Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dundalk Reading

Some poetry readings are good, some great and then there are some like last night's in the Riva Townhouse, Dundalk. It was most enjoyable. John Noonan and the group had organised a great mix, starting with members of the local writers group who read poetry and prose with an obvious enthusiasm and enjoyment which was, as they say, infectious.

Some good material as well, including the excerpt from the bitter-sweet story about the children digging to Australia and the poem with Selfish Mother as part of the title.

Then local poet, the well-known and well-regarded Barbara Smith read. Barbara is a fellow-Doghouse poet (Can I say that yet?) and her second collection is being published this year. She read some older poems and some from the new book including one from a series on Antarctic exploration which is coincidentally an interest of hers. Great material.

Then singer, school principal Kevin Stanley as Leonard Cohen. Cohen's words are so good and they were sung so well that you want to attack your own poems and cut them back to the basics.

Follow that! Well I had to. I read twelve poems chosen for their readability. And they got a great reaction. This was one of the best audiences I have read for. They reacted to every nuance and giggled, laughed or were silent in response to words and lines.

The poems were a mixture of old and new, I included two new "Perth poems" to see how they sounded. The one about the West of Ireland weather expert all at sea in Australian weather went down very well with the audience seeing the humour from the very start.

I read my Auschwitz poem since Holocaust Memorial Day was marked last Sunday and despite, or maybe because of the fact the the audience was very gender imbalanced - mostly female - I did my "male guilt" poem called Innocent. All very well received.

A great enjoyable reading, thanks to all concerned!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dedalus Press Book Launches

This Wednesday, 1 February will see the launch at 7pm of four books by Dedalus Press in the Irish Writers' Centre, Dublin. These include Different Kinds of Love by Leland Bardwell (a reissue of her 1987 short story collection), My Lord Buddha of Carraig Eanna by Paddy Bushe, The Shadow Owner's Companion by Eleanor Hooker and Before You by Leeanne Quinn.

Two of these books are debut poetry collections, those of Drogheda-born Leeanne Quinn and North Tipperary resident Eleanor Hooker. Eleanor was among the eight, including myself selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2011. She has a BA (Hons. 1st) from the Open University, an MA (Hons.) in Cultural History from the University of Northumbria, and an MPhil in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Trinity College, Dublin.

Eleanor is also involved with the Dromineer Literary Festival, being a founding member, Vice-Chairperson and PRO for the festival. Emerging Writer had an interview with Leanne and Women Rule Writer one with Eleanor on their blogs recently.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Poetry Reading in Dundalk

I'm reading poetry in the Riva Townhouse, Dundalk on tomorrow, Monday, evening as part of the Brigid of Faughart Festival. The evening starts at 8.30, first half hour will be readings by Dundalk Writers. After a short break some Leonard Cohen songs and then I'm on for twenty/twenty five minutes.

Set list almost finalised. I'm looking forward to it!

More details of the Festival events here and here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Poetry Collection from Doghouse

Another Yipee! This one a bit louder than recent ones.

My poetry collection Asking for Directions has been accepted by Doghouse Books, Tralee, Co Kerry and will be published by the summer. I spent two days in Tralee this week with Doghouse editor, poet Noel King, editing the manuscript. Noel's collection, Prophesying the Past, was published by Salmon last year.

An interesting activity indeed. I've had lots of criticism of my writing being involved with two keen writers groups but this was different. Noel, being editor, had more than a passing interest in what he was going to publish and so his opinions carried a lot of weight.

So, of the manuscript I submitted, four poems were omitted by mutual consent, two need major surgery, most of the rest need minor adjustments and a small number are fine apart from some punctuation insertions. The punctuations needed are generally commas.

So 42 poems including one six part sequence, 60 pages - a mixture of poems looking back and looking forward, looking in and looking out, serious and not so serious. something for everyone! I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Magma Poetry Competitions Results

Results of the Magma poetry competitions are on the website. No addresses given for the winners and others mentioned and the only name I recognise as Irish is Afric McGlinchey who gets a special mention in the up to 10 lines section for her poem Late.

Afric was the 2010 winner of the Hennessy Award for Emerging Poetry and we have published her in Boyne Berries.

