Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fremantle Seagulls

Fish and chips at Fremantle near the harbour.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Whale Watching - Perth

This morning we went whale watching off the coast between Fremantle and Rottnest Island (yes, where the shark struck earlier in the week). Fine weather, a good guide from the Centre for Whale Research (Western Australia), and co-operative whales made for a great two hour trip.

We saw at least eight humpback whales in two seperate pods doing what humpbacks do, blowing, showing their flukes and tails, diving and resurfacing. These whales are on their way south to the Antarctic where they will spend the southern summer. The boat by law must keep a certain distance but we had great views.

Taking photographs of whales is not easy, above the best of the few I took. The guide actually warned us not to let the camera get in the way of the experience - very wise words.

Some rain showers this morning in Perth. I understand Dundrum Shopping Centre in Dublin may have salmon (unsmoked?) swimming among the merchandise and the M50 may have a trout lane. Sorry about that!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Poetry Reading - Perth

Sinead recorded part of my reading at Perth Poetry Club.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Down Under Tour - Perth Poetry Club

The international debut! Perth Poetry Club on a Saturday afternoon, a wet Saturday afternoon actually. So it does rain in Perth! As one of the open mic poets said "When it rains in Perth it pours". A very enjoyable two hour session with two featured poets and plenty of others in the open mic. Most seemed to be regulars and the lot made for a great afternoon. Janet Jackson was a great host.

Perth's own Queen of Slam, Kaitlyn Plyley, was the featured poet in the first half and went down very well. Great confident delivery especially when she did a poem "by heart". Her princess poem was a great hit with topical references to Queen Elizabeth's current visit to Australia.

I was the featured poet of the second half and got a great reception, Irish accents among the audience helped. I read six poems starting with my Perth at 5am poem which was written when Sinead first went to Australia.

Others I read were greatest hits like When I Returned and Journey Back and I finished with The Truth, the one that begins with I told my children lies. As usually happens another poem in the open mic chimed with mine dealing with the truth/untruth of Santa Claus. The open mic saw a great selection of poems and styles, very enjoyable, much like an Irish open mic.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Perth Poetry Club Saturday

At last a kangaroo! Now we know we're really in Australia. Sinead took us to Caversham Wildlife Park today. Not just Kangaroos, koalas, wombats, kookaburras, emus, possums etc etc. But where are the black swans?

Tomorrow reading poetry at Perth Poetry Club at the Moon Cafe at 323 William Street, Northbridge between 2 and 4 pm. Ten minutes, choosing poems to read now. What do they expect from an Irish poet? 

Thursday, October 20, 2011


On the banks of the Swan river, Perth, Western Australia.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Perth, Western Australia

It's spring in Perth, the sun is shining and the effects of flying half way around the world are slowly wearing off. Aer Lingus to Heathrow, Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, 11.5 hours, and the same airline from there to Perth, 9 hours. A nice airline to travel with.
Passed the time listening to Bob and reading part of (a small part) an anthology of American poetry but I found it difficult to concentrate and had to shelve plans to read a novel and played computer games instead and watched a Chinese movie on the rise of the Chinese Communist Party. Still didn't sleep though.
Plenty of relaxation here - a country in mourning over the world cup (rugby). It may be wise not to crow about the Irish victory though since that sent them into the semi-final against the All Blacks.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Prize

An international poetry competition run by the Munster Literature Centre in Cork, Ireland is currently open for submissions. Winners will be published in Southword journal which has previously showcased Billy Collins, Sinéad Morrissey, Martín Espada, Greg Delanty, Tess Gallagher, Matthew Sweeney and Brian Turner amongst many other respected literary figures.

This is a prize for single poem, named in honour of a late Irish poet long associated with the Centre. The Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Prize will have a first prize of 1,000 Euro (on 5 September 2011 approx. USD 1430 or GBP 875) and publication in Southword Literary Journal.

The MLC will subvent travel costs for the winner up to 600 Euro and provide hotel accommodation and meals for three days during the Cork Spring Literary Festival. The author who takes first prize will have the chance to read the winning poem at the Cork Spring Literary Festival in February 2012. There will be a second prize of E500, third prize of E250, and ten runners-up will each have their poems published in Southword and receive Southword’s standard fee of E30.

The deadline is 18 December 2011 and this year's judge is poet Patrick Cotter. More information, including submission guidelines, may be found on the website.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Windows Publications National Poetry Competition

“Magic,” says Noel Monahan explaining what he’s looking for from a poem as Windows Publications open their 2012 poetry competition to celebrate 20 years.

