Kevin Higgens and Susan Millar du Mars launched their new poetry books in Dublin at Chaplin’s of Hawkin’s Street. The event was organised by the Seven Towers Agency and the poets were introduced by Patrick Chapman. I was delighted to be in attendance because these are two really fine poets and quite among the best ‘on offer’ in the Irish poetry scene at present. This praise is genuinely meant. Their work is both interesting and exciting.

Susan went first with the poem that gives to collection its title: ‘Dreams for Breakfast’ and then ‘Vacant Building’. I think you can tell from the title of the last-named that it is ‘a poem for our times’: the building is one of the ‘Ozymandian Towers’ (Susan’s phrase) the ‘Boom’ has left us. ‘Outside the Crane Bar’ is a sort of tribute poem to that well-known pub which has seen so much music and poetry, as well a s being a poem about loneliness. She finished with ‘I Dream of Stephen Fry’. According to her, he’s a big hit with the ladies. I must watch his programmes more closely.

Kevin then obliged with a couple of poems from his new collection ‘Frightening New Furniture’. Although the cover of his book shows actual chairs, the ‘new furniture’ he has in mind in some of the poems is that adjustment we will have to make now that the Boom is over. ‘Ourselves Again’ is a poem is this vein. Now that the celtic tiger is gone  ‘… We’ll be ourselves again/ and then some’. A ‘lighter’ poem about unwelcome guests (‘House Guest’) was very appealing.

It’s always good to hear the writer read his/her work. Even when they are not really very good readers it’s good to hear them. But these are two very good readers and their obvious good humour is a great lift. Interesting how humour pervades their work, even the very grim parts of that work (I love grim humour) and lifts it to a very accessable level. If you haven’t read these books… you’re missing a lot.

Both books are published by Salmon Poetry (

The Lucan Festival 2010 Poetry and Prose Reading was held at 7.00pm at the on Wednesday 22nd Sept at the Festival’s art exhibition at the Douglas Newman Good offices in Lucan Village. Writers Lucan joined writers from the Seven Towers Agency to give a varied and entertaining night.

Local writer David Mohan read a couple of poems, including one highlighting the

David Mohan

bizarre names of Chinese takeaways and a dark suburban poem entitled ‘Quiet’. Ross Hattaway read from his book ‘The Gentle Art of Rotting’ and also some pieces he is fashioning towards his next collection ‘Pretending to be Dead’ (2012). Alma Brayen read from her recently published book ‘Prism’ and then it was time for another local writer Triona Walsh who gave us a ‘local’ poem: The Weir Tea Rooms and also a poem dedicated to her daughter. Then it was over Oran Ryan from Seven Towers who surprised us with his’ Polar Bear for Sale’ and ‘Dinner with Dr Mengele’, both startlingly original pieces.

Triona Walsh

After a short break, Niamh Bagnell delivered a poem specially written for the occasion ‘Don’t Bring Your Pigeon into Douglas Newman Good’ and then went on to give some poetry without a script. Steve Conway gave an excerpt from his very successful ‘Shiprocked’ book and also a new piece on ballooning. What?– You heard me. Ballooning! Another local writer, Louise Philips, gave us some poems centring on human relaltionships and on that word we (poets and everyone else) have difficulties with: ‘love’. But Louise’s uncluttered style saw her read poems of refreshingly simple directness. Raven was last up and gave hid usual strong individual performance. He is always spell-binding in both his poetry and his

Louise Philips

presence. He is every inch and artist and as soon as he starts… that’s it! You’re captured! And so I made no notes of the poems he delivered (without a script, as usual) gut I did recognise some of my favourites, including ‘Midway’, which appears in The First Seven Towers Census Anthology (2009)

As for myself, I did MC and started things off with a poem that dates back to my fist days living in Hillcrest in Lucan (1976!) entitled ‘Early Dispatches’ and which you can read in my poetry blog in the ‘poetry’ category.


It was a great evening and a terrific mixture of talent from Lucan and further afield. And a big Thank You to Niamh Bagnell for coralling all the Lucan scribes and herdng down to the fesival reading. And Thank So Much to the Seven Towers Agency for ferrying out to Lucan all that talent! Very much appreciated.

‘Winter’s Bone’ is a film based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell and set in the Ozark territory of the United States, a region that covers the southern half  of Missouri and the north west and north central Arkansas. The word ‘Ozark’ also refers to a people with a distinct culture and dialect (thank you, Wikipedia) These ‘Ozark’ people are often disrespectfully referred to as ‘hillbillies’. This film is honest, raw and direct, like the people themselves, I suspect. It’s a crime story, though for anyone previously unacquainted with this part of the U.S, it is more a real educational experience. And a riveting on at that. The story is simple enough: a 17 year old girls has to look after her two younger siblings due to her mother’s illness and her father’s absence. Worse, the family house is at risk because her father has put it up as security for bail… It’s the way she copes with this situation that makes the film one to remember. The scenery, the acting, the atmosphere… All superb. Directed by Debra Glink and starring  Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznaha and other actors you’ve never heard of. You must see this.

