Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Doolin Short Story Competition

Hotel Doolin in association with the Irish Writers Centre is delighted to announce the launch of DOOLIN SHORT STORY COMPETITION 2013!

Prize fund: €1,000 for first place and second/third of €600/€400. Entries can be on any theme and should be no longer than 3,000 words. The fee is €7 and closing date for entries is Monday 8 April. Download an entry form from the Irish Writers Centre website.

Winners will be announced at the inaugural Doolin Writer's Weekend on 24 - 26 May 2013.

John MacKenna is this year's judge: acclaimed author of seventeen books including short-stories, novels, memoir, history and biography. He is a winner of the Irish Times Fiction Award; the C Day Lewis Award; the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and his most recent novel, The Space Between Us, was short-listed for the Kerry Book of the Year Award.

Doolin Writers weekend will consist of workshops, lectures and readings by some of Ireland's leading writers, as well as some great local traditional music.

Hotel Doolin General Manager Donal Minihane says 'It is a great opportunity for aspiring writers as well as literary fans and published authors to get together and celebrate everything that is good about Irish literature. Many artists and writers spent time in Doolin, including J.M. Synge, George Bernard Shaw, Dylan Thomas, Augustus John and Oliver St. John Gogarty. This summer we look forward to welcoming back some of Ireland's best writers for what we hope will become an annual literary event in North Clare.'

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crannog Magazine Launch and Submissions

Friday 1 March sees the launch of the 32nd issue of Crannóg in The Crane Bar, Sea Rd, Galway at 6.30 pm.. Over 100 pages packed with stories and poems and still only €6. These launches are very friendly, enjoyable events. Crannóg was the first magazine to publish a poem of mine so I have a soft spot for them.

There will be readings by some of the contributors at the launch and, for those who don't want to go home, there will be music by The Molly Hicks at 9.30pm. All upstairs at The Crane.

Each issue of Crannóg is now available for the Kindle Reader. You can download issue 32 here. You can also have a free Look Inside! Of course then you'll want to download the full issue, won't you!

Submissions for Crannóg 33, the summer 2013 issue, open on 1 March and close 31 March. They have reduced the submission time for each issue to one month which means submissions are not tied up for  long and a decision will be reached quickly. An idea for Boyne Berries!

They end with a plea: Please, please, please read full submission rules HERE! I can understand. It's amazing how many writers submit work without following the basic rules, number of items submitted, length and format, include short bio and postal address.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Online Writing Courses from Western Writers’ Centre

Galway’s Western Writers’ Centre – Ionad Scríbhneoirí Chaitlín Maude – is offering online writing courses on Poetry and on Prose. The 8-segment courses cover all aspects of writing and improving prose work in fiction and covers also styles, forms and methods of writing poetry. In both cases, reading suggestions are provided. The course takes the shape of exercises, corrections and discussion where and when necessary.

“The courses are designed to suit participants who would not be available for evening courses of this type,” says poet and novelist, Fred Johnston.

“They are also designed to introduce poetry in a variety of forms, from the conventional to the innovative.”

Previous courses have engaged participants from the US and Australia, as well as the UK and Ireland. Fees are €150 and €80 (concession.) Further information can be obtained from:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Listowel Writing Competitions

As always the Listowel Writers Week competitions feature a broad range of competitions across all genres. There are three new titles for 2013: The Nilsson Local Heritage Writing Competition, The Con Houlihan Young Sports Journalist Award and Creative Writing for Special Category.

The closing date for receipt of ALL entries is Friday, 1 March 2013. For full details of all the competitions please click Competitions but here’s a reminder to whet your appetite:

The Kerry Group Irish Novel of the YearAward
The Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award
Duais Foras Na Gaeilge
Eamon Keane Full Length Play Award
The Nilsson Local Heritage Writing Competition
The Single Poem Competition
The Poetry Collection Competition
Writing in Prisons Competitions
The Irish Post New Writing Competition
Listowel Writers’ Week Originals Competitions
The Con Houlihan Young Sports Journalist Award
Creative Writing Competitions for Youth

There are also a wide variety of workshops. Details here.

You can also download a copy of the brochure here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Irish Writers Centre Lunchtime Readings

The Irish Writers Centre kick off their Lunchtime Readings with a reading by the celebrated author of crime-noir fiction Ken Bruen on this Friday, 22 February at 1.00pm. Ken is the author of the award-winning Jack Taylor series which has been recently adapted for a series of TV movies.

