Saturday, November 24, 2012

More Divas? And a Divo..!

Oh boy it's a busy season for the Divas! At 6.30pm, Wednesday 28th November, the Divas read in DkIT in Dundalk, in the Tomas Mac Anna theatre, emceed by the new Writer in Residence, Ferdia Mac Anna. Us Divas will be Kate Dempsey and Triona Walsh, and meself.

This time we are featured readers with a guest: Michael Farry. I wonder does that make him a Divo - even just an honorary one!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Poetry Divas are go

Us Poetry Divas are getting around a bit these days! On Wednesday 21st November we're reading at The Grand Social in Dublin along with many other poets in support of Pussy Riot.

This event is just one of many organised across the UK and Ireland to coincide on that date, through the auspices of English PEN and our own counterpart Irish PEN.

We have a Facebook event page set up: if you're in Dublin on the night do come along from 6pm onwards, it's FREE and it promises to be a great night. Poets who have agreed to read include: Kimberly Campanello, Sophie Collins, Sue Cosgrave, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Christodoulos Makris, Máighréad Medbh, Paula Meehan, Alan Jude Moore, Christine Murray, The Poetry Divas, Sam Riviere.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

All Ireland Poetry Day: Louth

There's a wonderful broadcast happening on Dundalk FM at 11am, called Bookends, which is hosted by the capable Eileen Corcoran. The programme will focus on two poetry books launched in Dundalk recently – “The Angels Share”, by Barbara Smith (yes, me!) and “Once Upon Reflection” by Petra Berntssen. 

Petra Berntsson is a visual artist born in Sweden, now living in Dundalk. She has combined her paintings with writing from other poets and writers. The connections happened naturally and poems emerged from paintings, and paintings grew from words. The end result, “Once Upon Reflection” is a beautiful book, inspired by Petra’s years living in Ireland.

The programme will also feature four Louth people readings poems which they love.They are: Cllr. Jennifer Green, Cathaoirleach, Dundalk Town Council; Pat Keating an active participant in the cultural life of Dundalk,; Tommy Kelly, a visual artist, comic writer, and social commentator and Cathal Cassidy, a broadcaster on Dundalk FM 100.

As if that isn't plenty to be going on with, it's then off to Dundalk Instutute of Technology for a 12.30 pm lunchtime reading with myself and John Noonan. John is a Longford native and the 2012 winner of the Goldsmith Prize for his poem 'Glass Maker'. He is also heavily involved in the Dundalk Writers Group.

There's always something happening in Louth for All Ireland Poetry Day and this year is no exception.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pussy Riot & Poetry Divas

At our Poetry Divas gig at Electric Picnic this year, we dedicated our reading to the girls from Pussy Riot. We said, before we got started, how much we appreciated that we lived in a society where our freedom of speech was not curtailed and that we could pretty much say what we wanted, poetry wise.

Little did we know that a few hectic weeks later, we would be involved in a mammoth protest project, co-ordinated by English PEN and some very hard-working writers and poets. Two weeks ago, I noticed a call on Twitter to submit poems to Eng. PEN to show solidarity with Pussy Riot, in time for their appeal, which is this Monday, 1st October.

I responded with Pair Bond, a poem that Poetry Divas usually do together, taking various stanzas each. It's a poem about the many words for breasts, and began life as a sort of riposte to Alan Gillis' poem in Hawks and Doves. My poem has taken on a life of its own, and always seems to go down well at live gigs, especially when we use our visual aids.

Well, us Divas got ourselves together very quickly, got my son roped in and recorded ourselves all reciting various stanzas. Big son went off to UL, where he studies multimedia and music, and used our visuals and voices to bring a short video to life:

Then I discovered that there was an e-book in the offing as well: Catechism  - but wait! The book only goes live on Monday 1st Oct, so you will have to wait to read what George Szirtes says in his introduction, and to read all the varying voices contained. They are distributing it on a 'Pay What You Think It's Worth' scheme.  I've had a sneak preview, so I know what I think it's worth. Enjoy and think of the girls in Russia on Monday; here's hoping that they are freed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More camping, Electric Picnic highlights

A busy summer is rapidly turning into a busy autumn. I've been on the go at a few readings lately, but I'll start back with the Electric Picnic experience, with the Poetry Divas, once of the best festivals I was at in a long time.

