Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nothing Doing?

I went out to buy clothes today, maybe a new top or something, for the do on Saturday. I came home empty handed, because I was in one of my funny moods where I liked nothing I saw.

Nothing is a funny word. I was listening to In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg's show on R4, this morning on the way to look for clothes and I ended up taking a wrong turn and driving this little country road up the wrong side of the Cooley mountains. It's called Flagstaff and it is very high up indeed: it gave me a view over Carlingford lough that I've never seen before. Anyway, there I was driving along listening to physicists discussing atoms, nuclei, golf courses and golf holes and the thing is that there's never nothing going on in the spaces between all these particles, because there's a great deal of electrical charges all bouncing around, shifting and changing things. Talk about a state of flux!

I've now done a lot of thinking about nothing, because apparently when it comes to quantum, and the small particles that make up atoms, there's no such thing as nothing and in space there's no such thing either! And don't quote that expression, "nothing abhors a vacuum like nature" because apparently there's no such thing really as a complete vacuum either.

And then I get home and find this poem on Poetry Daily, which adds to the whole thing I have going on!

Now you know why I couldn't buy clothes this morning: I was too busy thinking about nothing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

April gives way to May

Here we are at the end of this month already. I've been so busy doing odds & ends that I've practically missed the days whizzing by.

On Friday I'm heading to Scotland to bed down in Wigtown in preparation for the presentation on Saturday, at 12.30pm. The presentation will include addresses by Douglas Dunn and Kevin McNeil on how they went about the onerous task of choosing their winners. Then us winners will read our winning poems... and the rest I'm sure will be great. I'm nervous, but I'm looking forward to it... even got meself some new shoes - it's a woman thing :)

In the meantime I'm busy running admin errands for the launch of Drogheda Writes 2, the anthology that I've been busy editing for the last three months. Some interesting statistics: 50 contributors, 81 pieces of work - that all adds up to a lot of words: 35, 486 to be precise. And only 193 of them are mine.

The launch happens on Monday 11th May @ 8pm in The Venue, McHughs, Chord Road, Drogheda, for anyone local who wants to come and see what it's all about. Copies will be on sale for €10 on the night, and afterwards will be available for €12.

More soon about the lovely chapbooks that I received this morning from Throgmortons Bookshop in Warwick: 'On Warwick,' by Jane Holland, 'The Terrors, by Tom Chivers, 'Lady Godiva and Me,' by Liam Guilar and two back copies of 'Under the Radar.' All published by Nine Arches Press - and they look very readable. Guess what I'm bringing to Scotland.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why Women Writers need more...

Here's an interesting Q&A session with Elaine Showalter on her new book: A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx (Knopf)

I came across Showalter a few years ago when studying 19th century novels, and I can still remember her extracted essay in my critical reader, in fact I quoted from it in a good few of my own essays that year. That essay came from a book on English Women Writers, and her new book, a survey of American Women Writers, is no mean feat given the broad scope of American literary endeavours.

The title of Showalter's survey I recognise. "A Jury of her Peers" is also the title of a story by Susan Glaspell, which I also studied along the way to my literature degree (and which I loved very much) you can read it here, still as fresh as it was when it was written in the early part of the 20th c. If you've never read it, you should give it a go - it's marvelous.

I point this up, because Nuala Ni Chonchuir recently wrote about feminism and writing, with relation to Irish Women Writers over at which touches on the same sort of points: how do we go about getting real Irish women's writing - literary writing - a better deal and more notice in the canon.

There's plenty of reading in both articles to make you think about how literary canons get formed, but I leave that for another day's argument.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Announcing: Wigtown Poetry Competition

I didn't think winning the Annie Deeny Prize this year could be topped, but a phone call on Tuesday persuaded me otherwise: 2nd prize in Scotland's biggest poetry competition, the Wigtown! I'm sure the caller thought I was a bit daft, as I really wasn't taking in what he was saying to me. It took a few goes :)

I've been walking on air ever since - getting that far up in a competition of that calibre is a Pretty Big Deal to me. I believe the entries are sift-read first, so to even get through to be read by Douglas Dunn was an achievement... but then to go on to be placed!

I keep thinking it's some sort of mad dream ... and then I remember it is true. It augurs very well for this proposed second collection that I am working on and just shows, if you keep on battering on the doors of these things, who knows what might happen?

I'm looking forward to attending the presentation on Saturday 2nd May, as well as seeing a part of Scotland that I might not have got to see before, as well as meeting the other prize winners.

Meantime, you can read the winners here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Next To Nothing - Launch

Well, it was as expected, it was an emotional launch last evening, at Chris Agee's reading from Next to Nothing, from Salt Publishing. Even the weather seemed to suit the sombre mood, being close and rainy.

John F. Deane, gave a very considered, close reading of the text, as an introduction to the reading and then Chris Agee read from Next to Nothing. The collection's pretext is that it records a parent's grief after the death of a beloved small child. And the only poem in the collection written before this incident is "At Bethlehem Nursery," a gorgeous poem set on a morning when there's been a very hard frost and the narrator is taking the child to playschool. It opens the book and it also opened the reading last night.

