Another Seven Towers monthly ‘Last Wednesday Open Mic’ arrives 5 minutes aftet the last one.. or it seems like that! Plenty of talent on displayin the Twisted Pepper Cafe in Dublin. Oran Ryan led off with a new prose piece, followed by Helen Dempsey, Roger Hudson and Steve Conway,  also with new work. Steve’s piece was subtitled ‘All I Learned about Radio I learned by Screwing It Up, but of course he was being modest (?). A very emotive poem from Ann Tannem took us all by surprise, she being usually more understated in her work. But the subject (child abuse) deserved every bit of her direct treatment. Very sharp stuff. Silence followed. Then great applause.

Phil Lynch gave some older poems and some new and Sandra Harris gave a story which (I thought) derailed itself a bit into another story. One was a searing satire on

Sandra Harris

the seemingly never-ending stream of people who think they can write as as opposed those those who actually can (and do) which was really good, but which then turned into a satire on the X-Facor TV programme, also very good but, to my mind, a different story. More work then from Liam Ryan, Neville Keary and  Bob Shakeshaft. Had to leave after Eileen Keane’s story ‘Boy on a Window Ledge’. (When is Eileen’s story collection coming out? It’s time). Apologies to the rest of the great cast of ‘The July Seven Towers Last Wednesday’. The next one in August will arive in about 10 minutes from now…

Click HERE to listen to a podcast of Brendan Nolan talking with me recently on my ‘Behind the Lines’ programme on our local radio station Liffey Sound FM 96.4 (the podcast is by courtesy of  the MediaFire website). My programme is broadcast every Tuesday from 8.00 to 9.00 pm and can be heard locally and on the world wide web (see our website ‘Behind the Lines’ tries to get behind the actual novels, short stories, poetry, music and see how the work came about.

Brendan Nolan is the author of several books, including a very well received book on Dublin’s Phoenix Park and its history. This podcast programme focuses on his  published book of stories (or ‘tales’ as he prefers to call them) ‘Barking Mad‘ (Fresh Appeal Press 2008) and on the skills of storytelling. Brendan hosts a program on West Dublin Access Radio (WDAR) ‘Telling Tales’ and also has delivered his stories in person at various Dublin venues. In the programme you can hear a ‘live’ performance from Brendan which is released on CD. My thanks to him for coming on the show.


A reading today at the Twisted Pepper Cafe in Middle Abbey Street, Dublin at 3.00pm organised by Seven Towers: Noel Duffy, Pauline Fayne, Eamonn Lynskey and Alma Brayden. Noel read from his book (sorry didn’t get name of , yet), including a poem focusing in bees and their intricate social organisation. Pauline obliged with some from her recently published book ‘Mowing in the Dark‘ (Revival Press 2011) and Alma read from her book ‘Prism’ (Seven Towers 2011) and some some new work.  I also read some new work with which I am just now wrestling. Oran Ryan did duty as facilitator. There is a fine range of Irish publications on sale at this venue every Saturday. More to the


point, it is here you will get absolutely up-to the minute work, some of it ‘hot off the press’, like Pauline’s book (which is really good). Another opportunity to here up-to-the minute scribblings is next Wednesday (27th July) at the regular Seven Towers Last Wednesday Open Mic (same venue) which starts at 7.30 pm. See you there!!!

Click here for podcast (allow 10 mins or so for download). Apologies for the length of time it has taken me to put up a podcast of the Liffey Sound FM programme featuring that great Limerick magazine The Revival Literary Journal. Permissions had to be sought and various technicals overcome. Next time will be quicker! A great time was had by all at the Locke Bar, with Tom Muldowney officiating as genial MC and Ciaran O’Driscoll doing the launch speech. Featured in the podcast are Seamus Harrington, Sarah Clancy, Richard Halperin, Ray Hitchings, Mary Hodgins-Fean, John Pinschmidt, John Carew, Sheila Fitzpatrick-O’Donnell, Mary Melvin Geoghegan, Frank Farrelly, Jean Kavanagh, Brian Blaney and Barry Finegan, with guests Tim Evans and PJ Taylor. Unfortunately, the last line of Mary Melvin  Geoghegan’s great poem about Leonard Cohen got lost through a technical accident, so I include it below:


Sunday 1st August 2010

We stopped at Drumcliffe

to pay our respects.