His novel Blitz was also adapted for the screen in 2011 starring Jason Statham, Aidan Gillen and Paddy Considine. In 2010, London Boulevard was turned into a film starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley.  Ken's White Trilogy has recently been published and he has two more books on the way in 2013.

On the following Friday, 1 March, at 1.00pm Rosemarie Rowley will be the first poet of the Lunchtime Readings. In her work as a poet and essayist, she is a pioneering voice in the fields of ecology and women's issues - The Sea of Affliction (1987), being one of the first works in eco-feminism.

To date Rosemary has published five collections and is the four time winner of the Epic award in the Scottish International Poetry Competition. Her most recent books are Hot Cinquefoil Star (2002) and In Memory of Her (2004) and (2008) both published by Rowan Tree Press, Dublin.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

From Inspiration to Publication - Writers Clinic

Meath County Council Arts Office is delighted to host this informative and instructive Writer’s Clinic, From Inspiration to Publication, in partnership with the Irish Writers Centre as part of its Professional Development Programme FEACH.

This practical and helpful clinic is an opportunity for both aspiring and professional writers to meet with industry experts and to gain a greater understanding of how the industry works. Writers of all backgrounds are invited to attend.

The clinic will be facilitated by Patricia Deevy of Penguin Ireland, Faith O’Grady, literary agent, and acclaimed writer Dermot Bolger (right).

This event will run from 6pm – 9pm on Tuesday 26 March in Ashbourne Cultural Centre, Killegland Street, Ashbourne, Co. Meath.

During this clinic writers will:
  • Gain a greater understanding of the creative writing industry in Ireland
  • Become informed of how the industry works
  • Get advice on the next steps for their own projects
  • Develop a greater understanding of their own practice
  • Develop invaluable contacts and network opportunities
Places are free but booking is essential at Meath County Council Arts Office on 046 9097414 or

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cork Spring Poetry Festival - Saturday 2

Saturday afternoon's programme at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival began with Canadian poet, Karen Solie's Craft Talk.  A very enthusiastic talk full of wisdom and challenge.

Here are some random notes from the talk which I hope give some flavour but certainly don't even begin to do justice to it.

She began by quoting a poet, Robert Haas I think, who said that he still doesn't know what he is doing when writing a poem. But the important thing is to get better at not knowing what you are doing.

There should be a constant tension in good poems between order and chaos, discipline and recklessness, form and nothingness. A great poem must have precise language and syntax. Vague expression is the enemy of good poetry. Ambiguity is different, it allows more than one possible meaning.

The precise language used in a poem may not be of the normal variety. The poet must allow a little weirdness into the poem. She gave as example Canadian poet Steven McCaffery’s Position of Sheep I poem which contains the word sheep in various positions on the page. There is a  Position of Sheep II in which the sheep, or some of them, have moved.

The writer gives and the reader takes. For the reader the poem must be a first hand experience. The poet writes from his/her own experience and place and the reader is interested in this, especially if there are vivid, fascinating details.

How can we write honestly? Often a poem is an expression of our unknowing. We normally don't know. Allow doubt and ignorance into the poem. It's easy to opt for safety and be coy, sarcastic, cynical.

The poet must be honest but can make things up. It may be important which things are made up and which are true. She gave as example a poem by Robert Haas, The World as Will and Representation, where the correct name of the drug as vital but the details of his father's dress were not.

She recommended Robert Haas' book Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry and the Gray Wolf "The Art of" series of short books on poetry especially mentioning  The Art of Recklessness by Dean Young and The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach

Plenty to think about there!

A video of Karen Solie reading is available here on Vimeo, (screenshot above). It includes both Migration and Tractor which she read in Cork. Tractor is especially good.

In times of doubt, we cast our eyes
upon the Buhler Versatile 2360
and are comforted.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cork Spring Poetry Festival - Saturday 1

I attended the Carolyn Forché workshop/masterclass on Saturday morning at Cork Spring Poetry Festival. The eleven participants had sent in a poem each and these were circulated some days beforehand so I had a chance to read and think about all the poems. Great poems but a very mixed bunch as regards theme, style and even shape.