Looking through the winners and shortlisted I can't help but notice the number of one and two word titles. Very few of those long "wackier" titles that come into and go out of fashion by the month. Jane Routh's I have always loved a galvanised scoop is the best and longest of that type in the list.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Poetry Reading in Dundalk

It's almost February! And the first of February is the feast of St. Brigid.

Brigid of Faughart will be celebrated at Imbolc, Dundalk, Faughart and Ravensdale Co. Louth, Saturday 28 January to Wednesday 1 February 2012. The emphasis of this festival is to revisit and reclaim the richness of the traditions associated with Brigid of Faughart in ways which are relevant to our lives in 21st century.

A variety of activities including a Be the Change introductory workshop on Saturday 28 January at the Magnet Pastoral Centre, Demesne Road, Dundalk. Time 10.30 registration /tea: Workshop commences at 11.00am sharp. This workshop takes a fresh look at many of the critical current concerns- such as environmental sustainability, social justice and human/spiritual fulfilment and explores what connects these different themes. Further details from Claire Oakes 087-6760157.

On Sunday the traditional pilgrimage walk, 5 km, starts from the Peace Garden, Fair Green, Dundalk to St Brigid’s Shrine, Faughart on Sunday at 10am.

And on Monday 30 January at 8pm there is an evening of evening of poetry, story and song with myself, Kevin Stanley and Dundalk writers. This takes place in the Riva Townhouse, Seatown Place, Dundalk. Admission 5 Euro: details from John Noonan Tel 087- 253858.

See you all there!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mary Lavin

The fact that one of the rooms at the Irish Writers Centre is being named for writer Mary Lavin reminds me that 2012 is the centenary of her birth. She was born in Massachusetts in 1912, the only child of an immigrant Irish couple.

The family returned to Ireland when Mary was ten and lived in Galway and then in Dublin. She studied English and French at University College Dublin (UCD). As a result of an approach to Lord Dunsany, the then well-known Irish writer, he became Mary's literary mentor.

In 1943 Mary Lavin published her first book. Tales from Bective Bridge, a volume of ten short stories about life in rural Ireland which became a critical success. Lavin married William Walsh, a Dublin lawyer and the couple had three daughters and moved to "Abbey Farm" at Bective, Co Meath.

She went on to publish several collections of short stories and two novels. She died in 1996. I presume there will a number of publications and events to mark the centenary. I did hear rumours of some event being held in Trim to mark the occasion because of her local Meath connection.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Naming the Rooms in the Irish Writers' Centre

Absent Friends: The Naming of the Rooms in the Irish Writers' Centre takes place on Tuesday next, 24 January at 7.00pm.

You are invited to attend the Irish Writers' Centre on Tuesday next, January 24th for an evening celebrating some of the finest Irish writers after whom we will officially name the rooms.

Tributes will be made on the night by family, friends and former colleagues of the writers, who will also read from their work. The contributors will be:

John F. Deane for Robert Greacen
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin for Eilís Dillon
Hugh McFadden for Michael Hartnett
Patricia Strong for Eithne Strong
Anthony Glavin for Benedict Kiely
Helen Dwyer for James Plunkett
Catherine Phil McCarthy for Mary Lavin

The rooms of the Irish Writers' Centre will be named after the above writers as a permanent mark of appreciation and a celebration of their continuing influence on Irish literature.

All are welcome to this evening of celebration and remembrance. Admission is free but booking is essential, so please do call (01) 8721302 to reserve your place.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Poetry Competition Judges

Always interesting to read comments by those who judge poetry competitions.

Patrick Cotter, who judged the Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Prize, has some reflections here on the judging process. The winning “competition poem” is . . . a stand-alone achievement which punches above its weight, a corvette which bristles with the armament of a battleship. There were 1,700 entries from 560 poets!

George Szirtes had a recent post which I assume was inspired by his judging of the Magma Poetry Competition which I entered. This includes gems such as Never believe yourself at your gravest or most profound. The planets move on, the odd star occasionally giggling.

No results yet from there. Hmmm. My entries were a bit serious weren't they.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Art Exhibition for Haiti Week

Conor Gallagher, the Sligo-born artist for whose exhibition The Hawk's Rock, my poetry chapbook was produced, has been in Haiti helping to rebuild there after the massive 2010 earthquake. He has returned with a collection of images some of which will be exhibited during Haiti Week, January 20th-28th in the Atrium, Nazareth House, Sligo. Proceeds will go to projects in Haiti.

