Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

In Memoriam,
by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

More of the poem here.
(And that is Tennyson in the picture - he wasn't always old!)

No New Year resolutions, too many made in the past. Some kept, some not, little difference made either way.

2011! Did I ever mention that I remember writing 1956 in my school copybook one January and wondering at the new year. Ah well. 1956 was actually a good year. As years go that is.

A selection of New Year poems here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Reading 2

This is perfect post-Christmas reading, a great antidote to the current No 1 topic: The collapse of capitalism as we knew it because people are afraid to spend money on things they don't need.

Robert Fitterman: Metropolis XXX: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Edge Books, 2004)

Here are Fitterman’s own notes on the project:

Metropolis XXX: The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire takes 15 basic categories of the Roman Empire, discovered through both Gibbon and elementary school textbooks, and updates them to our own American condition. For example, Roman baths become rubber ducks, Roman philosophy becomes “thinking outside the box,” Roman transportation becomes bubble wrap, etc. For each of these new categories, I would then surf those related websites and plunder the language of those sites. The 2nd half of the book (the decline) takes the same 15 categories, reverses them, and then emphasizes the shopping aspect of the same item.—Robert Fitterman from this page.

I attended a reading by Robert Fitterman in London during the summer and was impressed. His poems could be classed as conceptual poetry/found poetry but the whole is greater than such labels might suggest. His rubber duck poem is a highlight. Yes a rubber duck poem. Two actually, one in part one and another in part two. Go on try writing one yourself.

He teaches in New York University. Find him on Rate my Professor here. Mixed ratings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I'm Sorry I Missed This

I intended to be present at this premier in Tubbercurry but the bad weather prevented me. I think I mentioned that on a trip to Sligo I came across a film crew at the disused railway station at Coolaney where we once lived. They were filming a scene for a film they were making which involved the railway and the campaign to reopen it.

Anyway it's finished now, the premier took place in spite of the snow and there are DVDs available. The trailer is on the website and The 3.10 to Claremorris looks like great fun.

My poem based on the film High Noon was published in a recent issue of Revival.

High Noon

There was this film I saw once
in boarding school
the year of the Cuban missile crisis
I haven’t stopped watching it since
the last time yesterday
just before the postman
brought the invitation
(they don’t do telegrams any more).
I could play Will Kane
at the drop of his gun
I’ve perfected his expressions
especially that disenchanted look
I practice that world-weary stride every day.
I’m from the west too
Hadleyville looks a lot like Coolaney
though our railway station
had no water tower
and I never saw anyone
waiting for the noon train from Tubbercurry
drink from a whiskey bottle.

etc etc

Monday, December 27, 2010

I Have Not Wasted My Christmas

Catching up on some poetry magazines. The December issue of Poetry is the Q&A issue where poets answer questions about their poems. A nice change. Some interesting pieces here but I was most taken by some John Tranter poems. Never heard of him before but his Hotel de Ville the first draft of which was created by a computer programme translating French. In his answers he says (claims?) that the famous last line of the James Wright poem Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota is a translation from a Rimbaud poem.

He goes on to say this of poetry:

I think it is a mistake to ask poems to have the same clarity as a lesson in chemistry. Logic belongs in textbooks or newspaper articles; there we need truth and economy and clear structure and lots of plain daylight. Poetry belongs to the other part of the mind, and its best energies relate to our shadowy unconscious urges.

That's all very well for him but he doesn't have to read his stuff to a Writers' Group who ask far more insightful questions.

Tht reminds me I still have to read a volume of Rimbaud I bought at the Waterstone's closing down sale in Blanchardstown. Ah remember when there was a bookshop in Blanchardstown! The good old days.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Everyone!

One of the more unusual Christmas Cards I got this year. From Sligo artist Conor Gallagher. Did I mention that I . . . ?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Modest Review

Some time ago a poem of mine was accepted by a new publishing venture Modesty Press for inclusion in the first issue of a magazine A Modest Review. The magazine is coming out this week but sadly it will be for the moment at least the only issue. Hard Times indeed! You can download a copy or buy the magazine by visiting their website. My poem is The Journey Back which won a prize at the Goldsmith Poetry Competition this year.

