A great night was had by all at The Glen of Aherlow pub where the awards for the

Orla Martin
Orla Martin

2014 Francis Ledwidge International Poetry Competition were presented on Last Thursday (Oct. 27th). The competition is now in its 16th year and great credit must go to its organisers Liam O’Meara and Michael Flanagan for staying the course in what must be one of Ireland’s longest-running events.

The competition winners were:

First Place: Ann Moriarty,  Co Limerick
              Poem:  Preparation
 Second Place: Orla Martin,  Dublin
               Poem: ‘ The Poets
Third Place: Liam Ryan, Co Laoise.
               Poem:  ‘Orpheus’

Ann and Orla were on hand to read their work, as were many

Catherine Ann Cullen
Catherine Ann Cullen

others who featured in the ‘Commendeds’ . The competition is very inclusive and that’s one of the great things about it. I featured in the ‘Commendeds’, along with The Bard of Longford (and my good friend) Mary Melvin Geoghegan, and other noteworthy scribes like Catherine Ann Cullen, Christine Broe, Michael Farry  and James Conway (to mention but a few).

crannog 37Very gratified to have made it into Crannog again, Galway’s long-enduring, top-notch poetry and short stories magazine, edited by Tony O’Dwyer, Ger Burke, Jarlath Fahy and Sandra Bunting. Delighted too to read on the launch night (Oct 31st) in The Crane Bar with the rest of the gala company. The magazine is, as always, well turned out and immaculately proofed, with an arresting cover by Sandra.

This edition (no. 37, autumn 2014) lines up plenty of good stuff. My own favourtite poems (apart from my own one, of course!) are Frank Farrelly’s ‘Everest’, an unrhymed hexameter sonnet which springs a surprise in the sestet; also I liked very much Patrick Chapman’s ‘The Infinite Questionnaire’ with its humanistic take on philosophical questions. Great last line: “A god is not required. In fact it rather spoils the view.” Edward O’Dwyer’s list poem ‘Wall’ is good too: “That day the God of Other Plans/tore up the list of things you were meant to be…”

My own poem is a two-voice, ‘counterpoint’ piece entitled ‘Warrior’:




Who did he leave behind

that morning he set out?


“… and as to age, the carbon dating

indicates a lengthy time span

of some nineteen hundred years …”


Who prayed for him each night?

Who watched for him by day?


“… Our X-rays of the skull, indeed

the actual skull itself, reveal

the arrow struck him from behind …”


Who stopped each passing stranger

to ask for word of him?


“… The angle of trajectory tells us

much about the victim’s stance

the moment just before he fell …”


Who listened every night

to hear his step outside?


“… We have here that unfortunate

and not infrequent military

occurrence: death from friendly fire …”


Who hoped when hope was dead?

Who mourned for him a lifetime?


“… Well, I think we have resolved

the most important questions. Any

from the floor? No? Thank you all.”


How many generations

before his name was lost?





Red FoxSon of the Sioux and nephew of Crazy Horse, Red Fox was a leading spokesman for the Indian legacy. In his long life (1870-1976) he heard the guns at Custer’s last stand, was only twenty years old when news was brought of the massacre at Wounded Knee, and survived to see the newsreels of the Vietnam tragedy. This book is based on notes he made late in life of what he had witnessed and is fleshed d out into a very readable account by Chas Asher, of whom I know nothing except he was a news reporter and published some books in the 1930s.

This book was first published in 1972, though in his introduction Asher says that he first met the Chief in 1969 and began to talk with him then about his long life and experiences. Any account of the fortunes of the Native American indigenous peoples over the last two centuries is heartbreaking. Red Fox takes us through some of the atrocities perpetrated on them by the beneficiaries of ‘manifest destiny’ and attempts to detail them in a factual, non-emotive way, though this of course is not always possible, given the horrors he has to recount. The Native American journey (or rather, ‘forced march’) from being proud nations to being outcasts in their own lands is well told in a wonderfully brief and to-the-point little book (152 pages!).

Besides being an important figure with his own people, Red Fox also became something of aBuffBill Poster personage among the whites through his involvement with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. He got on well with Bill, who understood Indian ways and, whatever about using them for profit, treated them well enough and gave them some much-needed employment. Interestingly, the show did a tour of Ireland around 1905, doing performances Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Of course Red Fox knew that the Wild West Show shenaigans was ultimately little more than the Indian being exploited and exhibited as a ‘savage’, a curiosity from the Wild West past. As regards being seen as a savage, he says: “… that was the only way the White man could justify his acts as he swept across America shooting everything in his gunsights” (p.137)

But he made the best of the situation. What else he could he do? He wasn’t a man to sit and mope in his teepee. In fact he comes across as a pragmatist. He knew the game was up as regards the Native American battle to save their lands. At the same time, he comes across as a man who never lost his sense of his own worth, nor of his people’s worth.

