First Open Mic of 2010 saw all the various shades of open-mikery emerge blinking into the last January dark night of the New Year. Declan McLoughlin in fine form as MC and a full programme of readers. Notable (I thought) was Eoin Hegarty with his unassuming manner (a trait not common among all poets!) and his elegant lines (‘… the hard science of Old Age’). He read a very striking piece on the recent death of his grandmother. Reminded me strongly of Heaney’s ‘Mossbawn’ period.  Another favorite of mine, Karl Parkinson, read an extraordinary piece (didn’t catch the title!) in which he envisaged a future Dublin which was by turns depressing and hilarious. All those thousands of pregnant teenagers marching together demanding ‘Abortion! Abortion! Abortion!’…

Eoin Hegarty

Good to see Ash Fox back on the scene, and with a piece she wrote (as she told us) during the Irish ‘Boom’ (remember that?), full of people rushing around trying to choose between (what we now consider) luxuries. Ah yes, them were the days! And Steve Conway gave a prose piece to do with his day spent as a nude model. I thought it was fiction. But no! See his site for full details, if you dare! ( Bob Shakeshaft’s poem ‘Without Pardon’ was one of his best I thought, and Oran Ryan read a piece to do with the idea that there are some things you should do without thinking toooo much about them or otherwise you might not do them at all, such as proposing marriage. I liked also Helen Dempsey’s clever ‘calendar’ poem ‘The Month’s Mind’ with its epigrams on each month. Lots and lots of other great stuff (Raven, Ross, Edward Lee, Eileen Keane, Dermot McCarty, Ann Tannin, Jim Rooney) ‘too numeros to mention’. But of course I must mention myself (it’s my blog, after all!) just to say that with Blair appearing in front of the Childcott Enquiry his Iraq war was very much on my mind so I read a few pieces from that time. Last thing to say is that if you are a writer and you are NOT coming to this monthly event you are losing out BIG TIME!    

Eileen Keane

All you ever wanted to know about pigs… and then some! Subtitled ‘Exploring the Extraordinary Potential of Pigs’ this book does what it says on the tin. It is written by an expert in the field, who has an easy engaging writing style and an attractive sense of humour, three ingredients which are always a good combination in any book.

Extraordinary paragraphs abound. Look at this from page 231: “The lyric poet Robert Herrick, he of ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds While ye May’, kept a clerical pig which followed him everywhere and may have contributed to his ejection from a Devonshire vicarage by the Puritans. Lord Gardenstone, an eminent Scots lawyer, kept the best-known legal pig, which shared his bed”.

However, I must not leave my reader with the idea that this is another ‘jokey’, patronising Walt-Disney-style book about animals. The writer has spent a lifetime studying his subject and has written an absolutely serious book that provides the reader with insights on pig-culture, and also on ‘our’ human culture. The author says: “Defining culture as uniquely human is just lazy thinking… If California sea-otters can develop a tradition of using stone anvils to open clam shells, and Japanese macaques are already beginning to carry pebbles about, looking for some appropriate use for these proto-tools, I predict that pigs are going to be found to be cultured animals in ways best suited to animals without grasping hands” (p.243).

Thoroughly recommended.

This is a well written ‘exposure’ book by Sunday World reporter Jim Gallagher. He details how Christina Gallagher (no relation) got people to hand over money by telling them of her visions of, and conversations with, Our Lady. And to all you non-Catholics out there that means The Blessed Virgin. Blessed Virgin? What?– Oh I can’t be bothered: let’s just say ‘An Important Person From The Next World’.

Anyway, let’s also be clear that this is not at all a funny book. One can look upon the people who were duped into handing over vast sums of money to Ms Gallagher as ridiculous fools or, more charitably, as victims of their own ‘true faith in the one true Church’, but either way one must have pity for them. One of the compelling features of the book is how it details the amount of time it took people to realise  what was happening, and how they persisted in their folly even in the face of irrefutable evidence that ‘The House of Prayer’ in Achill was (is!) more interested in their money than their ‘eternal salvation’.

Bigger names and bigger organisations come to mind as one reads this book, Mr L.Ron Hubbard for instance.  A really spellbinding read… and it seems that Christina is still in business, though it also seems that she now has fewer followers/devotees. I hope so.