Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Between Times

I'm always a bit ambivalent about the festive season, especially when you get to the post-match analysis: kids reasonably pleased with their haul; dinner - passable, even if it was raw first time out of the oven; rellies - suitably entertained, fed and re-dispatched to other rellies.

If I had my way, the whole thing would be a lot shorter - by about a week. The new year thing - well, what's another year, as Johnny Logan once sang... and I for one will be quite relieved when the kids are back at school and I can get back to writing once more!

Happy New Year to everyone popping in - ooh - and it's almost two years since I got going on blogger - more later!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Avalanches - Since I Left You

Never mind all that Christmas stuff - this leaves a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The First Noel - Irish Style

Last night we sat all six of them down: there's the paper; there's the pen - make your final lists! So far, no bodger. Today Insane Husband is set the task of collecting all the presents outlined, so that Santa's sack will be nice and heavy for coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

Guess what the must-have toy seems to be in Ireland this year? The DS; well it's actually the Wee (my name), but I'm not going there after the boys have already totalled two PS2s in the space of two years - I reckon you could possibly put the two of them together and get half way through a game -that's if it wasn't scratched to bits.

Anyway, today goes something like this - text sent from IH at 13:40: no ds left, aggh! Received at 17:10, when I'm just about to get the train home from college in Belfast. So, I think, okay, I'm in a major city, I'm sure I'll get one here. Text back: no worries will sort out here.

Not so. Three big brand shops later, I get the message loud and clear - no DSs happening in this city tonight. Back to train-station with moments to spare. Cue some frantic texting to friends and relations to enquire about DS status in other towns in the north-east of southern Ireland (I know, it's confusing, how do you think we feel).

Most alternative possibilities involve queues, all at ungodly hours. God I love my children. I know what you're thinking: why didn't you get off yer bum and do this earlier. The answer has something to do with a thing that begins with m, ends with y, and doesn't grow on trees, despite what our kids think.

Now, I'm of the opinion that there are ten more days to go before the fat-red-man lands on the roof-tiles; so I'm trying to take a more relaxed approach to this pressie lark and not panic. Yet.

In the meantime, barfarama still reigns with two getting better from Winter Vomiting Bug (we have such straightforward names for things here), but two more complaining of tummy pains and fevers - dontcha just lurve being a parent!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bloomin 'eck

For the first and probably the last time in my Open University career, I've managed to get a distinction in the Creative Writing course I finished back in September.

I am shocked. But ecstatic.

I have been offered an Honours degree in Literature, which I will have the greatest pleasure in accepting on Monday. After I go and celebrate! Yay me :)))))

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatrist (Good Quality)

I've been haunted by this for weeks as a soundtrack. Have a look.

Cork - O' Bheal

For those who aren't from Irish shores, I'll try to translate 'O' Bheal'. Beal (h-aspirated there... God bless me Irish teacher) means 'mouth'. The 'O' bit makes me think of the shape of the mouth sometimes and means 'from'. So loosely speaking, it's 'from the mouth' or 'spoken word.'

O' Bheal is in existence since April of this year and has already confirmed its place as 'The' place to read when and if in Cork. It takes place on a Monday evening and has an easy format that lends itself well to both supporters and guest poets.

Firstly there's the challenge: five random words are gathered from the audience and then a long fifteen minutes are given so that everyone can compose a poem based on the given five words. Anyone who wants to reads out their poem and whoever gets the loudest applause/cheer/foot-stomps gets a free pint - always a useful carrot when you're a poor-mouth poet ;)

This week the words were: barn, useless, peril, fidget and posit. Have a go yourself - but I warn you, the 'barn' always seems to situate the poem, in, well, a barn!

The challenge is then followed by the guest reader, which in this case was yours truly, and here I must say what a pleasure it was to be allowed to include reading one of the longer mythology-based poems from Kairos alongside the shorter, more modern ones - it all did seem to go down well in Cork - and I enjoyed myself much more than I thought I would - think I might be getting used to it at last!

(I wonder is this the time to mention that if you're looking for a Christmas present for a poetry lover, you could do a lot worse than a specially inscribed copy of Kairos ? ... Ah well - no harm in trying!)

Finally there is the Open Mic session, where everyone gets to 'run what they brung.' There was great variety in the work presented for our delectation and a few things that stuck with me on the way back up the road in the car were: the set involving some wistful fiddle playing combined with what I guess you might call 'Irish rap'; a poem about recycling glass which turned out to be a lot more; a poem about a ballerina's feet, butterflies and chaos theory... a poem about hands, another about ears... another about Christmas in the 1920s...

I could go on, but there simply wouldn't be room here - lets just leave it with the fact that it was a great night, only slightly marred by the fact that I had to hop into the car and drive home, so that Insane Husband could scoot off to honour business commitments. My eyes hurt today!

Just a quick thank-you (yes, more thanks ;) ) to Paul Casey, organiser and MC of O' Bheal, a well-versed poet in his own right, who I think we will be hearing a lot more of in time to come...

I have been challenged to seven random facts by Belle and twelve things I love about Christmas by Scarlett. So, I'd better get cracking on them, then hadn't I?!?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Gallivanting again

This week saw me fulfil some more reading obligations: briefly, a lunchtime reading in Chapters book shop of Parnell Street, in Dublin on Monday and then the Poetry Ireland reading in the Unitarian Church on Tuesday night alongside Catherine Ann Cullen, Hugh O'Donnell and Anatoly Kudryatsky.

It was a great pleasure to be reading at this venue; having watched and listened to many other poets of good standing from the (not uncomfortable) pews, it was a truly great feeling to get my turn in the pulpit. We were also very lucky to have two very accomplished Japanese musicians- a harpist and a violinist (sadly I forgot to take note of their names on paper) as well as an unusual music-scape in the form of Nepalese singing bowls, played by Anatoly.

The occasion was tinged with a little sadness as Poetry Ireland is losing its manager of two years, Deryn O'Brien to the Kingdom of Kerry; alas for PI, yay for Kerry. But I believe that she was given a very rousing send-off by the Dublin contingent and I know that she will do very well in the Kingdom.

I have another reading to do in Cork on Monday 10th Dec, at 8.30pm as part of the O'Bheal series of readings/open mic nights that happen down there on Monday evenings. I am looking forward to this one very much, as I've not had the chance to be at one of them before.

In the meantime, the CW Saturday class is just finished for the Christmas break - we are hoping to continue on again in the New Year (once I get my module assignments over and done with) and I am finishing up in Queen's on Friday until the new semester starts. They give you these generous holidays and then fill them with lots of hard work to do; I've three megadocious assignments due just before the end of January and frankly the thoughts of them frighten me half to death.

Results are due from the Open University on Friday 14th December. That's when I'll finally know the grade for my CW course of much earlier in the year and (fingers crossed) I will be asked to accept my degree in English Literature... Booking for the award ceremony opens on the following Monday. Can you imagine me, in Robes, Scroll et al... accompanied by the rabble of my family! What better way to do it than to bring them all along and get my youngest to (loudly) upstage the distinguished guest on the day ;)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Alive! Just about...

Well, as I expected I had a really, really good time over in south London, with my blogmates, Debi and Minx, and Riverwillow too (a thanks here to Belle for the card with the really BIG pants on them - I think she's trying to tell me something).

Friday saw me having a really gorgeous meal with Riverwillow, chomping my way through a plate full of assorted crustaceans and shellfish, talking writing non-stop for... well a couple of hours at any rate.

One thing though - I've discovered that having an espresso last thing at night isn't the cleverest of things to do.

And another thing: urban foxes sound like banshees (and tend to go on and on and on for hours...).

And that people, round where Riverwillow lives, like to go horse riding at 5 in the morning up the street.

