Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Poems from Asking for Directions

Slovenj Gradec is a town in northern Slovenia. The parish church in the town is dedicated to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Next to it is a Gothic chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit with frescos dating to the mid-15th century. I visited the town as part of a European education conference in Austria some years ago before retirement. A fascinating place, there are two poems in Asking for Directions which resulted from the visit.


In the churches of Slovenj Gradec
while others admired and snapped
Baroque altar and metalwork,
fifteenth century fresco and
the shrine of Holy Elizabeth,
I knelt in the groove of thousands,
prayed for all from there to Belmullet.

At home in their foot paths,
only the language is foreign.

This is a much different Easter poem. Easter holidays was the time I usually cleaned out my shed.


Especially when cleaning out my shed
and dumping my sad, stockpiled, stores
I remember

your neat abandoned hoards – timbers,
nails, tools, assortments of essentials –

It has taken me a lifetime to discard
accumulations cached for indefinite

This Easter week I took a load of timber –
rough uprights and drilled cross pieces –
for recycling.

Each plank I flung detached a little
of you. My shed is spick and span now;
like an empty tomb.

from Asking for Directions, Michael Farry (Doghouse Books, 2012)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Anna Akhmatova in Mullingar

The Cathedral of Christ the King in Mullingar, County Westmeath with its twin towers and dome is an impressive building, a landmark to us who have travelled the main road from Sligo so often. I included the Cathedral's mosaic of St Patrick  here for the recent feast day.

The most famous mosaic in the Cathedral is the other one, in the chapel of Saint Anne, by the same artist, Boris Anrep (1883-1969).

He was a Russian born mosaic artist active in Britain, whose work may also be found in the National Gallery, London, Westminster Cathedral and the Bank of England.

In this Saint Anne mosaic, the name is spelled "Anna". The saint's image is also said to resemble the poet Anna Akhmatova (1889 – 1966) with whom Anrep had an affair during World War I. Many of the poems in Akhmatova's third collection, White Flock (1917) are dedicated to Boris.

He left Russia before the revolution while she remained on and survived great difficulties, official opposition and disfavour.

In “Ana Achmatova and Mullingar Connection”, broadcast on Sunday Miscellany, RTÉ 4th May 2008, the poet Joseph Woods told the story of the mosaics.

Top: The mosaic in Mullingar Cathedral.
Below: Portrait of Anna Akhmatova by Olga Della-Vos-Kardovskaya, 1914 (from Wikipedia)

The most recent collection of work, their fifth, by the very active Mullingar Scribblers writers group, led by Grace Brennan, has a poem by Phil Tierney on the subject of the mosaic, including the following stanzas:

Separated by space and time
The poet wrote of love 
Of the soldier, of life and God.
No love letters, just memories.

Silenced by the hammer of Russia
Poured all into her Requiem.
The soldier surrendered his sword
To work in pictures made in stone.

Invited to adorn our cathedral
A picture in stone and glass.
Anna standing proudly presents 
Her child to the Priests.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Imagination and Place: Cartography - I'm Included

I'm delighted to have a series of five poems included in an anthology just published in the USA by Imagination and Place Inc.entitled Imagination and Place: Cartography 

The mission of Imagination and Place, Inc. is to consider ideas related to human imagination and concepts of place. The mission is realized through public exhibitions, lectures, conferences, seminars, special events, online offerings, and producing publications as Imagination and Place Press.
They publish a series of anthologies, edited by writer Kelly Barth, the first of which, Imagination and Place: An Anthology, appeared in 2009. Since then the series has continued with Ownership (Feb. 2010); Seasonings (Dec. 2010) and Weather (Mar. 2012). The key in all these publications is the linking of place and imagination.

A poet friend passed on their call for submissions of poetry and prose dealing with maps and mapping for a volume, Imagination and Place: Cartography and I was lucky enough to have my poems accepted and included. The anthology has just been published.

