The Time for Being Present

Posted: 24th November 2017

A new collection of poetry

We are pleased to announce that following the publication of ‘Codes of Conduct’ Mr Elder, English Department, is now bringing out a further collection of poetry, ‘Being Present’, published by the Black Light Engine Room Press.  Mr Elder writes, ‘Being Present is a collection of poems that tackles friendship, Generation-Rent and survival in the work place. The book divides into two halves; Friends and Colleagues.’

Mr Elder has long been instrumental in promoting poetry at St Augustine’s Priory, organising workshops, including the ones held by the poet Tom Warner, and also publishing the fruits of the girls’ labours in ‘Poems from the Priory’, our yearly poetry pamphlet.

Here, Mr Elder, tells us about his new collection, ‘Being Present’:

‘What is the book about?

‘This Year’ was the first poem I wrote for the collection, and that poem begins with the  line “selfie-ready”, and the idea that this is the ‘age of the selfie’ made me consider the ways we look at each other and ourselves.

The first part, Friends, concerns two twenty-something women, Ellie and Tara, their relationship, the way they perceive themselves and each other and the way the world around them looks at them. The idea of ‘looking’ is the key to those poems. Under this umbrella I touch on the male-gaze, a mock-Regency hotel and screens that display images.

The poems are connected by the characters of Ellie and Tara and focus shifts – sometimes we are with Ellie, sometimes Tara and sometimes both appear together.

I saw a couple of girls at a wedding dance together – they didn’t care about anything else except the music and the dance – they were a trigger that came through.

What about the second part, Colleagues?

It’s a return to the idea that there is often more (or less) going on than you think with people because various disguises are worn. We may think someone is absolutely in control of their lives, but actually it’s just a front and beneath the surface they’re paddling like mad.  I think it is possible to see connections to mental wellbeing in the poems (and in the Friends section); the strain of pretence can take its toll on people.

The sequence was written very quickly; once I knew what the approach was I was up and running. The titles of the poems are the prompts to the poems themselves, and also provide some answer as to why the collection is called ‘Being Present’. However, the titles of the individual pieces are not always true to the content, the piece called ‘Dying’, for example, is about the most optimistic of the lot. The poems intersect and I think you can read them as a single poem that’s been sub-divided.

Why ‘Being Present’’?

The selfie- thing is part of a very ‘me’ focused culture – look at me! And these poems are frequently introspective, individuals dwelling on their own concerns. Ideas about “I am being” came to mind. However there is also a play on the whole mindfulness thing that is in vogue and I suppose there’s a bit of fun being had at the expense of this culture. Though that said I do think there are questions about welfare and wellbeing raised in the poems. Then of course in the Colleagues section there is the immediacy of the poems – swiftness and a sense of things happening now.

How did you team up with the Black Light Engine Room Press?

I received an email from p.a. morbid who runs a poetry magazine called ‘The Black Light Engine Room Press’ and he said he had read my pamphlet ‘Codes of Conduct’ and enjoyed it. He wondered if I had any poems he could put in the magazine. From there he printed five poems and then he invited me to submit a manuscript for consideration in his Incidentals series – chapbooks beautifully put together and containing an illustration relating to one of the poems. I submitted and here we are!’

‘Being Present’ is available direct from Neil Elder – contact the school or visit:

Or direct from The Black Light Engine Room Press:

Also by Neil Elder – ‘Codes of Conduct’, published by Cinnamon Press

In Spring 2018 a full collection of Neil’s work, ‘The Space Between Us’ will be published by Cinnamon Press. This will feature new work, no poems from the previous publications will appear.


Categories: Whole School