My first interview …
A short chat with Lorraine Higgins about writing …
And what else would I be writing about on World Poetry Day?
Tourists are puttering down the roads and swerving over white lines. Traffic on the road outside my house trebled last Sunday. Yep! If it’s after St Patrick’s Day, Ireland Inc. must be open for business.
In beautiful Ballyv, the Soda Parlour has reopened. I’m just back from my first cappucino of the season. Sadly, the SP wasn’t involved in the ‘Poem for a Coffee’ deal that’s happening around the globe today. Bummer.
I got a great dose of poetry during the week, however, at the reading in the Library in Gort, South Galway. Now, you Yeats heads will know that Gort and the Coole Park residence of Lady Gregory played an important part in the great man’s life. And his connections with south Galway continued with the purchase of Thoor Ballylee.
This week, as part of Yeats2015, the ‘I will arise and go now’ Festival has been taking place in Gort. It finishes tomorrow with a parade on a Yeatsian theme.
As part of the festival, Galway’s Over the Edge Readings paid a visit to the library on Wednesday. The three featured poets also read some Yeats before their own work. Susan Lindsay, Marion Cox and Christopher Meehan gave sparkling readings. The traditional Open Mic afterwards was fun.
I was particularly taken with Chris’s work. Here is a link to four of his poems in the Galway Review. He read ‘Shifting Pianos’ on the night.
Marion Cox also organises the Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering at Coole Park, so keep an eye out for those events later in the year.
Great Poetry News! – It was announced today that Theo Dorgan has won the 2015 Irish Times Poetry Now award, in its tenth anniversary year. Dorgan’s previous poetry collections include Greek, The Ordinary House of Love and What This Earth Cost Us. One of my favourite poems is his ‘Night Walk with Bella’. You can read it here. I may have given you this link before – but, what the hell. I’d also urge you to seek out his non-fiction, broadcasts, and essays.
Theo Dorgan is presently Writer in Residence at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Once owned by the Guinness family, the house was bought by the State in 1999. I found out last week that I’ve got a place on a workshop with Theo at Farmleigh next weekend. Happy Days! I just need to get some of those drafts to a more presentable stage. (In between other writing commitments and the small matter of a Diploma in Radio Production.)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the workshop took place in this room ….
I can but dream.
Speaking of dreaming and suchlike: it being World Poetry Day, I have to leave you with a poem. And it being Yeats2015, it has to be the birthday boy himself. There are so many, many poems. I’m in a ‘heart’ mood, so I’ll leave you with …
THE FOLLY OF BEING COMFORTED - WB Yeats (1902)
One that is ever kind said yesterday;
‘Your well-beloved’s hair has threads of grey,
And little shadows come about her eyes;
Time can but make it easier to be wise
Though now it seem impossible, and so
all that you need is patience.’
Heart cries, ‘No,
I have not a crumb of comfort, not a grain.
Time can but make her beauty over again:
Because of that great nobleness of hers
The fire that stirs about her, when she stirs,
Burns but more clearly. O she had not these ways
When all the wild summer was in her gaze.’
O heart! O heart! if she’d but turn her head,
You’d know the folly of being comforted.
I’ve set up a new website – as part of my media course. And I’ve linked this blog to it. This blog ain’t going anywhere – it means too much to me!
You will also be able to access podcasts of my work and read lots of other interesting writer/blogger/broadcaster news.
I’d love if you’d drop over and say hi! at karenjmcdonnell.wordpress.com
This book is available as an ebook and a REAL book on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk Rubicon is an anthology of work in response to Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis.
I’m delighted to have a poem in here. Even more so as it is my first villanelle. The anthology is edited by Marie Lecrivain and published in Los Angeles by Sybaritic Press.
* * * * *
Nearer to home, Friday 6 March sees the official launch of a project that started back in 2014, under the stewardship of The Poetry Collective’s Patrick Stack, and artist Carmel Doherty.
Poets from Co. Clare submitted a selection of their work for consideration by a group of artists. The paintings in ‘To be or nought to be’ are responses to those poems. The exhibition runs in Glór Theatre & Gallery and the Rowan Tree Café in Ennis until March 28th.
The poetry reading begins just after 6.30pm. I’ll be reading my poem ‘Lady of Title| Lunatic’, which was chosen by artist Brian McMahon.
This link to Carmel’s web page gives a preview of the paintings, and excerpts from the poems.
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I’m a very happy bunny because the poetry reading happens to coincide with the start of the Ennis Book Club Festival. I’ll be haring off to Donal O’Kelly’s performance of his play Catalpa immediately afterwards.
On Saturday, my buddy Janette (welcome home, girl) and I will be listening to writer Joseph O’Connor and RTE’s Evelyn O’Rourke tell us what 10 books we should read before we die. In the afternoon, it’s Clare-based writer Niall Williams, and the wonderful Mary Costello. Niall’s latest book is History of the Rain. Costello’s Academy Street has had rave reviews. I’m a bit behind on my reading. Time to snap up a few books next weekend, methinks!
It’s great to see some of last year’s effort come to fruition this Spring.
It’s even better to celebrate with friends, and a good dose of books!
The first day of our Irish Spring, and it’s a broad smile of a day here in Ballyvaughan. There is a whisper of warmth in the sun, and that’s good enough for me.
So out I went in the jammies this morning to photograph the catkins on the twisted hazel, and the snowdrops bedded in underneath.
