The featured writer at the Sunflower Sessions this month was Liz McSkeane,

Liz McSkeane
Liz McSkeane

a published and award-winning poet (The Hennessy) who read some new work and some ‘older’ work from her collection ‘Snow at the Opera House’ (published by New Island). Her poem ‘Plea Bargain’ (from that aforementioned collection) is a very impressive piece on the vulnerability of civilians in time of war. It is a poem that, once heard or read, tends to stay in the mind and somehow recalls to me the graphic reporting of great women war correspondents like Adie Roche and Lyse Doucet. This poem, and many more, provided us with a great listening experience for our August session.

Also adding to the experience were a number of NEW FACES, like Eamon Maguire with his acerbic writings on suburbia, and a poem entitled ‘Swaps’ which proved that one can write poetry about stamp-collecting (a poem that brought me back to my early youth … about 200 years ago …).  Mandy (no second name given) and Pat (whose second name I can’t remember) provided some entertaining poems on sport and Kenneth Nolan gave a hilarious prose-poem account of his trying to walk down Dame Street against the tide of Spanish tourists, beggars and chuggers. Strictly non-PC stuff from Kenneth which was surprisingly refreshing. More good stuff from Pauline Mullally, Jim Hynes and several more newcomers, whose names I did not get, so slow am I. It is really great to see the Sunflower Sessions expanding into new territories and attracting new voices.

Of course the ‘old comers’  (like myself) were much in evidence too… and where would we be without them? [please note that this is a rhetorical question only].

Again, everyone was indebted to the usual suave handling of the event by MC Declan McLoughlin.

Another Sunflower Session at Nealon’s Pub in Capel Street with featured guest… myNealons front
good self! And very honored was I to step into the spot with a selection of poems going back to when I started seriously into my poetry in the late seventies. Other contributers included Liz McSkeane, Orla Martin (the latter giving an entertaining take on hospital-speak with extremely clever word-play and also a poem on her wry, satiric view

Orla Martin
Orla Martin

of poets), Anamaria Crowe-Serrano and Anne Tannam … Oh yes and some guys: Philip Lynch, Roger Hudson and Ross Hattaway. Good stuff too from a poet whose first name is Rob but I can’t remember his second name. So too with a brace of other newcomers. I must take down some of the new names next month (when, BTW, Liz McSkeane is featured) instead of just mentioning the usual suspects all the time in this blog, thereby giving the impression of there being a ‘clique’ which dominates everything on the night. I would certainly not want to give this impression since the Sunflower is extremely welcoming to all comers and the time allowed is very fairly distributed by the incomparable Declan McLoughlin MC. Besides, there are surely enough cliques in the poetry world already without the Sunflower Sessions adding to them!

Among the poems I read out was this very early one (below) from the late 1970s which describes the scene when we moved into our ‘brand-new’ house. Then, as now, there was a housing shortage (some things never change!) and we were one of the first on the road (itself not finished), with half -built and unbuilt houses around us. Everything was a bit reminiscent of the Wild West. The poem was published later in my first collection Dispatches & Recollections in 1998.


Scarce into our second week we find

long caterpillar tracks when we return

at evening. Just today another cable

swings in long U-shapes against the sky

and poppies wave on mounds of broken soil.

The road is stopped at stunted hedges gathering

strength to tackle scutch and briar and thistle.

All that once was green is grey here now

and dust hangs in the air as metal monsters

masticate the hillsides, delve ravines.

We make our meals on one small camping stove,

and talk about the mortgage. Only just last night

we heard the water gurgle in the taps

at last. Tonight we thought we saw a light

shine two doors down. Have we neighbours?