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

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.