Letters to The Healing Place of the Soul #FillingTheVoid – Write to Us

Public Art Participation Project – WRITE TO US NOW!

We live in extraordinary times.  We will gladly receive your (emailed) letters to FillingTheVoidProject@gmail.com. We will miss the immediacy of your handwriting and your envelopes, the physicality of the letter, but we will gain the immediacy of your lived experience of these times. We are extending and re-opening our project, but as an online experience, given the implications of Covid-19 – so email us instead.

Tell us what is happening day to day. How have things changed? What is different but good about the changes? What is it that is making you anxious? What and whom do you miss? To paraphrase the French avant grade artist Georges Perec, what is happening, when nothing is happening? 

The motto over the door of the historic Robinson Library in Armagh translates from the Greek, as The Healing Place of the Soul.  We are looking beyond these times. In March 2021, when we celebrate 250 years of the existence of the library, we will mark with a new site-specific dance theatre piece, AT THE MARGINS, based on the letters project and the participation of those who sent us their words. Join in – this is a place to tell us all of human experience in these challenging and unusual circumstances. Let the words talk, and let the words travel the distance, from you, to us.

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In our last iteration of this project, we had hundreds of beautiful, intimate and heartfelt letters in response to our call-out for #FillingTheVoid https://mariamcmanus.wordpress.com/2019/10/30/write-us-a-letter-filling-the-void/. Our writers wrote to the future and to the past, to people they love and about things that matter most. They made us laugh, they touched our hearts and they made us think. They also made us realise that through writing their letters, the opportunity to reflect, record the everyday, and connect with each other, is responding to a deeply held need to communicate.

The letters came from Australia, Spain, the UK and all over Ireland. During Georgian Festival we had many  visitors to the library on the day, and those that came also wrote letters – some were posted there and then, to friends and family from the beautiful Georgian letterbox on the street outside the Robinson Library, and others were left with us for the archive.

This is a time for reflection and a time when we need to connect. We are navigating  new uncertainties about the state of our world and where it is we find ourselves now, individually and with each other. 

This project is creating a contemporary epistolary archive written by citizens – especially the citizens of Armagh, but also from all over Northern Ireland, the border area, the island of Ireland, Britain, Europe and the whole world. Everything in a letter tells something –  the handwriting, post marks, the subject matter, the demographic and concerns of the writer: the letter is a  point in time pen-portrait.  We are also interested in receiving correspondence which for some reason has personal significance to the donor.

Letters are welcome from people of all ages and ethnicities, from anywhere in the world, on any topic they may wish to record. Then we will include it in our archive in the beautiful Armagh RobinsonLibrary for posterity and consider all letters received when were are devising our site specific dance theatre piece – AT THE MARGINS, in March 2021.   

  • If you wrote the letter you wanted to write, to whom would you write it?
  • What would you write about? A letter to your childhood home, the parent you’ve lost, your old lover, those pesky politicians, your heroine/ hero, the generations yet to come, the child in your arms, or in your womb, your idol, the lost, the prodigal, the fictional, the historical?
  • Who would be the object of your letter? We live in such uncertain and turbulent times. What do you have to say …what is the ‘thing’ you can write about in a letter, but just can’t say any other way?
  • Is yours letter to the masses, or to just one person?  To your older self? Your younger self? Your braver self – something for the record.

Letters from anyone, about anything are welcome. 

  Email us : FillingTheVoidProject@gmail.com

Maria McManus (Poet) is the author of Available Light (Arlen House, 2018), We are Bone (2013)The Cello Suites(2009) and Reading the Dog (2006) (Lagan Press). She has collaborated extensively with others producing performance pieces for choir (18, with composer Keith Acheson) dance (TURF and DUST with Eileen McClory) and multi-art form collaborations. She is Artistic Director and curator of Poetry Jukebox, an on-street audio installation of contemporary poetry.

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Something for Sunday morning……..

A sequence of poems, I wrote while in Asturias in September 2012. 

Something for Sunday morning………………..

 

 

If you took a chance

 And let those plates stop spinning,

Stuck your hands in your pockets

Or your fingers in your ears

And stepped back –

What would happen then?

 

After all that clatter

And when the shreds –

All the broken pieces

Were shovelled up

Wrapped away carefully

And left somewhere for landfill

What then?

