Saturday, January 29, 2011

Plough Poetry Prizes and a Granddaughter

Congratulations to Irish blogger Kate Dempsey who has just been announced the winner of the short poem section in The Plough Prize a very prestigious UK competition. Her winning poem, Amsterdam Otto Recommends, is here - a brilliant take on diamonds, recession, relationships, Ireland etc. And it rhymes! Well done.

Also well done to Peter Goulding, another Irish blogger, who has been short listed in the poems for children category and longlisted in the short poem category.

As for me, no listing anywhere. Ah well to more important matters. Our first granddaughter arrived Friday, Ayda Rose. She looks as if she has just parachuted in. A little information on the name here. No great granddaughter poem comes to mind but there's one by Dorothy Parker here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

International Religious Poetry Competition

I've entered this competition for the last two years but failed miserably. Over 300 people entered over 700 poems last year. One of my new year resolutions was not to enter so many competitions this year but I'm wondering about this one. I do have a small number of poems that might qualify, two and a half actually. I don't buy this ‘broadly religious,’ that is, ‘spiritual’ in nature bit. It's just an excuse to allow every kind of stuff in. Does Williams' Red Wheelbarrow qualify as religious under these terms? Depends.

Anyway recent judges have been Irish including John McAuliffe and Vona Groarke and this obviously put me at a disadvantage (what would Irish poets know about religion!) so I'm toying with the idea of entering the same poems again for one last fling seeing as this year's judge is British.

The details are usually on the website though I can't see them there yet. You can email the organiser,, for rules and an entry form.

Here are some of the details:
1st Prize £450. The winner of the First Prize will be designated ‘The Manchester Cathedral Poet of the Year, 2011.’ 2nd Prize £250. 3rd Prize £150. Closing Date: Thursday 30th June 2011

The poems submitted should be ‘broadly religious,’ that is, ‘spiritual’ in nature and, like all good religious poetry, appeal to those who would not necessarily describe themselves as such. ‘Religious’ thus includes poems that are Christian, as well as those from within other faith traditions. Those struggling to discover their own sense of the sacred are also invited to submit entries. Poems are welcome in any style or form and will be judged solely on their merits as poetry.

The judge this year is Jeffrey Wainwright. Jeffrey has published four collections of poetry, all with Carcanet, the most recent being ‘Clarity or Death’ (2008). He has published critical work on Geoffrey Hill, worked as a translator of plays by the likes of Péguy and Claudel, and has written a book on the purposes and styles of poetry, ‘Poetry: The Basics’ (Routledge 2004).

ENTRY FEE: £4.00 for the first poem & £2.50 each for others. Please send your entry to:- ‘The Religious Poetry Competition’, Manchester Cathedral, Victoria Street, Manchester, M3 1SX.

The picture is the interior of St Mary's Catholic Church, Manchester - wonderful stations of the cross!. The poetry competition is organised by Manchester Cathedral.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Irish Revolution 1912-1923

The next twelve years will be the years of the Irish Revolution. No I'm not talking about Fianna Fáil or the IMF but about the commemoration of the events of 100 years ago - Volunteers, Rising, First Dáil, IRA, Ambushes, black and Tans, Treaty, Civil War etc. You will all be completely fed up with it by 2023.

I'm getting in early. Lots of books will be published to mark the events and Four Courts Press have come up with the idea of a series on each county (almost each one actually) in Ireland during the period - academic but also aimed at the general reader.

I've been asked to do the one on Sligo - delivery date November this year. Sligo will be one of the first three published, chosen I think because it was one of the less active counties. Tipperary, Cork, Kerry will come at the end I suppose.

It's hard work much more difficult than writing poetry. Sixty thousand words needed. The quantity is no problem, it's the quality. There has been so much written about the period, and so much evidence is available that it is a real challenge to deal with all the different strands and activities in a coherent way. Still it's an honour to be asked and while my first reaction was "No way, I'm finished with all that" on reconsideration it was an offer I couldn't refuse.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Modern Ireland has Nothing to Inspire Modern Writing

I think this was postponed because of the Arctic pre-Christmas weather.

On Wednesday 2nd February the Irish Writers' Centre presents an open panel discussion on how the current economic climate is affecting modern writing in Ireland. Panellists from many areas across the Arts Sector will join together under one roof to discuss the impending budget and its possible effect on modern and aspiring writers as well as the dwindling number of arts organisations across the country.

