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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Swift Satire Competition Shortlist Announced and The Battle of the Books

Shortlist 2010

Xenia Schiller, USA, The House Always Wins
Ira Nayman, Canada, Love Amid the Construction
Peter Goulding, Dublin, A Hard Rain
Connie Roberts, USA, A Modest Proposal
Fin Keegan, Mayo, The Best of Times, The Worst of Times
Oliver McDonagh, Meath, Gulliber's Travels
Tommy Murray, Trim, A time when we were inclined . . .
Frank Murphy, Meath, The Red Eye to Cancun
Mary McCall, Dublin, Land for Sale
Gaberiel McDonnell, Meath, The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

For more details visit:

The Winner will be announced on Thursday 1st July.  Well done to Frank Murphy and Tommy Murray of Meath Writers Circle!  The competition was judged by John Murray and the topic was 2000-2010, The Best of Times, The Worst of Times.

The Battle of the Books is due to take place on Sunday 4th July at approx 2pm.  I know both the Meath Writers Circle and Boyne Writers Group are preparing well for the showdown.  Best of luck to the teams!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Remembrance of Tara

Moon of Horses/Rose Moon/Green Corn Moon/Lotus Moon

I wrote this poem some years ago so I've dug it out now as its time has returned.

Remembrance of Tara

A sticky June day has lost its intensity
To become an old and forgiving evening
And nowhere on earth has time more propensity
To dawdle and dwell than on the Hill of Tara.
Darkness too is slow and lazy in its coming;
It humbly kneels before the summer solstice.

Blue twilight air is circling with fairy magic
Evoking the noble spirit of Fianna dead
Alive in nocturnal halls, doomed and tragic
In the grey dawn and toppled by morning.
Romance is pulled from history by the moon
Rising sickle and sweet over St. Patrick

So the shadows move and dance in the warm light,
Unafraid they play to a ghostly, melodic harp,
Undaunted by Trim, Navan, Slane and Dunshaughlin light
Shimmering in the dark distance, seeping at a glance.
Tara floats above the world of men, tainted and sleeping
In the lowland where few even dream of Xanadu.

Beating drums and shrill pipes sound out to folklore
And its heroes: Oisin ag teacht trasna na dtonnta
As Diarmaid and Grainne are reunited by the fire
Where Fionn and Aenghus share the salmon of knowledge.
The druids, those hooded men lift hands to the sky,
Mixing the stars with berries and herbs and water.

The bard, file and fool, speaking aloud the dusky poem,
Pre-empting Yeats and the honey that dripped from his pen.
Salt of the earth in the bread they break on table tops,
Wheat and flour on wood and pagan prayer.
Men of ash and women of dust relive the hour
Before the grave with flowers blooming in their hair.

The dead are quick to evade the approaching dawn.
Like amber stone the sun sits on the horizon,
Glinting golden, beauty caught in a blackbird’s song
Heralding a new day of birth, death and all in-between.
Tara lies still, a hump on Meath’s back, a geographical fact,
A landmark along the main Navan to Dublin road.

Orla Fay 2002

Summer Solstice on The Hill of Tara

Last night I attended a pagan or wiccan celebration of the summer solstice in the woods on the Hill of Tara (please bear with me as I am sure that I will not be accurate about certain terms as I am not an expert in this field at all).  I greeted entering the woods with trepidation as I felt exposed among strangers (though I had been invited by my friend Ciaran) and by our inability to see any clear and present danger due to the thickness of the wood.

The group, who currently call themselves na Fianna, made me feel very welcome however and I enjoyed immensely watching them set up their circle for the ceremony .  I saw the ritual dagger, the candles, the fruit and the wine they offered the gods in preparation and smelt the sage and incense they burned.

As the sun set the woods were filled with light before darkening.  The group are a coven and they keep a Book of Shadows which is akin to a diary where members share their thoughts and feelings.  Members of the coven are not meant to keep secrets from each other and the coven favours disclosure. 

Once a circle is cast a participant in ritual may not leave the circle unless a door is cut or until the ceremony is finished.  Four members of the group stood to invoke the watchtowers to cast the magic circle.   In many Wicca and Witchcraft systems the Watchtowers are evocational symbols of spiritual beings known as the Watchers. Each Watchtower is associated with one of the four quarters of north, east, south and west. In some traditions the Watchtowers are associated with the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. They are also each linked to a specific star. The north Watchtower is Fomalhaut, the east is Aldebaran, Regulus marks the south, and Antares is the west. Archangels are also used; the North / Earth Watchtower is Uriel, the East / Air Watchtower is Raphael, the South / Fire Watchtower is Michael, and the West / Water Watchtower is Gabriel.

We all listened as one member took us on a mediatative journey to greet a great horned god.  Our circle was unfortunately interrupted by an intruder whose erratic behaviour spurred us on to packing up and leaving.  I would love to participate in this kind of celebration again and I'm sure I'll find some poetry from the night.  When I left for home the moon had risen over Tara, pale as an opal in the blue sky.

Jimmy McCarthy Wonder Child lyrics

When I hear this song I am always very moved.  Finbar Wright does a great version of it.  I found Mary Black on youtube.

