Monday, August 19, 2019

Belfast City Hall - Windows

My first visit to Belfast City Hall last Friday was eyeopening. I was very impressed by the stained glass windows, a wide range of themes and styles.

The centenary window was unveiled in 2006 to celebrate the many successes and achievements witnessed by City Hall during the previous 100 years.

"Included in the window are Titanic and the Harland and Wolff cranes . . . Achievements in the fields of sport, music and literature are also represented and the City Hall mural is represented by the John Luke inspired landscape in which we see a Massey Ferguson tractor and an ‘Electric Hare’ invented by James McKee of OD Cars Ltd. The multicoloured tree reflects the many different traditions and cultures found within Belfast."

More on the windows on the official site.

Designed by Ann Smyth, the window was fabricated and installed by CWS Design in collaboration of Karl Harron. The window was unveiled in 2006.

I was most interested to see the writers honoured in the window, detail below. I love the way Sinead Morrissey and Nick Laird are squeezed in at the end of the shelf!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Corran Herald 2019 - The Philosophy of Pat Gallagher

The Ballymote Heritage Weekend saw the launch of issue 52 the annual journal, The Corran Herald" published by the group. This, in over 90 pages, contains academic articles, popular history, photographs, poems and stories.

This journal has been published since 1985 and the group's website has copies of all the issues, except the most recent. There is a wealth of history in these pages.

This year I contributed a poem called "The Philosophy of Pat Gallagher". Pat, pictured here, was my great grandfather and was secretary of the local branch of the United Irish League from 1901 until 1915. He contributed short report on club meetings regularly to the Sligo Champion. I took pieces from these reports and created a "found" poem from them.

I don't know if it works as a poem but it does give a flavour of the rhetoric of the times. Brief extract below.

"Each man must pledge himself to do a man’s part.
The people must be prepared for any sacrifice, even
life, any time their privileges and liberties are
  being tampered with.

Any member absenting himself without a satisfactory
explanation will be struck off and a new member put in his place.
We will not readily let down a man who is a consistent
  Nationalist, and his father before him.

He was a loving son and a faithful comrade, as was
shown on last Sunday when sixty-four young
men wearing white sashes carried his remains
to the grave"

The Corran Herald is on sale in shops in Ballymote and in bookshops in Sligo town.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Ballymote Heritage Weekend

I was delighted to be asked to give a talk at Ballymote Heritage weekend on the August Bank Holiday Monday. My talk on Sligo, especially South Sligo, in 1919 was very well attended and indications were that the audience enjoyed it.

Many people there were related to persons I mentioned in the talk and had information to add to what I knew. This list of contributions to the Dáil Loan published in the Sligo Champion in 1919 before the loan was declared illegal caused an amount of interest.

This was the 30th such weekend organized by the Ballymote Heritage Group and was as successful as all the others.

The weekend also saw the launch of the annual journal published by the group, "The Corran Herald". This, in over 90 pages, contains academic articles, popular history, photographs, poems and stories.

This journal has been published since 1985 and the group's website has copies of all the issues, except the most recent. There is a wealth of history in these pages.

The Corran Herald is on sale in shops in Ballymote and in bookshops in Sligo town.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Dogs of Humanity - Colin Dardis

Colin Dardis' latest publication, the chapbook The Dogs of Humanity has just been published by Fly on the Wall Press. The Belfast launch takes place this evening, 8 August, as part of Eastside Arts Festival, in the Eastside Visitors Centre, 402 Newtownards Road, Belfast.

This is an impressive collection for which I was delighted to write a review and provide a short note for the back cover: The voice in these poems is insightful, urgent but compassionate making the collection an enjoyable but unsettling read, with its call for perception, for engagement with the realities of the human condition and the lost souls of the early twentieth first century. - Michael Farry

My full review can be read here on Neon Books.

You can order The Dogs of Humanity online here - print | kindle

The cover is a detail from Brueghel's Studies of Dogs (c.1616).

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Bailieborough Poetry Prize 2019

Bailieborough Poetry Prize 2019 is open.

This year’s judge is Cavan Writer-in-Residence, Anthony J. Quinn. 

Closing date for entries is Friday September 6th 2019.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ilkley Poetry Competition 2018

Group photograph taken at the presentation of awards and readings for the Walter Swan Trust Poetry Competition, Ilkley Literature Festival 2018 with judge Imtiaz Dharker.