My poems deal with the Coolaney area along the southern slopes of the Ox Mountains. Another friend gave me a present of a turn of the sheet of the one inch Ordnance Survey map covering that area so the series of poems is entitled Ordnance Survey Sheet 54.

Five poems of the series have been included each named after a townland. There are poems about my father, about Kate Thompson, a landlord's wife who tried to help the starving of the area during the famine, about Tullaghan holy well, the house where I was born and the village of Coolaney.

This is my first American publication and I'm thrilled to be included.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Boyne Berries 13 Launched

Boyne Berries launches are special. What makes them so is the mixture of local and national writers who attend, read and chat afterwards. Last night's launch of issue 13 was no exception. Writers came from Cork, Galway, Dublin, Westmeath, Kildare and Meath.

Caroline Carey Finn welcomed everyone and Frank Murphy of the Meath Writers Circle officially launched the issue. He complimented the Boyne Writers Group on their work on the magazine and said he was delighted that this issue contained a poetic tribute to the late Tommy Murray, poet and leader of the Writers Circle.

The contributors' readings of prose and poetry, which were all very well received, were a good mixture of the happy and the sad, the serious and the light hearted.

The evening ended with Caroline Carey Finn presenting Frank Murphy  with a framed copy of the cover image by Greg Hastings. (Picture above)

Some of those who came a distance were staying in the Castle Arch Hotel where the launch took place so there was a late discussion in the lounge on poetry, prose, prose poems, flash fiction and similar vital topics.

Frank Murphy's blog has an account of the evening.

Copies can be purchased on the Boyne Writers website or email

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Launch of Boyne Berries 13

To Tommy Murray in Heaven is the title of the first poem in the latest issue of Boyne Berries. This poem is by well-known poet, Tom French, who knew the late Tommy Murray well through his work with young writers in Navan Library.

Tommy’s work was featured in many issues of the magazine and he wrote a foreword to the first issue so it is fitting that he be remembered thus. 

The magazine, which is published by Boyne Writers Group, Trim, will be launched on this Thursday 21 March at 8pm in the Castle Arch Hotel, Trim.

Well-known local writer and member of the Meath Writers Circle, Frank Murphy, will officially launch the magazine. Frank has been a good friend of the Boyne Writers Group over the years as well as being a worthy opponent in the annual Battle of the Books at the Trim Swift Festival.

The sixty or so pages of this issue contain a wealth of prose and poetry on a wide variety of topics. A quick glance at the titles gives a flavour of the contents: The Dark Upstream, Maybe Paris, The Big Freeze, The Trouble with Knitting, The Personal Perils of Appreciating Bob Dylan’s Art, The Inextinguishable Symphony, The Talking Bench, Shy and his Harley-D.   

Local writers are well represented. A feature of this issue is the number of poems which have local Meath references. Kenneth Keating’s poem Navan is a very clever palindromic poem reflecting the town’s name. Anne Crinion, a painter and photographer as well as a writer, has two short illustrated poems on Newgrange and Knowth. Pearse Murray, in his Village Square at Slane, talks about Francis Ledwidge and Elaine Martin writes of a journey from Maynooth to Killyon. John Ennis’ poem on Joe Dolan starts “You filled each dance hall with the South Seas”.   

The stories included deal with lost dreams of foreign place, Paris and America, sailing up the Amazon, tragic deaths, WWF wrestling and the delights of train travel. Quite a variety there.    

The cover illustration of a window in a derelict house is provided by Greg Hastings whose distinctive cover images have been a feature of the magazine since the beginning.

Many of the contributors will attend and read their work at the launch. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Boyne Berries 13 costs €8 but will be on sale at a reduced price at the launch. It will also be available in Antonia’s Bookshop, and in SPAR, Trim.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Labour and the Irish Revolution: Sligo Talk

I'm giving a talk entitled The Irish Revolution and the Labour movement in Sligo 1912-1923 in the Hyde Room in the Glasshouse Hotel, Hyde Bridge, Sligo at 8pm on this Wednesday 20 March.