Adds a whole new meaning to joy-riding.


Saturday, I met up with Debi and Minx, and we walked and bussed the legs-of-ourselves. Starting with an 'eco-fair' where we had lunch on the hoof, we then perambulated onto the bus and into the West end to meet up with members of Bookarazzi, where we ogled each other's books, talked a good deal about writing, book deals and publishers and got to know each other better. There were about twelve (maths never was my strong suit) of us there; a really good turn out considering it was early December and the shopping end of things has so many people out trolling about.

Later on, the Minx and Debi had arranged to go to see John Bently, a performance poet, in the Canterbury Arms in Brixton. A bit of a double whammy for me - Brixton was where I lived first when I moved to London... way, way back in the distant past - and I was intrigued to find that I knew the pub we were in as well, having been there manys a time... in the way, way back times... (okay I'm not that old, but humour me, why don't you).

Anyway, we watched him do his stuff, complete with a wooden leg, a washboard, a saw and later on aided and abetted by the highest pair of silver heels I've ever seen in my entire life! And all without the aid of a safety net. But with a very, very good bunch of musicians. Bently has been described as being 'quite an exhibitionist.'

To say that I found the whole set interesting, would be putting it mildly - I'm sure Minx or Debi have covered this (ahem) much better than I possibly could (just checked and Minx has).


I returned yesterday to the cleanest house in Ireland, restocked with food, and washing done... I am slightly worried as this is not the normal post-going away state of my home. A big thank-you to everyone whose sofa-beds I slept on this weekend and the hospitality of the Debi household is now become legend.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I always knew it too

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Bits & Bobs

I have been in oxter-land! That's where you're so damn busy that you don't realise that the sh-loppy stuff is right up to your armpits and rising faster than you can say, 'Get me out of here, I'm a celebrity poet!'

Firstly, at another book launch last night in Belfast for an anthology of Canadian, Newfoundland and Irish poetry. The readings from the book were only inspirational and the lovely laid back setting of Bookfinder's Cafe, was completely ideal for creating the necessary ambiance for a weighty tome like this one.

The Echoing Years is produced by The Centre for Newfoundland & Labrador Studies of the School of Humanites, Waterford Institue of Technology. Edited by Stephanie McKenzie, Randall Maggs and John Ennis, the book is literally about 3 inches thick in the spine: and contains some of the great and good poetry that is contemporary now.

Placing poetry from both sides of the pond, from countries not as used to being highlighted, as shall we say the US or the UK, means that the spotlight is allowed to play a lot longer and brighter on this selection of poets. There are some real thrills and surprises in the book: such as Leonard Cohen, Michael Ondaatje and in the Irish section a wonderful translation of Barbara Korun by Theo Dorgan. I haven't even skimmed the surface with this volume - it is (and I am sorry to have to use this cliche) a veritable cornucopia; with the contents page running to 34 pages alone from a total of 1280... some mighty reading over the next few weeks! If you know someone who loves contemporary poetry, you could do a lot worse than stick this in their Christmas stocking(s).

Two: people are starting to send me virtual champagne (how did you know!) and I am awaiting my before-birthday present from my husband with the proverbial bated breath! This evening we are having a family party for me with the kids; tomorrow I set off to stomp around sarf Landin, wiv me gud OU mate (sorry, came over all cockney there!) and later on have a generally good time indulging myself at the Saturday blogmoot for Bookarazzi in London's West-End and hang with the Minx and the Debi one - you know they very conveniently decided to have the moot on my birthday ;)

I have officially decided to get on and enjoy this birthday for all I can - see you this time next year! ;)


Okay - maybe not - And my piece of knitting in the Grace story has made it into the Shameless Lion's Writing Circle; go on and have a deko (writer 15), you'll need to scroll down!

Monday, November 26, 2007

More Launches

I had the pleasure of being invited to a very glamourous poetry book launch last Thursday evening, in Damer Hall, Stephen's Green, Dublin. The book in question, Snow Negatives, is a collection by Enda Coyle-Greene, the well deserved winner of the Patrick Kavanagh prize in 2006. Check it out and put it in your (or someone else's) Christmas stocking - it's a fantastic read.

If you don't know already, this is quite a prestigious prize for poetry, awarded to a manuscript of an Irish native annually for 36 years, but you must not have published a book previously. Winners in the past have gone on to bigger and better things - think Paul Durcan, Peter Sirr, Pat Boran, Sinead Morrissey and Conor O'Callaghan to name check but a few. Funnily enough, the winner of the PK award has just been announced this weekend, making it the full year since Enda's book was selected.

The launch itself was absolutely packed to the rafters - I've never been at a poetry event so well attended in my life -which augurs well as a riposte to those that say that poetry is dying off! Pat Boran spoke a few words over the book and then Mary O'Donnell gave us a very sound and interesting introduction to the work itself. Enda then read from the book, garnering a spontaneous round of empathetic applause for her formal sequence, 'Words to Form my Mother.'

For myself, I had a very good evening catching up with 'poets all sizes,' finishing my evening in Doheny & Nesbitts of Baggott Street - my old stomping ground, from my days with News Extracts (back before child production became a business ;) ), talking about ballroom dancing -as you will do, on these occasions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How do you do 40?

I'm about to celebrate one of those allegedly important birthdays. You know - the ones that end in 'oh'. I'm not sure if that's more an 'oh - did I make it his far,' or an 'oh, is that it?' or perhaps it's more an 'oh!' Which we're all entitled to, I guess.

I was on the phone to a good friend this evening and she asked me, 'Well, what are you doing for it?' I was going to mention the planned trip to London as being something a bit different to do for a birthday, but I thought I might surprise her with that one. She's not forgiven me for jetting off to Paris with Insane Husband for her birthday, back in June. That's my insane husband, not her's... I think she'd definitely not forgive me that one. Sorry this is beginning to sound like a plot for a pink novel...

An-y-way. Some suggestions for milking this 'oh' birthday might be useful. As long as they don't involve chocolate and smearing in the same sentence.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I go away for 5 minutes

...and come back to a sisterhood of the pointy heel as well as knights of besmirched countenance...

I scratch my head, momentarily and then remember that it is almost the depth of winter in the Northern hemisphere and I suppose that that may be one reason for these strange goings on.

But then, I tell myself firmly, is it really strange...? Sisters and knights have long had 'interesting' associations... just now I am thinking Keats very loudly... No 'tis not strange.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

qarrtsiluni the name of an online literary zine that has just finished it's latest period of issue. qarrtsiluni was edited by Katherine Abbott and Rob MacKenzie; editors from this side of the ocean and that. This transatlantic editorial collaboration made for an interesting mix of works; visual and written.

I managed to get a poem into this issue which is themed around 'making sense.' I've been getting updates delivered to my mailbox, something I don't normally do, but the sheer quality of language and visual art has been breathtaking, throughout - you should go take a look.

Their back issues are also interesting browsing too - check out their sidebar - and look out for the etymology of qarrtsiluni as well - it's a lovely word.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mithering and Dithering

Our second assignment for the Research Methods module is due in about 2 and 1/2 weeks... and I am having a good old dither about it today. And yesterday.

I think it was the sheer scope of the task at hand. On the face of it, it looked simple: a 1000 word report evaluating the archival resources available in Northern Ireland - or near where you live - that's if you can winkle anything of 'literary worth' out of a provincial Local Authority Archive that specialises in water board records and minutes of meetings... you get the picture don't you?

A visit to Armagh is in the offing to look at the rather splendid sounding Armagh Public Library or Robinson Library, where they specialise in lots of interesting books, manuscripts and documents mostly before the 1800s. They have a first edition of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, with his own emendations there!

