Very happy to appear in this year’s ‘Stony Thursday Book‘, the publication from the Cuisle  Limerick International Poetry Festival 2010 alongside so many (other) luminaries. Of course my eye goes first to people I know on the Dublin ‘circuit’, like Eileen Casey with a fine poem full of the hard, harsh imagery of Siberia (‘Woman wearing her home around her shoulders‘); and Orla Martin with “Regret’, a small poem that covers a lot of (emotional) ground; also I find Anamaria Crowe Serrano with a troubled poem ‘An Elephant’ which gets deep into the experience of grief and sorrow. No ‘Notes on the contributors’ in this edition so one cannot see behind the poems to get a glimpse of the authors, but lots and lots (142 poems!) of really good stuff and one would be really hard-pressed to chose the best half-dozen. But in that nefarious number I would certainly include Cillian Fahy’s ‘Footnotes’. It’s just the sort of lively, sardonic tilt at literary pretensions and posings that really appeals to me. It’s too clever by half, of course…. well, no: it’s too clever by at least three quarters– And that’s what I like most about it. Another poem I would like to include in the best half-dozen is my own ‘It’s Not the Wrinkles’ but then Cillian would have me in his sights for his next composition, so… perhaps not…


It’s not the wrinkles

or the loss of hair.

Or the stiffness in the joints–

It’s the traipsing up the stairs for something

and then coming down again

without it.


I can bear the loss of tooth,

the watery eye,

even dodgy hearing–

It’s the way I can’t remember names

of favourite writers, even close friends

annoys me. Worse,


this constantly repeating myself.

Worse than wrinkles, bad hearing,

or even stiffness in the joints.

Did I tell you that these days

I can’t even remember the names

of close friends? I did? When? — (!!!)


I suppose it’s all pre-packaged,

this sojourn on the earth’s crust,

and when you start outstaying

then all the extras start to be withdrawn. But

I’m not on my last gasp yet … and…

and… now what was this I was going to say …


(Published in ‘The Stony Thursday Book’ No. 9 Autumn 2010)



The regular last Tuesday venue at ‘The Cobblestone’ in Smithfieldnwith Raven and CAH44 (aka Cliff Horseman) doing  joint hosts. A great line-up on offer, Raven himself giving a number of his standard pieces. I was pleased to hear ‘Buffalo Shoot’ again (‘She is a social animal / that grazes




in the plains…’), this time with a musical background. Personally, not sure about the musical background. I think poems have enough music of their own and therefore don’t need musical embellishment. Certainly, for me, Raven’s delivery of his stuff is good in itself and I’d prefer it that way. But, that’s me. Harry Muschops  did a good job and the audience liked it. Raven also gave that ‘Taxi Dancer’ poem about girls who danced in clubs with men who bought a ticket firs, set during ‘prohibition’ times in America, a really good piece, and many more.

CAH44(Cliff Horseman) provided some of his great standard numbers, including that sound-experimental poem ‘What remains’, in which separate syllables are broken up until gradually coalescing into the word ‘wanting’. I had just read a few of Aldo Pallazeschi’s ‘Futurist’ poems that day  and was strongly reminded of his ‘Farafarafarfa’. Pallazeschi (1885-1974)was trying out things a long time ago and has some really good stuff. He’s definitely be on for a turn on ‘the black stage’!

Then it was time for Martin Daws, in great form with a number of poems from his ‘skin tight the sidewalk’ CD and some others. Terrific to hear him again with ‘yo red’, ‘river song’ and many others. Martin has an extraordinary presence: he dominates his words, his delivery, his audience. He is a real master, with every syllable and nuance honed to perfection. I guess he is the model for all delivery-without-script poets. Or he ought to be: like Raven and Cliff he eschews shouting at his listeners and makes sure every single word is clear. His gestures and dramatics are always tailored to the poem (and not the other way around). And his poetry, although certainly featuring himself prominently, is about more than just Martin Daws. ‘yo red’, for instance, conveys the really threatening and dark side of a city as well as Martin’s own terror. He also does not try to impose music on his work, allowing the poem’s own music to emerge. I could watch him forever.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay forever. Had to leave early and so I missed the rest of the line-up, which I’m sure was terrific. Very sorry to miss out on Jennifer Cedana Aramas from New York. Looking forward to the next ‘last Tuesday’


Kevin Higgins and Karl Parkinson


A chance to see two top poets in action so why wouldn’t I make my way into town at all costs (2.20 on the bus from Lucan) to hear them.

Karl Parkinson in fine form with a chapbook to sell (‘a sacrament of song’, published by Wurm Press, and priced at less than the busfare from Lucan). He read or delivered without script his ‘Listening to classical music while thinking of some great artists and their suffering’ a great composition and one I’ve mentioned before on this blog. Also, among others, his inspiring The Positivity Manifesto. The language in this poem is pure Karl Parkinson: arresting, sparkling, compelling…. How I hate him! And his stuff  delivered with his usual unusual dramatic gestures.  A true performer.