And notice how close

he requested his resting place

to the door of the church.

Then out to Lissadell

bumper to bumper

to the big field, parking

alongside the Atlantic.

A walk through the evening lit trees

brought us to the front door and

all the fans sunbathing outside.

Up in our seats

we surveyed all that was hours

between Ben Bulben and the shore.

Ten he appeared as thin as a stripe

on his well made suit.

I was back in the attic at home

with my father roaring

turn the damn thing down –

At twilight he welcomed us home

and told us he loved each one.

I believed him

and went home

silently weeping

‘Glory Hallelujha’

Mary Melvin Geoghegan

‘A philanderer obsessed with his wife’, Simon Hoggart said about Alan Clarke. It’s true that, for all his promiscuity, Clarke really did love Jane, his long-suffering wife. This is abundantly clear in his diaries and forms a constant theme in this biography by Ion Trewin who, as Clarke’s publisher of the diaries during his lifetime, had a unique insight into the man and his morals.

It’s a compelling read, about a compelling man. It’s good too to get an overall view of someone who was many things at once: upper class snob, Etonian, rich as hell, historian, Conservative MP and cabinet minister, wit, diarist… and serial womaniser. It’s often said he rivals Samuel Pepys as a diarist. In many ways he is far better.

I’m trying to resist the temptation to indulge is quoting from his many bon mots but can’t restrain myself from giving this one: Up before the local Conservative party activists and trying to get selection as the parliamentary candidate he was asked if he had skeletons in his past. ‘I’ve got whole cupboards of them’, he replied, gaining a huge laugh and, eventually, the nomination. And as regards his (well earned) notoriety as a man who had an affair with a woman AND ALSO her daughters, far from this being being a problem with the party faithful by alienating women and angering men (as had been feared) — ‘the exact opposite happened. It amused women and impressed men no end’ his biographer reports.

Anyone who has read the diaries will relish reading the wit again, but a biography is not a diary and we are allowed to see the final, slow demise of Alan Clarke into terminal illness. It’s well handled by Ion Trewin but nothing could disguise the dreadfulness of it all. Clarke really does merit the old cliche: We will never look upon his like again.


Spent this last week in Kinsale where the Arts Festival was in full swing. Providentially amazing sunny weather which certainly did NOT detract from the various enjoyments. Got to hear Denis O’Driscoll read in the Lord Kingsale pub and was, as always, taken by his quirky humour in ‘Misunderstandind and Musak’ and many other poems. Lots of local talent followed, including Matthew Sweeney, but unfortunately I had to leave. Family!

Later on attended a ticketed event at the Carmelite Friary where Derek Mahon introduced Harry Clifton. Apart from his great stuff I was glad to hear Harry say that his recent appointment as ‘Irish Professor of Poetry’ (apparently making him the equivalent of Irish ‘poet laureate’) seemed to him like a huge wheel which, when he stepped onto  it, seemed to want to wheel him off in its own directions. BUT that he resisted! He read some early poems and from ‘Secular Eden’, his paris-based book and his  delivery showed he still has not yet developed the ‘poetry voice’ but reads clearly and directly to his audience. His explanatory remarks and introductions also were well judged and not, as is so often the case, tedious. It was a very well received reading . Very professional while not being too distant.  

 Also got to see a ‘music prodigy’, or at least I don’t know just how one would otherwise describe Ben Burton who, at 18 years of age gave a concert at the Carmelite Church on Friday 15th which was wonderful. Bach, Rimsky-Korsakov and many others (I am too ignorant to have heard of) on the xylophone and marimba. The MC told us that Ben, who studied at the County Cork VEC School of Music, will leave Kinsale in September to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. No surprise there! What a great musician he is.  Full credit too to his friends Alex Peyton and Mark O’Sullivan who accompanied him.

Kinsale is a very attractive town. Colour everywhere and real friendliness. Traffic is a bit horrific, and parking… well, let’s not go there. But you can’t blame the town: those winding ‘olde worlde’ streets were not meant for cars. It is very pleasant to walk around and look into the shops, which are many and varied. Great artwork on display too everywhere. Great beaches too and lots of activities for everyone. And, no, I’m not getting a brown envelope for saying all this. It’s just the honest truth! I really enjoyed myself. And I’ll be back!