I drove down through pouring rain, took the detour around Virginia (road works on the N3), took the road out of Cavan town and found the sign for the former Kilmore See House. Was I mad I wondered to be going such a distance to read two poems and listen to some others whose books I had or could easily get.
It was well worth the journey. A surprisingly large crowd turned up at the very fine old house to listen to prose and poetry readings and three musicians. Very good food, drink and conversation afterwards as well.
The setting was unusual. The house has a grand staircase (photo) and we read from the middle landing with half the audience sitting in the lower hall looking up and the other half on the upper landing looking down. It meant a split level audience at quite a distance from the reader. The sound system was good and everything worked out well.
Four members of LitLab, Maireád Donnellan, Antoinette Rock, Paddy Halligan and myself along with Cavan poet Rebecca O'Connor read two poems each. This went very well, short introductions, good delivery and a good response from the audience. Rebecca is the publisher of the new magazine The Moth and she read two poems, about a honeymoon and a later family journey back to the ferry.
I picked my High Noon and Philately poems. The more I read the second the better I like it but I'm not sure about the first, it needs a bit more attitude in the delivery. I mention Coolaney, Co Sligo in the High Noon one and afterwards someone from Coolaney came up and introduced themselves.
There were three special guests - Grace Wynne Jones, Patrick Chapman and Noel Monahan.
Grace read from her novel, Ready or Not. I'm not a great fan of novel extract readings but this was a good choice, an almost self-contained piece with the minimum of introduction but a good description giving us an idea of the sort of character involved. I haven't read or listened to many descriptions of a character getting her hair done but this was interesting and kept the audience's attention well.
I had attended the launch of Patrick Chapman's latest book The Darwin Vampires last week and was again impressed by his style of delivery. Clear brief introductions gave us an idea of the tone and mood of each poem. He reads in a quiet intimate style allowing the words to speak for themselves. I was especially taken with his use of repetition in poems such as 4 degrees about global warming with its refrain of The lost city of ... The lost city of ... and in his chilling You Murder the Sun poem the lists beginning You murder . . . You murder . . . are heartbreaking.
Noel Monahan was the local hero in a sense last night, an adopted son of Cavan. He read widely from his five published books concentrating on seasonal poems dealing with autumn, November, the holy souls and Christmas. He read a seasonal extract from his impressive long poem on his native Granard from his most recent collection Curve of the Moon and also read the original and his own translation of a Sean O' Riordáin poem. He is one of a number of poets translating this Irish language poet's work for a forthcoming book. Noel is also off to the USA to read his poetry at one of the universities there.
A great night and most of the credit must go to poet Heather Brett for the organisation of the event. Credit also to Cavan Arts Officer and Office for their support. Well done!
The rain had stopped for the journey home, a clear sky with Orion in front of me all the way. To avoid detours I took the Mountnugent - Oldcastle route home and crossed the Loughcrew Hills with their megalithic tombs - now there's a sacred landscape.
Picture above: Organiser Heather Brett (centre) with LitLab readers Maireád Donnellan and Paddy Halligan.