Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems focusing on the themes of isolation and social distancing and the wider issues and challenges to community and family arising out of the current Covid 19 pandemic.
“Metaxu” is the tenth poem in the sequence and the form this time is rhyming couplets. I came across the notion of metaxu when I was reviewing a poetry collection late last year. The concept appears in a range of writings, some religious, but is probably most notably espoused by the philosopher, Simone Weil.
Considering man’s relationship with God, she writes:
” Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but it is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link. “
In the same way I was struck by the way we have been living at a distance this last year and yet there is a strong sense of community, mutual support and connection.
Once again, the film was made by my good friend Pete McCluskey and he also delivers the poem with perfect pacing. The space he allows around the words here is very well controlled I think. He imposes a break before the final four couplets which adds I think to the impact of closing lines of the poem.
I thought the end of 2020 might see the end of the sequence, but I think we might continue for a little longer. It seems only fitting that we should in the circumstances.
Until the next time, enjoy the poems and stay safe!
22nd November 2020
Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems responding to life during the Covid 19 crisis and is made with support from the Arts Council of Ireland / An Comhairle Éalíon’s Covid 19 Response Award.
Every year around this time I compile a roundup of
what I’ve done from a writing point of view during the old year. In many ways
this year has been like no other, but I’ve been lucky in that I’ve managed to
continue to write and publish new work throughout the year. Thanks to the
support of family and writer friends I’ve been able keep going in this time of worry
One of the main things I did this year was enabled by
a Covid 19 bursary from the Arts Council. To date I have written twelve formal
poems as part of a sequence dealing with the effects on family, the individual
and community in coping with the restrictions imposed as part of dealing with
the pandemic. I’ve been lucky to have my daughter, Martha, and my good friend,
Pete McCluskey, making films for these new poems throughout the year. So far
there are nine poetry films which can be viewed on YouTube.
Here’s a rundown of everything writing-related that
happened for me in 2020, a year in which I published three new short stories
and fourteen poems.
In April I was awarded an Arts Council Bursary to write a sequence of formal poems focusing on the theme isolation and impacts on community and family arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic. The poems with accompanying films began appearing on my blog and other social media in June 2020.
My short story The Tourist was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2020 in October.
In December I was granted an Arts Council Professional Development Award to take up an eight-month novel writing course with Faber Academy in January 2021.
Although actual readings were out of the question this
year, I did a number of virtual readings including The Holding Cell in April, launch
of Skylight 47 in July, North West Words in August, Fiction at The Friary in
October, readings from The Music of What Happens in November, Ó Bhéal
Winter Warmer in November and the launch of 14 Magazine in December.
Bray Literary Festival went ahead as a purely online
festival and was a big success with high viewer numbers thanks to sterling work
by founder and Director, Tanya Farrelly and the rest of the committee: David
Butler, Nessa O’Mahony, Phil Lynch, Edward O’Dwyer and myself. Special mentioned
needs to be given to Peter Salisbury whose technical skill and expertise gave life
to a festival which would otherwise have died in this challenging year. The
committee has decided to take a break in 2021 and Bray Literary Festival will
return in 2022.
I read so much this year and enjoyed a good portion of it, but I’ve limited my choices of books of the year to just three, one in each category. My novel of the year was the wonderfully expansive story of a life and art Oona (Lilliput Press) by Alice Lyons. For short story collection I chose Almost the Same Blue (Doire Press) by John O’Donnell for the range and detail of the stories. For poetry I chose Some Lives (Dedalus Press) by Leeanne Quinn, for the control and sureness of voice and that wonderful long title poem.
Plans for 2021
In 2021 I hope to find a publisher for my short story
collection What Do You Actually Want? I’m also working towards finalising
my second poetry collection (title yet to be decided). Work is well underway on
this now and I hope to publish more new poems during the coming year which will
form part of the manuscript. I plan to bring my formal poetry film sequence Freedom
In Constraint to a close in early 2021. Again, thanks to the Arts Council
for funding this project. To date I have written twelve poems, nine of which
have been filmed so far. I expect there will be fifteen when the sequence is
My main area of work this year will be on my novel in progress, working title Riverrun. I received a Professional Development Award from the Arts Council in December to cover the cost of an online novel writing course with the Faber Academy. The course runs from January to September 2021 and I’m hoping it will give me the tools to make my novel as good as it can be. I see it as a long-term investment also as I’m sure the techniques and skills I learn will stand to me as I take on further writing projects in the future. A very exciting prospect!
Finally, this year has been a peculiar and challenging
year in many ways. I know I’ve been lucky and I’m thankful for that. I hope for
all our sakes that our lives can return to something like normality during 2021.
Brian Kirk is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist from Dublin, Ireland. His work has appeared in the Sunday Tribune, Crannog, The Stony Thursday Book, Revival, Boyne Berries, Wordlegs and various anthologies.
Brian's first poetry collection, After The Fall, is published by Salmon Poetry.