Tag Archives: Roscommon

May Day, May Day? Can’t Remember…

I nearly forgot to boast about my recent win at Strokestown Poetry Festival – I took first prize in the Roscommon Poets’ Prize, a competition in which I came third the previous two years. That was certainly a good start to May!

Of course I’m delighted. The poem is about memory, a theme that keeps coming up to bite me on the bum, to remind me what to write about when I’m stuck for ideas. You can read it here.

The competition was judged by a friend of mine, Sligo poet Jessamine O’Connor, who would know my style and usual themes (my elderly mother crops up a good deal, and fanciful broken love affairs). So after almost not entering at all because it felt kind of awkward, I went ahead anyway and wrote something new and different. It was one of those poems that arrived on the paper pretty well fully formed. No idea how that works, I’m just happy to go along with it.

And of course, I had no hint that I was even in the running (although I knew I’d been shortlisted, along with six others). Jessamine, of course, was very professional about it all and although she’d judged the competition blind, didn’t know mine was her favourite until a number matched my name. She sounded just as shocked as me in the end. And I discovered the reason she’d been avoiding me since Christmas was so she didn’t give the game away. Ha!

This year my friend Catherine Ryan from Castlerea came second (she won the first year) and Laurence Henson from Strokestown came third (he won last year). Turn and turn about! All three of us are Hermit Collective poets.

Strokestown Poetry Festival is Ireland’s longest running poetry festival and last year they had their Arts Council funding withdrawn. This time around the funding was back in place, and the festival seemed to be flourishing. It is all about competitions, and I attended the prizegivings for the Percy French comic verse, and the main international poetry competitions.  Paddy Bushe and Maura Dooley adjudicated the latter, and it was fascinating to hear their comments on the ten shortlisted poems.

There was an anthology published this year. I’d recommend it – it has work from all the poets associated with the weekend, plus the shortlisted international competition entries (but  sadly, not any from the Roscommon shortlist). But worth a look if you can get your hands on a copy.

You could have picked one up from me as I manned the bookstall for an exhausting hour on the Saturday afternoon. Such a chore having to sit in the distinguished old dining room in Strokestown Park House, log fire blazing, dozens of poetry books scattered across the table, but I like to do my bit.

Of course, I’m just getting into character for some time in the future when my own collection of poetry gets put on sale there…

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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!