Friday, February 27, 2009

Another Prize!

I got home from doing the shopping, the usual trawl around the local supermarket to get all the stuff we ran out of during the month, like pasta and rice and lasagne sheets, to find a letter on the front door mat.

The letter was from the Tyrone Guthrie Centre to tell me that I was the recipient of the Annie Deeny Prize for 2008/09. What does this mean?

Well, in their own words: The Annie Deeny Memorial Prize was launched by distinguished poet Fleur Adcock in May 2004. Mrs Annie Deeny was a teacher and mother of six children who, although she wrote, never sought to have her work published. This perpetual prize is in her memory to encourage someone in a similar situation to write and to publish. It provides a two-week residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig.

Ironic, that I too have six children, isn't it? So, I'm now getting a total of four weeks away this year to write: on my ownsome...and no food to worry about... Just as well my husband is taking me out to dinner tonight: now we have more to celebrate!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nick Laird & Dishwasher Sagas

As ever, I am a whole week behind: the kids have been off this week on mid-term breaks and the whole household has descended into the sort of chaos that only mothers know: washing to beat the band etc; constantly running out of food and trying to think of 'free' activities that involve exercise of some form. And then the dishwasher which was already getting very weepy, tired and emotional decided that since I'd got a few euros to spare it was time to sputter and blink it's death.

Cue a few interesting days of manual dish washing, in which the kids learned very quickly that 'hands that do dishes' should be anyone's but their own. The new DW was installed yesterday with the usual three hour saga, involving sawing, hacking and much swearing that accompanies any seemingly plain and simple job in our house...

In the midst of all this a friend sent me a link for Nick Laird's article in last week's Guardian.

Laird discusses the political poem, coming from the stance of hearing Elizabeth Alexander's inauguration poem and mentioning Robert Frost's inaugural poem back in 1961 (for JFK). There is a tightrope that has to be walked when you decide to write poetry about politics: "To watch words carefully is a small political act, a safeguard against doublespeak. In daily discourse it leads to questions about truth and power." Laird suggests that 'poetry and politics' is interchangeable with that other unhappy pairing of words, 'imagination and reality.' From reading Wallace Steven's lecture 'The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,' he argues that Stevens thought that perhaps a 'coalition' between the two worlds was/is possible.

Now, I bet you never thought you'd see Nick Laird, poetry and politics and a dishwasher all in the same post. No, neither did I.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reading: A Fanatic Heart

I got a short story collection in the post the other day. Well, I'd actually ordered it before Christmas, posted it to a friend's address up North and got up there to collect it the other day.

It's A Fanatic Heart, by Irish writer Edna O Brien. I'd had my interest piqued about her through reading Father and I, a memoir by Carlo Gebler, who I'd heard a lot about last year, from colleagues who were taking the Prose strand of the Creative Writing MA at Queen's. He's a no-nonsense style of writer and critic, from what I heard.

Anyway, I read Father and I - it was a chance find for a fiver in the book boxes that you find at the back of the Central Bank in Temple Bar, Dublin. Once I'd started reading it I couldn't put it down. In it, Gebler traces his troubled relationship with his father, from when he had to deal with his old man's impending illness, moving him into a home and before that: back through time to Gebler's early childhood in London.

I found the account compelling: including moments like how he recalled his mother perched, tapping away on the typewriter at what would become The Country Girls, her first novel, and how his parents separated because his own father found his writing stymied and couldn't cope with his wife's success in writing. But Gebler writes in a way that evokes your sympathies, not because he plays on heart strings, but because he just lets the reader's heart strings resonate. Good writing, simply told.

So that led me to discovering some of his mother's work. A Fanatic Heart is a selected collection spanning across Edna O'Brien's writing career: early to late short stories that draw on her upbringing in Ireland and her travels in the UK and US. Both writers share an ability to turn really good, fresh phrases.

Here's Carlo Gebler at the close of Father and I: "You can't change the past but, with understanding, you can sometimes draw the poison out of it." Boy does that resonate.