The discussion will be chaired by poet Michael O' Loughlin, co-founder of Raven Arts Press. O’ Loughlin will be joined by The Sunday Business Post’s Books and Arts Editor Nadine O’Regan, Sean Love, co-founder of Fighting Words and former Amnesty Ireland director, author Claire Kilroy and Gerry Smyth, Managing Editor of the Irish Times and celebrated poet.

The discussion will begin at 7pm and is open to the general public.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Moth Evening of Poetry and Wine.

This event had to be cancelled because of the weather before Christmas. So now it's on 27 January 2011.

Moth contributors Kate Dempsey, Tommy Murray and Seamus O'Rourke join us for an evening of poetry and wine-tasting - with fine wines from the Castillo Perelada winery in Spain and delicious canapes courtesy of Delish, Abbey Street, Cavan's finest cafe. From 7.30 p.m. onwards.

Come and taste wines from the Castillo Perelada Winery in Spain, eat your fill of delicious canapés and listen to some wonderful poetry. Space is limited, so if you would like to buy a ticket please get in touch with editor Rebecca O'Connor [] as soon as you can. Tickets are €10.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Living Willow House

The willows at the bottom of the garden have to be cut back each winter, should be done in November but only got around to them last week. Sometimes the willow rods are dumped, last year I made follies to stand in the garden. This I year I decided to make a living willow house for grandsons and maybe a granddaughter to play in.

There are instructions of sorts here and there on the internet so I took the rods out to the country and made it in a few minutes. The idea is that the rods take root and the whole structure grows. I'll let you know how it progresses.

Of course we called the willow, sally and sally rods were used for basket and creel making. The latin is Salix and the Irish saileach. Information on Yeats' Down by the Sally Gardens here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Boyne Readings - Kieran Furey

Our first Boyne Readings and Open Mic went well last evening. Fog, flu and cold kept the attendance small but those that were there enjoyed Kieran Furey's readings and the assortment of prose and poetry at the open mic.

Kieran Furey read from three of his books. He read a sonnet sequence from The History House, his collection of poems centred on Strokestown House and the Great Famine. Strokestown House has an impressive famine museum. The sonnet sequence entitled Water deals with the voyage to America on a famine ship.

He then read from his travel book, In India, a passage describing his attempts to get an interview with the Dalai Lama. He succeeded and we all wanted to know what transpired at the interview. Finally he read from his recently published book on working on the buildings in England, Linnane in London. He is on virtual Writer here.

You know the feeling you get when you are just about to read and you think "I shouldn't have picked this piece". That's how I felt when I started my two poems, both sonnets, about Blanchardstown/Newgrange. Perhaps a rethink, a bit of editing? Maybe.

Picture: Kieran Furey signs a book for Boyne Writers Group Member Evan Costigan.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nat Lofthouse RIP

It's funny what you remember. I can clearly remember reading the sports page of the Sunday Independent on May 4, 1958 with great disappointment. Manchester United were beaten 2-0 by Bolton Wanderers in the English Cup final the previous day and the Wanderers' centre forward Nat Lofthouse scored the two goals.

I had been a United supporter since earlier that year when the Munich crash took place. The second goal, with Lofthouse bundling the keeper Harry Gregg, who had survived the crash, over the line should have been a free even by the rules of the time. We were robbed!

Above is the Sunday Independent report written by the chief sports reporter with Independent Newspapers at the time, W P Murphy, affectionately known to many soccer supporters as Waste Paper Murphy.

Nat Lofthouse died on this 15 January aged 85. The Guardian obituary here mentions a poem. The ITN report here contains film of the Gregg goal.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Boyne Readings - Kieran Furey

Our Boyne Readings and Open Mic start their 2011 season on this Thursday evening 8pm at the Village Hall, Knightsbridge Retirement village, Trim. The featured Reader is Roscommon man Kieran Furey. His biography so far is impressive:

Kieran Furey was born in Curraghroe, Co Roscommon, in 1953, and grew up there. He now lives in Longford. He has spent about a quarter of his life in rural Ireland, a quarter in provinical towns, a quarter in Dublin, and a quarter abroad: mainly in Latin America (where he taught English in Ecuador and Nicaragua, did voluntary work in Cuba, and travelled widely in Brazil), but also in Africa, India, Greece, the UK and the United States.

