Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Western Rail Corridor Reopening

On Monday this week the Ennis to Athenry section of the Western Rail Corridor was reopened by Minister Noel Dempsey providing a rail link between Limerick and Galway. This 60km section last carried fare-paying passengers in April 1976.

The Western Rail Corridor is the railway line from Collooney, Co Sligo through Sligo, Mayo and Galway to Limerick which was finally closed in 1976. Passenger services had been discontinued some years previously. The tracks had never been taken up or the land sold so that reopening the line was easier than say "reopening" the Navan Dublin rail link which is in progress in the Minister's own area.

I note that according to the report Mr Dempsey promised his “absolute commitment” to the reopening of phases two, three and four of the Western Rail Corridor: from Athenry to Tuam, Co Galway; to Claremorris, Co Mayo; and to Collooney, Co Sligo.

This railway line is of course close to my own heart having been born in a railway cottage on the side of the track. My father and grandfather worked on the railway line and it makes an appearance here and there in my poems. The line was begun in the late 1880s partly as a relief work in response to the hardships of the times and it was opened in 1891 .

The campaign to reopen the line has been a long one. In 1986 the Evening Press ran a feature on the issue and printed a picture of my parents at the Station House, Coolany, Co Sligo.

Irish Times report of the reopening.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poetry Reading

I posted the last of the magazines to the contributors today (well not the last actually, it's surprising how many writers send in material without enclosing a postal address!). Also posted the copyright copies to the various libraries so that researchers can read our work hundreds of years from now.

I've left in copies of the magazines into some local shops, and in one case collected the ten I left in six months ago all unsold. Got some nice emails from some who read on the night.

You can buy a copy by using the PayPal link on this page.

It was indeed a very good evening, nothing at all like the poetry reading which was the subject of this Wislawa Szymborska poem.

Poetry Reading

To be a boxer, or not to be there

at all. O Muse, where are our teeming crowds?

Twelve people in the room, eight seats to spare

it's time to start this cultural affair.

Half came inside because it started raining,

the rest are relatives. O Muse.

That's the first stanza, the whole poem is on this page. New and Collected Poems here.
Image is Poetry Reading by Beryl Cook at the Alexander Gallery, Bristol

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Boyne Berries 7 Launch

Thank God that's over! A great evening with one of our biggest crowds ever. Certainly the biggest line up yet of contributors to read, twenty. Thanks to all who attended, locals and those who travelled long distances, Dublin, Longford, Athy and even from Cork.

Meath County Librarian Ciaran Mangan performed the launch and spoke about the involvement of the Library in publishing including the publication of audio book versions of books by local authors. The Library is also supporting a volume of poetry associated with County Meath or by poets associated with the county later this year. This is being edited or compiled by poet Tom French who works in Navan Library. Ciaran is also a writer being a member of Oldcastle Writers Group in Meath.

Then the readings. These were mostly poems but the few pieces of prose were well delivered with suitable audience applause. We started with Peter Goulding who has just been shortlisted for one of the Strokestown Poetry Competitions and finished with Niamh Boyce who has been shortlisted for the WOW competition in Galway. In between the great variety of styles and themes made it a very enjoyable event.

Just before the tea, coffee and biscuits we presented our cover artist Greg Hastings with a small token of our appreciation for his impressive and distinctive cover art. He was suitably surprised!

Yesterday and today I've been counting the takings, posting off the contributors' copies, finishing off some work from a recent period of employment and bemoaning the fact that I'm not attending the Poetry Now festival in Dun Laoghaire.

A Boyne Berries 7 page on the Group's website has been created. Peter Goulding has blogged about the launch here and Orla Fay here. Pictures on her site.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Strokestown Poetry Competition Shortlist

The shortlist for the Strokestown International Poetry Competition has just been posted on their website. Sadly my name is not there. I notice Peter Goulding, who blogs here, has made the list again this year in the humorous Percy French poem section and that Heather Brett of Windows who has been involved with us in Meath Cavan LitLab has made the poetry shortlist. Well done to both and commiserations to the rest of us.

No time to cry into my coffee, all nearly ready for the launch of Boyne Berries tonight, hope to see the same Peter Goulding there.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Boyne Berries Launch

All is in readiness for Thursday's launch. Ciaran Mangan, Meath County Librarian, is performing the official launch following in the footsteps of people like Minister Noel Dempsey, Poet/Publisher Peter Fallon and novelist Noelle Harrison.

At the moment it appears that there will in the region of eighteen contributors there to read their pieces which is very gratifying. A good attendance at the launch is vital for sales of the magazine, most copies are sold there. Some are sold in shops around the town and some extra copies to contributors.

