Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Todd Swift reading in Limerick

I've just found this on White House Poets and wanted to share here. It's Todd Swift reading his Houdini poem, the one that combines memories of his father with Houdini's larger than life persona. It misses the first line or so, but gives a great flavour of how Todd reads. He comes across well, and even has his pint of plain there on the table with him.

Isn't technology cool!

Monday, January 29, 2007

How to Read a Poem Part 2

Terry Eagleton's The Times column continues with the second part on rhyme and metre discussing rhyme giving examples from Pope, of true rhyme and from Wilfred Owen of para-rhyme and the effects of order or dissonance that these examples demonstrate to the reader. Eagleton goes on to elaborate on metre, explaining how the line length and the stressed syllables adds a rhythm, which in turn compounds the effect that rhyme is setting up in the first place. But it's not just the rhythm of a regular beat, explains Eagleton; he adds in the variable of the speaking voice and how that can escalate a poem into an additional realm, depending on what way the voice is used.

What I like about the article is that he explains in plain terms what is going on in the examples, but also how the particular effect is created, which in turn adds more depth and complexity to the example allowing a fuller appreciation of the writer's skills. That book of his is definitely going to be bought, when I get paid!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Galway Hooker

Sorry about the tagline, but I'm turning into a total poetry culture vulture over here!

Getting to Galway on Thursday 25th January proved to be every bit as interesting as the Over The Edge Reading I was there to attend - but I'll leave it at the wee walk I took around it watching the crowds of students and other assorted humanity that I came across, and the feisty gull that parked itself on the wall beside me, hoping for food, whilst the full rage of the river Corrib chucked itself under the nearby bridge.

The fish in Conlon's was very good but the poetry served later in Galway City Library was even better. The evening was MCed by Susan Millar DuMars, introducing Elaine Feeney, from Athenry who kicked off the reading with some of her work. Her first poem about the lament of losing the potential of a traveller boy to early parenthood and responsibilities, wove in ideas of what poetry is for, in a convincing way. Elaine's later 'revenge' poem got a good response from the audience in terms of humour and she finished with Irish Country Girl visits Tate Modern, capturing well that confusing clash of cultural input against what you have come from.

Mary Mullen read next, beginning with her 'pink pregnancy' poem, which I know I have read before lately, and admired but cannot find the link or the reference! Either that, or I'm suffering from a weird case of deja vu. Her set focused on the fruits of that pregnancy poem, her daughter Lily, with a thoughtful exploration of her relationship with her.

Lastly, Todd Swift read his set, which included poems from his current chapbook, Natural Curve, which I later purchased, and previous collections that he has published which include Budavox etc. One amusing poem gave the audience a humorous insight into the life of an editor, sampling some of the email comments that prospective poets make, in applying to have their work published. Another poem of Todd's was a poignant homage to his late father deceased very recently. Todd's selection demonstrated his wide range of material and moods very amply, and his ability to read an audience.

There was an Open Mic session where a selection of the many talented poets and writers that attend the workshops of Susan and Kevin Higgins read from work in progress, giving a good flavour of the talent being 'grown' in Galway presently. I also has the pleasure of hearing Miceal Kearney read again: another wry humorous observance featuring GTA or Grand Theft Auto. I also squeezed in two quick ones of my own.

Later proceedings repaired to a local pub, Sheridan's, where the relaxed atmosphere (and wonderful guitar-playing) encouraged many libations to be poured. I spoke to Elaine at great length about the trials and tribulations of finding time to write amongst the pulls of motherhood and paying the bills and I met two wonderful characters in Ron and Colm who chatted amiably about writing and sources of inspiration.

I also met Susan and Kevin properly and expressed my admiration for their perseverance with the Over The Edge series of readings, which actually celebrated its fourth birthday on the night, and ended the evening chatting to Todd about the locale where I currently live, amongst other things. It's a small world.

It was a wonderful evening of poetry and food for the mind, as well as forging new connections for the future: another landscape I hope to visit again quite soon.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Next New Thing in Poetry?

