Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Memory of Ireland Past

Since Christmas brings us back to family,loved ones and our memories of those who are gone, I thought I'd post this memory. It was another time, the mid-sixties.(from "Sunfire")

Visiting the Corsetmaker.

Miss Gately, you know, the corsetmaker; her cottage thatched and whitewashed beneath sycamores ragged with crows and their bickering.

A Sunday afternoon, my mother walking to the red door and it opened and closed and nothing else stirring for ages but ourselves in the back of the white consul with the red roof at the end of the avenue, just outside the gate;stone walls and lichen patches wallpapering our afternoon.Father dropping off in the driver’s seat while Micheal O'Hehir commentated on matches, one after another, without ever taking a breath in all that pipe smoke; matches collecting in the ash-tray all burnt to tiny black bird bones and the condensation all used up with words and faces dribbling pathetically into shapeless bad temper. Over and over: will she ever come out, can’t we go now,why do we always have to come, move your legs; till eventually she would reappear, a slap in the doorway, motor jauntily, red-headed,back to the car like it’s been five minutes or something, and Dad’s awake, reversing from the gate, back into the remains of a Sunday afternoon.

And I never knew what went on in there; never saw who opened the door,never saw a package, never heard anything about it. My father didn’t know either. I remember she took my sister with her when my sister was in secondary school;I wouldn’t have wanted to join them anyway,it was obviously a woman’s house.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen Failure

Calculations show that the average Chinese person uses, more or less, the sustainable level of environmental resources for the maintenance of the world’s current population size; the average European uses double what’s sustainable and the typical American uses a whooping four times this.(from the BBC).

Obviously our western lifestyle is highly destructive to the planet. Our championing of human rights does not extend to our grandchildren. The damage continues, and our leaders have left Copenhagen without a treaty.

I read Obama has suggested a $10 billion per annum package for climate change when there's a $700 billion defence budget.What environmental damage is wrought by bombs and warfare, not to mention chasing fictitious weapons of mass destruction.Basic ecology teaches us that a human footstep affects the balance in a habitat.


A fish is dreaming,
elbow deep.

With my fingertip
I draw a herring-bone
across his heaven;
he bolts.

Now the lake dreams,
empty like a canyon.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sure Sight

The following, a love poem from "Turn Your Head"

Sure Sight

I see
your face

a desolate
your irises

the wash
of slivered
your smile

I know of
less trodden

I contract
to be
an explorer
in that universe.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Mullingar Scribblers "

In passing, I visited the Scribblers' regular Monday night session in the Annebrook Hotel recently and was greatly impressed by the work they do. They have just launched a new collection of their writings "Mullingar Scribblers, Poems and Stories Volume 4".

If you are interested in writing in the Mullingar area, they are definitely worth seeking out.


Poetree. No, not poor spelling but a sculpture of a bronze tree with letters for leaves graces the cover of SHOp 31, a poetry magazine that exemplifies the best in poetry publication standards in this country. Don’t just take it from me:

'First class goods, beautifully presented. Congratulations from this confirmed SHOp-lifter.'
Seamus Heaney

'Unquestionably the most beautiful poetry magazine now in existence.'
Bemard O'Donoghue

But it’s hard times for such publications. Grants have been cut back, “and we are warned that the situation is likely to be worse in 2010” says the editor of the SHOp.

So here’s my blog, resuscitated to suggest that if you love poetry and if you want something with a bit style and imagination to put in a Christmas stocking, SHOp 31 is just out,(and it's just one of many hard-pressed poetry magazines). It’s beautiful, it's worthy and it’s good value.

(Poetree was sculpted by David McGlynn)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brian Henderson

This short film on Brian Henderson directed by Shane Dignam was posted on YouTube. Brian Henderson is an Irish artist who made a name for himself very early in his career. A member of Aosdana, he spent a number of years in New York and became very familiar with the art and music scenes there. These have influenced him.
His work reflects his open-mindedness: abstract, he works free-form, very much following his own lights.

Though now back in his home town Dublin, I suspect his escape from Ireland helped to free him from the limitations of the smaller scene that existed here in the seventies and eighties. His current exhibition continues in the Taylor Galleries on Kildare Street till Sept 19th.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

17 syllables

and that's where the similarity with haiku ends, written on a bad day:

Heart, empty hangar
but for a step-ladder
and a bucket of oil.


Tranlations from 3 Japanese masters. Love the delicacy.

No sky
no earth - but still
snowflakes fall (Hashin)

Come out to view
the truth of flowers blooming
in poverty (Basho)

Walking on dishes
the rat’s feet makes the music
of shivering cold (Buson)

More at http://www.geocities.com/alanchng1978/basho.html

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Heights of Passion

It’s a long time since I read Wuthering Heights. The recent ITV mini-series was excellent, it portrayed the passion between Heathcliff and Cathy about as well as I think it could be done.

The obsession and violence, violence to gentleness, love. I think passion comes straight from our spiritual selves, that slew of forces we normally skate above, unleashed. And so I think the psychic connection between the two is a phenomenon that does exist. I also think the violence that one would expect should be abhorrent is an essential part of the experience. Having freed the beast that is passion, both see it as part of what is their shared and very naked entwinement of a life, and very much part of how they can feel what they share. Intense shows of affection and loving become very close to violence. To be less is not to be experiencing life at all. (Well that’s my stand on the matter.)

What’s interesting is that Emily Bronte had such a handle on it. But she had a short life, 1818–1848, which never got old enough to be a tired life or a cynical one. She had the isolation to free up her imagination, the environment to be acquainted with people and nature that were far from tamed, the experience of her older brother’s lack of discipline and his dying, a father who encouraged their imaginations and left them to their own devices. And if they were away from the hurly-burly of city life maybe it was a case of still waters run deep.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

All-Ireland Poetry Day 2009

1st October. Poetry events all over the country. For a county by county guide go to http://www.poetryireland.ie/poetryday/

I would like to think that this day would be used to tap into a new audience for poetry, hopefully it will. Certainly many fine poets are on the road, Ciaran Carson, Peter Fallon, Vona Groarke, Francis Harvey, Theo Dorgan, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill; too many to name. And there are readings at times that may attract a different clientele. It would be nice to see evening readings in those areas where the current listings are for working hours. I myself would have liked to get to something in the Dublin/Kildare area but the times don’t suit.

And it would be nice to see more readings by established poets alternating with open mike sessions; to give all enthusiasts (and their families and friends)a day out. In this regard I like Leitrim’s offering which takes place in The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon: Dermot Healy earlier on, later in the day there's local poets and music, and that's a attractive mix.Kildare's Q&A for 2nd level schools is a nice touch, (I've always believed the greatest potential for growing a poetry audience is in 2nd level schools), and Galway’s poetry competition with theme 'EYRE SQUARE' for the residents of the county hits the point of the day squarely.

That bit extra – you can’t beat the West !

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wearing Masks

Masks are so often associated with fun; a carnival performer wears a mask, but so does the burglar, the salesman, teacher, etc....... Recognizing and understanding masks is essential for survival. This from Felos ainda serra

Everyone imagines him friendly
because his mask has that huge smile;
that wide, bright, unflinching smile.

He moves close into my face;
alone with this cardboard fiction
I feel him watching through his spy-holes.

