An impressive line of new books were launched this evening (23 Nov) by the Arlen imprint
in association with Poetry Ireland. Geraldine Mills led off with her book (shared with Lisa Taylor) ‘The Other Side of Longing’, including a poem comparing our Leprechauns with other foreign varieties. According to Geraldine, ours are ‘meaner’ (?). Then it was Tom Duddy who read from his ‘The Hiding Place’ three poems, ‘The Quiet Life’, ‘Left Bank’ and ‘Garden Party’. I liked ‘Left Bank’ with its evocations of ‘This old street which still dreams of being / central again one day, cannot change itself…’ and the people who still came there, themselves now changed, and yet unchanged. Other readings were from Maighread Medbh, Adrian Kenny (on behalf of Jim Chapson), Gerard Smith (who read from James Liddy’s posthumous collection, ‘Fest City’), Geraldine Mitchell (whose poem involving the new scientific discoveries relating to dark matter struck me as very original, and Kate Newman from her ‘I Am a Horse’ collection.
Kevin Higgens and Susan Millar du Mars launched their new poetry books in Dublin at Chaplin’s of Hawkin’s Street. The event was organised by the Seven Towers Agency and the poets were introduced by Patrick Chapman. I was delighted to be in attendance because these are two really fine poets and quite among the best ‘on offer’ in the Irish poetry scene at present. This praise is genuinely meant. Their work is both interesting and exciting.
Susan went first with the poem that gives to collection its title: ‘Dreams for Breakfast’ and then ‘Vacant Building’. I think you can tell from the title of the last-named that it is ‘a poem for our times’: the building is one of the ‘Ozymandian Towers’ (Susan’s phrase) the ‘Boom’ has left us. ‘Outside the Crane Bar’ is a sort of tribute poem to that well-known pub which has seen so much music and poetry, as well a s being a poem about loneliness. She finished with ‘I Dream of Stephen Fry’. According to her, he’s a big hit with the ladies. I must watch his programmes more closely.
Kevin then obliged with a couple of poems from his new collection ‘Frightening New Furniture’. Although the cover of his book shows actual chairs, the ‘new furniture’ he has in mind in some of the poems is that adjustment we will have to make now that the Boom is over. ‘Ourselves Again’ is a poem is this vein. Now that the celtic tiger is gone ‘… We’ll be ourselves again/ and then some’. A ‘lighter’ poem about unwelcome guests (‘House Guest’) was very appealing.
It’s always good to hear the writer read his/her work. Even when they are not really very good readers it’s good to hear them. But these are two very good readers and their obvious good humour is a great lift. Interesting how humour pervades their work, even the very grim parts of that work (I love grim humour) and lifts it to a very accessable level. If you haven’t read these books… you’re missing a lot.
Both books are published by Salmon Poetry (salmonpoetry.com)
I finally got my second collection out of my hair, first in Cassidy’s of Westmoreland Street (launched by Karl Parkinson) and then in Lucan Library (launched by Niamh Bagnell). And a big thank you to Seven Towers for publishing it. Seventysix poems. It’s been a long time since my first collection, ‘Dispatches & Recollections’ in 1998 and what kept me so long? I guess you musn’t be in the poetry-writing-publishing arena if you ask that question. If you are, you will know just how difficult it is to get your work in print. It’s not just because there are so many really good poets out there, which there are. Or because there are so few publishers– also true. It’s also such an effort to keep up the submissions and not be ground down by the rejections. And if anyone tells you that as time goes on one doesn’t mind rejections take it from me that that’s not true either! One just learns to absorb them and carry on regardless.
