Compass Lines #1 Days

Compass Lines is a writers’ exchange project aiming to establish links between writers and communities in the North and South of Ireland, while additionally examining relationships between the East and West of these islands, through workshops, public discussions, and the commissioning of new collaborative writing.

Compass Lines aims to encourage artistic fusion and integrate a sometimes fragmented audience, geographically and otherwise, through the strategy of combining writers with various concerns and backgrounds. Eschewing their comfort zones and usual patterns of working presents a diversion and a challenge to the writers, and a way of instigating discussions about ideas of process and place that reside in contemporary writing and which are often ignored through traditional views of literature.

Developed by poet, editor and curator Christodoulos Makris in collaboration with the Irish Writers Centre as producing organisation, and with the participation of the Crescent Arts Centre as partner venue, Compass Lines will comprise a series of enterprises, alternately in Dublin and in Belfast, each with the participation of two writers – one with connections to the north of Ireland and one to the south.

Each enterprise consists of three strands, community connection, discussion and new writing which will be specially developed collaborative pieces involving pairs of writers associated with the north and south of Ireland. The first Compass Lines event was on Wednesday 2 March 2016, the first in this series of collaborative pieces is available below.

Karl Whitney & Philip Terry

Days travelling to Ennis.

Beefsteak days.

Days coming events cast their shadows over.

Days when you buy a new pet.

Days walking in Tolleymore.

Days wondering whose thoughts you’re chewing.

Days when you feel as if you had been eaten and spewed.

Days when you bury a pet in the garden.

Days eating orangepeels.

Nights walking home from the 49N.

Nights lit sharply by the moon’s glow.

Some nights you remember, and others you forget. I remember:

Nights, restless nights, spent wheezing ‘til dawn.

Afternoons cycling along the tow-path.

Afternoons making kits.

Afternoons fretsawing.

Afternoons when you believe others’ eyes.

Afternoons watching cartoons after school.

Afternoons following lessons mechanically.

Afternoons walking vaguely through Spanish streets.

Afternoons when you arrive back at Aldergrove Airport, and it is raining.

Hours spent listening to David Bowie records.

Moments watching The Man Who Fell To Earth.

Moments daydreaming in class, gazing out the window, then being brought back to earth by an incomprehensible question.

Moments when you wonder how you got here and where you’re going.

Moments when you realise your coach leaves in an hour for some scrubland desert town.

Moments choosing what to eat at the ‘Say When’ casino in McDermitt, Nevada.

Those moments of possibility that show themselves while writing, or reading, or talking.

Moments dancing with your girlfriend in the kitchen.

Moments that surprise you with their intensity.

Moments hoovering: losing oneself, zen-like in the task.

Moments when you can’t remember if you locked the front door.

Days when you can’t remember what day it is.

Days when you still can’t remember what day it is.

Days when you no longer care what day it is.

Days filled with thoughts of other days.

Hours sitting at a desk in an office: typing, transcribing, redrafting.

Lunch hours when it’s raining out and you sit there with a sandwich, reading Species of Spaces.

Hours without conversation when you’re kept going by the anxious thrum of your thoughts.

Hours awake (there are more of these).

Hours asleep (fewer).

Hours between flights at Chicago O’Hare. You can see the city’s skyline, but don’t have enough time to reach it.

Hours when you have to be somewhere.

Hours when you don’t.

Nights when you spend more time awake than you do asleep.

Afternoons when you’re tired from lack of sleep.

Mornings when you wake to find a cow’s head poking through your window.

Mornings when you wake to find a horse’s head next to you in bed.

Mornings watching Homes Under the Hammer.

Mornings wasted.

Mornings cycling along the seafront.

Mornings sitting on buses, in traffic, watching pedestrians overtake you.

Mornings are like nights, but brighter; in fact, they’re more like days, light-wise.

But mornings can be dark during winter, that’s true.

Moments when things happen quickly.

Moments when time stands still.

Moments thinking up titles of essays you’ll never write, like “Joyce or U2?”

Moments when you notice the rifle trained on your car.

Dull afternoons at the Bibliothèque Nationale lit by the desk lamps’ glow.

Afternoons at the cinema.

Afternoons reading.

Afternoons writing.

Afternoons doing nothing.

Nights in Norway when it doesn’t look like night.