“In one word, magic. Because it has to jump off the page. So many people just use the stale metaphor, or hackneyed words. We are looking for something that’s totally new. It is very easy to decide on a good poem. They just stand out.”

Does that come from authenticity? “Absolutely, someone who has the creative gift and they are saying something new. Otherwise they can have the old hackneyed idea. You get a lot of poems about daffodils or nature - it just looks as if they are writing poems about poems as opposed to writing a new poem.”

Fortunately there seems to be plenty of magicians in Cavan and further afield, and this has kept the anthology, under the direction of Noel, a poet and playwright, Canadian born poet Heather Brett and Romanian novelist Simion Dumitrache, going strong for two decades.

Windows held its first student poetry competition in Cavan in 1992 attracting about 100 entries. Today that same competition is one of the biggest, sponsored by Cavan Crystal and attracts up to 2,000 entries from all over Ireland.

“Since Rebecca O’Connor (now editor of Moth magazine) won the first Windows Student Poetry Competition in 1992,” says Heather, “Windows has published in excess of 500 Cavan students, encouraging many local children to consider English as a career option in college and explore their potential with creative writing; for example Holly Byrne - a winner for many years, continues to write poetry.”

“Many of the writers we have nurtured are established writers today,” enthused Noel. “You take a person like Joe Woods, he’s the director of Poetry Ireland and has published quite a number of poetry books himself and (poet) Nessa O’Mahoney - they are just two who jump out straight away.”

Of course for some it is an ambition just to get published in Windows, let alone pursue a writing career. “It is hard these days to get published in a quality publication,” agrees Heather.
When possible Heather Brett edits and publishes the work of top winners and highly commended students. Their last book was entitled ‘Towards a Wilderness’ which ‘Books Ireland’ hailed as a “delightful collection” brimming with “marvellous and heart warming, with infectious fun or deep thought sincerity”.

Heather also hopes to publish two anthologies, one to celebrate 20 years of the best contemporary writings and artwork (adult) and the other with winning student work. Windows relies on sponsorship and grants to publish these books and they would like to take this opportunity to thank the grant bodies, businesses and individuals who have supported them throughout the 20 years.

Windows has also provided opportunities for poets to gain a live audience for their work. Over the years they travelled the length and breadth of Ireland visiting places like The Blasket Centre, Dun Chaoin, Hope Castle, Castleblaney, Bewley’s Café, Dublin, The Irish Writers Centre, Dublin, Verbal Arts Centre, Derry and in keeping with their commitment to the Irish language, Windows have published many writers in the native tongue.

The Windows Publications 20th National Poetry Competition (including adults) opens on Monday October 17 and closes on Friday, December 16. The winners will be notified by April 2012 and must appear at the awards ceremony on Sunday, May 13 in Cavan Crystal Hotel.

Anyone who wishes to submit poetry, short stories, prose or artwork to Windows Publications for their next Authors & Artists Introduction Series 10 in 2012, can send up to 12 poems or two short stories or pieces or prose (maximum 3,000 words each) and up to 10 images of artwork to by December 16.

Noel and Heather are part of the Poetry Ireland Writers-in-Schools Scheme and are available to provide workshops and readings in national and secondary schools and to private groups. For further information 0860650908

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize 2011

The inaugural Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize 2011 in association with The Moth Magazine.
First prize: €2,000, Second prize: €1,000, Third prize: €500

The three winners will be invited to read at a special award ceremony at Ballymaloe House in Co. Cork, Ireland, in March 2012, and their poems will feature in the spring issue of The Moth.

Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School, a creative haven for lovers of food and fresh produce in Co. Cork, is the proud sponsor of this Prize, launched in association with The Moth and open to everyone, as long as the work is original and previously unpublished.

Please read the RULES before sending your poem(s) (you can enter as many poems as you like) along with an ENTRY FORM to: The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, The Moth, The Bog Road Press, Cavan, Co. Cavan, Ireland.

You can also ENTER ONLINE.

The entry fee is €6 (or €7.50 if you’re paying by money or postal order)

The prize will be judged by Matthew Sweeney, whose last collection, Black Moon, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and The Irish Times/Poetry Now Award. His selected works, The Night Post, was published in 2010.

Closing date 31 December 2011.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Online Poetry Journal: Bare Hands

A new online poetry journal called Bare Hands will feature contemporary poetry from around the world. Ten poems will be published each month.

Write it with your bare hands…

To submit send max five poems to

Please include poems in the body of the email rather than as attachments

Mark the subject field as ‘poetry submission’

Please include a short biography

Monday, October 10, 2011

Short Stories

I don't read short stories, much nowadays. In fact, don't tell anybody, but I don't like short stories. I grew up on a diet of Frank O'Connor, Seán Ó Faoláin and Liam O'Flaherty and have had more than my fill of them. There was always something too neat, too polished, too finished about those "little gems". Probably completely different now but one is allowed one's little prejudices surely.

