Did you know that The Crescent is home to one of the largest colonies of swifts on the island of Ireland? The swifts join us every Summer - it's likely that you will see and hear them during the Book Festival!
The story of their journey to us is beautiful and thought-provoking and reflected in some of the conversations and workshops this year as well as the artwork and poetry.
Throughout the Festival, you will find across the building poems that speak to varying themes of flight.
Start your journey on the Ground Floor, and then make your way up through the building on a poetic journey. You will find the following work;
Ground Floor - I've Missed This Placeby Bebe Ashley
Belfast Book Festival 2022 invited Bebe Ashley (and her 3D printer) to be based in The Crescent Arts Centre Café where she used words and lines suggested by festival audiences to create a new poem. Bebe then coded and printed the poem onto Grade One Braille, and has kindly donated the work to The Crescent. The work is on display on the Ground Floor - come and have a read. Bebe's project, Confetti, was been funded by the Arts Council Northern Ireland and Future Screens NI as part of the Digital Evolution Awards.
About the Artist
Bebe Ashley lives in Belfast. Her work is most recently published in bath magg, Poetry Ireland Review, and Modern Poetry in Translation. Her debut collection Gold Light Shining was published by Banshee Press.
In 2021, Bebe was longlisted for the Ivan Juritz Prize for Creative Experiment and awarded a Chair of Ireland Poetry Trust Award. Most recently, Bebe was selected as one of nine artists to receive a Digital Evolution Award in support of a project Confetti that explores poetic potential of Braille and 3D printing.
For more information about Bebe and her work visit; bebe-ashley.com
1st Floor - Swifts by Mary Montague
Mary Montague is a poet and a biologist, who was commissioned to write a poem as part of the Belfast Book Festival 2022.
‘I was inspired by this wonderful species and by its faithfulness to its home at the Crescent. The migration of swifts connects Europe and Africa today, but also hints at the memory of the ancient supercontinent Pangaea, when what became separate landmasses still touched. Swifts evolved during the Eocene, almost 50 million years ago, as life was diversifying into new habitat. I thought about all of this, and about the swift’s commitment to flight and return. It seemed that the shape of a swift’s body was the right shape for the poem. The words began to take off.’
Click here to read the poem.
2nd Floor - Swallows by Mary Montague
Mary Montague is both scientist, poet and nature writer, evident in the way she spins through observation of swallows into lush, poetic descriptions. These small birds, often overlooked by us as we pass through our day, earn a long, hearty block of text here, having travelled all the way from Africa to grace us on this island. Mary's ‘Swallows’ poem is a lesson in learning to love something by paying attention.
‘A first step to increasing our enjoyment of wild birds is to get to know them’.
Mary is a biologist by background, with a PhD in ornithology with a love of the natural world informing much of her writing. Her poetry collections are Tribe (Dedalus 2008) and Black Wolf on a White Plain (Summer Palace 2001). She has been published in numerous journals, nationally and internationally, has been widely anthologised, most recently in Queering the Green (Lifeboat Press 2021). Her work has also been translated into French, Italian and Russian. She has received support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and was a 2019 recipient of a Poetry Ireland Tyrone Guthrie Centre Mid-career Bursary. She contributes to The Guardian’s Country Diary.
3rd Floor - Swifts by Patrick Murphy
We recently started a conversation with artist Patrick Murphy inspired by our summer friends. 'At the start of a project, I often write words that express what I'm trying to create'. One piece of work that was created is a poem which can be read continuous cycle.
Patrick Murphy is an artist, designer and curator whose work is exhibited internationally and held in public and private collections. He works across a wide range of media and projects from commissions for large scale art installations and interventions to print and sculptural work. As an artist, Murphy’s conceptual approach is grounded in creating a dialogue with our surroundings and each other. Using familiar objects and themes to depict and examine our culture, he seeks to alter the original context of his subjects so they appear simultaneously both familiar and unfamiliar, to encourage and stimulate a sense of questioning and search for meaning from the viewer.
His work includes commissions for KLM, and Delta Airlines, Queens University, Senator G.Mitchell, Dr Ian Paisley, John Hume and other key public figures, and his work is held in private and public collections throughout the UK, Ireland, Kentucky USA and Valletta Malta.
3rd Floor - Swallows by Natalka Bilotserkivets
Like the migratory swifts that make The Crescent home each summer, the swallows in this poem by Ukrainian poet Natalka Bilotserkivets are in transit, in a ‘last attempt to fly off somewhere’. Natalkas’ poem, written in the late 90s, finds renewed prescience today, in its dealings with escape, the hunger for freedom, and a species in danger.
‘But now, I believe, my "Swallows" became rather a symbol of the "collective" courage, courage of the whole nation, my native Ukrainian nation’.
You will find the poem written in both Ukrainian and English.
Natalka Bilotserkivets is a Ukrainian poet and translator. Born in the village of Kuyanivka, she now lives and works in Kyiv. She is the author of seven poetry collections and one book of critical essays, and her work has been translated into many languages including German, Polish, and Swedish. Her poem We’ll Not Die in Paris has become an anthem for the post-Chernobyl generation of Ukrainians who lived through the fall of the Soviet Union.
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