The participants had either a  first collection recently published or were on the verge of having one published. Some I knew, others I didn't. We did the introductions, told a little about ourselves, including one strange thing each.

Carolyn outlined her approach. She had carefully considered each poem in advance and had made notes on the pages. She began each response with a general reaction to the poem, a larger look, and then suggested some elements which might need attention. As she dealt with each poem she discussed some general issues - enjambment, how much do you tell the reader, when do you know the poem is finished etc.

And she had the endearing habit of ending her suggestions of changes with "But I may be wrong". She advised waiting a few days before deciding whether to implement suggested changes or not. The participants were invited to contribute their ideas on the poems as well and this added a lot to the session.

My poem, Dead Man's Shoes, she thought was good, effective but needed some changes. She suggested changing the order of some stanzas and omitting the final one. She spoke about how difficult it is to know when to finish. Often the last line or the last stanza needs to be omitted. As indeed the first stanza often is superfluous.

Some issues which were common to a couple of poems included the question of how much information the reader needs. Two poems had longish explanatory quotes after the title and in general she was against this.

On the other hand some of the poems needed more information to allow the reader into the poem.She advised some scaffolding, some narrative, in order to give the reader some idea of what is happening.

Concrete details are always important, avoid the general, the kind of language which appears in advertisements and publicity. She expressed a liking for longer connected sentences over short stopped sentences. One poem actually consisted of one long sinuous sentence and was very effective.

She spoke of keeping a poet's notebook in which she entered striking images and words she came across. A poet should have a list of loved words which was constantly being added to.

Poems and poets she mentioned in commenting on individual poems included The Instruction Manual by John Ashbury, Questions to Tourists Stopped by the Pineapple Field by W.S. Merwin, Charles Simic's poems on ordinary items such as The Fork, and the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish.

And much much more. All delivered in a friendly, serious, interested tone. Thanks to Carolyn and the other participants it was a pleasure to attend.

Carolyn Forché is included in the audio podcast series, Essential American Poets. An audio of her reading in 2007 at the University of Arizona is online here. A video of another Arizona reading is on Vimeo here, screenshot above, and a reading at the Rothko Chapel in 2010 is here. Lots on YouTube as well.

Now back to the Dead Man's Shoes!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cork Poetry Festival - Friday

After travelling all the way to Cork I reckoned I should attend all the Friday events at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival. So I did. The great variety of theme and delivery style meant that it was very enjoyable but still by the time the last reading was over after eleven I was ready for sleep.

Dennis O'Driscoll had agreed to read at the festival before his untimely death in December last and the day began with the Dennis O'Driscoll Remembered event. This was a public conversation facilitated by poet and journalist, Gerald Smyth, with Peter Jay (Anvil Press) Joseph Woods (Poetry Ireland) and Patrick Cotter (Festival Director).

This began with the playing of an interview with Dennis which included interesting remarks about reading poetry in public. He spoke about being "ambushed by your own poem" when the emotion involved in the writing of the poem hits the poet as he/she reads it in public.

The discussion was lively, appreciative, informative and enjoyable. Dennis' interest in and promotion of European poets was stressed. His themes were discussed, mortality, the working life, ageing, middle class life. Again and again his humility, his accessibility and his interest in other Irish poets were stressed.

Later in the evening a selection of Irish and international poets read from Dennis' work. It ended with his hilarious The Next Poem which pokes fun at the careless introductions sometimes indulged in by poets at public readings.Required reading for all poets before a public reading.

Anatoly Kudryavitsky, the editor of Shamrock Haiku Journal and of Bamboo Dreams, the Doghouse anthology of Irish haiku, read a selection of his haiku and senryu. He began his reading with a translation of a poem by one of the jailed Pussy Riot members. Cork poet, Gerry Murphy, whose most recent volume is My Flirtation with International Socialism read his generally short, sometimes very funny poems.

John F. Deane and James Harpur read next, both reading material which dealt with religion and spirituality though in different ways and with different emphases. Putting these two together was a great piece of programming. Two excellent readers, James (above) took some time to talk about the personal photographs which were projected at the start of his talk.

Prizewinning Irish writer, Martina Evans, poet and novelist, read extracts from Petrol, her book-length prose poem, which was published by Anvil in September 2012. This was most impressive. She held the audience spellbound with her lively delivery of carefully crafted, very sharply observed material.