Meanwhile, back at the Kairos/poetry ranch, the two November readings have sort of snuck up on me. Galway and Over The Edge is next Thursday 1st November, in Galway City Library at 6.30pm. I am reading with two other poets, Megan Buckley and Jean Folan, both with tremendous literary credits to their names.

After a wee visit to some outlaws in Cahirciveen on Friday 2nd, it's back to Tralee, my adopted home for a good bit of the summer, for the big read on Saturday 3rd November, at Siamsa Tire. This time it's with the other Doghouse Pups from this year, Catherine Ann Cullen, Anatoly Kudryavitsky and Hugh O'Donnell. It's a nice way to meet up with Noel our editor again and the other three.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Shameless Lion Writing Circle

Well the developing story of Grace has stepped up a pace; side characters have been introduced and we are getting some back-story on what has led Grace to that initial taxi ride in New York.

The contributors are up to eight now and the logistics of people reading it and preparing their next installments are making it even more of a challenge. I am dreading being nominated for a contribution, there are so many threads to draw together... a bit like deciding when to start reducing stitches for the armholes when you're knitting the back of a jumper - this row or maybe two rows on...

I think they're going to need chapters at this rate of going!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A London Blogmeet... and a Launch!

Plans are afoot for a blogmeet for Bookarazzi members in central London. I thought I would go too, since it's nice to have faces to put to names and really talk books with everyone there... and then I thought about tucking copies of Kairos in my suitcase and erm, well, launching it there... and then I remembered that I'm 40 on the weekend in question...

It's the 1st of December, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate it... how about you?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pundy the Publishing Pundit!

Damn blogger won't let me post a picture, but Pundy has something to show for all the months of hibernation: A Half Life of One.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fiddle dee dee!

I've so much to catch up on, this post will be in danger of sounding a little breathless... so here goes!

Firstly, the Shameless lions writing project has moved on apace - when I last checked in it was up to five writers already: Shameless, CB, Scarlett, Minx & Vanilla, with the next nominated writer being Verilion.

Grace the protagonist seems to be getting around a lot, and secondary characters are being developed. The initial potential of 'Grace' has widened out a great deal, and each writer has brought their own unique flavour and style to the proceedings.

Another thing I forgot to blog is that skint writer's Blagsite has gone live, with lots of interesting articles about writing, by writers and you should really check it out, if you've not already done so. I did a wee piece myself, on - well, it had to be poetry, really, didn't it? I've read all the other articles and can't wait to see how this one grows - fair play skint!


In case you were wondering, the Saturday Creative Writing class that I'm facilitating is going from strength to strength. Today was Week 3, (having had to do two readings last weekend) and we were critting the final pieces produced from the group - I was utterly astounded by the variety of writing and talent in the group! Each mini-story showed great potential and with some gentle suggestions made by the group could be made even better. We are hoping to produce some kind of publication next year, so these stories could be the seedbed from which we can grow a small anthology in the form of a chapbook.

Next week we move on to poetry and (rubs hands) that's where the fun will really start! I have some great ideas for workshops lined up and hope the group enjoys them as much as I have putting them together.


The MA is starting to feel settled for me, although I still have to pinch myself that I am going up to Belfast to Queen's every week for classes - the campus has some terrific old buildings, and in the quad there are some beautiful trees with a blaze of red leaves - sadly the day I that I see this, did I have my camera there to capture this..? Did I heck! Anyway, I think I have enough on my plate producing one new poem a week for twelve weeks for the workshop - which includes some mighty fine writers... keeping up is going to be challenging; but as August's Guardian Workshop as reinvented by Rob showed, I think I thrive on challenges ;)


Kairos is selling at a very steady pace. My publisher is absolutely delighted with the ongoing interest, as I was very much an untried and unknown quantity for his publishing outfit... and, it looks like there may be a Belfast launch in the offing, as well as perhaps a venture forth to the UK - more about this later on!


So there you have it - life after the madhouse is live!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Tagged for a book meme!

1. Total number of books owned - Erm, I really can't count them all - they're in every room of the house and the attic. Even the smallest room. Even the car. Even the garden shed. I have the inherited family 'book sickness.'

2. Last book bought - Hugh O'Donnell's Planting a Mouth; bought and signed at his wonderful launch in Dublin: really complete and beautiful poetry too.

3. Last book read - The Man With Night Sweats, Thom Gunn; The Truth of Poetry, Michael Hamburger (still reading this one); The Children of Hurin, Ed. Christopher Tolkien; Northern Lights, Philip Pullman (I read about four or five at a time and often re-read books that I've read before for comfort too). Okay, that might be cheating!

4. Five books which mean a lot to you.

Stranger Music by Leonard Cohen - a selected poetry and songs.

Gilgamesh, English version by Stephen Mitchell - a very contemporary, yet mythological account of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Song of Taliesin by John Matthews - oops does my interest in myths show.

The White Goddess by Robert Graves - without this I'd never have had all those poetic arguments in my head.

And John Toland's Christianity not Mysterious, a very precious book indeed for all the philosphical treatises that came from it and indeed for its rarity.

Taggees: Belle, Colin Will, and Cyberscribe - everyone else seems to have done it already!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Totally Awesome, Dude!

Yes, dahlinks, it's awards time again! Just look at what Belle has awarded me!
I will have a think about who I will pass this on to, as there are so many worthy blogs out there that I love...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Shameless Lion Writers are at it again!

Shameless' Lions and Lionesses have a new writing project up: it's based on a photograph of someone hailing a taxi in New York and looks very good so far with two writers having contributed.

It works through each subsequent writer nominating the next. So far, Shameless began it, CB continued it, and Scarlett is next. Go read it on the above link - it's great - Grace the protagonist is quite mysterious...

I can't wait for my turn - I have a feeling this story will grow in unexpected ways!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ambitions Fulfilled

Yesterday I fulfilled part of a lifetime's ambition - to be enrolled in a course in Queen's University Belfast! I began my MA programme with the university with the first class of Research Methods - we will be exploring how to construct Bibliographies and conduct research using Libraries, Databases and Archives.

Sounds dry as dust, doesn't it? But in these places are the most unlikely resources, and they're just as useful for someone doing Creative Writing as they are for someone researching for Medieval English - you just won't know until you start looking, what subjects will interest you and what inspiration could be waiting inside a book, or letter, or record of someones life.

We learned about the Library of Congress cataloguing system and how each writer has their own number assigned to them as well as certain letters. All reference books begin with Z, for example and literary books belonging to the UK and Ireland are PR. We've got our first assignment too due in three weeks, finding a bibliographic list of books on 1 of 24 possible subjects.

I was slightly bemused, as being so used to studying on my own with the OU with the odd tutorial or day school has made me realise how pampered the ordinary student in brick uni is, with lectures, hand-outs and the novelty of having other students to physically talk to! I think I will enjoy this year very much! Even the mornings with the cold and darkness that will come soon won't bother me now :)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Golden Compass

I'm like a little child! If, unlike me, you do read papers and actually keep up with current affairs and movies etc, you probably know about The Golden Compass, forthcoming just in time for Christmas. It's a movie of the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, which I just found out about today.

Go and find your daemon on the website!

Mine is Arion, the Tiger. Apparently, I'm modest, responsible, competitive and sociable, which is why my daemon is a Tiger... I always did have a think about cats :)))

What's yours?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Kairos Launched!

The good ship Kairos was launched into orbit with great acclaim and applause on Wednesday, 19th September, 2007!

Well, okay, maybe not 'great' acclaim... but the speeches were very nice, the wine was too and a good many copies of the book were snapped up and signed by yours truly. That's Daire (8) there, holding one of the books!

