Did Eliot say his audience was ‘few but select?’ He would have been very pleased with our

Ross Hattaway

themed reading  (‘Christmas Cheer’) organised by Seven Towers, where there was plenty to entertain the intrepids that ventured out on this cold winter evening. Ross Hattaway read from his collection (‘The Gentle Art of Rotting’): ‘Summer New Years’, a poem I always see as something of an elegy for our lost pasts, those times we might have lived (or think we might have lived) more in touch with things before they all vanished. And ‘Singing in Choirs’ which tries to pin down that desire for unity/perfection when we might get everything to go really well for us: the athlete who manages to bring it all together at the moment when it counts… Rare moments! Also Ross gave some from his forthcoming new collection.

Anne Morgan

Anne Morgan gave some memory poems, one about a person who nursed a poet through a serious illness and then married him. Lucky poet to meet up with someone like that in his hour of need! Anne’s eye for description comes out very well in ‘Swans in the Winter’. Also some frustrations: she always wanted to do ballet lessons but ended up with Irish Dancing. My sisters too, with similar disappointment! I also liked her poem ‘The Notebook’.

Nothing, not snow, ice or anything else, stops Karl Parkinson

Karl Parkinson

delivering his stuff. And what stuff! I really enjoy his poetry with it’s startling imagery (snow=white death). As well as some of his own, he read ‘Thanksgiving’ by William Burroughs and it was so good I am tracking it down to read again.

I read ‘Bosnian Housewife’ from my ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’ collection, then ‘Metsu’s Woman’, a first outing for a poem on the art of Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667) whose exhibition in the National Gallery has to be seen to be believed, it’s so good. Then I read a short Xmas poem, just to include myself (somehow) in the evening’s theme.

A very enjoyable reading. And thanks to Sarah who acted as MC.

A book that doesn’t spare the British Empire as regards cruelty, atrocity and humbug. ” The native Americans were tolerated when they were able to fit in to the emerging British economic order … but where [they] claimed ownership of agriculturally valuable land, coexistence was simply ruled out. If the Indians resisted expropriation, then they could and should (in Locke’s words) ‘be destroyed as a Lyon or a Tyger, one of those wild Savage Beasts, with whom men can have no Society or Security’ ” (p. 65). Locke? Not the great philosopher? Yes, the very same and at the time (c.1630) acting as ‘Secretary to the Lords Proprietors of North Carolina’  (ie., as ‘Secretary to the Imperial Gang of Murderers and Land Grabbers’).

Even when one is well acquainted with the rape and pillage associated with empire-building, the histories retailed by this book (‘Empire’, by Niall Ferguson) will be disturbing. Details of what was done to the ‘other’ Indians when they revolted in 1857 are sickening to read. A Lieutenant Kendal Coghill is quoted as saying ‘We burnt every village and hanged all the villagers who had treated our fugitives badly until every tree was covered with scoundrels hanging from every branch’ (p.152). Fergusan adds: ‘At the height of the reprisals, one huge banyan tree — which still stands in Cawnpore — was festooned with 150 corpses’.

Of course all this murdering was hard work. Thankfully the invention of the Maxim gun made things easier later on in the century, not to mention the much later blessing of  ‘government from the air’, whereby you warned people if they didn’t do as they were told they could expect to be bombed out of existence next day.

And is there nothing at all to be said FOR the British Empire? As an Englishman, Niall Ferguson tries his best. Look at what the Japanese did to the poor people of Nanking in 1937, he says. Appalling cruelty (and he is so right). Now, if one had to live under and empire, he asks, wasn’t it better to live under a British Empire, rather than under that horrible Japanese Empire? Or, he says, look at the imperial legacy: British Law. The English Language. Membership of the Commonwealth…

Oh dear.  But a great book. Thoroughly recommended.

‘Riposte’ is the poetry broadsheet edited and produced for many years by Michael O’Flanagan . For an annual 15 Euro you will absolutely not find greater value: regular issues in which you will find some 14-15 poems of all styles and persuasions and high quality. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I, being one of the poets featured in this month’s edition received in the post today– but it’s true! ‘Riposte‘ is not just a broadsheet, it’s a great institution and congratulations to allconcerned for keeping it going so long. This edition features poems by Fred Johnson (‘L’Esprite sous Terre’), Frank Murphy (‘The Ties that Bind’), Brendan O’Beirne (‘Growth’), Bernie O’Reilly (‘Gremlins’), Liam O’Meara (‘Requiem for St. Michael’s) and many more. Michael has one himself, ‘Christmas in Thomas Street’. a shopping street embedded in my earliest memories of going shopping with my mother in Duffys, Frawleys and Woolworths (are we old or what?).

