Interview _ Siobhan Logan

Poetry, Football and the Spirits in the Sky

For centuries, people in the northern hemisphere have been so entranced by aurora borealis, the eerie display of lights that invade the winter skies, that they have woven myths and legends around these lights.

Colour Catchers, an all-star cast poetry performance that will be hosted on December 12, 2006, by Leicestershire poet, Siobhan Logan will be exploring some of these myths and legends.

The performance will revolve around a sequence of 13 poems which range from intimate personal accounts to epic narratives of unearthly journeys.

Siobhan Logan says:

Some of them focus on the science of what we know about the Aurora Borealis. But for most, I've raided this fantastic story-hoard from countries across the Arctic Circle. "Naming the Lights", for instance, is based on the various names used for the lights by people from the Native Americans of Alaska, to the Inuits of Greenland, the Scots, Laplanders, Russians, etc.
She came up with the idea for the sequence of poems after a collaboration with digital artist and writer, Jackie Stanley.

Originally, I was invited to work with the digital artist/writer Jackie Stanley on an exhibition to be shown in the Physics Department of Leicester University. They have scientists studying the Aurora Borealis there. She produced a short film based on one of my poems, "Auroral Football", and it was shown last May at Frog Island Mills.
Eventually the Physics Department's reception area proved unsuitable for a sound installation, but by then, the poems had grown into a major project for Siobhan Logan.

Over the last year, I've developed a sequence of 15 poems — the material was just so rich and diverse, stretching across many countries and cultures.
She was also drawn to the subject because she has always been fascinated by the idea of the North and with how the legends that have evolved around the northern lights seem to connect diverse cultures.

For me, as a child born in Northern Ireland and growing up in Bolton, Northern England, the idea of the North has always had a pull. We all have our own compass, our own poles, but these legends cross our globe and connect it. Perhaps at a time when ice-caps are crumbling, we should re-acquaint ourselves with a North that may be fast disappearing.
She adds that nothing would cheer her more than to wake up to a good hard frost on the morning of the performance.

She observes that although each culture has its own way of reading the shifting colours in the night sky, there are recurring themes.

I was struck by one story that the lights appear when the spirits are playing football! Both Inuits and Native Americans spoke of this.
Another theme she noticed was that, often, the 'sky-land' is seen as a place where ancestors reside and that this believe is still very present in our lives today.

These myths explore life and death, crossing over the boundaries, how we relate to our dead. But they also are about communities transmitting stories orally.
In her own poems, Siobhan Logan found recurring father-son relationships and stories about how generations connect.

So there's a lot about rootedness and home as well as the mystery of nature.
She chose to stage the performance on December 12 because this seemed to be the perfect time for the performance.

Tucked in between the great festivals of Diwali, Eid and Christmas, between the bonfires and fireworks, these myths are about the lights punching through winter's darkness. Even in Leicester, far from the Arctic Circle, people have heard of the Aurora Borealis, seen glimpses in nature programmes. This performance will bring the lights, and the myths surrounding them, home to us.
For the December 12 performance, Siobhan Logan will be acting as the event's host and will be introducing projected images of the lights and knitting it all together with the poetry.

I will be joined by some friends from Leicester Writers' Club, a community of local writers. Rod Duncan, Chris d'Lacey and Maxine Linnell will help me to dramatise the poems, taking different roles and stories. There will be lights and darkness and voices — and in between, we'll share out some cake.
She found researching the myths and legends that are associated with the northern lights to be a rewarding experience.

Personally, the research and writing of the poems has been an inspiring journey, taking my writing in different directions. I feel privileged to have a chance to share these wonderful stories. Hopefully, the performance will be something of a communal affair itself — hence the cake!

Related article:

Interview _ Siobhan Logan, Conversations with Writers, April 11, 2007


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