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‘… sometimes … you get what you need.’

September 8, 2015


My previous post mentioned the trip to the West Cork Literary Festival. While there we headed out to Castletownbere as a friend of mine, Christopher Banahan, had an exhibition at the Sarah Walker Gallery. You can find out more about Chris and his artworks here.

As we drove back along the peninsula, I saw a sign for Hungry Hill – the highest peak in Beara.  I mentioned to my aunt that I’d entered the Wild Atlantic Words poetry competition, organised by the Hungry Hill Writing group.  Wouldn’t it be nice, I said, to be able to come back to the festival in September.

Well, dear Reader, that’s exactly what I did!   As I mentioned last week on : my poem At Sea took second place, and I returned to Beara to read with the other writers on 5/6 September …

… at the Sarah Walker Gallery.

Evening at the Sarah Walker Gallery © Karen J McDonnell

Evening at the Sarah Walker Gallery
© Karen J McDonnell

It’s daunting, walking into a new space to meet a new crowd – some of them with more than one collection under their belts. Within minutes, I felt at home and welcome. Jennifer Russell bested severe back pain to introduce the work, judges and readers. First up was Maxine Backus who sponsored and judged the Under-14s competition. As she said in her introduction, the maturity of the work by these young poets was astounding. Many, many congratulations to Saoirse Molly Joy who took both first and third prizes, and to Niamh McCarthy who took second prize. It was lovely to hear the girls read their work. I’ll be keeping an eye on journals of the future for these two names.

© Karen J McDonnell

© Karen J McDonnell

The Wild Atlantic Words Anthology was launched on Saturday night, and contains poems by the prizewinners and commended writers. John Bayliss Post put the anthology together as well as managing the competition and publicity.

The theme of the competition was the sea, and the variety of responses was wonderful. Winner Tim O’Leary travelled from England to read Sea of Jazz – a riff of couplets. Majella Kelly’s third prize and commended poems, Anadromous Vocabulary and The Seven Tears of the Seal Song, were richly imaged … demanding re-reading. I loved the line ‘the seabed is a Tiffany of wares’ in a commended poem, Skating through the Atlantic by Gabriel Griffin. Judge Breda Wall Ryan introduced the three prizewinners. Listening to her comments, I felt we were lucky to have such consideration and attention paid to our submitted work.

There was a short break – time to take in the gently fading evening and for a coffee at MacCarthy’s Bar – before heading back to the gallery for the Open Mic. This was fun as John suggested we sit in a circle and read turn upon turn until the poetry dried up, or we did!  We even had ukelele playing courtesy of Claire Barton – a great way to wrap up the evening.

The harbour at evening © Karen J McDonnell

The harbour at evening
© Karen J McDonnell

Sunday morning and after a well-deserved B&B brekkie, back down to the gallery for a workshop with Breda.  I should mention here that on Saturday, as I was negotiating the traffic on the motorway and the hold-ups at Buttevant, other lucky adults were attending workshops with Afric McGlinchey, while Annette Skade was taking a children’s workshop in Castletownbere library. Six of us, plus Breda, spent a very productive time working on the concept of sequence poetry – the promise and terror that holds! I’ve definitely got one new poem opening up to me. Also, I woke up at 4.30am on Monday morning with the opening lines of another one breaking in my head. I love the jump-leads effect that workshops have on the idle engine that is my poet’s brain!  Thank you, Breda.

After another quick break at MacCarthy’s Bar (there’s a pattern emerging here!), we headed to whiteRoom café just off The Square. Castletownbere has some great venues, it has to be said. Annette, Afric, and Breda read published and new poems. I know I’ve said it here, or on my website, before, but the readings and the open mic the previous night just reinforced it for me: the variety of thought and creativity of which the human mind is capable is heart-stirring. Especially in these days of world-strain, broken things, partings and death.

So – thanks to all of the poets and especially Breda, Afric and Annette. (You can read more about their work by clicking on their names above.)

It’s a funny old world.  I waited for months to get the shortlist results for a different competition – something I’d really set my sights on. No luck there, just disappointment; as happens to us all from time to time. Then Wild Atlantic Words happens, and I get a prize to beat all prizes … a week away in a creative space. Win cash, and it’s going to get spent on house insurance or new tyres for the car – whatever you’re having yourself. But, free accommodation for a week? Priceless!

I have a writing deadline coming up. And this place is where I’ll be working on it:-

Photo ©

Photo ©

How lucky can a girl be? This weekend I met Anne who owns The Creativity Cabin and who’s also a member of the Hungry Hill Writing group. To find out more about The Creativity Cabin click here.  I arrived a stranger in Beara, but  I’ll be returning with an invitation to sit in on the weekly meet-up of the Hungry Hill writers.

As the Rolling Stones once sang ‘ You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you get what you need.’

Boy, did I get what I need.

Thanks, to John, Jennifer, Anne and all at Hungry Hill Writing.  See you soon again in Beara …

© Karen J McDonnell

© Karen J McDonnell


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