The official opening is on Friday next 20 January at 6pm.

The exhibition will include paintings and drawings of moments and scenes witnessed on the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince in Haiti. Some are made with gouache on photo paper. Conor says "I like this surface because it is very resistant to the paint and you really have to work with it it to leave a mark". The delightful painting above is entitled Toujou zanmi (Always friends) and is gouache on A4 photo paper.

Other work in the exhibition was made with gouache and local household paint on light plywood panels measures 30cm x 25cm.

Examples of Conor's Haiti work, here, here and here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Memoir Competition - A Reminder

Closing date for this competition is coming up - 30 Jan 2012 - the Fish Short Memoir (Life Writing) Contest, with David Shields as the judge.

1st prize: €2,000, and the ten best short memoirs will be published in the 2012 Fish Anthology which will be launched July 2012.
2nd prize: one week at the stunning Writers’ Retreat at Casa Ana, in the mountainous La Alpujarra region of Spain, plus €300 towards travel.

Entries must be 4,000 words or less. Entry €15 online.

Fish can also provide a critique of your Memoir for €40 and even help you brush up your memoir writing skills by joining their online memoir writing course.

Which reminds me . . .

The Guardian/Observer had supplements this weekend about Making the Most of your Memory. I got the Saturday one but forgot today's one. Anyway yesterday's supplement had an article listing Memory Myths, false belief about memory held by many people.

These included:

Some people have photographic memories. FALSE.
Forgetting occurs gradually. FALSE.
Confidence is a reliable indicator of memory accuracy. FALSE.
Traumatic memories can be repressed and "recovered" years after they occurred. FALSE.
Hypnosis can be used to retrieve forgotten memories. FALSE.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Gregory O'Donoghue Poetry Competition 2012

The 2012 Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Competition results have just appeared on the website. Yipee I'm there! OK Among the seventy commended but I'm delighted.

After not sending out poems for most of 2011 because of history I sent out at least thirty to various competitions and journals in December. This is the first result! Great!

As usual the poem commended is not the one of those I sent in I might have chosen as my best. Often happens. I have entered this competition a few times in the past but never got noticed.

Two other Boyne Writers in the commendeds, Evan Costigan and Tom Dredge. Well done lads!

A measure of the international aspect of the competition is that the first and second winners are from the USA and of the ten highly commended only one is Irish.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hedge School - Lively Debate - Disagreement

Historians who admitted not knowing what actually happened, never mind why it happened!
Historians who welcome a lively debate and fundamental disagreement!
Historians who promise that the coming centenary celebrations will not see wishy-washy consensus!

Though one audience member castigated the panel for the disagreements and hoped this wouldn't set the tone for the next ten years of commemorations but this idea didn't get much support. Life is dull enough without agreement on history.

Last evening's History Ireland Hedge School was a great success with the room filled to overflowing and some people even turned away. A very lively debate with Tommy Graham of History Ireland doing a fine job of chairing the discussions and allowed the panellists, David Fitzpatrick, John M. Regan, Eve Morrison and John Borgonovo enough time to respond to each other as well as getting some interesting audience participation.

The topic The War of Independence: ‘four glorious years’ or squalid sectarian conflict? was deliberately designed to generate debate though most debate centred on two controversial incidents discussed in Peter Hart's book The IRA and its Enemies. Peter sadly died in 2010 but he was an important presence at last night's event.

The controversial incidents are the Kilmichael Ambush of 1920 where Hart challenged Tom Barry's account that surviving Auxiliaries were shot after they engaged in a false surrender. The second controversy surrounds the April 1922 killings in Dunmanway, in which ten Protestant men were shot. Hart claimed that the incident was a sectarian atrocity but this is contested with others arguing that the men were targeted for their role as informers.

The consensus appears to be that the war of independence (a very suspect term itself) was maybe, possibly glorious to some degree but like all wars certainly had its squalid side and certainly involved some sectarian incidents.

The evening's debate will be made available as a podcast on the website.