This from their website:

Volume 1 of A Modest Review will be available for purchase in print format through this website from December 21st 2010. There will also be a pdf version available for free. The review features short fiction by Ryan Dennis, Andrew Fox, and Eimear Ryan, with poetry by Jessica Traynor, Adrienne Leavy, and Michael Farry.

With the launch of the review Modesty Press will be going on hiatus indefinitely until we figure out what, where, and how to be. We would like to wish all the authors who submitted work over the past months the very best of luck with their writing; it is with great regret that we will no longer be accepting submissions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Christmas Present for Grandads

A great music download here on this website. The New Musical Express Poll Winners Concert, live from Wembley, April 11, 1965 - a lifetime ago. Great early pop and folk from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Moody Blues, The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Cilla Black, Georgie Fame, The Kinks, Donovan, Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders and lots more - all free to download.

“This one-day rock festival is a snapshot of rock the moment before it became rebellious. Bob Dylan hadn’t given The Beatles their first joint yet (that’s another story!), The Stones were mop tops and The Who weren’t yet at My Generation.”

Ah… those were the days.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


My TG4 interview last Thursday took place in the Model, Sligo. Sligo's Model arts centre has recently been reopened after redevelopment. It was originally built in 1862 as a Model School. The redeveloped building is impressive, boasting a restaurant and coffee dock, a bookshop, a wonderful gallery circuit, a purpose built performance space, and a suite of impressive artist studios on the top floor.

At the moment as you walk into the entrance foyer you are confronted with a huge fallen angel, wings askew, the body covered by a cloth and the whole cordoned off by yellow police crime scene ribbon. It's the main item in the current large-scale installation project by artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov entitled Angelology. These are Russian-born, American-based artists who collaborate on environments which fuse elements of the everyday with those of the conceptual.

Angels seem to be everywhere nowadays but they always seem to be the fey, otherworld type of angels, not the Archangel Michael type. This is different. It's interesting to think of this fallen angel as representing something which has been lost or neglected and allowed to die, something strong and real and necessary.

Other items in the exhibition include drawings, paintings, sculpture and mixed-media installations that entirely fill the galleries. There is even a model of an apparatus by which a human can climb up into the sky to try and meet an angel. But has it anything to say about the present economic climate in Ireland? I hear you ask. Probably, though the angel is certainly not a tiger-type.

This reminded me of the Fiona Banner installation I saw in the Tate Britain earlier in the year. There she had two decommissioned war planes, one hanging from the ceiling and one, a Jaguar, thrown on the floor in much the same pose as the fallen Sligo angel.

This exhibition in the Model continues until 16 January 2011. The big exhibition there next year is Jack B. Yeats: The Outsider which will run in the Model from 5 February to 5 June.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another Trip to Sligo

A quick dash down to Sligo on last Thursday for my next Television project following on my very impressive appearance as a pathologist in Chrysanthemum Killer in CSÍ on RTE earlier this year. (By the way the actor playing the corpse stole that scene - not a stir out of him. Of course he was a "real" actor.) My next appearance is a speaking part, lots of speaking but no acting! TG4 do a series called Ealú about prison escapes and in the next series they are including an episode on the rescue of Frank Carty of the Sligo IRA from Sligo gaol in 1920 during the War of Independence. No I'm not climbing a 13 foot high wall!

I'm one of the local historians being interviewed for the programme. The production company is Magamedia and the crew I met made me feel at ease. The experience was a pleasant one though I was quite nervous. I decided to talk in Irish hoping my Irish would be up to it. I listened to Raidio na Gaeltachta the whole way down. Road gritting in Connamara is a hot topic. I managed OK. There will be subtitles anyway.

