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

The third venue in as many months! Well, that’s the open mic and you can read all about it in

Sandra Harris

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,

Noel O'Brian

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

Sandra Harris

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.

The very last ‘Last Wednesday’ of the year. No open mic in December because, cliche-ridden, we’ll all be busy filling ourselves with pudding and turkey and having Good Cheer. Well, that’s the hope anyway, irrespective of Brian & Brian’s budget.

Damien Clarke kicked off with ‘Elements’, a poem to a departed friend which he read before

Damien Clarke

and is very poignant. Good Haiku too, but I think he should read these twice to allow them to ‘dawn’. His series of philosophical observations, excellent in themselves, tend to become an unconnected series of maxims when delivered one after another. Philip Lynch gave a series of short love poems and then one that took a swipe at Joe Duffy’s radio-callers, especially those mostly concerned with their own unreconstructed nimby-ism (Not In My Back Yard: infuriating as they are, I find them to be great listening!). Roger Hudson read from his recent collection from Lapwing, including one about how the Xmas lights start going on in October. (I myself saw Xmas stuff in the shops this year before Hallowe’en!). George Sweetman’s poetry took a look at war and he did a really good (serious) parody on Rupert Brook’s’ famous ‘If I Should Die..’. Sandra Harris gave another accomplished short story in the (in my opinion) O. Henry vein. Later Liz Mc Skeane gave a story ‘Innocence’ which reminded me of Joyce’s ‘Evelyne. And Eileen Keane read the conclusion of her story about that lady with the B&B and the peculiar guest. Such talented lady short-storyists! I was thinking of doing one, but the jizz is gone out of me for it after what I heard tonight! Ross Hattaway gave, among others, his very witty ‘The New Cooking’ and some ‘tankas’, that 5-7-5-7 line form of poetry writing. Must have a shot at that myself. If Ross can do it…

Oran Ryan gave his ‘Prudence Antipode’ poem, which is intriguing. I think he’s changed the

Ann Tannem

title to ‘The Revised Standard Life of…”, but anyway it is something of an elegy and great to hear. Ann Tannem announced that her collection, ‘Take This Life’, is imminent and gave us a selection from it. Her unscripted performance was quite affecting, given the human, and humane, content of her work (‘… for years and years I prayed to a false God…’). Her understated delivery always adds to the effect. Definitely must get that collection. (Great ‘houndstooth’-style coat too!). Steve Conway regaled us with a piece from his incomparable ‘Shiprocked’ (noting that, like Brian Cowen, he too had survived the raging seas. Maybe a bit too soon to say as regards Mr Cowan, Steve?). Donal Moloney read an extract from a novella and Karle Parkinson gave (among others) his ‘Positivity Manifesto’, David Murphy gave a poem on Jim Larkin and Martin Egan had some really attractive pieces circling around that eternal concern: just what the hell IS ‘love’ anyway. One he dedicated to his friend Brendan Kennelly. In some ways these reminded me of Patrick Kavanagh in his later ‘Grand Canal’ years. I thought Martin’s work very moving.

I gave my poem ‘Deposition’ on the drug-related scenario in Dublin. Then I did some ‘R-word’ poems, just to cheer people up. In fairness, I did take a somewhat humorous look at things like the bail-out and the international bond-markets and so I think people… er… enjoyed the poems. But maybe it was all forced laughter? Dunno. But what else can one do but keep smiling? (inanely)

See you-all in 2011 on January 26th at 7.30. Until then… Happy Xmas! And don’t drown in the mulled wine.


Some of the audience at the Liffey Arms


Time again for the Clane Writers Open Mic in the Liffey Arms in Newbridge. Lots of talent on dispaly. Some humorous stories to start things off and then back to earth with a very affecting story from Jean Crampton entitled ‘Bread’. A truly grim scenario which dealt with sexual abuse. We’ve heard/read so much about this topic recently you’d imagine the story might have been passe, but no. She managed a riveting narrative which kept everyone listening. Some more stories then in the humorous vein from Joe Murphy and Patricia Whelan and then… poetry! (my own particular poison of choice). Debbie Thomas gave us a DH Lawrence inspired piece called ‘DH you were wrong’ … a battle with a cockroach… Don’t ask! Liam Power gave a piece about ‘Arthur’s Day’ and there was story from Francis Brady. Una Ni Cheaalaigh had four very attractive poems, one of them based on an installation by Cornelia Parker which would make you want to see the artwork. She finished with a sardonic piece on Ireland’s current economic woes, a theme which surfaced a few times tonight (I think there was a couple of people from the IMF in the audience). Breda Wall Ryan gave some poems (‘The Snow Woman’… a life in two verses) and Eileen Keane gave a memoir piece. Mervyn Ennis (all the way from Tallaght: Virginia House Writers’ Group) gave a story and Oran Ryan read a poem and then a story (?) that had the cadences of a poem: ‘The Portable Prudence Antipode’. Sounded great. Martin Malone followed with a piece on the Curragh Wrens, those unfortunate camp-followers who endured so much and Mari Gallagher (who organised the evening: Thanks, Mari) gave some poems, one of which involved a Seamus Heaney lost notebook. There were more contributions from Dominic Hogan and Eleanor Dillon and many others. Steve Conway finished up the night by giving us a story about a balloon flight and I gave some of my own poems on Ireland’s Economic woes (see Una Ni Cheallaigh, above), including ‘Fresh Green Shoots’ from my collection ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again‘. I tend to write light-heartedly about our economic woes, which proves I’m living on another planet. Well, OK. It’s nicer here.