David Fitzpatrick has just published a biography of the father of the poet Louis MacNeice.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

History Ireland Hedge School

So the big difference between history and poetry is that history is just a matter of finding out what happened and recording it while poetry is much more uncertain, allusive, deals with the personal more often and uses language in a more careful exact way. Well not exactly.

History is far from the objective recording of facts and events. This may be the basis but the aim is to increase our understanding of the past and the present. Central to this is interpretation and this is usually coloured by current events and situations. Thus the post-1969 troubles in Northern Ireland coloured the way the history of the 1912-1923 period was understood.

Anyway there's a History Ireland Hedge School on today, Wednesday, 11 January at 7.00pm entitled The War of Independence in the South: "Four glorious years" or squalid sectarian conflict? in the National Library, Dublin.

The Four Glorious Years 1918-1921 was the title of Frank Gallagher’s (deputy director of the first Dáil’s Department of Publicity) account of the War of Independence. But how glorious were they? Recent scholarship, in particular the late Peter Hart’s on the war in West Cork, has cast it in a darker light with accusations of sectarianism and even ‘ethnic cleansing’ levelled against the IRA, which in turn has provoked a lively and sometimes vitriolic debate.

The list of speakers is impressive: David Fitzpatrick (TCD), John M. Regan (University of Dundee), Eve Morrison (TCD) and John Borgonovo (UCC). David Fitzpatrick was my supervisor of my doctoral thesis and I met John M. Regan at the Seán Mac Diarmada Summer School two year ago.

The promotional blurb claims that "the hedge schools run by History Ireland are slightly subversive in nature". I have no idea what they mean by this and the use of the qualifier "slightly" before "subversive" seems laughable.

Anyway it should be an interesting event and I hope to attend if I survive a day in the archives - another "final" visit.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Christmas Reading No. 2: Emerald Illusions

My non-fiction Christmas read was Emerald Illusions: The Irish in early American cinema by Gary D. Rhodes, published by Irish Academic Press. I got interested in silent film while studying Sligo in the civil war period noting the wealth of entertainment provided by the cinemas in Sligo at the time.

This book based on a doctoral thesis, provides the first major history of the Irish-themed film in early American cinema. It revises prevailing views in this area and particularly opposes the view that films with an Irish theme or filmed in Ireland were made primarily for an Irish American audience.

The book spends a lot of time examining the origins of these films in pre-cinema entertainments such as Irish-themed stage plays, vaudeville acts, and magic lantern slides, revealing their various influences on early American cinema.

It is very good on the prevalence of "stage-Irishness" in these but also on the various ways that was understood. The question of authenticity was very much to the fore even from the earlies days of film and this led some companies to film in Ireland (and elsewhere in Europe and in Egypt and Palestine) in order to be able to claim authenticity.

The book is an academic work with detailed footnotes and is only available in hardback at the moment.

The Kalem company came to Ireland (nicknamed the O'Kalems) in 1910 and subsequent years and filmed here, particularly around Killarney. Some of their films had historical themes. Other companies followed suit. Irish Film & TV Research Online has made available nine dramatized films (or the parts which remain) about the Irish made in Ireland and America by Sidney Olcott and others during 1910–15.

Watching these on the computer's tiny screen gives no feel for how they were actually received. In a large crowded cinema, on a big screen, with live musical accompaniment they must have made quite an impression. We are inclined to think of audiences at silent films thinking to themselves It will be much better when the talkies arrive!

The Irish Film Institute is responsible for preserving and making available Ireland's film heritage. It has recently made available on DVD The O'Kalem Collection 1910-1915 containing the surviving eight films made by that company and a documentary The O'Kalem's in Ireland.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Christmas Reading No. 1: Fault Lines

I read two books, a novel and a non-fiction work, this Christmas! Neither had anything to do with my history work, just read for enjoyment, interest, information, enlightenment, improvement, education, fun, delectation and pleasure.

The novel was Fault Lines by Canadian author Nancy Huston. I don't like novels that tell a story one damn thing after another and one of the challenges of the modern novel is to find ways to avoid this yet still engage the reader. Huston does tell her story in sequence but backwards in time.