All the children attended and they were immaculately behaved; if we ignore the investigating of the main theatre, the clomping up and down the main staircase and the hiding behind the side curtains of the small theatre space where the reading and speeches took place. Not during the reading, though, in fairness!

Noel Lennon gave the launch speech, doing a very nice job of introducing me and my work to Dundalkers, Droghedians and Dubliners alike, not forgetting the contingent from Kerry too.

So that's it! The book is launched and is available for sale here: Doghouse Books. You should state if you want your copy signed, but be prepared to wait a week or so for delivery - the publisher is busy honouring poetry commitments in France!

Also, anyone who wants a taster of the poetry is welcome to listen to the interview of Tuesday morning here.

Next week, I'm reading at Chapters bookstore, Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Friday 28th September @ 1pm, with Seven Towers author, Oran Ryan; presenting awards at the Amergin Festival of Writing in Drogheda that evening; and reading on Saturday, 29th @1pm with Doghouse stablemate, Catherine Ann Cullen at the same festival, in the Droichead Theatre, Stockwell Street, Drogheda.

And on Monday I'm registering for the Creative Writing course in Queen's University Belfast - so if it goes a bit quiet here for a few days - don't worry! I'll be back :) Now, I'd better go and get something together for class tomorrow... the handouts won't write themselves!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

John G's Challenge - finally!

Ten words: see what you think!

At a poetry reading, I fell into a daydream:
a tall man read a poem about a ferret.
The ferret had a baritone voice, sang
lemon scented songs, undercut by tarmac
stuck to its paws. Around the walls
of its home were deep green shamrocks
grooving gently on a kite string:
And a piece of driftwood countered
his walls preserved with beeswax;
an ultimatum in spinning song.

He never said it had to make sense...?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Radio, Radio...

I've been asked to go on local radio tomorrow morning - the station is Dundalk FM and if you check on the webpage, they have a listen online facility.

I'm not sure whether they've got the capacity for downloadable podcasts, so if you happen to be near a computer tomorrow morning tune in at about 10:45 to Dundalk Daily with Harry Lee. It is repeated later on in the evening at 10pm, so I might have worked out how to record it myself at that stage... Just click on the red fly past banner near the top of the Dundalk FM page to listen.

I'll be talking a little about myself, as well as reading a few poems from the book (whilst trying not to cringe).

This evening, I'm off to Dublin to support another Doghouse pup: Hugh O'Donnell, whose book I have had the pleasure of reading from cover to cover before it was even published - we proof read each other's work the day before they both went to print. Hugh's work is widely published in Ireland, and he's had the privilege to have been published in Poetry Ireland Review many times (the Irish equivalent of Poetry Review or thereabouts), indicating the standard of his work.

Indeed Hugh's book Planting a Mouth will be launched by it's now retiring editor, Peter Sirr. I wouldn't recommend reading someone's collection in one sitting normally, but Hugh's book is a very good read :)

Update: a friend and colleague has been able to catch the interview, so, as soon as I receive it I will post for the delectation of you all :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Creative Writing Classes

Today, I began facilitating the first of a series of eight Creative Writing classes. I must admit that I felt like I fell into the whole thing by accident. I didn't allow myself to believe that they were going to happen, because I thought that no-one would come. Imagine my pleasure and surprise to read about them in the local paper (once again) and then be told yesterday that the classes were actually over-subscribed by participants!

So today we set off down the writing road, beginning at the beginning - with basic CW techniques of clustering and freewriting, to free up the mind and imagination and then ending with homework of creating a character and then 'taking them for a walk.' Next week we'll get stuck into critiquing techniques and how to improve writing through criticism.

It's fantastic to be at the other end of a period of learning, where I'm now translating all the learning into facilitating other people's writing development. There were times when I was in the midst of the Literature degree, when I wondered what the hell I was doing it for.

How I smiled inwardly today as a class participant advocated for a plot first, character second, type of approach. Rather than get tied in knots, I cited Henry James as an example of an author with a character in search of a novel: The Portrait of a Lady, as opposed to an author with a novel plot in search of characters: Wilkie Collins and The Woman in White. It brought back many memories of the same conversation on the OU conferences and I must say that it is nice to know now, what all that study and endless essay writing was for. Ginnie Woolf - eat your heart out :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


That's about all you'll get out of me today. Three advance copies of Kairos arrived this morning. I have to confess that I don't seem to be able to take it in just yet. It looks way better than I imagined it would: lovely cover, poems just so inside.

After waiting for the four weeks it took to print and bind, I cannot believe that it has come around so fast. Tomorrow week, I'll be in a state of high anxiety running around getting stuff done for the launch in Dundalk. Requests to read at various events have started to trickle in, so I guess that I'll just have to get used to this funny feeling in my tummy. It reminds me of the high tensile state I was in just prior to getting married.

Meanwhile, I'll just while away this evening listening to Matthew Sweeney's deep tones, as he reads from his work tonight in the Unitarian Church, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2 @ 6.30pm. I'm making a point of talking to him afterwards too ;)

He reads in Limerick on Wednesday and Galway on Friday - not that I'm thinking of going - that might be a little like stalking and I don't think my hub would be too impressed :)))

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Go Barbara!

I have my own wooden spoon today mixing in an imaginary wooden bowl. Imagine my surprise to log onto blogger and find a little message nestling in amongst the other ones, hinting that it might be a good idea to look at the Guardian Poetry Workshop pages, for August's challenge set by Matthew Sweeney.

Imagine also logging into the OU message boards this morning to find messages of congratulations about the same! I had to go and look... and was absolutely delira and excira to find my poem picked to feature in the workshop results. There were a lot of very accomplished poems in the final mix; I noted another OU student had her poem picked too, which is a great testament to the Creative Writing courses that the OU have created. I originally posted the poem on this blog as part of a challenge to write a poem a day using the ten line prompts that Sweeney had put up. Funnily enough, the poem that everyone responded best to, was the one that was chosen.

Reading through the feedback given on the poems, I saw that Sweeney really went for poems that made dramatic use of the lines, that used realism and unique language and steered away from abstraction - something I usually find hard to do in writing, because we just can't help commenting on what we write, even though we try to do it subtly. It's a knock on effect of the way that people think - everything is cause and effect with humans. His point was, I think, that the scene or image presented should invite its own comment or judgement from the reader; leaving the door open for as wide an interpretation as possible, I guess.

So this is another thing I am taking with me from all the writing this year: let the images/sensory perceptions do the talking for you and always use as many of the senses as you can - hmm, shades of that submission call that Rob posted the other day about Making Sense. And speaking of Rob, if it weren't for the initial challenge that he made to other poets about getting off our bums and writing on as many of the prompts as we could, the poem would never have been written in the first place. So thanks Rob :)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Poor Pavarotti

This has always been one of my favourites:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pressure - pushing down on me...

Ooh, this back-to-school lark never fails to whack me out!

I have deliberately not added up any amounts of money in outgoings to the schools this week as I don't really want to scare myself that badly. That might sound like denial - but hey, it's what got me through six labours, and I'm still here! I'm hoping that by the end of the week, requests for money for 'arts, crafts and photocopying,' swimming lessons, hurling, music lessons, new instruments and various other 'extra-curricular activities' will have faded gently into the thick bottom of a nice glass. Parenthood, don'tcha just love it? Not.

This is the time of the year when newspapers trot out the usual figures about how much a parent will spend on a child's schooling during their school life - and when I am at my most sceptical about those figures. Hub & me reckoned that if the Irish Times really had their figures right this Saturday, we would need three squillion million second mortgages just to get us to the end of number six's primary education. I really do wonder sometimes what normal parents are buying for their kids? And then I wonder where the papers get their information from and who compiles these figures?