I've just posted contributors' copies to contributing writers from outside Ireland. Copies of our little magazine are on their way to various parts of the UK and the USA, to Germany and France and one copy is on its way to New Zealand. I'll post copies to the Irish contributors who are unable to attend the launch at the week-end.

Then a rest from the magazine until the next submission period which will probably be May to July 2010. From these submissions the editorial team will choose material for the Autumn 2010 and the Spring 2011 issues.

The launch of Boyne Berries 7 is on at 8pm in the Castle Arch Hotel, Trim on Thursday 25 March. All welcome.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Boyne Berries Magazine

Ciaran Mangan, Meath Co Librarian, will launch issue 7 of Boyne Berries magazine next Thursday evening, 8pm in the Castle Arch Hotel, Trim. All welcome. Over fifteen of the contributors will be present and will read their pieces from the magazine.

We don't have any regular funding, we did get small but welcome grants from the Meath Arts Office twice and a donation from a well wisher in Trim but otherwise the magazine is funded by sales and our writers group members subscription. Each new issue is a milestone.

This issue is bigger by ten pages than previous ones purely because the editor (me!) miscalculated the number of pages when choosing material. Anyway some very good poetry and prose in those 70 pages.

And the cover (above) once again is by Greg Hastings - an image taken recently of the snow-covered tree-lined avenue to Lynch's Castle ruins in Summerhill, Co Meath.

More later in the week.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sunday Miscellany

Congratulations to our Boyne Writers Group member, Catherine Finn, whose prose piece Going for a Trot will be included in tomorrow mornings Sunday Miscellany on RTE 1 radio. This is her second appearance on the programme, her piece on gathering holly was heard before Christmas. Well Done Caroline!

Sunday Miscellany has been on the air for 41 years and many Irish writers have had their memory pieces, poetry, travel writing and personal accounts of events and happenings broadcast there.

Caroline also has a story in Boyne Berries 7 which will be launched on Thursday night next in Trim. More about that later.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Boyne Readings and Open Mic

Pictured above are the featured readers at last night's Boyne Readings and Open Mic, Ross Hattaway and Oran Ryan flanking MC Paddy Smith. A great event even thought the crowd was small, about fifteen very appreciative listeners and readers.

The two Dublin based writers from Seven Towers Agency read from published and recent work, Oran mostly from his novel, Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger and Ross from his collection The Gentle Art of Rotting. Oran read from the first novel, Killing People is Easy, in his novel (if you see what I mean) which begins with the great line: Before I was dead, I lived a lot differently than now.

The highlight of Ross' set surely was his long poem Lip Reading with its rambling, punning, allusive, elusive thread.

A lip of the tongue.
A Freudian

Slipped lips.

Clipped lips.



and again.

More information about the two writers here.

Frank Murphy of Meath Writers Circle was there, read a great poem and has commented in his blog. And Orla Fay of Boyne Writers has comments and pictures here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St Patrick's Day

St Patrick minding the Sheep on Slemish from the Burke monument
by Pearse (Patrick Pearse's father) and Sharp in Glasnevin cemetery.

If you search the internet for St Patrick's Day poetry you come up with some terrible shamrockery nonsense, little people, drink, green hats, leprechauns, inflatable shamrocks, red beards, a bit like the local St Patrick's Day parade in fact.

Listen to a get away from it all famous Irish poem instead, read here by the long dead author.

Monday, March 15, 2010

WOW Awards Shortlist

The shortlists for the WOW (Words on the Web) Poetry and Fiction Awards has been announced.My name is there among the ten poets shortlisted. I'm delighted. I sent in three poems. The one which has been shortlisted was written two winters ago after a drive south from Galway city through some very waterlogged countryside. It's called appropriately, Waterlogged.

There are three awards in poetry and three in prose. The recipients in both poetry and fiction will be announced at an awards ceremony in The Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill, Galway on Friday April 30th at 7pm.

The WOW! Anthology, containing the shortlisted works will be launched on the night. All the shortlisted writers will receive a copy of the WOW! Anthology in a closed envelope on arrival and we have been asked not to open the envelope until after the awards have been announced. And the winner is . . .

Some familiar names on the lists including poets Michael Massey, Kilkenny and Pete Mullineaux, Galway. James Lawless who was a featured writers at the Boyne Readings recently is on the fiction list as is Niamh Boyce from Kildare who is being included in Boyne Berries 7.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Boyne Readings and Open Mic

Next Boyne Reading and Open Mic event is on next Thursday March 18, at 8pm.

The featured readers will be Ross Hattaway and Oran Ryan, both published by the Seven Towers Agency, Dublin.

Ross Hattaway is a Dublin based poet who was raised in New Zealand. He has lived in Ireland since 1989.

