‘Living Streets’ is the anthology of the yearly Ranelagh Arts Festival which took place this month (September). It includes a poem by me entitled ‘Endgames’ (extract included below ), which concerns the hunt for, and capture, of Radovan Karadzic and his General, Ratko Mladic. The Balkan wars of the late 20th Century could be said to be an ‘unfinished business’ left over from the second world war and were characterised by the brutal and inhuman conduct of that World War. Well, you’ll say, all wars are brutal and inhuman, and you would be right to say so. But a look into the history of that war is to get a look at the very worst in the nature of mankind, from the systematic genocide of the Nazis to the two atom bombs dropped on civilians. And the deeds allegedly done (allegedly, since they have yet to be proved at the Hague where Karadzic is undergoing trial at the moment) by Mladic and Karadzich would rank amongst the most heinous ever committed. Thus my poem. However, I also wanted to get across somehow that, despite their reputations as criminals, these men are heroes to many. There is a history of bitterness and hatred in that little part of the world which has its roots in the middle ages. How will our modern concepts of justice (as exemplified by the International Court of Justice at the Hague) cope with this? These matters interest me because I look to international, rather than national, systems of justice to provide us with hope for a better future as regards these large-scale massacres and destruction. There are bound to be faulty mechanisms and corruptions at international level too, but I think that , at the least, the most virulent ‘nationalistic’ prejudices may be constrained.

The anthology ‘Living Streets’ is published by Seven Towers Publications (www.seventowers.ie) and was launched at the Ranelagh Arts Festival HQ on Friday 19th September. Eilean Ni Chuilleanan, Macdara Woods and Eamon Carr read from their contributions.

ENDGAMES (extract)

 I. The Hunt for President Radovan Karadzic  
In these mountains where his mother lives, 
where his brother Serbs have lived for centuries
wrapped in their ancient bitternesses, snow
 keeps hold on everything, its hard white
pall resisting to the end whatever warmth

a winter sun can spread, its icy shroud

unmottled by man’s footprints. Here they keep him

folded in their hate, our criminal, their poet.


These roofs, where ice drips down, but slowly, only

to freeze up again in dead of night—

This town, where foreigner was never welcome—

Streets, that take the print of NATO boots

unwillingly and soon erase them, watches

from its casements this young soldiery

that stands uncertain in its alleyways,

and slouches on its corners, smoking, rifles


sloped like Christmas toys, not sure of what

to do, or if it will be done, or when

to do it. Tight-lipped townsfolk grip their missals

close against their chests and step out carefully

to church, ignore the armoured cars, and give

no look or sign or salutation, their breath

solidifying in contempt. They know

what these young boys are made of, what it is


that they can do, and everything they can’t,

now they’re here among us on the ground–

and not above the clouds, so out of reach

we couldn’t see them, even hear them ’till

their bombs came raining down. But no offence.

We are a warrior people used to war:

the art of slaughter. And we understand

it’s our turn now and we have clasped him to us


this cold Sunday morning here in Pale

where he’s with his own again, who wrote

of Death, The Spider and The Wolf, who dreamed

our Greater Serbia, who put down pen,

decided war would be continuation

of his poetry by other means

and at whatever cost. And at whatever

cost we will defend your criminal, our Poet.

Published in ‘Living Streets’ The Ranelagh Arts Festival Anthology, Dublin 2009

Did a short interview with Brendan Nolan last Friday (18th) for his radio programme on WDAR FM96. It goes out on air on Saturdays (‘Telling Tales’ 1.00-2.30pm) from Ballyfermot Community Civic Centre and is in the process of being archived on www.wdar.ie. We talked about poetry and my forthcoming book and I read ‘Is It Possible to be Elegant on a Bicycle in Traffic in the Rain’.
 Brendan himself is an accomplished storyteller and has a number of books out, the latest being ‘Barking Mad’ (Tales of Liars, Lovers, Loonies and Layabouts)’ published by Fresh Appeal, Dublin 2008, which (as the title suggests) is full of unforgettable characterisations and events.

Brendan Nolan
Brendan Nolan


  Took time to walk around Ballyfermot for a while afterwards and revisited memories of the time I used to live there, just down the road from the Civic centre. There was no Civic centre there 40 years ago! and not much of anything else either: very few shops, a tiny one-room public library.Just a very resilient and hard-working people who overcame many obstacles to build up a strong, vibrant, inclusive community spirit.

Thanks also to David Spain, who did sound engineer, and also hosts his own show ‘Words and Music’ (Mondays 2.30-3.30). AND ALSO makes great coffee!