The programme won't be shown until well into next year so you'll have forgotten about it by then. Don't worry I'll remind you in plenty of time. Another Sligo person has already been featured in this series. This was Linda Kearns whose escape from Mountjoy in 1920 was featured in the most recent series.

Friday, December 17, 2010

And Mince Pies Too!

A normal-sized poetry and prose reading crowd at the Boyne Readings and Open Mic last night - well it is almost Christmas and the temperature is below freezing. A friendly happy gathering with some great material. I'm envious of those who came along with "something I wrote yesterday", usually great stuff.

We had a lot of seasonal material thought these were inclined to deal with the materialistic side of Christmas. Peter Goulding who came all the way from Clonee read a hilarious rhyming poem about Blanchardstown Shopping Centre at Christmas written in Blanchardstown Library while other family members were shopping. Orla Fay, Paddy Smith and Caroline Finn also had seasonal pieces and Michael Regan contributed a memory of a drunk-driving Christmas Eve court case.

Tommy Murray
of the Meath Writers Circle was there and read two recently published poems of his from The Moth and The Stoney Thursday Book as well as three of his wine poems. He also congratulated Boyne Writers Group on their successful year having come second in the Swift Festival Battle of the Books. Nice one Tommy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Poem in Crann Magazine

Remember I told you all about my trip to Sligo to relate history and read poetry at the Hawk's Rock event organised by artist Conor Gallagher in the summer. Come on who wasn't paying attention!

Well Crann magazine have included a feature on the event in their current issue. The magazine is all about trees, the event was held in a forest that's why! The artist is featured on the cover and one of my poems is inside. The magazine is very well produced and has lots of interesting, informative articles on trees and woodlands. You can't get it in shops, it's only available to subscribers, details on the site.

When Conor got in touch with me I had a series of poems written about that area of the Ox Mountains beside Coolaney where I was born. It's a fascinating area with the Hungry Rock and its famine connection, the holy well on Tullaghan and its Lughnasa, St Patrick and Yeats connections and the cairn on the mountain. In fact the only place I hadn't written a poem about was the Hawk's Rock itself because it had no remains left by human activity.

So I wrote a poem straight away based on that thought and with references to the other nearby sites:

The Hawk’s Rock

We left it alone for millennia
erratic outcrop in bog waste
looked at it over left shoulders
as we piled cairn over bones
prayed to new gods at the well
died of hunger at the gap.

Its monumental bulk leaned
complacent against futile winds
ignored the sweeps of fashion
the altered forms of worship
constant except for changing
cloud shadows and wheel
of ruthless predators eyeing
small temporary things
scuttling between ditches.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Keash UIL Banner Bought by Sligo Council

Remember the Keash, Co Sligo United Irish League banner I mentioned a few weeks ago? It was sold in a Whyte's auction for 7,700 euro, below estimate and the good news is that it was bought by Sligo County Council.

The Council says it will eventually be put on display, possibly in the new library in Ballymote. However it is, as the picture shows, in need of conservation so this depends on money being allocated in next year's Council budget.

The Sligo Weekender newspaper had the story a couple of weeks ago - not on the website though. This interesting Downing St writes to Sligo council on seized banner story is however.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Big Snow of 1947

It's slowly thawing here at the moment, everyone glad to see the back of the snow. Someone in the supermarket said that worse snow is on its way for the end of next week. Hope not. Met Eireann is saying: While the forecast for the rest of next week is uncertain, the latest indications suggest more unsettled weather bringing cold and wintry conditions especially to northern areas.

Not as bad as the big snow of 1947. I don't remember it, I wasn't born until September that year.
Good account here, mostly about Cavan here, some Sligo here and here.

More famous people born in 1947: Paul Auster; Tom Clancy; Salman Rushdie; Stephen King; Octavia Butler; Camilla Parker Bowles and Dan Quayle.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Francis Ledwidge International Poetry Awards

I'm sorry I missed this presentation earlier this week but I decided not to risk travelling. It's usually a great night. I got this report from the society.