Todd Swift makes some salient points about the state of poetry discussion in the UK on his blog Eyewear, in relation to the BBC 2 Newsnight media coverage of Daljit Nagra, whose first collection, Look We Have Coming To Dover!, (you can look and listen on Faber's site) is being published by Faber and Faber on 1st of February.

Todd describes how the panellists on the programme practically slavered and slobbered over the idea of a new poet that seemed 'different' to what had gone before, which begs the question where has poetry been for the last while? What about Seamus Heaney et al other events poetry-wise in the UK?

I'm not denigrating Daljit Nagra's collection - and neither is Mr Swift - it's more a lament for the inability of the general media to generate a wider debate that is based on what is good about contemporary poetry, raising contemporary poetry's profile, rather than seize upon the next-big-thing in poetry and worry it like a rottweiller with a particular juicy bone.

After all, juicy bones tend to either get crunched up to get at the marrow, or buried and possibly forgotten about, by those pesky 'meja dawgs'.

As for me, well, I guess I will be getting a copy of Daljit Nagra's first collection and see what all the fuss is about! ;)

Monday, January 22, 2007

How to Read Poetry

Terry Eagleton has begun a new weekly column in the Times. Who is Terry Eagleton, I hear you ask? He's a very lucid writer who writes critical books on literature. I've one or two of his books that helped me out last year, and I just find him so easy to understand, so much so that it actually feels pleasurable.

Anyway, his weekly column is introduced here, How to Read Poetry, and he will be going on to investigate metre, rhyme and lots of other aspects that go into the making of poetry.

I loved his analogy of the window: how prose writers aim to create a window that allows the writer a clear view, whereas a poet is fascinated with the minutiae of how the glass is made up - the actual structure itself.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Which Science Fiction Writer are you?

I am:
Stanislav Lem
This pessimistic Pole has spent a whole career telling ironic stories of futility and frustration. Yet he is also a master of wordplay so witty that it sparkles even when translated into English.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Yes I know, not very original, but fun to do - and the questions are very interesting!

Nicked from Books Inq

Friday, January 19, 2007

Irish Blog Awards - Shameless push

There's an Irish Blog Awards site where you can nominate Irish Blogs under all different kinds of categories.

If you have a chance, I'm asking you nicely to go and nominate someone who:
either has an Irish Blog,
or lives and works in Ireland and keeps a blog going.

That could be me, if you wish, or someone else you know ;)

Kindness, Generosity and great Poetry too.

I picked a very good night to venture down to Limerick. With the launch of the second issue of Revival, a good crowd of people arrived to the White House pub on O'Connell Street. Some were contributors and others were proud supporters.

Many contributors read from their freshly minted Revival copies, including me, and the support and reception were tremendous. I spoke briefly to the Editor, Dominic Taylor, expressing my admiration to him and Barney Sheehan, for the work they put in weekly in bringing diverse talents to their loyal audience at the White House Pub, and their hard work in promoting the written and spoken word in Limerick and its hinterlands.

The MC, Barney Sheehan, (he's the guy with the dicky-bow) kept the flow moving along nicely and once Revival was launched, read from, and declared to be selling well, the proceedings moved along to the Belfast Poets group.

Revival 2 Launch 1Barney Sheehan

The Belfast Poets present touring group comprises: PhatBob, Aisling Doherty, Ellen Factor, Chelley McLear, Gordon Hewitt and Jenni Doherty. Their readings are vivid and expressive, using visuals to back up their readings, adding depth to the performance. Their writing is born out of the context of NorthernIreland as it effects them, with some emphasis on the political. They take that political edge and fuse it with their individualised vision, personalising it both in the words they use and in the method of expression, and making it relevant in the wider context of the world - calling to mind world experiences of human atrocity.

