didn’t choose to be black and growing up under Apartheid South Africa and witness the things I did and felt the things I felt, and when I came here I didn’t choose to be in an abusive marriage, instead I chose to get out and raise awareness and found myself somewhat intertwined between bravery, rebellion, law, and loneliness and I don’t know any different. I don’t know what a nine to five job is like (well I do), nor do I know what a happy childhood feels and looks like, I just know how to fight with the hope that things will be better and now I am near forty and I don’t know how to stop fighting when things are always not just, not right and not Ok.

So, spare my thoughts for a moment I do want to comment on your Facebook posts about America, yes I want to sign that petition and join the #Blacklivesmatter movement. I want to be like Angela Davis and other women who have fought injustices, I know what I am doing matters too, but I ask myself to who? Who cares and who is listening?

No recourse to public funds has been a battle for migrant women and their children for over thirty years and all those years lives have been torn like precious cloth, somewhat society has been pressed so hard by the rod of the oppressor to lack of fully grasping the impact and trauma, everyone is fighting a battle, be it unemployment, mental health, sexual abuse, we all suffering one way or the other. I only had just finished reading “Kerry Girls by Kay Moloney Caball” when I read about the Earl Grey Scheme, I wept, I have come to realise that life has been painful and it has targeted and affected women in a way that requires one to think deep about the intended target.

I have seen the role of woman in society when men went to war, how they built communities and fed villages, in Africa when men come and brutally rape the very woman who gave birth to them, and I ask myself the same questions as to why women are marginalised and not protected, yet it is those questions that we ask day in and day out and despite the fight for equality and raising awareness on these very issues that paralyse women, I find that little if any shift happens.
No recourse to public funds has claimed lives of so many women and left so many children vulnerable and subjected them to physical abuse and trauma, I have protected my child like a hen, I would sit up all night just to be ready to defend myself and my child in case of an attack and I have worked tirelessly to put bread on the table despite not being entitled to work, I would rather go to prison for working than put my child at risk of abuse by men, yet that depends on the ability of defiance, not every women is as fortunate to even get out. I realise that my role in life is to write, especially on such issues. I have the personal experience, tools and I am in a safe position to tell these stories, just like women of the Irish Revolution and many other women around the world who kept record and over the years we have looked through their stories and find strength, pieced through their souls and weep, for it has always been hard and it has always been a fight.

‘The Suitcase’ and other poems by Breda Spaight

Her Cross   When I drink, it is always 1967. The dog lies still on the frozen grass, white blades bowed under blinking crystals; the chain from its neck to the conifer muddied and knotted like a ro…

Source: ‘The Suitcase’ and other poems by Breda Spaight

These are poems of searing intimacy, with honesty that evokes a lurch of gut-wrench, coupled with absolute compassion.

Rare and deeply human.

Guest Blog – Nandi Jola

Thanks to Nandi Jola for her Christmas guest blog. She’s a poet and performer to to watch out for and a seriously good woman too. Formerly of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, she now lives in Portadown.

Thanks Nandi.

Absent Daughters Make Fantastic Mothers

Whilst you trying to learn their ways, turkey, mince pies and carols, you are forgetting your own. Christmas is about visiting and cleaning of the graves, offering the ancestors with a sacrifice like a goat or a sheep. It is about the visiting the sick and serving the elderly and orphaned children.(my inner voice tells me)

Phone calls from home are no longer ways of keeping in touch, rather they are the next bad news “because social media is very good at that” making us jealous …wish you were here kind of thang!

Yes I love it here of course, do you think I would still be here? I just wish to pause some things, like my mother (Esther)I don’t want to see her sad eyes, hidden under that beautiful smile, I want to see her when she opens my parcels from Northern Ireland, even if she still thinks I am in London and tells everyone that. Anyway I want to see her smile, eyes wide open and joyous heart all the way from Africa, that is why I want to pause some things, like those moments. I would write her a letter every time I send a parcel, but I know her eye sight is getting worse.

I wish I could listen to the conversation on what I would call the last of the “good old days” postal services, we still have that because we live in the suburbs of Port Elizabeth, our post gets delivered every morning and the dogs bark behind locked gates and the bins get collected every Friday. The water is expensive there but the electricity is the same as the townships, we get power cuts like them or what they call “load shedding”. When the parcel slip arrives my mother always tells me that is always a good day for her – even though it’s a walking distance to collect it, she always drives, just in case she gets mugged on the way back, she says when she enters they know her, they always give her that look, especially the (lady) staff with the big hoop earrings and shaved eyebrows, she always ask her with curiosity whether it is from Nandi.

My mother would then go on and on about how I spoil her, how I always buy her perfume, designer bags and beautiful clothes from Marks and Spenser. Little does she know that we have great charity shops back here, however what she doesn’t know won’t do her no harm. Mother only seen her granddaughter twice in ten years and in all that time, she can’t make her out and have little conversations if any at all, if you ask Anesu about granny, she laughs and recalls the day I left her with her because I had to attend a funeral, she says she asked granny where she kept olive oil and she says “mummy I gave up” the woman just can’t understand the Irish accent – Northern Irish, to be politically correct. I don’t know if she will ever post us a Christmas card or a birthday card from Africa, nor will she ever visit Ireland, I doubt.

I have been absent for fifteen years now and counting, but I have been a fantastic mother for thirteen, sometimes in life we have to be absent daughters to be brilliant mothers and learn a few things along the way.

Every Christmas now I light a candle for my loved ones that have passed, I sit with my best friend (Anesu) around the table and we gather in their presence, that is why we spend Christmas alone at our house, and I always feel bad for people I turn down their invitation to spend Christmas with them, because for me Christmas is not about turkey, mince pies or carols, it’s about the journey, I liken it to T.S Elliot poem “Journey of the Magi”. It is the year-long of memories you are trying to hold on to, the smells that you are trying to create from spices you find along Ormeau Road on a rainy day and all of a sudden you are OK, you dust off any negative vibes just by drinking Rooibos tea and then you continue again, or when you find out that Asda sell butternut squash and suddenly you have an epiphany and some hope that change will come!

One day I will become a grandmother too, I will be the keeper of the tradition and my spirit will linger around the Christmas table to remind my grandchildren of the journey I had to make, I hope that my grave will be close, so they can visit and clean it, but most of all I do not wish for my Anesu to be an absent daughter from me nor an absent mother to her children, but to understand my journey.

The Journey Of The Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.