"Plum-Picking with Niamh Clune."
I have been extraordinarily busy in preparation for this event. I don’t think I realised just how much work would be involved when I started this project. First, there is the announcing of it, the call to poets, the hours spent interacting through social media sending out the message in the hope that it might grow wings.
Once people begin to respond, projects take on a life of their own. People become inspired, begin to share your post to their own blog, add their own words, share to their Facebook pages. The poems began flooding in. At this point, I asked a good facebook friend of mine, Wayne Tolbert, and a member of my Plum Tree Group, if he would mind keeping track of the poems. Some came in with accompanying pictures; many did not. My inbox is so cluttered (I am one of those people who do not file things away neatly), that I was afraid of losing a poem or two, here or there, misplacing, forgetting, or losing someone’s heartfelt, considered words.
Wayne took excellent care of all this for me. As I began to do the layout and design of the book, Wayne sent the poems two by two, so that I would not become overwhelmed. In this way, I was able to give each person’s submission proper value. The next task was to search for suitable images to accompany the poems. I considered this carefully.
Those of us who work in, (or in my case, have worked in) overseas Aid and Development, know how important are the images that accompany requests for support or financial assistance. Although the situation is as dire as it can be in Sahel, I did not want to use horrific images of children starving and dying. Whilst trawling the Internet, I came upon such shocking images taken by expert, professional snappers who live in the field, are on the scene, whose living is made out of capturing such moments and shocking the world out of its complacency. After all, these are the images that sell newspapers. These are the images to which we respond, that tear at our heartstrings and remind us of our humanity. These are the images, however, that aid agencies such as Oxfam, SoSSahel and Save The Children do NOT use, as they are considered pornographic.
What does this mean? Don’t we need such images? Of course we do. But I decided that as this was a book of poetry with music and art to express inner feelings, our feelings, about what is happening in another reality very different from our own, I would not use images to shock, but to stimulate us into imagining. The focus was on “those who have; those who have not… emphasising comparisons.
Backing up…don’t we associate pornography with one thing and one thing only? The definition of pornography is graphic prostitution. Yet, in modern parlance within the world of aid, the term, pornography, is used to describe images that exploit the intense privacy of someone’s most vulnerable moments – to sell suffering.
Whether or not you, dear reader, agree with this, I decided to adhere to this highly considered ethos for our little book of poetry. I have not used really graphic images. I have used many images taken by my husband, Doug Johnson, whilst he was in Sahel recently to assist in setting up a refugee camp. These are mainly of parched earth, landscape, and practical images of work at the grass-root. I had fun being artistic with some of these photos and applying them to many of the submitted poems.
We received some stunning images from Essam Emnay who visited Sahel also, and who works for IIED. IIED is one of SOSSahel’s donors. Many, many thanks Essam for allowing us to use your images. For the cover, and CD covers, I used a picture of a Samburu woman by Eric Lafforgue. as I believe this image encapsulates the strength, poise, bravery and beauty of the nomadic, pastoralists that live in areas of Sahel.
I wanted to focus on some of the positive things that come from such tragedy.
This then, is the Book cover that will represent this project. I hope you like it!
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