Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Old Bridge, Trim

The Boyne flowing under the old bridge in Trim with a cherry blossom in bloom.

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty;

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802 by Willian Wordsworth.

Other bridge poems:

The Bridge by Hart Crane. First section here.

The Old Bridge at Florence by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Bridge Poem by Donna Kate Rushin.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Famous Irishmen : 1930 Competition:

This is an advertisement from the Irish Times, 14 November 1930, bearing the result of a competition held by the Ristol Oil Company. (No information about this company on the internet). It seems that entrants had to nominate the most famous Irishman (Was there another competition for most famous Irishwomen? - Presumably not) .

Noticeable in the list of famous Irishmen is the lack of politicians and rebels and the number of writers. Also the high position achieved by Wellington. The centenary of Catholic Emancipation had taken place in 1929 and that might explain O'Connell's eminence. I presume that this competition was carried in all newspapers and was not confined to Irish Times readers.

At least two Meath connections - Wellington and Swift. Wellington may have been born in the family's house at Dangan Castle between Trim and Summerhill and Swift held the living of Laracor also between Trim and Summerhill for a time. Opportunity for a plug for our Swift Satire competition and for the Trim Swift Festival.

Among the winners notice two from Coolaney, Co Sligo.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reading at the Moment

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O'Driscoll.

I borrowed it from Blanchardstown Library and have read about a third of it. Especially interesting because of the format. Most of the interviews were conducted 'in writing and by post'.

The title is taken from Heaney's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, in which he described his 'journey into the wideness of language, a journey where each point of arrival - whether in one's poetry or one's life - turned out to be a stepping stone rather than a destination'.

One stipulation made by Heaney was that there be no detailed analytical discussion of individual poems but there is still much of interest about individual poems here.

Especially interesting was the section where he discussed the operation of The Group under Philip Hobsbaum in Belfast. This was a Writers Group, meeting at 8 o'clock on a Monday evening and including Michael Longley as well as the young Heaney. "Everything on each page was there to be tested or questioned. Now and again there would be a poem where all that needed to be said was "Well Done" - but you'd feel it was dereliction of duty if that was all you did. You felt you had to workshop, as they say, whatever was put in front of you. That could be embarrassing if the work was useless, but then, fortunately or unfortunately, you can keep up a critical patter just as easily about junk verse as about the read thing - talk about line endings, focus on an image, compare the poem to known poems in the canon".

O'Driscoll asks: "Was there rivalry in The Group?" and "Would you describe the rivalry as having been at all times healthy?". The answers are very carefully crafted.

Interesting to see what others make of the format and the subject. Guardian review here and London times review here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The MAG Poetry Prize 2009

This is an interesting poetry competition especially as it's being judged by the entrants themselves in what appears to be a reasonably well thought out method. This is from their website:

The MAG Poetry Prize 2009
- An Open Online Poetry Competition

Innovative, exciting, challenging and democratic – the greatest ever online poetry competition.
Prize fund accumulates @ £2.00 per entry (up to £10,000 maximum). 1st Prize - 50%, 2nd Prize - 25%, 3rd Prize - 15%, 4th Prize - 10%.

Poetry Competition Rules

We have no appointed judges – the entrants judge the competition themselves. It’s a knockout system in three rounds (see Poetry Competition Rules for details) – but beware, if you don’t participate in the judging, you will be knocked out yourself! In each round the entrants read 12 poems. In the final round everyone reads the last 12. The judging will take place in the 2 months following closure of the competition.

Any subject. Style: Poetry or Prose Poetry. Maximum 42 lines. £6 per entry.

All profits from the poetry competition will be donated to MAG (Mines Advisory Group).
MAG is a neutral and impartial humanitarian organisation that clears the remnants of conflict for the benefit of communities worldwide. Our target is to get 1,500 entries in the first year.

Closing Date: 30th April 2009

I have entered a poem more to see how the whole thing operates than with a hope of a prize. You can actrually read random entries on the homepage. Will keep you posted.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Garden - Wild and Tamed

It's only a small suburban garden but it does contain a tree - a sycamore. My father owned some bushes and a few young ash trees and his father owned a few apple trees and some wind stunted Ox Mountain thorn trees. I own a fully grown sycamore tree. It was here long before the estate was built in the early 1970s.

