The Sunflower Sessions continue to flourish, consummately compered by Declan Mcloughlin, albeit with a change of venue and now reincarnated in The Lord Edward Fitzgerald (opposite Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin). And so too another incarnation of its magazine, or ‘narrowsheet’, as its editor Eamon Mag Uidhir calls it, because of its unusual shape.
There definitely is room in Dublin for a publication that brings the poetry of the NOW out into circulation immediately. The poems here in FLARE 08 have all the appearance of being as up to date as you will get, with their ink just freshly dry. There is a lot to be said for a magazine that appears several times a year and features poetry written most probably very recently.
Good quality too. Look at Claire O’Reilly’s paean to the someone (Alva) who arrived into a rather staid place and transformed it: ‘… she was as exotic as pineapple / from another parish … ‘ and who ‘ … nourished our monochrome minds / in the kaleidoscope of her existence …’. What a phrase! ‘monochrome minds’.
And Rob Buchanan’s For You Is OK is wonderful in the full sense of the word: it is full of wonderful usage of language: ‘Away from line of sight, ascending arabesque railed basement steps / An ancient battle-scarred bare-chested aulfella, drunk and bald like myself / but black, smoke stained arthritic … ‘ I don’t usually go for OTT poems but this is irresistible! Really great stuff.
Peter O’Neill’s extensive Sonnets from The Henry Street Arcade Project brought me new discoveries of a place I see most weeks. It evokes the famous cave, ‘which according to Vico / In Scienza nuova, Plato singles out as the origin / Of civiisation’. I hadn’t thought to find Plato’s cave round the corner from the GPO but now I will always. Such is the power of poetry!
I liked Richard Halperin’s sombre Farewell to a Beloved Brother too, with its abrupt start (‘The heavens opened / And he went into them’) reminding me of John Donnes’ straight-to-the chase first lines and equally Henry Vaughan’s (‘They have all gone into the world of light…’). And so I have to say again how privileged I am to be published amidst such fine work. My own offering is also a ‘farewell poem’ in a way, a farewell to all the things I used to do and cannot now do. And despite Allen Ginsburg’s famous line about the dreaded DIY destroying people’s minds, I have to say I always really enjoyed putting up shelves (no, really!):
He is come again to haunt the aisles,
so desperate his need. Come to inhale
the resin scent of deal and pine, planed
and unplaned pointing roofward, waiting
for the careful blade will recreate them
into shapes as yet still hovering ghostly
in his mind like Plato’s caverned forms.
Again he wanders down long corridors
of paints and brushes, white electricals
and dazzling displays of indoor lights
that promise to undarken any soul,
surveys unsullied pruning shears and trowels
displaying gleaming edges, circular saws
and hand-tools nestling pristine in their boxes,
sharing side-by-side a universe
where every cordless drill will guarantee
its teethed chuck to grip the bit so tightly
that no tremble of the hand, no lapse
nor weakness in the aging brain will skew
the outcome. Who will pass these choirs of angels
shining in their tiers and not allow
he feels a sorrow lifting from his heart?
Others come with measuring tape and chart
and calculating eye and tilt of head
to weigh a purchase— Motionless, he stands
in Fixings, undecided whether slot
or Philips screw or toggle-bolt or plug
would best secure a shelf to cavity wall
when suddenly the task appears before him
whole, its every separate part in place
and splendidly complete and now he knows
that he can leave, depart as empty-handed
as the hour he entered all his years ago.
FLARE 08 also features great poems from Seamus Bradley, Rob Buchanan, Natasha Helen Crudden, Kate Dempsey, Helen Harrison, Michael Farry, Eithne Lannon, Jonathan Armas McGlinn, Jen O’Shea, Adriana Ribeiro, David Richardson, Polly Richardson, Daniel Ryan, Roman Rye and Breda Wall Ryan. It is available at the Sunflower Sessions every last Wednesday (7.30pm: The Lord Edward Fitzgerald), and at Books Upstairs in D’Olier Street. €5.
