Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Digital Archives at SHC Queen's, Belfast

I was reading an interview with Miriam Gamble, over on Emerging Writer's blog, and Miriam mentioned that a good deal of her work is available to listen to at the The Seamus Heaney Centre Digital Archive at QUB. I know the person behind the establishment of this digital sound archive, Paul Maddern (from my time at QUB doing my Masters), as this mammoth project was his PhD.

Anyway, I had a good old browse and a listen to some of Miriam's work, which is really interesting and has earned her a good reputation.

I then wondered if there was any of my work on there, as I and Enda Coyle Greene had launched books in No Alibis bookshop (a great place to browse and buy books, as well as music and other events) back in March 2008. Well, I found a few (use the search facility and enter author's name) - a bit cringeworthy for me to listen to - but there they are in all their glory.

If you get a chance to browse this amazing digital archive, you won't be disappointed. In there you will find poets as diverse as Sinead Morrissey, Medbh McGuckian, Ciaran Carson, Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney (of course!) and many, many more. I was really tickled to see and hear Billy Collins' work on the website, as I actually attended this reading in Armagh in July 2008 (and wrote about it here), so it's nice to re-hear the work again.

There's a lot to be said for 'hearing' poetry - after all, it is an oral/aural art.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Poems and Mushrooms

I picked this up from Rob McKenzie's blog, who in turn is talking about Don Share's take on a poem by Katherine Kilalea which is called 'Henneker's Ditch.

Share quotes the poem - if it is not the whole, I'd be dying to get the collection it's in, New Poetries V - and then goes on a really interesting meander, showing us not only a good appreciation, but a good insight into his own thought processes when he comes across a poem that needs unlocking.

I last felt this interested in a poem when reading T.S. Eliot's Prufrock, or Ginsberg's Howl. This is a poem that's got me thinking about hybridity, dream sequences, and - of all things - some of the things I used to do, twenty or so years ago before I got sense.

They would be drugs - well, mushrooms in particular (that's about as hard as it got around here - they were free!) - which I'm not advocating in any shape or form - but these were the first thing I thought of when I read Kate Kilalea's poem... I've put this here more as a note or reminder to myself, more than anything - but the poem is exciting, and has me thinking hard.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Poetry Abounding

Apologies for disappearing again - holidays came and went, back to school came and went and so did back to work - yes the hamster mill keeps on spinning round!

Just back from Dromineer Literary Festival this weekend, where I was lucky to be part of the Poetry Divas big gig in the Whiskey Still. We were treated like the Divas we are, and the feedback afterwards was tremendous. Fair play to those who came along to support us, in spite of the awful weather and after the readings/Q&A sessions with writers Jennifer Johnstone and John McKenna.

Our set worked out at around the hour mark and included the by-now-infamous 'boobs' poem, complete with accompanying visuals (think Bob Dylan's song). We were well-received and mightuly looked after by Declan & Fiona in Lough Derg House as well as Rita in the Whiskey Still. The weather wasn't good enough to allow anyone a decent view about the lake, but it looked as though it would be really beautiful on a sunny day.

Tomorrow is All Ireland Poetry Day, as well as being National Poetry Day across the water in the UK. There's plenty happening up and down the country for those who want to join in.

Here in sunny Dundalk, there's a lunch time broadcast on Dundalk FM at 1pm featuring people from public life (including me!) discussing favourite and non-favourite poems from Soundings. You can listen online by clicking here but be aware that you may need to download a plugin in order to stream it.

There's also a lunchtime reading taking place in DkIT Library featuring John O'Rourke in the Slieve Foye Room.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Back on the horse - picking poems!

It's been a while since I posted here, so long in fact that the echoes are rather loud!

As usual, I've been busy with things work-ish; finishing off courses for the summer, taking on short courses and up to my eyeballs in paperwork and marking. The marking will continue for another week longer, but it is sheer bliss knowing that I don't have to be hurtling up and down the M1 or across to Kells for a few weeks.

In the meantime, I was asked to judge a poetry competition for Eyewear - the theme was using the number six, as it is Eyewear's sixth birthday. I chose the winning poem blind from all the poems sent - so it was amazing to later find out that the winner, Janet Vickers, was Canadian, and it was Canada day yesterday - serendipity on many levels.

Check it out and look out for the picture of me with cakes... in the background. Oh yes.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Divas at the Festival of the Fires

The Poetry Divas ride out again into the Festival of the Fires tomorrow at the Hill of Uisneach. This is located in the very centre of Ireland, quite near Mullingar, where traditionally the five provinces of Ireland met (yes, five, you read right!). I'm thinking I'll be airing some of my 'Celtic' poems, and perhaps any to do with fires. Incidentally, I'm a fire sign, so perhaps that's a Good Thing.