I do not like masks, the smiling ones least;
he smells my unease;
I see that it is not a smile.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Angry Ex-capitalist

A friend and I used to argue the merits of capitalism/socialism, he being very much in favour of the former. He shot upwards quickly, but at a point in this rise (well into management) found himself not quite at home with the mindset and his career went into reverse. I never said I told you so and, of course, I could never tell him the following poem was about him.

Mind you, people have a very bad memory when it comes to hiccups in their political thinking.A communist I know completely dis-remembered that he had justified Stalin's violent methods after the Soviet system collapsed; and those that trumpeted the victory of capitalism at that time, have been very silent about the current breakdown in their runaway capitalism system.C'est la vie!

This poem was in my second collection "Turn Your Head"


Among the blocks of the establishment;
a flawless rise bolted your trust;

success was cement,
all loose notions were pebble-dashed.

Now you revise:
the establishment, its self-righteous system:

how many bodies like you
have fallen from the sides to point the pyramid ?

And how many times did you skate over principles,
that I remember, you once held dearly?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Yes, 1971

Still one of my favourite albums, The Yes Album, from 1971. Still sounds fresh, from the soaring exciting opening of "Your's is no Disgrace" through "The Clap" (I love the way they go into it) and then onto this, "Starship Trooper".

Magnificent musicians.I prefer this album to their others. If you don't know them, have a listen on YouTube with volume up high; I think it's among the best from that time.(t'was my grandparents put me onto to them, by the way ;)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cycling in Alsace

In nicer to be in the view rather than looking it. It surprised a number of people here that we didn't rent a car, but that's what happens; you drive from beautiful town to beautiful town, passing all the time more beautiful countryside. So when we heard there were mountain bikes, Catherine and I decided: no car. In the event we have been brought to some of the more alluring 'car' destinations by our very kind and friendly neighbours here in Rosheim, not far from Strasbourg.

The countryside is charming; my abiding impression will be of red-roofed villages scattered across a quilt-work of green and yellow fields beneath the dark-wooded Vosges mountains. But I am so impressed by the freedom to roam among the corn and vine fields along the thousands of miles of chemins that are a lacework on this part of France.

How nice this would be in Ireland where many people have given up cycling, driven off the roads by speeding cars. Frankly it's time, now that so much of the population is urbanised, that country rights of way were identified and put into service for this purpose.

Anyway, that said, Alsace has impressed me; I'm trying out the white wines with enthusiasm, enjoying the Tart Flambees and warmth, sweet sunshine.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ownership of Your Work

I have been wondering what degree of control poets (writers) will have on the use of their work on the internet under the Google Book Settlement; it's something I still have to look into. In the meantime I found a site of translations of poets' works, particularly Spanish poets, and there in the middle was a translation of one of my own.Chuffed and all as I was to be included, surely it's only reasonable to consult authors; surely that level of understanding can exist at least between lovers of poetry.

Anyway this is the poem under copyright to myself and the Dedalus Press; it was in "Sunfire"

The baby in the tree

The baby in the tree
is screaming.

High above the pathway
near the black tips
of the sycamore branches
he is gaping,
white membraned luminous.

How did he get there?

He blew there in the wind;
it took him
like a flag from his cot
till he was stretched
across the boughs
like the wings of a bat.

And who sees him?

I do;
all his hopeless writhing,
too high for the passerby.
And his screams:
too high,
too high for the passerby.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Book Launching - Full Details

Keep the afternoon of Sunday 23rd August free for a visit to the Botanic Gardens. After a few hours exploring, dawdling and drinking in sunshine come to the Lecture Theatre in the Visitors’ Centre for music by well known flautist and harpist, Ellen Cranitch and Geraldine O’Doherty respectively,(apart from her work as musician, Ellen will be familiar to many as presenter of “Grace Notes” on Lyric FM); introduction by myself and poetry reading from her new collection by Mary Melvin Geoghegan. The collection is called “When They Come Home” and is published by Summer Palace Press.

The event begins at 3.30pm, is free and is a perfect way to cap a perfect Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


There are a small number of songs that I get a longing to hear now and then. The reasons: to sharpen a memory, or feel again what it was like in a particular place or to be with a particular person, or to remember a love. Sometimes they stir feelings that help in writing, evoke a sadness or a particular time, maybe they are just beautiful.

I would include among these, “The First Time Ever I saw Your Face” (Roberta Flack), “America” (Simon and Garfunkel); I think I’ll stop, I’m beginning to notice that there’s a time element here I didn’t want to get into.

Anyway tonight, travelling back to Dublin through counties Fermanagh and Cavan, all silhouettes and quiet, and lit by a full moon at midnight; I felt like listening to Caetano Veloso’s “Cucurrucucu Paloma”. It is a treasure you unwrap very very seldom, something precious, you savor it, then put it safely away.

If you don't know it already, do yourself a favour and watch this YouTube video:

And for good measure you can see Roberta Flack at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Knh9pV4EB3k Lovely.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Google Book Settlement

It’s an unexpected turn of events to find myself considering whether I will opt into Google’s Book Settlement or not. The settlement, which I expect will affect two of my collections, requires study. It does, however, seem strange that the onus is on me (and my publishers) to opt out of a settlement which involves my own books.

The issue arises directly from the impact of computer technology on the use of printed work in books and it has ramifications that are probably not yet understood by most; most importantly by most authors. I, for one, don’t know the arguments pro and con, and doubt the deadline for deciding on my position allows me enough time to study it adequately.

So it looks as though the coming weeks will see publishers in particular gathering the relevant information in order to advise themselves and their authors on how to proceed. The consequences might well be among the most far-reaching for the business of writers and publishers ever.

Google have information online at http://www.googlebooksettlement.com/

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Child's Heaven

Boyhood. We spent countless summer hours catching minnows. They were the most happy, carefree times of my life. Maybe that’s why work doesn’t do it for me; empty hours filled with the heat of the sun and the buzzing of bumble bees in a field of buttercups and a sparkling stream running through it: that’s my idea of heaven.

Then and Now

Light cavorting on the stream,
choruses of flies on dung,
the flush green of Roscommon fields.

Whole afternoons I would spend
watching minnows dart
beneath those smidereens of sunlight.

Larder to larder, cold flowing weed,
combed fresh opulence.
No trickery in a jam jar; dull brown they died.

This morning sitting in Dublin;
smidereens of sunlight played on the ceiling
and I remembered this.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Way To Go

In Co. Donegal there seems to be more energy when it comes to organising arts and cultural events than anywhere else in Ireland. This year’s Earagail Arts Festival ended on July 19th after two weeks of a tremendous and very varied programme of events. What a sense of vigour this festival brings to the area. Venues scattered across the northern half of the county, from Tory to Ballybofey, Gweedore to Carndonagh all going full tilt.

And of course that doesn’t include festivals like Mary from Dungloe (currently happening) nor the Ballyshannon Traditional Festival (next week), nor festivals like the Rory Gallagher and Bundoran’s Sea Sessions (already gone).

But what strikes me about the Earagail Arts Festival is the notion of a whole region in fortnight-long celebration. The potential pulling power, the notion of a full county or region, not only beautiful, with world class beaches and scenery, but also for a fortnight or a month in full party mode. Surely this would draw even more tourists, is this not the perfect slogan for a county in recessionary times? Could it not be used throughout Ireland; not just visit the Lakelands, but the Lakelands are celebrating all Summer long.