A sycamore is not the best tree to have in the garden. It attracts an enormous number of insects and it's impossible to walk under it in high summer without being coated with flies. No cucumber sandwiches under this tree's shade in summer. Is does result in swallows continually flying around it feeding. At the moment the buds are just opening and the early leaves are coming out.

Under the tree is my wilderness. A good idea in every garden. Nettles and briars grow here though in the height of summer the sycamore canopy stunts the growth and the wilderness dies back.

The tulips won't last very much longer. Some heavy showers will result in the petals being strewn all over the grass. The bluebells patch under the tree should soon be in full bloom though.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bob Dylan - Together Through Life

Got the new Bob Dylan album, Together Through Life, today from iTunes. Need to listen to it a number of times before you can make any judgement on it but it doesn't seem as strong as the recent albums. The voice is the same though, rough and time-worn is the kindest thing you can say about it. His current European tour reaches Britain tonight and he's in Dublin the week after next. I'm seeing three of his concerts in the next two weeks.

Some of the lyrics from the album track I Feel a Change Coming On

"Well now what's the use in dreamin
you got better things to do
dreams never did work for me anyway
even when they did come true

I'm a-listening to Billy Joe Shaver
And I'm reading James Joyce
Some people they tell me
I've got the blood of the land in my voice

Everybody got all the money
Everybody got all the beautiful clothes
Everybody got all the flowers
I don't have one single rose
I feel a change comin' on
and the fourth part of the day's already gone."

Review at the Telegraph here. Independent here. Irish Times here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Killoran and Coolaney Secondhand

I recently mentioned my first history book Killoran and Coolaney, A Local History. I started to research this as a project in St Patrick's Training College, Drumcondra in 1966-68 and sporadically continued over the years. I decided to complete it in the early eighties and published it myself in 1985. I forget how many copies I got printed, around a thousand I think. I reviewed it myself for the Sligo Champion and other local newspapers in the west and got a mention in the Irish Independent and in the emigrant paper The Irish Post. The book sold well and was out of print within a year or two.

It's a reasonably good book but rather than reprinting it needs updating and rewriting. Many more resources have become available since it was compiled and it need to be brought up to date. I ended it at the end of the civil war in 1923.

As a result of meeting some survivors while working on the book I went on to research and publish a book on the war of independence in Sligo. A book on the civil war in Sligo followed which became a doctorate in Trinity.

The Coolaney book rarely comes up in secondhand bookshops and I am often been asked for copies. I made a pdf of the whole book and it's available for free download on the internet here.

Checking on website recently I found two copies of Killoran and Coolaney for sale, one for 161 dollars and one for 181 dollars. The difference seems to be because one has biro mark on the inside cover. I was shocked to see how expensive they were and checked that my children had the copies I gave them. I wonder how much a signed copy would fetch?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Peter Porter Poet

The latest issue of Poetry Review has just arrived. It celebrates the Australian-born British poet Peter Porter with a number of poems written for his eightieth birthday by the likes of Les Murray, Andrew Motion, Sean O'Brien and George Szirtes. It also has a review of Porter's latest collection Better than God.

Reviews of Better than God: Guardian, Independent, Times. Guardian interview with Porter.

Peter Porter is one of the poets featured on the Poetry Archive and you can hear him reading some poems here. By coincidence I was in Navan Library yesterday and found the Poetry Archive CD of Porter reading his poems which I borrowed. Porter is not a poet I'm very familiar with so I'm looking forward to listening to some of his work.

The titles of the poems on the CD themselves form a sort of poem which intrigues. A sample:
The History of Music
The Sadness of the Creatures
Sex and the Over Forties
The Easiest Room in Hell
Gertrude Stein at Snail's Bay
Wittgenstein's Dream
A Great Reckoning in a Little Room
To My Granddaughters Sweeping Spelsbury Church
Mutiny of the Bountiful
Well, Francis, Where's the Sun?

Titles are very important in poems aren't they. A good title can add to a good poem. Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis by Wendy Cope for instance. My best title? Looking through them they are all a bit predictable - probably The Last Humpback Whale in Dublin Zoo.

More on the Peter Porter here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Patrick Dunne - The Lazarus Bell

Trim-born novelist Patrick Dunne launched the latest Boyne Berries and was a featured reader at our inaugural Boyne Readings and Open Mic so I thought I'd better read one of his books. I started with the second in the Illaun Bowe series The Lazarus Bell published in 2006 by Tivoli, an imprint of Gill and Macmillan.

