Steve Conway
Patricia O'Callaghan

Jane Robinson opened proceedings with a sonnet and a sestina. I admire poets who can handle these forms, though I prefer a more free-flowing style (is this because I’m no good at sonnets, sestinas, villanelles, etc.? probably). Lots of readers, as this is a very popular venue. Outstanding, among some really good stuff on the nght, was Steve Conway with his ‘Schroedinger’s Bus’ story. Intriguing and amusing, it has to do with simultaneous presences, quantum phenomena and … buses. You’ll have to read it (or hear it) to believe it. Patricia O’Callaghan made her Open Mic debut, herfirst time at the Last Wednesday night anyway with ‘Philosophy in Paper Bags’, a poem about workmen taking lunch, and some other poems from her collection (‘The Tailor’s Shop’) published by Lapwing 2008. Eileen Keane read the beginnings of a novel and both Niamh Bagnell and Andre Kapoor gave versions of that rap style which is deleivered without script and with intricate rhymes. Andre’s poem concerned ‘beauty’ but of the kind found in true professionalism, and his example was Tommy Cooper, the English comedian who died on stage during a performance. The audience did not realise it at the time and thought it was joke. and kept laughing. I think Tommy would have been very happy with that. The night finished up with another newcomer, David O’Riordan, who did a piece on the way the word ‘Legend’ has ended up as a cliche, since it is used so often to describe the most banal of things that it has by now become meaningless. I like poems that focus on the language we use, and how we use it.

Niamh Bagnell
David O'Riordan

Back on air with ‘Finnegan’, Edward Delaney’s one-hour programme (Fridays 9.00-10.00pm on Digital Hub FM 94.3) of discussion, music and poetry. At the moment one can only listen to it live on the website, but we are working to set up the archive.

Edward, Micheal Mac Aonghusa and myself are looking forward to another few weeks of enjoyable broadcasting. Last Friday I read out a poem called ‘OHM’ which has just this week been published in ‘Shop’ magazine (I will set it up in the ‘My Poetry’ section as soon as possible) and all three of us had something to say about Thierry Henry, somethings he mightn’t like to hear!

I read a set of short stories by Louis Auchincloss some years ago under the title ‘The Partners’ (publ.1974) and I cannot remember the details of any of them. However, an impression stayed with me of how he described very well the inner workings of ‘the business mind’ and also caught the atmosphere of office life really well. I am qualified to recognise this aspect in his writings because I spent many years behind office desks in various offices under various ‘clerical’ guises.
This quality of getting a grip on the machinations of business entrepreneurial activity also forms part of the appeal of this book, ‘A World of Profit’ (1968). Jay Livingstone is a man on the ‘up’ and thinks mainly in terms of amassing wealth and eventually belonging to the ‘old family’ class of New York. Everything else comes a poor second, even his jewish name which he takes good care to change to something more ‘acceptable’. It is a fairly accurate portrait. Making friends with the members of that class and insinuating himself into its social structure is the best route for this ‘social climbing’ and is only rendered a little unpalatable to him by the fact that Jay, deep down, despises these ‘rich kids’. He also stands out among them as the one with by far the most business acumen. These are indeed the recurring traits of the social interloper and Auchincloss delineates them well.
It’s a good novel of its kind. But I’m not sure it will appeal to many ‘modern’ readers. I say ‘modern’ because there are aspects of Auchincloss’s world which by now, I think, are somewhat out of date– for example, the influence of the ‘old’ New York families and their many ways of keeping their lifestyle exclusive of men like Jay. I put ‘modern’ in inverts because I’ve learned by now that there are other, more subtle ways of exclusion which have replaced the rather overt ones to be found in this novel. Nevertheless, it’s an old-fashioned read, something like the English novelist CP Snow, but without his depth of character and feel for extended family narrative. I don’t think Auchincloss’s novel holds up very well today, forty years after its publication.


