Tag Archives: Poetry Day Ireland

Watching the Dust Settle

The sadly missed Ashley Cole, who could always be called upon to investigate things lurking under the sofa

I’ve been busy lately coaxing dust bunnies from under the sofa, not least because I’m mad for cleaning when I’m stressed or sad.  When I’m laid back and cheery, I can’t see dust, so my house is a mess. But right now, there are lots of things going on and I’m trying to fix them with a (faux) feather duster.

When I’m not waving a microfibre cloth at dirty skirtings, waiting for the phone to ring with more sad news (long story), I’m getting ready for my book launch at Strokestown International Poetry Festival. Less than two weeks to go (quick, fetch the mop, that floor needs attention). I wrote an article about the Festival and its background, which has appeared in the Irish Times – you can read it here. 

It even includes a picture of the late Seamus Heaney at the Festival in 2006, an image I share with you here. Just because I can 🙂

This year’s festival is certainly going to be an interesting few days – May 3rd to 7th –  when 70 poets, from schoolchildren to international celebrities, are going to descend on Strokestown in County Roscommon to do their thing. I’m particularly looking forward to the Poetry Divas on the first night – Kate Dempsey, Tríona Walsh and Barbara Smith, who will be ‘blurring the wobbly edge between page and stage’. They perform their own work at events around Ireland and have appeared at Electric Picnic. You can buy tickets here.

The official opening of the 20th Strokestown International Poetry Festival takes place on Friday evening (May 4th), but before that ceremony, Roscommon author Gerry Boland will be launching the new Strokestown Poetry Anthology in the Percy French Hotel at 7pm. I’m very honoured to have been asked to read out my poem ‘Watermarked’ from the anthology, thrilled to have been included in this year’s 20th anniversary book. And in a wonderful twist, because it’s all in alphabetical order, I share a two-page spread with Harry Clifton!

The following day, Saturday May 5th, is going to be a busy one. I’ll be in Bawn Street at 12 noon, making an appearance with my friends from the Hermit Collective – eclectic words and music in the open air (free of charge!). Then I’ll be hot-footing it back to Strokestown Park House for 2pm to see the indomitable Rita Ann Higgins, ahead of the 4.30pm launch (also in Strokestown Park House) of my first book, a limited-edition collection of 60 poems, ‘Beyond the Green Bridge’. (Hopefully, the stickers proclaiming my Hennessy win will be ready by then. Not that they’re taking ages to materialise or anything.) Anyway, I’m lucky to be squeezed into a launch slot alongside Majella Cullinane and Erin Fornoff – the weekend’s programme is packed to the gills with readings and book launches.

Saturday evening is one to look forward to as well – Jane Clarke is doing a reading alongside Lemn Sissay, with music by Danny Diamond,  buy tickets here, and then James Harpur leads everyone into an evening of nostalgia, looking back at the highlights of 20 years of festivals.

There are two more frantic days of poetry themed events after that, but I’m not thinking that far ahead just yet because I’ve other stuff going on this week. Like the launch of ROPES 2018 in Galway on Tuesday (April 24th). I’ve a story in it (yes, I know, I’m claiming to be a poet lately, but I scribble other stuff too). ‘Sparks’ will be launched in the Town Hall Theatre Galway as part of the Cuirt International Festival of Literature.

And Poetry Day Ireland on Thursday, April 26th is not to be missed, either. Lots going on that day. If you’re even remotely interested in poetry there’ll be something for you, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Here’s all you need to know.

Now. Where did I put that can of Pledge? And another thing, why are dusters no longer yellow?


I Started Early – Didn’t Take My Dog (or Visit the Sea)

If you happened to be listening to yesterday afternoon’s  Drive Time programme on RTE Radio One, you  might have heard a segment about Poetry Day Ireland (April 27th 2017), about a whole day of poetry, in all sorts of places throughout Ireland. (Listen here, starting about 1:58 in).

The over-excited voice commenting about getting up at 5.30am in County Roscommon in order to get to Dublin in/on time – well, that was ME! I was interviewed about my favourite poet/poems, and of course I had to mention my devotion to Seamus Heaney (forgot to mention Emily!).  I also gave a shout out to Jane Clarke, who was the reason I was there at Poetry Ireland in Parnell Square East.