It's a thrilling read set in a town called Castleboyne which is based on Trim. Part of the enjoyment of the novel was trying to figure out the geography of the plot and seeing which details were inventions. Illaun Bowe is an archaeologist who gets involved with plague graveyards, mediaeval lead coffins, coffin liquor, ritual murder, tabloid excesses and a very handsome South African pathologist and that's just for starters!

Much of the excitement in the novel centres on the discovery of a beautiful carved wooden Madonna, sealed tightly into a lead coffin. This is believed by many to be the image of Our Lady of Castleboyne which was venerated during the middle ages. There was an image of Our Lady of Trim which attracted many pilgrims before the reformation.

I didn't realise the significance of the novel's title until well past half way when it is discovered that the large stained glass window to Our Lady of Castleboyne/Trim contains clues to solve the mystery including a picture of the flower fritillaria meleagris. The Lazarus Bell was an old name for this flower. It was believed this was a corruption of Lazar's Bells or Lepers' Lilies, because the shape and markings of the flowers were suggestive of leprosy, while the overall shape of the flower was reminiscent of the bells attached to the clothing of beggar-lepers to announce their arrival or warn of their presence. More here.

There is such a stained glass window in St Patrick's Church, Trim but it doesn't have any fritillaries in it as far as I know.

By coincidence there are a few of the flower in bloom in our garden at the moment. Picture below.

Reviews of the book here and here. Patrick Dunne mentions some of his influences here.

Can't wait to start Dunne's A Carol for the Dead.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Walking by the Boyne in Trim I noticed the whins are in full bloom. Whins? Furze or gorse if you like. The same plant is called different names in different parts of the country. This article from Crann suggests that it is called whin north of a line through Louth, Meath and Mayo while south of the line it is called furze. He doesn't say what part of Meath the line goes through. As far as I know Meath people call it furze. There is a placename north of Navan called Yellow Furze. And beside Coolaney, Co Sligo there is a place called Whinny Hill.

The picture above has the Yellow Steeple in the background. There is an interesting article with pictures on whins here.

As regards poetry there are these lines from Goldsmith's Deserted Village:

Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
With blossomed furze unprofitably gay,

There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,

The village master taught his little school;

Evan Boland mentions whin bushes in her poem How We Made a New Art on Old Ground.

Patrick Kavanagh in A Christmas Childhood has that image of the bushes on the horizon:

Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy's hanging hill,

I looked and three whin bushes rode across

The horizon — The Three Wise Kings.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Death of J G Ballard

The novelist and short story writer, J G Ballard (1930 - 2009) has died. His best known books are Crash and the autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, both of which have been made into films.

The Collins English Dictionary has included the adjective "Ballardian", which it defines as "resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard's novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments".

The two Ballard novels I've read are Cocaine Nights (1996) and Super Cannes (2000) and I enjoyed both. These are novels with similar themes and plots each dealing with seemingly ideal luxury enclosed communities. In both cases there are dark secrets and underworlds of violence and crime which are there for the purpose of maintaining their seemingly perfect balance. I have his Complete Short Stories published in 2002 which runs to 1183 pages.

He was especially interesting when experimenting with form. His short story The Index (1977) is written in the form of an index to a biography of "one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century" a character called Henry Rhodes Hamilton (HRH). Entries like Kennedy, John F., President, declines to receive HRH, 420; ignores danger warnings, 425; mourned by HRH, 444 and Dealey Plaza (Dallas Texas), rumoured presence of HRH, 435 give a flavour of the work.

Another story Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown (1976) consists of a single eighteen word sentence with a footnote on every word. These footnotes make up the narrative.

Obituaries here and here. His website is here.

"Crossing frontiers is my profession. Those strips of no-man's land between the checkpoints always seem such zones of promise, rich with the possibilities of new lives, new scents and affections. At the same time they set off a reflex of unease that I have never been able to repress." (Beginning of Chapter 1, Cocaine Nights).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Before the Dawn in Erin

In Dun Laoghaire recently with a little time to spare I visited Naughton's Bookshop. A real old fashioned secondhand bookshop like those I remembered on the Dublin Quays in the sixties. A great variety of books on sale and I found and bought a copy of Before the Dawn in Erin by Daniel C Devine (1860-1942). This 308 page novel was published by James Duffy & Co., Dublin in 1913 and ran to a second edition in 1914.