He has been writing poetry, and a little prose, for three decades. His first book, Nobody's Neighbours, was published by Veritas in Dublin in 1979. During the 1980s and early 1990s he went on to self-publish twenty books or booklets of poetry, short stories, travel experiences and humour. These sold in total about twenty-five thousand copies. He knows this because he sold them all himself, in Dublin pubs and at arts, music and other festivals all over the country.

He has also published nearly a hundred poems in magazines and newspapers, and has read his poetry in public many times: in Athlone, Boyle, Belfast, Bray, Dublin, Lanesborough, Longford, Portlaoise, Toronto, and Quito (Ecuador). He has also read his work on radio in Longford, New York and Quito.

Prizes won include the Spanish Language Category of the Dun Laoghaire International Feile Filiochta Poetry Competition (twice: in 1998 and 2006); the overall Poem of Europe award in the 2006 Feile Filiochta (coming first out of 6,176 poems in ten languages); the Francis Ledwidge Poetry Award 2002 (Traditional Category); the George Moore Gold Medal for Poetry, 2003; the Riposte Poem of the Year Competition in 2002; and the William Allingham Short Story Competition in 1983.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

So Much Depends . . .

a wheelbarrow whether it's green, blue, red or old and rusty.

I'm embarrassed by how I came by the old rusty one and how long I have used it. The new one is part of a Christmas present, a very thoughtful and appreciated present. The old metal one can now retire gracefully and this new plastic-bodied one should serve me faithfully for the rest of my gardening days.

Both were glazed with rainwater this weekend and I doubt I'll be making much use of the new one for a few weeks. There is much tidying to be done though having lost most of December to the snow and frost. Some work done - note the empty compost bin behind the tree.

And if you want to know what's the story with the red wheelbarrow there's a reading here.
Of course there are some other wheelbarrow poems, not many and difficult to find, but here's one by Adrian Mitchell: Ten Ways to Avoid Lending Your Wheelbarrow to Anybody. It's poking some fun at another "difficult" American poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens.

Back to actual wheelbarrows. In Sligo in the fifties we had real wooden wheelbarrows. Yes that's me standing there, about 1954 I reckon, with an American cousin I think. The wheelbarrow belonged to my grandfather. We have come a long way in wheelbarrow ages.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reading: The Collected Poems - Stanley Kunitz.

How should you read a Collected Poems, front to back or back to front? It's not a silly question. The idea of starting with the most recent and working back - seeing where the person has come from - is a fine idea. It's too late for this one though, I'm nearly half way and must be close to Kunitz's major shift in style which happened around 1971.

Kunitz noted that his early poems "were very intricate, dense and formal. . . . They were written in conventional metrics and had a very strong beat to the line. . . . In my late poems I've learned to depend on a simplicity that seems almost nonpoetic on the surface, but has reverberations within that keep it intense and alive".

His changed styles: I Dreamed That I Was Old is from an very early collection and The Portrait from a post-1970 collection. More here and here.

His first collection was published in 1930. Yeats had some of his best poems ahead of him at the time and some of Kunitz work shows a definite Yeatsian influence. His later work is often classed with the "confessional poetry" of such as Robert Lowell and Theodore Roethke.

For 50 years he tended his lush garden in Provincetown, Massachusetts. His last book, "The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden," is a collection of essays and conversations produced in collaboration with his literary assistant, Genine Lentine, is next on my reading list thanks to a Kunitz enthusiast in the LitLab Group.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Bridport Prize 2011

A bit of history to start: This email was sent at 17:02on on 16 October 2009:

BRIDPORT PRIZE 2009: Whilst you have not won one of the top thirteen prizes in the Bridport Prize competition I am writing to let you know that your poem: Asking for Directions was shortlisted. Details of the winners and Jackie Kay’s report will be available from 22nd November.

With very best wishes,
Competition Administrator.

I was thrilled to be shortlisted. The Bridport gets thousands of entries from over fifty countries worldwide so to make the shortlist was an achievement.. The same poem has failed in various competitions - Strokestown, the O'Donoghue, iYeats, Over the Edge etc and is at present entered in another UK competition. Result end of January. I haven't entered the Bridport since.

The Bridport Prize 2011 website is now open for entries.

The Bridport Prize is the richest open writing competition in the English language - with £5000 first prize for a short story (of up to 5000 words); and £5000 first prize for a poem (of up to 42 lines). The new category of Flash Fiction attracts £1,000 to be won for the best short, short story of under 250 words.