This child he means the world to me, There is no more enchanted

A child can take this place of ruin, And magically enhance it.
I see him in a golden room, With the book of life before him
Strange instruments upon his charts, And the crystal glow inside him.
He's your Wonder Child, And my dreams come true
You've searched all your life, I see him now flying over the universe.
This child will build a violin, One will follow the traveller's love
Another will the bow apply, To reach the one above.
I see her in a golden room, With the moon and stars above her
Her simple smile is Heaven's gate, With the Queen of all beside her.
She's your Wonder Child, And my dreams come true
You've searched all your life, I see her now flying over the universe.
Your Wonder Child, And my dreams come true
You've searched all your life, I see them now flying over the universe.

Jimmy McCarthy

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In the Write Light Summer Competition

Picasso, the dream
I saw this last night as I was looking through the Sunday Independent.  Last week there was an interesting piece in the Indo about J.D. Salinger.  Salinger it seems was a very controlling and emotionally distant man.  Anyway, back to topic.

This short story competition is open to Irish writers and the prize is a place on In the Write Light's September workshop with Nell McCafferty in Tarifa in Spain.  The prize includes return flights from Dublin to Malaga with Aer Lingus.  (I flew to Malaga last summer with Aer Lingus and it was the nicest flight I've ever had)

The subject of the competition is "The Holiday".  Entries can be fiction or non-fiction and can be no more than 2,200 words. 

The closing date for entries is August 15th.  Two copies should be sent to Books Editor, Sunday Independent, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1.

It could be cool to take a stab at this competition!

For further details see:

and silence

"And Silence, like a poultice, comes to heal the blows of sound"  Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oh mio babbino caro 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where the Wild Roses Grow

Doesn't Kylie remind you of Ophelia in Hamlet?

The Rose

The picture above is taken of the first red rose to bloom in our garden.  I planted it about two years ago and it's name is Deep Secret.  For a long time I have inspired by the beauty of the rose.  A friend asked me a while ago to explain something of the symbolism of the rose to her but I found myself at a loss for words.  I'm going to attempt in this blog to explore the symbolism.

The rose stands as a symbol of beauty and perfection in my eyes.  In ancient times it was sacred to the goddesses Isis and Aphrodite and in Christian culture it is a marian symbol.  What is it about the rose?  There is a deepness to the petals and folds of the flower that perhaps encourages us to seek the divine and the spiritual.  The Romans used the term sub rosa to describe something which was to be kept secret after a meeting.

Recently I heard discussed the physics of beauty which I would love to learn more about but I have found this too online which sheds further light on the significance of the rose:

"In alchemical texts and art, a rose with seven petals is a symbol of inclusion, universal understanding and order. Presumably, because in Pythagorean numerology the number seven is iconic of the perfection in the specific unfolding the universe as well as human understanding."

A favourite quote of mine by Anais Nin is:

"The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

Anyone who is afraid to be themselves should read this quote.  Fear should not be given in to.  A criticism of the rose is that it only blossoms for a short while.  To this I would say that nothing lasts forever.

Of the rose Rumi wrote:

"In the driest whitest stretch of pain's infinite desert, I lost my sanity and found this rose."

Red roses mean romantic love.
Purple, coral and orange challenge red as the color for Valentine roses.
The specific purpose of purple roses is to signify that the giver has fallen in love with the recipient at first sight.
Meanwhile, coral signals desire.
And orange roses, along with apricot, connote enthusiasm.
The meaning of yellow roses is joy and friendship.
We express our gratitude and appreciation with pink roses.
Feelings of admiration and sympathy find words with roses that are light pink in color.
Peach is more ambiguous, as it can signify either sympathy or gratitude.
Their purity naturally enough lends to white roses the meaning of reverence and humility.

The other evening I was sitting outside and began watching a butterfly.  It fluttered around at great speed before it finally alit on a leaf briefly.  I was thinking it's no wonder they don't live long when they keep such a frantic pace.  The smell of the nearby rose was so fragrant I appreciated the wonder of being a perfume maker. 

Many songs and poems have been written about the rose.  Three recent songs that come to mind are "The Rose" written by Amanda McBroom, sung by Bette Midler (and Westlife) and "Kiss from a Rose" written by Seal and Trevor Horn.  While "Where the Wild Roses Grow" was a teriffic murder ballad from Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue.  I guess if you are going to write something about the rose it had better be good.

To conclude I feel that the rose has something special to say to us all, what that is I'm not sure.  It could contain the wisdom of the ages.  I know I want to listen to what it has to say and it is something I want to believe in.

Wild Roses

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Undergrowth with a Couple, Van Gogh, June 1890

After drinking waaaaayyyyyy too much vodka last night I am slowly coming back to the land of the living.  I'm thinking about doing some writing this weekend and doing some course work as I have to hand up my folder the last week in July.  I need to put in some serious effort with it now.  The module I'm currently working on is called Early Childhood Programmes.  I'm also considering re-watching Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.  I cooked some chicken balti earlier but I don't want rice with it so I've to go to the shop for pasta!

So secrets, should you keep them or are they there to be told?  Isn't it true that where the dark is the light wants to run in?  Or should some secrets always be kept?

The Way Through the Woods

THEY shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.

Rudyard Kipling