David Spain
David Spain






Chapters Bookshop, Parnell Street
Chapters Bookshop, Parnell Street

 Once again Chapters Bookshop kindly hosted a Seven Towers reading at 6.30pm. These evening readings are monthly, 3rd Thursday. The theme was ‘Autumn’ and the weather obliged by clearing up and providing a clear sunny day. O’Connell Street looked a lot better than last time (see my post for Wed 2nd Sept.) and everyone felt a bit cheerier.  




O'Connell Street-- in sunshine!!!
O'Connell Street-- in sunshine!!!
Such is the influence of the weather! Ross Hattaway read from his collection ‘The Gentle Art of Rotting’ (published by Seven Towers) and some new work including another tanka (‘Black and Tanka’), a form he is experimenting with at the moment.
Ross Hattaway
Ross Hattaway
He also read a poem by a recent guest at Cassidy’s Bar in Westmoreland Street,  Lynne Knight  from San Francisco. ‘De Kooning’s Woman’  (that’s the name of the poem, not a description of Lynne!) is from her latest collection ‘Again’. 
Lynne Knight
Lynne Knight
 Bob Shakeshaft obliged with, among others, an untitled poem which included the very apt Autumn line ‘… where hoarded gold is amongst the trees’: spot-on for today’s theme.
Bob Shakeshaft
Bob Shakeshaft
Bernie O’Reilly read from her collection ‘Gentle Touch’ and Eoin Hegarty read, amongst other poems, a series of three short pieces (‘Rain’, ‘Rock’, ‘The Old Plant’) on the theme of Autumn.
Bernie O'Reilly
Bernie O'Reilly
All these poets appeal to me in with their economic use of words. I am also very attracted to other forms (like Rap poetry, for instance) which overflow with stunning imagery and cascades of intricate, rhymed phrases.
Eoin Hegarty
Eoin Hegarty

 But I still prefer the ‘weighted’ delivery. I subscribe to the idea that too many adjectives can weaken the power of the noun. On this occasion I did MC and read a few of my own and finished off with Keats’s ‘To Autumn’. He wrote it 190 years ago this month and died a year and a half later, just 26 years old. Read this wonderful poem at http://www.everypoet.com

A small attendance yesterday for this reading of the works of two poets, Doug Wood and Ray Pospisil. And no wonder, considering it must have been one of the wettest days I have ever seen in Dublin. I include a photo showing just how bad it was, and showing a lamp-post advert for ‘Dublin in Summer’ events. (!) And just WHO would take that red open-topped tourist bus around the city on a day like this!!!
But to get back to the poetry: Oran Ryan read a selection from the late Ray Pospisil’s posthumous collection ‘The Bell’ (published by Seven Towers). He chose from the last section of the book and commenced with the title poem ‘The Bell’, which has the curious thought “… I wondered … if bells have just a finite life of rings, a certain / number with a steady dissipation of / their brightness…”. Another poem he read was ‘No Closure Please’, one I find particularly honest and courageous in the face of all these advices we hear again and again about ‘the need for closure’. Ray says “… Give me more / internal conflict. That’s / my engine…” I believe that he shares my view that comfortable feelings about oneself usually does not produce good poetry. He ends his poem with ” …I let my demons thrive / and tangle up the pretty threads / to make me feel alive”. I have a very high opinion of this book and was delighted to hear some of it in a reading. Oran also read an excerpt from one of his own novels ‘Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger’.

Oran ryan reads an excerpt from his 'Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger'
Oran ryan reads an excerpt from his 'Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger'

Doug Wood is at the moment somewhere in the U.S.A (I think). Ross Hathaway read some of Doug’s work from the collection ‘Old Men Forget’ (published by Seven Towers) and gave something of a new slant on things because of the fact that we were hearing the poems read in a New Zealand, not a North Carolina, accent! In a strange way, this rather increased the earthiness and directness of the poems. In ‘Hensley’s Branch’, for instance, the slaughtering of the animal is depicted graphically and in situ. It’s a ‘there and then’ poem: “And once he’s got her, between th’cast-iron / ripping her links, kidneys, bladder-sacks / and all he empties in his bucket…”. In this reading the slaughtering seemed just that more brutal. I think it has something to do with the fact that, when Doug reads, these basic acts of farm-life are presented as normal, everyday events which as simply part of the life of a farm. The poem reminds me of John Montague’s powerful poem ‘Killing the Pig’ where there is also no room available for anyone inclined to be squeamish. Ross also read ‘Dr Maglure’ with its rather black perspective on how our attention can be distracted in even the most mournful of occasions. All in all, a very good reading, and a difficult one, given Doug’s very original way of presenting his poetry. (I’m just glad it was Ross up there, not me!). Ross also read some of his own work and one from a fellow New Zealander, Charles Brasch (1909-1973).