Frank Ormsby's Parkinson's: The Art of Living

Frank Ormsby's Parkinson's: The Art of Living

Northern Irish poet Frank Ormsby has written about his experience of Parkinson's Disease in his latest collection of poems, The Darkness of Snow, which was published by Bloodaxe in September 2017.

The Art of Living - Frank Ormsby's Parkinson’s, BBC Radio 4, Sunday 26 November 2017, 4.30pm, repeated Saturday 2 December, 11.30pm

Frank Ormsby at home in Belfast in conversation with Marie-Louise Muir about living with Parkinson’s and his poetry about the disease.  

‘When the poet Frank Ormsby was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, his response was unexpected. He embarked on a newly fertile creative period, documenting his experiences and finding a voice in his poetry that he was beginning to lose in his daily communications… As he discusses with Marie-Louise Muir, the illness has changed him. It's mellowed him. After a career as a school teacher, his daily life is now quieter and more solitary. There's a poetry, almost, in his pauses and silences.’

Actor Ciaran McMenamin reads a number of poems from ‘The Parkinson’s Poems’ section of Frank Ormsby’s collection The Darkness of Snow.  The poems used are ‘Tremors’, ‘Friends’, Side Effects (1), ‘Hallucinations (2)’, ‘Hallucinations (3)’, ‘The Later Stages (1) and ‘The Later Stages (2)’.  Two new poems were also read: an extract from ‘A New Religion’ and the whole of ‘The Bomb’.  Frank himself read, for one time only, his very funny poem ‘Side Effects (3)’.  It refers to the slow movement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, and this music weaves in and out of the conversation, as do the readings of the poems.

Click here to listen.

Pick of the Week, BBC Radio 4, Sunday 26 November 2017, 6.15pm

The Radio 4 feature The Art of Living - Frank Ormsby's Parkinson’s was chosen by Kathy Clugston as one of her picks of the week on 26 November.  The clip she chose began with Frank reading his poem ‘Side Effects (3)’, accompanied by the music mentioned in the poem.  Kathy said at the end of the clip:

‘As you can hear, it’s like listening to two old friends chatting – it was lovely.  Frank’s sense of purpose and sense of humour in the face of his illness were inspiring.’

Click here to listen (available until 26 December).  Forward to 09.42 to hear Frank Ormsby clip:

The Guardian, Saturday 25 November 2017, David Hepworth on Radio

‘The interview of the week is in The Art of Living: Frank Ormsby’s Parkinson’s (26 November, 4.30pm, Radio 4). This sensitively produced programme takes the form of a visit to the home of the Northern Irish poet as he deals with Parkinson’s and diabetes. In certain lights, his condition could be seen as a gift for a man licensed to reflect on the extremes of the human condition. This gives him a key to the big issues.’ – David Hepworth, The Guardian

‘This week’s best radio: poetry, Parkinson’s, diabetes and me’: click here to read

The Observer, The New Review, Sunday 26 November 2017

The programme was also Stephanie Billen’s Radio Choice in The Observer of 26 November.  She describes it as a ‘rich encounter with poet Frank Ormsby’.

The Radio Times, Radio Pick of the Week, 25 November-1 December 2017

The Art of Living - Frank Ormsby's Parkinson's (Radio 4, Sunday 26 November 2017), featured in Simon O’Hagan’s Pick of the Week column in The Radio Times, illustrated with a colour photo of Frank Ormsby.

‘This is a tender, intimate piece of radio in which the listener is right there in Ormsby’s Belfast home as he chats to Muir, makes her a cup of coffee, reads some of his po-ems, tells stories and describes his condition and the effect it’s having on his creative output. Ormsby, who is 70, says the poetic urge comes out of “a desire to find the words that will convey, or at least not betray, the complexity of what you’re writing about”. Parkinson’s has done nothing to supress that urge — in fact, he says he’s en-joying the most prolific period of his life. It’s partly a race against time: “I don’t know what I’m going to do if I lose this facility.” I wasn’t familiar with Ormsby’s poetry, and this was a wonderful introduction to it. Enormous credit to Muir for the sensitivity with which she handles their encounter, and to producer Alan Hall, who has got pro-grammes like this down to a fine art.’ - Simon O'Hagan, Pick of the Week (Radio), The Radio Times


Frank Ormsby also spoke about his experience of Parkinson's Disease in the Irish News

The Irish News, Thursday 5 October 2017

An interview with Frank Ormsby ran in The Irish News of 5 October, illustrated with a large colour photograph of Frank at his home in Belfast, and with a small photo of the cover of his new collection, which is discussed in detail.  The book was given a feature review as Book of the Week in The Irish News of 28 September (see here).

‘He says Parkinson's has neither slowed his writing nor sapped his creativity over the last few years. In fact, the 70-year-old says he has been experiencing the most prolific period of his career, after he was diagnosed with the condition over seven years ago.’ Joanne Sweeney, on Frank Ormsby
Click here to read the interview.

The Arts Show, BBC Radio Ulster, Tuesday 5 September 2017, 6.30pm, first broadcast Thursday 23 April 2015, 6.30pm

Frank Ormsby was also interviewed by Marie Louise Muir back in 2015.  This was repeated on 5 September ahead of the BBC Proms Northern Ireland this weekend, at which Frank Ormsby's work was celebrated.  This touching and very funny interview was recorded in April 2015 at the time of publication of his retrospective Goat’s Milk: New & Selected Poems

He also read and spoke a little about his poems about Parkinson’s Disease, which were eventually published in The Darkness of Snow on 28 September 2017.  He read his poem ‘Once a Day’ from that sequence, and mentioned ‘The Insulin Pen’ and ‘Side Effects (3)’.

‘Another chance to hear an Arts Show special in which Marie-Louise takes a walk around places of inspiration with Fermanagh-born poet Frank Ormsby, whose work will be celebrated in this year's BBC Proms at Castle Coole.’

The programme is no longer available online, but a clip from it is: Poet Frank Ormsby on dealing with Parkinson's through humour.  Click here to listen to this short clip


The Arts Show, BBC Two: Northern Ireland, Monday 3 April 2017

The Arts Show filmed Frank Ormsby reading his poem ‘The Waterworks Park’ in the Belfast wildlife park that the poem is about. This went out in April 2017  The poem is included in his new collection The Darkness of Snow.

Click here to watch. 

[29 November 2017]

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