Kevin Higgins told us he was a bit fed up of reading from his new book (‘Frightening New Furniture‘, published by Salmon) so most of his stuff tonight was new stuff including a terrific poem entitled something like ‘The People Who Protested Lightly and Then Went Home’… so many of these types of ‘protest’ I have seen in my time. Especially in my late-and-not-lamented time as a teacher. So nice, the teachers, when they are (were) protesting. Nothing French about them. Thanks, Kevin, you hit the nail on the head. Also the amusing poem inspiredby his wife asking him, in an off-hand way, what he would like done when he… er… passes away. The line that struck me was the one about any poet who shuffled up to the mic in the church and asked to read/sing a tribute… well. Kevin wants those people to be buried with him. Apart from the humour, I take this to be a dig at those shameless ‘tribute’ readings and concerts put on to boast the reputations of the living than rather than honour the dead. Well done Kevin.

Yes, a chance to see two top poets but, with all due respect to them, what absolutely bowled me


The Chapter House, St.Mary's Abbey


over was the venue, St. Mary’s Abbey.  Enormous in its day (around 1550, though founded in 1139) only the Chapter house remains. It’s up a little side street  ‘Meeting House Lane’ off Capel Street and as long as I have been in Dublin (like, from birth) I’ve never been in it, and had only vaguely heard about it. Too much history attached to it to deal with here. All I’ll say is you MUST go there  for the next reading organised by Wurm im Apfel (see Facebook or their new website which will be on Nov. 25th with Dave Lordan, Cah-44 and Claire Fitch on the bill at 6pm. The acoustics are absolutely great and they prove that those monastery builders knew a thing or two about sound long before HiTech  systems came along. So YOU remember to come along and get great music, poetry… and a history lesson! (Wrap up well, as it can be a little chilly if you rely only on the hot poets to keep you warm).

Much thanks to MC Kit Fryatt. What a great reading and well attended. And it started at the civilised time of 6.15 and finished  about 7.30… Other venues please note!!!

Another Seven Towers event at lunchtime in Chapters Bookshop in Parnell Street where Ross Hattaway and Eamonn Lynskey read from their works.


Ross Hattaway


Ross went first with some from his ‘old’ collection (‘The Gentle Art of Rotting’) and a sample from his forthcoming ‘new’ collection , the title of which he has not yet decided. It may even be called ‘The Untitled Collection’ he says. Always joking, Ross! (Or is he? Sounds like a damned good title).  He read ‘What It Is to Be Late’, ‘Rag for the Left’ and ‘ The First Law of Robotics’, the last-named being such a ‘manly’ poem that is bound to make some male listeners feel a bit inadequate. ( Moi?– Never!). He then gave us some new stuff, one of which ends intriguingly ‘…walking the house in the morning, just to stay alive”. Then some Tankas and ‘Vicar Street Dream’, a poem inspired by a visit to see Jack L perform. Finally he gave a poem from John Sexton’s book ‘Vortex’ (Doghouse Books).


Shameless Exhibitionsist


Winston Churchill, when he had to step in to take over in any emergency always represented himself as taking on the job as a matter of duty, whereas in reality he did it because he was a life-long exhibitionist and would leap at the chance of any bit of limelight. Well, I’m the same and when one of the poets today didn’t make it, who else into the breech but me (as a matter of duty of course!). And since the airwaves were recently so full of the bravery of the Chilean miners (and brave men indeed they were) I gave a few from my collection ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’ which were poems on the theme of miners and mining. My father was a miner in Lancashire and in Wales for most of his working lifetime and my poems ‘Exiles’, ‘Times I hear of Lives Lost Underground’ and  ‘Honister Crag’ try to tell something of his story, and the story of miners generally. I finished off with that poem in praise of those who go to poetry readings to support a poet they know personally, even though they think he’s daft (Moi?– Never!). That poem? ‘His Despairing Friends’… Everyone pities the poet…

I believe everyone enjoyed themselves today. I certainly did! Thanks again to Chapters Bookshop: great hosts. And to Sarah: great MC!


Prepared to be scared! ... some of the audience at the themed reading


Because it was near Hallowe’en the theme was ‘Ghosts and Ghouls’ for this Seven Towers reading in Chapters Bookshop in Dublin last Thursday. Steve Conway led off with the story of a ghostly encounter on the old road from Dublin to Cork (I suppose the M50 is far too dangerous for any kind of havering these days?). Pauline Fayne followed with an early draft of a ‘witching’ poem and some others, also quite eerie. Bernie O’Reilly had a number of short poems, including that one about writers being like vampires, coming out at night, and one with the refrain ‘There is a Haunting Here’. And Bob Shakeshaft with ‘Bleak House’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was right on the theme.  Karl Parkinson included a long poem about cosmic wars and that poem which landscapes Dublin, with the


... suddenly Karl saw a ghostly hand stretching towards him...


