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.