Anyone with an interest in the history of the North  American native peoples should read this book.



It’s Time

Last April my poem ‘It’s Time’ was published in the Arts and Books section of the Saturday Irish Times. This was very gratifying because the Times has a big circulation and not since  I was published all those years ago in The Irish Press  by David Marcus, and some years ago in The Sunday Tribune by Ciaran Carty have I had such publicity. Both of these newspapers have since disappeared, and I strongly contest any suggestion that my poetry was in any way responsible.

A big thank you to the Irish Times Literary Editor Gerard Smyth and all the poets who sent congratulations. Who ever said that poets were not nice people?

The poem is a seasonal one and tries to pin down that moment when you go outdoors one morning early and think: Yes! It’s here at last. Spring!

You’ll say: What nonsense. Spring comes gradually. Well, it does. And it doesn’t.

It’s Time

The jasmine bush absorbs a crystal sky

not seen for months. The sodden mess of leaves

that clogged the path all winter now is dry

and ready to be swept. There’s something sharp

about the sunlight blinds the eye this morning –

stems have straightened up, the wheelie bin

has taken on a strange new lustre.


This the first day he has shone in earnest,

edging over boundary walls and hedges

to inspect our winter graveyards. Days

of early dark and icy outside taps

are numbered. When I creak the shed door open,

shears and spade blink in the corner: come,

the world must be newmade. It’s time.

Airlie Hgts




FerraroIn retrospect, and even at the time, Geraldine Ferraro had very little chance of being elected Vice President of the United States in 1984, up against ‘the great communicator’ and the first George Bush. But she gave it her best shot and made history by being the first woman to compete for the second highest political office in the land.

This ‘phenomenon’ of being the ‘first woman, etc’ was both an advantage and a disadvantage. It got her publicity and made her something of a novelty act, but it also brought a type of intense scrutiny that a male contender would not have attracted. On the matter of dress: “… there are things that happen … for instance, if you’re walking along in a parade and you raise your arm and your slip shows, people might be critical of you. No guy has a problem like that …” And those constant boquets of flowers on arrival – “On the one hand, there was Geraldine Ferraro,  a person who loves flowers. On the other hand, there was Geraldine Ferraro, the vice-presidential candidate who was not going to walk around looking like a bridesmaid. So I’d thank the donor very much and instantly  hand the lowers to Eleanor [her assistant].”

More serious was the way her husband and his business affairs were brought into theFerraro2 frame in an attempt to find something irregular. And of course, business being business,  something was found, which although rather minor, was magnified in the context of his wife’s drive for  the VP office. Serious also was her weakness on issues like abortion because, although a practising Roman Catholic, she was, like many American female practising Catholics, pro-choice. Needless to say this brought her into conflict with her Church and seriously damaged her among co-religionists. Hardened two-term congresswoman though she was, she felt personally hurt by this, quoting President John F. Kennedy: “I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.”

Geraldine Ferraro died in 2011 at the age of 75  after a long battle with cancer. She didn’t make it to the White House but she did make history. This is a well-written account of one of the toughest and most demanding campaign trails in the world. All the tougher when you’re a woman, but Geraldine was up for it. Her fighting spirit and warm personality is well served by this book and the roller-coaster nature of the whole adventure is fascinating. Recommended reading.

Bk Paradise LostWhen one visits a place there is often the urge to find out more about it. So it was with me when I stayed a few holiday days in the Turkish city of Izmir, formerly Smyrna. A wonderful, vibrant city with lots to see (the fabled Pergamon not far away). One often hears about places ‘that have a great history behind them’ and it’s a bit of a truism. However, with Izmir one can sense that it is a place of great deeds and adventures, some admirable, some reprehensible. So I picked up Giles Milton’s book ‘Paradise Lost’ (subtitled ‘Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of Islam’s City of Tolerance’) to get a bit of backgrounding.

Milton desribes a city founded in ancient times and in which a veritable hodge-podge of nationalities lived side by side in tolerance and harmony over the centuries. It is not enough to say that this was due in large part to the fact that it was an important commercial centre and that all latent hostilities were buried under the idea that ‘business is business’ and no ideologies or spiritual beliefs should be allowed to interfere. Doubtless this was one of the reasons for peaceful co-habitation but I believe that living in close and friendly terms with people of different religious persuasion can breed mutual respect, provided there is good will on both sides. The destruction of all this tolerance, and the city itself, makes for sad reading.

Nationalist activist and social advocate, Halide Edib, addressing the protest rally against the occupation of Smyrna in May 1919

Halide Edib, the great woman writer and social advocate who played such a prominent role in her country’s developing history and she is pictured in one of the book’s photos in fiery pose, high on a balcony, her cloak dramatically flying in the wind, addressing a protest rally against the occupation of Smyrna in May1919. G

ood book, well written. Recommended.