Monday, November 29, 2010

Brian Lynch and the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition

Brian Lynch, this year's (and last year's) Patrick Kavanagh adjudicator, does a fine job and isn't afraid to talk about the process. His introduction to the presentation on Friday was great. He said that from reading so many poems you get a snapshot of what the country is thinking. Last year the country was getting itself prepared for the death of the Celtic Tiger, this year he heard a lot of voices calling out from underneath the dead body of that coarse beast.

He also noted the continual influence of Kavanagh - phrases, themes etc. He gave the example of poet entrant Colm Keegan transforming Kavanagh's Stony grey soil lines to be relevant to a bleak drug-ridden suburb of Dublin.

Brian spoke of the process of narrowing the 130 or so entries down to three and deciding on a winner from those.

He mentioned that the Kavanagh Prize recognises promise. If it was just for promise alone, he said, Helena Nolan would have won. As it was she was awarded joint second prize. The other joint second place poet, Jim Maguire, had a high level of achievement and his poems showed a deep understanding of music as well as of poetry.

As to the winner, he said promise and achievement were there and more. One extra she had was an extraordinary story. The first poem in her collection described being questioned by Guards at the age of 5. Years in an orphanage followed before she eventually went to the USA where she has a successful university career. However the poems which come out of that experience contain no self-pity, are objective, measured, full of energy and emotion. The prize is for the poetry not the pity. The winner, Connie Roberts, went in to the language and came out with great poems.

Jim Maguire read Zen Garden Dream and Weather. The latter references the BBC Shipping Forecast with its mesmeric list of sea areas but does so in a very effective low-key way. It also has a wonderful picture of a father keeping vigil beside a child's sick bed.

Helena Nolan read My Mappa Mundi, based on the idea of dressing oneself in a map which had personal references to the past and the future and followed it with Sunday Miscellany which was based on a Sunday morning memory of her parents. Gussets is a lovely word to use in a poem. Her entry was entitled Kissing the Ceiling and she finished with the impressive title poem.

Connie Roberts started by reading Austin Clarke's 1953 Simple Tale about children being taken into industrial school. She then read three of her own: Bethlehem inspired by a photograph of a 1970's orphanage nativity scene; Omphalos (navel, centre of the world) With nods to Heaney and Yeats she tells of her omphalos - a "pigeon grey orphanage yard". She finished with a sonnet, Cupboard, about a Lucille Ball doll confiscated and lost forever to the orphanage cupboard.

The whole event worked very well, Brian's introduction whetted our appetite for each poet's work and their readings were exemplary - varied, clear, well chosen and well introduced poems. Well done all!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November Snow

Haven't mentioned the garden recently. Here it is under a thin covering of November snow - earliest snow in quite a while. Something very satisfying in a a set of garden furniture covered in snow.

I've done quite a bit of tidying up in the garden, leaves gathered, some pruning done, some flower beds cleaned up, irises taken up and divided. The willows still have to be cut back though.

Hope the poets and poet followers haven't been stranded in Inniskeen. A flurry of poems about snow perhaps!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2010 - 2

I attended the Patrick Kavanagh prizegiving in Inniskeen last evening, defying the snow forecasts and the difficulty in actually finding the place - signposting bad. Last year I was a minor celebrity there - joint third - this year just a member of the audience.

A great night, full house, good entertainment and good poetry from the winner and the join second-placed poets. The winner as I already blogged was Connie Roberts who flew in from New York to be there. The joint second placed poets were Helena Nolan, originally from Kilkenny, who lives in Dublin, and Jim Maguire from Wexford. Jim had been awarded third prize in 2008. Both are well known and well published poets. The three happy poets pictured above.

The adjudicator, Brian Lynch gave a great introduction in which he talked about the judging process - there were in the region of 130 entries this year. He then spoke about each of the three finalists and it's quite obvious that he reads and re-reads and takes great care with his judging. As he should of course this is one of the top prizes in Irish poetry. More about this later perhaps.

Then the thee poets read - two or three poems each. Great performances from each, confident presentations of arresting poems, nice introductions, obvious delight at their achievements and the audience loved it.