Interesting to see in connection with this, Donegal County Development Board’s Cultural Compass Research Project 2007-2008 Report, “a piece of research to present a snapshot of the current cultural infrastructure and activities in County Donegal”, and three findings in particular stand out:

“In 2007 - 2008, 40 cultural facilities attracted approximately 480,000 visitors to the county, highlighting the significant role Culture plays in the development of tourism in the county.”

“The report highlights that 69 of the respondents surveyed employed 1077 staff, a figure that makes up 1.5% of the total paid employment in the county.”

“The report further concludes that 46 respondents alone showed that Cultural infrastructure benefited the Donegal economy by almost €18 million in 2007 - 2008.”

Way to go!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Boulevard Magenta

The Boulevard de Magenta in Paris is named after the battle of Magenta, fought in June 1859 near Magenta, Italy. It was a victory for the French over the Austrians. There is an Irish connection: the French were lead by General Patrice de Mac-Mahon, whose family were originally from Co Limerick. He was given the title Duc de Magenta after the battle.

Boulevard Magenta is the title of a new, biannual, arts and literary publication launched by IMMA in June. I had a look at it yesterday. It is in A4 format, with well known contributors including Francesco Clemente, Seamus Heaney, Nalini Malani, David Mitchell, Sean Scully, Colm Tóibín and many others. The reproductions are high quality, glossy and it’s generous in size. The cover gives it a stuffy appearance and will possibly direct it towards a specific audience; at €25 it’s not exactly geared to my pocket.

However it’s good to have a new, high quality, Irish arts publication. Issue 1, Summer 2009 is available now; I wish IMMA and particularly IMMA Director, Enrique Juncosa (a poet himself), who instigated it, every success with the venture.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cézanne's Mountain

Cézanne’s 75 reproductions of Mont Sainte-Victoire near Aix-en-Provence in oil and water colours are studies in the effects of changing light on the landscape and the changing moods and atmospheres created by these shifts of light. Everyday, indeed every hour, brings a new mountain. You look at it afresh. It looms over the surrounding country side reflecting summer-bright hues, winter’s brooding shadows and all in between. Happiness to despair. Not just this but like the facets of a diamond, different faces of the mountain reflect different moods at the same time. The effect is a challenge to the artist, not to recreate the scene, but to catch the moods.

I look at some of these images regularly; wanting to get the same thing: a palette of feelings; but I can’t quite get it. It’s like waiting for a run of fish, the first fish to bite. I wait for the run of thoughts to take hold.

I have tried the same with photographs of Sam Beckett’s face, also craggy, noble and expressive, but no success.

I’m not finished yet though. Here’s a two-part presentation on Cézanne’s mountain which I found interesting.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Blessed with lots of dull weather

I’m walking along Murvagh beach just south of Donegal town. It’s all but empty; a beautiful stretch, maybe two miles of pristine sandy coastline; undeveloped, unpolluted, unlittered. Looking to the southwest, Mullaghmore juts into the sea, Ben Whiskin and Ben Bulben loom above in varying shades of watercolour blue.

Ben Bulben, the most majestic gravestone imaginable; Yeats is buried at its foot under the words “ Cast a cold eye/On life, on death/Horseman, pass by!”. And not far beyond, but out of view, is the town of Sligo, arguably the most beautifully situated town in Ireland, being, as it is, between lake, mountain and sea.

Just south of Murvagh are two similarly beautiful stretches of sandy beach, Rosnowlagh and, on the other side of Ballyshannon, Tullan Strand.

Imagine these beaches at lower latitudes: a promenade of tacky bars and discos blairing music, chippers, souvenir shops with shamrock emblazoned ashtrays and woolly lerechauns, on the beach lines of deck chairs at ten euros each, grim multi-story appartment blocks, long stretches of beach cordoned off for different hotels, pedal boats, hawkers stopping you every few minutes, and the sea outside cut up with speed boats, banana boats and various other money-making geegaws.

I suppose in recessionary times this might have some appeal; but today there is only the marvellous beauty of the place, unspoiled for now, and a feeling of gratitude for dull Irish weather.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Muse

When people are in love their minds keep turning like washing machines. Thoughts and emotions going round and around, the accompanying commentary with them. No wonder then that so much poetry has come from individuals with love issues.


When I am sleeping
you come
softly over these stones;
I turn deeper.
You slip words into my ears,
liquid syllables,
sickles sliding down.

Night-time turns drunk;
longing for more,
your tongue to enwrap me;
I turn deeper.
You trickle down dreams;
our limbs braided,
we slip into one.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Two Hands

Photographer: Michael Wells (1980)

There is no country on this planet deserving of the accolade “a great power”. There is the “ powerful” and there’s those that die in the wake of their miss-spent power.

Brace yourself before watching the following video.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Can you make our car fly?

Is there a wizard's castle outside Roscommon?

Can I taste your Guinness?

Is Ritzy a boy or a girl?

Did Santa come yet?

Dad, will I die of cancer?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

“When They Come Home”

Mary Melvin Geoghegan’s collection of poems “When They Come Home”, published by Summer Palace Press, will have a launching in the Botanic Gardens on the 23rd of August.

Her first collection "The Bright Unknown" was published by Lapwing Publications in 2003. Poems have been widely published in poetry magazines and elsewhere, she has edited collections of children’s poetry and facilitates creative writing groups.

The poems in this collection are intensely moving. Experiences from her personal life delivered in a very individual but readable style. She moves in and out of recollections seamlessly, reminding us that we are constructs of our past; we face the future lugging our lives on our backs. She does not hammer her message but presents it in images that hang lightly before us. You see them, dwell on them, recognize them and you look again at yourself.

Sometimes it takes someone else to jog your thoughts, to remind you of the love you take for granted; this is one of those books.

The launching is open to the public, I’ll have more information nearer the time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An old friend contacted me recently. It was a real pleasure hearing from him.I might have chosen Canned Heat, but opted instead for Creedence; he'll know why I’m including this classic from the sixties.

Monday, June 29, 2009


There is a particular atmosphere that pervades the ruins of cottages throughout rural Ireland. I think it has to do with their former humbleness, sometimes their isolation,the fact that it our own (and not so distant) history and also knowing that the famine emptied them and left them bleak reminders of our impoverished past.

I am drawn to them: to recreate the rooms in my mind, furnish them, family and belongings, visualise what it was to read by the light coming through that window, sit at the hearth, drop the head to avoid the lintel coming through the front door.

When the ridges can still be seen in the vegetable plot or a line of fuschia still survives outside the door delineating what was the extent of their patch, it is doubly poignant. The most moving place in Ireland is, I think, the deserted village on Achill. A huddle of about 100 ruined cottages. You get a strong sense of what it was to be in a community living so closely together. While standing there, and drawing on what you know from books like Peig or maybe the film “Man of Aran”, you people the streets quite easily; the place does it for you.

The mental images can be extremely vivid, the feeling very strong: a haunting sadness, and somehow a memory. And because you know it you do not want to leave soon.
Ireland is littered with these ruins. Like holy wells, they transport you to another place, a more thoughtful place. It is good that they survive.

Flickr has a number of photographs of the deserted village at Slievemore on Achill Island and numerous others of ruins througout Ireland.

from Sunfire

The hunch-doubled thorns,
ingrown pantries
the moss-stone walls

The nettle-cracked doorway,
the cloud curtained windows

The stone-sheltered air
bumbled still,
the submerged garden ridges

Monday, June 22, 2009

Penguin Café Orchestra

There’s loads of Penguin Café Orchestra music on YouTube.I can’t recommend it highly enough. Beautiful, often haunting sad, often lively uplifting, gloriously happy music. It’s hard to categorize, ranging somewhere in the classical, minimalist, folks; or maybe not. I’ve often used it to create a mood for writing, but just as often to cheer myself up.

