It’s Mint Up North: Julia Darling and Sheree Mack
I replace poetry with a perfect
understanding of the offside rule.
My voice becomes smoke, drifts
to the ceiling and swirls until
it sails through the door,
joins the mist that forms
on the street ‘round midnight.
Now even though I’d been caught up in the excitement of the creativity of the people I’d met in Fenham, it took a little while longer for me to find my own thing. I might have pottered along indefinitely, but luckily I met two people who helped me to reconnect with the ambitions that I had when I was much much younger. I’m very happy to introduce to you [drum roll please]…
Julia was an inspirational poet, playwright, novelist. She was also writer in residence when I first started working at Live Theatre in 2001. I loved the spirit of the plays she wrote, her poetry was elegant, vivid and real. And you’ve got to love a woman who writes a play called Doughnuts Like Fanny’s haven’t you?
When I first met her I wasn’t writing (apart from drunken scrawls in a notebook and we all know that doesn’t count) but she just had a way of unlocking creativity in people. During the occasional conversations I had with her I tentatively mentioned that I sometimes thought about trying to write creatively. Just being around her gave me the confidence to voice that secret ambition, her gentle words of encouragement settled at the back of my mind where they slowly kept repeating themselves until I started to think about starting to write. It’d take a little while longer for me to actually write anything that I wanted to show anyone, but that kept me going for a little while.
Her blog can be found on her website here where you find out much more about her.
You can also read her Manifesto for a New City, a ‘manifesto of the disgruntled of Newcastle’ written almost ten years ago and which seems surprisingly apt at a time when Newcastle is threatened with the closure of vital facilities and 100% cuts to arts budgets.
Degna Stone reading Julia Darling’s ‘Indelible, Miraculous’.
Featured image: Julia Darling.
Sheree was writer in residence at the Lit & Phil in 2007, when she organised a series of master classes with the poet Anthony Joseph, and it was there that I really started to write. Pretty badly at first and then a bit less shit as time went on. After six months it got to the point where I knew I’d be happy to read one of my poems at the launch of Sepia Souls, the anthology produced in December 2007 to celebrate the project. It could have been easy to just put the poems I’d written in a bottom drawer and forget them, but there’s something about Sheree – once she sees that you’ve got an interest in something she’ll nurture and support you until that interest becomes a passion.
Now, I had hoped to get some time with Sheree to chat about her relationship with the North East but between the snow and the fact that she is one busy poet I just didn’t get a chance to do that. Luckily someone else had already managed to catch up with her, so if you follow this link you can read Nicola Moore’s interview with Sheree.
Sheree Mack was born in Bradford to a Trinidadian father and a Geordie mother of Bajan and Ghanaian heritage. She has lived in Newcastle from the age of ten. Married with two children, she works as a freelance writer and lecturer for the Open University and has recently completed her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Family Album is her first full collection.
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That’s it from me then. I’d just like to thank Chris for asking me to take part in this blog – I’m an erratic blogger at the best of times so it’s been nice to have this focus to get me going. Thanks to all the guest curators who’ve made ‘A Wondrous Place’ such a fascinating read. Also, thanks to everyone mentioned in this blog for making the North East such a brilliant place to live, especially Kate Hodgkinson who let me sit in her gorgeous studio drinking tea and eating Tunnock’s teacakes.