Then a talk from Eileen Battersby of the Irish Times on Kavanagh. She had difficulty finding Inniskeen also but gave a wide ranging talk on the importance of Kavangh and his continue dinfluence on Irish writers, poets and prosewriters.

The evening ended with a dramatisation of part of Kavanagh's long poem The Great Hunger by actor/performer Peter Duffy. It was a fitting end to a night's celebration of poetry and Kavanagh. his own words are still powerful and moving.

Home then though the Kavanagh week-end continues. No snow, some frost, sheet lightning in the east. A light covering of snow in Trim in the morning.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2010

Connie Roberts is the 2010 winner of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. We have published Connie Roberts in Boyne Berries, she has been shortlisted in our Swift Satire competition, she was one of the Poetry Ireland Introductions 2010 and I met her at Dromineer this year where she won the poetry competition.

She came second in the Patrick Kavanagh competition in 2007 so that gives hope to those of us who have already been second or third. The presentation was made this Friday evening in Inniskeen as part of the Patrick Kavanagh weekend.

Connie teaches at the Hofstra University, New York, and below are extracts from the University press release on her win.

Connie Roberts, a Hofstra University adjunct instructor of English and a resident of Merrick, Long Island, has been awarded the prestigious Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award for her memoir in verse, Not the Delft School, inspired by her experiences growing up in an orphanage in Ireland.

The late Patrick Kavanagh, regarded as one of the foremost Irish poets of the 20th century, is known for such works as the epic poem, “The Great Hunger” (1942), and the classic novel Tarry Flynn (1948). Named in his honor, the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award is bestowed upon a poet born in Ireland, of Irish nationality or a long term resident of Ireland. Poet, playwright, screenwriter, art critic and novelist Brian Lynch served as the adjudicator of the Kavanagh Award this year.

Now in its 38th year, the Kavanagh Award has recognized many artists who have gone on to great success as poets and authors. Previous winners include Harry Clifton, the current Ireland Chair of Poetry; Eileán Ni Chuilleanáin, this year's International Griffin Poetry Prize winner; Paul Durcan, the Whitbread Poetry Award and Irish American Cultural Institute Poetry Award recipient; Joe Woods, the Director of Poetry Ireland; and Sinead Morrissey, a Lannan Literary Fellowship winner.

Professor Roberts, a County Offaly native, emigrated to the United States in 1983. She graduated from Hofstra with a Master of Arts degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. Her poetry has appeared in journals in the United States and Ireland. She was a finalist in the Strokestown International Poetry Competition in 2001 and the Dana Awards in 2003, as well as a semifinalist in the “Discovery”/The Nation Contest in 2000 and 2002. In 2009 Ms. Roberts was a nominee for the prestigious Hennessy X.O Literary Award.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Writing, the Budget and the Current Economic Climate

On next Wednesday 1st December the Irish Writers' Centre presents an open panel discussion on how the current economic climate is affecting modern writing in Ireland. Panellists from many areas across the Arts Sector will join together under one roof to discuss the impending budget and its possible effect on modern and aspiring writers as well as the dwindling number of arts organisations across the country.

The discussion will be chaired by poet Michael O' Loughlin, co-founder of Raven Arts Press. O’ Loughlin will be joined by The Sunday Business Post’s Books and Arts Editor Nadine O’Regan, Sean Love, co-founder of Fighting Words and former Amnesty Ireland director, Gavin Kostick award-winning playwright, literary officer for Fishamble and Gerry Smyth, Managing Editor of the Irish Times and celebrated poet.

The discussion will begin at 7pm and is open to the general public.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Noel Dempsey's Office, Trim.

This is Government Minister Noel Dempsey's Office in High Street, Trim this morning. Note the bad spelling - obviously the education cutbacks are biting.

Some other notes on spelling in these times;

The majority party in government in Ireland for the last years is called Fianna Fáil - that's an accent on the a, so don't confuse it with fail the verb meaning the following:
To prove deficient or lacking; perform ineffectively or inadequately: failed to fulfill their promises;
To be unsuccessful: an experiment that failed.
To decline, as in strength or effectiveness: The light began to fail.
To cease functioning properly: The engine failed.
To give way or be made otherwise useless as a result of excessive strain: The rusted girders failed and caused the bridge to collapse.
To become bankrupt or insolvent.

