Friday, October 31, 2014

A Centenary Hallowe'en Poem

English-born, Winifred Letts, spent most of her life in Ireland and is probably best known for her poem A Soft Day which regularly appeared in school readers of the fifties and sixties.

More recently she has become recognized as a war poet, having cared for many war casualties while working as a nurse in Manchester during the First World War. She published Hallowe’en and Other Poems of the War in 1916 and this was reprinted in 1917 renamed The Spires of Oxford and Other Poems.

She wrote at least three Hallowe'en poems. See this blog page.

Hallow-E’en, 1914
Winifred M. Letts

 “Why do you wait at your door, woman,
     Alone in the night?”
“I am waiting for one who will come, stranger,
     To show him a light.
He will see me afar on the road
     And be glad at the sight.”

“Have you no fear in your heart, woman,
     To stand there alone?
There is comfort for you and kindly content
     Beside the hearthstone.”
But she answered, “No rest can I have
     Till I welcome my own.”

“Is it far he must travel to-night,
     This man of your heart?”
“Strange lands that I know not and pitiless seas
     Have kept us apart,
And he travels this night to his home
     Without guide, without chart.”

“And has he companions to cheer him?”
     “Aye, many," she said.
“The candles are lighted, the hearthstones are swept,
     The fires glow red.
We shall welcome them out of the night—
     Our home-coming dead.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cavan November AT the Edge

AT The Edge, Cavan proudly presents Kevin Higgins, Susan Millar du Mars and Philip Doherty on Tuesday 4 November 2014 at Johnston Library, Farnham St, Cavan, 6.30pm – 8pm.

Followed by Open Mic: One poem or one page of prose – register at 6.30pm –  first come, first served.

Further information from

Event Free. Everyone welcome.

Supported by Cavan Arts Office

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kobus Moolman Dromineer

A few rough notes from the very enjoyable and productive Kobus Moolman poetry workshop at Dromineer Festival 2014.

Kobus at Poetry International
A 2013 interview with Kobus Moolman.

Stressing the importance of reading poetry he read these two poems which he used as a basis for general discussion of poetry:
Yannis Ritsos (Greek) “Day of a Sick Man”
Don McClennan (SA) “Poem”.

Poetry is not so much saying something as finding something. The otherness in a poem/the underside of a poem may be the moth important aspect. He used the analogy of an iceberg, more beneath the surface than above. But what is seen, what is above is important, something must happen on top in order that there be dialogue between the visible and invisible. So for the poet the question is what to leave out. The absences are most important.

He also work-shopped poems brought by the participants and invited comments from all the participants. This was done with sensitivity and honesty. In starting he stated the rules of the workshop. 1. Do not apologize. 2. Do not explain your poem beforehand.

Among poets he mentioned as being worth consulting, often with reference with a participant's poem were:
Mxolisi Nyezwa (SA), Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs, Ann Carson, Jori Graham, Louise Gluck, Marianne Boruch,
Alberto Rios

Monday, October 20, 2014

Poetry Prize - Best Poem for Children

The Caterpillar – the junior version of the arts and literature magazine The Moth – is launching a new poetry competition for adults writing for children (aged 7–11).

The magazine, which includes poems and stories for children – from the likes of Michael Morpurgo, Chrissie Gittins, Dennis Lee, John Hegley, Julie O’Callaghan, Brian Moses, Ian Whybrow and Frank Cottrell Boyce – is passionate about introducing children to world-class poetry, and to celebrate their first year they’re looking for a stand-out poem to which they can award a prize of €1,000.

The prize is open to established and up-and-coming writers alike, as long as the work is original and previously unpublished. It can be on any subject, and there’s no line limit. The winning poem will feature in the summer 2015 issue of The Caterpillar. Commended poems may also be published in the same issue.

The competition will be judged by the publishers of The Caterpillar and The Moth, Rebecca O’Connor and Will Govan, and the closing date is 31 March 2015. Entry details appear online on the website.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sligo Field Club: Autumn Conference

I'm delighted to be talking at this conference on Saturday.

Sligo Field Club: Autumn Conference 2014: SLIGO IN TRANSITION: Cultural, Economic, Political & Social Change in Sligo: Post-Famine to the War of Independence

Saturday, 18 October 2014. Venue: Sligo Racecourse Pavilion


09.30 Registration
10.00 The Decline of the Irish language: Ian Kennedy
10.30 Church of Ireland People: Change, what Change? Nicholas Prins
11.00 Refreshments

11.30 The Rise and Decline of a Rich Traditional Music Legacy: Séamus McCormack
12.00 The Changing Face of Business in Sligo town: John Mullaney
12.30 The Rise of the GAA in Sligo: Tom Kilcoyne
13.00 Lunch

14.00 Racing Events in Sligo since 1850: Dónal O’Connor
14.30 Yeats and the Invention of Irishness; language, placenames and the literary projects: Thomas Rodgers Endersby
15.00 Refreshments

15.30 Before the Rising: Designs for nationhood in Fin de Siécle Ireland: Laurence Marley
16.00 The North Leitrim by-election of 1908: Ciarán Ó Duibhir
16.30 The Transition from the Irish Parliamentary Party to Sinn Féin: Michael Farry
17.00 Open Discussion and Close of Conference

Conference Fee: €20.00 (Refreshments included). A buffet lunch will be available but not included in fee

All are welcome

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bailieborough Poetry Festival 2014

Bailieborough second Poetry Festival was a great success. The new venue, Murtagh's Public House, closed for some time but used as an aution rooms, worked very well and was full for the Friday and Saturday evening readings.