In fact I had a collection assembled about five years ago, and almost got to the publishing stage but (and I want to cut a long story short) things didn’t work out. I put a lot of work into preparing that collection and so I really could not psyche myself up to start submissions again until some time afterwards. Just about then I started going in to the Seven Towers open mic, which hadn’t been going very long. The atmosphere was welcoming and inclusive and, eventually, I submitted my book. Seven Towers lays emphasis on open mic performance poetry as well as less ‘dramatic’ page poetry. (In fact all poetry is performance poetry: think of John Donne). Since my work ‘straddles’ both ‘camps’ (such terrible categorising!), or more precisely, since my poetry works equally well in both ‘formats’, my submission was accepted. Much of the poetry published by Seven Towers grows out of its open mic and listed reading venues. From the first I was delighted with this and still am. This is the way to write. Write, read out, amend, read out again, amend again… Well, this is the way I write so I guess it’s too much to say it’s the way. In the final analysis, there’s not just one way. However, as far as I am concerned, one has to get the stuff out in front of an audience to be sure if it works, both for the audience AND the poet. I don’t believe that poetry is a solitary meditative exercise.
The poems cover a long period of time. One of them, ‘When I am become Again’ was published in 1980, but most of them are of much more recent date. Many of them stem directly from my Seven Towers readings (such as ‘OMIGOD: Not Another Newgrange Poem!) and have all the hallmarks of ‘performance’. Others, somewhat ‘quieter’ (‘Times I Hear of Lives Lost’) date from a time previous to Seven Towers, but are still indebted to that open mic for a little ‘fine-tuning’ here and there. Still others were ‘forged’ at Gerry McNamara’s ‘Write & Recite’ open mics and others at Delta O’Hara’s ‘SpyBar’ sessions. As you can see, the book has a rather ‘mongrel’ pedigree. And I’m proud of that.
I have been using the name ‘Seven Towers’ a lot in the above meanderings, but it all really comes down to individuals in the end and I must say particular thanks to Sarah Lundberg, Oran Ryan, and Ross Hattaway for their encouragement over the years. I should also mention Steve Conway, but I won’t because he is of a shy and retiring disposition and wouldn’t like to be singled out.And I could not possibly list all the other writers who have helped me in the 7T open mics. Everyone I heard showed me something I could use and I was not ashamed to steal it– like all true writers.
Alma Brayden launched her first collection ‘Prism’ (published by Seven Towers) at Cassidy’s of Westmoreland Street last Wednesday 19th May. It’s a fine collection, which has a colour reproduction of one of her own paintings on its cover and, in my view, is the best Seven Towers cover so far. And you can tell this book by its cover: the poems are full of colour and detail. She read her ‘Celtic Animals’ poem and ”Chiaroscuro’– the one about Carravaggio’s cat. (I don’t know whether this poem is based on research or pure imagination, but it’s very good irrespective). I heard her read her very clever poem ‘Pythagoras in Love’ before and it was great to hear it again. Lots of other poems too, sad ones and humorous, and afterwards reading the book, I found two others I really like a lot, both entitled as a colour: ‘Blue’ and ‘Yellow’. The language of many of the poems, like these two, is very spare and balanced, and I like that. I’m looking forward to seeing/hearing her next Wednesday (26th)at the Open Mic.
‘County Lines’ – a portrait of life in South Dublin County, edited by Dermot Bolger
Last Thursday saw the launch, in Tallaght Library, of a series of audio books by the local studies section. There are eight books in all and a contribution from me appears in one of them, the ‘County Lines’ book (the book was originally published by New Island press). It’s entitled ‘Oh Brave New World!’ and concerns the heady enthusiastic first few years when Kathy and I moved into our semidetached house in Hillcrest, Lucan, and I began writing ‘in earnest’. Many of the poems from that period featured in my first collectoion from Lapwing (‘Dispatches and Recollections’ 1998). It’s that sort of book, full of memories and bits and pieces of personal and communal history. It’s very well produced and I am proud to be in it alongside my neighbours. Full marks to Dermot Bolger, who initiated the project, and to the readers Emer Horgan and Jonathen White who did such a good job on bringing the pieces to life.
Yesterday (Wednesday) saw the launch of a posthumous collection of poetry from Ray Pospisil who died about two years ago. It’s a very impressive collection and underlines the tragedy of his loss. Quincy Lehr hosted and provided a commentary between readings of Ray’s work. The collection is entitled ‘The Bell’ and is published by Seven Towers (www.seventowers.ie)