When Hannah approached me about being one of Coastword’s Writers in Residence this year, I couldn’t believe my luck. I first got involved in Coastword a couple of years ago, hosting a Belonging Project workshop with a group of open, engaging and terrific women writers. What struck me then was how that group’s willingness to be true to themselves and their writing gave permission for everyone else in the room to feed off of that honesty, and feel supported along their own writing journey. I left that workshop wondering how I could become a (albeit long-distance) member of that writing community, and have been trying to find a way to get back there ever since.
I also performed at the 2017 festival with Janice Galloway, Hannah Lavery Nadine Aisha Jassat – writers whose work I truly admire. Last year, I came back to do a reading of poems about growing up in Iran in wartime with harpist friend Katie Harrigan, and was honoured to share the stage with Gazi Haib and his moving accounts of loss of liberty and homeland. The audiences were some of the best I’ve ever experienced: warm, engaged, appreciative, and with you for every single word.
The opportunity to spend more time in Dunbar in the coming months, and use that time to develop some of my own work in response is irresistible. I’ve spent the last several years focussed on the broad questions of journey and belonging, both working with others in workshop settings and developing and performing my own poetry around those subjects.
This spring, I’ll use this Coastword residency to turn my attention to something far more physical: the sea and harbours. (Luckily for me, Dunbar isn’t short of beaches and harbours!)
I’d like to explore how the sea and tides simultaneously inhabit constancy and change, and how their regular renewal might also be mirrored in the world around us. I’m also intrigued by the objects that drift ashore with the tide – natural and man-made - how they reflect our changed world, and how we respond (or don’t respond) to these ‘gifts’.
Separately, I’m fascinated by the idea of a harbour (particularly a harbour like Victoria Harbour, created from the ruins of something greater that itself). A harbour is the physical manifestation of giving shelter, but also a decision about what is kept out versus what is kept safe. I’m hoping to explore the harbours in Dunbar, and use their stories and physical attributes as inspiration for new work.
I can’t wait to get started. As spring begins to slowly rear its head, I can already taste salt in air and the time to write about, and be inspired by, Dunbar.