Tuesday 16 January 2018

Response to pop-up poetry food for thought and soul

Soul Burgers' shop attracted critics as well as fans but for Christina Reihill its success was to stimulate conversation

Christina Reihill

As I locked the doors of Soul Burgers' "Pop Up" poetry shop for the last time and returned the keys to the landlady next door, one message, chalked in yellow, on my window display, sang sweetly in my ears.

"Never Say Never" will be joining the builders' dust later next week but its prophetic communication at the close of my business last week, will stay with me forever.

Indeed, many of the inspiring, touching and often profound messages, chalked and drawn on the walls of my four-dimensional retail-therapy concept, will stay with me forever.

Shakespeare's love sonnet -- "let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment" -- chalked in purple over what was once a boot stand was probably the winning inscription, but as I sit here, reflecting on the poem that was composed by its visitors over the past two months, I feel Rumi dancing in me.

Who would have thought a poetry shop would find a window on Blackrock's high street, and yet this had been my dream for years.

For years -- as I carved words from the oak of my soul -- I've thought poetry ought to be far more accessible, but in my wildest imaginings I'd never have envisioned this.

Produced by children, teenagers, adults and anyone in various states of growing in between, the final canvas possessed Rothko's seven-point formula for what makes art, and anyone who took part in it deserves to feel proud.

Of course, like all art worth producing, it wasn't without its difficult moments.

"What is this?" demanded many visitors, hesitant to step over the threshold. But every time I heard the question, as the custodian of this unfolding verse, I knew my work was being done.

Some entered the Soul Burgers' cave to contribute to its thought-provoking words of hope, others stared and spun in circles in curious wonder but those who rushed past or stood at the door stamping their feet, hissing "rubbish" were just as much a part of the experience as far as I was concerned.

There are many definitions of poetry, but I like the definition that says a poem is a thing that transcends its construction. I also agree with the definition that a poem is a symbolic container offering more than it holds, pours or shows.

I don't like wilful obscurity in poetry and yet I think it is the poet's job to engage the reader in a stimulating conversation of sorts, which may be viewed as provocative. However, I don't like provocation for the sake of it (my work is provocative because it reminds readers of what they feel, which is not always reassuring).

Soul Burgers' shop was a concrete vision of a soul, with large open windows at either end of its moss-green walls, leading to stunning views of the sea.

Every day, come rain, sun or hail, it waited for words and/or pictures to drench its palette of visceral thought and feeling (sentimentality and toilet graffiti was regularly removed to create space for pure expression and clear feeling -- which was often a blank space on the wall).

The end result has inspired a competition (the deadline is July 6) for a winning "burger" to be published by this newspaper. Visit www.soul-burgers.com for guidelines.

Christina's odyssey in verse, inspired by Dante, can be bought through www.soulburger.com

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