This is held over the last weekend of August/first weekend of September, so can be a little hard to get going to, what with the six kids and all. But this year worked out sweet, as the kids were more or less back at school anyway, and I wasn't back myself to work until after the 5th.

I actually didn't mean to go for the weekend, we thought our reading was on the Saturday, originally, and I had planned to just go for the day, taking in The Cure later on before retiring gracefully.

That didn't happen: turned out our Divas gig was on the Sunday, so I went and bought a pop-up tent (always practice putting them down at home beforehand, if you don't want to look like a right eejit) and dug out me blow-up bed and mummy sleeping bag.

Good job too. Saturday 1st 2012 was a fab day, with warm sunshine, but a bit of a nip in the breeze. I spent the entire afternoon in the Mindfield, taking in acts in Marty Mulligan's Spoken Word tent, the Arts Council tent and the Science Gallery tent.

I saw Declan Burke and muscian Ken Griffin doing a double act: Declan was reading from his latest Slaughter's Hound, and Ken was playing a few tracks; lovely voice, excellent guitarist. At home I went on to buy Declan's first book Eight Ball Boogie, and will be getting Slaughter's Hound soon, but I need to finish my Raymond Chandler triple-decker first. I also saw Eoin Colfer and John Banville in the flesh: they were in the audience for Declan's set. And I heard Banville will be writing a new Chandler novel soon, if it's not already in the bag.

I was also present for the Poetry Ireland Saturday contribution in the Spoken Word tent, catching Stephen Murray, Alan Jude Moore, Kit Fryatt (out-there poetry, pushing it right to the limit), and Jennifer Matthews. Missed Mairead Medbh, raging about that.

Later on, it was back to the Arts Council tent for John Cooper Clarke. The tent was stuffed to the guy ropes with bods. We were sitting next to Fintan O' (wish I was) Cool and Roddy Doyle. Cooper Clarke has a steady patter thing andin the hour and ten mins he was on, I think he actually only did about five or six of his pieces. Still, it was fantastic to see him, he's someone I've admired for years. Saw Patti Smith very briefly. She rocked!

Needless to say The Cure were bloody brilliant, doing a three hour and twenty min set. Lots of the older stuff: 10:15 Saturday Night, Boys Don't Cry to name a few, but my legs were beginning to give way around midnight so I retired to the performers area for a sit-down and some beer.

After a surprisingly refreshing sleep, on Sunday morning it was back to the Mindfield, this time in prep for our own Divas gig at 1.30pm, which got moved out a bit due to other acts. There were four of us this time, and we had a cracking, kickass set. It can be hard work doing the spoken word with the bass from the main stage competing with you, but we had a good crowd, and the highlight was a red-headed man popping up for Kate's Flaming for Vincent poem, which begins, 'O give me a red-headed man...' You need to imagine quite a seductive voice... The poor chap near choked on his noodles!

Got to see the Icelandic band, Of Men and Monsters later on. A big crowd turned up for this one, and they were really brilliant. They started their set by getting the crowd to sing Happy Birthday for Nanna's dad, which she recorded on her iPhone. There was also the amusement of a blow-up beachball that surfed the crowd as people hand-tapped it up and around the Crawford tent.

Meanwhile, back in the Mindfield, Roddy Doyle and Glen Hansard were on together - bravo to the Arts Council for doing the author/musician thing, it made for some really interesting listening. Again, another packed tent. Also caught three comedian lads (no name, sorry) and Colm Keegan reading from Don't Go There, this time back in the Spoken Word.

By this stage, the old back and neck were screaming at me, so I headed on home, and had to make do with Elbow, the main stage act, on the car radio going home. Reckon I got a good deal there, as I made it home in two hours, before everyone else got on the M7. All round a brilliant EP, definitely thinking next year is a goer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Camping in Ireland

Just back from a very interesting holiday, camping with the kids in Achill, Co. Mayo.