The author was a teacher in Tubbercurry, Co Sligo and had previously published a book of stories called Faithful Ever; and Other Tales. The book is dedicated to the author's brother Matthew J Devine who was Parish Priest of Killoran, Co Sligo in the years 1910-1922 and PP of Mullinabreena 1922-1949. At least one of my uncles got his first confession and first communion from him. The same uncle was taught by a Kevin Devine who may have been a son or nephew of the author.

The novel deals with tenant landlord relations in Sligo in the 1840s and in particular how important the attitude of the agent was in determining the wellbeing or otherwise of the tenants. It reads very old fashioned now full of comely maidens and hardworking peasant youths. There are two priests in the story, both exemplerary assistants to the tenants. One is anxious to placate the agent while the other, younger, questions the whole basis of the land system.

The new agent is the absent landlord's son who has got a girl in trouble in England and has fled to Sligo to escape the consequences. He come to no good end and is killed in Monte Carlo at the end of the novel. Though set in the early 1840s there is no sense of the coming disaster of the famine.

An interesting read, though the language is irritatingly stage Irish. It is not without humour, one character is given to illustrate every statement he makes with a Shakesperian quotation.

The full text is available as an ebook here but I don't actually expect you to read it! Here's a taste: "Nora O'Rorke - dark-eyed Nora, as she was called - was a winsome colleen, and those who knew her were not suprised that Hugh's heart could not withstand the witching influence of her dark and lustrous eyes. Typically Irish, she was sprightly and vivacious; but remarkable withal for that child-like bashfulness which lends a peculiar charm to our peasant maids." Enough?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dicentra Spectabilis - Bleeding Heart

One of my Dicentra Spectablis "Bleeding Heart". I have it about three years, it gets bigger and more spectacular each year. This dicentra spectabilis is a perennial herbaceous plant native to eastern Asia from Siberia south to Japan. It is a woodland plant that does best in light shade in well-drained soil. More information on the BBC gardening site.

The two main definitions of the phrase Bleeding Heart are given in the Merrian Webster's dictionary. The other one is the bleeding heart usually followed by the word liberal. Discussion of the origin of the "Bleeding Heart Liberal" phrase here. New York Times article with a "Bleeding Heart" headline here

Bleeding Heart poetry? Buckets of it all over the place, Google it yourself if you want. Steve Tasane is a critically acclaimed performance poet with a wide ranging repetoire and reputation. He has been broadcast on BBC 1, Channel 4, BBC Radio 1 and Radio 4. He works extensively with young people in classrooms across the UK. He has published a collection called Bleeding Heart. Not sure if there is an individual poem by that name but some of the samples you can listen to on his website suggest a less than traditional take on the theme. He is also featured on the Poetcasting website.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Boyne Readings and Open Mic

The inaugural Boyne Readings and Open Mic event was a great success last night. An audience in the region of thirty five, two excellent featured readers, a great MC and a wide variety of open mic contributors. The venue in the Village Hall in the new Knightsbridge complex was very comfortable and just the right size.

Patrick Dunne read extracts from three of his Ilaun Bowe books including from the first chapter of the forthcoming one which will shortly be published in German. He hopes the English version will be available here soon. Reading extracts from novels is not easy but Pat managed a fine balance between introduction and extracts and read some wonderful dialogue.

Frank Murphy's poems went down very well. His enthusiasm was evident in his bright and chatty introductions and his down to earth-ness and lively wit were appreciated. His Lost Roads of South Meath is the featured poem on the Irish American Magazine website.

There was a great selection in the open mic, rhyming and free form poetry, opinion pieces, an extract from a novel, memories happy and sad.

Pic: Frank Murphy, Paul Egan (Boyne Writers chairman) and Pat Dunne at the reading.

Our next reading and open mic is on 21 May. Featured readers are myself and Paddy Meegan who has recently published a well-regarded book called 'From The Life Around Me' -- a work of prose and poetry which included reflections on modern life, recollections of people he knew, and incidents from his eventful life. And he has plenty of those because he is now aged 87. He played on the Meath All Ireland winning teams of 1949 and 1954.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Boyne Writers Readings and Open Mic

Today is the day! The inaugural Boyne Writers Readings & Open Mic takes place this evening at eight o'clock in the Village Hall in the Knightsbridge Village Complex on the Longwood Road just outside Trim.

