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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 The Long Night or Why the World Needs Fierce Girls and Strong Men

“Woman?” She chuckled. “Is that meant to insult me? I would return the slap, if I took you for a man.” Dany met his stare.

George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

"You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do."
—Jane Fonda

"Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got."
—Janis Joplin

I've been asked about this latest episode of Game of Thrones a lot since it aired, and I've avoided a response until watching it a third time.

The Night King is coming we've been told, that zombie king made of ice, who steals babies and lives beyond the wall. This fabled wall that 'crow' Jon Snow, a man of the Night's Watch protects. It is a long story of 'fire and ice' proclaimed by original author G.R.R. Martin (Tolkien anyone?)

Yet, you're into it. In the same way as you might have been into Harry Potter, or TLOTR, or Star Wars. I was concerned about Daenerys Targaryen (The Dragon Queen) and her 2 remaining dragons; Drogon, her charge, and Rhaegal, Jon's. Jon is, in fact, Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, in case you never knew that R + L = J. Jon is Dany's nephew.

I totally digress. This episode is all about the battle, the white walkers versus the Dothraki, the Unsullied versus the white walkers, the heroes against the villains. It is Arya Stark who explodes out of the thin, non whistling blue air in the end to kill the Night King with her dagger made of Valyrian steel. Arya has trained for months or years, to become who she is. She has endured trials and tribulations, many disappointments. She has never stopped believing in herself, nor her family. She has defied convention and become a warrior, rather than the lady her family believed she should be. Contrary to the  norm of what a 'lady' should be, Arya's sister, Sansa, has become  a lady/woman of leadership, diplomacy and foresight.

Daeneyrs Targaryen is standing strongly too at this dark battle. Of all women surviving surely she deservers her Iron Throne. She who has been abused, raped and tested, Daeneyrs, worthy of all her names:

Queen Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Lady of Dragonstone, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.

Lyanna Mormont stays her ground in the face of the dead and the ogres of childhood fairytale. The recently knighted Ser Brianne of Tarth is anther heroine.

Let us not forget Cersei, the antihero. What of Cersei? I think she is the subject of a blog of further inspection and introspection. Can any woman ever forget her 'Walk of Shame'? having witnessed it?

The loyal men in this episode are invaluable. Jon Snow, Ned Stark's bastard, the rightful heir of the Iron Throne, Aegon Targaryen, Jon who never gives up, Jon who is a man of honour. Greyworm and Jorah Mormont, and Theon Greyjoy, the faithful and redeemed men. The same could be said of Beric Dondarrion and Sandor Clegane.

What fate now awaits the Lannister men, Jamie and Tyrion?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Publications Jan-March 2019

Spring has sprung and 2019 has been off to a good start with recent publications in issue 7 of The Bangor Literary Journal, edited by Amy Wyatt Rafferty, issue #5 of  Impossible Archetype, edited by Mark Ward, Ink, Sweat and Tears, edited by Helen Ivory and the current issue of FOURXFOUR, edited by Colin Dardis and Geraldine O'Kane.

In April I will have two poems in volume five of Quarryman. I will also have a poem in ROPES literary journal, the theme of which is 'Unearthed' for 2019. The journal will be launched as part of the Cúirt Festival.

I was also delighted to learn that I had been shortlisted for The Cúirt New Writing Prize by judge Thomas McCarthy. Congrats to those who were also shortlisted: Evan Costigan, Holly Hughes, Andrew Pelham Burn, Breda Spaight, Vincent Steed, Lisa de Jong and Fiona Smith. The winner was Jeremy Luttrell Haworth. I record the judge's comments on my work for posterity:

"‘I never thanked the water for all that it taught me’ begins the very 
fine ‘Rivers,’ a poem that creates a marvellous pen picture of an entire 
childhood world, the kingdom of a child’s farm. The magic of roaming the 
fields of Cloncullen, out-running the river but never out-running time, 
is beautifully done. It is beautiful writing. Time also features in ‘My 
Dandelion Clock’ where ‘It was heaven on earth/ and I did not know I was 
Icarus,/ wings waxen in the sun.’ This is a terrific poem, a meditation 
on time and time’s changes. ‘How the west was Won’ is also a 
consideration of the predations of time: ‘What hope did my Sioux friend 
have,’ the poet asks, conscious of how the civilisation of The Lone 
Ranger and Wyatt Earp would finally usurp an entire set of nations. This 
selection of poems, therefore, is impressive in its wisdom, its 
humanity, and its great sweeping narrative".

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Trim Poetry Competition Shortlist 2019

Well done to the ten shortlisted poets. The poems were judged completely anonymously by Michael Farry and I. I read all 220 poems entered. It was difficult in the end to reach a top 10. Thanks to Frances Browne, Boyne Writers Secretary, for all her work.

