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Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Last Wednesday Series and Open Mike

It was interesting to attend another open mic.  This event took place in Cassidy's on Westmoreland Street and it was divided into four sections with four readers in each section.  The night is run by the Seven Towers Agency.  Oran Ryan and Ross Hattaway who had been featured readers at the Boyne Readings held fort on home turf.  Michael Farry was the featured reader and he read from his collection that won joint third in the Patrick Kavanagh Award 09. 

It was an entertaining night with some hip-hop rap style offerings and one lady sang verses of Ain't no sunshine when she's gone...

There were a lot of talented writers to be heard certainly.  I was quite taken with the drapes on the open mic stage.  They were gothic and rich.  Pictured above are Michael Farry and myself.  The Seven Towers Agency seems to be co-ordinated by Sarah Lundberg and they organise events in Chapters on Parnell Street too! Well done to them.

Friday, April 23, 2010

ROPES Launched

Julian Gough
I'm really happy to be in ROPES this year and the journal is a lovely production.  Proceeds from ROPES are donated to Cystic Fibrosis Ireland.  It was launched by Julian Gough.  Julian Gough's novel Jude: Level 1 was shortlisted for the 2008 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction.  In April 2007, Julian won the biggest prize in the world for a single short story, the BBC National Short Story Award, for "The Orphan and the Mob".  He studied Philosophy and English at N.U.I.G. and while a student there formed a band called Toasted Heretic.

Julian spoke about the need for writers to challenge society and break the mould.  He thought it is a very exciting time to be a young writer now as we emerge from the chaos left by the Celtic Tiger and try to understand the recent past.

There are some well known names included in the journal inlcuding Rita Ann Higgins, Nuala Ni Choncuir, Martin Dyar and Kevin Higgins.  Martin Dyar has won the Strokestown Poetry Prize, the Raftery Award and the Patrick Kavanagh Award, wow!  Ceara Conway and Ken Bruen read on the night alongside Dyar, Rita Ann Higgins and Kevin Higgins. 
Martin Dyar
Congratulations to the students of the MA in Literature and Publishing and to Dr. Daniel Carey and  Dr. Julia Carlson of the English Department, N.U.I. Galway.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

ROPES 18 and the 2010 Cuirt Festival of Literature

On Thursday evening I hope to attend the launch of ROPES 2010, Issue 18 in the Skeffington Arms, Eyre Square, Galway.  I have a piece of flash fiction in it about a weekend I spent in Gleann Colm Cille last year.

The Cuirt International Festival of Literature is celebrating its 25th year and is running from the 20th to the 25th of April.  The writers of the Gallery Press are reading  at 2.30 on Saturday in the Town Hall Theatre.  The Gallery Press is itself turning 40 this year.  And I have just seen that on Sunday there will be a performance about The Wilder Wisdom of Auld Ones...Stories, Legends and Poetry inspired by the Cailleach in the Nun's Island Theatre.  This is very interesting!  Jennifer Johnston and Michael Longley are appearing at the festival too.  I admire them both as writers and I met Johnston once and she signed a copy of The Invisible Worm for me.  On the inside of this book Blake's poem is quoted:

O Rose, thou art sick!

The Invisible worm,

That flies in the night,

In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed

Of Crimson joy;

And his dark secret love

Does thy life destroy.

The full programme of events can be found on

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Boyne Readings and Open Mic April - Kate Dempsey

Kate Dempsey
It was an enjoyable night when Kate Demspey came to town and a cheerful atmosphere filled the room.  I particulary enjoyed her poem Mash:

I judged the mashed potato contest
giving marks for presentation, flavour, consistency
The winner, a dimpled woman of Amish appearance.
What's your secret? I asked before I woke.
It's about love, she said, all about love.

This poem appears in the Poetry Divas 1 pamphlet.

Kate read  for about 40 minutes and kept us all entertained and listening.  It was great to meet her and partake in some chat afterwards.  You can see in the photos the light in the window behind the readers fading.  I can't think of a better way to spend an evening.

Michael Farry

Open Mic readers on the night included members of the Meath Writers Circle, Boyne Writers Group and others.  I had worked on a poem myself called St. Mary's comprising of two sonnets especially for the event.

Blogs containing more about the reading include: 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Emerging Writer for Boyne Readings

What is it that she is emerging from? Some kind of primeval literary goo? I could see this heading towards the realm of Jung and the collective unconscious but I don't want to confuse myself any further tonight!

Tomorrow night will see Kate Demspsey as the featured reader at the Boyne Readings and Open Mic.  I know little about Kate Demspey's work so it will be an education to hear her read.  She writes wonderful, informative blogs that are on the pulse of the literary scene.  She has been published in a wide variety of magazines and she has won many awards. 