On the launch-of-the-book front, progress is being made, slowly but surely. I got a nice surprise in the local paper last week, well shock really, to see an article about the forthcoming book being launched on the 19th of September - the date wasn't the shock, mind you, it was just seeing it there! I received my own copy of the press release the following day. Postal system playing up again, I guess.

Noel tells me that the books are due back at the printers from the binders this Friday. Trouble is that he's away for a well earned break doing what he does best - storytelling, and I won't be able to physically see/feel/smell/ the book until he comes back and posts me a copy... I really can't wait to see it!!!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Leonard Cohen & Other Interesting Poetry Links

Todd Swift highlights Leonard Cohen's long awaited Book of Longing on his blog Eyewear recently and I went for an amble on google and found this article about Irving Layton & Cohen. The connections between mentor and and poet mentioned in the article not only made me want to discover Layton and his work, but reminded me of another article I read recently about a possible link between Robert Frost and Thomas Lovell Beddoes, an 18th century poet.

The assertion was that at some stage Frost must have read 'The Phantom Wooer' by him, because of the echoes between the lines,

Young soul put off your flesh, and come
With me into the quiet tomb,
Our bed is lovely, dark, and sweet;

and a line from 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:' the woods are lovely, dark and deep. The resonances are not just in the line but in the tenor of the poem too. I love reading about connections like this, as it always shows how we build on what has gone before but we sometimes don't see or get what has gone before because our knowledge needs to broadened. Debts outstanding, is what J. D. McClatchy calls it in his article, 'Writing between the lines,' in The Practice of Poetry, a great book for springboarding new poems or just trying to organise workshops.

So what ye read shall ye sow. Lots more books to order now!

Favourite Sweets

Yes, chocolate is queen in my kingdom, but these are the best - trouble is that there's never enough in the packet.
Strictly for fun - you should have a laugh at this ad for them.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bowes Pub, Fleet Street & Seven Towers

Through an emailing contact I heard about Seven Towers, another publishing outfit here in Ireland and was asked to go along to a reading of their authors, supplemented by an Open Mic evening (I can never resist those). The venue was a small pub in Fleet Street, Dublin - not as glam as the London city street, mind you!

Once the main readers, Noel O'Briain, Ross Hattaway and Oran Ryan settled into their pieces, the roar of Dublin buses outside the windows faded into the background. The format accomodated the small end-of-summer crowd very well: we sat around in a circle, like a group of storytellers at a convention and each reader was inspired by the last piece, so that each poem or piece of prose seemed to speak to the last, opening up possibilities. You could say that the theme for the night was communicating!

Oran Ryan's book is Ten Novels by Arthur Kruger - from the pieces read and the play on who is writing, I think this is going to be an existentialist investigation of the human condition - looking forward to reading that!

Noel O'Briain's book is Scattering Day - 21 Sonnets and Other Poems, a book of formal and free verse. Those that he read sounded well crafted and suited the ear of the audience.

Ross Hattaway's collection is The Gentle Art of Rotting, with diverse poems ranging through Ross's experience. He is not native Irish, coming originally from New Zealand, so his poetic voice sounds very different to an Irish one and allows a different reading and hearing experience, through his unique cadences in language.

The Seven Towers website doesn't do the same justice to these books, that physical touch and sight does: they are all in hardback and softback format, but the hardbacks are exceptionally well designed and produced, leaving the reader with a rare thing of beauty (they could well become collectors items), that no amount of my words could ever get across. Needless to say, I bought more books!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Look what dropped into my letterbox

The latest issue of Anon.

It's been a while since the last issue, Anon 4, which I subscribed to on the strength of Rob MacKenzie's say so - at least I think it was him. I see a name in it I'm sure I recognise; Marianne Burton, so that augurs well! The idea is that selection is truly blind: the editors don't get to see the names, just the poetry.

There's lots in it besides poetry - an analysis of a Timothy Murphy sonnet originally seen on Eratosphere; an insight into the development of a MS for Bodywork, Dilys Rose's collection; and a piece on Margaret Tait's film poems.

The editorial explains the long absence and Anon's exciting plans for the future. It's all go with this publication, I can't wait to get my teeth into it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Electric Counterpoint, 3

I listen to a late night programme from Sunday - Thursday called the Blue of the Night, on RTE Lyric Fm. The presenter, Paul Herriot plays all kinds of music, jazz, classical, off-beat, movie torch songs -the variety is endless. One track he plays on quite a regular basis is Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint, movement 3. I've been looking for a reasonable version on You-tube and found this one.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Good news and Bad news

When someone tells me there is good news and bad news, I always ask for the bad news first; you know, to get it out of the way so that the good news comes as a reward. But I've invariably found that the bad news is usually dependent on the good news: like the good news is that you've won a million pounds - the bad news is that you've lost the ticket...

Anyway, the good news is that I've been asked to facilitate a group of writers across the autumn with an eight week session of writing workshops. Sounds good, eh? Doing a job that I really want to do - teaching writing. Even the very sound of it - well, goodness me!

The bad news is that we'll have to wait and see how many people will respond to the advertisement in the local paper!?! I really hope lots of people see it and want to give it a go.

Fingers, toes, arms, legs and everything else crossed :S

Monday, August 20, 2007

The time in between

Well, that's it! Kairos is gone to press. All the emendations, decisions, proof readings, punctuation and grammar checks are done; the blurbs have been requested and written; the cover layout and internal layout are chosen and it is on its way to a machine to be printed and then bound.

No rest for the wicked though - a launch date has been confirmed, 20th September, Dundalk Town Hall, and someone needs to be chosen to launch it (sounds like it's been built in a shipyard). Somebody who will say a few magic words, crack the bottle of champagne on the hull and declare it a done deal.

I have the relative luxury of declaring a day off - only from writing though. I have to bring the six to be shoed (sounds like they're horses!) and finish off looking through their uniforms and booklists. I love reality - keeps me grounded.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Deadlines and deadlines

Douglas Adams is said to have had a great quote about deadlines:

I love deadlines. I especially love the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.

Absolutely. Deadlines of my own making mean nothing to anybody else, especially the six brats here. I am simultaneously trying to edit the manuscript of Kairos and send it to Kerry, write something decent for an assignment due on Friday, think about what wonderful work I will have to conjure from nine months of writing notebooks for an end of course assessment, whilst pulling various aged children off each other, keeping the peace, refereeing their latest squabbles, and also going through their school book lists and uniform lists to see what I've forgotten and make/buy ingredients for dinner(breakfast, lunch).

I must also remember to think of an interesting and unusual birthday gift for my partner, who is up to his oxters in quotes for a business plan that is a sink or swim proposal for his workplace. Suggestions at a reasonable price would be appreciated!

Sometimes I think I'd be better off living life in the Artic circle, venturing forth to cut a hole in the ice and fish every once in a while. At least you couldn't complain about the cold.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

And the last two!

I did it - I didn't think I would, but I found lines from both the last prompt lines!

Doing this as a competitive challenge seems to have brought out the best in the poets and the poetry I have read, from Colin Will, Rob MacKenzie and Ben Wilkinson. I bet that they were only the tip of the iceberg: this has to be one of the best workshops I've ever done!

Funnily enough you'd think there'd be some repetition of motifs, and there maybe was a little bit, but each poet had enough of a separate voice and vision to make them totally distinct.

I think it really pushed me out of what or how I'd usually start a poem and I'm really looking out for the unusual or catchy saying or turn of phrase in conversations,for starting lines. Older people are great for these; they pepper their conversations with expressions that are passed down through families. I've learned a great lesson in this workshop that I intend to carry on with for the next while: there's no excuses, just write! And so to revisions...

