Posts Tagged ‘Damien B. Donnelly’

The Storms have crossed the Atlantic. I was delighted today when the post office delivered my copy of the inaugural issue of The Storms, a journal of poetry, prose, and visual art that includes two of my photographs. The Storms is a printed journal, which is increasing rare these days, that was made in Ireland with international contributors, with support from The Arts Council Ireland and the Fingal Arts/Fingal County Council. Check out this link for more information on The Storms.

How in the world did I get involved in this effort? Believe it or not, WordPress played a role. Several years ago I became friends with Liz Cowburn, the New Zealand-based author of the blog Exploring Colour. Through her blog, I became acquainted with the work of Irish poet Damien B. Donnelly and his blog DeuxiemePeauPoetry. At that time Damien was living and working in Paris as a pattern maker and writing poetry part-time.

During a trip to Paris in November 2019, I was thrilled to meet Damien in person. We had a wonderful time together sharing some of our personal experiences. Check out my December 2019 posting Paris Portraits: Damien for more of the back story and details of our encounter. At that time, Damien was preparing to return to Ireland to pursue his dream of becoming a poet full-time, with a goal of finding and renovating a property in Ireland that will serve as a writers’ retreat and bed-and-breakfast.

Then the pandemic happened. Damien quickly pivoted and found new avenues for his creativity. He started a poetry podcast Eat the Storms—the name is drawn from the title of his first poetry pamphlet—that is already in its fifth season and has featured hundreds of poets from all around the world. I have seen him read his poetry numerous times during Zoom and it has been a delight each and every time. He has also managed to find time to create TikTok and YouTube videos of some of his poems—be sure to check out his YouTube channel for some delightful content. In just a few days, he will launch his first full collection called Enough, that features poems and photography from his time in Paris.

One of his projects became The Storms, which he edited and designed, with the able assistance of his wonderful sub-editor Gaynor Kane. I have been a spectator cheering from the sidelines for numerous poetry readings, but when the submission window was opened for this journal I noticed that it included “visual art.” Did I dare submit some of my photos for consideration? The rules said that I could submit only three images and that the file names could not include any personal identification—all submissions would be read blind.

I think that I am a pretty good photographer, but I guess I am a little insecure about entering contests or submitting my work for consideration. Am I good enough? Some of my poet friends tell me that you get used to having your work rejected, but I wasn’t so sure I was thick-skinned enough. I decided to be bold, though I set my expectations low, and selected three images to submit. Amazingly two of them were selected.

The only guidance we were given was that the theme of the issue was going to be storms and that we could interpret it any way that we wanted. The two images that were selected for use both were taken during my November 2019 trip to Paris. The first one shows a bicycle on the wet cobblestones of a Parisian street, with the light from a streetlight causing a distorted shadow. The image appeared for the first time in one of my blog posting entitled Bicycle in Paris. In The Storm, the image was used on the title page of a section entitled “Showers of Survival”—the journal was thematically divided into nine sections,

The second image that was used showed a rainbow in between two buildings in Paris. It first appeared in a November 2019 blog posting entitled Rainbow in Paris. In the journal, the rainbow photo appears on the title page of a section entitled “Beyond the Rainbow,” the final section of the the journal.

It is hard to describe how cool it feels to see my photos in print and I just wanted to share some of that joy with you all. So many of you have encouraged and supported me on my journey in photography during the last ten years. Thanks.

The Storms

The Storms

The Storms

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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Earlier this year I joined a mysterious organization known as the Cult of the Spiny Hog, an offshoot of The Hedgehog Poetry Press, a United Kingdom-based poetry publishing company. For over a year I had heard whispers of this mysterious group, with hints and rumors of its Illuminati-like status, so with a certain amount of trepidation I submitted my application and was accepted into the organization.

Last week I received a package with the “holy writings” of fellow members of the cult, the nine books of poetry that you see in the first photo. If you look carefully at each volume, you will spot the shadowy silhouette of a hedgehog, the mark of the cult. So far I have not been asked to have it tattooed on my body, but I do not exclude that being a future requirement. The second image shows the way the bundle was packaged, with a mysterious face looking out through the translucent paper and the seal of the cult. The final photo shows different versions of the cult’s signature mascot.

How did this happen? How did I fall under the sway of this poetry organization? It began quite modestly when I subscribed to the blog of Irish poet, Damien B. Donnelly. A few months later I had the pleasure of meeting Damien in person in Paris in November 2019—you can read all about our encounter in my blog posting entitled Paris Portraits: Damien. If you too want to be throughly enchanted, check out this YouTube video called An Evening of Eating The Storms in which Damien debuted his poetry collection—it is an amazing performance.

Damien is an incredible poet and over time he and his fellow cult members have helped to reawaken in me a part of myself that had been dormant for decades. When I was in college, I immersed myself in French literature, spent my junior year studying in Paris, and made the totally impractical decision to major in French. As I now look back at those years, I hardly recognize that romantic dreamer as me. I am now beginning to dream again.