You owe it to yourself to subscribe (and contribute) to this wonder-full broadsheet. To get on the mailing list send 15 Euro  to ‘Riposte”, 28 Emmet Road, Kilmainham, Dublin 8. It’ll be one of the best investments you ever made (and one of the safest, considering the state of the bond markets at present!). You’ll get top-class poems sent to you every month. Like, ahem… the following:


(‘T-rex find could bring Jurassic Park to Life’ -News report)

Hell Creek, Montana. Fossils found,

and one thigh-bone has broken open, showing

traces of blood vessels. Now,

if we could get a bit of DNA

we might clone up a dinosaur or two–

Imagine the firk of them walking the Earth again,

arm in arm!

Woodvale, Lucan. Many insults hurled,

the ties we thought that bound us broken, showing

wounds we thought were long-forgotten. Now

if we could manage a reconciliation

we might dig up our former selves intact–

Imagine the firk of us walking through Lucan  again,

arm in arm!

Eamonn Lynskey  (Published in ‘Riposte’ Dec. 2010)

The very last ‘Last Wednesday’ of the year. No open mic in December because, cliche-ridden, we’ll all be busy filling ourselves with pudding and turkey and having Good Cheer. Well, that’s the hope anyway, irrespective of Brian & Brian’s budget.

Damien Clarke kicked off with ‘Elements’, a poem to a departed friend which he read before

Damien Clarke

and is very poignant. Good Haiku too, but I think he should read these twice to allow them to ‘dawn’. His series of philosophical observations, excellent in themselves, tend to become an unconnected series of maxims when delivered one after another. Philip Lynch gave a series of short love poems and then one that took a swipe at Joe Duffy’s radio-callers, especially those mostly concerned with their own unreconstructed nimby-ism (Not In My Back Yard: infuriating as they are, I find them to be great listening!). Roger Hudson read from his recent collection from Lapwing, including one about how the Xmas lights start going on in October. (I myself saw Xmas stuff in the shops this year before Hallowe’en!). George Sweetman’s poetry took a look at war and he did a really good (serious) parody on Rupert Brook’s’ famous ‘If I Should Die..’. Sandra Harris gave another accomplished short story in the (in my opinion) O. Henry vein. Later Liz Mc Skeane gave a story ‘Innocence’ which reminded me of Joyce’s ‘Evelyne. And Eileen Keane read the conclusion of her story about that lady with the B&B and the peculiar guest. Such talented lady short-storyists! I was thinking of doing one, but the jizz is gone out of me for it after what I heard tonight! Ross Hattaway gave, among others, his very witty ‘The New Cooking’ and some ‘tankas’, that 5-7-5-7 line form of poetry writing. Must have a shot at that myself. If Ross can do it…

Oran Ryan gave his ‘Prudence Antipode’ poem, which is intriguing. I think he’s changed the

Ann Tannem

title to ‘The Revised Standard Life of…”, but anyway it is something of an elegy and great to hear. Ann Tannem announced that her collection, ‘Take This Life’, is imminent and gave us a selection from it. Her unscripted performance was quite affecting, given the human, and humane, content of her work (‘… for years and years I prayed to a false God…’). Her understated delivery always adds to the effect. Definitely must get that collection. (Great ‘houndstooth’-style coat too!). Steve Conway regaled us with a piece from his incomparable ‘Shiprocked’ (noting that, like Brian Cowen, he too had survived the raging seas. Maybe a bit too soon to say as regards Mr Cowan, Steve?). Donal Moloney read an extract from a novella and Karle Parkinson gave (among others) his ‘Positivity Manifesto’, David Murphy gave a poem on Jim Larkin and Martin Egan had some really attractive pieces circling around that eternal concern: just what the hell IS ‘love’ anyway. One he dedicated to his friend Brendan Kennelly. In some ways these reminded me of Patrick Kavanagh in his later ‘Grand Canal’ years. I thought Martin’s work very moving.

I gave my poem ‘Deposition’ on the drug-related scenario in Dublin. Then I did some ‘R-word’ poems, just to cheer people up. In fairness, I did take a somewhat humorous look at things like the bail-out and the international bond-markets and so I think people… er… enjoyed the poems. But maybe it was all forced laughter? Dunno. But what else can one do but keep smiling? (inanely)

See you-all in 2011 on January 26th at 7.30. Until then… Happy Xmas! And don’t drown in the mulled wine.