The Trouble with the Non-Smoking Ban

Meanwhile surely there must be something to say
as his words sink gently, a stone dropped from the arc
of a bridge into murky water: I know your face, followed
by the challenging stare; leering gimlet eyes wandering
over me like a pair of clammy hands. Yes, I smile
politely, that was twenty years ago. I turn back
to the company, lighting the offered cigarette, drawing
a pull and hopefully another strand to this strange conversation.

You were a great dancer and a great kisser, he adds.
I grit my fixed grin pointing out my husband.
The eyes still pierce trying to connect intervening
years, joining dots and colouring in. Get over
it, you sad fuck, is what my eyes are really saying
now and I invite my smoking friends to find
a table indoors, out of the mizzling rain.


Just for the sake of recovering
the kettle is pressed into service.
Dark brown coffee grounds release
their nutty, sharp scent in the plastic nest
above the mug with a swirl of oxygen
and hot water. Cane sugar dissolves
and cream flourishes its rounding swags.
Two Nurofen complete this recipe
accompanied by tasteless tobacco;
inhaled, exhaled, in a blue plume.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Must be up to eight by now...

... this Guardian Workshop is by far the most interesting that was ever set so far, for me anyway. These prompts are each a gift in their own right, as you sit down to interrogate the whys and wherefores of each one. In the CW course that I'm doing we're at the life-writing stage, which offers two paths: one of autobiography and one of biography.

Of course the biography seemed more appealing, because you didn't have to worry so much about emotional overburdening of the material, but having said that, I did want to investigate some autobiography, especially looking back to my grandparents who are both dead over ten years now.

That's why some of these poems seem like gifts: they're the combination of remembered detail and imagined aspects that spring forward out of the Graham lines -I'm finding that I seem to be writing by rote, if I use the interrogations and the imagined memories. Could be a title yet!

The Dairy Shed

Whatever you’ve come here to get
is forgotten as the fly-screen door
slams shut behind you. The squat
wooden barrel of the butter churn
calls you to peer inside.

One-eyed, you spy the spider’s home
and retreat. Wooden butter paddles
left by with long grooves, you feel by touch
how they’d grip the butter, shaping a pat;
creamy yellow and soft squidginess,
a small dollop tasting like buttercup

The top shelf of the dresser
coddles a crowd of tall-necked blue
bottles gawking at the willow plate,
disapproving of Koon Shee and Chang,
their doves taking off soon over
the weeping willows and beyond the dresser.

Below, the illicit small white bottle of poitín,
for rubbing its fire into new-born calves,
kicking the life into them when dawn
threatens a steal. You remember now;

the yellow corn meal, and grab a handful
from the yawning hessian sack, into the bowl
with boiled potato skins. The secret
ingredient to the hen’s deep golden yolks.

Another Guardian try - Abandoned

Shut up, shut up. There’s nobody here
to let you out, to take you beyond,
to reach your hand, to help you.
You’re shut up behind your own misery,

blind to the matters of here and now.
You’re stuck in a groove, in a groove,
in a groove, that you thought yourself into.
The grey spin of each day is passing

you by and this wallpaper is still here;
these delicate fronds of white that unfurl
across the pale yellow vellum, tickling
your nerve ends – they’re the only shred

of reality as you unpeel them.
Each left to right curl that you pick off
is grasping you, pulling you into
the places within that you’d closed off.

The bars on the window have rust
marks where you scratched your name –
what is your name now? And the round
oak door knob, you’ve forgotten its smooth

touch. You don’t even try that any more.
Nobody answers your calls, echoing on
the bare boards, the high attic ceiling
and nobody waves from the street, under

the bald sodium light. You’re a ghost
shut up, unfolded, unfound and your house
is condemned to the wrecking ball.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

That's it for today



Gently disintegrate me
like the sound of the lulling sea
on the evenings when the rain
has kept us quiet indoors.
I’ll turn down our feathered quilt
and close out the ebbing light.
We’ll tuck into the night
and I’ll blink at the ceiling
where green, glow-in-the-dark stars
depict Orion’s slim hips.

More Guardian Poems

I'm playing catch up now so, I've been quite busy this evening!

This morning, I am ready if you are,
to take back the words I flung at you.
They were hasty, I said things to hurt you
that would needle you, press the right buttons.
I was looking for BBC 1 – but
you gave a bravura Channel 4;
There were your days, stolen, drunk at some bar,
rejecting my calls when I rang you,
or the granules when I wanted powder.
But the best one of all is this last one,
when the barbs hooked you and stuck in your flesh:
your long strides to the front door, a crash
the door frame juddered, the car door crashed shut
and your dinner followed on the windscreen.

Reuben's Cafe, Tralee, Co Kerry

No poem posted yesterday for the Guardian Challenge, as I did a spur of the moment volte face and went to Tralee, to a poetry reading. 9 hours driving for 3 hours poetry? A bit mad, but there was method in my madness.

Reuben's Cafe, Ashe Street, Tralee, was the venue, a lovely little coffee shop, just off the beaten path in Tralee, opposite the Church of Ireland. And there were plenty of readers: experienced and upcoming, poetry and prose, giving a delightful variety to the readings.

It was a case of two birds and one stone with the unexpected trip - I was able to cast a quick eye over the first proof of Kairos, as well as introducing myself to the good people of Tralee and hearing the wealth of talent that there was on the day.

The Reuben's Cafe gig happens on every Bank Holiday and St.Patricks Day also, from 3pm to 6pm, an infrequent frequency, but enjoyable for the variety and opportunity it brings. Reuben's Cafe is also noted for the opportunities it gives to artists, by exhibiting their work, whether paintings, pottery or sculpture and hosting launches of opening nights. Indeed there were some very interesting pictures on display yesterday!

Present as readers were, Richard Smyth, Owen Dureke, Matt Camplisson, Ann Dempsey (from Birmingham!), Peter Keane (former Doghouse publication), Noel King, Gene Barry (Cork), Jane Ovbude, Louis Mulcahy (Ballyferriter), Mike Gallagher, Donal O Siodhachain and myself. All are in the picture, bar Owen.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Me, thoughtful?

But I am too. I think a lot. I even think when I think I'm not thinking.


Imagine a Forest


Rob and The Guardian Challenge

Rob from Surroundings has pointed up the latest Guardian Poetry Challenge, which is to take opening lines from the poet, W. S. Graham and use them as opening lines for new poems.

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I'm going to try this out too!

The first line in the list, is Imagine a forest. How could you pass a line like that?

Rob suggests taking all the lines and drafting a poem a day and posting it for C&C. Now doesn't that sound like a plan?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Rush of Pleasure!

Back from Kerry again - this time I didn't get to see very much of the scenic mountains or the sea - but hey, that's editing.

I've now got the framework for the collection set up, and there are a few surprises in it that I wasn't expecting. Noel got very excited by two long poems I had brought down, that I didn't include in the original MS that I sent. In fact, it was a very positive and affirming experience to have my work gone over in the minute detail that it was: pretty much like my own private workshop!

These poems are very different in timbre and style to the rest of the collection and are a creative interpretation of some mythological figures that I came across while researching. One of my favourite themes to play with is the figure of the Smithy - probably because of my surname - and I have always liked to link that to the idea of wordcraft, or wordsmithying.

Anyway, these figures belong to that sort of artisan background, and I have come to regard them, well, not quite as Muses, but as guardians of writing, in a way.

If that all sounds very mystical, I apologise. I am quite grounded, but with strong leanings towards a curious and stretching mind. Perhaps we should wait and see what readers think of Kairos, when it makes its debut.