Cover and illustrations are from DMC (instagram@artdmc) photographed by Declan McLoughlin.
Come along and read on the last Wednesday of every month (except December) and fulfill one of the conditions for inclusion in FLARE. The other condition is … good stuff! As they say these days in all the best poetry circles in Dublin … ‘See you at the Sessions!’
Names out of a hat instead of our usual suave MC Declan McLoughlan (holidays). But we
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
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
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!
Another great Open Mic night at ‘The Poetry Place’in Betterton Street, London on Tuesday 2
August, hosted by the genial Niall O’Sullivan … I read my rather grim poem ‘Deposition’ about Dublin’s drug-related gangland killings (a rather grim subject), but then lightened things up a bit with my ‘Coming Back’ and ‘When People Say’. Lots of really good stuff, including poems in memory of the late unfortunate Amy Winehouse. Donal Dempsey had one about retrieving his soul which he had given away in mistake to a charity shop. Janice Windle read her poem ‘Agency Teacher’ which is full of black humour. I liked Betty Davies’s simple poem about London and I feel very sorry to see the mayhem that occurred just after I returned to Dublin. I like the city a lot and always feel good there, having been a resident for two periods of a few years each. I liked also John Paul O’Neill’s ‘The Pacific Ocean’, which he gave without a script. Niall informed us of upcoming celebrations due to ‘Poetry Unplugged’now reaching it fifteenth year. 15 years!!! OMG! Tempus fugit.
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
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…
This basement home for the Seven Towers Open Mic in the Twisted Pepper Cafe seems just the thing. Only thing is: the acoustics are so good no mic is needed. So how can one have an open mic without… a mic…? Well, one can, and very well can one. OK, my incoherence aside, we had good night of readings and performances with Susan Walsh from Wyoming making her debut ‘Last Wednesday’ and Helen Dempsey with a rather grim offering about “Judgement Day’ (she said she was inspired by Declan McLoughlin [our genial MC] saying last time that the world would end on May 21… I heard him say it too but I haven’t been writing poetry about. Just buying up tinned food and praying…). Great to see Andre Kapoor back again with his off-by-heart lyrics (I hate him), Ross Hattaway very serious with pieces on war and its needless sacrifices and a newcomer Raphael (I’ve forgotent his second name) with writing about the
recent Japanese earthquake. This prompted me to read my ‘Kasoturi Jidai’ poem (from ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’) which deals with the devastation suffered by Tokyo during World War II. Alan Garvey also gave some poems and afterwards exchanged books with me and I have been reading his ‘Terror Haza’ collection (Lapwing 2009) since with great interest. Very accomplished, hard writing. Many other great contributions on the night and, as I have said before, if you are not coming to this event every month… there’s no hope for you.
Well, no mic, but not needed in the room we have now at the ‘Twisted Pepper’ cafe in Abbey
Street in Dublin. Smallish, but acoustically very good. I got to start off the evening and launched into my ‘To The Memory of Edward Tenison‘ poem (included in my ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’ collection from Seven Towers, 2010). This poem was written some time ago when St.Mary’s Church (just up the road in Mary Street) had been resurrected as a DIY store and I wrote it after reading a great deal of John Betjeman, so there are the usual traces of influence that stays in the mind after reading a master craftsman. I’m not particularly interested in old churches, certainly not as interested as Betjeman, but there was something poignant about the way the magnificence of St Mary’s internal architecture (old plaques and all) had been made to vie with modern DIY merchandise that caught at the heart.
Great fare tonight. Very impressed with Tony Gilmore‘s analysis of comedy and Ann Tannam’s poem on Irish attitudes towards the weather, which was both comic and rueful. And so much more good stuff. Also it seems to me that there is not so much doom and gloom poetry around as there once was. I think the recession is cheering us up?
