Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

My first awareness of Seamus Heaney was sitting with my mother watching a Late Late programme in the late 60s on which a small number of young Irish poets each read one poem. Seamus Heaney read Mid-Term Break. I wasn't aware of any special interest my mother had in poetry but she listened attentively and said at the end "Ah, his little brother was killed in an accident". She didn't know it but the brother's name was Christopher. She herself had lost a little brother called Christopher many years before and later a son of the same name.

Years later I attended a reading in Dublin by Heaney and Dutch poet Rutger Kopland (1934-2012). Heaney spoke about memories and poetry and I wrote this poem afterwards.

Heaney & Kopland

Talk show and pub wisdom insist
“Live only in the present”
but, old and contrary, I assert:
“There is only the future
where past is always present”.

Two grey-haired poets
read from memories
(But memories made present -
Yanks in Derry and Afghanistan,
Horace’s Twin Towers thunder).
Turned pages in the roll call
of the dead or soon to die -
friends, lovers, relatives -
like the roll call of years
(I remember writing 1956
In my school copybook)

In the age of black and white
I first saw him read.
My mother said:
“A car killed his little brother.”
Much later I connected all,
two white deal coffins,
each less than four foot
made and painted by her uncle,
held her sons,
brothers I never knew.
Ticks on the roll book
nowhere now, every day.

first published in Revival magazine January 2007.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Life of Francis Ledwidge

The life and death of Meath poet Francis Ledwidge continues to fascinate. His involvement with the political movements of the day, labour and the Irish Volunteers, together with his enlisting in the British Army and his death on the battlefield of France, makes him an enigmatic character.

He is sometimes caricatured as a "peasant poet" but he is much more than that. Liam O'Meara is one of those who has done most to ensure that Ledwidge is not forgotten and that his stature as a poet is recognized.  This staging of Liam's drama should be well worth seeing.

To One Dead, The Life of Francis Ledwidge, Poet, Soldier, Lover by Liam O'Meara in The Pearse Theatre, 27 Pearse Street Dublin 2. Monday 2nd to Sunday 8th September 2013. Featuring Frank Allen, Glenn Gannon, Ken Fletcher, Natasha Duffy, Niamh Kavanagh, John Smyth, Tomás Gleeson.

Doors Open 7.30pm, Show starts 8pm. Admission €10. Phone 0864099148

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Corran Herald : War of Independence article

I'm delighted to have an article in this year's Corran Herald. This annual publication has been produced and published by Ballymote Heritage Group since 1985.

This group, founded in May 1984, has continued to devote itself to its stated aim of raising awareness of all matters of heritage and in particular promoting knowledge of and interest in all aspects of local history, archaeology, culture, folklore and all the many things that make up the unique character of any given area.

They meet monthly and since 1990 have organised a Heritage Weekend each August Bank Holiday. The Ballymote Heritage Weekend continues to attract audiences from near and far and has been widely praised for the high quality of its lectures and outings.

While researching Sligo The Irish Revolution 1912-23 I came across lots of wonderful incidents and material which either didn't get into the book or were included in an abbreviated form. So it's great to be able to write a fuller account and have it published in such a local publication.

My article in the Corran Herald is entitled A strange thing happened on the way to the dance and deals with the meeting of IRA officer Michael J. Marren, O/C Ballymote Battalion, and Major E.S.C. Grune, O/C Sligo Troops, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, as a result of a train hold-up in south Sligo on 26 May 1920.

I was lucky to find an account of the incident which Grune wrote soon afterwards. He was impressed by the efficiency and armament of the IRA who held up the train, disarmed the soldiers on board and traveled with them to the next stop where the IRA got off, allowing the British proceed to Boyle. Grune was on his way to a dance at the barracks in Boyle.

Grune's account is included in Capt. A. L. Dunnill's A summary of events during the period in which the 1st Battalion Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment was stationed in Ireland, 1920, 1921, 1922, in Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service, Bedford, UK. This is a marvelous account of that period from the British Army's point of view. 

Marren accidentally drowned at Strandhill the day after the truce in 1921 while Grune served in Palestine later, retired in 1937, served in the RAF Reserve during the second world war and died in 1960.

It is a fascinating glimpse at one minor incident in the Irish war of independence. The full list of the contents of this issue are hereThe Corran Herald is on sale in bookshops in County Sligo. Enquiries to:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

eBook: Sligo The Irish Revolution, 1912–23

Four Courts Press have just launched their new range of eBooks. Their eBook list will initially consist of ten titles, with more to be added in 2014.

These will include some classic Four Courts Press titles such as the bestselling Murders at Wildgoose Lodge and Edward Daly’s Mister are you a priest? as well as the recently published memoirs of John Hewitt.

I'm thrilled that my book Sligo 1912-23: The Irish Revolution is also among the first ten issued as eBooks.

They will be accessible on a variety of devices including Kindle, iPhone, iPad, Nook and Sony eReader. See the Four Courts Press website for details and purchasing.