Oh, and I finished reading that Harry Potter book too - a good read.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Okay, so I'm back from Kerry almost a week now, but I've got to return there tomorrow to edit Kairos. In the meantime, my house looks like a disaster zone - the kitchen that I thought would be a simple in-and-out job has turned into an epic saga, with tiling and wood and glass and paint everywhere. No washing done in almost a week, the kids definitely smell, and don't mention cookers... or fridges, or dishwashers.

These things are sent to try us, right?

I need another holiday to get over all this!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Catherine Ann Cullen's 'A Bone in my Throat' launch

Senator David Norris

Well, another busy night mingling with the great and good of the Irish poetry world. This launch was introduced by Noel King the editor of Doghouse Books.Noel then made way for Senator David Norris to talk about Catherine Ann's book. His compliments ranged from the actual book production, to the contents inside and made all of us hungry to hear Catherine Ann reading from her work.

Catherine Ann read a selection of varied poems from the collection, but one that really appealed to me was based on her meeting her future partner at the Chester Beatty library in Dublin, one of the city's wonderful archives. I give you her opening lines:

We have only just met
Downstairs at the Chester Beatty Library
We have not touched each other yet

Upstairs Durer's Adam and Eve are contemplating
Each other and the apple
The serpent is already waiting

This gives a great flavour of the motifs that recur in this collection. Cullen uses myths, legends and biblical beginnings as a jumping off point to explore how humanity cannot resist being tempted - as indeed Oscar Wilde once wittily put it, 'I can resist anything except tempation.

This post is a little rushed, due to all hell breaking loose here, but I intend revisiting Catherine Ann's book at a later stage. In the meantime, I am off to Kerry for a week tomorrow, so have a blog party here if you like - comfy beanbags and lots of food left in the fridge!

Doghouse Poets and Publisher, left to right: Hugh O'Donnell, Catherine Ann Cullen, Noel King, yours truly, and Anatoly Kudryavitsky.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I need your help... help me get my publisher really keen on using the internet as a promotion tool, that crosses country, continental and oceanic boundaries.

I would like you to visit the newly set up website, Doghouse Books and fill in the message form and ask about 'Kairos,' when is it coming out and will it be available to buy over the internet. Most important of all - tell him where you live.

It sounds a bit bold, but what I'm hoping this will do is spur him into developing the site, so that people can see not just 'Kairos' but all the beautiful books that have been published by Doghouse: their gorgeous artwork covers, what's been written about them, and indeed samples of the contents. And, most importantly, people can buy the books.

Who knows what might happen...?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ner, ner, ner, ner, ner...

Look what LMN gave me?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Looking for a Good Read

I'm off on holidays with eight kids, two adults and a few hairy goats to Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry for a week on Saturday. Given the amounts of precipitation we're having (that's rain to weather forecasters), I think I may need to bring some books to read. I've ordered In Search of Adam, by Caroline Smails, because it seems like a good idea.

Now I need two more suggestions and quick. Prose preferably. Literary possibly. I'll need to order tomorrow night at the latest.

So, any suggestions? It's either that or I start work on that Ark I was thinking of building... where did I leave me glasses.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Your own Bayeux Tapestry

For fun, found at Polyolbion, Matt Merritt's blog.

Go on, you know you want to!

Kairos Cover

Here it is, by artist Anna O'Byrne and is titled Remember the Birds.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

From the Same Stable

I'll be off again next week to attend a Doghouse launch in Dublin. This time it's Catherine Ann Cullen's debut collection, A Bone in my Throat, which will be held in the Rubicon Gallery at 10 St. Stephen's Green, on Thursday 12th July at 6.30pm and is being introduced by Senator David Norris.

Catherine Ann Cullen is quite a prolific writer, writing children's books as well as poetry. She is quite widely published, a sample of her work is here.

A Bone in my Throat is one of four books being published by Doghouse this year. The other three include Anatoly Kudryavitsky who launches at the Gerard Manley Hopkins literary festival at Monasterevin on the 23rd of July with his book, Shadow of Time, his own poetry in English.

The third is Hugh O'Donnell, previously Roman Pines at Berkeley (Salmon, 1990). His launch will be in September, date to be confirmed.

And that leaves my own, Kairos, which has just had its cover picked last week - a beautiful image of a red coastal-scape with a peculiar yellow sun.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dave Lordan's Book Launch, Dublin

Last night I went to Dublin to the Winding Stair Bookshop on Ormonde Quay. This is a gorgeous independent bookshop, which has a lot to recommend it and not least the intimate size just about accommodating the huge crowd of supporters that turned up to Dave Lordan's launch of The Boy in the Ring.

Lordan's book has been published by Salmon Press, Ireland and was previously selected as the Patrick Kavanagh prizewinner of 2005. Indeed Salmon Press are one of the big hitters in poetry publishing in Ireland, a fact that Dave humorously alluded to in his own few words last night. That last link will take you to three of Lordan's poems from the book. This prize is awarded yearly to poets who have not been published, and most prize winners go on to greater things afterwards.

The Boy in the Ring was introduced by Ronan Sheehan, an Irish novelist. In particular Sheehan spoke of how Lordan's work engages with the political as well as issues of society. He also gave some history behind the poem Attis and Cybele translated from Catullus, the Roman poet (1st century BCE) as part of a wider commission. Dave read this long poem out later on, and I can testify to it's raw power. Not many poets write about heroes that rip their own balls off... Reason alone perhaps, to get your hands on a copy?

I made firm new friends with Elena, Tina, Claire and Maria not all necessarily poetry supporters, but appreciative nonetheless. Proceedings retired to Toners of Baggot Street, with some music -acoustic and live - and an Open mic, which revealed some of the talent that Lordan has been encouraging in his role as a creative writing tutor.
A nod to Hazim here, an Iraqi actor/poet. His performance piece wrapped us all in existential twists and he is appearing again in Dublin on the 4th of July, at the Project Arts Centre. We finally topped the night off in BiaBar in Temple Bar. It was a truly great launch, a testament to the great warmth of Lordan and his cohorts. Hello to Rosa too!
Update: Dave has since left a link to the Attis and Cybele poem which can be found here. Brilliant!

Friday, June 29, 2007

This Falluting Thingy

I tried to spell 'fault' three times unsuccessfully - I took that as an omen and went with 'falluting' instead.

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Apparently my blog mentions 'breast' x 4 and 'pain' x 1. That would be the post I did about Dina's book. The blog rater obviously doesn't do 'context.' :(

Thanx to Minx and Debi.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Midsummers Day

Today is Midsummer's day, St. John's Day, one of the old quarter days of the year. Quarter days were the days when debts were settled, rents paid, that sort of thing. Christmas Day is counted as one as well as Lady's Day, March 25th, and Michaelmas, September 29th.

There is a tradition around Dundalk, Co.Louth, Ireland of lighting bonfires at the end of June, which I'm guessing might well be related to Midsummer's day, when bonfires were lit then in Ireland.

Traditionally one paid homage to fire, water and plants. So the bonfire bit makes sense. The water bit, might well be all the feicin rain we've been having lately, also good for putting out any bonfires: and the plants, well, they are benefiting from the rain, only too well!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Finally Slayed those Monsters

Three weeks later, almost, I've killed all the bosses in Lara Croft's latest outing. It's a bit of a cheek really as it's just a souped up version of the very first Lara Croft Tomb Raider adventure. They called it Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and it did make for simpler playing, although the 'bullet moment' as it's been called was tricky to master - that's where times slows down, and Lara takes a pop at the big bad guy much more accurately than she normally can. I could do with a few of those in real life!

It was hard, it was obsessive, it nearly killed the art of conversation, but by Toutatis, it was worth it. My hand is sore, repetitive key strokes notwithstanding, but at least my head will no longer be tortured by dreams of how I should get past that tricky jump that I just can't make and have spent three days trying to jump!