The lecture is being held under the auspices of United Left – People First and Cllr Declan Bree of People First will preside at the event. All welcome.

I'm nervous about this one, not easy to fit a coherent account of this difficult topic into 45-60 mins. I'm not a "labour historian" and my talk will be a general account of how the labour movement, Trades Council and trade unions, in Sligo operated during 1912 - 1923. It is a fascinating period and Sligo is particularly interesting because of the relative strength of labour there. The large minority of non-Catholics there also made a difference.

At the launch of my recent book in Sligo I said that the volume should be seen as the beginning of more intensive study of Sligo in that period. There is so much more to be researched and written on. This especially applies to the labour movement in Sligo and I hope that my talk will encourage some of the younger Sligo historians to undertake such research.

Mention of the talk here and here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Over the Edge - Skylight 47

The Over the Edge showcase event for Skylight 47 magazine/newspaper (it's sort of both) was a great success. Lots of the contributors attended and read their poems. I read my Conversation again. It's a suitable poem for reading aloud, simple and direct with a gentle punch in the end. 

I enjoyed the variety and the chat. I also met two contributors to the latest Boyne Berries and gave them their copies. The venue, the Kitchen in Galway Museum, was full. Nice to be able to have a coffee before the reading.

The format was Skylight readers, featured reader Galway poet Kevin Higgins, a short break, more Skylight readers, then Dublin poet Tony Curtis. Kevin Higgins was introduced as the "Sultan of Satire" and he lived up to the billing. He read new poems on the current austerity, on the table on which everything must be on, some modest money-saving proposals and a poem containing his directions for his own funeral which included a "get the coffin sponsored" request.

Tony Curtis was great. His introductions were long, interesting and amusing. He ranged from the USA, Dundrum Shopping Centre and the nearby Central Mental Hospital to Heptonstall and Sylvia Plath's grave. He read one of his poems for children, P is for Poetry, from his recent An Elephant called Rex collection. His The Skagit Valley Beekeeper went down very well. 

Skylight 47 is still open for submissions for its second issue.

Photo: Kevin Higgins reading at the event. More pics, including one of me, on their Facebook page.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

From the Poetry Foundation website:  

Some poems to help you mark St. Patrick’s Day. Transport yourself to the homeland with a classic by Yeats, such as “Down By the Sally Gardens” or a Celtic revival poem by Eva Gore-Booth. Follow up with contemporary Irish verse, “Game Night,” by Conor O’Callaghan. If you’re celebrating with spirits, you might down another one by Yeats, “Drinking Song,” or try a shot of Hayden Carruth’s “Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey.” But don’t forget to come back in the morning for your penance: “Sober Song,” by Barton Sutter might help dry you out.

I'm delighted to see Eva Gore-Booth in there. The Little Waves of Breffni was in many of the school books of the fifties.

The picture from Wikipedia is a mosaic of St. Patrick in The Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Westmeath. It is the work of the Russian born mosaic artist, Boris Anrep, and represents the saint lighting the Paschal fire on the mount of Slane. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Skylight 47 at Over The Edge, Galway

The March Over The Edge Writers’ Gathering is a showcase reading for Skylight 47, probably Ireland’s most interesting poetry publication, with special guests Tony Curtis and Kevin Higgins.

All contributors to the first issue of Skylight 47 are invited to come along and read their poem from the magazine. The event will take place at The Kitchen @ The Museum, Spanish Arch, Galway on tomorrow Friday, 15 March, 8pm. All are welcome. There is no cover charge. Skylight 47 is generously sponsored by Food 4 Thought & Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop.

I hope to attend and read my poem. I'm looking forward to hearing the two special guests. We have published Kevin Higgins a couple of times in Boyne Berries and he launched our special 10th issue in Galway.