Despite appalling weather some braved the hazardous roads to attend the annual Francis Ledwidge International Awards presentation.The competition was organised by the Inchicore Ledwidge Society. There was a selection of sandwiches provided and some welcome hot coffee available. There was even a magician to help dispel the gloom of the arctic conditions and the impending budget. He could make coins vanish with the dexterity of Brian Lenihan, but was powerless to do anything about the snow.

Rachael Hegarty took centre stage and showed why she has previously been nominated for the Hennessey and the Francis Mac Manus prizes. She was born in Dublin and educated in Boston, Massachusetts and Trinity College, Dublin. Her narrative poem “Lament for Colm Owens,” dealing with gangland crime, was an unusual choice for this year’s Ledwidge award, but one that proved very popular. Orla Martin, placed Third, gave a delightful performance of her poem “Europa.” Picture: Rachael Hegarty holding the plaque flanked by Orla Martin

This year, entries came from Peru, Canada, USA, UK, and various places throughout Ireland. There was a particularly strong showing by Meath and Cavan writers. The Society’s chairman, Liam O' Meara, complimented Tommy Murray for the knowledge and encouragement he has imparted to young writers in Meath and he read Mr Murray’s commended poem “Yeti” in his absence.

Tommy has published his Yeti poem on his blog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stanley Kunitz Robin Redbreast Poem

Myself and Paddy braved the weather last evening to attend a LitLab meal in Virginia. Roads passable, countryside strange under snow, food excellent, company and conversation great. We read poems, exchanged books in a Kris Kindle and talked poetry, plans, vicars, drama, absent members and the heating properties of whitethorn.

One member mentioned that she had been reading the American poet Stanley Kunitz and was very impressed. I was aware of him but had never read any of his work. He was never as popular on this side as his fellow poets Berryman and Lowell. Anyway this morning she emailed me this photo of a Cavan robin and a link to this wonderful Robin Redbreast poem by Kunitz.

Now that I think about it the American Robin is a different creature to the European robin but let's ignore such petty details.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition Winner

Eileen Battersby who gave the keynote address at the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Week-end has an article in today's Irish Times on the winner, Connie Roberts. The digital version is here. The article also includes two of Connie's poems.

The Poetry School

The Poetry School does what its title suggests, provides courses on poetry. These vary in length, situation and tutors. Some of their courses are available online as downloads and these include a new range of Short Downloads: Brief bursts of advice about a specific area of craft or inspiration – perfect for breaking open new ideas. These cost 3 pounds sterling each.

I haven't bought any yet but I'm tempted by one entitled The Refrain. How to reclaim the refrain for use in contemporary poetry. Every time I include a refrain one of other of the Writers' Groups throw their hands up to the sky and say - get rid of it, old fashioned! This short course is by Scottish-born poet Paul Batchelor who impressed me when I heard him reading at the Poetry Now Festival a couple of years ago.

Part of Paul's translation of Buile Suibhne is included in the recently published Penguin Book of Irish Poetry, along with translations by Flann O'Brien, Trevor Joyce and Seamus Heaney from the same poem.

They have a monthly newsletter which you can subscribe to.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Snow and Robin and Emily Dickinson

OK OK if there's snow there has to be a robin and here's our garden's robin. That was once a stand for beauty products, now a plant stand iced like a Christmas cake with some decorations on the top.

We need a poem by Emily Dickinson to keep our feet on the earth. She wrote a number of robin and bird poems. See this page.


Before you thought of Spring
Except as a Surmise
You see — God bless his suddenness –
A Fellow in the Skies
Of independent Hues
A little weather worn
Inspiriting habiliments
Of Indigo and Brown –
With specimens of Song
As if for you to choose –
Discretion in the interval
With gay delays he goes
To some superior Tree
Without a single Leaf
And shouts for joy to Nobody
But his seraphic self –

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Scunthorpe Lose Again

It's that type of day. You flick around, find a match half over and start watching, get interested, get involved, watch it to the end. I don't support Scunthorpe, not much of an idea where it is actually, but they were one nil down when I started watching so I found myself wanting them to win. Come on the underdogs! They lost three nil in the end. Ah well!