So much has been written about this book, first published in 1837. It remains a favourite with Dickens readers and the 1959 Collins edition which I have just read has a succinct introduction which gives a reason for this popularity. Alec Waugh writes: “[‘The Pickwick Papers’] is the work of a very young man, a young man with a heaven sent gift of friendliness and laughter, who was saying, exactly as he wanted to say it, the thing that he was impelled to say. And he was never quite that again; he was never again wholly free from the influence of his popularity and success”. I am a great admirer of Dickens, and from a very early age, but I admit the truth of Waugh’s remarks. As he grew older (and so phenomenally successful) he began to ‘sermonise’ a lot and sprawl out his plots rather too much. He was a great editor who, himself needed an editor.
But that was later. This is his first, and it’s a great book. A real ‘pick-me-up’. So many parts still make me laugh, after so many readings: Mr Pickwick being discovered at night in the garden of the boarding school where he had been lured on a false errand; Then later ending up by mistake in an old lady’s bedroom; and Mr Winkle agreeing to go horse riding, even though he had no experience in the equestrian arts (‘What makes him go sideways?’ said Mr Snodgrass [in the carriage] to Mr Winkle in the saddle. ‘I can’t imagine,’ replied Mr Winkle. His horse was drifting up the street in most mysterious manner, side first…); and many more.
Mr Pickwick is of course the prototype of many subsequent portly, good humoured old gentlemen who come to the rescue of various characters in distress in his later novels. such as the Cheeryble brothers, in Nicholas Nickleby, and Oliver’s long lost grandfather in Oliver Twist. But none of these descendants are really so full of joviality, generosity and pure goodwill as is Pickwick. He’s a tonic.


Chapters Bookshop again and another evening reading organised by the indomitable Sarah Lunsberg of Seven Towers. An array of readers, including Bob Shakeshaft, who included a poem about homelessness in his reading, as did Anne Morgan. It’s coming up to that time of year after all when the weather can be particularly hard on those condemned to the streets. Eileen Keane read a story and Ross Hattawayhad an ‘armistce-day’ style poem. Bernie O’ Reilly gave a few of her poems from direct experience (‘…and that is why it’s best to start/To write a diary of the heart…’). Anamaria Crowe Serrano (what a terrific name!) had one about a climber friend who misjudged global warning, and with tragic consequences and Maeve O’Sullivan read one called ‘Class of 84’ about the death of Lennon. (According to Maeve, a lot of people remember where they were when the news came, just like when Kennedy was assassinated… I myself don’t link up with Lennon’s death, though with Kennedy’s yes, and 9/11).

Maeve O'Sullivan

Steve Conway finished off with another adventure from his days on the high seas with Radio Caroline and, with all these madcap adventures on board ship, perhaps we’re beginning to wonder how much actual ‘work’ was being done!.. Only joking, Steve! (you can find out for yourself by buying ‘Shiprocked – Life on the waves with Radio Caroline’, published by Liberties Press). My own contribution was the suitably chilling ‘Snowqueen’ from my first collection, an a poem about January (same collection) and a poem simply entitled ‘Winter’ from Ray pospisil’s posthumous collection ‘The Bell’, published by Seven Towers. All in all a very enjoyable and as usual eschewing po-faced formality and very well attended.


I see, by the way, that my first collection, referred to above, (‘Dispatches and Recollections’, published by Lapwing, 1998) is available on Amazon, so if you are really curious…

I have probably left out a few people in this short account and so to them… sorry! Get you next time!

‘County Lines’ – a portrait of life in South Dublin County, edited by Dermot Bolger

Last Thursday saw the launch, in Tallaght Library, of a series of audio books by the local studies section. There are eight books in all and a contribution from me appears in one of them, the ‘County Lines’ book (the book was originally published by New Island press). It’s entitled ‘Oh Brave New World!’ and concerns the heady enthusiastic first few years when Kathy and I moved into our semidetached house in Hillcrest, Lucan, and I began writing ‘in earnest’. Many of the poems from that period featured in my first collectoion from Lapwing (‘Dispatches and Recollections’ 1998). It’s that sort of book, full of memories and bits and pieces of personal and communal history. It’s very well produced and I am proud to be in it alongside my neighbours. Full marks to Dermot Bolger, who initiated the project, and to the readers Emer Horgan and Jonathen White who did such a good job on bringing the pieces to life.

Intriguing, in all senses. It really is one of those books one can’t put down. Its author comes across as a snob, a cad, a poseur, a careerist… but something about him makes the reader keep going and finally emerge with the conclusion that there are others (inside and outside politics) who are far, far worse than Alan Clark. The parliamentary intrigue is balanced by the many entries written at Saltwood his (extensive) family home. His descriptions of the house, the gardens, the fields, the animals, the staff are warm and appealing and coloured out lovingly in the pigments of each succeeding season. I think, seeing as they are diaries, I should use his own words in his preface to describe them:
“Sometimes lacking in clarity; often trivial; occasionally lewd; cloyingly sentimental, repetitious, whingeing and imperfectly formed. For some readers the entries may seem to be all of these things.
But they are real diaries.”