Friday, August 30, 2019

The Caiplie Caves by Karen Solie

What I'm reading at the moment - The Caiplie Caves by Karen Solie (Picador)
In her fifth collection, Canadian poet Karen Solie uses as a theme the Caiplie Caves on the shore of the Firth of Forth in Scotland. In poems which flit between modern times and her exploration of the area and the chaos between the fall of Rome and the emergence of modern Europe, she contemplates life, grief, confusion, faith, among the realities of war and power.

The poems are written in Solie’s own voice and also in the voice of St Ethernan, the seventh-century Irish missionary to Scotland who retreated to these caves to decide whether to establish a priory on nearby May Island or pursue a life of solitude, a choice between the active and the contemplative life.

One of the many attractions and delights of the collection is the use it makes of found material, early and modern Christian texts, natural history books, Hegel, St Augustine, Barthes, even The Invertebrate Fauna of the Firth of Forth, 1881, by George Leslie and William A Herdman.

This makes for a glorious mix of language and tone, with a refreshing breadth of vision and reference. I saw Karen Solie read at the Cork International Poetry Festival a couple of years ago and was impressed.

from The Desert Fathers

With or without a bindle of crystal meth,
they made their anchorage in Egypt’s
Wadi El Natrun, or the dismantled
Marine Corps training base of Slab City, California,
hard skills in transition, taking losses
and burning, if not with a sensible fire,
in the pride of specialized knowledge.
Snakeman relocates the red diamond rattlesnake
and northern Mojave rattlesnake
from residents’ trailers to his own to live
alongside him with the scorpions and guard dogs;
it’s tough to have riches and not love them.
St. Anthony sold his land, gave the money to
the poor, yet in his Outer Mountain sanctuary cried
I desire peace, but these bad thoughts
will not leave me.

It’s interesting to compare a version of this poem published online in The Walrus with the version published in the book – lots of changes in line breaks and some deletions.

I’m particularly interested in her use of found material because my next collection, to be published 2020 I hope will contain a number of “found” poems. It can be difficult to know exactly how to attribute various borrowings. Solie does this by the inclusion of comprehensive “Notes” at the back of the book. It seems to works well and doesn’t break the flow of the text but I did find myself checking now and then to see if a line or stanza were borrowed and from where.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

August At The Edge Cavan

At the Edge is a regular reading series organised by Kate Ennals with assistance from Cavan Arts Office. It is held in Cavan Library on Tuesday evenings at 6.30. 

It has build up a dedicated and knowledable audience many of whom also participate in the Open Mic which follows the readings.
There are usually two or three featured readers, well-know poets or prose writers, and the list of those who have read there is impressive.
Last evening, 27 August the new season started with a well-attended and most enjoyable event featuring four writers. Kate Ennals, the organiser, introduced the readers as "neighbours" coming as they did from neighbouring counties.
The writers were Glen Wilson, Jackie Gorman, Anthony J Quinn and Jessamine O’Connor, poets apart from crime writer Anthony who confessed to really wanting to be a poet. His crime writing does have a lyrical touch about it, in spite of the dark deeds he narrates.
The poetry was great, as was the delivery and the audience really appreciated the variety of subject matter and tone. Well done to all concerned!

Keep an eye on Kate Ennals Facebook page for details of the next reading.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Belfast City Hall - Windows

My first visit to Belfast City Hall last Friday was eyeopening. I was very impressed by the stained glass windows, a wide range of themes and styles.

The centenary window was unveiled in 2006 to celebrate the many successes and achievements witnessed by City Hall during the previous 100 years.

"Included in the window are Titanic and the Harland and Wolff cranes . . . Achievements in the fields of sport, music and literature are also represented and the City Hall mural is represented by the John Luke inspired landscape in which we see a Massey Ferguson tractor and an ‘Electric Hare’ invented by James McKee of OD Cars Ltd. The multicoloured tree reflects the many different traditions and cultures found within Belfast."

More on the windows on the official site.

Designed by Ann Smyth, the window was fabricated and installed by CWS Design in collaboration of Karl Harron. The window was unveiled in 2006.

I was most interested to see the writers honoured in the window, detail below. I love the way Sinead Morrissey and Nick Laird are squeezed in at the end of the shelf!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Corran Herald 2019 - The Philosophy of Pat Gallagher

The Ballymote Heritage Weekend saw the launch of issue 52 the annual journal, The Corran Herald" published by the group. This, in over 90 pages, contains academic articles, popular history, photographs, poems and stories.

This journal has been published since 1985 and the group's website has copies of all the issues, except the most recent. There is a wealth of history in these pages.

This year I contributed a poem called "The Philosophy of Pat Gallagher". Pat, pictured here, was my great grandfather and was secretary of the local branch of the United Irish League from 1901 until 1915. He contributed short report on club meetings regularly to the Sligo Champion. I took pieces from these reports and created a "found" poem from them.

I don't know if it works as a poem but it does give a flavour of the rhetoric of the times. Brief extract below.

"Each man must pledge himself to do a man’s part.
The people must be prepared for any sacrifice, even
life, any time their privileges and liberties are
  being tampered with.

Any member absenting himself without a satisfactory
explanation will be struck off and a new member put in his place.
We will not readily let down a man who is a consistent
  Nationalist, and his father before him.

He was a loving son and a faithful comrade, as was
shown on last Sunday when sixty-four young
men wearing white sashes carried his remains
to the grave"

The Corran Herald is on sale in shops in Ballymote and in bookshops in Sligo town.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Ballymote Heritage Weekend

I was delighted to be asked to give a talk at Ballymote Heritage weekend on the August Bank Holiday Monday. My talk on Sligo, especially South Sligo, in 1919 was very well attended and indications were that the audience enjoyed it.

Many people there were related to persons I mentioned in the talk and had information to add to what I knew. This list of contributions to the Dáil Loan published in the Sligo Champion in 1919 before the loan was declared illegal caused an amount of interest.

This was the 30th such weekend organized by the Ballymote Heritage Group and was as successful as all the others.

The weekend also saw the launch of the annual journal published by the group, "The Corran Herald". This, in over 90 pages, contains academic articles, popular history, photographs, poems and stories.

This journal has been published since 1985 and the group's website has copies of all the issues, except the most recent. There is a wealth of history in these pages.

The Corran Herald is on sale in shops in Ballymote and in bookshops in Sligo town.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Dogs of Humanity - Colin Dardis

Colin Dardis' latest publication, the chapbook The Dogs of Humanity has just been published by Fly on the Wall Press. The Belfast launch takes place this evening, 8 August, as part of Eastside Arts Festival, in the Eastside Visitors Centre, 402 Newtownards Road, Belfast.

This is an impressive collection for which I was delighted to write a review and provide a short note for the back cover: The voice in these poems is insightful, urgent but compassionate making the collection an enjoyable but unsettling read, with its call for perception, for engagement with the realities of the human condition and the lost souls of the early twentieth first century. - Michael Farry

My full review can be read here on Neon Books.

You can order The Dogs of Humanity online here - print | kindle

The cover is a detail from Brueghel's Studies of Dogs (c.1616).