And here's Edna O'Brien from 'The Connor Girls' in A Fanatic Heart: "... at that moment I realized that by choosing his world I had said goodbye to my own and to those in it. By such choices we gradually become exiles, until at last we are quite alone." Equally resonant.

You can't say that these two writers don't know how to turn a pithy quote. Now, I must keep on reading - I keep getting ideas though :)

*** Late addendum: Edna O'Brien was appointed adjunct professor of creative writing for UCD's MA in Creative Writing in 2006.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cavan Poetry Competition

Yesterday I drove to Cavan to receive my certificate for Highly Commended in the inaugural Caomhnu National Poetry Competition, for 'The Dairy Shed.' Some of you may remember seeing it in a very rough draft, many moons ago. I refined it to within an inch of its life during the MA programme last year, when it emerged into its final format, a sonnet.

Whilst there, I met Michael Farry, editor of Boyne Berries and another Highly Commended award-winner in the competition with his poem, 'Asking Directions.'

Michael has posted the results of both the short story comp & the poetry comp here, along with a photo of himself and the poetry adjudicator, Noel Monahan.

I enjoyed the prize-giving and the extremely welcome gourmet lunch afterwards, all organised by Cavan County Council. Special thanks to Arts Officer Caitriona O Reilly too for her great organisation.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Poem

In 2006, RTE's Poetry Programme, then compered by Pat Boran, put out a call for poems for Valentine's day. I was standing in the kitchen, making a meal for mise agus himse when I remembered that my mum used to say that the way to a man's heart was through his stomach. Not the sort of thing that makes sense to a small child, but how it resonates years later.

This is from Kairos and yes, I think I have hauled this out before...

The Garden of Earthly Delights

In the kitchen, Valentine,
it will begin with the green
curlicues of garlic shoots hid
in the cold shelf of the fridge.

The prying, bulging eyes of spuds
will wink in the clammy closeness
of their plastic bag. All being pulled
spring-tight tonight, through the tilting

built into their bolting seed husks.
And you too will respond with the flick
in your loins, the click in your head
as my hands riot in the radishes,

tease out the aubergine chunks,
toss together pillows of cherry tomatoes
and delight in these firm ruins
of last year's seedpods. There,

Valentine, is where you will begin.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Poetry in a Talent Show

Young DCU student Holly Ann Treanor will be on TV on Sunday night, in RTE's All Ireland Talent show. I don't watch a lot of TV at all, and it was a friend who put me on to this, but it's fascinating to see a poetry act being featured on television. Have a look at her audition clip and see what you think.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reading Poetry

I am reading a poetry pamphlet from Oystercatcher Press at the moment, by Rufo Quintavalle and enjoying it thoroughly. So much so that I find myself wondering where else I can find poems by this guy. Make Nothing Happen is really good value at only £4.00 and gives an intriguing taste of his work.

There's something about the way Quintavalle puts his words that makes you stop, re-read and then a few days later when you read them again you wonder why you had to stop. No surprise for a British poet with an Italian name, who lives in Paris. It's making me think strongly about how you corrall language when you write and what purpose you can put that corralling to. Most people would call it form. But that's to make what I've noticed seem simple, and I don't think it is that simple. I'd better save my thoughts for a review that I'm writing, but for now here are some links to his work, from nth position - see what you think.
Much & Rocks
Figs

***

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Project Verse

Are you a fan of Project Runway? Are you a poet without a first collection to your credit yet? Are you not freaked out by seeing these two things in one paragraph?

Then Project Verse could be just the challenge for you!

Hurry along and read up the rules and see whether you could be in with a chance of winning a contract for a published chapbook, a weeklong residency at Soul Mountain Retreat in Connecticut, an interview with Joe Milford of 'The Joe Milford Poetry Show', and a review of your chapbook in ouroboros review and Limp Wrist. It doesn't say where you have to be from... so, who knows? :)