The minority party in government with Fianna Fáil is called the Green Party. you must use the capital G for Green otherwise you might confuse it with the word green which can have the following connotations:
Not fully developed or perfected in growth or condition; unripe; not properly aged.
Immature in age or judgment; untrained; inexperienced: a green worker.
Simple; unsophisticated; gullible; easily fooled.
Having a sickly appearance; pale; wan: green with fear; green with envy.
Having a flavor that is raw, harsh, and acid, due esp. to a lack of maturity. (of wine)
Freshly slaughtered or still raw: green meat.

Cavan Launch of The Moth Issue 3

This seems like a great idea for a magazine launch, different anyway. On 2 December 2010 issue 3 of The Moth magazine will be launched in Delish, Abbey Street, Cavan.

Come and taste wines from the Castillo Perelada Winery in Spain, eat your fill of delicious canapés and listen to some wonderful poetry. An evening of wine-tasting (courtesy of Blakes Fine Wines) and poetry with poet/blogger Kate Dempsey, Seamus O'Rourke and Trim poet Tommy Murray.

Space is limited, so if you would like to buy a ticket get in touch with editor Rebecca O'Connor,, as soon as you can. Tickets are €10.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Arlen House Launch, Dublin

A big launch coming up on tomorrow Tuesday evening 23 November at 6.30 pm in the Unitarian Church, St Stephen’s Green West, Dublin. Arlen House and Poetry Ireland present the launch of seven new poetry collections. This is part of the 35th birthday celebrations of the foundation of Arlen House. Seven collections! I'm very sorry I won't be able to make it.

These are the collections being launched: Scholia by Jim Chapson, The Hiding Place by Tom Duddy, Fest City a posthumous collection by James Liddy, Twelve Beds for the Dreamer by Máighréad Medbh, The Other Side of Longing by Geraldine Mills and Lisa C. Taylor, World Without Maps by Geraldine Mitchell and I am a Horse by Kate Newmann.

I've met Geraldine Mitchell a few times, at workshops, launches and prize givings. She is the 2008 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition winner. Should be an interesting evening if only to see how seven collections can be launched properly in a reasonable time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I have a poem in THE SHOp

After years of submitting, THE SHOp has accepted and published one of my poems in the latest issue 34. I'm delighted, this magazine is one of the top poetry magazines in the country and gets and published poetry from all over the world.

I'm in good company as well - George Szirtes is there as is Les Murray. Also included are poems by Tom French, Dave Lordan, Richard Halperin, Mags Treanor, Peggie Gallagher and lots more. Good companions!

I sent in three poems including one a little quirkier than the other two. Which did they choose? Of course - the quirkier one entitled My Interest in Polish Poetry has been Aroused, which is not about anything but has references to Polish poets, Count or Countess Markiewicz, translating poetry and old age. You have to get the magazine to read it. My poem ends with the words in translation and strangely another poem in the magazine, Translation by Stephanie Conybeare, ends in the same two words.

The poem in the magazine which impressed me most was one by Donegal poet and taxi-driver, Danny McFadden, called Plague. He takes the idea of birds trapped inside a church - we've often seen them - and develops a narrative which becomes more and more disturbing until you realise that the poem is about far more than bird droppings on clerical vestments.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Grainne Toher at Boyne Readings

A well attended Boyne Readings last night and an accomplished reading by Grainne Toher from her first novel Comings and Goings. After the usual colourful introduction by our chairman Paddy she started with a short introduction telling us how she came to write her novel and how it got published. Exactly what a room of writers want to hear.

Then she read three chapters from the novel. The 25 chapters in the book are short, each with a brief title often a person's name. The three chapters from near the beginning of the book set the scene and introduced the believable modern characters "as they tackle romance, broken hearts, babies, careers and recession." Third person narrative, simple direct language, lots of short sentences, convincing dialogue read in a easy comfortable style made it an enjoyable session.