Take a look at their website; there are some stunning photographs from last year's festival. If you're in the area, come along and take a look-see at the Spoken Word stage around about 3pm tomorrow and say hello to the Divas.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring into Poetry, London

Don Share signing a book

Me and Malika Booker

Our genial host talking to Emma Jones - & his wife
Malika Booker and Amy
Amy & Anne Stevenson

I'm just back from the reading at Oxfam Marylebone, last night. Phew what a sweat to get there in time: flight delayed into Gatwick, train to Victoria, tube to Russell Square, and up the stairs to the Penn Club, flung on my reading outfit and lippy, and into a cab to arrive, just before the main guests arrived. Talk about seat of the pants!

The readers were terrific: I really enjoyed the variety of voices. After I went first - which allowed me to chill out and relax (and stop sweating - sheesh, beginning to think there's something awry there!) - there was the gorgeous voice of Malika Booker. Her work is steeped in her Grenadian background, with a Caribbean lilt and she read very well. I bought her Breadfruit pamphlet later on, which I've already peeked into. Malika also made off with a copy of my 'Cattle Crush' poem, about cattle being castrated, which she is going to use to teach poetry to Year 8s - yay.

Closing the first half of the readers was Anne Stevenson: I watched this diminutive figure command the entire room with her wonderful reading. She gives each word its total and correct weight, without it seeming ponderous. I have her voice now in my head and am looking forward to re-reading her mammoth Collected Poems 1955 - 1995, which I brought over and asked her to sign for me. She said something very nice about my reading afterwards which I shall treasure: that she could 'hear where my lines ended.'

After a quick sup and a chat - hi to Chris Bazalgette, so nice to meet you after all the years corresponding on the Open University message boards - the second half kicked off with another prize-winning poet: Emma Jones, Dr Jones to me and you. An Australian by birth and accent, she read from her collection The Striped World, from Faber, which was a Forward Prize winner for Best First Collection in 2009. Very imaginative and surprising work, I shall be searching out her work.

Then came Jacquelyn Pope, from the US, whose work has a lovely measured pace and is quite beautiful in a really understated way. Her collection Watermark literally walked out the door afterwards - before I managed to get my hands on it - boo hoo. I was too busy talking to poets and audience members!

Lastly, came Don Share, also from Chicago in the US, whose warm, witty but poignant poems were a thoughtful point to end the evening on. I also got his collection Squandermania from Salt - and weirdly, when I got back to the hotel, the current book I'm reading, a history of the Irish state during the second world war, That Neutral Island, by Clair Wills had that very word on the following page I was reading, where Fine Gael were giving out about the 'political codology' the 'squandermania' of the idea of Ireland being able to defend itself during the war (p.90). Wow, I thought: isn't that cool!

Todd Swift could give a masterclass in the art of hosting and introducing poets: his tone is so relaxed it sounds conversational - very intimate and draws in the audience.

What a great evening - it seemed to be over far too soon, but I heard so much and came home with some lovely lines in my head.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring, Sprong, Sprung

The clocks go forward tonight, giving that extra hour of daylight and making everyone all summery again. It's about time, I've been waking up so early in the mornings, because of the angle of the sun being that little bit higher, and I've been paying close attention to the daffodils that I planted in the garden last autumn - I hadn't any bulbs planted in the garden, and it's nice to watch them growing, from the green budding tips to the blowsy yellow trumpets that sway in the wind, announcing that SPRING IS HERE!

I'm back from France, which was a really interesting trip away. While the ceremony and burial were poignant, the French way of carrying out these rituals was very interesting to observe - so dignified and respectful, and yes even elegant - so French! I've also met a whole load of new relations, cousins two and three times removed, and there are some interesting times ahead as we will all forge new connections through the children in families on both sides. I reckon that my lot now have a very valid reason to pay more attention in their French classes at school, and hopefully we will see some exchanges happen between the families, over the coming years. It's all about family in the long run :¬)

So, it's back to normal, until Wednesday when I fly to London to take part in that exciting poetry reading in the wonderful bookshop at Oxfam Marylebone. Anne Stevenson has an extra long slot, so I can't wait to hear her wonderful poetry in person, as well as the others which include Malika Booker, Emma Jones, Jacquelyn Pope, and Don Share. Busy, busy, busy! Now, back to the garden to make the most of this fine spell we're having.

Friday, March 18, 2011

That London Reading

I was supposed to be going to Prague next week, wiv' the hub, but family commitments mean going to France to a funeral instead. I'll be helping to lay to rest the last direct French connection we have: a Gran-aunt, who was just six months shy of her 100th birthday. She slipped away quietly ... always a very modest and unassuming, but hugely supportive person.

But I'm still up for the end of month reading in London, at the Oxfam Bookshop, Marylebone. Details as follows:

Wednesday 30th March

Anne Stevenson
Barbara Smith
Don Share
Emma Jones
Jacquelyn Pope
Malika Booker

7.30 pm
91 Marylebone High Street
London W1
Nearest tube Baker Street

Admision: £5; concession £3.