He is a regular reader at the Last Wednesday and Chapter and Verse series in Dublin and other readings include Poetry Ireland, Between the Lines (Belfast), the Saturn Series in New York City, the Live Poets' Society in Sydney and the Poetry Spring Festival in Lithuania.

His work has appeared in New Zealand, Australia, Lithuania and Ireland, including Poezijos Pavasaris 2008, Poetry Australia, Census and Writings. His first book of poetry, The Gentle Art of Rotting, was published by Seven Towers in 2006.

Oran Ryan is a novelist, poet, playwright and screen writer from Dublin. He has been writing full time for 10 years during which time he has completed a number of novels, of which The Death of Finn was the first to be published. Oran's second novel to be published was Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger.

Oran has had a number of short stories, poems and literary critical articles (concerning William Burroughs and Marcel Proust). A third novel (One Inch Punch) and fourth novel Shelvin have been completed. Oran is currently working on a series of plays (Refrigerator, Hard Core Pawn and Don Quixote Gets Promoted), two film scripts (Portraits, Normal Man Running) and his fifth novel (New Order from Zero). In 2008, Oran was awarded an Arts Council Bursary Award for his current work in progress New Order from Zero.

In addition to The Death of Finn , Seven Towers has also published Oran's second novel Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger.

The Boyne Readings take place in the Village Hall, Knightsbridge Village Complex, Longwood Road, Trim at 8pm. All welcome.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Strokestown Poetry Competition

The Strokestown Poetry Competition is one of the most hotly contested competitions in the country. I've had no luck over the last few years but have entered again this year, hope, eternal etc. I even entered the humorous poem section.

The good news from their website is that this year they will publish not only a shortlist but also a highly commended list. They promise that the names of the shortlisted poets will be published on the website shortly after the 24th March, along with their poems adding Whether or not your name is among them we would very much like to meet as many of you as possible at Strokestown Poetry Festival over the first weekend in May. All events are free, and the shortlisted poets will be reading a selection of their work.

I visited the festival for a day two years ago and had a great time - Poetry readings by Ciaran Carson and James Harper and a guided tour of the gardens of Strokestown House.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Paradox of Choice

It has long been my belief that if everyone seems to agree on something it must certainly be false. This belief is the source of endless hours of enjoyable argument. It amazing how difficult some people find it to justify commonly held beliefs. All you have to do is ask the wrong questions. The right questions are easily answered.

Anyway I recently found this fantastic talk, less than 20 minutes long, on the Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, of whom I'd never heard, which challenges the widely held belief that more choice is always good. He argues persuasively that more choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied. I love the 175 different salad dressings available in his local store. I haven't counted them in my local.

The answer to the question in the cartoon above, which Schwartz uses in the talk, is "No".

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some People Like Poetry

I've just been reading a collection of Wislawa Szymborska's poetry. She was born in 1923 and lived most of her life in Krakow. I actually bought the book in Krakow. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.

Here is her wonderful poem Some People Like Poetry.

Some People Like Poetry
By Wislawa Szymborska

Some people—
that means not everyone.
Not even most of them, only a few.
Not counting school, where you have to,
and poets themselves,
you might end up with two per thousand.

but then, you can like chicken noodle soup,
or compliments, or the color blue,
your old scarf,
your own way,
petting the dog.

but what is poetry, anyway?
More than one rickety answer
has tumbled since that question first was raised.
But I just keep on not knowing, and I cling to that
like a redemptive handrail.

—Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

from this website.

Or is it? Here is the same poem, only different, from this website.

Some People Like Poetry

Wislawa Szymborska

Some people--
that is not everybody
Not even the majority but the minority.
Not counting the schools where one must,
and the poets themselves,
there will be perhaps two in a thousand.

but we also like chicken noodle soup,
we like compliments and the color blue,
we like our old scarves,
we like to have our own way,
we like to pet dogs.

but what is poetry.
More than one flimsy answer
has been given to that question.
And I don't know, and don't know, and I
cling to it as to a life line.

-translated by Walter Whipple

And here is an article from 1996 about two competing versions of this poem.

It just makes me want to learn Polish so I can read the actual poem.

There is a discussion about translating poetry in the current issue of Poetry Magazine here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Boyne Berries Magazine - Final Proof

Just corrected the final proof of our magazine and emailed it back to the printers. There's this dread that you have made some terrible mistake, left out a full stop somewhere or included a superfluous comma.

Seriously it's amazing what can pass the eye of an untrained copy editor. It's also amazing how careless some writers can be with punctuation. Is it worse in poetry or prose? Hard to say actually. In theory prose should have standard punctuation I suppose but that doesn't always happen. Unusual punctuation in prose can enhance a piece. Though only if it's very carefully used. Otherwise the reader (or the magazine editor) just thinks it's bad or careless punctuation.