The evening finished with readings by accomplished American and Canadian poets both new to me. Carolyn Forché is an award-winning poet whose most recent collections include The Angel of History, Blue Hour and In the Lateness of the World.

Karen Solie is an associate director for the Banff Centre’s Writing Studio program. Her latest collection, Pigeon, won the Pat Lowther Award, the Trillium Poetry Prize, and the Griffin Poetry Prize. Their readings were polished, interesting, nice samples of their work which made me and many others go and buy their poetry books at the book stall in the foyer.

Good audiences, good attendances, a nice friendly atmosphere, a suitably intimate venue and meeting many old and new poetry friends made the evening a very enjoyable experience.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cork Spring Poetry Festival

Cork Spring Poetry Festival started on Wednesday and continues until Saturday night. It has a great mixture of events with a good selection of Irish and foreign poets reading. Full programme here.

Among the unusual events are the Cork Debutantes Reading: These are readings by four Cork poets who have all had début collections published in the last year: Paul Casey, author of home more or less; Kathy D'Arcy, author of The Wild Pupil; Afric McGlinchey, author of The Lucky Star of Hidden Things; and Mary Noonan, author of The Fado House. This was held on Wednesday.

Another similar event is the The Emerging Poets Reading on Saturday afternoon. This showcases five writers of talent who have yet to publish a full-length collection of poems, include Kate Dempsey, Cal Doyle, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Kerrie O'Brien, and Fiona Smith.

I'm attending the Saturday morning workshop/masterclass with award-winning American poet Carolyn Forché (above) whose most recent collections include The Angel of History, Blue Hour and In the Lateness of the World. I'm looking forward to this.

We each submitted a poem for discussion at the event. So do you submit your "best" poem - sensitive to what the other poets might think, or do you submit one you think needs improving advice? I chose the latter.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Poems and More . . .

Ash Wednesday followed by Valentine's Day seems a strange sequence worth writing about maybe.

Here's a link to a page with poems about love, Sylvia Plath's loves, a lesson plan for teachers about poetry and love and a few other relevant or irrelevant topics.

This week saw the fiftieth anniversary of Sylvia Plath's death. Her novel The Bell Jar has been republished and there has been a lot of adverse comment on the cover design of the latest edition. An article from the Guardian here. And one from the Telegraph here.

And if you need an antidote to Valentine's Day here are links to Anti-Love Poems from the Poetry Foundation. Described as "For breakups, heartache, and unrequited love. More 'screw Cupid' than 'Be mine.'"

Sylvia Plath's grave in Heptonstall, West Yorkshire, picture taken in 2007.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ashbourne Library - Discovering Ireland

Ashbourne Library, Co. Meath Author Event on Tuesday 12 February 7pm – 8pm.

Author Irene Lawlor will discuss her new book ‘Discovering Ireland’ and discuss the self publishing route she took with local printers and Amazon.

Ideal for those interested in getting tips on a book published. Call 01 8358185 or leave your name at the Library desk if you wish to attend.

The book is being launch in the  Teachers's Club, Parnell Square, Dublin on Valentines evening 14 February at 7pm "the perfect time to launch a romantic comedy".

Chocolates, prosecco and Shakespearian actors reading sonnets.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Boyne Writers AGM- Chairman's Address

This is an shortened version of our chairman, Paddy Smith's address to the Boyne Writers Group AGM on Thursday 7 February. A fuller version is on our website.

It’s been another year during which members continued to surprise and delight each other with a great variety of material. In some cases, members’ material was deemed good enough to be included in publications from near and far.

Some members distinguished themselves: Evan Costigan took the top award in a national poetry competition, the Francis Ledwidge, with his poem Boy at the Bus Stop. I think I’m correct in saying that Evan is only the second of our members to ever win a national poetry award.

I apologise once again for my absence from so many meetings over the last year. The core work of the group continued in my absence, I’m glad to say – though I remain to be convinced as to whether the standard of grammar and spelling in the group has risen at all during my absence.