I don’t know how much the remaining members of the original PCO do now (founder Simon Jeffes died in 1997); some of them are appearing under the name the Anteaters at the Broadstairs Folk Festival in August. Meanwhile Simon Jeffes' son, Arhur Jeffes, is touring a younger group of musicians playing Penguin Café music under the name MUSIC FROM THE PENGUIN CAFÉ, dates are listed at http://www.penguincafe.com/home.htm

If you’re not familiar with the PCO, I’d recommend ”When in Rome” as the album to listen to; it’s brilliant. My favorite tune title of all time is on “Music From The Penguin Café” it's “The Sound Of Someone You Love Who's Going Away And It Doesn't Matter”. I wish I’d got to that one first.

The following is from 1989 BBC broadcast

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Weather, Landscape,Writing

There is no doubt that the Irish weather can be exasperating. Can be! How often do barbecues have to be rushed indoors, sports days become wash outs, wedding photographers look for an alternative backdrop in a corner of a hotel foyer? No need to answer. But that unpredictability in the Irish weather has, I believe, been part of what makes this country stand out in its literary contribution to the world.

As the clouds march continuously across the Irish sky, they bring spells of rainfall followed by spells of watery sunshine, changing as they proceed the atmosphere of countryside over and over, even in a single afternoon. The quality of light changing as it is filtered through veils of different densities: one moment vivid colour, the next sombre tones as the light diminishes to something akin to a 30 watt bulb.

The clouds in quick succession might be ‘high in the heavens’ alto-cumulus, lower to the ground shower-carrying, towering cumulus, charcoal then angry blue. They might share the same sky, with almost any variation in the high, middle and low skies predicting all sorts of weather simultaneously and all with edges lit by emerging sunshine.

And so the moods of the sky flow across the landscape; a landscape that intensifies these variable moods. In Patrick Kavanagh’s poems a farm will be north-facing and wintry on one side of a drumlin, south-facing and sun-flooded on the other. One of the small farms through the midlands and into the west might for some minutes be highlighted and happy in a patch of sunlight then immediately grey and sad-looking hemmed in by a low sky, rain and the contours of the countryside. Add to this the history of emigration and famine, the story behind the walls that still divide the land into tiny fields more or less viable.

To know those who lived on these little patches of land and light, to know their stories and have the stages on which they lived their lives presented in different intensities of light and shade sets them up, almost theatrically, for the story-tellers of Ireland.

Could John McGahern have produced such wonderful, moving novels without this Irish weather or Brian Friel who so successfully evokes the feeling of what it was to be rural and Irish in his plays; not to mention “Angela’s Ashes”?

I doubt it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Vera Klute

I have mentioned a number of artists over the years, usually those that have influenced me, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned a new name. I’m not informed on current artists and art, and lot of multi-media work leaves me cold; smart ideas, no soul, no atmosphere, no particular mastery of a medium.

I was introduced to Vera Klute’s website the other day and was highly impressed. She is a German born artist who studied at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art and is now based in Dublin. She graduated in 2006 and has since been drawing a lot of attention all around the country. I came across her when she exhibited at Rathmines Festival in 2007 as part of a group exhibition.

She has the smart ideas, but she has the rest of the package too. Take a look at the videos on her site; they have the art and they are entertaining, and she knows her medium. What can I say; I’m impressed. Visit http://www.veraklute.net/index.html

Monday, June 8, 2009

I need space

I need space

to disremember scale

to be the size

I want to be

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Snow is Dancing

Have a listen to these very different versions of Debussy's "The Snow is Dancing". I wasn't very interested in classical music back in the early seventies, but Tomita's synthesiser versions of Debussy, Holst's planets and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition( the first classical album I bought)made me curious.

Anyway, it's interesting to compare both approaches, first the beautiful classical version, Michelangeli playing.

Tomita's synthesiser version "Snowflakes are Dancing" from the 1974 album of the same name:

Over-reach youself

At the moment I can’t just decide to send poems to publishers and that’s been the way, give or take, for three or four years. Well no, I do decide, but then I change my mind. More than before I want to wow myself. And that’s not happening.

I think I should over-reach myself. In fact, I think everyone that’s involved in creative arts should want to over-reach themselves. Those who don’t, flirt with smugness and that’s a quick route to bland average work.

I have managed it a small number of times: to write better than I’m able to, and it’s a great but very rare feeling (for me at least). But I think it’s the measure to keep at the back of one’s mind.

Goya is one of those poems in which I think I've written beyond myself. I suppose good luck is involved: the right words, images etc come to mind on queue.I suppose that's the difference: great poets don't rely on luck.


Of course not!
Of course no one that ever cracked open a head
has seen a symphony pour out.

No executioner has seen the flow of an amber fireside
with its intimate and tangling caresses
drain from the split skulls of lovers

nor have soldiers who shoot dark holes
seen rafts of memories spilling,
carrying the children, the birthdays, the orchards,
the dances.

When they shot the poet, Lorca,
the bullets sailed in a universe,
yet when the blood spurted it was only blood
to them.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Percy French Summer School

The good news for Percy French fans is that the inaugural Percy French Summer School will take place in Castlecoote House, Co Roscommon from July 17th to 19th. It will be a very fitting tribute to one of Ireland’s most beloved song-writers and entertainers.

But of course he was much more than that, and it will be no harm to be reminded how good a landscape painter he was and of course he was a poet too.
Check out The Percy French Society website at http://www.percyfrench.org/ to learn more about the man, see his paintings and hear a beautiful rendition of “The Mountains of Mourne”.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

mc nuts

Google mcnuts. I like it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Love Poem - Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson's poem VI in section II.Love of Project Gutenberg's Poems, Three Series, Complete (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12242/12242-h/12242-h.htm) is really beautiful. It reminds me of Auden's "Stop all the clocks..........
Isn't it wonderful to be able to access the great writers so easily!


If you were coming in the fall,
I'd brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year,
I'd wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed,
I'd count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen's land.

If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I'd toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.

But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time's uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Making eyes at you

The last post reminded me of a video I've seen on YouTube. Apparently Ida is on an evolutionary path linking humans to lemurs. I think I have a crucial piece of evidence linking the species, you may have seen the video below but is this lemur making eyes at the camera?

The Missing Link

Ida, the 47 million year old fossil primate found in Germany,is being put forward as the missing link, what with fingernails and all. And as soon as said, there’s a slew of scientists who disagree. Nothing new there, my belief is that there’ll never be agreement on that issue till a monkey rises out of Jurassic sandstone somewhere in South Africa asking for its toothbrush. Meanwhile, being endless in its philosophical ramifications and being still beyond our knowing, I think the whole area offers great potential for writers. This is from Sunfire:

Homo Sapiens.

They were anxious to put as many genera between us and ape
as possible; so each new jaw-bone, each different skull,
each new femur became a new genus.
Gradually then, all these rungs were being discovered.

Then someone said " Hey, where’s the cut-off."
No one knew, it hadn't been discovered,
or had but wasn't recognized.

