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.

It only seems yesterday since the last ‘Last Wednesday’ open mic, but here it was again in

 

Sandra Harris

 

September large as life and twice as natural at Chaplin’s Bar in Hawkins Street. A long line-up of readers and performers: Sandra Harris with a short story, Ann Tannem with (among others) a poem called ‘Not Linguistic Gymnastics’ and one referencing Beatles songs which, being a great Beatles fan, I liked a lot. Hugh Dillon gave himself a first open mic outing and did very well with (among others) a clever poem on the phrase ‘OK’. Steve Conway read a piece about the time he was very innocent about ‘girls’. (Ah, them were the days, Steve)… Raven turned up to give his usual outstanding (and astounding) scriptless performance, followed by Ross Hattaway who continues to instruct us about husband killing.

Roger Hudson has a book out and read some from it and Dave Rock did one set in Japan. Inez Dillon read a series of Haiku, informing us en route that haiku should be read twice. I hadn’t heard this before but it sure stands to reason, given how short and delicate they are: often they’re gone before you can focus on them. So, thanks, Inez! Hope to see others follow your practice.

 

Vincent Edward Manda

 

Jim Rooney, Bob Shakeshaft , Oran Ryan and Helen Dempsey kept things on the boil and then Paul Hendricks gave some really good story excerpts. Ray Connealy was uup then with a brief short story and then Phil (surname gone from my memory, sorry Phil): great poems (‘I’m going south, but only south of the city…’). I’ve lost track of the great stuff on display tonight here in Chaplin’s, but Vincent Edward Manda and Damien Clarke stay in my mind. For own part, I was on rather late and had just time to squeeze in one of my own favourites ‘On the Westlake at Hang Zhou, China, Where Poetry is Gained in Translation’ from my collection ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’. The poem attempts to give the lie to that old chestnut to the effect that ‘poetry is what is lost in translation’ (WH Auden?), as regards the Chinese language anyway.The way they name their places is simply stunningly beautiful.

Yet again thanks to our indefatigable MC for the evening, Declan McLoughlin. (That’s the word George Galloway used to describe Saddam Hussein. Oh well..).

 

Jim Rooney

 

 

Phil (next time I promise to remember your surname!!)

 

 

Ann Tannem

 

This is an Open Mic Nite I’ve been meaning to get to for some time and finally landed last Wednesday. It’s a Reading Nite that takes place four or five times a year, organised by Mari Gallagher and the Clane Writers Group, and is held in the Liffey Arms in Newbridge. It’s an excellent venue with plenty of space and great acoustics. The start time of 8.00 pm was observed and this will come as a relief to those of us who can’t abide hanging around until after 9.30 (or later!) engaging in

The Liffey Arms ('Johnson's') Newbridge, Co.Kildare

 chit chat and looking at our watches. Great talent on show, with plenty of interesting, amusing and downright rivetting material coming and going behind the mic. An elite force of Seven Towers personnel invaded and gave their all… well, some it. Steve Conway, Oran Ryan, Bob Shakeshaft and myself.(Eileen Keane was there too, but being a local, she doesn’t count as one of the ‘elite force’. Sorry, Eileen, but rules are rules…). I flogged my book ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’ unashamedly (AND sold a few). During the evening I heard a great piece from Una Ni Cheannaigh drawing a comparison between the Inca sacrificial victims and the ‘Disappeared’ persons in Ireland and elswhere. There are two poems on this (terrible) subject in my book, one based on the people taken away and killed in Argentina (‘Street Demonstration, Buenos Aires’) and one which tackles the Irish version of this horror story, ‘Oh Come All Ye True Born Irishmen’. I therefore thought it fitting to read out my poem which deals with the abduction

TVIVF

and murder of a seventeen-year-old boy during the ‘Troubles’. I then lightened things with my new ‘When People Say’ and one from my book entitled ‘Thank You for Holding’. This is my practice: I engage with my listeners in serious vein when I start and then, depending on how serious (or gloomy) the material is, I end up on a lighter note. It’s only fair, I feel. This night, because of the horrendous nature of the subject, I changed gear immediately after the poem and read lighter material. There’s no easy way to get across serious material without ‘gloomifying’ people, and, consequently, turning them off, but a mix of material goes a long way towards having people really listen. All in all a really good night, really well organised. I will definitely go again.

First thing we did was drink a glass in mourning for the demise of Cassidy’s of Westmoreland Street which closed suddenly during the week and necessitated our 7 Towers Last Wednesday Open Mic relocation to Chaplins nearby in Hawkins Street. Turned out to be an excellent venue and with acoustics so good that most people didn’t need the mic.