Great Book!

I blogged my views on this wonderful book last January. It was just a short account of my reaction to it and certainly not something I expected to generate a large number of ‘hits’ on my blog. But amazingly it has!

Now when I say ‘a large number of hits’ I’m NOT talking thousands, or hundreds. However,  considering my modest foray into cyber space I am really surprised to see at least 2 or 3 clicks on TVIVF (my blogname) each day! Oh, the excitement here in my little homeoffice!!! You have just NO idea!

Well, not really. All I can say is I hope people will read this book and if my blog has spurred just one person to do so then I will be very happy indeed, particularly if that person had been thinking about handing any nosh over to other people with very powerful methods of making them think they ought to do so. No, I’m not talking about There’s actually no way you can get out of  giving over your nosh to THEM. I mean people who give you reasons for parting with your hard-earned cash when you don’t HAVE to part with it. To help the Blessed Virgin, for instance. (Yes, really)

It’s a fascinating read, this book. All of human life is there: the good people, the gullible, the misled, those of the Faith, and those on the look out for easy pickings. You won’t be able to leave it down if you start reading it and, having finished it, you may wonder if you yourself might have fallen victim, given the power of the message.

OK. I know. You’re too sensible to throw money away. (But what about those lotto tickets you buy every week? Eh? Eh??)

Today’s reading at lunchtime in Chapters Bookshop, Dublin, saw Anamaria Crowe Serrrano

Anamaria Crowe Serrano

give a combination reading of translations from a Mexican poet, two Italian poets and her own poetry, new and ‘old’. The Mexican poet was Elso Cross and Anamaria read ‘The Stones’ from Elso’s New and Selected poems. Then she gave a few from Lucetta Frise from Liguria, Italy: ‘I’d Like to Switch Lives…’ , ‘She Found Herself Alone Surrounded by White…’ Anamaria  thought these poems ‘quirky’, to which I would add ‘enigmatic’. Reminded me somewhat of Emily Dickinson. Anyway, very attractive and arresting pieces. Daniella Raimundi was next: ‘Lot’s Wife’ and ‘Goddess’ were longish, thoughtful poems and ‘The Poem Walks Away’ was a clever piece on the relationship between the writer and the written (These sort of poems can annoy non-writers, but not this one I think because it’s consrtucted so well and is genuinely funny). Turning to her own poetry Anamaria read some new work. A poem for an artist, friend Nicola Russell, entitled ‘Nicola as She Leaves’, and then a descriptive ‘Sea Lions at Bull Harbour’. She is now attempting a kind of absidian (?) poem … one in which the initial letter of each line is pre-determined by alphabetical order… or something. I’m not much for such artificialities myself, believing with Charles Olson that content determines form. Then again, those who’ve read my work (those ‘select, though few’) will object that my pentameter is also ‘artificial’, to which I can only reply yes, but not nearly as artificial as… Oh, please go away. But I’ve no doubt Anamaria will make a success of her poem (part of which she read out), such are her creative powers. She then had a very clever poem of a domestic kind ‘Just to Let You Know’ which collected ordinary household phrases and made a fine, arresting poem out of them. She finished with some pieces from her book ‘Femispheres’ (Shearsman Books, 2008): ‘Nature’, ‘6.45 am’ and ‘Divers’.

My Good Self

Due to a hitch in the proceedings I had to step in unprepared. Well, of course poets are always ‘prepared’ (but like to give the impression that they are ‘unprepared’: ‘What?! Oh, I’m on now, am I? …’) but I would have liked a little time sort out what I might read before I went up to the mic at a moment’s notice. However, listening to Anamaria didn’t allow for that since her stuff is so good (dammit!). All my pieces came from ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again‘ (Seven Towers, 2010) which apparently is selling very well in Chapters, not that ‘sales’ matter to poets (the hell they don’t!): ‘Early Lessons in Divine Intent’ is a poem I hadn’t read out in ages, possibly because it is such a personal recollection of my Grandmother who, more or less, taught me everything I know that is worth knowing., and some things I should have learned better, like kindness and compassion. ‘Shopping for Myself’ is amusing, but contains a few ‘home-truths’ which I don’t like to have to face up to more than I have to. ‘Honister Crag’ is another of those ‘mining’ poems that dot my collection: my family was, after all, a mining family from my grandfather and his brothers, to my father, my uncles etc. Had times and tides been different I have no doubt that I myself would have been working ‘down the mines’ in Yorkshire, Wales, Laois…  ‘Inanimates’ is a poem I often overlook  because it makes me uncomfortable to think that the very ordinary things I command the use of every day will long outlive me (teapots, cups, books… things I call ‘mine’) and eventually become part of other’s lives. And seeing as it’s the way that  our country is going down the tubes at a rate of knots at the moment I felt I had to read ‘First Green Shoots’ and then, to rescue my audience from economic depression I gave them the lighter ‘ Too Much Talk about the Muse’, which is about a visit to the dentist where Milton is the dentist. I actually had to visit the dentist recently (though the dentist wasn’t Milton) so I was able to read with some conviction. Well, I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but I enjoyed this lunchtime reading immensly. Much thanks goes to Sarah Lumsden for doing MC and to Ross Hattaway for taking some photos of me ‘delivering’. (On reflection OF COURSE the audience enjoyed it all. Anamaria and me! What’s not to like?)