A poem by Peter Knaggs with the title Scunthorpe Police Swoop on Lunatic Bean Fetish Man got a commendation in the National Poetry Society Competition 2003 the year Colette Bryce won it.

Hope weather has improved enough by Monday evening to go to the Francis Ledwidge Poetry Competition presentation in Inchicore to collect my commendation.

Congratulations to Boyne Writers Group member Brendan Carey Kinane who got a Highly Commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition. The winner and runners up are on the website but not the commended yet.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Snow Storm Problems

I know these snow pictures are boring but what can you do? Everything is cancelled!

What's the worse thing to happen during such a severe spell?
Have to go to the dentist?
Run out of heating oil?
Mobile phone out of action?

I had to go to the dentist on Tuesday but he kindly put back the start of the root canal treatment for two weeks.
We ran out of heating oil Tuesday, having just ordered a fill for Wednesday. One night of electric heaters but Emo delivers even in snow!!
I changed providers and spent all of yesterday with no mobile phone. Horrors! Back mobile again.

Reminds me of the time the glass door of the oven broke two days before Christmas and a replacement took two weeks to come from France. And when I was bringing in the electric cooker we kindly got the loan of, it broke the back window of the car. I don't think that was the same Christmas the TV aerial was knocked down.

All well now though. Cook eat, read, watch, blog, write, sleep.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snow Poem Reading

Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute.
(Snow in the Suburbs - Thomas Hardy)

Our Writers Group AGM has been postponed from tonight to next Thursday night. We did however fulfil our weekly engagement reading poetry at Knightsbridge yesterday on the basis that if were snowed in there it's probably the warmest, cosiest place in the town.

And of course we read some snow poems. The Cremation of Sam McGee is great to read aloud if you can get a good rhythm going and keep attention from the start. A quick internet search added these three which went down fairly well. Snow in the Suburbs by Thomas Hardy, It sifts from Leaden Sieves by Emily Dickinson and The Snow Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I often read Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening so it's a bonus to have the car park fill up with snow as I read.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Francis Ledwidge International Poetry Awards

Commended again in this competition. Good company, Evan Costigan of Boyne Writers and Tommy Murray of Meath Writers Circle as well. Meath/Cavan LitLab are very well represented with two Highly Commended, Andy Jones and Pat Devaney, and Honor Duff and myself commended. Honor, that's us put in our place in the group!

Hope the cold snap is over by next Monday for the presentation, always an enjoyable friendly occasion.

Now in its 12th Year the Francis Ledwidge International Poetry Awards this year had entries from Peru, USA, Canada, UK and Ireland.

Results 2010:
The Francis Ledwidge Award: Rachel Hegarty, Dublin 5. Poem: Lament for Colm Owens.

Second Place: Gregory Castle, Arizona, USA. Poem: Untitled Landscape.

Third Place: Orla Martin, Dublin 8. Poem: Europa.

Highly Commended
Betty Cleary, Dublin 16; Anthony Keating, Lancashire. UK; Gillian Somerville-Large, Co. Carlow. James Conway, Dublin 6; Patrick Devaney, Co. Cavan; Maureen Gallagher, Galway; Ray Mullen, 22, Tallaght, Dublin; Patricia O’Callaghan, Dublin 16; Betty Keogh, Dublin 12; Andrew Jones, Co Cavan

Mary Melvin Geoghegan, Longford; Michael Farry, Co. Meath; Gavan Duffy, Dublin 24; Eithne Cavanagh, Co Dublin; Tommy Murray, Co Meath; Michael Casey, Co Dublin; Evan Costigan, Dublin 8; Honor Duff,Co Cavan; Angela T. Carr, Dublin; Aine Lyons, Dublin 24.

Awards Ceremony will take place at ‘Donoghues’ The Glen of Aherlow, 29 Emmet Road, Inchicore, Dublin, on Monday, 6th December, 2010 at 7. 30 pm.