I say interesting, because there is no greater test of your limits than living in very close proximity to your offspring (and husband!) for eight days, in a tent environment.

We were very lucky. We seem to have got the only week of decent sunny weather that the Irish summer had to offer. For four and a half days, the weather was glorious. Rain only hit on the last morning, and even then it feiced off so that the fly sheet of the tent was dry when we had emptied the contents for packing away.

You should have seen us putting up the tent, though, the week before. I'd say we gave other campers at the Keel Sandybanks Camping and Caravan park a real good laugh! Everyone piled out of the car and decided that they knew best how to assemble it! Tent poles, tent innards, fly sheet:  I thought the whole lot was going to go flying in the Northeasterly wind that was blowing. The problem, as my husband later pointed out, is that we have raised a little band of leaders and none of them like taking direction from each other.

Still, at least the tent went up, and we really enjoyed the holiday. In fact I think we're all better friends now as a result of all the teenage meltdowns. There are probably other less stressful ways of getting to know your family on holidays, but right now, I think that camping is up there. 'Twould have been a different story, I know, if it had rained, but we were very lucky. Someone up there was giving us a break!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Upcoming July Readings

I have two lovely readings coming up. The first is in Dublin, next Thursday 12th July (especially for Norn Iron fans), at 6.30pm in the Twisted Pepper, Abbey Street, Dublin, with the lovely Seven Towers; it's just a quick slot in a themed evening on the subject of 'Friendship' - I think there may be one or two poems from my book that I can tenuously link!

The following Saturday 14th July (Bastille day), I read in lovely Tralee, at the gala Poets in the Doghouse reading in Siamsa Tire - note the early start of 5pm - with all the poets from this years' publications, including Monica Corish, Gréagóir O’Dúill, Michael Farry, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, James Lawless & meself. Looking forward to that one, as I missed out last time, in 2007. Great craic will be had by everyone afterwards, no doubt and I hope to get some pictures too.

It's been a busy six weeks or so since my poetry collection, The Angels' Share was launched: back at work, portfolios to be marked, new classes started and it feels like I'm only getting to the stuff I should be doing now.

Life has a funny habit of going on, while you're trying to keep pedaling the bike of normality, in the pouring rain.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Angel's Share Launch

The day dawned bright and sunny, the invites were sent, the speakers booked, the wine bought... in short, it all had the makings of  a great launch.

Enda Coyle-Greene spoke at length about the book and even made me blush a few times. Noel King said a few words to send it on its way as did Denis Darcy, representing the Arts Office.

And then I read some of the poems: Shackleton's Portable Homeland, a few of the Mallory sonnets, two about the kids, one about the eldest teenager - which of course he hated - and the (by-now-infamous) 'boob' poem, Pair Bond. Actually, Pair Bond has a life of its own at festivals around Ireland, thanks to the Poetry Divas - hey girls! - and a very swish set of accompanying visuals

It all went very well indeed, with many thanks to those who came along - cheers to you all for coming to send it off. And a lovely few relaxing pints afterwards in the lovely venue of the Spirit Store.

Barbara reading: although it looks like she's swallowing ice!

Enda Coyle-Greene who launched Barbara's collection.

Matt, left telling Mary, Emer and Tracy a really funny one!

Poet Michael Farry and Barbara.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

10... 9... 8... 7...

Today I delivered the wine consignment to the Basement Gallery, where the book launch is due to take place tomorrow. The Angels' Share is just about to be sent out into the wide world for everyone to read. Am I nervous? Yes! The first copy arrived yesterday. I opened the package and held it, this pristine new copy. Such a tiny thing for five years work, and yet... isn't that the great thing about books - a whole world of thought in your hands. All you need do is open the cover and dive in with your mind. See you all on the far side!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nearly there with The Angels' Share

I've got great news now: the book has gone to print and I'm in the process of sending invitations. The launch date is set for Wednesday 23rd of May, in the Basement Gallery, Dundalk Town Council Offices, Crowe Street, Dundalk @ 6pm. My dear poetry friend and colleague, Enda Coyle-Greene has agreed to launch it for me.