I met Tony Curtis in Dromineer a few years ago, heard him read and attended a great workshop he facilitated.  A real gentleman.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Art and Poetry in Longford

This sounds great. An Art Exhibition by Elena Duff and James Brady with poetry readings by Honor Duff, Heather Brett and Valerie Masters in Longford tomorrow Wednesday 13 March at 7pm.

The art is very impressive, we saw the work of both artists in the most recent Windows anthology and we included a great image by Elena in our Boyne Berries 10. And three great poets as well including LitLab member Honor Duff.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Siarscéal Festival - Saturday

A most enjoyable day at the Siarscéal Festival in Roscommon town on yesterday Saturday. A busy programmes which started at 10 in the morning.

The official opening was leisurely and relaxed with great speeches from Dinny McGinley, Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. He wandered from his script to talk of heritage, poetry, rural Ireland, the Gathering, the Irish language in a friendly, inclusive way which was more a chat with friends than a speech.

He was followed by Loyola Hearn, the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, who proved to be one of the stars of the event. Though a relatively recent appointment he showed a wide knowledge of and interest in Ireland and things Irish. He is from Newfoundland and so has a strong Irish background. He finished his talk by reading a poem he had written about Patrick Kavanagh. Impressive!

The Mayor of Roscommon had a difficult task following these two to officially launch the festival and he did a fine job wisely keeping to his script.

Pupils from the Abbey NS, Roscommon entertained the large attendance by reading their poems on the topic of the Gathering, playing music and dancing.

The adjudicators, Eleanor McGrath for the senior categories and Ann Joyce for the juniors, talked about the process of selecting the prizewinners from the many entries. The winners were announced and the judges commented on the winning prose and poetry. The trophies and certificates were presented and those of the winners who were present read their pieces.

I was a bit anxious about reading my poem. It was, as the rules required, on the general theme of the Gathering, homecoming, but is quite dark. The adjudicator said it was "a difficult poem" which she read and put aside a number of times before finally awarding it the prize. When I read it at the Boyne Writers meeting most thought I should have left out the word "vomit"!

Anyway I read it as best I could and the audience listened very attentively. I was delighted.

In the afternoon I attended the workshop and open mic event conducted by Ann Joyce with some input from Eleanor McGrath.

Poet Ann Joyce is a native of Mayo but lives in Sligo. Her poetry collection Watching for Signs was published by Dedalus Press 2005. Eleanor McGrath is a Canadian writer and film maker. Her book  A Story to be Told: The Irish Immigrant Experience in Canada was published by Liffey Press. She has made two films, Kanata: An Irish Story and Alive from the Divis Flats.

A very interesting couple of hours with a nice mixture of published poets and beginners. Some great advice from Eleanor, don't be shy about your work, don't start a reading by apologising, enter competitions, send out your work, work hard.

Ann gave us three words as a writing start.and afterwards we read our first drafts. The three small words took us on all kinds of different journeys to all kinds of different places. Those who began their reading by apologising were shouted down!

Like most of these festivals this was a most enjoyable event, friendly, well-organised and relaxed. I met some old friends and made some new

Top Picture: The dignatories and organisers. Bottom row left to right. Eleanor McGrath, Minister Dinny McGinley, the Mayor of Roscommon Cllr Tom Crosby, Canadian Ambassador Loyola Hearn and his wife Maureen.

Bottom Picture: Adjudicator Eleanor McGrath and myself with my precious trophy.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Doghouse Haiku Anthology on Shortlist

Well done to Doghouse Books and to Anatoly Kudryavitsky on being shortlisted for this haiku book award. Bamboo Dreams is the first Irish anthology of haiku.