Nerys Williams' reading was excellent. She opened by talking about Dylan Thomas and played him reading "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" which he wrote when he was nineteen.  She read her own poems, some from her collection "Sound Archive" and some newer ones. She was asked to read The Dead Zoo as an encore and later sang a Welsh song! Great open mic readings by LitLab members and others and the night ended with a few songs.

On Saturday morning Nerys conducted a workshop which was well attended and expertly delivered with feedback on poems submitted, a discussion of a Frank O'Hara poem, "The Day Lady Died", and a writing exercise based on the poem.

In the early afternoon the results of the Bailieborough Poetry Competition were announced and comments delivered by judges, Mairéad Donnellan and Michael Farry. Winner: Wisdom of the Origamist (Armel Dagorn, France), Runners Up: Mais Feliz (Patrick Cotter, Cork) and Shelter (Maureen Curran, Donegal). The shortlisted and winning poems will appear on the Festival website.

In the afternoon the Skirmish of the Writers Groups. Teams of three performed for ten minutes each and were judged by the other participating teams. A novel and most enjoyable event apart from the fact that my team - an amalgam of Meath Writers Circle and Boyne Writers - only came third. Photo of the winning team, which included Iggy McGovern, above.

And in the evening a full house to hear an excellent performance by performance poet Patsy McDermott followed by a great reading by Iggy McGovern. The audience loved both performers and the evening and festival finished with a few songs. Well done and thanks to all involved!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Short Story Competition

The London Magazine’s prestigious short story competition has returned. The London Magazine is always looking for new voices from across the world and their competitions provide emerging literary talent with an opportunity for publication and distinguished recognition.

The short story competition is open for submissions until the 31st October 2014. The winners will be announced in early 2015.

Prizes: £500, £300 & £200. Entry fee: £10 per Short Story. Judges: Polly Samson & Harriet Kline

The winner of the competition will also have their story published in a future issue of The London Magazine and the runners up will be published on the magazine’s website.

The current issue can be ordered for £6.95 in print or for £2.95 on Amazon Kindle. Both can be purchased here.

The following short stories are available for free on the website. Have a read to find out what they publish:

The Leanan Sidhe by Steven O'Brien (Featured in the June/July 2012 issue)

Three Tigers by Conor Patrick (Featured in the Dec/Jan 2012 issue)

Full rules and further information available here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Nerys Williams Poetry Reading

Bailieborough Poetry Festival, Friday 10 October:

8pm: Reading by Welsh poet Nerys Williams to mark the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas in Murtagh’s Lounge, Main Street.

Followed by Poetry Aloud, an open mic night in Murtagh’s Lounge c.10pm.

Nerys Williams, a native of Carmarthen in West Wales, is a native Welsh speaker. She lectures in American Literature at University College, Dublin. She has published poems, critical essays widely and is the author of A Guide to Contemporary Poetry as well as study of contemporary American poetry, Reading Error.

Her first collection of poetry, Sound Archive, published by Seren in 2011 was the winner of the DLR Strong Award (in partnership with Shine) for best first collection at Poetry Now/Mountains to the Sea Festival.

Nerys Williams reads from Sound Archive on the Seren site.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dromineer Poetry Competition 2014

I was thrilled to win the Dromineer Poetry Competition 2014. My winning poem was "A Blackfriary Burial". Thanks to the judge, Matthew Sweeney, (pictured with me above) and to the committee in Dromineer. Third place went to Pearse Murray for "Dream Notes" and second to Róisin Kelly for "Borderlands". Simon Lewis was highly commended. Well done to all. The prizewinning poems will be published on the Dromineer Festival website in due course, I presume.

Some extracts from Matthew Sweeney's comments about the competition at the presentation.
"What you’re looking for is best said by Frost. “Poetry is a fresh look and a fresh listen”. He also said “An idea has to be a little new to be at all true, and if you say a thing three times it ceases to be so”. So poetry has to find a way to be fresh and surprising and that’s what Frost is talking about. And all good poetry hits you in a surprising way. It hits you by showing you this world you live in in a way you never saw it before. That might seem a tall order but when I am judging poetry in a competition I’m looking for the surprising poems that show me things in a different way.

The winning poem, A Blackfriary Burial, was the poem that really stayed with me because it was very startling. Startling is surprise taken on a bit. The world of this poem was about an excavation in some kind of monastery graveyard in County Meath where all these bones and skeletons of babies were dug up and the whole thing seemed like some kind of a film made by David Lynch or something it was very very strange. 

But there was something about the poem that made it seem very real, real in a different way than the world is normally real. It was narrated by somebody digging up the bones. I Googled “A Blackfriary Burial” and everything came up. And there were these bits written by American students, architectural students, who’d come over from the States for this dig. 

I thought this poem was amazing and it’s the kind of poem that once you read it, it will stay with you and resonate for a long time". 

Thanks to the wonderful people at the Blackfriary dig in Trim for the inspiration. The Blackfriary Community Archaeology Project have already published some poems of mine based on the dig on their FaceBook page. The Dromineer winning one is a more recent composition.