An old friend died a couple of weeks ago. At his funeral, his brother spoke of his love of poetry. So today I chose to read Paula Meehan’s ‘Snowdrops’, from her collection, Painting Rain, published by Carcanet. I can’t reprint the poem here, obviously, but I’d urge you to seek it out.
Anois teacht an Earraigh.
Let the Spring in. Or, at least, leave the door ajar …
Over a month, it’s been.
That may be a long time to be silent in blog-land but sometimes one has to be silent, as much as is possible in this busy, mad world. Life gets in the way – with its sadness, delights and – well – living. So, I’ve been laying low for a few weeks.
A friend and I had a conversation recently: she was feeling guilty because she hadn’t blogged for a while. Life got in the way for her too. We really shouldn’t feel bad if we put down the ‘cyber pen’ for an interval.
Now, you lot! My little rant over – there’s all sorts of goings on in the Irish literary world these days …
A while back, some genius decided that Ireland should have a laureate for fiction. The tone used for that word ‘genius’ depends on whether you’re a cynic, a begrudger, a begrudging cynic, a cynical begrudger, OR a don’t-really-mind-and-wouldn’t-it-be-lovely-for-an-Irish-writer-to-have-a-decent-income-for-3-years- and- be-able-to-write-and-lecture-to-students-and-give-a-posh-lecture-once-in-a-blue-moon sort of person.
I fall into the latter category.
I can’t believe it’s been eight years, but there you go. In 2007 I was at the Ballyvaughan Book Club meeting, championing The Gathering by Anne Enright – in the face of tough criticism. It also happened to be Booker Prize Night. She’d better win, I muttered. It’s a feckin’ brilliant book.
Well, she won. And the following day a member of the book club dropped in to give me a signed copy of the book. Wahoo!!
Yesterday, Anne Enright was named Ireland’s first Laureate for Fiction. The international judging panel was chaired by poet Paul Muldoon who commented: “Incisive, insightful, intellectually rapacious, and emotionally rapt, Anne Enright has for almost 25 years helped the Irish make sense of their lives, from the nursery to the national debt. Through her varied and far-reaching fiction, she has also helped the rest of the world make sense of Irish life. In addition to being a consummate artist, Enright will bring a clear and radiant energy to her role.”
Enright’s next novel The Green Road will be published in May of this year. And, for any of you around Galway this weekend – she will be reading in Charlie Byrne’s glorious bookshop on Sunday, 1 February. A great way to celebrate the first day of (Irish) Spring.
No better woman.
Comhgháirdeas mór lei.
I put up a link to A Poem for Ireland a while ago. It’s the first time this media experiment has been conducted in Ireland, and it’s been happening over the last 24 hours. Last night, RTE1 screened A Rebel Act – a documentary about poetry and poets in Ireland from the 7th century onwards. Today, on RTE Radio One, John Murray spoke to three of the judges, Anne Doyle, songwriter Damien Dempsey and John Fitzgerald of University College Cork. Anne Doyle said that people may not be surprised by the poets chosen, but the choice of poem may be surprising. (My nomination was Sinéad Morrissey’s 1801. You can hear her read it here.)
The first five of the ten shortlisted poems were revealed, with excerpts read by people in Galway. The first five are: Easter 1916 by W B Yeats, A Christmas Childhood by Patrick Kavanagh, Fill Arís, le Seán Ó Ríordáin, Quarantine by Eavan Boland and, from 1978, Making Love Outside Áras an Uachtaráin by Paul Durcan.
You have until 8 March to cast your vote.
Off yez go, now.
For five days and nights we had gales and horizontal sweeps of the rain we like to call ‘misht’. Mighty wet, for all of that. No sign of the the sun, and the muddied sky was scraping the chimneys.
Matches blew out every time I tried to light the stove. Nerves were getting rattled from lack of unbroken sleep. The weather bulletins at the end of the News mentioned the words ‘breeze’ or ‘occasional gusts’ and were met with expletives. ‘Weather reports for the Dubs. Again’, I muttered, as I got soaked trying to fill the bird feeders, and watched the compost bin blow across the garden.
In the last week, texts, Christmas round-robins and, more recently, phone calls, brought stories of loss, and illnesses ranging from flu to cancer. And I haven’t even started on the news from Australia, Aberdeen, Sryia, and, of course, an Irish hospital where a young pregnant woman on life-support awaits a Court’s mercy for a dignified death.
So yes, all in all, there was a lot of darkness around. It felt like a shkelp-load of dementors had decided to leave Azkaban and take up residence in my little corner of the world.
On Monday, I was flicking channels around tea time. I caught the end of TV3’s weather report. ‘The solstice was on Saturday’, said the weatherman. ‘Here’s a photo of the sun at Tara. And here’s another taken in Newgrange.’
SUN? In Ireland? Last weekend? It was almost unbelievable.
The sun was shining.
It was just somewhere else.
It would come back.
Today, Christmas Eve, most of the preparations have been done. There’s eight for Christmas dinner at my place tomorrow; eight of the people I hold most precious in the world. Quite frankly, if the turkey burns – it doesn’t matter. (Although, we’d enjoy ourselves a tad more if I managed to get it right!) One of my visitors is my eldest niece Leah who, as a very young child, said to her Mum one family-thronged, summer-holidays day: It’s people that are important.
The wind has settled down. The sky has lifted. The sun has appeared in a watery blue, cloud-scarred sky.
There will be clouds again. There will be light again.
It’s people that are important.
Go easy on yourselves.
Happy, tranquil, Christmas to you all.