Anyway here's something for the short story writers:

“In conjunction with the launch of Labello Press, a small independent publisher based in South Tipperary, we are pleased to announce our first International Short Fiction Competition. In addition to cash prizes, selected stories will be awarded the Leonard A. Koval Memorial Prize and be published in the 2012 Anthology, “Gem Street.”

“Gem Street” is an annual anthology featuring previously unpublished writing and over the coming months we will be working hard to create new opportunities and services for writers.

The opening date for submissions was 30th August 2011. Closing date for submissions is 31st December 2011. Guest editors and judges will be announced.

Labello Press is committed to producing quality books and establishing itself as a writer friendly, down to earth alternative in a technology driven industry.

Please visit the website for full details and submission guidelines or to contact us for additional information.”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Irish Writers' Centre Poetry Courses

I need to attend a poetry writing course. Maybe after Christmas.

Some News from the Irish Writers' Centre.

The Irish Writers' Centre will be host to a number of exciting courses this October. With poets Peter Sirr and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill teaching courses that will begin in the Centre this week. As well as being a poet, Peter is a former editor of Poetry Ireland Review and a former director of the Irish Writers' Centre. It's a great opportunity for anyone who writes poetry but wishes to develop their poems further or who wishes to write poems for the first time.

Grace Wynne-Jones will also be starting a creative writing course this week; it is suitable for both beginners and experienced writers. Grace aims to create a relaxed atmosphere where people can explore their creative sides.

If you're interested, please just book through the website, call the Centre at (01) 8721302 or just drop in and book in person.

Poetry Writing with Peter Sirr

11th October to 29nd November: Tuesdays 6.30pm-8.30pm. €220 / €200(members)

This eight week course will explore some of the routes into writing poetry. To get a sense of what's possible, we'll look at examples of poetry from a wide range of poets, as well as giving feedback on participants own work. Peter will suggest ways of getting beyond the personal and anecdotal into more exciting territory.

I like that last sentence! Too much of what passes as poetry (including some of my own) is merely well composed personal anecdotes with vague nods towards some eternal truth which the reader is expected to decipher and somehow be a better more sensitive person as a result.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sligo 1912-1923

The manuscript is ready. The book is, well maybe not finished, but finished for now. To be submitted to the editors early next week. Presumably there will be some, maybe much, rewriting but that's for later. For now it's finished, text, footnotes, photographs, maps, bibliography. A total of 73,305 words, a bit over the required but I'll trim it in line with the editors' recommendations.

To be published winter 2012.
Paperback: Catalogue Price: €17.50. Web Price: €15.75
Hardback: Catalogue Price: €45.00. Web Price: €40.50

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bob Dylan in Dublin

Well he may not have won the Nobel Prize for Literature but he did have the Oscar (a replica presumably) on display last night at the O2 in Dublin. Mark Knopfler was the first half of a double bill and played a lively set with a very good band. A variety of instruments created an interesting sound with more than a nod towards the venue. Did I hear someone shout Riverdance! from the back at one stage? Pleasant music, nice singing but it wasn't what most of the audience came to hear.

Then Bob. A set quite similar to that in Cork earlier in the year. That great nasty satirical put down Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat opened the set followed by a good mix of old and newer including Tangled Up in Blue delivered in a staccato style. Then Beyond Here Lies Nothin', Desolation Row, The Levee Gonna Break all doom and gloom delivered in a lively upbeat manner, the medium at odds with the message.

Beyond here lies nothin'
Nothin' we can call our own

He finished the set with Ballad of a Thin Man - he certainly could write bitter lyrics in those days. Then a two song encore, Like A Rolling Stone and All Along the Watchtower, during which Bob introduced the band and even told us how much he enjoyed the show.

The problem with a Bob Dylan concert is the songs you don't hear. He has so many great ones that everyone goes to a concert hoping to hear Forever Young, Blowin in the Wind, Every Grain of Sand, Not Dark Yet etc etc.

Another great Bob performance. Now would Tomas Tranströmer fill the O2?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The October Garden

The garden in October still has a remarkable amount of colour. The Sweet Pea in tubs at the front just keep on flowering. In the middle the Japanese Anemone and the Rudbeckia have done very well in spite of some cutting back last winter. The Woodbine has made a great display this year as well. but at the bottom of the garden the sycamore leaves have begun to fall.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

All Ireland Poetry Day

This Thursday is All Ireland Poetry Day.