MC for the night: Rita Crampton


A round of applause for Rita Crampton who did a great job as MC. And again I commend an Open Mic that breaks the readings into four or five people at a time. No matter HOW addicted to ‘Literature’ one is, the mind goes numb after four or five people and needs a break. Or at least mine does.

If you haven’t been to the Clane Writers’ night, you’re missing out.

OMIGOD! It’s not ‘The Last Wednesday’ again, is it? Yes, my good man, it sure is! Just where did
the month GO! Plenty on offer as always, including the launch of a new poetry magazine, ‘Poetry Bus’ edited by Peadar O’Donoghue. Forty poems! And includes people you’ve often heard me going on and on about on this blog: Stephen James Smith, Niamh Bagnell, Colm Keegan, Maggie O’Dwyer… Absolutely great value. Peader says in his introduction that ‘my dream is for it to become one of the best poetry magazines in the world’. What a great start! Congrats to all concerned and well done Paedar.

Missed a few writers at the beginning because my bus decided to lounge around Lucan Village for about 20 minutes, but was in time to hear a great range of talent, including Phil Lynch with a poem mentioning the Berlin Wall and one on a recurring dream. Karl Parkinson also had a ‘dream’ poem, ‘I Have a Dream”, from his collection ‘a sacrament of song’, and you should get your hands on this collection as soon as possible. John Piggot, Damian Clarke, Maggie O’Dwyer, Susan Roe, Helen Dempsey, Bob Shakeshaft… what great stuff! And then Sandra Harris, whose stories are really arresting, by which I mean they are really strong on story and keep everyone’s attention to the very end. No higher praise, I think, for a short story. This one was about three wishes that went very wrong. Then Ross Hattaway with ‘The Need for Leadership’, a rather sadonic piece dressed up as off-hand comedy. And it really is comic, until one starts applying it to what’s going on in society today. Ann Tannem,


Sandra Harris


like Ross, gave something of a disguised reflection on our Ireland of today (my God, everyone is getting soooo serious. I better stop writing those jokey poems of mine), followed by Oran Ryan with his ‘Dinner with Dr. Mengele ‘(what did I tell you!!!). Donal Maloney gave us a piece from his novella, replete as always with his profound love of classical music, and then Frank Moore gave some poems, intermingled with snatches of old songs, and Kate Dempsey gave us a ‘recession’ poem (serious, serious, serious…I’m tellin’ ye…)

Thank God I DID have a serious poem for the night (‘Listening to My Elders’) which then allowed me to read some of my silly Haiku (notice I didn’t say ‘haikuS’) and ‘That Look’.

Damian Clarke


Ann Tannem



Niamh Bagnell



The County Council Chamber in Swords: Great acoustics!

Dave Lordan and Colm Keegan led off this open mic in Swords, which was part of the Fingal Writers’ Festival 2010. Lots of political and polemical material from Dave, including a song: ‘Hole’. Little need for me to say that the ‘hole’ was in reference to that vacuum which used to be our GNP. Also some material bringing us an in-your-face visit tu the denizens of Dublin’s’ ‘boardwalk ‘alongside the Liffey. Colm had somewhat more subtle stuff, though not the less entertaining, including an early poem about a teenage ‘crush’. Ashling Fox gave a powerful reading with a poem about the Cobblestone Bar in Smithfield and its Irish Music, and then Jim Rooney, Bernie O’Sullivan, Paul Hendricks, Delta O’Hara, Oran Ryan,


Oran Ryan and Delta O'Hara


Raven, Hugh Dillon and many, many more. Full marks to Christodoilos Makris, the MC for the night. A really OPEN open mic like this can drag on a bit but his decisions as to who was to follow whom contributed to the sense of  variety and kept the sparkle alive to the end.

I gave a few light poems (I came near the finish when people — those still there — looked like they needed a little light relief!): ‘When People Say’,  ‘It’s Not the Wrinkles’ and ‘Our Mothers Suffered Martyrdom’ three recent poems.