So we're still waiting for him who'll come to announce:

"Hallelujah, this is The Bone, the One that'll divide the fossil record
into b.b. and a.b,
(before and after bone).”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Brian Eno

I first became interested in Brian Eno’s music in 1986 after visiting his exhibition of video sculptures in the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin. I was blown away by the spacey soundtrack. I was unaware of his solo work and collaborations through the seventies and up to then, but that changed immediately. Over the next few years I bought every EG record I could find in the shops and crossed them off my list of “must haves” one at a time. It changed my music ear for ever with names like Fripp, Budd, Michael Brook, Lanois, Roedelius, Hassell, Roger Eno, Laraaji suddenly beginning to populate my record collection.

This shift in listening habits affected my writing greatly and I spent many nights writing under the mixed influences of alcohol and ‘EG music’. My interests veered off towards Reich and Glass and opened up to many kinds of music while the poetry sometimes rose with the swell and sometimes floundered.

It is a number of years now since I have written in that way and I have not been keeping in touch with Eno’s music or the others on the list.(Maybe that explains the drop off in my output). In music, I’ve been getting to know the classical composers.But Brian Eno has influenced me hugely. If I was taking a few discs to my desert island I would have to include “Discrete Music”, Apollo and perhaps one or two others. I would also be taking Laraaji’s “Day of Radiance” which Eno produced and which is one of the few albums that produces a surge of happiness every time I hear those intoxicating notes on the dulcimer. Here is the first track, I strongly recommend you listen on earphones to get the full effect.

There is an online book on Eno : BRIAN ENO HIS MUSIC AND THE VERTICAL COLOR OF SOUND by Eric Tamm at http://www2.hku.nl/~renate/blindenfotografie/documten/BE.doc
And there's a very generous video to be seen at http://www2.kah-bonn.de/1/27/livee.htm

Monday, May 11, 2009

Poem Beside Your Hospital Bed

My father is dead many years now. He came back from a holiday in the U.S. on a stretcher. When I saw him in the hospital that first time, I was shocked: he looked radically changed. There was little doubt that his last days had come. When Kay came to visit him, he couldn't welcome her so he sang something incomprehensible tunelessly.

Poem Beside Your Hospital Bed.

Your face,
that I loved,
has changed so completely
that I already know
our time is gone.

And as dying,
like a sandstorm,
rearranges your features,
I am useless,
a cripple of words.

So if the winds in your head
will carry the smallest breath
of what I am saying, father:
let it be that
my proud years are tatters here;
I love you.

The photograph is a collage of some drafts of poems including this one; it must be from the late eighties or early nineties.But best of all is the rejection slip from Poetry Ireland.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Free Online Books

I've been using some free online books recently; it's fantastic to be able to access them so painlessly. Some of the websites are listed below. Interesting site from UCC: CELT, Corpus of Electronic Texts, for those interested in Irish culture and literature. The last site in the list has an amazing amount and range of information relating to English literature; the forums are well worth browsing through.

Hidden Cave: http://www.hiddencave.com/
Books-On-Line (not all are free): http://www.books-on-line.com/bol/default.cfm
The Online Books Page: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/books/
Classic Book Shelf (easy to use): http://www.classicbookshelf.com/library/
Harrison County Library System Online: http://www.harrison.lib.ms.us/internet_sites/online_books.htm
CELT: http://www.ucc.ie/celt/
Bartleby.com: http://www.bartleby.com/
Project Gutenberg (huge): http://gutenberg.net/
E-text.org (straight forward): http://www.e-text.org/text/
The Literature Network: http://www.online-literature.com/

Friday, May 1, 2009

Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth died in January. He along with Edward Hopper are my favourite American artists. I use art to stir ideas and emotions, and have found myself revisiting their works over and over, usually to kick-start my writing. They both use and space and emptiness in their works; figures appear alone, dreaming or lost in unfathomable thought. Houses or rooms with breezes stirring curtains, rooms devoid of life, man-made features still. They convey isolation or loneliness.

Not always of course. Wyeth has produced beautiful portraits of strong-minded, physically strong individuals with a countryish integrity in their features. He gives his models a dignity and they have a striking presence. I also think that he captures, and more accurately than other artists, the true essence of country life, the colours and textures of the rural landscape; he creates in his images an atmosphere of his home place Chadds Ford as distinct from a sterile representation.

My favourite is probably “Snow Hill” which apart from being a beautiful image is also cleverly autobiographic. It can be seen at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123274763342511309.html along with a write-up. The following YouTube video is nicely done. It was posted by andrewckk.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Damn Borders

Everyone knows the horrors that have arisen from the existence of borders: Cambodia/Thailand, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland. The list is long; borders always impinge on someone’s sensibilities.

My problem has arisen since since undertaking the compilation of a Roscommon Anthology. Criteria for inclusion in some respects can be simple enough; I’m using literary writers, they must have be published by a publisher of standing, they must have a significant connection with Roscommon etc. Not to have clear criteria is a recipe for a disaster, and disappointment to a lot of writers. (As it is, disappointment to some is inevitable.)

But those damned borders. Born or reared within spitting distance of Roscommon are Vincent Woods, John Broderick, Desmond Egan, Jack Harte and others. It would be tempting to call it Anthology of Roscommon and Environs but I’d have to draw the borders myself then and that would put me right up there with some serious trouble-makers.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Poems from childhood

Certain poems, songs, certain scents are very evocative of childhood. Just the a few words: “Oh to have a little house……………”, “Underneath the spreading chestnut tree………………….”; it all comes back.

The high windows, two-seater benches with ink wells, heavy radiators, wall chart with the 32 counties of Ireland, May altars. The poems were in the Young Ireland Readers along with stories of Cú Culainn, Crocks of Gold, etc.

I had a happy childhood and enjoyed my time in Roscommon CBS. Most of my teachers were very dedicated to their jobs and I liked them; a few were bullies. Almost all exercised corporal punishment; it was part of the time, normality. Hard to explain now why it was accepted.

One poem in particular has stayed with me from those days. “Young and Old” by Charles Kingsley. It was a wonderfully crafted poem with words that really flowed along and so was easy to learn. There is a pleasure to singing out, as you do in primary school, those old 19th century verses. But, oh my God, did he go for the maudlin (as was the fashion of his day). Is there a poem in the English language that matches its bleak outlook. Read the second verse and search for a rope.

Young and Old

When all the world is young lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
When all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down;
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among:
God grant you find one face there,
You loved when all was young.

- Charles Kingsley

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Fancy dress and mask wearing are associated with fun but my poems in “Felos ainda serra” are not. I think it goes back to childhood memories of Halloween, but I’ve never really been comfortable at masked functions. Once donned, a wearer has license to carry on in a way completely out of character,or in character but a less pleasant part of it; a non-wearer is at a disadvantage. To take my point to the far extreme, (only to make the point) a balaclava is mask for a criminal.

Apart from the above there’s the mask we all make of our faces when circumstances require it, and for some the mask becomes essential - to cover what? I started writing this with a view to introducing one of those poems but as I went on Janice Ian’s “At Seventeen” came to mind. So here’s the poem and I feel like hearing the song too.

My head is an eggshell
intact, hollow.

Left on the ground
weather leaves its stains;

on the outside I smile that smile
which passers-by notice less and less.