Eamonn and Anamaria

Another themed reading at Chapters Bookshop, this time ‘Coming Home’, but unfortunately I had to leave early to go to the launch of the Lucan Festival 2010. I did have time to hear Jarlath Gregory read an except

Jarleth Gregory

from his novel ‘Snapshot’ which deals with the world of Northern Ireland paramilitary violance. What I heard sounded very good and would make you want to read it. It’s available in Chapters and elswhere. Jarlath was followed by Karl Parkinson, who — among other contributions — produced a poem written on his way back from Electric Picnic. I read ‘Bosnian Housewife’ from my ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’ collection. This very sad poem, set in 1996 war-torn Visoko was published in ‘The Stinging Fly’ ten years ago and I still find its imagery unbearable. I often wonder how she got on afterwards, this woman, and her children. I also had some new poems: ‘The Poem I Said I Would Write When I Got out of Hospital’ and ‘The Coming Back’. To finish I read Eileen Casey’s fine poem ‘Seagulls’ from her ‘Drinking the Colour Blue’ collection. It has a connection in my mind with my ‘Bosnian Housewife’ because I detect some worry in Eileen’s subject as she makes her way home through suburbia. Then I had to leave,  just as Steve Conway was about to launch into a story.

The launch of The Lucan Festival 2010 went off very well with lots of chat and food and drinks. It takes place this month September 20th to 26th and my contribution is to organise a poetry reading on Wednesday 22nd in conjuction with the Art Exhibition in the offices of Douglas Newman Good in Lucan Village at 7.00. The line-up will include some local writers and some of my Seven Towers colleagues. It should be a really good night.

HelenDempsey, Karl Parkinson and Steve Conway, with a thoughtful-looking Liz McSkeane in the background

Tough times, tough work, tough men. The subtitle of this book ‘Here They Dug the Gold’, by George F. Willison, is ‘The Story of The Colorado Gold Rush’ and that is exactly what it is. There is very little padding out and the narrative often goes at breakneck speed, rather like the events themselves once the rush started ‘ … when a North Carolina negro known only as Charley… picked up gold on the banks of Dukes Creek, in Northern Geogia… The richest diggings… lay in Georgia… on Indian lands belonging to the Cherokee, many of whom had already been transported across the Mississippi into Indian territory (Oklahoma). With the advent of the gold rush, the remaining Cherokee were quickly dispossessed in quite ruthless and barbarous fashion’.

And so it was that what we today call genocide and ethnic cleansing were much in evidence as every sort of man (and woman) made their way out west to make their fortune. One thing this book does, though, is show how much the whites suffered in their quest. Of course fortunes were made, but many many men disappeared into history never to be heard of again.

Gun law and Lych law were the only laws in evidence. Towns sprung up overnight. Prospecters came down from the hills, their pockets heavy with gold and lost it in a few hours in the gambling halls. Armed gangs roamed the streets at will robbing and killing. Vigilante groups were then formed which often turned out to be little better than the armed thugs. Indians were massacred. Prospecters were shot down in the street or out in their claims by ‘claim jumpers’. In short, life wasn’t just cheap. It  no value at all.

And all the Irish surnames! O’Connor, Daly, Duggan, Gallagher, Hart, Purcell, Ryan… any many, many more, including some whose deeds are no credit to their original native land. And of course, here again the perennial problem pushes its way into the discussion: Is it right to criticise men who commit terrible deeds when ‘the committing of terrible deeds’ is commonplace around them? When it’s dog eat dog, isn’t it the case that the dog who doesn’t eat gets eaten? Well, these are weighty questions and Willison doesn’t trade much in ehtics, though he does have many a sad thing to say about how the natives Indians fared in all this mad gold-hunting fever. He’s ashamed of it, but he has a story to tell (or rather, a history to write) and he gets on with it and leaves the moralising to one side.

And then, when the seams ran out, the towns died out too, leaving a few hermits eking out an existence in ghost towns. Denver, Boulder, Central City, Montgomery, Buckskin Joe, Fairplay, California Gulch, Breckenridge, Tarryall… all proved graveyards to the many unknown men who took the fever and went west for gold. Some these towns became graveyards to themselves.

Towards the end of the Book, Willison focuses on one Horace Tabor who started out with little or nothing, discovered gold and had everything, then gambled and speculated and finally eneded up again with nothing. At first I thought the author was overdoing this treatment of one single individual but then I realised that this man’s life and times are really the life and times of the gold rush personified.

Great book, well written in a simple clear direct style and well documented. Recommended.