|A tribute to Michael Donaghy 1954-2004|
|The award winning poet and musician Michael Donaghy died on 16 September 2004
When ResCen was preparing for its conference NightWalking: Navigating the Unknown, the associate artists were asked to invite someone from another field of endeavour to their own, to discuss the nature of the creative process, for 20 minutes only. I invited Michael, whom I had known socially for years, but with whom I had never plucked up the courage to discuss our respective art forms. I held him in great esteem and felt that my transient, non-verbal art form would silently sink into oblivion under the weight and power of Michael’s words. I was wrong; delightfully so. The conversation we had one evening sustained me in my work more than any other, helped me to see the continuum of my lineage as a choreographer in a wider arts context, and renewed my faith that movement and dance was, and is, in his words, the “mother of all languages”. His intense curiosity and his lively, quick, bubbling mind were quite intoxicating. You could literally see him at once devouring ideas and thoughts as they occurred, but also expressing them excitedly at the same time. No surprise really, since that thirst for the essence of things, coupled with the capability to express that essence in such profound and breathtaking ways, was his extraordinary gift.
I found the NightWalking podium chat that we had equally fascinating and exciting. His thoughts on the roots of creativity, memory, architecture and poetic structures, form and content, tradition, his relationship with his reader… the list could go on and on, captivated the audience and ResCen associates alike. A born performer, he was able to hold the audience in the palm of his hand with utter ease, spellbinding. In retrospect I think of him as a gentle conjurer; when on the case, in the moment, Michael had grace.
ResCen invited Michael to join an internal seminar with the six associate artists, to discuss further his ideas on the creative process – he was our first guest. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that his presence and generous contribution to our research was invaluable. He fired us up, his sharp intellect was scary at times, but he managed to make one feel comfortable because of his child-like curiosity and wonderment, as well as his charm. ResCen had hoped to work with Michael on future written work. I had planned to discuss further with Michael the notion of every word having a physical root, and dreamed of constructing a contemporary folk dance form based on the physical roots of each word chosen. Silent, invisible words written tangibly in dance. Sadly that will have to remain in my dreams.
I shall be forever inspired by him and indebted to him.
Two of Michael’s books which I highly recommend are Conjure and Dance Learned Last Night, both published by Picador. Wallflowers, a lecture on poetry with misplaced notes and additional heckling is a wonderful little booklet pondering the creative process and is available from the Poetry Society. You can find out more about him, his work and his extraordinary affect on people at the following web sites:
For a biography and list of Michael Donaghy’s publications go to www.contemporarywriters.com/authors
You can find some fascinating and thoughtful tributes from his friends and colleagues offering an insight into his work and life at enjoyment.independent.co.uk.
One of his poems Glass can be found at www.thepoem.co.uk/poems/donaghy.htm
Read a report card / anti manifesto written by Michael Donaghy. Apart from being typically witty and sharp it gives an insight in to his thoughts about his relationship to his work, the presence of the author and much more. www.thepoem.co.uk/offshoots/off3.htm
Go to the Guardian site to read one of the many obituaries – this one written by his friend and fellow poet Sean O’Brien: www.guardian.co.uk. There are others in The Times, The Independent and The Telegraph, The Scotsman and more.
Here you will find Michael Donaghy’s thoughts on having a period of research as writer in residence at the Poetry Society and find out more about the wonderful book Wallflowers www.poetrysociety.org.uk/places/donaghy.htm
Here you can hear Michael Donaghy read a small selection of his poems and he also introduces each one: www.britishcouncil.org