ANNE GILDEA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - REAL LIFE - Anne.gildea@mailon­sun­day.ie

pe­nal colony in the 1850s — no ten­ta­tive ‘first com­mis­sion for the most pres­ti­gious theatre in Bri­tain, so bet­ter keep it neat and tidy’ for this fear­less woman. The day we met, she’d just heard that she’d won a cov­eted award to at­tend the Puglia Film Ex­pe­ri­ence, an in­ter­na­tional work­shop for pro­fes­sional screen­writ­ers. So she’s off to Italy mid-June, where she’ll be de­vel­op­ing a film treat­ment she’s been work­ing on here. A thing we had a laugh about: she was in Ro­ma­nia do­ing a writ­ing work­shop re­cently and when she was in­tro­duced, the not-ex­actly-flu­ent-in-English lo­cal au­di­ence im­me­di­ately went, ‘Ah yes, Ab­bie, we know, we

A Bavar­ian jazz mu­si­cian is try­ing to drive a bat out of a neigh­bour­ing room

by ser­e­nad­ing it with his so­prano sax

un­der­stand: Ab­bie Theatre, Dublin!’ ‘What were they think­ing, that I am a theatre?’ she laughed.

Speak­ing of laugh­ter, I must men­tion the poet Bren­dan Cleary, a 50-some­thing Car­rick­fer­gus man who’s long been liv­ing in Eng­land (but think­ing of com­ing back). I’d never met nor heard of him be­fore, though ev­i­dently I’m out of touch with things bardic, be­cause when I looked I found five books of his po­etry in the Ty­rone Guthrie li­brary, one of them a se­lected works. He has an­other col­lec­tion, Face, be­ing pub­lished in Septem­ber, and an­other col­lected works com­ing out next year. But it isn’t just all the books that speak of him as a poet: it’s his whole unique, open, deep, light, in­sight­ful, quaffing-red-wine-to-the-point-of-it­be­ing-in­tra­venous de­meanour. I told him I was suf­fer­ing fi­nal-draft cold feet and was wor­ried at the thought of all the per­sonal stuff I’ve writ­ten end­ing up in book­shops soon. So I was quaffing wine as a crutch. ‘I’m writ­ing and drink­ing,’ I told him. ‘MULTI-TASK­ING!’ he boomed in re­ply.

Ev­ery­thing about him bears a cer­tain wit­ness to an ex­ile born of the Trou­bles. A sam­ple cou­plet from a poem: ‘So when they asked me on their forms if I was Ir­ish or Bri­tish, I an­swered “World Cit­i­zen” & they threat­ened to strip me’. Or, from an­other, ‘& I wanted to es­cape the dag­gers be­hind lan­guage, the sub­tle test­ing out process at teenage dis­cos’. Even when it’s not so ob­vi­ous: ‘Here I am, nearly at the start, or the end of things’, the re­frain of a new poem that he per­formed with Nor­bert do­ing im­pro­vised sax ac­com­pa­ni­ment.

Nor­bert last came to the Guthrie Cen­tre in 2004, where he met the Belfast painter Pa­tri­cia Do­herty. They fell in love and have been to­gether since. For the last three years they’ve split their time be­tween Sligo and Bavaria, where Nor­bert is from. Any jazzers or spo­ken-word afi­ciona­dos in the gen­eral area of Lis­sadell (where they live half the year), seek him out. He’s very funny. When a vis­ual artist men­tioned, at din­ner, to Nor­bert that a vo­cal­ist friend of his had opened her ex­hi­bi­tion by ‘singing to one of my paint­ings’, quick as a whip he re­torted, ‘And did the paint­ing sing back?’

Un­pre­ten­tious, delightful hard work­ers, each of the above (and I must also men­tion Billy Ram­sell from Cork — a poet, and an­other one of us with a Septem­ber book re­lease. His work is be­yond bril­liant.) Fi­nally, the bat was found hid­ing un­der a sofa and safely re­turned to na­ture. (No an­i­mals were harmed in the mak­ing of this col­umn.) Next week: can’t wait to re­veal how the bust went...

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