The Open Mic which followed with the usual great variety of material and approach concluded a very enjoyable evening. Except for the tea, coffee and trademark Knightsbridge biscuits of course.

Orla and Frank both attended , read and took photographs so I expect them to blog it as well.

Picture: Grainne with our chairman, Paddy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boyne Readings and Open Mic, Grainne Toher

The featured reader at this week's Boyne Readings and Open Mic is Gráinne Toher. Gráinne, a native of Galway, has just launched her debut novel entitled Comings and Goings. The book draws its inspiration from popular culture, friends and family, her experiences and the world around her. It follows the ups and downs of a group of pals as they try to handle jobs, men and babies with a touch of wit, a cocktail and a bit of sparkle.

Gráinne is a member of Mullingar Scribblers writing group and said that group gave her great encouragement and feedback, which helped inspire her writing but that it was a train journey that initially unleashed her writing skills. “I was on the train one day and getting bored as I was stuck in Maynooth waiting for the signal to change. I took up a pen and the floodgates just kind of opened,” she said.

Over nine months later Comings and Goings, which is set in Dublin just after the recession first hit, was completed and Gráinne is already working on her second book.

I'm looking forward to this, always interesting to see how novelists approach readings. how much background is needed, how much explanations, what passages to pick - one long chapter or a few shorter ones. It's easy for poets to go up and read a few poems much more difficult for real writers! No pressure Gráinne.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Keash UIL Banner

Remember the banner from Keash, Co Sligo I mentioned a few weeks ago? It was sold at Whyte's Auction last Saturday and fetched 7,700 Euro just short of the lower end of the estimate of 8,000 to 10,000 Euro. I hope it has gone to a museum or gallery which will have it on display.

I'm sending an email to Whytes mentioning that I'm writing a book on the period and might like to use a picture of the banner as an illustration.

Alec McCabe, teacher, Sinn Féin TD 1918-1923 and founder of the Educational Building Society (EBS) was a Keash man and although a member of the IRB no doubt marched behind this banner before the rise of Sinn Féin. Here he is in the 1911 Census living with his mother who was also a teacher. His father is presumably dead. Quite a number of nationalist leaders of that period seem to have been eldest sons whose fathers were dead.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sligo Rovers Win the FAI Cup

We won, after extra time and penalties. A long match indeed but worth it in the end. After a scrappy start Sligo Rovers played the better football, had the better chances but didn't score. As the match wore on you thought it was going to be one of those days when a team plays well but gets beaten by one mistake or one very good move.

Our seats were behind the south goal, (the DART end?), defended by Sligo in the first half so we saw lots of action in the second half and were delighted when the ref chose our end for the shoot out. To score no goal in a penalty shoot-out seems unusual, to have them all saved as against missing them rarer still. To miss one penalty, Mr O'Neill, may be regarded as a misfortune; to miss four looks like carelessness. To be fair Sligo missed two of theirs as well. My picture above is, I think, of Pat Flynn of Shams about to take and miss their second penalty.

A great crowd there, great noise from the two sets of supporters of what used to be traditional rivals. A great advertisement for the local game which needs as much good publicity as possible. It's a shame so many Irish people call themselves soccer followers and mean that they follow only English clubs.

The stadium is impressive, our seats were good though we could only see half the pitch through the netting on the goals. We parked at Blackrock DART station and took the DART figuring correctly that most DART-using fans would be travelling in the opposite direction. It would be different if it was a rugby match. We got away very quickly afterwards.

Sligo Rovers have now won the FAI Cup three times, 1983, 1994 and 2010.

Well done the Rovers, and the FAI! RTE Report here. Irish Times here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

FAI Cup Final

Sligo Rovers are playing in the FAI Cup Final tomorrow. First FAI Cup Final in the new Aviva Stadium and tickets are cheap - 10 euro. Weather forecast seems favourable and there is talk of a possible attendance of 25,000, 10,000 of whom should be Sligo Rovers supporters. We were in the final last year as well but got beaten by Sporting Fingal on a very windy wet day in Tallaght Stadium.