If you read my blog regularly, you have seen growing indications of poetry’s growing grip on my heart. In October 2020, I did a posting called National Poetry Day 2020 that talked about new poetry collections by Damien B. Donnelly, Gaynor Kane, and Katie Proctor, poets whose works I had read and seen performed at the Zoom poetry readings that I had started to attend regularly.

I knew that I was hooked in late December 2020 when I felt prompted by the pandemic to write a poem myself. I included it in a posting called Pandemic Poetry that also looked at a powerful collection of pandemic poetry by Gaynor Kane and Karen Mooney. One of the benefits of joining the cult is that I can submit poetry for free into the various competitions run by the publish, a step that I do not envision myself taking now, but can envision such a possibility in the future.

Why am I so smitten with poetry? If I reduced my answer to a single statement, I would have to say that it is because poetry speaks to my heart in a way that no other written or spoken words do. Contemporary poets express themselves in so many different ways and across such a wide range of subjects, that there is bound to be one that speaks to your heart—Amanda Gorman’s moving reading at the US inauguration opened the eyes of many Americans to the power of poetry.

I am not recruiting for the cult and I think there is a strict numerical limit on the number of members. However, I do encourage you to consider adding some poetry to your life. One of the easiest ways to to that is to listen to the weekly Eat The Storms podcast, in which the aforementioned Damien B. Donnelly hosts an hour-long show with poets and musicians performing from around the world. (The podcast is named after Damien’s debut poetry collection, which you can order directly from Damien at his website.)The podcast is already in its second season and new episodes come out each Saturday and are available on Anchor, Spotify, Podbean, Google, Apple, and other podcast platforms.

Here is a comment I left on the podcast’s website that gives you a feel for the scope of the poetry presentations in a single podcast—”Each of your podcast episodes, Damien, is an emotional rollercoaster as your poet friends explore a wide variety of themes in an amazing range of voices, both figuratively as well as literally (with accents from around the world). Where else could I letters to letters to Sylvia Plath juxtaposed with contemplations on Chagall; memories of Paris alongside perceptions from the parallel world of Wolf Planet; humankind’s fight with nature followed by personal memories from a Kodachrome image; greying mists of colorful memories with some black-and-white consequences of British archaeological discoveries? Those topics only touch the surface of this mind-expanding episode of this wonderful podcast.”

Let me end this posting with Damien’s signature closing line, “Stay bloody poetic.”

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Today is National Poetry Day in the United Kingdom and in Ireland. To celebrate, I decided to read a little poetry when I went out to photograph nature today at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and brought along with me three poetry collections that were all published during the past two months in the United Kingdom by The Hedgehog Poetry Press (https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/).

I am most familiar with Eat the Storms by Damien B. Donnelly, an Irish poet whose blog I have followed for quite some time. One of the highlights of my stay in Paris last November was having a chance to meet Damien in person, shortly before his return to Ireland—check out my blog posting Paris Portraits: Damien. Damien is amazingly creative and has done video versions of a number of his poems that he has featured on YouTube and even on TikTok. The poems in this collection, his first, are full of references to colors that characterize both the physical and psychological landscape, including some steps of his personal journey. Be sure to check out his blog at deuxiemepeaupoetry.com and his newly-created Eat the Storms podcast that features Damien and a host of poets from around the world. The podcast can be found at https://anchor.fm/damieneatsthestorms as well as on Spotify.

The second collection here, Venus in pink marble, was written by Belfast-based Gaynor Kane. I was introduced to her when she did a joint poetry launch video with Damien that was published on YouTube and was entitled “Venus Eats the Storms, A Poetry Launch of two Poets, Gaynor Kane and Damien B. Donnelly.” Both of them are energetic, funny, and engaging as they talk about their individual stories and read selections of their poetry. They apparently had so much fun recording the video that they decided to post an outtake video that is hilarious and can be seen by clicking this link.

The final poetry collection is called Seasons and was written by Katie Proctor, a young poet from Yorkshire, England. I encountered Katie during a Zoom launch presentation in mid-September that presented a “Prickle of Hedgehogs,” with readings from poets, including Katie, whose collections had been published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. You can learn more about her at her webpage or on Twitter.

You might have had bad experiences from being forced to read and analyze poetry when in school, but I encourage you to give it another shot. The poems by these three poets help me to see and experience the world in different ways, through different eyes. I encourage you to listen to a podcast or two or check out the websites for which I have provided links.

All of these poetry collections are available from Amazon, but I encourage you to order them directly from the poets for two reasons. First of all, it helps to support them more. Secondly, the quality of the books is not the same. I was so anxious to get a copy of Eat the Storms that I ordered one from Amazon and one from Damien. Not surprisingly the one from Amazon arrived first. It was printed in the USA and the paper is of lower quality and is off-white, rather than white like the “original.” The Amazon version also lacks the inner flap photo and biographic information that is found in the UK version.

Let me end with Damien’s standard closing, “Stay Bloody Poetic.”

Hedgehog poets

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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