The Bridport is also known as a tremendous literary stepping stone - the first step in the careers of writers such as: Kate Atkinson, Tobias Hill, Carol Ann Duffy and Helen Dunmore.

Anyone can enter - so long as the work is previously unpublished. It costs £7 per story, £6 per poem or £5 per flash fiction and the closing date is 30th June 2011. This year Carol Ann Duffy will be judging the poetry, and A L Kennedy, the short stories and flash fiction.

The 2010 anthology of winning entries is available for just £12 or £15 overseas (including postage and packing). The 2009 and 2008 anthologies are available in limited numbers for £7 and £5 (£10 and £8 overseas)

Enter online at:

Or download an entry form:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Root Canal Treatment

The worse thing about root canal treatment is the name. It sounds like a prolonged, painful series of attacks on your dental system. I think it's that word root with its connotations of digging deep (Ouch!) that makes it sound so bad. After three longish visits to my dentist with no pain and little discomfort I have an as-new pain-free Upper Right Seven.

The dentist and I agreed that while it might be quicker and cheaper to extract the offending tooth, its strategic position in my dental geography meant that the better plan was to do the root canal treatment. I still have all my own teeth. Actually that should read - All the teeth I have are my own.

Anyway it's over now and I'm glad it worked out well. The dentist showed a diagram and explained in general terms what it was all about and I just left him to it. I have no desire to know what all the whirring or beeping was about or what exactly all the smells were or what were those things he asked his assistant for. You're the professional, just get on with it is my motto.

Paddy said that dentists should show movies on the ceiling while a patient is being treated. One movie which would not qualify is Marathon Man. That's the one where Dustin Hoffman's character gets into trouble with a gang of ex-Nazis and one of them, played by Olivier, is a dentist who uses his skills to extract information. Terrifying! Video here.

Paddy also reads this poem regularly at our Knightsbridge Home Poetry Readings. Not one of my favourites.

If you are interested in the details of Root Canal Treatment there's a video here and information here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Molly Keane Memorial Creative Writing Award

Now in its 14th year, Waterford County Council’s Arts Office is pleased to announce that it is currently accepting entries for the Molly Keane Memorial Creative Writing Award.

The late writer lived, until her death in 1996, in Ardmore, Co. Waterford. Her first ten novels and four plays were published under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell. In 1981 ‘Good Behaviour’ became a publishing sensation for which she was short listed for the prestigious Booker Prize.

To celebrate this rich literary life, the County Waterford Arts Office, by kind permission of the Keane family, is inviting entries for a previously unpublished short story to a maximum of 2000 words. There is no entry fee, no age limit and no restriction on the subject matter. A prize of €500 will be awarded to the winner at a special ceremony during the IMMRAMA Literary Festival in Lismore, Co. Waterford in June 2011.

The closing date for receipt of entries is 5pm on Thursday 24th March 2011. Full details and an entry form can be downloaded from or by contacting the Arts Office on 058-41416.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blanchardstown Megalithic Tomb - Shards

I mentioned my Blanchardstown Megalithic Tomb poems in my last post. Since then I came across this on the Magma poetry magazine blog. It seems that Shard is one of those words which should not be used in a poem. This is because of overuse in the past - a single shard of light, sunlight, moonlight, sky, memory, love, etc.

I'm afraid I've used the word once or twice in my Blanchardstown poems but only in its proper meaning, A piece of broken pottery, especially one found in an archaeological dig. In my poems archaeologists of the future are excavating Blanchardstown and obviously finding shards. Will I leave the word in or take it out? Don't know. Must look at it again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Boyne Writers Group Meeting

It was a relief to attend a Boyne Writers Group meeting on Thursday evening. This was the first after a long snow and Christmas break and the relief seemed to be shared by the other seven who attended.

Everyone had a piece to read, some great poems and prose. These were met with keen criticism and plenty of discussion. Many of the pieces were related to the snow or the time of year, New Year reflections, new beginnings, snow, frost and the thaw, kingfishers, handbags, Chinese lanterns. Also a poem about summer music in Donegal and mine about Blanchardstown Shopping Centre imagined as a megalithic tomb. This is one of a series more or less completed. Good feedback on this, I have to look at a few parts of it again.