All I can do
is keep widening the smile;

wider and wilder,
eventually grotesque;

they start running,
I am left alone.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Word Power, Obama and Poetry

Rhetoric has returned with Obama. More than anything else it was his careful, intelligent and incisive use of language that got him elected. It had the effect of electrifying not only fellow Americans but millions of people across the world.

Yes, of course, it was the substance of his speeches; but it was his ability to convince that made the difference. This power of words is something one might expect to appear occasionally among poets, but it has largely disappeared from poetry in this part of the world at least.

Certainly it’s an ability that comes to the fore in times of strife, (Yeats’ phrase “a terrible beauty is born” from “Easter 1916” has this essence). So one might argue that it’s the absence of outright war on our soil, but I think a majority of poets have avoided engagement with hot issues or are not sufficiently affected by the horrors of our time to write in this way. (I count myself among these.)

It’s an engagement that should be re-ignited,perhaps best done with students in secondary schools, for the sake of making poetry more relevant(and therefore more popular),for deepening the feeling and understanding that people have for what’s happening around them.

Who should instigate or lobby for such an initiative: Poetry Ireland? publishers? Association of English teachers? Amnesty Int? I don't know.

Monday, April 13, 2009

At Naomh Einne's Well

One of the strangest looking holy wells in Ireland is very close to Father Ted’s house in the Burren. The frames of old electrical appliances are nailed onto trees serving \as frames for religious pictures. At least that’s the way it was a number of year’s ago when I visited.
Naomh Einne’s well is on Inis Oirr. It was probably a youngster supplementing his pocket money. The matchstick ladder was a quirky little addition. I wonder if the clear circles left behind fazed him. This poem was included in “Turn Your Head” (Dedalus Press)

At Naomh Einne’s Well

Kneeling down, the jacket off,
shirt sleeves rolled to the oxter,
he slipped his arm into the water,
scooped out the price of a pint,
then thought the better of it
and decided he’d have two.

Then again the following Tuesday
and the following Tuesday too
till there were only clear circles
and coppers on the green bottom,
a bowl in a gap in the wall,
a cross in another with a ladder
of matchsticks and thread.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ballyshannon and William Allingham

It’s wet, wet, wet. The Erne estuary is below me. The clouds are low to the water so it disappears into white mist this side of the bar. Ballyshannon was Allingham’s town. It straddles the Erne before the river opens its mouth for the sea. On in its west side are gently rounded drumlins and southward are the spectacular Ben Whiskin and Ben Bulben mountains. It’s a landscape that can inspire with spectacular mountainscapes,tumultuous seas and quaint tracts of countryside nestling between the drumlins.

His autograph, carved on his bedroom window is on display in the local AIB bank; it was my wife’s bedroom window at one time. He lived from 1824 to 1889,son of the local bank manager. He was a fine poet, highly regardly in his time; the title of WB Yeats' article on Allingham 'A Poet We Have Neglected’ says it all. His best known poem is "The Faeries"

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.


but he carried his fondness for home with him, and everyone brought up in these parts knows "Adieu to Belashanny"

Adieu to Belashanny! where I was bred and born;
Go where I may, I'll think of you, as sure as night and morn.
The kindly spot, the friendly town, where every one is known,
And not a face in all the place but partly seems my own;
There's not a house or window, there's not a field or hill,
But, east or west, in foreign lands, I recollect them still.
I leave my warm heart with you, tho' my back I'm forced to turn
Adieu to Belashanny, and the winding banks of Erne!

No more on pleasant evenings we'll saunter down the Mall,
When the trout is rising to the fly, the salmon to the fall.
The boat comes straining on her net, and heavily she creeps,
Cast off, cast off - she feels the oars, and to her berth she sweeps;
Now fore and aft keep hauling, and gathering up the clew.
Till a silver wave of salmon rolls in among the crew.
Then they may sit, with pipes a-lit, and many a joke and 'yarn'
Adieu to Belashanny; and the winding banks of Erne!


His ashes are buried in Saint Anne's graveyard beside Saint Anne's Church which stands high above the town.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Colm Ó'Snodaigh in Rathmines Festival

Colm Ó'Snodaigh will perform in "Festival under the Clock", part of Rathmines Festival at 3.30pm, 25th April in the Town Hall (Adm free as are all the events in the Town Hall).Expect a great gig, he's a great musician and performer; Kila fans will gladly confirm. And expect a nnumber of songs from his album "Giving"

"'Giving' is really a delightful album, rich in atmosphere and melodic beauty; neither a Saturday night album nor a Sunday Morning one, rather somewhere between midnight and dawn."

Allan Wilkinson

If you still haven't seen Kila, here's what you've been missing:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Poetry in Strokestown

I’m looking forward to reading again in Strokestown. It’ll be a night full of poetry including a prize-giving ceremony and an open-mike session. I’m doing a guest spot. The gig is in Strokestown House on Saturday night, April 4th . It’s part of the Siarsceal Festival.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Unbalancing the Boat

I came across an old poem recently called “Do dreams have wheels?”. It’s a question one of my daughters asked when she was young; I used it in a poem which was a collection of questions my children asked. They ranged from “Can I finish your Guinness?” to “Did you put that mountain there?” (I used to say I put various parts of landscape in position).

“Do dreams have wheels?” is a brilliant example of a line you don’t scrap because you’ve taken such a shine to it. Another line was “Did the man really collect pink farts in a bag?” (Another yarn.) But these favourite lines unbalance and sink the poem.

On a different tack, I wonder if sending the gardaí into Today FM to enquire about some well executed cartoons isn’t another example of unbalancing the boat. To me it smacks of the type of action more typical of a dictator-run state.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Your stories

Listening this morning to a BBC World Service documentary on the return of Chinua Achebe to his native Nigeria, I was struck by his appeal to listeners at a rally: "Where are your stories? Where are your stories?”

It would be constructive for us all to keep an eye to our developing stories rather than blunder, (or in some cases plunder), through life. It would foster reflection, awareness and probably some degree of responsibility for our activities.

As opposed to the ever- increasing monitoring of individuals by the state, people would monitor themselves.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Poet Laureate of the People's Republic of Cork

Gerry Murphy’s poetry performed by Crazy Dog Audio Theatre in a production entitled “Poet Laureate of the People's Republic of Cork” was staged during the 2008 Jazz Festival in Cork and will be presented again in June 2009 in the Everyman Theatre.Take a look at the excerpts on YouTube,I'm hoping they'll come to Dublin; if not I'll be in Cork this June.

Gerry Murphy's poetry is thankfully a million miles away from the verbal knitting that has killed off a lot of interest in modern poetry; see him with Ger Wolfe in "Festival under the Clock", part of the Rathmines Festival, in April in Rathmines College. Admission is free courtesy of Rathmines College, CDVEC and Poetry Ireland.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Poetry in Kahlo's Paintings

The introspection in Frida Kahlo’s work, her story as related through her images, the strength of her metaphors literally hanging from her neck or sitting on her shoulder make her one of the most poetic of all painters. If I was teaching a creative writing course, I would include her works as a spur. Her choice of expression gives a writer a firm starting point. Search for her works, dwell on them, they cannot but affect you.

"The Broken Column" above is one of the most vivid depictions of physical pain in all art.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Festival Under the Clock

The Rathmines leg of Rathmines Festival has just added two real treats to its programme, the "Legend of Luke Kelly" at 8pm, Sat 25th. Chris Kavanagh and The
Patriots recreate the sound of the legendary singer. It's been received with rave reviews everywhere and Kavanagh is by all accounts a dead ringer for Kelly.

