Click HERE to listen in on a discussion about poetry and poets, and writing in general, held in The Twisted Pepper Cafe, Middle Abbey Street, Dublin and organised by The Seven Towers Agency in August 2011. Participants include Eamonn Lynskey, Oran Ryan, Helen Dempsey, Bob Shakeshaft, Anne Tannam, Mary Wogan and Delta O’Hara and Ruairi Conneely.

Click HERE to listen to author Gearoid O’Dowd talk about his new book ‘He Who Dared and Died’, which is a facinationg account of a fascinating man – Gearoid’s uncle, Chris O’Dowd, who ran away from home in Galway in 1939 at the age of 18 to join the British Army (not a popular career choice at the time, although chosen by many thousands of Irishmen). A real-life adventurer, he was one of the first soldiers in the (then) new elite force The Special Air Service’, famous far and wide (some say notorious far and wide) as the SAS.

Gearoid provides an insight, not only into the man and his background but

Chris O'Dowd MM 1921-1943

also into the writing of the book and the difficulties thereof. As you can imagine, there were lots of things that he would like to have found out but the SAS, being the SAS, it really seems to have been a case of stiff upper lips and silence. However, sharing some of his uncle’s tenacity, Gearoid winkled out enough information to create a thoroughly interesting story about this extraordinary man whose courage and intrepid spirit earned him the prestigious Military Medal (MM) and who was tragically killed in action in Italy in October 1943. We talk in the programme also about the way that men like Chris O’Dowd, and the many like him, who ‘fought in foreign lands’ were for so long ignored in the telling of Irish history and about the recent changes for the better in this regard.

Last week’s Seven Tower’s themed reading at Chapters Bookstore in Dublin was on

Bernie O'Sullivan

‘Animals’ and first into the fray was Karl Parkinson with his City Sonata, a poem which mentions gulls and so, if you consider gulls as animals… but who cares. What a great poem it is (‘ I sing the city into exsitence from my dreaming…’). Also a new poem called ‘Fishing’. Eileen Keane gave an excerpt from a story in which a cat figures prominently (very good, but I’m somewhat damaged as to ‘cats’, having endured an awful lot about ‘Kilkenny cats’ during the previous week). Then Bernie O’Reilly with some poems, among which one with a moral: don’t creep around the house late at night looking for cheese. OK, Bernie. Point taken. Richard Halperinon a brief visit from Paris read from his book ‘Anniversary’ and one published in that

Oran Ryan

new magazine ‘The Moth’ which I’m never able to find anywhere. John Sexton gave a powerful rendering of ‘The Green Owl’ and some others. Terrific stuff. I found shades of Bukowski in his (John’s)  ‘The Invisible Horses’. Alma Brayden read from her ‘Prism’ book and then Oran Ryan described how ‘Alexander Wormgrind Saved the World’ and Phil Lynch came up with a polemical poem referring to those now far off days of the Economic Boom (remember?). I was last (but of course not least) with poems about cats, dogs (‘The Dogs in the Street…’  from my book ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’) and rats. Veryenjoyable to read and to listen. Next month (Thurs 13th Oct) the theme is ‘Ghosts and Ghouls’ in keeping with the month that will be in it. Come along and have a great evening.

If you find Christopher Marlowe fascinating, you’ll find this book fascinating. If you don’t, well… I am really sorry about your cultural impoverishment. My sincere condolences.

Christopher Marlowe was so many things: a Man-about-town (London) with various acquaintances in high society and in  low (very low); a playwright who brought the pentameter line to heights only equalled by his great successor, never surpassed; poet too with at least one poem that will never lose its place in the anthologies (‘Come Live with Me and Be My Love…’). And spy. Not so much known about the ‘spy’ bit, I gather, but aspects of his comings and goings and the people he met strongly point to it. What talent! But what a terrible entry in the annals of Eng. Lit. that he died aged just 39 in a tavern brawl in Deptford.

I’m not a great fan of ‘historical fiction’ and have tried out many a book of its kind only to give up

Anthony Burgess

soon enough because of the way the historical characters were made to speak / act just did not ring true for me. Also there’s usually cartloads of ‘atmospheric background’ which smells of hours spent in the reference / research library section and which holds up the plot no end.

Anthony Burgess does NOT hold things up. He goes at cracking pace, and his ‘atmospherics’ are largely carried by the way he recreates an ‘Elizabethan’ English language, and in the way he just doesn’t tell you about the sights and sounds of the London of the time. He takes you out and about in the streets and taverns in the company of  the characters and shows you the sights. Some of them are unforgettable, unfortunately. I can’t get out of my mind the executions at at St. Giles Fields where the poor miserable wretches were first half-hanged, then their privates sliced off, then their bellies slit open and their guts pulled out for them to see before they died. And then the executioner and his apprentices set to chopping up the remains and throwing them into a vat to boil. And then… OK. Sorry. Just wanted to get across the authenticity of the writing…

It has to said that I was ready to like this book before I read it. I still remember reading Tamburlaine at UCD ( a very long time ago) and what a great thing it was. I was not alone in being absolutely mesmerised by the Elizabethan Age and its literature, and Christopher Marlowe made a really big impression on me. It was great to be drawn into his world and (in however imaginary a way) brought closer to him. What a read!

Click HERE to listen to my ‘Behind the Lines’ programme on Liffey Sound 96.4 FM radio

Richard Halperin

featuring poet Richard Halperin talking about his new book ‘Anniversary’ (published by Salmon) and about the many places, things and people that inspire his work. Richard lives in Paris and has behind him a substantial body of work published… and more to come!

‘Behind the Lines’ is broadcast every Tuesday from 8.00-9.00 pm. Available on the www and localy in the Lucan area on 96.4 FM

Click HERE to listen to the irrepressible Delta O’Hara talking with me and reading from her works

on the ‘Behind the Lines’ programme on Liffey Sound FM. Delta has an amazing range of voices which lends great colour to her reading. The programme ranges over her writing in Ireland and in San Francisco, where she spent some years, and in many other places. Also you can hear of her adventures as an X-Factor candidate!  You can also catch Delta at venues around the city from time to time performing her work. She is a great believer in live performance and has organized many events over the while, for herself and others.

Names out of a hat instead of our usual suave MC Declan McLoughlan (holidays)But we

Liz McSkeane

managed OK, with lots of top class stuff on display, too much to note down, but here’ s a few I found really good: Top of the lot must be Liz McSkeane‘s story ‘Mrs Gordon’, which harks back to her (Liz’s) Glasgow childhood. What a terrific story. Also very impressive was Sandra Harris with her story about Jesus going for a job in his local supermarket – Very funny, with just the right trace of satire. As for the poets, must mention Mary Wogan, now becoming a welcome regular reader in the Seven Towers events, and Phil

Mary Wogan

lynch who did full justice to his ‘Guernica’ poem. Ross Hattaway produced his very humourous ‘tanka’ poems and Steve Conway gave some of his forthcoming book ‘Running Away from the Circus’. Evan Costigan and Sean Ruane, newcomers, also impressive.

So many others (Ann Tannam with her ‘Paradise Lost’ poem… Oh the innocence! – Delta

Ross Hattaway

O’Hara with her phone-sex drama… Oh the not-so-innocence!) too many to mention in a quick blog. This Seven Towers monthly open mic remains for me one of the very best open mics I’ve ever been at, and I’ve been at more than just a few in my time. Starts early, finishes early, is regular and well-organised, and always great stuff and friendly atmosphere. What more do we want? Well, I guess we would all like to be paid a substatial fee for our contributions… but that will have to wait!