Hosted by Todd Swift

ALL PROFITS TO OXFAM - Make sure to book the tickets if you're coming!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

International Wimmin's Day

We have a whole day to ourselves - and where does it start? On the first day of lent, Ash Wednesday!

In our house there's lots of talk of giving things up - but funnily enough it's things that people don't like anyway. One of the nearly-wimmin of the house said 'I'm giving up smoking and drinking for lent.' I replied that she didn't smoke or drink anyway, and she said that made it all the easier.

One of the mini-wimmin here said she was giving up broccoli, to which I said that she didn't like it anyway, so not much hardship there either. You have to hand it to them for thinking outside the box - whose children are they anyway..?

It's not like years ago, when you gave up your sweeties and saved them in a tin until Easter Sunday - with a quick detour on St. Patrick's Day, yum yum.

Anyway, later on I am teaching a Leaving Cert class the finer points of creating a character, so I'm having fun in my own writerly way on IWD. How about you, anything exciting? Drop a note in the comments and let us know!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Prufrocks in Dublin

The Prufrocks read again, this time in Dublin on Saturday 5th at 8pm in La Catedral Studios. The last time some of us read together, was at Flatlake, back in August 2009. We had a bigger reading crew that time, and a very full tent (Cillian Murphy was there - swoon). This time we are three: Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Mary Mullen and my good self.

Mary is from Alaska, originally and her poems are often set there, which makes them interesting and haunting in their own right. Mary has a book out from Salmon, Zephyr, which I can't wait to hear poems from. Mary is also a successful memoirist, and takes classes teaching people how to write memoir.

Nuala, from Dublin originally, now living in Galway county, is an award-winning writer of many years standing. A fiction writer, as well as poet, her debut novel You, launched last year and is still getting good notices. She has a collection, The Juno Charm, forthcoming from Salmon Poetry later this year.

So, if you're round and about in Dublin at the Book Festival, do drop over to La Catedral Studios 7/11 Saint Augustine Street Dublin 8 on Saturday at 8pm. We promise not to disappoint!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Election Day

Never has an election been more anticipated that the current one here in Ireland, and thanks be to Jaysus the run-up to it wasn't any longer than it has been.

I swear the election posters here in Dundalk were multiplying over night. There's a roundabout near us that, four weeks ago had just four or five posters attached to the iron railings that protect pedestrians from the traffic.

Going through it today, I counted (periphally, of course, I was driving) about twenty. I have to laugh at Fine Gael's 'Five Point Plan - go to wubblywubblywubbly to read all about it'. As if!

Last week, I was up in Donegal for the weekend, a trip which necessitated travelling through Norn Iron twice - it was nice not to be visually assailed by election images for the time it took to go through the north. A visual break, I guess.

Anyhoo, at this stage of the day the deed is done. I have exercised my right to vote, placing preferences all the way down from 1 -16 (I'm old-fashioned and feel the need to vote from last to first - just to make sure I express myself most emphatically!). I feel sorry for anyone in a constituency that has more candidates than that - I hear one of Galway's constituencies has 35 candidates!

One thing for sure: the intricacies of the Proportional Representation Single Transferable Vote make the day after, Saturday, the most interesting day, when we see what it is the Irish people may have actually said. I'll be tuning in around lunchtime, when hopefully all the ballot boxes will have been opened.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

March Date for the Diary

More about that reading in London: *edited in: Weds, 30th March*


Anne Stevenson
Barbara Smith
Don Share
Emma Jones
Jacquelyn Pope
Malika Booker

7.30 pm
91 Marylebone High Street
London W1
Nearest tube Baker Street

Admision: £5; concession £3.

Hosted by Todd Swift


I can't believe the line-up! Anne Stevenson! Almost this time last year, I was holed up in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, where they have a terrific library of books. There, I found her collected, which I devoured. Poems which I still remember: Granny Scarecrow and Poem for a Daughter. Guess what I've just pulled off my bookshelf to read?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Nothing to Say - So Don't Say Nothing

Sorry, I've been absent for a while, whilst life got on with itself. January was a tough month for many, not just getting over the expenses of Christmas, but the cold weather we experienced really seems to have impacted on people very hard, between burst pipes and trying to stay warm.

Now, it's February, spring feels like it's coming, the days are just starting to push out a little, and I hear myself going around saying, 'It's like November, only backwards.' If it were only that simple.

Still, some things to look forward to: a trip to visit Prague; a reading in London at the close of March - to make up for the one I didn't get to read at ... and Easter is later this year - maybe the weather will be kinder?

So, it's all to look forward to. Wonder what great poetry this year has in store for us then...?

What are you looking forward to? - go on, tell us!