The two featured readers are Frank Murphy and Pat Dunne. Frank is a Meath poet who has published two books of poetry, The Marginal Line (2005) and Excursions (2008). Pat is a Trim-born internationally-selling author with four novels published to date. A Carol for the Dead, the first in a series of thrillers featuring the Meath-based archaeologist Illaun Bowe, has appeared in paperback in English and in addition has been translated into eleven other languages.

The event has been well publicised in local newspapers and by Poetry Ireland and we are hopeful that we will have a reasonable crowd to listen and to perform their own work. All welcome.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sligo: Yeats' Nobel Prize & New Online Magazine

I checked the Irish Times archive recently to see how Yeats' winning the Nobel Prize in 1923 was reported. On Saturday 3 November 1923 the Irish Times quoted a report in Stockholm that Yeats was to receive the prize though Thomas Mann, the German writer, was also mentioned as a possible recipient. (Mann was awarded the 1929 prize) Then the award appears to have been announced in Sweden on Wednesday 14 November and the Irish Times reported it on the Thursday (right). Interesting comments by Yeats on the value of the award. It has been said that his first question on being told was "What is it worth?".

THE CATHACH is a new online literary magazine, published quarterly by Sligo County Libraries, with the aim of showcasing quality new writing in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

Even though the cover says "Poetry & Prose from Sligo writers" the information on the website says "While honouring the literary traditions of Sligo and the Northwest, THE CATHACH features work from both new and established writers in Sligo and throughout Ireland".

The first issue is the current spring 2009 issue. Submissions details on the website. Deadline for July issue is 22 May 2009.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cambridge Companions: Heaney & Dylan

Just published: The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney in the Cambridge Companions to Literature series. The book is edited by Irish poet Bernard O'Donoghue of Wadham College, Oxford. The Irish Times reviewed the volume recently.

And to be published soon: The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan in the Cambridge Companions to American Studies series. This is edited by Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Pomona College, California and contains seventeen essays by scholars from Yale, Carnegie-Mellon, the University of Virginia, and so on. Article in the Boston Globe. Kevin J. H. Dettmar is a much published academic with some wonderful titled books in his list. These include Is Rock Dead? and The Illicit Joyce of Postmodernism: Reading Against the Grain.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Seamus

Today is Seamus Heaney's 70th birthday and to mark the occasion RTE is broadcasting a number of programmes including the poet reading his collected works. Full details available on the RTE website here.

The reading by the poets of his eleven poetry collections is also available in a 15 CD box set. The box set offers over 12 hours of Heaney's poetry along with a 68-page essay on the poet's life and work by fellow Irish poet, Peter Sirr, accompanied by images of Heaney taken throughout his life. Price : Euro 74.95. The CD set will also be released on 1CD in MP3 format (RTÉ3MP3). A PDF of Peter Sirr's essay is available on the RTE website.

RTÉ One Television is showing a documentary on the poet at 10.15pm tomorrow Tuesday 14th April. It is entitled Seamus Heaney: Out of the Marvellous and is described as both intimate and all-embracing, a fresh and original look at the man and the artist. Directed by Charlie McCarthy. Produced by Clíona Ní Bhuachalla. An Icebox Films production for RTÉ.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

Outdoor Easter scene, St Patrick's Church, Trim, Co Meath

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Magnolia

Magnolia the tree is much more interesting and colourful than that much favoured ubiquitous bland paint colour which is named after it. My magnolia, got as a 60th birthday present, is thriving and has produced its typical saucer flowers each spring. This is Magnolia Soulangiana or Soulangeana which its container told me will grow to 4 metre high.

Wikipedia entry here and information about French botanist Pierre Magnol after whom magnolias are named here. More information here, here and here.

A magnolia poem here, which was displayed on buses in Seattle apparently. However it is the state of Mississippi, USA, which is called the “Magnolia State” because of the abundance of magnolia flowers and trees in the state. The magnolia is the official state flower and the official state tree.

Charley Patton (1891 – 1934) the "Father of the Delta Blues" recorded the song Magnolia Blues in 1929. Listen here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Learning Poetry by Heart

How much poetry can you recite by heart? Can you still declaim those poems you had to learn by heart in primary and secondary school? But have you learned any recently?