In fact, that's a very busy week for Doghouse Books as two other books are launched too. 

Monday 21st, sees the launch  in Trim, Co. Meath at the Castle Arch Hotel, Trim, Co. Meath.(Time: 8pm) of Asking for Directions, by Michael Farry and then Rus in Urbe, by James Lawless, gets its lift-off in Leixlip, Co. Kildare at the Springfield Hotel on Tuesday 22nd at 7.30pm. 

My book is available to pre-order now, but books won't be sent until launch date.You can order here at Doghouse's website. If you're around Dundalk on the 23rd, consider yourself invited - there's free wine!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cover art for The Angels' Share

The new book continues being worked on at a lickety split pace now. I just got to see the new cover today, complete with blurb and words from previous reviews. The artwork is by an Irish artist, Sarah Walker. I am hopng it works well in the context of the angels's share being something that's up out there somewhere ...

Sunday, April 01, 2012

April 1st

Makes me think of is spring really here now? Of course it is - the cherry blossoms shedding everywhere like tired confetti.

Did you spot any April's fool stories or jokes? The press must be enjoying the luxury of a Sunday to spring some nice ones on us.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Kids these days, eh?

The new book continues being worked on at a lickety split pace now. I just got to see the new cover today, complete with blurb and words from previous reviews. The artwork is by an Irish artist, Sarah Walker. I am hopng it works well in the context of the angels's share being something that's up out there somewhere ...

Friday, February 17, 2012

The book takes shape

Just back from the lovely kingdom county, otherwise known as Kerry, where I've been working on the manuscript of the new book, with my editor, Noel King.

Noel is a fine poet in his own right, having a long-awaited debut collection published in 2010 by Salmon press: Prophesying the Past. So he knows his poetry onions and it's easy to trust his instincts when editing, because he's usually right!

We had the lovely job of having to lose poems: some because they were not quite right for the book, others simply because we didn't have enough room in the end - and that's not a bad complaint to have!

The book now has a shape, and I feel I can now start calling it a book, not a ms anymore. It feels stronger than the first one: I hope that is true, I can't say for certain myself, because I'm far too close to it at present. You know, wood for trees syndrome and the like. Sometimes I think it's bloody marvellous; at others I'm just not sure. Tell me other people doubt like that too?

The title will be The Angels' Share. It begins with whiskey and ends with arses. And there is a pair of boobs in there as well... some mountaineering poems, a fair few sonnets, even some chips. I hope there's something for everyone!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Interview on

Kate Dempsey, otherwise known as Emerging Writer, has posted an interview she did with me on

Pop along and have a read and find out how I got into reading and writing poetry and my time spent writing lyrics for a band I used to sing with... and discover how my newly coming collection is progressing.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

New year, new...

Here we are on St. Brigid's day already, and not a peep on the blog in an age. Things are moving again on the poetry front. All being well, I hope to back with my fellow peers in Ballinasloe, this weekend, and there's talk of a new collection coming out this year, with Doghouse.

That said, I need to see if I've actually got the good makings of a book: the real test is the editing day, or days, I'll be spending down in Tralee. Not too long to go now: I'm hoping to get down over the half-term coming up shortly.

The title seems to have settled on the one thing. I won't say just yet, but I'm quietly pleased with it and hope it reflects the collection as a whole.

In the meantime, I've been getting used to me new iPad. I think I can safely say it's one of the most useful presents I've ever had. The kids have been teasing me about how I never put the damn thing down.

I've all sorts of wee games and functions on it now, and a whole lifetime's worth of music is now on tap whenever I'm up for it. I can even listen to the radio, read and sometimes type at the same time. I even read poems from it at a reading the other night!

If you've got one, do look out for a wee game app, Machinarium: it has great appeal if you're into solving puzzles and lateral thinking at the same time. Reminds me of all the Discworld games I used to play - not that long ago!

Better start thinking about doing some readings and promotion then, hadn't I?