I’d heard that Jane would be giving a talk at a seminar, and I was curious to hear if she’d reveal her modus operandi  – I wasn’t disappointed. All the ‘Mind Your Own Business!’ speakers had fascinating insider information to share, and I learnt a lot. I now have a better idea from Paul Perry as to why my grant applications are never successful; Jane Clarke gave some clues as to the publicity lead time for a poetry collection (absolutely ages); Don Paterson, Poetry Editor at Picador, was refreshing in his views about tightly themed first collections (avoid, they’re usually contrived and boring. Phew!); Alexander Technique practitioner Tomás Hardiman made me aware of how heavy my head is; and Poetry Ireland’s Communications Manager Muireann Sheahan made me realise how I should be more into Social Media (oh dear).  All information that was well worth getting up early for. And I even missed an opportunity to read with the Hermits in Strokestown so I could be there…

Before I got to Poetry Ireland, I’d spent a restful hour in the sanctuary that is the Irish Writers’ Centre, just around the corner.  I’m a member there, so I thought, why not?

Before that, I’d been shopping. For books, of course. Poetry books.

I’d entered the Books Upstairs Poetry Competition and was curious to see who’d won. Not me, sadly, but what a lovely shop:  loadsa books, literary magazines and a coffee shop with window seats – oh joy!

And I’d got my Confirmation money to spend. No, no I mean my Christmas money. Or was it my Birthday dosh?  Ah, sod it, I might as well come clean (the chancellor of the family exchequer doesn’t read this blog anyway):  I spent a whole week’s grocery money on books, OK?

What a thrill! I bought Emily Dickinson’s complete works in one volume (and it later opened straight to ‘Hope is the feathered thing…’).  I also bought Africk McGlinchey’s ‘Ghost of the Fisher Cat’,  Mike McCormack’s ‘Solar Bones’ (which is said to be something of a poetic novel),  ‘Ballistics’ by Billy Collins, ‘The Travels of Sorrow’ by Dermot Healy, and ‘Mountains for Breakfast’ by Geraldine Mitchell (which I hope to hear more of at Stroketown  Poetry Festival this coming weekend). I also bought a copy of The Moth magazine, wondering if it has changed much since I gave up being a subscriber a while ago (the jury’s out on that one).

I had to lug my cache everywhere for the rest of the day, but hefting great weights is supposed to be a boost for fitness.  I now have one arm longer than the other, but hey!

And now I’m hoping I haven’t missed the opportunity to see the recent film about Emily Dickinson, ‘A Quiet Passion’, with ‘Sex and the City’ star Cynthia Nixon in the title role. Read the review  that made me want to see it here.

The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck

Last year I was lamenting the potential demise of Strokestown Poetry Festival – Ireland’s longest running poetry event.  Thankfully, enough people rattled the right cages for the funding to get re-instated, and the festival goes ahead as planned this year, starting on April 28th.

Once again I am short listed in the Roscommon Poet’s Prize, and I’ll get to read my entry at the prizegiving ceremony in the lovely Strokestown House. It’s on at 10.30am on a (Bank Holiday) Monday, so if you can’t get there in person (I might struggle a bit myself), you can read the poem at your leisure here. I’ve taken third place in the last two competitions, and I’m thrilled to have been shortlisted again.

My head’s in poetry mode just now; I’m looking forward to Poetry Day Ireland on April 27th when some of my poems will be on display in the Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, and nearer to home in Ballaghaderreen Library, County Roscommon. I’ll be in Dublin that day taking part in ‘Mind your own Business’, a seminar on the practical side of being a poet, organised by Poetry Ireland and Words Ireland.

But before then I’ll be heading off to Wales to take part in the Spring Poetry Masterclass with the UK’s Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and the Welsh National Poet Gillian Clarke.

I don’t think I’ve stopped grinning since the news broke that I have been selected to take part at Tŷ Newydd, the National Writing Centre of Wales. I shall probably spend the week totally star-struck and in awe of the huge talent of these two writers – they’re among my favourite poets, of course.

I’m hoping some of the magic will rub off and in less than a week I can become a proper poet myself. Abracadabra, just like that!

Well, I can dream, eh?

Poetry Please

more poetry swanseaIt’s Poetry Day Ireland tomorrow (April 28th 2016), when you’ll hardly be able to avoid poetry as it pops up all over the place.