The variety of the group is its strength - one person may criticise the lack of clarity, another the telling the reader too much. You have to be prepared to defend, explain and often promise revision. It's great.

In two weeks we have the January Reading and Open Mic - Kieran Furey is the featured reader. Then in early February we will finally get round to the AGM, postponed because of the snow.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Modest Review

I've just got my print copy of A Modest Review the first issue of which contains a poem of mine. This is, at least for the moment, the only issue of the magazine and it is available as a free download on the website. There must be a joke here about extremes of modest but I'll leave that to others.

I'm delighted to have a poem included especially as there are only three poems and three prose pieces included. One of the other two poets included is Louth native Adrienne Leavy who lives and works in the USA. We published some of her poetry in Boyne Berries. Her To My Nieces is a gentle, understated reflection on home, leaving and returning which ends:

and the empty present

is where the journey ends

Jessica Traynor is the other poet included. Her poem Settlement also has a quiet, deep movement; two sentences whose simple phrases and gentle flow prompts re-reading and re-consideration:

We are measured
in measuring the future.

Another poem by Adrienne here and Jessica here.

My own poem, Journey, which got third prize at the Goldsmith Poetry Competition last year, is quite a contrast, louder, more obvious, almost demanding attention, it takes a simple idea and plays with it, looking for chuckles, laughs and finally sympathy:

Imagine if I could lay down all clothes
I ever wore to carpet the way back

from here to Carrowloughan, in reverse

chronological order,

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Rose

According to a legend, a young shepherdess named Madelon was tending her sheep one cold and wintry night. As she watched over them, a group of wise men and other shepherds passed by, bearing gifts for the newly born Jesus. Madelon wept, because she had no gifts to bring the Newborn King, not even a simple flower.... An angel, upon hearing her weeping, appeared and brushed away the snow to reveal a most beautiful white flower tipped with pink - the Christmas Rose.

The snow has gone from our garden and the small clump of Helleborus Niger (the Christmas Rose) has flowered. It's the type of flower you forget about until you see the flash of white under the dead autumn leaves and withered stalks of its summer flowering neighbours.

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, most commonly translated to English as Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming or A Spotless Rose, is a Christmas carol and Marian Hymn of German origin.

Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen,
aus einer Wurzel zart.
Wie uns die Alten sungen,
von Jesse war die Art.
Und hat ein Blüm'lein 'bracht;
mitten im kalten Winter,
wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Robert Fitterman - Rubber Ducks

OK OK in response to an enormous request here is part of one of Robert Fitterman's Rubber Ducks poems from Metropolis XXX.

XVII. Rubber Ducks (For Sale)

Scuba Duck00000000000000000000 $3.95
Referee Duck0000000000000000000 $3.95
Surfer Duck00000000000000000000 $3.95
Captain Duck0000000000000000000 $3.95
James Brown Duck000000000000000 $3.95
Shakespeare Duck 0i00000000000000$3.95
Hippie Duck 0000000ii000000000000$3.95
Football & Cheerleader Duck000iii0000 $3.95
Stars & Stripes Duck00000000000ii00 $3.95
Space Shuttle Duck000000000000iii00$6.95
Uncle Sam Duck 000000000000000i0 $6.95
Dracula Duck0000000000000000000 $6.95
Betty Boop Duck0000000000000i000 $6.95
Santa Duck0000000000000000000ii0$6.95
Queen Elizabeth Duck00000000000ii0 $6.95
Groucho Marx Duck00000000000000 $6.95
Blues Brothers Duck0000000000000ii $6.95
Babe Ruth Duck000000000000000i00$6.95
Mona Lisa Duck 00000000000000000$6.95
Beethoven Duck 000000000000000i0 $6.95
Carmen Miranda Duck 000i000000i00$6.95

Yes that's it. What? you don't like it? It's not a poem! Of course it's a poem and a lot better than much of the stuff that passes for poetry - you know the my father stood in the potato drills up to his knees in rich earth while I'm here in an office up to my elbows in rubbish type of stuff. Look at the way the prices change at line 9/10. Look at the cultural references, look at the pecking order - James Brown and Shakespeare together.

Write a brief response to the poem commenting in particular of the poet's use of allegory, alliteration, assonance, denotation and connotation, imagery, irony, metaphor, symbols and tone.

If you like this check out Fitterman reading his poem Sprawl on YouTube here.