Trim Poetry Competition Shortlist 2019

The Ortolan Eater by Ruth Quinlan
Camera Lesson by Frank Farrelly
Lost Mornings by Eamon McGuinness
The Obstetrician's Waiting Room by Catriona Clutterbuck
Scattering the Fieldfares by Glen Wilson
Hefenfelth by Maria Isakova Bennett
Shadow Mirror by K.S. Moore
Riptide by Amanda Bell
Eastern Ghouta by Patrick Lodge
Hansheen's Gardens by Patrick Deeley

The shortlisted poets have been invited to attend on Saturday 16 March at 5 pm to read their shortlisted poem. The winner will then be announced. This event will take place in The Castle Arch Hotel. The competition result and readings will be followed by readings from The Bulls Arse Writing Group, Navan, and The Meath Writers' Circle. Poets Ron Carey and Enda Wyley will then read from 8 pm onwards. More information can be found here

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Boyne Berries 25 Cover Design

I'm delighted to share a preview of the cover design for Boyne Berries 25, by Rory O'Sullivan, with you. This cover is an homage to the cover of issue 1, 2007, by Greg Hastings. The magazine will launch on 15th March at 7.30 pm in The Castle Arch Hotel.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Trim Poetry Festival & Poetry Competition 2019

Peter Fallon

Boyne Writers Group are organising a poetry festival on the 15th and 16th of March, and a competition, to coincide with the launch of issue 25 of Boyne Berries Magazine (which I am about to start editing). Peter Fallon, Ron Carey and Enda Wyley will read at the festival.

Details can be found here

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Review of my Creative Writing Year, 2018

The Diligence in the Snow, Gustave Courbet 1860

With the clarity of a walk behind me and a freshly cleaned window to let the light in, with the sun setting on what has been a mild, mostly sun-filled day and with some tea tree and lavender oil burning I'm writing a review of my successes with poetry this year.

It was with a stormy beginning to 2018 that Missing Hours was published in Honest Ulsterman. It was a poem I loved writing which led me to research old Irish mythology. It was created alongside Poet in a Train Station Bar, and a third poem which eludes me presently. Poet in a Train Station Bar was a very successful piece which both Eavan Boland and Ciaran Carty liked. It appeared online in The Irish Times and in print in Poetry Ireland Review 126. There is a story behind this poem but I'll keep it to myself.

Crannóg included the poem Better Love in issue 48. I've been lucky enough to have work in this great magazine a few times over the years. Better Love  was inspired by Hozier's powerful song. In the Easter issue of The Bangor Literary Journal Spring's Bride leant its name to the title of that special issue which was an honour. Spring's Bride was a love letter to the cherry blossom tree and an older poem which I was truly delighted to see published.

Caught in a Dance, a poem about swallows gliding over the Porchfield in Trim found its way into issue 10 of Skylight 47 in May, just in time for their return after the long winter.

A huge part of the year was the completion of the MA in Digital Arts and Humanities at UCC. I wrote a thesis on poetry in the digital age and created a digital artefact. I must thank all the poets and writers who assisted me in the research and I'm delighted to display the link to the artefact here and to say that I scored an overall 2.1 in the masters. I also had a poem published in Quarryman, issue iv, the literary journal of UCC. This poem was called The Etymology of the Word Love and it was an exploration of linguistics and how people perceive words and realities differently.

In later summer I was thrilled to be longlisted and subsequently shortlisted for poetry in The Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition. This shortlisted poem was about a train journey to Belfast. Blackberries was a villanelle that was highly commended in The Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards 2018. I wrote Blackerries a couple of years ago but I edited it again this year and simplified it a little and I think it worked better. It is, afterall, important to make a poem somewhat accessible. It was a well-crafted and well-conceived poem. Digital Shadow, which was shortlisted in The Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize in 2017 was published in Red Lines, an anthology of winning poems from the last 5 years of the festival.

A highlight of the year was learning that I had a winning poem in Hennessy New Irish Writing in The Irish Times. This meant so much to me and in September Kiosk No. 6 found its home. It was written in 2017 after I read about Banksy and couldn't get the image of the telephone box out of my mind. It amused me that in early October this year Banksy pulled his latest stunt, a self-destructing painting, Girl with Balloon.

Poetry NI curated Changing Verses In Midstream for National Poetry Day. I was happy to contribute The Other Side of Eden to this project. This was a poem I didn't think would find a place in the world and has its origins in a very old poem from my star-gazing youth and in a sonnet which is its non-identical twin. My unrelated Sonnet in Appreciation of the Comma was published in Smithereens Literary Magazine #2.

In Tales from the Forest The Elixir of Youth  can be found, which is the amalgamation of two poems from 2017 that I had to work hard on to produce something finished. MacCabre appeared in the Samhain issue of Three Drops from a Cauldron. It was an older poem too that I had to rework a few times to get right. Finally in 2018 Portrait of Summer and Only, Or The Far Off Sea were published in issue 10 of North West Words Magazine. Both these poems were written in 2018.

This year I edited Boyne Berries 23, launched by Rachel Coventry and Boyne Berries 24, launched by Micéal Kearney. Boyne Berries 25 is my next editing project.

I wrote a review of The Radio by Leontia Flynn in late October for Reading Ireland. This collection left a strong impression on me.

It just occurred to me that the third poem I had written (as mentioned above) was called The Holly Tree in the Village and The Meath Writers Circle printed it in their annual magazine in early November.

In the year to come I hope to write more poems, and to have more work published. I am working towards a first collection, gods and faith and fates and will be willing. I love having a creative and inner life and I hope I can honour and respect it throughout 2019.

I suppose a good way to start is to begin a new poem asap.

Happy New Year readers!