Now I can't wait to go back and play it all again, this time from the comfort zone of knowing I can skip those horrid bosses if I want to...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Now you see it, now you don't

...pulled! Sorry! But thanks for the suggestions and comments.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Eight, ate, eight, late, mate

So, I haff been tagged -mwah hah hah hah hah!

Eight - nice number, divisible by two and four, oh and one. I 'ate eight (get on with it!) Alrighty!

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the ficts.
2. Each participant posts eight random facts about themselves (I'm sure I've done this before).
3. Tagees should write a blogpost of eight random ficts/facts about themselves.
4. At the end of the post, eight more bloggers are tagged (named and shamed).
5. Go to their blog, leave a comment telling them they're tagged (cut and run).

Randomly generated ficts:

1. My parents had a row with the person I was to be named after, shortly after I was born, and changed my name so that I was named for Santa Barbara in California. I haven't forgiven them. Latterly.
2. I used to tell people I had a dead twin when I was about six or seven. I don't.
3. I once wrote a play about St. Augustine in primary school. I can't remember who he is now or why I thought a play about him was a good idea.
4. My mother had a pattern for a blouse that I once made about ten different versions of, across four years. Amazingly they always fitted.
5. I played the Irish harp for about three years as a teenager and got placed in Irish Feis' twice. Not conducive to looking cool as a teenager though, lugging a great big lump of wood with strings around.
6. I get really horrible stage fright before reading poetry, but try to harness the adrenaline as best I can. Bit masochistic, I think.
7. I have a really high threshold for pain (giving birth to six kids is a bit of a giveaway, really).
8. I have a really high threshold for holding hot things as a result of working with tiles and kilns a lot when I was younger. I do still have fingerprints, though.

There - phew, that waren't too bad!

Now -tagees, hmmm.
Debi Alper
John G's Publog
Meloney Lemon
Maht Moontopples
Chief Biscuit
skint writer

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Get your podcasts ready!

Send your poetry clips to Poetry Live and get another web phenomenon going.

I do like that word lately!

Update on Take Off Your Party Dress

Debi Alper has received the book safely, so expect her piece soon.

Also there is another strand to this blog-phenomenon (not knowing what else to call it) now, as Jeff McDonald at ArcheoTexture has flagged up. He is passing it on to another West Texas blogger Janie, at Sounding Forth.

So that's how it's beginning to grow! Lowebrow and Minx - thanks! And not least to Dina Rabinovitch and the fundraising for Mount Vernon, to which she devotes proceeds of the book.

Monday, June 11, 2007

You've Got Mail

I've never been so glad and yet so sad to receive post as I was today. I'm torturing myself with trying to write formal poetry for the creative writing course, which means a preoccupation with counting syllables, noting stresses and getting very stressed indeed.

Take Off Your Party Dress arrived today, sent from Minx, which came from Lowebrow. It has come from the UK to Ireland and will be going back there once I've finished this piece, as Debi Alper has already asked to be the next blogger to write about it. The idea is to raise blogging awareness and funding for the book's subject matter: breast cancer. The author Dina Rabinovitch is a journalist, whose speciality is children's authors.

The book is a collation and expansion of Dina's columns about her experiences of treatment: from her diagnosis, her chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiation therapy and follow on chemo. In that vein the book uses the present tense, which would have suited the original journalistic immediacy of the columns, but in this gathering helps establish reader empathy (yep I shed a few too), almost as though we experience with Dina her fight against The Enemy Within.

In my own case, I found myself feeling for Dina's predicament of organising her treatment around her 'blended' family - I too have a blended (largish) family, with kids going off here and there to visit with dads. Dreaded school runs, organising meals, holidays - just generally being there, whilst having some sort of thing/money/writing to call mine own...

And so I found myself drawn hugely to Dina's secure sense of familial relationships underpinning her journey through the various stages of physical treatment and psychological changes. In particular her smallest son Elon's breast feeding is a major consideration, when considering the first stages of diagnosis. Her dilemma of choosing between herself and her child demonstrates in microcosm the beginning of many decisions that change her and her family life. Dina's story rings true with me, because it is a story of Everywoman. Some day, some of us will face the same trials. A real heart-breaking moment of identification comes when she examines, post op, the area where her breast used to be, and feels the moment of milk-summoning still within her body.

Rabinovitch comes across as a real fighter: getting on with life because she must. Coping with the changes of mastectomy, by looking for clothes that work with it, rather than hiding it, because this is how she is - not a person who tells untruths to her children about her condition, but someone who wears it as it is, even when caught in the bathroom!

We read how long it takes her to master her own fears and what her coping mechanisms are. But underpinning all is Dina's sense of faith in her own family, what they are and what futures they have too. There are answers too, to the small questions - the gloriously mundane ones like, what will I do while enduring chemo injections, or what moisturiser should I use to speed the scar healing process?

I won't lie and tell you that Take Off Your Party Dress offers miracles. What it does offer is an honesty so often unheard, and imbued with the wonderful quirkiness of a writer whose deft writing skill is admirable. I would urge you, if you have had your interest piqued to go out and buy a copy. Not enough is spoken about this disease and how it is treated and Rabinovitch marshalls this story with a huge deal of grace and dignity under immense pressure.

Indeed this blogging support that has began with Lowebrow and Minx for Take Off Your Party Dress will hopefully highlight how Dina's courage in writing her story of breast cancer can indeed become, paraphrasing her, a 'necklace of women across the world.' I really do wish Dina better, as we used to say to each other in school.

Makes stressing about stresses quite small, really.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Reality pukes!

Back from a wonderful weekend Paris-trotting and reality kicks in with a vengeance. Boy junior (8) spent weekend puking etc. and left a trail of laundry behind him as big as you like.

Thing is, this bug is one of these slow burners, and it has been working its way through the family, one by one, by one, like ninepins - or sixpins, in my case.

Ah sure it could be worse, as they say in these parts. I do motherhood so well :/

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Off again...

... to Paris - my favourite city! A long weekend with my husband, doing what people do when they find themselves sans kids in Paris ;)

The Shadow of the Wind

Talk about a book that brings you somewhere! I'd recently found this book sheltering in one of the many bookcases that are scattered around the house. I picked it up and read the first few pages - I was hooked pretty quickly too.

It's a Gothic tale set in Barcelona between the second world war and the sixties but encompasses a history that comes before that - confused? It gets better. The book's protagonist Daniel Sempere finds a book in a Cemetery of Forgotten Books whose story and writer gets under his skin so much that Daniel sets off on a long quest to find out why this book and others that the illusive author has written are being systematically destroyed, and additionally where the long lost writer has disappeared to.

The main genre of the book is Gothic with a narrative style reminding this reader of so many 19th century novels of the Literature course AA316 last year: Madame Bovary, The Portrait of A Lady, The Woman in White, Northanger Abbey, Middlemarch etc. In other words a rich literary allusive treasure trove of a book. The writing is at times very evocative: the opening description of a dawn scene in Barcelona describes the light as pouring over 'Rambla de Santa Monica in a wreath of liquid copper.'

The Shadow of The Wind was one of those books that really encapsulates and simultaneously investigates the sensation of reading, where a book grips your imagination so much that you are reluctant to 'lose the story's spell or bid farewell to its characters.' Places and characters are described and built up so well that this reader felt like she'd spent a good while in old Barcelona, during the reign of fear of Franco's time.

I know I come late to the party with this book, discovering it long after the fuss has died down about it. But I really enjoyed all the tricks - especially since I've just finished the prose part of my Creative Writing course - the techniques being illustrated in the writing of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and so ably translated by Lucia Graves.