Hours spent walking around Dublin while Molly’s with yer man.

Hours tapped out on the clocks around the city. Who winds them?

Hours before you’ll be back in Eccles Street. You may as well have a sandwich.

Hours watching the Liffey ebb in and out, a throwaway little remarked upon.

Hours writing letters to your aunt, asking questions about the city you left.

The hours you’ve spent on this stretch of the North Circular Road, which lacks a tram service.

Hours you spent thinking, Bloom.

Hours you spent writing Bloom.

Hours walking the streets of Dublin on an empty stomach.

Hours surrounded by coffined thoughts.

Hours walking barefoot on the strand.

Hours in Trieste listening to the babble.

Mornings listening to the soft flop of porter gushing in the pub cellar.

Moments with your nose whiteflattened against the window pane.

Moments remembering the voices of the dead.

Days of rage.

Days when you look at the rising waters and think: this can’t last.

Days walking down Broadway.

Days when you sit on the slow train, looking out across the Meadowlands.

Days spent talking about the 1960s.

Days when you can’t tell wrong from right.

Days you spend as a maths teacher in New Mexico thinking about the Weather Underground.

Afternoons when you put everything off until the following morning.

Hours spent catching up with what you put off yesterday afternoon.

Hours you wasted trying to think of what to write next.

Hours that you can’t account for. What happened between the

Hours of ten and eleven on the morning of the twenty-seventh of February 2013?

Hours that you spent playing guitar.

Hours copying cassettes at double speed on a hi-fi.

Hours spent reading the NME.

Hours browsing through racks of CDs and piles of records.

Hours clearing the attic, throwing out the stuff you accumulated over the years.

Days listening to Joy Division.

Days listening to Warsaw because you’ve run out of Joy Division.

Days listening for signs of Joy Division in New Order.

Mornings when the wind whips wheelie bins along the road.

Mornings when you should have left the house ten minutes ago.

Mornings when your ears are ringing from last night’s gig.

Mornings when the afternoon creeps up on you.

Mornings when the night stays with you, as you piece together your half-remembered dreams.

Mornings spent avoiding the news.

Mornings watching oddly scheduled American sitcoms.

Mornings when the streets are empty and the city seems uninhabited.

Moments you have met before in a dream.

Moments spent thinking of things you’d like to have done, but can no longer do, like visit Seamus Heaney or go drinking with Brendan Behan.

Moments soaking conkers in vinegar to try and make them tougher.

Moments when you find out that soaking conkers in vinegar is pretty useless.

Moments when you swim without armbands for the first time.

Nights in the summer that never really get dark.

Nights when you watch the blinking lights of aircraft circling the city.

Nights worrying if the bogeyman is going to come and get you.

Afternoons when you’re anxious about your deadline.

Hours at airports, anxiously waiting for your flight.

Hours wasted.

Hours when you wish you hadn’t stayed up all night.

Lost hours.

Hours and hours and hours and hours and hours that you can’t account for.

Mornings: routine, unconsciously timetabled.

Mornings when you wake up feeling old.

Mornings that make you think of other mornings.

Mornings grinding coffee, making porridge, taking vitamins.

Mornings when routine collapses, and you’re resigned to being late, so you have another cup of coffee.

Days on the wagon.

Lobster days.

Days when my father returns from a trip to Dublin with Bewley’s fudge.

Last days.

Days chasing ghosts.

About the Authors:

Philip Terry is currently Director of the Centre for Creative Writing at the University of Essex. Among his books are the lipogrammatic novel The Book of Bachelors, the edited story collection Ovid Metamorphosed, a translation of Raymond Queneau’s last book of poems Elementary Morality, and the poetry volumes Oulipoems,Oulipoems 2, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, andAdvanced Immorality. His novel tapestry was shortlisted for the 2013 Goldsmith’s Prize. Dante’s Inferno, which relocates Dante’s action to current day Essex, was published in 2014, as well as a translation of Georges Perec’s I Remember.

Karl Whitney is a writer of non-fiction whose first book, Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin was published by Penguin in 2014. In 2013 he received the John Heygate award for travel writing. He has a BA in English and History from University College Dublin, an MA in Modernism from University of East Anglia, and a PhD in History from University College Dublin. He is a Research Associate at the UCD Humanities Institute.