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?