We have been so busy with Boyne Berries 10 that we have organised nothing for the day.
However Trim will still be on the map for the day thanks to our friends in the Meath Writers Circle who are holding a reading in Trim Library at 7pm. All welcome and I'm sure if you bring along your own poem or a favourite poem you will be able to read it.

Also in Meath: Dunboyne Library presents pupils of Dunboyne National School and Duboyne Library Bookclub in an informal sharing of poems where readers and reciters read and talk about poems they love.

And in Cavan our LitLab group is organising a reading at 8pm in the Market House, Bailieborough, Co Cavan. Special guest will be the wonderful Kevin Higgins from Galway accompanied by equally wonderful members of LitLab. For more information contact:

I won't be at either I'm afraid, having a ticket for the concert in the O2 that evening. But that's poetry too, maybe, possibly.

Well this was in The Norton Introduction to Literature (2005). It's not bad on the page but could do with quite a bit of editing. But sung! Ah that's another matter altogether.

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Monday, October 3, 2011

Galway Launch Pictures

And two more pictures from the Galway launch, both by Greg Hastings our cover artist. One of Kevin Higgins launching, the other a section of the audience.
And that's it - Boyne Berries 10 finished, launched.
Now there's a book to be submitted.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Boyne Berries - The Galway Launch

And than on Friday we drove to Galway via Monasterboice and Thoor Ballylee for the launch of Boyne Berries 10 in Charlie Byrne's Bookshop. Another great event though with a completely different feel to the one in Trim. The friendliness, welcome and writerly comradrie was the same however.

The bookshop is a great place to visit and wander through and it's also a great place to launch a magazine. Everything just feels, and looks and smells right. A good audience also with a balanced mixture of Trim and Galway with a few from elsewhere - John Pinschmidt from Virginia, USA via Limerick and of course our Canadian writer visitor, Carolyne Van Der Meer.

Kevin Higgins performed the launch and was most encouraging, talking about the vital importance of small magazines like ours and of gatherings and reading such as were were at. He read his Couple in Search of Script from the magazine.

Other Galway writers who attended and read were Mari Maxwell, Alan McMonagle, Rachel Coventry, Méabh McDonnell and Trim was well represented by Orla Fay, Catherine Hastings, Paul Kerr and Evan Costigan. Cover artist Greg Hastings graciously accepted praise for the quality of the cover.

The Trim and Galway launches have been blogged by Orla Fay, Peter Goulding and Brian Kirk.
The picture above is from Orla's blog - Kevin Higgins launching the magazine (Spot the nervous editor/MC).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Boyne Berries - The Trim Launch

Boyne Berries 10 was launched in Trim on Thursday night last by poet, publisher and editor Peter Fallon. A great night! Over fifty attended and listened attentively to twenty one writers read their contributions to the magazine. Our chairman, Paddy Smith, was ill and couldn't do his usual witty introduction so I did the honours instead.

Peter Fallon launched the magazine and congratulated the Boyne Writers Group on their initiative and dedication in keeping the magazine going over the last five years. He pointed out the importance of such magazines and such gatherings of writers. His comments on contributions to past issues as well as to the current issue were greatly appreciated and demonstrated the seriousness with which he approached his task.

Then we had the readings - a wonderfully varied selection of prose and poetry, ably delivered by writers from the group and from outside the group. There were laughs and suprises, great opening lines and chilling endings.

There was a special welcome for our visitor from Montreal, Canada, writer Carolyne Van Der Meer, who came to Ireland especially for the launches in Trim and Galway. Others who attended included Peter Goulding, Susan Connolly, Steve Wade, David Murphy, James Lawless and Brian Kirk and they and others brought us by Tara to Nagasaki, to the Ox Mountains and Croagh Patrick, a Cavan fair day and Central Station, Montreal. We met Francis Ledwidge and Pablo Casals, Zoey and a nameless joyrider.

A feature of this special issue was the inclusion of pictures, graphics, artworks and there was much favourable comment on these, as indeed there was on the colour cover by Greg Hastings using an image of floodlit Trim Castle.

We finished with Peter Fallon reading his new poem The Fields of Meath. Then we had tea and coffee and chatted and mingled. Then we packed and prepared to go west for the Galway launch on Friday evening.

Boyne Berries is on sale in Trim in Antonia’s Bookshop and in Spar and in Galway in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop and can be bought by PayPal at this page. Otherwise email
Issue 10 which is a special issue costs 12 euro plus postage.

Pictures: Top: Carolyne Van Der Meer and Peter Fallon.
Below: Orla Fay, Peter Goulding, James Linnane, Susan Connolly.