At a workshop with Pat Boran a year of two ago he asked the participants if they could recite any of their own poetry by heart. No-one could. He recommended learning poetry by heart. When challenged he gave an almost word perfect recitation of Birches by Robert Frost. "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches."

At the Poetry Now festival in Dun Laoghaire the Lithuanian poet Tomas Venclova recited some of his poems by heart.

This article, a sort of review of an anthology by Robert Pinsky ESSENTIAL PLEASURES: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud (Norton, $29.95), deals with the question and extols the practice of learning poetry by heart.

More about learning poetry by heart here and here.

I can still say all of Wordsworth's Daffoldils, Yeats' Lake Isle and the first twenty lines of The Merchant of Venice by heart

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Raymond Piper

When I attended primary school in Rockfield NS, Coolaney one of the books in the library was This is Ireland: Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon by Richard Hayward, published by Arthur Baker Ltd., London 1955 which contained a drawing of the old disused bridge below Coolaney which had trees growing on it. When later I compiled a book on the local history of the area I decided to use that drawing for the cover. I tried to contact the artist Raymond Piper but failed.

Now in this month's issue of Poetry Ireland I see a poem by Michael Longley in memory of the same Raymond Piper. A quick internet search tells me that Raymond Piper died in Belfast at the age of 84 in 2007. He was renowned as a portrait painter but was also well known for his botanical paintings especially of orchids and book illustrations. Longley's poem is entitled Cloud Orchid - "Ours was a language of flowers".

A belated thank you to Raymond Piper for his illustration of Coolaney Bridge. Obituary from Northern Ireland Arts Council here and from the Guardian here. PDF of the my history book available here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Paul Auster Man in the Dark

"I am alone in the dark, turning the world around in my head as I struggle through another bout of insomnia, another white night in the great American wilderness." First sentence of Man in the Dark (2008) by Paul Auster which I have just finished.

I am an unashamed Auster fan and enjoyed this even though it got very mixed reviews. The novel is narrated by August Brill, a writer, a widower, an old man who is recovering from a car accident and sharing a house with his daughter and granddaughter, who are both also grieving their recent losses. Brill can’t sleep and so tells himself a story about a man called Owen Brick, who wakes up to find himself in an America in the throes of civil war between federal forces and successionist states. Brick moves between the two Americas. In the war-torn America he is given the task of returning to the "real" world and killing Brick and so end the story and the civil war nightmare.

This alternative story ends suddenly with the death of Brick. The remainder of the novel is a late night early morning conversation between Brill and his grandaughter Katya. Brill comforts Katya, whose boyfriend has been beheaded in Iraq, by telling her how he courted her grandmother, how they parted and came back together, how he misses her more than he could have ever thought possible.

Complicated? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes.

Mostly positive reviews:
The Independent. The Telegraph.

"Auster has lost the plot" reviews:
The Guardian. Barnes and Noble. New York Times.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Matt Gilsenan Sings in Switzerland

Matt Gilsenan, well-known Trim resident and singer, singing Galway Bay in Steffisburg, Switzerland with his son David at a regular Irish night in the town. The venue is a shoe shop by day but a club by night.

Matt is a Trim businessman and has been known to sing even further afield than Switzerland.

He is well known locally not only as a singer but also as concert organiser. His latest offering is the “Something for Everyone” Variety Concert in Trim Castle Hotel on Sunday 26th April 2009 8pm. Special guest appearances by Boardsmill Gospel Choir, Navan Male Singers, “Four in a Bar” (all- Ireland barbershop winners), John Gilligan, Klara Turkova, Francis Duffy, Michael Meegan, Kathy Crinion, & others. Hosted by Matt Gilsenan. Compere Frank Foley. Tickets € 20 available at Hotel Reception. All proceeds to Trim MS Centre.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Michael Harding in Kerry

Michael Harding, the Displaced in Mulllingar columnist in the Irish Times and the man who gave us a workshop in Bailieboro as part of the LitLab Meath Cavan Arts Offices initiatives, had a nice piece in Friday's Irish Times. He is in Kerry at the moment where his play about John Moriarty is being performed. He performs in the play as well. The same issue carried a review of the play.