The opponents are the resurgent Shamrock Rovers - Shams to us - who are looking for the double having won the league. Sligo Rovers are assured of European football having finished third in the league.

The Irish Times had a feature on Wednesday about the Sligo Rovers v Shamrock Rovers cup final in Dalymount in 1978. Giles and Dunphy were playing. I can't remember that one, must have missed it. I can vividly remember the Easter Sunday of 1977 when Sligo Rovers beat Shams in the Showgrounds to win the League for the first time in 4o years. They haven't won it since.

Eamonn Sweeney's There's Only One Red Army is a great read for Sligo Rovers followers. He has many other books, including at least one novel and a recently published book on the 70s and 80s, to his credit.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Theatre Nights

THEATRE NIGHTS is an initiative being launched by Tall Tales Theatre Company in association with Solstice Arts Centre and Meath County Council Arts Office.

Previously known as Script Club, THEATRE NIGHTS is organised and run by its members and is free to join. All you have to do is join the mailing list at

You will then be sent regular emails about trips to see various shows in the Solstice and in Dublin. They are also interested in organising post show discussions with cast members, writers and directors, giving our members insight into the creative process of producing theatre.
Various theatres are offering reduced priced tickets to THEATRE NIGHTS members.

THEATRE NIGHTS is for everyone who enjoys the theatre and who wants to expand their knowledge in a sociable way!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Writers' Block

I don't believe in writers' block or writer's block. In my opinion it's just a handy name for a variety of conditions including laziness, tiredness, needing a break, worn out, your brain telling you you're no good anyway etc.

One of our Writers Group members once gave us an exercise to overcome writers' block - write a poem about it.

But if you have writer's block there are some suggestions here that might help. Actually they're just good ideas for getting you writing, some better than others.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

House Ruins

There is something sad and noble about the ruins of old houses such as this one at Knockadoo near Coolaney, Co Sligo. Picture taken on my recent visit to the area. Sad to think that once this was a shop, much more than a shop, the centre of the local community, bought eggs from the housewives, gave credit until the end of the week, month or until the cattle were sold.

I barely remember it as a shop and think it closed sometime in the late sixtes. I knew it as Sharkey's but I think it was Henry's in its heyday.

There is something beautiful and tragic in the way it has been allowed to decay slowly rather than be demolished and replaced.

I absolutely refuse to write a poem on this subject. Been done before. No matter how original you think your thoughts are someone else has been there.

Oh if there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now -
Bob Dylan Brownsville Girl.

I actually stole the first line of this song and slightly altered it for my movie poem High Noon. No-one has yet noticed the plagarism though I've read it a few places.

On the other hand the Climbing Knocknashee poem, which was more or less commissioned and I hope is unique, has been finished satisfactorily.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Arvon Poetry Prize - Jean O'Brien

Irish poet, Jean O'Brien has won this year's Arvon Poetry Prize of £7,500 with her poem Merman.

This year’s competition attracted thousands of entries from more than 43 countries – including the Philippines, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and the United States of America. The shortlist was decided by a judging panel chaired by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who was joined by leading poets Elaine Feinstein and Sudeep Sen.

I'm delighted for Jean. She was kind enough to award me second prize at the Goldsmith Poetry Competition in Longford a couple of years ago and said some very encouraging things about my poem.

Well Done Jean!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Keash United Irish League Banner

Back to history. I gave a talk on County Sligo 1914-1918 to the NUIM (National University of Ireland Maynooth) History Forum in Maynooth on Friday evening. A toothache doesn't help on these occasions but the talk seemed to go reasonably well. Lots of very interesting questions.

My brother recently alerted me to this wonderful United Irish League banner from Keash, Co Sligo being offered in an Ian Whyte sale in Dublin on 13 November. I included a slide showing it at the talk. The United Irish League was launched in 1898 with the motto The Land for the People. It soon became the main constituency organisation of the reunited Irish Parliamentary Party which survived until the 1918 election.

This large banner would have been carried at all the great meetings and marches of the Home Rule campaign in Sligo from 1900 to 1917. Painted in oil on canvas by Dublin artist Samuel Rowan Watson it's disappointing in that it has no local reference apart from the name. One would expect the outline of Keash Hill at least in the background. Possibly you bought such a banner off the shelf and the artist just added the organisation's name.