I was delighted to be commended and invited to read my poem.

1st Place: Virginia Griem – The Strung Jar
2nd Place: Pamela Scobie – Darren (Year 3)
3rd Place: Isobel Thrilling – The Place

Highly Commended:
Ion Corcos – Making Soup
Michael Farry – Clothes-Lines
Ian Royce Chamberlain – Round the Corner

The poems are available on the Ilkley competition page.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Bailieborough Poetry Festival 2018

Another very successful and well-attended poetry festival in Bailieborough, the sixth consecutive celebration of poetry here which opened opened with a collaboration between artist Ruth McDonnell and LitLab writing group. The exhibition and festival were officially opened by Iggy McGovern.

Poets Brendan McCann and Enda Wyley read on Friday night and enthralled the audience. An open mic  followed.

Saturday morning had workshops by Enda Wyley and AnneMarie Ní Churreáin.

The afternoon saw the Irish Writers Centre launch their Poetry master class series. The launch included a reading by Noel Monahan who is one of the tutors.

Then Noel, the Bailieborough Poetry Competition judge, announced the result. Winners were:
1st ‘Shannon of the Eye’ Jane Burn, Co. Durham; 2nd ‘Illuminated Manuscript Trinity College Library 2016’ Glen Wilson, Co. Armagh; 3rd ‘Gently Pulling Two Pieces of Poorly Glued Paper Apart’ Jamie Stedmond, Co Dublin.

The festival concluded on Saturday evening with readings by PJ Kennedy and Annemarie Ní Churreáin which were enjoyed by the large audience in Murtagh's lounge.

Monday, March 12, 2018

My Review of Journeywoman by Carolyne Van Der Meer (Inanna, 2017)

In her valuable and concise preface the author, Carolyne Van Der Meer, advises us that “The word ‘journeyman’ refers to an individual who has completed an apprenticeship and has been fully trained in a trade—but who is not yet a master.” 

Her “journeywoman” then is about the journey made by one woman and by many women, through childhood, womanhood and motherhood, towards mastery, enlightenment, maturity. The fifty poems which comprise this collection, Journeywoman, are snapshots taken on that journey.

The volume is divided into four sections of unequal length. The first section is one of the longest. Manoeuvring  is an unexpectedly delightful title for the section which deals with relationships; with mother, with husband, with son, with others. 

Van Der Meer excels at titles and the first poem is entitled (S)mothering which is a poem in itself. This poem sets the tone for the rest of the collection, with its deceptively simple language, the use of unexpected commonplace phrases, the questioning of herself and of others, and the responses. It ranges over three generations, author, her mother, her child. “So who is real? / the ones we are, / have created, the ones who reappear”

I like how we are gently invited to consider mundane common tasks and ponder possible deeper meanings without any sledgehammer language, any obtrusive signposts of the significant. Consider how in The Sewing Box the replacing of a broken button on a husband’s jacket cuff becomes such an important event and leads to such wonderful details and memories.  And see how the repeated, almost off-hand, phrase, “No one will notice”, becomes so important at the end.

Similarly in Folding the Sheets the details of the process become a sort of advance and retreat country dance which ends with the wonderfully evocative, “fold it crisply / into a perfect square”. We are left to imagine the identity of the other person, the precise relationship.

Van Der Meer is good at knowing how much to tell us and how much trust to put in the reader. She is also good at including detailed descriptions, fooling us sometimes into thinking she is telling us everything. In Windows, Lesson at Masala Cooking School and in Homemade Pasta on New Year’s Eve for instance the great accretion of details still leaves central questions of relationships open to the reader’s probing.

The second section Travelogue is the longest and there are accounts of incidents and thoughts arising from trips to Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Spain. There are poems which involve literary figures, Oscar Wilde’s stature in Galway and grave in Paris, the Brontes in Yorkshire and in County Down, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Calderón de la Barca, Lope de Vega, the portraits of writers in stained glass at the National Library, Dublin, and even Jim Morrison. 

Anyone who visited Yeats’ isolated County Galway tower can appreciate that first line of Visiting Yeats at Thoor Ballylee, “It was as though the world had stopped”.