The third outing for Seven Towers at the ‘Hammersmith Ram’ in London (Sunday 27th Feb 6.00-8.00pm), MC’d by Eamonn Lynskey, who also read from his collection ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’ and from some new work, including ‘Heaven’, a somewhat wry look at the prospect of ending up in a very boring ‘paradise. (But is he not aware that, by writing this poem he has committed two cardinal sins: Presumption because he assumes he’s going upwards, and Despair because he is so afraid of what he might find? So perhaps he shouldn’t worry about ending up among the angels?) John Clarke, who also read, made the point that even if you are going down, you have to up first to get the verdict. Hmmm. Yes, John, that is rubbing it in a bit. John read poems about how art interferes with life and a nostalgic piece about three villages in Ireland his father used to talk about. He finished up with one of his verbally acrobatic ‘Jazz’ poems. The absolutely irrepressible Betty Pearse gave, among others, ‘Cocky Cockatoo’ a work-in-progress, semi-autobiographical poems and Jessica Lawrence read from her collections, the second one ‘Ravaging the Urban Wildscape’ being full of exact observational detail. All in all a great night followed by lots of talk, and some drinks. A big thank you to Sam (assistant manager) who reserved the space for us and provided mic and mic-stand and was very welcoming. And to Sarah, who organized from across the Irish Sea. For news of our next outing in the Hammersmith Ram keep an eye on Facebook and of course the Seven Towers website http://www.seventowers.ie
The third venue in as many months! Well, that’s the open mic and you can read all about it in
my poem ‘So, Where Do You Expect to Find Poetry? (‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’, Seven Towers 2010). Tonight we were in the very welcoming ‘Twisted Pepper’ café in Abbey Street, and rumour has it we’ll be there again next Last Wednesday next March 30.
Plenty of poetry and prose on display. Stories from Sandra Harris, Eileen Keane (excerpt) and Liz Mc Skeane, Oran Ryan, Oliver Collins and Steve Conway. Poetry aplenty: Phil Lynch, Ross Hattaway, Helen Dempsey, Bob Shakeshaft, Ann Tannam and Eoin Hegarty. Almost forgot Karl Parkinson in the list (and how on earth could I do that?) and two newcomers (our fame is spreading!) Michael Mullins and Mike Flynn, whose earthy poem on the birth of a calf reminded me strongly of Montague’s no-holds-barred poem on ‘Killing the Pig’. Somewhere along the line I read a few myself
What a great night! And such great value too… it’s free, folks. Muchas gracias to Declan for another night’s great MC-ing.
Not in Chaplins of Hawlins Street ‘due to circumstances beyond our control’ so if you turned up there and had a lonely night… sorry, but unfortunately these last minute changes of venue are a part of what makes all Open Mics so wonderful since time began. It was Doyles Pub, just around the corner, on January 26th last … and the February Last Wednesday open mic will be in the Bad Ass Cafe in Temple Bar. Anyway, the year got off to a fine start in Doyles with a great range of readers.
Myself and Ross Hattaway, Glen Hyland and Ann Tannam started the proceedings. Ann’s book, ‘Take This Life’ is being launched at the Exchange in Dublin next Saturday (6th: at 6.00pm) and so she read a few from it: ‘Curriculum Vitae’, ‘The Great Escape 2’ and recited the lyrics of a favourite song by Randy Newman, ‘In Germany Before the War’. This is a fine collection and well worth buying. So please come along to the Exchange on next Saturday, listen and buy!
Other great reads followed Ann: Noel O’Brian with some vintage sonnets, really well-wrought,
on ‘ageing’ and other matters; and then Jim Rooney, Hugh Doolin, and Steve Conway. Then Sandra Harris with another tight narrative, beginning ‘That bitch! How dare she ditch him…!’ so you just HAD to keep listening. Phil Lynch had a poem entitled ‘Progress’ but he meant it ironically, and Damian Kennerk, Bob Shakeshaft and Oran Ryan finished the
evening, Oran with a particularly apocalyptic piece about a strain of virus that made people eat each other. Well, great literature is not all fun and games you know.
Apologies, by the way, to Damian Kennerk whom I have been calling Damian Clarke in this blog up to now.