 

All that falling, can only happen once,

And then it’s over. Done with.

 

As an alternative,

You could gather in those plates

Stack them neatly, one on top of the other

File under ‘something for someone else

Another time’, and let them sit there.

 

Or you could just watch the wobbly poles

Come to their inevitable standstill and decide

Whether to break them, so that puts

A stop to this, forever.

 

One way or another – you could choose

Silence, choose stillness, stop playing.

 

You choose.

 

 

 

 

II

 

When Nuria tells me

The Robin died

Because it flew into the glass

I know it is true.

 

It thought

That what it saw

Was endless sky –

That this reflection of sky

And the Bay of Biscay was reality.

 

Its neck has broken

And it lies supine on the steps.

I dare say

Death was instant –

I hope so, and that it didn’t suffer.

 

 

III

 

I know this one

And will share with you

Two stories of my own –

Near-misses, if you like.

 

 

IV

 

The first was a dream

Of the Hummingbird

In all its shimmering brilliance, battering

On the window of my smallest most under-used room.

Outside, I’d made a garden, full of colours,

Into it, I planted tame versions of my dreams

Underneath the wild flowers

That greeted everyone who beat their path

To my front door,

 

But it was the illusion of the garden

Brought the Hummingbird

To beat itself to death upon the glass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

V

 

The second is the story of an interview.

I faced a four-strong panel. They were back-lit

With the afternoon sun

And the scene outside was rich and wonderful –

A river tumbled down a small green glen – all ferns and damp

And luscious. I could hear the sounds of water

Breakthrough the stultifying must inside.

The vigour of the river had, at one time,

Channelled a mill – the force of it ground millstones.

 

I remember I wore funereal black –

Considered smart and fitting

For such occasions; an indication

I was serious, reverential,

Intentional about the task –

It was a tailored form of knee-

Bending, a genuflection to authority, to formality –

A message that I would

Concede, submit, serve,

Toe-the-line, fit in.

 

Then, just as I gathered

My first breath, to lift

The register of my voice,

A summer Swallow flew

Full tilt into the image

Of that garden paradise

And was lost,

After it slammed hard against the glass

And fell into Montbretia.

 

 

VI

 

At The Gower when we walked

We looked skywards. You could

Tell the difference between Swifts

And Swallows, House-martins and Sand-martins.

 

They’re all beautiful to me.

I find that I am mesmerized and gaze

Always into the blue of where they are –

And it’s enough.

 

 

 

 

VII

 

This past year or so,

I’ve tracked the Swallows too,

From Ireland, to Wales,

To Spain and Portugal, to Hungary,

And all the way to Cape Town

And back again.

 

 

VIII

 

Was it you I told the stories of the Hummingbirds to?

I’ve talked about it recently again, I know.

 

I heard Attenborough

Talk about them on the radio – of how,

Amidst the chaos of this world, and the catastrophic,

Devastation of our earth,

There is one small hopeful story, and it is this –

 

How people have laid a corridor of sweetness

All the way from Costa Rica to the North of North America

And how in this symbiosis

The Hummingbirds flourish against all odds–

How they reward the wilderness

Of our grey lives,

Gem-like and shimmering

Captivating the available light

And give it back to us

As they migrate

North – South – North –South –

North………….

 

 

 They are delicate and tiny in the dying of this light.

 

 

 

IX

 

And then, there is another story–

In the poem of Sah-Sin. Tess Gallagher tells us,

It is the Native American name for Hummingbird

And she tells how, when she found one,

In torpor, in the cold – she lifted it

And slipped it in under her breast

Next to her heart, to warm it,

In the hope it would revive again.

 

 

X

 

Finally, here’s my last message

to you, for now.

 

I found a montage

Of Hummingbirds with the ‘mirror in the mirror’,

 

 

And I’ll play that for you sometime, but –

 

 

Between here and there

Between now and then

 

 

 

Don’t fear anything.

 

 

 

XI

 

 

And, if you decide

To stop catching those spinning falling plates

 

And, if you need something for your hands to hold –

Here’s mine.

 

You might.

 

 And if you take that chance,

 Just think –

 

Then maybe, just maybe,

We could dance instead.