But the most impressive poems in this section may be the more personal ones, Buying Sandals in Oltrarno, where she gets herself “a pair of handmade / Roman sandals, the kind / in the children’s Bibles / her mother used to read”, and Leather Shop in the Via Francesco Crispi,  where boots or shoes are purchased, “I settle on / burnt sienna you on lime green”. As elsewhere in the collection a raft of details are included but the reader is left to figure out exactly the relationship of the couple or the significance of the incidence.

Have those solid Irish midland towns, Mullingar and Athlone, ever before figured at the start and ending of a poem? I doubt it. In Atonement the enigmatic journey begins “By Mullingar, we were through the worst of it” and ends “you took the exit for Athlone / before I could tell you / where to go”. The hint of “alone” in Athlone is great.

Section three’s stark title, The Cancer Journey, points to a different, traumatic journey. These six poems are a multi-layered meditation of the treatment journey, the drugs and medication, the fear of relapse, a fellow-traveller who did not survive and the scars left behind by the disease and the treatment.

The first poem in this sequence, ABVD, deals directly with the 4-drug combination used in the chemotherapy treatment by naming each of the drugs and meditating at length upon it, its name, origins, history, effects on the body.

“Vinblastine sin blasts me / my silent joke, never spoken / another colourless poison / first isolated by men called Noble and Beer / names unlike their protégé, found / in a Madagascar periwinkle plant / so pretty and exotic / so nasty and toxic”.

There is no sugar coating here, no poetic softening of the reality. The poem ends with a simple plea: “ABVD me / back to life”.

The final section of eight poems entitled Fellow Travellers has poems about women, some named, some well-known, others not well-known, some anonymous. These include Emily Bronte, Saint Agnes and Lady Bathe who is interred with her husband, Sir Lucas Dillon in Trim, Ireland in a tomb known as “The Tomb of the Jealous Man and Woman”.

There are two poems in this section concerning the issue of Muslims in Canada, particularly Quebec, with reference to the Reasonable Accommodation debate. The first, The Philosophy of Hijab is in the voice of a Muslim female and the second, Prayer on a Train, describes an encounter with a Muslim originally from Iraq, who prays on a train. It ends with a thought: “I realize she is more / sure, praying on a train / in a foreign land / than so many of us at home”.

The collection ends with a four-section meditation on the nun, Jeanne Le Ber, described as North America’s First Recluse who lived in Ville-Marie which later became Montreal. This was as a result of the poet’s retreat in the convent in which the recluse had lived. The silence, the meditation has such an effect on the poet that in the last stanza the poet and the recluse have become one and the ending could apply both to the art and craft work of Jeanne and to the work of the poet: “God willing the images I stitch / will stay”.

So Carolyne Van der Meer’s Journeywoman ends where all journeys end, with the hope that something will remain, some scrap of memory or image or writing to outlast the life.

The book is beautifully produced and edited by the Canadian publishing house, Inanna, whose mission is to publish a multiplicity of voices, particularly fresh new Canadian voices, that speak to the heart and tell truths about the lives of the broad spectrum and endless diversity of Canadian women. This volume certainly fulfils that promise.

The cover is especially striking and features a specially created painting by the Montreal artist, Ariane Côté, also entitled Journeywoman.

Journeywoman can be purchased on the Inanna website here:
or on Amazon here:

Well done to all concerned.

Michael Farry
March 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Journeywoman, poems by Carolyne Van Der Meer

Canadian poet, Carolyne Van Der Meer, has just had her poetry collection, Journeywoman, published  by Inanna Publications, Toronto.

Carolyne has been published in many Irish journals including our Boyne Berries and she attended the launch of Boyne Berries 10 while visiting Ireland in 2011. She is the author of Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experience, which was published in 2014.

From the publisher's website: Journeywoman, poems by Carolyne Van Der Meer

"Journeywoman is the story in poems of the explicitly female journey made by women through girlhood, motherhood and beyond. The play on the word journeyman is intentional with the notion of completing an apprenticeship and seeking mastery of the trade implicit.

This unique collection explores the stages of womanhood as defined by this author: the waif, the mother and the crone. It invokes the stories of many to describe the process of mastering the craft of being female, with all its inherent complexities.  The journey involves not only the physical alterations a woman undergoes through the changing of stages—the metamorphosing required to achieve mastery—but also true travel, the road embarked upon to achieve enlightenment, the attempt to grasp the intangible, the ethereal, the metaphysical, the disembodied, the sacred."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Age of Glass Review

I'm delighted with this very careful, complimentary and insightful review of my latest collection, The Age of Glass, by Colin Dardis on the Lagan Online website.

