"In July 2015 an Artlinks Bursary Award allowed me to attend a two-week course on Chinese Culture and Language at the East China Normal University, Shanghai. I could not have gone to China without the funding as the cost of travel was prohibitive.
During the course I learned about Chinese history and culture. For example: we learned how to read and write Chinese script, we practised the ancient art of Tai Chi, we attended a masterclass on Chinese Qinqu Opera, we visited the historic watertown of Zhujiajiao, (a town dating back to 300A.D.), we learned the folk tale of the Peony Pavilion, we learned Mandarin Chinese, we visited Shanghai Museum and saw artefacts dating back to 8000B.C.E.
This course and time spent in Shanghai has had a significant impact on my writing practice. I gathered new experiences, new settings, new characters, new themes, and new voices for my fiction and poetry. I also gained a fresh perspective on Ireland by looking back at it from five thousand miles away.
This has already started to pay dividends. I have written some new poems and I am working on a story about an ancient shoeshine lady set in Zhujiajiao.
Here is a haiku I wrote when I returned:
Black cicadas scream from treetops
Then suddenly stop.
The time I spent in China was an enthralling experience. Every moment there was a new learning experience. From hearing a hundred thousand cicadas screaming all day in the plane trees that line the streets of Shanghai to the thousands of people streaming through the Shanghai metro at rush hour, it was an unforgettable two weeks.
Sincere thanks to Artlinks and Carlow Arts Office for their continued support of my writing"
- Jonathan O’Brien