Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CanalaphonicTrad session in Grace's Pub

Grace's on a Friday night is always a great session, one of the best in Dublin. Friday, May 8th, Canalaphonic Festival will be in full swing, and so will Sugán in Grace's.

(Thanks to cocklesandmussels Youtube channel for the footage, visit to find plenty more.)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Religion embedded in the machinery of war

I think  it was the late seventies. I turned on the  news one evening, and there was a report showing a priest, along with a minister of some other Christian denomination, blessing cruise missiles before they were deployed in Europe.
The wording has stayed with me, the justification for carrying out a Christian ritual on instruments of mass destruction. It struck me as almost surreal. It seemed to me to be an abuse of the religion, to use one of its rituals in this context. No doubt, there are those that'll say the prayer below is appropriate, but can anyone really believe that Jesus would have blessed cruise missiles? 
Cruise Missiles          

Jesus, the padre prayed,
direct these missiles onto the heads
of our enemies.

Except that’s not what he said. He said,
we pray that these missiles will be efficient
in their function.

Then. Up Jesus,
ride them clean down their throats.
Except, of course, he didn’t say that either;

but blessed them with holy water.
After that, the missiles were dispatched,
American missionaries to Europe.



Thursday, April 23, 2015

In Mayo

The sky:

            rags on bushes

            in a wintry gale.

The barbed-wire fence:

            a lunatic's music

            sprinting down the valley.

The mountains:

           tossed heads

           with their silvering sheen.

Telephone wire:

            daisy-chained voices

            humming out of tune.

The lake:

            a shirt that blew

            off a line.

Rowan tree:

            tongue on the mountain

            shaping high C.




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reading at Strokestown International Poetry Festival

It’s almost May. It’s almost Strokestown Poetry Festival time. The festival is on from April 30th to May 3rd. This year featured poets include Iggy McGovern, Peggy Gallagher, Paddy Bushe, James Harpur,  Eva Bourke and Vincent Woods.There is also the launching of a new collection, The Boys of Bluehill, by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. I’ll be reading with Gerry Boland at 4.15pm on Saturday, May 2nd.
It’s a fantastic festival with a very pleasant and laid-back ambience. Most of the events are held in Strokestown House, home of the Famine Museum, a visitors’ attraction of national (if not international) importance. Added to that , a few great pubs and you’ve got a really enjoyable weekend.
The following weekend, I expect to be reading with a group of poets as part of Canalaphonic Music and Culture Festival in Rathmines. Details of this should appear on the Canalaphonic website.
Canalaphonic Music and Culture Festival:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Writer's Block

i.e. the block on which a writer's head is severed.

Writer’s block

Nothing lands on this plain;
nothing moves
but its seeping emptiness.

Goggled pilot
high above
this snow-gagged wilderness,

loop or spin,
I leave no shadow;
the paper grins.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

At Sartre's Funeral

This poem has little to do with Sartre or Simone de Beauvoir, but the image of her sitting in a chair above  his grave got me started. I didn't see a photograph, so it was easier to envisage her as, almost, sitting by her hearth.

It is one of a number of poems that would not have been written if I had seen the image as it actually was. I wrote a number of poems on the subject of the felos in Galician carnaval (published in a chap-book, Felos aínda serra, by Amastra-N-Gallar, 2004; see link in side panel); I saw the images in black and white; had I seen  the many photographs which were in colour I would not have been able to write them.

They Gave Me A Chair.


They gave me a chair

so I could sit beside the grave,

like a woman painted in

after the funeral crowds had gathered.

And I, his lover, was looking down

as though this earth was some sort of heaven,


I'd prefer it south-facing

or he could do with a bit more space

or some other such nonsense.

Then alone again, I found,

fixed above all my memories,

the picture of a coffin

on the floor of an empty room

as seen from above.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Another Perversion

One shot
and the lights go out
down the street,
through the town, country,
all that fits so easily inside a head. 

tipped slightly upward
in a hardened glob of brain tissue,
a beautifully sculpted,
aerodynamically perfect,
bright, shiny bullet.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I can't remember the circumstances in which this poem was written, and that's probably a  good thing.

I was in a hawthorn,
trapped in its branches;
all arms, hands and fingers
prevailing on me not to struggle. 

I was an exhibit in a jar
ragged and shock-eyed,
praying for a passer-by
where ravens perch still for hours. 