This works very well, the story is revealed slowly in reverse as we go back in time from 2004 California to wartime Germany. Each of the four sections of the novel is narrated by a six-year-old, starting with the monstrous, precocious voice of Sol, who believes himself omnipotent, and idolises Bush and Schwarzenegger. We meet characters in this first section who we meet subsequently as six year old narrators.

I really enjoyed the book, the tension was built up expertly with every section revealing more about what had gone before and drawing you into the past of this family. It moves easily between California, Canada, Israel and Germany drawing out connections, some subtle, some not so subtle, between the past, the present and the future.

I really enjoyed it. It has won a number of prizes, was originally written and published in French, then translated by the author and published in English.

The author talks about the structure of the novel here on YouTube. A Guardian review here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Word of the Year 2011 - Occupy

In its 22nd annual words of the year vote the American Dialect Society voted occupy (verb, noun, and combining form referring to the Occupy protest movement) as the word of the year for 2011.

“It’s a very old word, but over the course of just a few months it took on another life and moved in new and unexpected directions, thanks to a national and global movement,” Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the society, said, “The movement itself was powered by the word.”

Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item”—not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year.

Other category winners:

Most Useful: humblebrag - expression of false humility, especially by celebrities on Twitter.

Most Creative: Mellencamp - a woman who has aged out of being a “cougar” (after John Cougar Mellencamp). This beat bunga bunga - name for sex parties allegedly involving former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and kardash - unit of measurement consisting of 72 days, after the short-lived marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.

Most Outrageous: assholocracy - rule by obnoxious multi-millionaires.

Most Likely to Succeed: cloud - online space for the large-scale processing and storage of data.

Founded in 1889, the American Dialect Society is dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other languages, influencing it or influenced by it. The society’s website is here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sir Geoffrey Hill

Even though I think honours lists are a load of rubbish it's still good to see poetry honoured in the UK New Year honours list with Geoffrey Hill, elected last year as Oxford's professor of poetry receiving a knighthood, now or soon to be Sir Geoffrey Hill.

Hill, 79, who had an academic career, has been described as the finest living English poet. He is also routinely criticised or praised, depending on your viewpoint, as a "difficult" poet. He is quoted as saying in reply: Difficult poetry is the most democratic because you are doing your audience the honour of supposing they are intelligent human beings. So much of the popular poetry of today treats people as if they were fools.

This is no doubt in answer to the well known and oft quoted saying of poet Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008): Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people.

So which side are you on? The nice think is of course you don't have to be on any side. Poetry is or should be broad enough to encompass both wings. If you press me though I'm on Hill's side.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Creative Writing Courses this Spring

Start off the New Year with a little gift to yourself! Choose from this great list of Creative Writing Courses this Spring in the Irish Writers' Centre.

A taste of what's on offer. . . .

Poetry Writing with Catherine Phil MacCarthy

Writing the Short Story with Sean O'Reilly

Novel Writing with Chris Binchy

Finish Your Novel with Conor Kostick

Intermediate Creative Writing with Nessa O'Mahoney

Beginners' Creative Writing with Alan Jude Moore

Feature Writing with Henry McDonald

Crime Writing with Cormac Millar (Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin)

Writing the Memoir with Ivy Bannister

Poetry Workshop with Enda Wyley

Writing Your First Novel with June Considine

Blogging with Henry McDonald

Short StoryWriting with Mike McCormack

Beginners Creative Writing with John Maher

Getting to the heart of your characters with Mia Gallagher

If you're interested in any of our courses, please book through the website, call the Centre at (01) 8721302 or just drop in and book in person.

Short Story, Poetry Chapbook Competition

Doire Press, Connemara, is pleased to announce its 2012 1st annual poetry & chapbook competition

Winners will each receive 75 copies of their own professionally edited and printed chapbook (one for poetry, one for fiction), published by Doire Press. Chapbooks will be perfect-bound, contain up to 40 pages, feature colour front and back covers, as well as their own isbn and barcode.

Fiction entries: one short story per entry (4,000 words max)
Poetry entries: 4-6 poems per entry (10 pages max)

Deadline: January 9, 2012

Entry fees: €10 for first entry, €8 for each additional entry (you may submit multiple entries in either fiction or poetry, or submit to both fiction and poetry).

Judges: Fiction: Alan McMonagle: Poetry: James Martyn.

Full details on the website.