Most of the poems are dated, so that the reader can trace the trajectory of grief. I listened with attention as Chris read from them, but was particularly taken by the brief slips of poems in the sequence, "Heartscapes." They are the very distilation of the moments they describe, no more and no less heartrending for what they represent.

I know that Chris did falter once or twice reading last night showing even now, how making a piece of art like this helps to keep the evocation of his daughter, Miriam, still fresh to mind. I spoke to Chris afterwards, while he signed the copies I purchased, and he told me that every reading is different, he doesn't know when he might get a catch in the throat. It is a brave thing to take on something so close and set it into art like this, constantly re-evoking the spirit of someone so loved, so gone. It is a fine book, with the poems pared right back - no sloppy emotional sensationalism: the poems do what they should and evoke the emotion in the reader.

Here is one small example from the Heartscapes section:

I wish

to live
the coffin
of small details.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chris Agee - Next to Nothing

There was a heart-felt review in the Irish Times Weekend section on Saturday 11th, this weekend, for Chris Agee's new collection, Next to Nothing. The reviewer, Thomas McCarthy, describes how Chris approached the huge chasm of grief for a beloved young child, and explored this subject in this collection with deftness and skill.

Chris's book,published by Salt, will be launched this Thursday 16th April in the Unitarian Church, Stephen's Green, Dublin at 6.30pm. John F. Deane will introduce it.

I hope, luck be willing, to see some of you there :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Iota Arrives!

The new issue of Iota, 83/84 arrived this morning, along with a complementary copy of Maggie O'Dwyer's pamphlet, Yes, I'd Love to Dance. Maggie's work I knew from the Thornfield's Poet anthology that I got last year from Salmon. It's a lovely pocket-sized booklet, one that is eminently portable and covetable.

Anyway, Iota itself is really very good, under the new management of Nigel McLoughlin and an editorial board from the University of Gloucester, and an interesting development is that they "will publish an Autumn Iota with fiction and non fiction from both new and established authors." That Iota looks and reads so well, is down to the production values of Templar, under whose auspices Iota is now published. It looks like they've taken the original idea behind Iota, of combining the better known with the newly emerging, and really run with it.

I was pleased to see poetry from Rob MacKenzie as well as poetry from John Dillon, with whom I worked last year on the MA at QUB. Boy, did I like those poems then and I really enjoyed seeing them as polished as they are now. John's at Harvard at present, but I hope he'll make it over to Europe as his career develops.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Forest Music Launch

Last night I attended the launch, in Drogheda, of Susan Connolly's new collection, Forest Music. Fittingly, with a title like this, published by Shearsman UK, there was not only the music of Susan's poetry on display, but she was ably supported by her talented family. Her son played some really unusual sonic pieces on guitar inspired, he told us, by the work of Preston Reed. His father then later played some gorgeous music on the piano, including a new piece that featured the clarinet, inspired by the island of Inis Mor, over on the western seaboard.

But this is to side-track from Susan's work, which was given a rousing introduction by Dr Geraldine Stout. Geraldine is well-known for her work in and love of archeology, particularly in the Boyne Valley area, and was a natural speaker on Susan's behalf; they both share a great passion for the past of this uniquely endowed area. The collection itself features poems about many well-known landmarks from around Drogheda, such as the Maiden's Tower at Mornington and Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.

The launch was very well attended, despite the nasty weather last evening, and many, many copies were claimed and signed by Susan's fans, friends and family. Me included. I look forward to reading this long-awaited collection with great interest, for I've always liked the honesty and the quiet core at the heart of Susan's work. Besides that, Susan was one of the first poets I know to take my work seriously and that's no small part in my poetry past.

If you're interested, do pop along to the link and buy, or watch out for Poetry Ireland's email newsletters for the Dublin launch, which I believe will be held in May.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunday Frame of Mind

Kate Bush singing, Mná na hÉireann. You might need to be in a slightly forgiving frame of mind, I think... but her singing is, as always, spot on. See what you think. Courtesy of Dick, at Patteran Pages.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


National Poetry Month - here, not just over there and everywhere! Get a daily poem from Daily Lit, today's poem being Eliot and an extract from The Wasteland.

In other places, PFFA set their usual challenge of writing a poem a day for all 30 days of this month. I tried last year (lasted 17 days?) and the year before (lasted 3 days, I think). You do need strategies to get through this and the threads over at PFFA show how good the competition are ;)

Anyhoo - what am I doing? I'm thinking about using the Daily Lit poems as a daily bounce to get me going on some poems, since I've not been writing much of my own stuff for the last three months.

Instead, I was engaged in editing other people's writing - an art for which you need endless patience and a good computer programme (which hasn't been invented yet). The anthology runs to 136 pages (I hope) and will be published in May (I hope), to huge applause and interest (again, I hope!). What else - oh yes, it will be called, Drogheda Writes 2. Just hope I don't get into trouble with anyone here in Dundalk ;) Apparently these two towns, based in the same county aren't terribly fond of each other. Since I belong to neither town fully, I can mention this (I hope...)...

Feminism - where's it at?

Indieoma are running a week's worth of articles, essays and all sorts of commentaries on the new feminism, by female writers. Go and read, and if you enjoy it, do leave a comment!

There's some intelligent and lively writing there, from some intelligent and lively writers (and that's not just because I'm one of them ;) ) - what are you waiting for!