I will be leading a poetry workshop in Roscommon Library (as will Jessamine O’Connor and Catherine Ryan).  The fun starts at 10.30am, when I’ll be looking at what makes good poetry (very subjective!) and revealing some of my favourite poems. Of course for the year that’s in it, the theme is ‘Revolution’ and we’ll take that as one of our writing prompts – but I intend to squeeze every drop of meaning from the word, as well as the obvious.

My personal poetry choices are fairly mainstream – I like Wendy Cope, Seamus Heaney, Roger McGough, Emily Dickinson, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver  (and many others).  I like poets who use clever language to make me think – but I also like to be able to understand what they’re getting at. Roscommon poet Jane Clarke is included in my selection – her first collection ‘The River’ was published last year, and it is now one of my favourites.  (She’ll be reading at Strokestown Poetry Festival on Sunday morning, alongside excellent poets Gerry Boland and Margaret Hickey).

Tomorrow, I will be reading some of my own poems at 12.30pm, still in Roscommon Library, as will some other writers’ groups members, showcasing some of our work with the hope of encouraging would-be writers to join one of our groups.

In Ballaghaderreen Library there’s a display of poems by local writers, which includes me (I think!) but I won’t make it there for the public reading at 6pm because I’ll be on my way to the Dock in Carrick on Shannon to join the Word Corner Café regulars to read some of my poems there at 6.30pm.

Then there’s an interesting evening ahead in King House, Boyle, with music, art and poetry, starting at 8pm. Poet Breda Wall Ryan will be reading, Helen Grehan will be singing and playing, there’ll be some of Jessamine O’Connor’s work, Gerry Boland will be reading, Siobhan Wilmot will be singing, there’ll be art by Emma Stroude, harp and words by John Wilmott and Claire Roche, and there’ll be music from some of the Hermit Collective regulars, Gregory Daly, Barry Stevens and Dee Andrews. Should be an excellent evening.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, I get to hear how I’ve fared in the Strokestown Poetry Festival’s Roscommon Poets’ Prize – you can read the six finalists’ poems here .

PS The picture is of an otherwise blank wall in central Swansea, South Wales, birthplace of Dylan Thomas  – they love their poetry there!

Collaborative Scribbles (and Poetry Day Ireland)

collaborative scribbleHere’s a great creative writing prompt which we did in our writers’ group last week; it was great fun and we discovered the unexpected (and quite spooky) power of creative consciousness…

There were six of us, and each person took a sheet of A4 paper and was asked to draw on it – any form of scribble would do, just marks on the paper. The point was to unleash creativity, not expose artistic ability. Pastels, wax crayons, coloured pencils and chalks were provided for us to choose from (I picked Wimbledon coloured pencils, purple and green, my go-to favourites).  After a few minutes we had to pass the paper to the person on our left, who then had to give it a title before handing it back.

My green and purple swirls prompted ‘On Summer Wings’, and that title was the writing prompt. All good so far.

The second phase was more drawing/colouring/scribbling on a new piece of paper.  But for a short time only, then the paper was passed to the person on the left and we continued making marks, then passed it on again to the left, until we each ended up with the picture we started with. A composite piece of artwork  (pictured here) which was then the prompt for the next writing session.

We shared our writing, as usual a wonderful mix of poetry, prose, memoir and fiction, all raw and newly minted.

Then the fun really started. The facilitator asked us each to highlight a few words or a phrase from our first pieces of writing and she then assembled them into a six-line poem. Same again for the second pieces of writing and voila, another collaborative poem.

I think we were all blown away by the cohesion that was evident at this point. We were all writing separately and in our own individual styles, yet on some unconscious level we were part of a creative communion which produced two rather neat little poems.

We were so pleased with the result that we’ve submitted the two poems for an event at our local library (Ballaghaderreen) on Poetry Day Ireland (on Thursday, April 28th 2016). They’ll go public alongside offerings from other poets (including me).  There’s lots going on that day – check out events here. The theme is ‘Revolution’.

I will be leading a poetry workshop (alongside my friends Jessamine O’Connor and Catherine Ryan) that day in Roscommon Library, starting at 10.30am. All welcome (it’s free!).  See you there?