‘Prophet’ emerging at the end with his tambourine and mantra. Eileen Keane had a short prose piece ‘Forbidden Fruit’ about a chap being pulled into a picture he’s viewing in the National Gallery. (You have been warned!). Also a piece she (modestly) calls a bit of ‘rambling thoughts’,  but which I call a very interesting essay, on the origins of Hallowe’en and other related matters. I like her low-key matter-of-fact way of delivering her work  without histrionics and hysterics. Finally, Oran Ryan delivered a really gripping story about the slide into dementia.


Eileen Keane


I was very short on Ghouls, but contributed on the theme of ‘Ghosts’ by reading my longish poem ‘Statue Park’, from my book ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’, which is full of the shadows of my communist/socialist past. And I don’t quite know why it is that people find my life’s travails so amusing. I thought this was a serious poem when I wrote it, but any time I’ve read it out my audience seems to think otherwise. Well, the audience is king, I know… but still and all…  Must be the way I tell ’em?

Thanks again to Chapters Bookshop for the space and to Sarah for doing MC. It was a great session, with so many people having loads of stuff on ghosts and ghouls and hauntings and eerie things in general. Does this tell you something about writers? Maybe Bernie is right…


The County Council Chamber in Swords: Great acoustics!

Dave Lordan and Colm Keegan led off this open mic in Swords, which was part of the Fingal Writers’ Festival 2010. Lots of political and polemical material from Dave, including a song: ‘Hole’. Little need for me to say that the ‘hole’ was in reference to that vacuum which used to be our GNP. Also some material bringing us an in-your-face visit tu the denizens of Dublin’s’ ‘boardwalk ‘alongside the Liffey. Colm had somewhat more subtle stuff, though not the less entertaining, including an early poem about a teenage ‘crush’. Ashling Fox gave a powerful reading with a poem about the Cobblestone Bar in Smithfield and its Irish Music, and then Jim Rooney, Bernie O’Sullivan, Paul Hendricks, Delta O’Hara, Oran Ryan,


Oran Ryan and Delta O'Hara


Raven, Hugh Dillon and many, many more. Full marks to Christodoilos Makris, the MC for the night. A really OPEN open mic like this can drag on a bit but his decisions as to who was to follow whom contributed to the sense of  variety and kept the sparkle alive to the end.

I gave a few light poems (I came near the finish when people — those still there — looked like they needed a little light relief!): ‘When People Say’,  ‘It’s Not the Wrinkles’ and ‘Our Mothers Suffered Martyrdom’ three recent poems.

It only seems yesterday since the last ‘Last Wednesday’ open mic, but here it was again in


Sandra Harris


September large as life and twice as natural at Chaplin’s Bar in Hawkins Street. A long line-up of readers and performers: Sandra Harris with a short story, Ann Tannem with (among others) a poem called ‘Not Linguistic Gymnastics’ and one referencing Beatles songs which, being a great Beatles fan, I liked a lot. Hugh Dillon gave himself a first open mic outing and did very well with (among others) a clever poem on the phrase ‘OK’. Steve Conway read a piece about the time he was very innocent about ‘girls’. (Ah, them were the days, Steve)… Raven turned up to give his usual outstanding (and astounding) scriptless performance, followed by Ross Hattaway who continues to instruct us about husband killing.

Roger Hudson has a book out and read some from it and Dave Rock did one set in Japan. Inez Dillon read a series of Haiku, informing us en route that haiku should be read twice. I hadn’t heard this before but it sure stands to reason, given how short and delicate they are: often they’re gone before you can focus on them. So, thanks, Inez! Hope to see others follow your practice.


Vincent Edward Manda


Jim Rooney, Bob Shakeshaft , Oran Ryan and Helen Dempsey kept things on the boil and then Paul Hendricks gave some really good story excerpts. Ray Connealy was uup then with a brief short story and then Phil (surname gone from my memory, sorry Phil): great poems (‘I’m going south, but only south of the city…’). I’ve lost track of the great stuff on display tonight here in Chaplin’s, but Vincent Edward Manda and Damien Clarke stay in my mind. For own part, I was on rather late and had just time to squeeze in one of my own favourites ‘On the Westlake at Hang Zhou, China, Where Poetry is Gained in Translation’ from my collection ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’. The poem attempts to give the lie to that old chestnut to the effect that ‘poetry is what is lost in translation’ (WH Auden?), as regards the Chinese language anyway.The way they name their places is simply stunningly beautiful.

Yet again thanks to our indefatigable MC for the evening, Declan McLoughlin. (That’s the word George Galloway used to describe Saddam Hussein. Oh well..).


Jim Rooney



Phil (next time I promise to remember your surname!!)



Ann Tannem