The second is Colm O'Snodaigh of Kila who'll be presenting songs from his solo album, Giving.Fans of Kila will tell you that this is a gig not to be missed; it's at 3.30pm Sat 25th.The gigs are free and are happening in Rathmines College,under the clock :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Poems about Love

I’m surprised how many poems I have written that relate to relationships both in and out of love.

I could do a reading presenting them in a logical order to tell a story, but then I’d have the makings of a play, and that would probably be more entertaining. Then I remember Sam Shephard and Joseph Chaikin’s “Savage Love” (read it at http://www.csua.berkeley.edu/~dxu/poetry/savage.html) and so the play thing’s been done; and that’s why stuff ends on the shelf.

Meanwhile here’s the backbone of my proposed story,3 poems that were included in the collections "Sunfire" and "Turn Your Head"


When I am sleeping
you come
softly over these stones;
I turn deeper.
You slip words into my ears,
liquid syllables,
sickles sliding down.

Night-time turns drunk;
longing for more,
your tongue to enwrap me;
I turn deeper.
You trickle down dreams;
our limbs braided,
we slip into one.


It's a certifiable moment
a punch-drunk second
a pulse's high tide.

A dog eats grass
a water drop shivers
a barrel fills to its brim
an apple falls
a body drifts
a face buckles
a lover screams.

At the tip of an orgasm
passion powders;
the creek turns to dust.


He, who covered my body
with snail-trails,
whose hands were wrack
swept over my skin,
kisses on my back
a colony of shell fish.

He, who would have crossed a mountain range
for an hour between my thighs
now crawls over me
with wizened passion.
Gutted of love,
he comes clawing,
and insults me with lies
that have made greater pincers
of his mouth than his hands.

What does he see in me?

Meat to excite him,
his groper's desires,
even his fingertips betray him.
But no more,
the erotic becomes ugly,
decrepit manoeuvres disconnected
from their original meanings;
the touches stain you.

I have watched him slither from my gaze
a thousand times a night
while slipping the word love
from his vocabulary;
watched him develope this communication
of knives and forks.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Daffodils in Poetry

I was thinking of writing a Daffodil poem. Something original, “To Daffodils” is gone but not “Two Daffodils”. There are a lot of daffodils poems; apart from the obvious, there is Ted Hughes’ Daffodils.
Besides, we still weren't sure we wanted to own
Anything. Mainly we were hungry
To convert everything to profit.
Still nomads-still strangers
To our whole possession. The daffodils
Were incidental gilding of the deeds,
Treasure trove. They simply came,
And they kept on coming.
As if not from the sod but falling from heaven.
Our lives were still a raid on our own good luck.
We knew we'd live forever. We had not learned
What a fleeting glance of the everlasting
Daffodils are…………………………

ee cummings reminds that daffodils know things we don’t;
from in the time of daffodils

in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remembering how

My favourite is Amy Lowell’s To an Early Daffodil

Thou yellow trumpeter of laggard Spring!
Thou herald of rich Summer's myriad flowers!
The climbing sun with new recovered powers
Does warm thee into being, through the ring
Of rich, brown earth he woos thee, makes thee fling
Thy green shoots up, inheriting the dowers
Of bending sky and sudden, sweeping showers,
Till ripe and blossoming thou art a thing
To make all nature glad, thou art so gay;
To fill the lonely with a joy untold;
Nodding at every gust of wind to-day,
To-morrow jewelled with raindrops. Always bold
To stand erect, full in the dazzling play
Of April's sun, for thou hast caught his gold.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hughie O’Donoghue in IMMA

I’ve not been to IMMA as much as I used to, but the arrival of the Hughie O’Donoghue exhibition will be reason to set that right, particularly the Passion paintings. His work is absorbing and thought-provoking, sometimes with the seed of the work clearly represented but immersed in abstraction; the type of material that often inspires me to write poetry. And in that I’m not alone, the accompanying publication includes a poem by Gerard Smyth inspired by Blue Crucifixion.

The exhibition is on till mid May and coincides for a while with an exhibition by James Coleman (dare I say, yet another interesting Roscommon man).

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ad Break

I haven't had an ad break since starting this blog so here's two pints of Guinness settling to some great music

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dublin-born writers

Sorry to hear of Christopher Nolan’s death. I well remember how impressed I was when I first came across Dam-burst of Dreams and later Under the Eye of the Clock. He is a member of a very remarkable group i.e. writers born in Dublin. Here are some of the other names in that company:

George Bernard Shaw, Oliver Gogarty, Samuel Beckett, John McGahern, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Thomas Kinsella, Brendan Behan, Roddy Doyle, Jennifer Johnston, Oscar Wilde, James Plunkett, John Millington Synge, Elizabeth Bowen, Bram Stoker, Paul Durcan, Donagh MacDonagh, Sean O'Casey, Sean O'Faolain, Katharine Tynan, William Butler Yeats, Edmund Burke, Sir Richard Steele, Maeve Binchy, James Stephens, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, James Clarence Mangan, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Austin Clarke and Sebastian Barry.

Pretty impressive eh?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cork Invasion of Rathmines

Arts Management students of Rathmines College will present “Festival Under The Clock” a festival within Rathmines Festival on April 25th. And that’s where the invasion will occur with singer/songwriter Ger Wolfe and poet Gerry Murphy taking the stage together.

Listen to some of Ger Wolfe's beautiful songs on his MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/gerwolfe. Gerry Murphy can be heard reading poems in the Dedalus Press Audio Room at http://www.dedaluspress.com/mp3/murphy-poems.mp3

It’s the making of a festival highlight.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rathmines Festival 2009

This year’s Rathmine’s Festival is again a mix of filmarttheatrecomedysportjazz bluesfolkdancechatparkeventswalks and much more besides.It’s still in the process of being programmed but I notice Pat Kinevane (iKeano) in association with Fishamble New Play Company are presenting “Forgotten”, Mary Kenny (Journalist) is being interviewed by Aine Lawlor (RTE), Comedians Karl Spain & Colm O`Reagan are performing on Fri April 24th.There’s a lot more to come obviously but it kicks off On Thursday 23rd with Anne Doyle cutting the ribbon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Francis Bacon Interview

I’m a great fan of Francis Bacon’s work. His paintings have been a great source of inspiration for me. But this London Weekend South Bank Show from the eighties is a gem. He talks about himself, his paintings and those of other artists. He is wonderfully frank. The clip shown here contains opinions on Jackson Pollock and Rothko: priceless. And some of what he says about his own work is very surprising. This is the first of six parts you can get from Youtube.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hidden Dublin Treasure

Rathmines Town Hall,home of Rathmines College, is one of the most recognizable and familiar of Dublin landmarks. But it hides a secret. Even the vast majority of students passing through its doors daily don’t know in spite of the evidence being in plain view on the walls around them.

The fact is that it houses a Victorian concert hall, still pretty much intact and masked by the classrooms built within it. It is unique in Dublin, grand in its design; literally a hidden treasure.

What else is masked in the city?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Writers Groups: Yes or No

Well both actually. A regular group, at the very least, provides you with a deadline by which work must be completed. If the piece is well received the encouragement can be invaluable. Exposure to different styles of writing can be eye-opening, news on upcoming events and opportunities may be a standard part of the proceedings, often groups publish their works also encouraging and pleasing. Just mixing with interested others can make it well worth while.