‘This is a new and thrilling venture for Four Courts Press and we are excited to be taking our first steps into this vibrant market for our books.’ Anthony Tierney, Marketing Manager at Four Courts Press said.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition

I was included in this excellent publication a couple of year ago and have a soft spot for them since.

The Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition offers both existing and aspiring writers the chance to showcase their work to a wider, international audience.

Now in its sixth year, the competition celebrates and nurtures creative talent, inviting writers to submit imaginative and original work in either category for entry: Poetry or Short Fiction.

Prizes include £500 prize money, publication in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual and a selection of books from partner organisations. Submissions previously published elsewhere are accepted. Deadline 31 August.

For more information please visit the website.

There you will also find details of the Aesthetica Art Prize – Deadline also 31 August

The Aesthetica Art Prize offers budding and established artists a platform to present their work to new and exciting audiences. In this celebration of visual art, artists are invited to submit imaginative and innovative work that pushes the boundaries of their chosen medium.

Prizes include up to £1000 in cash, a group exhibition to take place in York in the UK spring 2014, six months studio space, six mentoring sessions and editorial coverage in Aesthetica Magazine, which has a readership of 140,000 worldwide.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Poetry Master Class by Noel Monahan

Windows Publications Extravaganza 21st National Student Poetry Awards will be held in association with Cavan Arts Office & Culture Weekend on Sunday 22nd September 2013 in the Cavan Crystal Hotel, Dublin Road, Cavan.

This will include a Poetry Master Class by Noel Monahan from 12-2pm. Noel is a multi-award winning poet and playwright has an MA in Creative Writing, five collections of poetry and has read extensively in America, London and throughout Ireland.

Topics Covered Include:
* Poetic Inspiration
* Responding To A Poem
* Finding A Form For Your Poem
* Arranging Your Work On The Page
* Rhythm, Line Breaks & Editing
* Getting Your Poetry Published

Two participants will be chosen to read their work at Windows 21st National Poetry Awards Ceremony at 5pm on the same day in Cavan Crystal Hotel.

Workshop costs €40 (includes coffee) and places are limited so please book before 6th September. All enquiries and booking to 0870534737.

21st National Student Poetry Awards will take place on the same day at the same venue at 5pm. Guest speaker will be Jack Keyes, Cavan County Manager. Guest poet Terry Mc Donagh (Hamburg).

Art exhibition with international artists James Brady (Monaghan), Elena Duff (Berlin) and Anne Petersen (Galway).

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Concert in Trim Cathedral

A very special concert takes place at 8pm on Thursday 15 August in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Trim.

The Gregory Walkers brings together four of Ireland's leading musicians. Individually the group's members perform classical, renaissance, baroque, contemporary, jazz, world, tango and rock music. In The Gregory Walkers they combine their diverse experiences and talents to present an exciting and refreshing approach to the performance of old music. Two of the group members, Laoise O'Brien and Eamon Sweeney, will be the star attraction in the concert.

Also participating will be the Navan Male Singers and virtuoso violinist, Klara Janu from Czech Republic, who lives and teaches violin in Trim and Dublin.

Gwen Bagnall, who is one of our most accomplished and popular sopranos with a string of AIMS nominations and awards to her name, will also perform. Matt Gilsenan, who is organizing the concert, is volunteering something from his Percy French repertoire and hopes to be accompanied by Frank Foley on his guitar.

Paddy Smith will then read some of his own work. No idea what he will come up with, something dull and boring posssibly, but more probably something sparking, witty, amusing, incisive etc.

Tickets €10 are available  from Siopa An Caislean, Castle Street and the Focus Office and all proceeds are in aid of Irish Cancer Society and the maintenance of the cathedral.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Trim and Sligo Black Friaries

Some more digging today at the Blackfriary, Trim. In cutting nine again, searching for the western end of the church. This end seems very disturbed by later digging and dumping but it looked more hopeful today with some evidence of mortar and possibly walls. Most of the students are finishing this week and heading back to the USA. They seemed to have enjoyed their time in Ireland very much.

I visited the remains of the Dominician Friary when in Sligo last Friday. What a contrast with the Blackfriary in Trim. The stone from the Trim Dominician Friary was sold in later centuries and presumably used in substantial buildings in the town. What happened to the carved stone, the figures of St Dominic etc? All destroyed at the time of the Reformation?

Sligo Friary pictures: 1. The church from the nave with the rood screen and the high altar at the east wall. 2. The cloisters. 3. St Dominic on the O'Crean tomb. 4, St Dominic at the cloisters.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reading at Yeats Summer School

I was delighted to read poetry in Sligo yesterday at the final day of the 54th Yeats International Summer School. The Yeats Memorial Building is a great venue and the room was full.

I read with two other fine Sligo poets, Ann Joyce and Peggie Gallagher. Ann had already featured in the Summer School having delivered an excerpt from her work Meadbh -The Crimson Path at the Yeats Summer Suite of Music, Spoken Word and Dance. This collaborative performance piece relates the legend of the fabled warrior queen of Connacht and journeys through the ancient and mythical landscape of first century Ireland.