This is the shortlist for the Touchstone Distinguished Book Awards 2012

 Addiss, Stephen, The Art of Haiku, Shambhala
 Boldman, Robert, Everything I Touch, Red Moon Press
 Virgilio, Nick (ed. de Gruttola), Nick Virgilio: A Life in Haiku, Turtle Light Press
 Gurga, Lee and Metz, Scott, Haiku 21, Modern Haiku Press
 Hall, Carolyn, The Doors All Unlocked, Red Moon Press
 Hotham, Gary, Nothing More Happens in the 20th Century, Pecan Grove Press
 Jones, Ken, Bog Cotton, Alba Publishing
 Kudryavitsky, Anatoly, Bamboo Dreams, Doghouse Books
 Lanoue, David, Frog Poet, Red Moon Press
 Machmiller, Patricia J., Bending Reeds [Yuki Teikei Members’ Anthology], Patsons Press
 Martone, John, A Life in Fall, Samuddo/Ocean
 Martone, John, Microscope Field, Samuddo/Ocean
 Martone, John, Skeleton Key, Samuddo/Ocean
 Metz, Scott, Lakes & Now Wolves, Modern Haiku Press
 Tohta, Kaneko, Selected Haiku: Parts 1 & 2, Red Moon Press

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sligo: The Irish Revolution 1912-1923: Reviews

Some mentions of Sligo: The Irish Revolution 1912-1923 in well respected journals.

The March issue of Books Ireland has a review by Barry McLoughlin, just over half a page: Michael Farry's study is admirably sourced, a balanced and sober assessment of revolutionary politics and violence in his native county. That's nice! And true!

History Ireland's March/April issue features the book in its Bookworm section which gives short notices of recently published books. Mine is first in the list, one paragraph with a picture of the cover. It mentions this being the first in a series on the Irish counties and says: if this is anything to go by, this will be an elegant, comprehensive and well-produced series. History Ireland on Facebook.

This issue also attacks aspects of Michael McDowell's A Lost Son RTE programme, in which I made a brief appearance, demonstrating that the events of those years can still cause division and controversy. The criticism has been picked up by a Sligo news website.

Poetry is much safer! Off to Roscommon tomorrow, Saturday, to the Siarscéal Festival to read my poem and collect the prize. News report on this from the Roscommon Herald.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize Winners

The winners of the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize have been announced. I am not among them. The names are on the website and their poems appear in the current issue of The Moth, alongside an interview with Paul Muldoon and poems by Rachael Boast and Matthew Welton, among other things.

The competition was judged by Leontia Flynn, winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and a Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

The three winning poets will be attending a special event at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday 30 March to celebrate.

Details of the next competition will be launched in June 2013.       

The closing date for the Moth Short Story Prize is 31 March 2013. The 1st prize is €1,000 and the 2nd prize is a week-long writing retreat at Circle of Misse in France. Entry is €8 per story, and there's no word limit. You can download an entry form or enter online.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Winner - Hanna Greally Literary Award!

"Congratulations Michael, you are the Overall National Poetry prize winner in the Hanna Greally Literary Award. Your winning poem is: The Trip West."

It's nice to get an email like that. I was delighted. The poem was written about six months ago, was originally twice as long but I cut it down to 59 lines to meet the length specifications for the competition.

The poem is, as the title says, about a trip west with reflections on leaving the west, returning for events such as baptisms and funerals and includes a swipe at Celtic Tiger excess.

I like it and I'm thrilled that adjudicator, Canadian Author/Film Director Eleanor McGrath, chose it as the winner.

This competition is part of the annual  Siarscéal Festival in Roscommon town. This takes place next weekend and the full programme is on the website.

The prize will be presented at the Siarsceal Formal Launch at Roscommon County Library at 10am on Saturday next, 9 March.

There is a Canadian theme to the festival with the keynote address being given by the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency, Loyola Hearn. There is also a Canadian/Irish Collaborative Concert and a screening of  a film, Kanata An Irish Story with Canadian film producer/author Eleanor McGrath, the competition adjudicator.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Spring in the Garden

The crocuses are putting on a show, including the ones naturalised in the lawn, even though there still are gaps. 

Under the tree where I cleared away the wild patch of briar and nettles daffodils, snowdrops, hellebores and even wallflowers are in bloom.