All the usual supects were there, plus one or two newcomers. Oran Ryan

Oran Ryan

started us off with the opening from his new novel followed by Steve Conway with a piece from HIS next book. (not to be outdone!), which was folloowed by a new face, Susan Roe who read an excerpt from HER new book (‘The Unknown’). All these books! And it takes me so long to write one short poem! (But then, poetry takes so much more concentration, right?). Phil Lynch gave two poems with a heavy ‘political’ content, one about the terrible ‘Granard’ case some years back, and another to do with the Saville enquiry, with eachoes of Wordsworth’s ‘The Sloitary Reaper’ adding poignancy. (I always like to hear Wordsworth appreciated). Then Ross Hattaway: He awoke one night convinced that he was dead. Walked the house at 2 in the morning trying to stay alive… Don’t ask. On a more serious note, his ‘Song from Normandy’, an elegy for 90,000 dead, was very impressive. Next, Bob Shakeshaft, with his continuing focus on people living (or surviving ) on the margins of society, and the Sandra Harris with her direct and in your face treatment of very raw sex. And then (after a long absence from The Last Wednesday in Dublin… well, he lives in New York) Quincy Lehr. I clapped in the wrong place during one of his long poems, but since poets appreciate ANY kind of applause he wasn’t too hard on me. He also had a poem deconsrtucting that type of annoying film we call ‘Art House’. He took his analysis to the French art house type, and these are maybe the best of their kind at being pretentious, but the

Bob Shakeshaft

field is really wide open. Helen Dempsey was up next, asking herself why she had so many poems about birds. Patrick Chapman read, among others, the poem published in ‘Census’ (The second Seven Towers Anthology) ‘The Golden Age of Aviation’, and Damien Clarke gave a really good poem (‘Elements’) recalling a friend who died. Anne Tannem gave her ‘Woman in the Mirror’ poem (paradise lost and regained) and Karl Pakinson gave his ‘Mushrooms and Vodka’. Eileen Keane left us wondering what came next in one of her stories… we have to wait a month it seems. The evening finished with poems from Eoin Hegarty, Chrisodolous Makris (I thought his ‘Impressionists’ poem was very good) and a newcomer, an Australian poet called MelissaPetrakis with poems mourning her mother’s death.

Eileen Keane

Somewhere in among all this talent I gave my ‘Visiting Dachau’ poem from my recently published ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’ collection. Not much sun about this poem, written some years ago and first published in ‘The Stinging Fly’. Its basis is the realization that, for some things that happen, the old cliche comes into its own: some things are indescribable. ‘There are no words’. It’s one of the themes of the book. Indescribable,  yes, but the attempt must be made, and, in the attempt, maybe we get a little nearer to the truth of the matter. It’s a fairly long poem, and NOT cheery and so I lightened things up with a recent piece called ‘When people say…’ in which I try to decode the usual politenesses, such as ‘If I offended you, I apologise’ (Watch that ‘if’). Fairly ordinary stuff, but gives few laughs. And people should be allowed at least some laughs. Even during poetry evenings.

If you are not coming to this open mic you are missing out on A LOT of great stuff. You have been warned.

First up Karl Parkinson, whose been spreading himself around a good deal lately, and why not with the great stuff he has, his ‘City Sonata’ for instance (…the dead smile at me with black roses in their hands…”)

Karl Parkinson

and much more. Oran Ryan read from his novel ‘The Death of Finn’ abuot two-thirds the way through where the character Frank speaks about his doubts about his Faith. He also read a terrific poem by an eight-year-old, though I don’t know if it’s a good thing to stir up envy among your listeners, most of whom are poets! Martin Swords is new to the venue and gave a poem about Bob Dylan which appealed very much to the (ahem!) more senior members of the audience. He had other very good ones too, including one on the (late-lamented) Celtic Tiger. Maggie Gleeson (also, I think, a new face) had some great poems, including one about Iris Robinson and another about getting chalk to play hopscotch on the street. And if you don’t know what ‘hopscotch, is,

Maggie Gleeson

 or was… just go away and don’t be annoying me. Noel O’Brian gave a monologue version of his Aine and Ardan play (published in the first ‘Census’ anthology), delivered without script and with great dramatic power. Ross Hattaway gave us a somewhat reworked version of  ‘Killing my Husband’ and also that audience favourite ‘Lip Reading’ from his collection ‘The Gentle Art of Rotting’. Then a Maori song from 1912. Thank God I wasn’t on next. WhenI did come on I read ‘Bread’, a rather horriying poem about our gangland violance, and then a long meandering thing called ‘Sports Interview’ but which is NOT as long and meandering as the real thing! I also read two poems I liked from Alma Brayden’s great book ‘Prism’ (just launched from Seven Towers) and she also was there to read.