My great grandfather, Pat Gallagher, was secretary of the Killoran branch of the UIL for most if not all of the same period. I wonder what happened to the Killoran UIL banner?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reading in Kilmore, Cavan

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.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Knocknashee Hill, Sligo

Last Tuesday my Australian cousin and myself climbed Knocknashee Hill between Tubbercurry and Coolaney, Co Sligo. {It's the hill in the masthead (bloghead?) above.} Our parents were born close by and had climbed the hill in their youth so this was an essential part of a Sligo visit. The rain and the wind only added a necessary touch of hardship to the occasion.

The summit of the hill has a fairly recently identified hill fort with hut circles and habitation sites. There are two stone cairns on top one of which has an open chamber. No excavations have yet been carried out on the hill.

In spite of the rain there was an impressive view from the top. To the north are the Ox Mountains and the peak closest to Coolaney, Doomore, has a cairn on the top. Over the Ox Mountains we could just make out Knocknarea with its cairn. To the south east is the hill of Keash with its cairn.

In between there are smaller hills some of which have mounds or cairns. None of these mounds have been excavated, they may contain tombs, passage graves possibly. There are a number of Wedge Graves especially along the slopes of the Ox Mountains and an array of old burial grounds and church ruins in every direction.

The term Sacred Landscape has been used extensively to describe just such an area. It's not a term I like, smacking as it does of something else rather than the day to day living and dying that went on here and everywhere else over thousands of years. People lived and made their marks some of which survive, some not.

Anyway Knocknashee and the area around it is a wonderful landscape which is probably better off remaining relatively unknown. I can't help comparing it to a much more famous hill, Tara, with its few earthworks with fancy made-up names.

There is an emigrant ballad called The Hill(s) of Knocknashee. A number of versions on YouTube, here and here. You can buy a version here.

So there's not a great reason for me to write a poem on the visit . . . or is there? It was All Soul's Day of course.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Poetry and music at The See House, Cavan

A poetry and music event will take place at The (former) See House, Kilmore, Cavan tomorrow, Thursday November 4, at 7.30pm.

In association with Cavan County Council Arts Office, poets Noel Monahan and Patrick Chapman along with novelist Grace Wynne Jones will grace the fantastic staircase of the former bishops’ residence.

The evening will be hosted by Windows Publications editor and poet Heather Brett, music will be by A Smile Just Came (the O’Brien brothers) and refreshments will be served. Members of the Cavan-Meath Lit Lab group will also read. The event is free and everyone is welcome to attend what is hoped to be the first of many such special evenings in the Georgian mansion.

The house was once the bishop's house connected with the nearby Kilmore Cathedral which is chiefly renowned because of the marvellously carved Hiberno-Romanesque doorway which has survived from earlier buildings and serves as a vestry door.

Funny enough I came across the then Bishop of Kilmore in the 1913 Sligo Champion who gave an interesting speech on Home Rule. And I attended Patrick Chapman's poetry launch last week.

Anyway I have to choose two poems to read at this function. More later.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Divine Comedy and Conceptual Poetry

I'm a great fan of Dante's Divine Comedy - not just Inferno, you need to read Purgatorio and Paradiso as well. I also suspect every translation especially translations of poetry. how do you know to what extent the poet's ideas, tone, style, etc have been translated. And which, if any, of these is the most important to preserve or pass on anyway?

I was delighted when I came across this conceptual poetry project on the internet.

Caroline Bergvall, a French-Norwegian poet living in London, transcribed the opening three lines of each of the 48 translations of the Divine Comedy in the British Library in May 2000, 700 years after the date fixed by Dante for the start of the journey. She arranged them in alphabetical order of first line and added the translator and publication date.

She called the piece VIA (48 Dante Variations) and you can hear her read it by following the link on this page.

The poem opens:

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura

che la diritta via era smarrita

There is an article on Conceptual Poetry here which includes more on this project.
Picture above: A street in Florence.