In poetry there are no punctuation rules are there? The same thing surely applies as in prose - the punctuation must enhance the reading experience not come between the writer and the reader. As an editor you sometimes wish poets would just omit punctuation altogether and leave it to the reader to figure it out rather than be careless and slapdash about it.

In any case the rule must be: learn all you can about punctuation first then decide how and when it is better to break the rules. Anyway I've added a few punctuation marks here and there in the prose and poetry in this issue, only a few mind you, and deleted a few more. I'm looking forward to the authors getting back to me and complaining about my inteference.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Michael Foot - A Headline

After my piece on Michael Foot's death Paddy Smith, a connoisseur of newspaper headlines, reminded me of the famous Michael Foot headline which appeared in the Times - Foot heads arms body.

By coincidence Simon Hoggart in yesterday's Guardian mentioned the headline quoting the sub-editor responsible who had to handle a story about Michael Foot being put in charge of a committee to look at nuclear disarmament.

I certainly wasn't going to get 'nuclear' or 'disarmament' or 'committee' to fit, so after a struggle I decided on 'Foot chairs arms body', then thought 'Foot heads arms body' would at least give a laugh to the revise sub. To my astonishment, the headline was printed, and a legend was born…

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Poetry Magazine: Letter to the Editor

Why doesn't Poetry Ireland Review publish Letters to the Editor? Even if it did I doubt it would publish one as good as this one.

This is in the current issue of Poetry Magazine (USA) and is written in response to an article in a previous issue by Carmine Starnino entitled Lazy Bastardism: A Notebook subtitled Boredom is the highest state of creativity.

Dear Editor,

Carmine Starnino seems to be in agreement with Geoffrey Hill’s famous assertion that “public toilets have a duty to be accessible, poetry does not.” I find that a terribly unfortunate attitude. I wouldn’t blame the poets, however, for the lowly state in which poetry finds itself, as Starnino claims we readers do. Poets simply write poetry.
Determining what the public reads and does not read is the job of the editor—a job that is, nowadays, generally done poorly, even at this venerable publication. I now read only the “Comment” section, relieving myself of the duty (Hill might appreciate that phrasing) of having to suffer through the actual poetry.

Jerry Payne


Friday, March 5, 2010

Death of Michael Foot

Recently asked about possible "big names" who might be invited to contribute to the annual Trim Swift Festival the name of Michael Foot came into my head and I wondered if he was still alive. A few days later news of his death appears on newspapers and TV.

Not a bitter word was spoken about him even by his political enemies. Two reasons for this. 1. It is generally regarded that what he stood for, often described as the "old left", has been consigned to the dustbin of history and 2. he was a genuinely good man who made few enemies during his long career.

The Times said: Michael Foot was the sort of man of whom there are now too few — a man of politics, a man of letters and, more important than either, something to which anyone who knew him would attest: an unquestionably good man.

The most remarkable thing about his political career is surely the loyalty he showed to the Labour party even when they ditched most of the policies he held dear. A great contrast to many other so called champions of the left - Tony Benn being probably the best example in the UK. In Ireland people like Noel Browne who appeared to put person before party caused untold damage to causes they professed to espouse.

Anyway Michael Foot would have been at home at the Trim Swift Festival having been an admirer of the writer all his life and having written the introduction to the Penguin Classics Gulliver's Travels and a biography of Swift: The Pen and the Sword.

Guardian obituary here. Irish Times here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Publishing Poetry

Following on from my remarks about our magazine a poet friend who is being published in the next issue of Boyne Berries sent me a link to this interesting article, The New Math of Poetry by David Alpaugh, about the enormous number of poems currently being published.

It discusses the ease with which poets can now have their "poetry" published - The notion that writing and performing "poetry" is the easiest way to satisfy the American itch for 15 minutes of fame has spilled out of our campuses and into the wider culture. You can't pick up a violin or oboe for the first time on Monday morning and expect to play at Lincoln Center that weekend, but you can write your first poem in May and appear at an open mike in June waving a "chapbook" for sale.

The new math of poetry is driven not by reader demand for great or even good poetry but by the demand of myriads of aspiring poets to experience the thrill of "publication."

The article notes that the online writers' resource Duotrope's Digest lists more than 2,000 "current markets that accept poetry," . . . If we proceed cautiously and assume an average of 50 poems per publication per year, more than 100,000 poems will be published in 2010.

How can the best poetry be recognised when there is so much being published? asks Alpaugh. He goes on to suggest that the sheer quantity allows the academic oligarchy that controls poetry to ignore independent poets and reserve the goodies—premiere readings, publications, honors, financial support—for those fortunate enough to be housed inside the professional poetry bubble.

He is of course talking about the United States. His comments could hardly apply here in Ireland, could they?