On the downside, the standard of writing can be very mixed,there can be a lot of very average work. Often the most vociferous critics are the poorest critics. Sometimes there can be group adulation of the writer with the most charisma, the trendiest or the most confident; the better writers can often go unrecognised. It’s important to recognize that the most useful criticism doesn’t necessarily come from the popularly recognized sage.

Groups can become too much the property of a few, who set rules, tone and standard. The Dublin Writers Workshop was, in some of its years a good example of an open forum in all senses of the word ‘open’. Its success might be gauged by the number of its members that have had books published. It attracted a very diverse range of people without any of them becoming too proprietary. The calibre of many of its members ensured a reasonable standard of criticism. It wasn’t to everyone’s taste though; for example it was not the forum for discussion on the technical aspects of writing and, be warned, few writing groups are. However, even there, some good writers were overlooked.

There is a directory of writers groups on the Poetry Ireland website see http://www.poetryireland.ie/resources/writers-workshops-list.html but I’m not sure how comprehensive or up to date it is; for example, the Roscommon Abbey Writers group from Roscommon town is not included. I understand this group is welcoming new members.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Did you know?

Lady Jane Francesca "Speranza" Wilde, writer, translator, poet and mother of Oscar died in 1896. She was buried in a paupers grave which until recently was unmarked.

Edgar Allen Poe died in 1849 "of congestion of the brain" according to the local newspapers. In 1875, a group of local school children donated a grave stone for him.

George Bernard Shaw's grave is not straight forward; after his death in 1950 his ashes were mixed with those of his wife (d. 1943) and scattered in the garden of his home, Shaws Corner in Hertfordshire.

Francis Ledwidge was killed in action during WW1 and is buried in Artillery Wood CWGC Cemetery north of Ypres, Plot II Row B Grave 5.

These details are from Find A Grave, it's full of interesting details on a host of well known people. See http://www.findagrave.com/

My Mother

God made my mother on an April day,
From sorrow and the mist along the sea,
Lost birds' and wanderers' songs and ocean spray,
And the moon loved her wandering jealously.

Beside the ocean's din she combed her hair,
Singing the nocturne of the passing ships,
Before her earthly lover found her there
And kissed away the music from her lips.

She came unto the hills and saw the change
That brings the swallow and the geese in turns.
But there was not a grief she deeméd strange,
For there is that in her which always mourns.

Kind heart she has for all on hill or wave
Whose hopes grew wings like ants to fly away.
I bless the God Who such a mother gave
This poor bird-hearted singer of a day.

Francis Ledwidge

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bioenergy for Health

I have to admit I am intrigued by bioenergy healing. In recent times Catherine has brought relief to people suffering from neuralgia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, psoriasis, stress-related conditions and a range of others.

The simplicity of the treatment is striking. Basically, by hand gestures around a person, she corrects his/her energy field, thereby freeing up energy transmission through the body. The effect is to be so painless as to suggest that nothing has happened; but by the third session in the four consecutive day treatment, clients are remarking on the improvement.

In many cases it has achieved what conventional medicine hasn’t. It has its origins in chinese medicine but it has been developed by Zdenko Domancic over the last thirty years. People from all over Europe flock to his healing sessions in Slovenia. See a film on Domancic at www.healingbioenergy.com/flashtest.htm

Catherine’s website is at www.bioenergyforhealth.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

De Brakke Hond, No. 76, 2002

De Brakke Hond is a literary magazine published in the Netherlands featuring works in Dutch and Flemish. No.76 was a special bilingual Irish Number published in 2002. Nessa O'Mahony was the irish editor.The number is now online in the archive section. See

The "Beginning of Science" was a poem that took me a long time to write. I like the atmosphere in it;I don't think I could catch it again.

The Beginning of Science

Long before Saint Patrick,
leather-footed musicians
would keyhole dawn
to catch the sun in ice candles.

They played those flames on strings,
their spikes of sound,
for children's whistling eyes and lunatics
who, in their distance, danced.

Fire caged in ice, ice in their hands;
music lit from within.
Ambition began;
separation became a beauty.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hard Times

The removal of Arts Council funding from the Writers Centre is likely to be just the first in a series of cut-backs to this sector over the coming years. What’s in store for Irish poetry?

I don’t want to give the government reasons for cutting back further but I do believe that agencies, publishers etc, involved in poetry will have to be more aggressive in getting their product into the public eye. I used to run Rathmines Festival which always featured some writers; only once in five years did an established writer approach us with a proposal to be included in the programme.

In stringent times, I think more approaches of this nature should be made by or on behalf of poets. I think more performance opportunities could be found for poets in their local communities (local celebrations, festivals etc); certainly the support for writers in their home towns can be considerable and is often not tapped.

I believe greater efforts could be made in building a public profile e.g. a poetry book-stall on Stephen’s Green, a Speakers’ Corner; an appropriate addition to a city that uses writers so prominently in its tourism pitch. A full-time position could be put in place by a coalition of interested bodies: a person with a background in event management/arts management/marketing/PR/entertainment management etc. A co-ordinator of individuals with talents in different areas of the arts might find new niches for poetry in performances or installations.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Emigration, Racism and the Irish

Anti-Irish Propaganda from Punch
It’s not so long ago since the “No Irish” signs came down. It seemed that we were seeing the end of endless years of anti-Irish racism. I came across a certain amount of anti-Irish sentiment in London in the seventies. Then came the EEC, later EU; increasing affluence, eventually the tiger; notable successes in sports, entertainment and various areas in the arts. Our day had arrived.U2 was the biggest band in the world, Riverdance was sending our dancing into orbit, Irish companies were going multi-national and we were chanting Óle Óle in Italia.We were no longer an underclass.

A pity to see “No Irish Need Apply” beginning to appear again. This time on building sites in Poland, apparently in revenge for poor treatment meted out to Polish workers here during the boom; unpaid work, unpaid holiday money.

There are few Irish families that have not directly or indirectly experienced the hardships of emigration in the last century. So many, in the not so distant past, have suffered from anti-irish taunts, discrimination or even violence. One would assume there’d be an affinity here with people who emigrate to earn an honest living. You sometimes hear the proud claim “we built America”; it would do good to remember who has been rebuilding Ireland.

Riverdance, first appearance on RTE, 1994 Eurovision Song Contest

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sea-Wash by Carl Sandburg

THE SEA-WASH never ends.
The sea-wash repeats, repeats.
Only old songs? Is that all the sea knows?
Only the old strong songs?
Is that all?
The sea-wash repeats, repeats.

The sea at Murvagh outside Donegal sings its songs very gently. The beach is beautiful, sandy and mostly empty. So it is a good choice for sulky racing. The skyscapes in the west are stunning probably because of the changeability of the Irish weather. Kay took this in december.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Spectacular Ireland

Spectacular Ireland is down the west coast and most spectacular of all is Skellig Michael. As the boat travels towards it, the gannets drifting to and fro in the foreground give it an air of enchantment. By the time you get there you are prepared for the magic and it doesn’t disappoint. See it in July before the puffins leave. Thanks to harniq for posting this on YouTube.

I was taking a trawl through movies about the islands off the west thinking it’s high time I went back when this caught my eye. There is some disagreement as to whether the Aran Mór island cliffs or those at Slieve League in Donegal are the highest in North West Europe. Either way the nerve needed to do this is mind-boggling.