Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Christening Through Binoculars

‘I can see God through my nocliers,’ you said
and we indulged your three-year-old self
with shushing smiles as the priest intoned the rites
that would make you one of theirs.

I held your baby sister in my arms as we waited
our turn for water droplets, for you and her.
You scrutinised the ceiling, hunted for loose angels,
asked ‘ If heaven was inside the chapel walls?'

I thought not, but didn’t say, as you were bundled
up by a burly Godfather, to receive your blessing,
and I offered the crowns of both your downy heads
in return for confirmation that binoculars allowed.

This is pure rough, I'll take it down later for work!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bookshops going Bust

I heard this morning in class, and it was later confirmed, that the newish kids on the block, Hughes and Hughes, the Irish booksellers have gone into receivership. Odd, I thought to myself, didn't they post a profit last year?

We're gutted here in Dundalk, as it was a great bookshop with a coffee-shop area, and a lovely children's section, and they were the sort of bookshop that would order it in for you, if they didn't have it. Hell, they'd even ring you to tell you it had arrived. They didn't mind you looking around and the sort of stock they held was definitely a cut above the Easons that we have here - you could buy decent poetry books in it for a start, or more obscure books that you mightn't find. Jeepers, I even found Claire Keegan's last book in it, Walk the Blue Fields.

It means now that for book-purchasing and browsing, I'm constrained to having to go to Dublin, or to rely more heavily on that internet book crowd, than I was before. I'll admit that doesn't help matters, as far as H&H were concerned - I had a tendency to go to the internet quicker than ask a bookshop to order; but that was down to the constraints in the past of juggling kids as well as the sort of books I wanted to get my hands on.

Here, on the outer rim of Europe, sometimes you have to try that little bit harder if you're looking for books that are better known in the UK, or US or beyond: last year I remember going to Waterstones in Dublin and asking for Mick Imlah's The Lost Leader, and them not knowing what I was on about.

So what's a girl to do? Books are moving in a similar direction that music moved in; online access, downloading onto these new fangled reader devices. But does that mean the death of books? And does that mean the death of bookshops? And where does the library fit in to all this, with their (surely by now) reduced budgets in the recession? Am I to become a weird oddity with all those feicin bookshelves I bought to hold all the card-bound paper sheets (that I bought) - with black typing on those sheets!

News reports are saying that high rents were partly to blame for H&H's sudden demise, and that landlords might need to get a little more real with their expectations in the CEC (current economic climate). But the fact that a big bookstore like Waterstones could say that their business was down by 10-15% over the Christmas period tells us a lot (as if we needed to be told) about what people are cutting back on. It can't be good in the long run for writers.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Get Your Love Groove On,

Okay, get your Barry White out, your half dozen oysters, your peppercorn steaks and chocolate puds and in your bestest, deepest chocolate voice get it on, on the Lurve Bus...

The Garden of Earthly Delights

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

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

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

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

Valentine, is where you will begin.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I received, this day last week, an anthology of creative writing from the Deansgrange Writer's Group, based in Dublin, called Crossroads. It's edited by Katie Donovan, a poet whose work I've admired in the library up at the TGC at Annaghmakerrig. Katie has a new & selected due in 2010 from Bloodaxe, entitled Rootling.

Katie modestly describes her input as that of a selector, and her choice of work throws up some interesting poems, stories and memoir - and when you look at the bios in the back you realise that many of these names are people you've seen namechecked before in journals and mags around the country.

11 contributors, too many to mention, all interesting work, with a good opener (William and Eileen - Catherine Paradise) and a great close (The Coat - John Piggott). I'm still dipping into it, alongside the great tome from RTE's Sunday Miscellany programme, and they're a good complement to each other for bedside reading.

It's a great credit to the group to organise the anthology - I know exactly how much hard work goes into them, from my own foray into anthologies last year (Drogheda Writes 2, anyone?) and I know DWG would appreciate the support. The group are donating proceeds to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin; a worthy cause from a worthy group of writers. Copies are available at their website for only €10.00.

Oh and did I mention how lovely the cover is...? ;)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Weary Spring-start

Sorry that there hasn't been much going on in here for a while, but I've been under the weather. The weather as in cold - it plays havoc with my shoulders, and a long standing stiffness that I have (no sniggering at the back there). Basically the colder it gets, the stiffer I get and it got to the stage that I couldn't move out of my bed for a couple of days.

But on the bright side, I got to read at the new Brat Bride Dundalk festival last Sunday, which featured, weirdly, another Bee Smyth, and the Poetry Chicks. I'm already a big fan of these girls (and Conor the pianist), as I've seen them and met them at Flatlake and Electric Picnic last year, where I read too (part of the ever-changing Poetry Divas, don't ya know). They moved the audience with their rousing aural-work and got genuine gasps and wows - what more could you ask for.

Now, in an aside, I've heard tell that Flatlake is moving its dates to June - anyone know anything about this?

In other news, it's competition time again - Strokestown has passed, but there's still time to enter Wigtown in Scotland, they don't close until Friday 12th, and there's word from Cavan, about the Cavan Crystal Poetry Competition which opens its doors to Adults this year. €10 for three poems and it closes March 31st. Bridport is of course open once again, plenty of time to think about your entries of either short stories or poems - but I'd given up on them because it is such a big/high-class field. Still, time to think outside the box, eh?

What else do you be doing when spring is a-coming in, but clear the decks of that stuff you've been a-writing ;)