Peggie Gallagher was winner of the Listowel Writers’ Week Poetry Collection in 2012 and her collection, Tilth, published by Arlen House, was launched at this year's Listowel Festival. Two great poets, very good readers of their work, and the audience enjoyed them.

We each read for twenty minutes which gave us time for relaxed introductions and a good selection of material. I rambled from Coolaney to Florence, from early childhood to later life, included some from Asking for Directions and more recent ones including the Fermoy poem.

Eilo, as usual, was a great host and set a wonderfully relaxed tone for the readings. The School Director, Meg Harper, said some kind words at the end. It was a great thrill to be a part, even a very small part, of the Summer School. Thanks to all involved.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sligo Poets Reading

The 54th Yeats International Summer School Gathering 2013 is in its second and final week. I usually try to attend at least one day of the school and this year was delighted to be included in the Sligo Poets Reading in the Poets' Parlour in the Yeats Memorial Building.

This takes place at 1pm on Friday 9 August, the final day of the school. I've read as a guest at the Poets' Parlour last April and really enjoyed it. A great knowledgeable audience. I also took part in the open mic there on Yeats Day. Now to choose a few suitable poems. Sligo themes or not?

Earlier on Friday, at 9.30am, Susan Wolfson will lecture on Yeats’s ‘Romantic’ Conversations in the   Hawkswell Theatre. Susan Wolfson is a Professor of English at Princeton University. Her research interests include is the Romantics and their contemporaries, that is, the writers in Britain from 1780 to about 1850. This lecture will be about Yeats’s poetry of engagement with the British Romantics, in particular Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats.

The results of the iYeats Poetry Competition, held as part of the Yeats Festival Season, were announced last week at a reading in the Hawk's Well Theatre, Sligo. The winner was Breda Wall Ryan from Bray, Co Dublin for ‘Dreamless’. The emerging poet prize was awarded to James Conor Patterson from Newry, Co Down for his poem ‘Animal Psalms’. The commended poets were Offaly native, Connie Roberts, now living in the USA and Cróna Gallagher who is based in Co. Leitrim.

Full report here. And full marks to the organizers for the prompt publication of the results!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fermoy Poetry Festival

Home from the Fermoy International Poetry Festival. Very enjoyable week-end. Great to meet so many poets, local, national and those from UK, USA, Netherlands, India etc. Great also to meet the other winners in this year's competition.

Lots of poetry read in all kinds of venues including barbershops, banks, pharmacies, cafes etc. Above Knute Skinner reading in the Ulster Bank, Fermoy. Below: Miceál Kearney reading in Bermingham's Pharmacy. More photos on Facebook.

Some fine anthologies launched as well. The Blue Max Review has the prizewinning poems from this year's competition as well as lots more from home and abroad. Pat Crotty has a cruel, but very clever, poke at Bob Dylan's recent writing efforts. His first stanza of his poem Bob Dylan's Comeback Albums #12 & 35 goes like this:

Riffs rumble in the mountains, couplets pound on the plain;
Riffs rumble in the mountains, couplets pound on the plain;
Waters gonna rise, cliche's gonna food my brain.

The anthology can be purchased on the festival site.

Doghouse launched their anthology Ten Years in the Doghouse which has poems by about thirty poets published by them in the last ten years. All new poems of course and a number were on hand to read from the anthology. Well done Doghouse!! Again it is on sale on their website.

Doghouse is launching the anthology in Limerick as part of the On The Nail Reading on Tuesday this week.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fermoy Poetry Festival

Off to the Fermoy Poetry Festival. I was lucky enough to be the Ireland winner this year. The international winners are Rachel Davies, Erin Murphy and Ben Johnson.

There are a number of book launches during the festival. The Blue Max Review anthology will be launched on Friday 2 August in the Grand Hotel Fermoy.  This anthology will include poems from poets from all over the world including the prizewinning ones. Inclusion, an anthology of student poems from Ireland and America, will also be launched there..

Doghouse Books will launch their anthology Ten Years in the Doghouse on Sunday 4 August at 4.30pm at the Forge Bar and Restaurant.  The book contains poems from all of the poets published by Doghouse, include me, over the last ten years.

Gene Barry, the Chairman and founder of the Fermoy International Poetry, will see his own collection of poetry, Unfinished Business published by Doghouse, launched during the festival.

Among poets reading at the festival are, Dutch poets Tsead Bruinja and Jan Glas, MH Clay from Texas, Patrick Crotty from Fermoy, Kim Moore who lives in Cumbria, Bradley R. Strahan from New England, Gabriel Fitzmaurice from Kerry, John W. Sexton and Knute Skinner.

Some of the events may be broadcast live on the internet. More details, including the festival programme, on Gene Barry's Facebook page.

Looking forward to an enjoyable few days in county Cork!