I’m a self-appointed watchdog for such matters. And I do take on the task with gusto. I’m just that way inclined. I’ll be glad when this month is over because for the rest of the year I won’t have to listen to so many people on the radio and TV talking about Feb-yury. I have a very low tolerance for grammatic bloomers by people who should know better – people who say less buses or less words when they mean fewer buses or fewer words; or people who talk about a life of criminality when they mean a life of crime; or use the word simplistic when they mean simple. As you can see, I get irritated very easily, but I do enjoy my exasperation!

In this context, yesterday’s Irish Independent had a very timely supplement on The Written Word, and I got a few more sources of irritation there. Unnecessary words and phrases – ‘she greeted him with a smile on her face’ (as opposed to a smile on her shoulder?); ‘the company had a complete monopoly’ (as opposed to an incomplete monopoly?). And then there was the dangling participle; my favourite was this one: ‘with a huge front balcony, she hoped to sell the flat quickly’ (the poor woman must have been a sight with a huge front balcony!).

I do enjoy being a member of the Boyne Writers’ Group. Where would you go to invite criticism of something you have done and are nervously proud of? Where would you go to get the chance to comment on other people’s efforts and develop your critical abilities? Where would you go to meet a group of people who bare their souls in the pursuit of their hobby? I’ll tell you where: to a meeting of the Boyne Writers’ Group.

By coming to our meetings, we invite criticism of our work. We welcome criticism of our work. And not in the sense that Noel Coward meant it: “I love criticism just so long as it’s unqualified praise.” Criticism, as in the Oxford English Dictionary definition, is – “the analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work”. 

I’ll finish with some personal highlights of the year for me. A totally subjective choice.

Orla Fay’s night as the Guest Reader in the Boyne Readings and Open Mic: a record crowd of something like 26 people.

The buzz there was in the room at Michael Farry’s book launch. A great turnout, especially of people who wouldn’t normally be at one of our functions.

The night last autumn that the American Professor Gregory Castle launched Boyne Berries: a really lovely occasion.

And, finally, the sense of pride we all felt in the Battle of the Books last July when Michael Farry scored his perfect 10. We still didn’t win – but it was a very honourable loss.

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cork Spring Poetry Festival

The week-end after this sees the first big poetry festival of the year, the Cork Spring Poetry Festival, 13- 16 February.

The website has full details of the programme which includes readings and workshops, book launches and readings by "Cork debutants".

The winner of the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, Judith Barrington, will receive the prize and read from a selection of her poems and the Emerging Poets Reading showcases five writers of talent who have yet to publish a full-length collection of poems, Kate Dempsey, Cal Doyle, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Kerrie O'Brien, and Fiona Smith.

One of the nice things about these festivals is the opportunity to encounter poets one has not heard about before. Confirmed for Cork are Carolyn Forché, Tomaž Šalamun, Gwyneth Lewis, Eduardo C. Corral, Karen Solie, and Julian Talamantez Brolaski.

I have booked a place on the  Carolyn Forché workshop and am really looking forward to it. The Poetry Foundation says of her, "Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1950, poet, teacher and activist Carolyn Forché has witnessed, thought about, and put into poetry some of the most devastating events of twentieth-century world history."

In tribute to Dennis O’Driscoll who died recently, a new event has been added to the programme. On Friday, 15 February at 2.30pm a free public discussion, 'Dennis O'Driscoll Remembered', will be facilitated by Gerald Smyth, poet, journalist, with the participation of Peter Jay (Anvil Press) Joseph Woods (Poetry Ireland) and Patrick Cotter (Festival Director). Later that evening, after Martina Evans's reading (ticketed) at 8.30pm, a selection of Irish and international poets will read poems by O'Driscoll.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Spring Flowers

The first two days of February had a real feeling of spring about them. Time to go out into the garden and see what has survived the winter rain and storms and what, if anything, is brave enough to peep above the ground.

My hellebores, above, have done well, though they do look a bit bedraggled. They make a nice splash of white in the February garden. Some snowdrops of course as well.

Plenty of spring poetry available, too much probably. My favourite is Hopkins' Spring. That second line is so unexpected, we thought we were going to get daffodils but we get weeds instead, and "long and lovely and lush"!A reminder to get out and prevent the weeds from getting a headstart.

If you want daffodils you have plenty to choose from. I prefer Herrick to Wordsworth but only just. And there is always room for another daffodil poem. But it better be good. As is this one from 2005, "Daffodils" from No Heaven, by Alicia Suskin Ostriker. 

More about hellebores here and here.