I really enjoyed the whole set; in particular the duet, His Words, by Ellen Factor and read to great effect by herself and Aisling Doherty; and the chilling piece by Chelley McLear, Silence is Deadly, with its really effective visuals and voiceover. Gordon Hewitt's reading of Welcome to the Terrordome took performance poetry to another dimension - his energy is almost tangible; and PhatBob's gentle romantic lyrics in Not Sleeping Without You grounded the performance in a calm expression of humanity too.

Revival 2 Launch 18Aisling and Ellen

The group offers something for everyone, and not least is their interpretation of poetry as a performance, as something that makes you think again about the world around you. The effect on the audience was palpable, raising the bar on poetic expectations of what performance can add to poetry.When I spoke to them later, they told me about their Australian Tour last year, and how they were welcomed there.

But they also told of the personal cost of making that Tour happen: that was when I really realised their commitment to their passion in poetry. And if you have passion and talent - poetry might carry you further than you think. Buying their chapbook afterwards showed my support and allowed me to re-read in calm the poems that had fired me up.

To round out the night nicely, the MC invited readers to participate in the Open Mic part, and many volunteers read again, including me, allowing everyone a chance to air work in progress.

Afterwards a few of us retired to a later-opening hostelry across the road, where I had the chance to speak to PhatBob and Ellen Factor about their work and ethos. I also made great friends with Bertha, Martin, Seadna, Ed and Kate, an artist, and we even made it as far as the dance floor!

I learned from an earlier exchange with Miceal Kearney, a Revival contributor, about North Beach Nights, (that's Galway, not San Francisco), a Monthly Open Mic night in Galway, and that both of us would be attending the Over the Edge reading next Thursday, also in Galway - so someone to look out for there too!

Overall the night was so enjoyable. I made some new friends and the generosity and hospitality shown to me was so warm and welcoming (in the tradition of all those in the Wesht!), I felt like part of the furniture in such a short time.

I'll definitely be returning to Limerick! A big thank you to you all down there!

Barbara SmithBarbara Smith
All pictures can be viewed here, courtesy of Dominic Taylor:
Revival Launch 2

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Off on my travels or...

...should that be travails?

Catching the 11:38 to Dublin and thence on to Dublin Heuston to catch a train to Limerick.

Wish me luck for the reading tonight, at 9pm sharp and I'll raise a glass to you all afterwards when I get to relax and listen to the Belast Poets doing their stuff!

See you when I get back - with some pictures hopefully!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Busy Bee

Really busy this week, or at least I'm kidding myself that I will be. I've started wallpapering my bedroom, stripped as it has been for the last three months. Although I did like the blank canvas effect for a while, it seems a lot cosier with the new wallpaper one third up already. There already was a dado rail (don't really like them but what can you do, when the previous encumbent has left them?) splitting the wall almost in two. I put a pale gold paper slightly embossed with a feathery grass repeat pattern on the top and a creamy match on the bottom. I was going to do them the other way around but thought I'd see more of the warming gold colour if I put it on the top.

Funny thing was when I got the paper up to the quarter mark, I wryly remembered The Yellow Wallpaper short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, from our Level 2 Approaching Literature course, which features a female protagonist suffering from post-natal depression, in the days when the prescribed cure was to lock you away from everything. She ends up going a bit bonkers behind the wallpaper. Read the story, it's rather good.

I remember feeling like that a few times after popping a few of mine, but I put it down to having so much to do with all the others, besides whichever baby happened to be current. Maybe my wallpaper choice is an advance-reverse reaction to that idea of the madwoman in the attic. Oh dear.

I'd better finish the room early this week, as there are some great poetry events coming up over here. On Wednesday 17th there's the Revival Launch, which I mentioned I'm attending before, but the journal launch paled into insignificance, when I realised that the Belfast Poets would be performing at the White House Poetry Revival too! These guys are worth checking out, they're not long back, last year, from a tour around Australia (the lucky buggers!). Oh joy! Noel King told me that you can never have a bad night at the White House, (pardon me Dubya) but I think it's now been lifted into the category of legendary!