I was a storm-blown tatter
caught in another’s stitching;
my cries drifting into the sky
nonchalant like dandelion seeds.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Where they lived


I’m always tempted to stop at derelict houses, old ruins, etc., sites where past generations have left their mark. There’s a particular atmosphere, a poignancy. In their state of aging or decay, they suggest sadness’s, hardships.  The tiny rooms, the (often) miserably poor land, potato ridges still outlined in a nearby field, a fuchsia in full bloom.
I hope to find something more than just the gable or bare walls, something that will transmit a stronger sense of the people that lived there. A surviving hearth, the lintel over the window, over the door, the details that bring some personality to the remains.
The other day I came upon the ruins of an old cottage at the top of a valley in the Bluestacks in Donegal. What a hard place it must have been in deep Winter; now its walls half gone, but its extent and layout still very clear. In a recess in the gable, there was a stone clearly shaped for some function; was it a pestle, or a weight?
It is so rare to find anything but bare walls scoured by the weather. I thought of holding onto it, but, much more than any museum exhibit, it was where it belonged; I left it. 
No People
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, April 6, 2015

Following Human Disasters

The barbarity of war is one thing, a less obvious barbarity comes next. I find it difficult to decide how I feel about media reportage of human tragedies, but I follow it, sometimes avidly. Somewhere in that morass there is a level at which I am sharing in the inhumanity.

“At half six I turn on the television to see how the war’s coming on.
Tracers are arcing down on Baghdad;
the reporter keeps looking over his shoulder. 

Shoes off, I stretch out,
rest my feet on the coffee table.” 

And somewhere out there, the headlong mania of reporters and photographers looking for the money-shot.
Ed Behr recounting a scene among Belgian civilian refugees in Congo, 1960, “Into the middle of this crowd strode an unmistakably British TV reporter, leading his cameraman and sundry technicians like a  platoon commander through hostile territory. At interval he paused and shouted, in a stentorian but genteel BBC voice, “Anyone here been raped and speaks English?” Ed Behr, Anyone here been raped and speaks English? 1981

 A Brief Note on an Imminent Famine. 

Everyone here will starve:
each bone will be a stripe,
each hand a bowl,
each leg a stick.

Then there'll be the gluttony
of cameras:
our threadbare skin
will be devoured,
our eyes exported
shining like pickles.

Friday, April 3, 2015

On The Beach

When, at the end of the beach, I turned

to face that gleaming scimitar of strand,

the filigreed waves  racing to land,

the geode patterns beneath my feet,

the scythe of 12 oyster catchers close-by,

their chevron markings perfect in that light,

I felt, suddenly, the glory of creation.


And, as I walked, I felt the completeness of my belonging,

and my impermanence, like the scarves of sand blowing

ahead of the wind, and not at all sad for that;

and seeing too that beliefs are transitory,

that the earth will swallow all and shine on

when all else has run its course.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Céilí and Trad at Canalaphonic, 8th and 9th May

Canalaphonic is  going to feature a huge range of music from jazz to trad to whatever. Pubs from the Bernard Shaw and the Barge out to Mother Reilly's in Upper Rathmines will be hopping on May 8th and 9th.
The stage at Rathmines Plaza (at Rathmines Leisure) will be the focus for trad lovers on Sat afternoon. The street céilí starts at 4. But before that,  there's 2 hours of music featuring Eleanor Shanley, Mike Hanrahan, Paul Kelly, Daoirí Farrell, the Dorians and the Ceoltóir Traditional Group BCFE.

Eleanor Shanley
Here's the trad line-up for the weekend, and it's all free.
At Rathmines Plaza:

2.00-2.15       Ceoltóir Traditional Group BCFE

2.15- 3.00      Eleanor Shanley, Paul Kelly, Mike Hanrahan

3.00- 3.45      Daoiri Farrell                                               

3.45-4.00       The Dorians 

4.00-5.00        Street Ceilí with Shay Mc Govern and music by Ceoltóir Traditional Group BCFE 

 pub sessions are
9.30 pm Fri. 8th May Sugán in Grace’s

9.30 pm Fri 8th   May   Trad Rocks in Slattery’s

9.30 pm Sat 9th May  Arís Arún in Grace’s

9.30 pm Sat 9th May   Trad Rocks in Slattery’s