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Siobhan Logan

Siobhan Logan

LEICESTER WRITER

 

Profile

Siobhan Logan was born in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland but moved with her family to Bolton, Lancashire when she was six. She studied at Hull and the University of East Anglia in Norwich before a teaching job brought her to the Midlands. She combines teaching English at Leicester College with writing and performing.

In 2007, a collaboration with auroral scientists at Leicester University led to several Arctic visits and her first collection, Firebridge to Skyshore: A Northern Lights' Journey (2009). Her shows have been presented at London's Museum of Science, the National Space Centre, the Ledbury Poetry Festival and the British Science Festival. A chapbook Mad, Hopeless & Possible (2011) was published shortly afterwards. She is part of the Polar Poets duo and belongs to Leicester Writers' Club and Soundswrite poetry group. She gives talks, workshops and performances to audiences ranging from school children to astronomers and Women's Institute members.

 

Creative Work

Frog Island Lessons

The man stepped onto the bridge, heard the crunch of frost between boot and concrete. He puffed fog into the air. Two lines of grey guards eyed him, all but their pink claws camouflaged against the bluish railings. He could not name these birds yet. Flying rats, someone had said. Pulling a collar around his ears, he hugged the out-size coat to his body. Buy warm clothes, the English teacher had warned. Charity shops. Buy them before the cold comes. A sign opposite gave another message in bold red letters for those who knew. One word he recognised. Works. Like the hurdles of sound he could not pronounce, work was a closed door now. At some private signal the birds gave up the bridge to the man. He edged into the world.

CAUTION
WORKS IN
PROGRESS

After the narrow canal stretch this pool was an oasis of green between roofs and traffic. The man stepped often to this meeting-place of the rivers, away from the jostling walls of the city. Huge white birds, big as ostriches, drifted across the surface. They dipped for fish between floating litter and blankets of algae. People below brought their little ones to feed the birds, throwing away good food. The sight brought his own children back to him. Mahumut, Nimo, Abdi, Halima and Isma, the favourite. He cast their names into the water like bread he could not eat.

Nin wax cunay xishood. He chewed on his fatherís proverb. 'A man who has eaten something becomes shy.' Pulling away from the bridge, he returned to the path. A black bird slid away from the reeds, beating an urgent cry. A long red chimney pointed a shivering finger over the water. The top of a bottle poked out. These were all signs if you knew the language. His brother, the poet, would once have made a song of this world.

Scaffolded hulks rose from a nest of huts and tankers. So much work there for those with papers. A wall of mottled concrete, modern and brutal, was decorated with colourful scrawls. People talking onto the landscape in their own tongues. The shapes reminded him of the old Somali alphabet he had seen the elders using. He nodded. Finding a bench, he pulled out a little notebook with a pencil stub tied to it. In careful script, he copied words from the skyline. BRUCCIANIíS Delicious Pastries.

The cluster of letters teased his mouth but he could not swallow. He tried another word, stretched his lips around its open syllable, TAR, smacked them onto the second, MAC. He repeated the sounds. TAR Ö MAC. A woman nearby stared, her eyes driving a sliver of ice under his coat. He forced his gaze back to the word puzzle. To his work.

 

Reflection

This short story is set in Leicester, a city I claim as 'home' having lived here for nearly twenty years. There are some 35 languages spoken in our streets and we are also blessed with a vibrant literary scene. When the Three Cities competition was set up by our Literature Development Officers in 2006 to encourage writing on a regional theme, I was delighted to draw inspiration from my local landscape. The canal tow-path to Frog Island runs through my neighbourhood so I was walking into familiar territory. But seeing it through the eyes of a stranger from Somali released new meanings.

The signs and words of the cityscape baffle this recent migrant. Leicester is a living poem in a foreign language and articulating this poem becomes his work. But he struggles with the sounds of his own loss too; his children's names, his father's proverb, his native tongue. While researching this story I came across a debate about which written system to use for transcribing the Somali language, a debate that was only settled in 1972 with the imposition of a Latin alphabet. Like many semi-rural societies, oral traditions hold fast and poetry is at the heart of Somali life. I played here with the culture clash of an exile stranded in this urban setting where a marketing slogan replaces a proverb.

It is a writer's job to find the voice and inhabit someone else's story. Like short fiction, this piece interweaves sensory description of the present with parts of the man's past. Yet it also reads as a prose-poem with its patterning of motifs - the birds, bread, signs - and the rhythms of his walk shape the syntax. I enjoy writing in both forms. My two books have freely mixed poetry with non-fiction, history and travelogue. And as a 'blow-in' myself, themes around migration often surface. 'Firebridge to Skyshore' explored the culture of indigenous Arctic peoples, once nomadic but now often displaced in their own lands.

This piece was published in the Three Cities Anthology (2009). I was invited to read it at a Refugee Awareness event. I read it infront of Leicester Town Hall, in the open air, with the voices of the city thrumming around us.

 

Publications

Mad, Hopeless & Possible: Shackleton's Endurance Expedition, Original Plus chapbook, 2011
Firebridge to Skyshore: A Northern Lights' Journey, Original Plus, 2009
Poems and short stories in Poetry Nottingham, The Journal, Tripod, Current Accounts, Stanza, magazines and various anthologies including the Three Cities Anthology, 2009

 

Contact and Links

Email: siobhan.logan1@ntlworld.com
Website: http://siobhanlogan.blogspot.com
Polar Poets: http://polarpoets.blogspot.com



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