Another new face was Breda, and I didn’t catch her second name. She gave ‘The Woman Who Toasted the Owl’, and some others, all highly original and good. It’s been a while since Frank Cheemore (?) was down and he gave us three poems, of which ‘Colour Cards’ was my pick, based on his time working in his father’s paint shop. Incidentally, Frank introduced his poems with excerpts from songs, as is his usual wont, and is very entertaining. Tony Gilmore is also new to the Wednesday and gave some terrific stuff, particualry the one with so many references to various makes of car. Called, strange to relate, ‘Cars’. Ann Tannam had a bicycle poem which would do as a manifesto for all bikers and Inez Dillon had one about a disturbing experience in which she thought someone had taken ill. Helen Dempsey had a few, and her ‘I will Go to the Mountain’ was heavy with that kind of gospel/biblical language that really gets to the listener. Brendan Nolan told

Oran Ryan

a story, ‘Jimmy’s Swim’, which I could visualise very clearly as it was set around the Liffey weir at Lucan. Brendan has a book out, ‘Barking Mad’, which is a collection of stories subtitled ‘Tales of Liars, Lovers, Loonies and Layabouts’, which is well worth reading. The evening finished with Eileen Sheehan and Phil Lynch and and to anyone I’ve forgotten… apologies. Another great night. Lots of inspiration.

Wednesday 28th April was the last Wednesday of the month and so all the usual (and some unusual) suspects gathered together in Cassidy’s of Westmoreland Street for another very well attended 7 Towers Open Mic night. Always the brave young man, Andre Kapoor went first with his own unique rhyming poetry, delivered from the heart and without a script. Eileen Keane, Steve Conway, and Inez dillon followed on to complete the first part of the show. One of the attractive things about this open mic (and

Declan, MC

quite apart from the quality of the contributions) is this division into four or five parts, with a few minutes in between, which allows some socialising and also (dare one say it) gives the brain cells a bit of rest from having to deal with so much poetry and heightened prose. I wish this understanding of the demands on the audience was more common at events like these. These breaks are arranged by the MC Declan McLoughlin, as is the order in which the writers appear. The overall effect, thanks to his work, is to make the evening move along at an even and ‘absorbable’ pace.

Other contributors were Michael Farren (from the Boyne Writers, whose piece on stamp-collecting [‘Philately’]struck a chord with this particular nerd now writing), Ross Hattaway, Ann Tannam, Orla Fay, Oran Ryan and Liz McSkeane, whose short story about Mozart’s dad was great. Philip Lynch, Helen Dempsey and Karl Parkinson also took the mic, and there are one or two others to whom I make the usual apology. Another great, and seriously unmissable, night.

The Winding Stair Bookshop on Bachelors Walk, Dublin

Another ‘Winding Stair’ open mic organised by Orla Martin. Lots of stuff on show, including some from Stephen James Smith (himself the organiser of the weekly ‘Glor’ open mic on Mondays in The International Bar) and Noel O’Briain. Noel gave a poem which was partly a history of the Irish literary scene up to and including the ‘Celtic Twilight’ and then an old-fashioned love sonnet (by ‘old-fashioned’ I mean that it was carefully wrought, rhymed perfectly, held its emotions in check until the last, and was

Ann Tannam

 immediately comprhensible. Somewhat different to some ‘modern’ sonnets I hear now and then). Ann Tannam (at last I’ve spelt her name right) gave some of her poems of everyday life, of which I thought ”Transported’ was particualry good. Great to see Noel Sweeney surfacing again to give his long, exquisitely rhymed poetry, and always without a script. (How does he do it!) ‘We’re all lambs to the slaughter. Who’s counting sheep?’ Also there was Nichalas  ‘Birch’ (I’m ashamed to say I have never gotten his name right in all the times we’ve met up since way back in Gerry McNamara’s ‘Write and Recite’ in Capel Street) who gave one of his renowned explosive performance which gave a new

Eileen O'Dea

twist on an old fairy tale. On the subject of unscripted performance– what can I say about Eileen O’Dea who gave an absolutely spell-binding rendition of part of Molly Bloom’s soliloquaoy. I looked around the room while she gave it and everyone was entranced. Liz mcSkeane gave a poem about the tourist tribulations of visiting the Egytian pyramids.  There was also music from Orla Martin other musicians, and a one-woman show from Nicole Rourke, and poetry and prose from lots of other people to whom I apologise for leaving out. And I won a 20 euro book token in the raffle, so thanks a lot to Orla Martin (whe wants to be a GAY ICON when she grows up) for a great night.

The incomparable Noel Sweeney