The review concludes:

"Usually, it’s easy to spot the filler in a collection, the poems that could have benefited from a good editor, or just shouldn’t have made the cut. There’s none of that here: in each poem, every line speaks to every other line, concrete, essential and assured of its direction and purpose.

Perhaps overall, it is the power of death that is given the most reverence within, its touch seen in others, felt too close. And yet of the call to rage against that dying light, Farry tells us that death is to accepted; the wearing of a crucifix is “gentle on my neck, | the body no extra burden”.

With touches of dark humour, knockout phrases and overwhelming poignancy, Farry has truly delivered a contender for book of the year here, and one hopes that there will be more to follow soon."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sligo in the Atlas of the Irish Revolution

I'm delighted to have an article on the War of Independence in County Sligo in the Atlas of the Irish Revolution, just published by Cork University Press.

This is a huge volume of almost 1,000 pages, written by the leading historians, geographers and literary scholars of the Irish revolutionary period.

This work, with its authoritative texts, superb photographs, informative maps and its reproduction of key documents, promises to be the outstanding publication of the ‘decade of commemoration'.

More information here.

To have a look inside the book go here.

A Sunday Business Post review here.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bailieborough Poetry Festival

Bailieborough Poetry Festival details online now.

A great line-up of poets from Ireland, the UK and the USA, including Noel Monahan, Patrick Chapman and Gerard Smyth, American poet Linda Opyr and Emily Wills from the UK.

The festival takes place Thursday - Saturday 5 - 7 October 2017.

Full details here:

Details of the poetry competition are also online. Judge this year is Patrick Chapman and the closing date is Friday 2 September.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Age of Glass - My second poetry collection

My second poetry collection, The Age of Glass, was published by Revival Press, Limerick, Ireland in  June 2017. The design and cover image is by Lotte Bender.

The collection contains a total of 63 poems grouped in five sections, the last of which is "Gerontology".

Dominic Taylor of Revival Press and myself at the launch.
The Trim launch of the collection was held on 8 June at 8pm in the Castle Arch Hotel, Trim. Nessa O'Mahony, poet and teacher, officially launched the collection.

Nessa O'Mahony launching The Age of Glass
Nessa and Iggy McGovern kindly read the collection and offered comments which appear on the back cover - extracts below.

I attended workshops by Nessa and Iggy and poems which developed from each workshop are included in the collection.

Michael Farry is, to use his own phrase, a poet who weaves ‘a web of mystery and belonging based on rough landmarks’. . . his gaze ranges far beyond the parochial; compassion, be it for refugees or the homeless, is a hallmark of his work. . . But he is also a poet of the domestic, and the tenderest poems celebrate family and the joys of grandparenting. The Age of Glass is a work of maturity and of wisdom.   Nessa O’Mahony

A self-professed amateur archeologist - the poet as digger - Michael Farry takes a forensic look at life’s abundance, and never better than when he faces up to his own mortality; physical, then, with a dash of the metaphysical, these poems will give you pause for thought, and leave you the stronger for it!  Iggy McGovern

Revival Press is a community publishing press and is the poetry imprint of The Limerick Writers' Centre. It was founded by managing editor Dominic Taylor in 2007. It has published over thirty poetry titles to date plus three anthologies including I Live in Michael Hartnett. Revival has also helped establish a number of local and national poets by publishing their first collections.

One of the aims of Revival Press is to make writing and publishing both available and accessible to all. It tries as much as possible to represent diverse voices and advocates for increased writing and publishing access to individuals and groups that have not typically had this access.

The collection, 12 euro, can be purchased from the Limerick Writers Centre website of using the PayPal link to the right.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trim Launch of The Age of Glass.

The launch takes place in the Castle Arch Hotel, Trim at 8pm on Thursday 8 June. Everyone is welcome. I'm delighted that well-known poet and teacher, Nessa O'Mahony, is officially launching the collection.

“The Age of Glass is a work of maturity and of wisdom.”
Nessa O’Mahony

“these poems will give you pause for thought, 
and leave you the stronger for it!”
Iggy McGovern