His most recent novel was Bird in the Snow. More about Michael here and more about the Moriarty production here.

Photo: Michael Harding with members of the cast of Moriarty in the background, Adrienne Heaslip, Anne ODonnell, Justin Walsh and Joanne Barry. Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus. (Irish Times).

Another writer who spoke to us at LitLab was Shane Connaughton. His new novel Big Parts has just been published. Irish Independent review here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Leixlip Eucharistic Congress Accident

Recently I had reason to visit Leixip, Co Kildare. I haven't been through the village for years since it was still on the main Sligo Dublin road. I talked about this to someone there mentioning the bridge and the Salmon Leap pub. She told me about a fatal accident which happened at the bridge in 1932 and involved a lorry of pilgrims returning late at night from the Eucharistic Congress. As part of their 150th anniversary the Irish Times are allowing free access to their digital archive so I looked it up and found the report of the accident from Tuesday 28 June 1932. Two men from Tullamore were killed when the lorry hit the bridge.

My grandmother, Brigid, died of consumption (TB) on the 15 August in the year of the Eucharistic Congress and her infant son, my uncle, Christopher, died the same day. Christopher is the patron saint of travellers of course. When I drove my mother (also Brigid - Christopher's sister) to Dublin we stopped often at the Salmon Leap Inn.

Mix all that together and there is a long poem there. Just need to be brought out, good words in the right order. As Robert Pinsky said "We consult our ancestors not worship them".

Friday, April 3, 2009

Launch of Boyne Readings and Open Mic

Boyne Writers Group are ready to launch their new venture: monthly readings and opem mics which will take place in the unusual setting of the Village Hall in the Knightsbridge Village on the Longwood Road in Trim, Co Meath. We have no idea how this will work out, no indication how many will come for the open mic but we think there must be a demand for it in the Meath area.

Announcing the launch, Boyne Writers Group chairman Paul Egan said they hope to attract people from a wide area – from all over Meath and from surrounding counties.

“The series is, as the name suggests, an open forum where people read their own material to other writers and to the general public,” he said. “Our own members have participated in open mics in places as far away as Galway and Limerick, and we’re excited about the prospect of having one in Meath.”

As well as an open mic session, each evening will also feature guest writers who will read from their own work. For the launch, on Thursday April 16 at 8pm, the featured readers will be Bective poet Frank Murphy and Trim-born novelist Pat Dunne.

“At the open mic, everyone is welcome to read their own work and time will be allocated according to the number of readers,” said Mr Egan. “Visitors – both readers and non-readers – are very welcome.”

The series, which will be held on the third Thursday of each month, will be known as the Boyne Readings and Open Mic. Admission is €5, which includes tea/coffee and biscuits.

The first of the featured readers, Frank Murphy, is a Meath poet who has published two books of poetry, The Marginal Line (2005) and Excursions (2008). His poems have been highly commended and shortlisted in a number of competitions and he is a member of the Meath Writers Circle since 2001. In the foreword to Excursions, Frank writes: “Poetry is a hall of mirrors in which one image is reflected in another. It is neither a lighthouse in a bog nor a messenger service. It just is.”

The other featured reader, Pat Dunne, is an internationally-selling author with four novels published to date. His first book, Die Keltennadel, was published in Germany in 2000. A Carol for the Dead, the first in a series of thrillers featuring the Meath-based archaeologist Illaun Bowe, has appeared in paperback in English and in addition has been translated into eleven other languages. Pat worked with RTE as a radio producer from 1979. He left RTE almost six years ago to pursue a lifetime's ambition and become a full-time writer.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Electronic Tagging of Tax Exiles

Sadly this story in yesterday's Irish Times appears to have been an April Fool's joke. It appears perfectly reasonable to me. The bit about the abolition of the "Cinderella rule" is actually true, see report here. Some stuff here here and here about Irish tax exiles.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

National Poetry Month (USA)

April is National Poetry Month in the USA. Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month brings together publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools, and poets around the country to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Right: The 2009 National Poetry Month poster, designed by Paul Sahre using words from T S Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Inspired by the poster design, the Academy of American Poets invites everyone to capture and share their own ephemeral bits of verse based on the poster. People are invited to write lines from a favorite poem on a sandy beach, assemble twigs on a hillside, or chalk the sidewalk etc, take a photo before it disappears and post it here on Flickr. some nice ones there.