And next week on the 25th, I'm off to Galway city. I've never had a bad night there! The event is the Over the Edge series of readings organised by Kevin Higgins and Susan Millar DuMars, featuring Elaine Feeney, Mary Mullen & Todd Swift. Can't pass on that one!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Moving swiftly on...

Today is the last day of my part-time job in the call-centre. I'm not sorry it's over, just sorry that I won't have the few extra bob to stuff in the cracks, when the unforeseen emergency that is part of raising a big family comes along.

I've applied to Queen's University Belfast for a MA in Eng. Lit: Irish Writing which I shall have to wait and see about. They've very kindly allowed me to apply even though I should wait for the honours component to be awarded. I've already done the hard work, getting the Level 3 courses done last year, and the course this year is only a Level 2 which wouldn't impact too heavily on the end classification. Better start saving then, hadn't I?

And I squeezed in a small short for The Clarity of Night's latest competition of 250 words based on an intriguing photgraph, as well as reading all the entries today. There's some stiff competition out there! But I'm glad I tried, I need a good prod every now and then to actually do stuff!

My new 'diet' is going along - in case you're wondering, it's not a lose-weight-diet, more a be-kind-to-my-colon diet, prompted by a diagnosis of IBS - and there was me thinking I was dying from an ulcer or summat! I'm still getting funny pains, even though I'm eating All-bran, have cut out yeasty bread and it has now been three-weeks-since-my-last-alcoholic-drink.

Water is going in, lots of green leafy vegetables and I'm avoiding eggs like the plague, since they are not pleasant for onlookers about 3 hours later to smell... ahem. I'm doing as I'm told, but am still waiting for all to right itself. Impatient, moi?

And I'm waiting on my course books to turn up. In fairness, books from the OU have never been so late as they are now. I did ring up about them but was told that 'they will probably turn up' next week and to be patient and wait and see do they come next week. If not Despatch will DHL them to me.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Fingers drumming on desktop...

Oh, and I'm going to Limerick next week to attend the launch of Revival no. 2. Should be interesting, if I don't get lost trying to get there!

Monday, January 08, 2007

The book grab meme

It's a really horrible rainy morning here in Ireland, the kind where you get up and immediately want to go back to bed to keep warm.

I'm supposed to be doing the gathering bit of the hunter-gatherer deal (we women always get the wrong end of the deal!), by going to the supermarket and getting in the weeks groceries, but that involves popping my toe outside the front door and getting very, very wet. There is a twelve foot long puddle on the road outside the drive and every time a car passes by on the road you get a mighty soaking. Forays outside the front door must be very carefully timed indeed.

Instead I'm doing skint's meme.
Grabbing the nearest book,
going to page 123
sentence 5
and posting the next two sentences:

"He hoped the boys would stop, but they still waded slowly on. It suddenly dawned on Tom that it was become very lonely and still."

Now, you're supposed to guess the subject of the book.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Happy New Year to all!

It's almost a year since I began blogging as one of my New Year Resolutions last year. Strange to think that I began it as a record of my giving up smoking. The blogging lasted longer though!

This last few days have been ones of appraisal and wondering about what to do this year. I'm researching whether a university in Belfast will take me in this autumn to do a Masters, or whether I'll have to wait until the honours component is completely sewn up and the degree awarded in full - which would take until April twelvemonth. Decisions, decisions!

In the meantime, there is the delicious news that a submission I made in November has been taken for an Irish journal, Revival born out of a weekly reading series in Limerick. Thanks to a lot of hard work and courage, this series has grown from strength to strength, over three years and features the best that Irish poetry has to offer in a live setting.

It just goes to show you what can happen if you stick around long enough, whether on a small scale, as in blogging, or in having courage and belief in something wider.

I think the same could be said about a lot of bloggers out there too - I'm thinking of skint, Inner Minx, Apprentice, BB Rob MacKenzie, Chief Biscuit, Debi Alper, Hedgie, Julie Carter, Dick Jones, Eloise, Shameless, and probably so many more other bloggers that I haven't thought of, that have all demonstrated the ease and talent of their writing.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year, and to be one step closer to their writing heart's desire.