a child / face down in the shallows / line in the sand
we move in lines / a panic of ants /a satellite sees
you hear the wind / in the eaves / I hear the whistle of bombs
I’m the stranger / stared at with burning eyes / my heart’s already stone
The three-lined poems (or tercets) above were written by Anton Floyd, a poet and former teacher who lives near Inchigeelagh. They are in his second collection, ‘Depositions’ (Doire Press, 2022), which is the focus of Anton’s next appearance at DeBarra’s Spoken Word on March 14. The book is themed on the worldwide refugee crisis and displacement of people.
The poems look at our collective experience of the refugee crisis in almost every possible way. How ‘we’ view ‘them’, how ‘we’ and ‘they’ are seen from space, how our experiences differ, what ‘they’ may feel when faced with how ‘we’ may feel.
Who ‘we’ are and who ‘they’ are depends on your perspective, your (individual and/or collective) history and even, your ability to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’.
It could be argued that we all wear the same shoes. In reality, the ancestors of every person on earth did migrate at some point. To quote the United Nations ‘Since the earliest times, humanity has been on the move,’. It happened for all sorts of reasons, with a huge effect on the people who experience this. Many perish and suffer, many return to the places whence they came, many settle successfully. Irish history provides ample proof. But maybe, for the first time, thanks to technology, we can now look at those very different stories side by side, in real time. And realise that, in a sense, we ARE them.
Anton Floyd knows a thing or two about that. A mix of Irish, Maltese, English and French-Lebanese, he was born in Cairo, raised in Cyprus, and educated in Ireland. Much of the emotional heft of the ‘Depositions’ collection derives from his family’s long history of displacement dating from the Mount Lebanon Pogrom in 1860 while the family was exiled from Palestine in 1948 and from Egypt during the Suez Crisis. His own direct experiences of conflict occurred in Cyprus where he lived from 1955 to 1970. A period which saw the War of Independence and violent intercommunal strife. At Christmas 1963, his family was forcibly removed at gunpoint from the family home in Nicosia.
‘Depositions’ is rich and diverse. It presents as many viewpoints as a butterfly’s eye. There are 120 tercets and some longer contemplative poems that came soon after the start of the Ukraine war. A selection of the three-line poems has been translated into 20 languages, including Irish. This aspect of the book arose from workshopping the poems with refugees in Direct Provision Centres as well as from discussions with two Congolese young men whom the Floyds befriended twenty years ago. They have long since become part of the family. The book is dedicated to them.
The event will include live music by The Lost Gecko (Malcolm Urquhart, Elaine McCarthy) and a dance and a poetry film. ‘Depositions’ will be on sale at DeBarra’s on the night.
All proceeds, including the artist fee and any donations, will go to the funds of UNHCR (Ireland), the Refugee Agency of the United Nations.
Depositions ft. Anton Floyd and The Lost Gecko, March 14 from 8:30pm, DeBarra’s Folk Club, Clonakilty