The reading takes place at 8 o'clock in the Village Hall, Knightsbridge Village, Longwood Road, Trim, Co.  Meath.  Admission is 5euro.  The reading by Kate will be followed by an open mic session.  All are welcome.  For more info see

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Elves, Gnomes and Other Little People

When I was in Chapters on Parnell Street earlier today I came across several wonderful books, one of which is Elves, Gnomes and other Little People Coloring Book by John O'Brien.  There are pictures of elves, an imp, Rumpelstiltskin, goblins, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, brownies, trolls, leprechauns, pixies, gnomes and water sprites.  Oberon the dwarf king from A Midsummer Night's Dream, his wife Titania, queen of the faeries, and Puck a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow also feature.

Each picture is accompanied by description.  The entry for pixies especially made me chuckle:

"Pixies liked to guide travellers at night.  Here they are helping a man to get home safely over a very dangerous bridge.  Long ago, when a man got drunk and came home late, and his wife complained, he would say that the pixies led him astray and made him get lost."

This puts in my mind Christina Rossetti's poem Goblin Market which is a curious poem and Rossetti is herself a curious figure.  She also wrote a book of nursey rhymes called Sing-Song.  I love this rhyme of hers:

The horses of the sea

Rear a foaming crest,
But the horses of the land
Serve us the best.

The horses of the land
Munch corn and clover,
While the foaming sea-horses
Toss and turn over.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Holy Wells

I've been meaning for some time to delve a little deeper into the area of Holy Wells which I do not know much about but curiosity attracts me to them.  Some time ago I met a woman from Dundalk, Brid McDonnell, who had a great interest and seeming knowledge of folklore and the local history of that area of Louth.  She writes about her faith in Jesus and Heaven in her poem Little Flower which can be found in New Poems of Oriel but she is just as comfortable writing about the old pagan gods and goddesses. In Boyne Berries 5 she has a poem called An Cailleach (the cailleach may well have been the antithesis of the pagan Brigid).  I suppose then that the Holy Wells are a bit like Brid's poetry, a marriage between Pagan Ireland and Christian Ireland.

In pre-christian Ireland the holy wells were sacred places and they served as places of natural religion.  These wells are usually found in quiet parts of the countryside near trees and many believe that the wells cure specific ailments.  Some people tie ribbons or handkerchiefs to the trees or branches near the wells as memorials of their visits.  The Hill of Tara here in Meath is believed to have seven holy wells but some are not visible and some destroyed.  The Well of the White Cow and St. Patrick's Well are two of them.

I have visited the well of St. Feichin in Fore, Co. Westmeath which is a stunning place.  At the weekend however I went to see St. Brigid's Shrine in Faughart outside Dundalk.

There is a great view of Dundalk from here and I did of course bend down to touch the waters of the stream.  My friend told me a story about St. Brigit and how she plucked her eye out to avoid marriage to have it restored by God again when she was able to follow her calling to be a nun.  The pagan Brigid was a Celtic Goddess who was worshipped throughout Europe.  She is a triple goddess; poetess and muse, goddess of inspiration, learning, poetry, divination, witchcraft, occult knowledge. A second aspect of Brigid was as goddess of smithcraft, carrying a famous cauldron for this purpose. The third aspect of Brigid was that of healer, goddess of healing and medicine. These three aspects were united through the symbol of fire.  I was excited this year to read about Imbolc and its coinciding with the feast of St. Brigid.  I had not been able to sleep the night of the last day of January and the first day of February and found myself getting up to work on my poetry - was this a coincidence - I'm curious!

Another poet who writes about the holy wells is Susan Connolly and she has a poem called Well Fever.  Connolly also has a poem about St. Brigid called Brigit.

I am sure that there is a lot more that I have to learn about these wells and all that they encompass.

Friday, April 2, 2010

An Easter Poem

Since I discovered it maybe five or six years ago in the Bloodaxe anthology Staying Alive (which is one of the best poetry anthologies I have come across) I revisit this poem every Easter.

At Poll Salach
Easter Sunday 1998

While I was looking for Easter snow on the hills
You showed me, like a concentration of violets
Or a fragment from some future unimagined sky,
A single spring gentian shivering at our feet.

Michael Longley

I adore this poem, it evokes what one must feel on the first clarity of seeing, the "oh, oh" wonder of realisation.

I am delighted to see that a gentian looks like a blue primrose.  I had to look in google images to see what it would be like.  It reminds me of a primrose anyway.

I think Longley wrote this poem after the Good Friday Agreement but I know he wrote a poem called Ceasefire as well.  I wonder what Yeats would have made of the change in the times but don't they say that the more things change the more they remain the same!

Moving on to Yeat's famous poem.  When I read this in secondary school I had goosebumps and for its sense of time and place I still consider it to be a great commentary and poem.  The oxymoron of the line A terrible beauty is born is legendary.  Too long a sacrifice/ Can make a stone of the heart. seems an especially potent  line to me tonight.

Easter 1916
September 25, 1916

I HAVE met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.