Eamonn Lynskey's Poetry and Reading Blog

March 15, 2017

Publication on-line in ‘Southword’, #31

Filed under: On-Line, Poems Published, Publications — Tags: , — tvivf @ 2:25

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A poem of mine appeared in the online poetry magazine ‘Southword’ last month (issue 31) and it is very good news to be published alongside some really fine practitioners of the art. Hard to pick out particular favorites but the ones I found most striking were Geraldine Mitchell’s Remote Capture who wrote out of a photograph depicting a group of actively energetic young people. The energy is caught brilliantly in the poem. Sinead Morrissey’s Platinum Anniversary also took me in, and her use of space to let the poem breath is really good. And Matthew Sweeney’s Owl Song and its restrained sense of loss I found very appealing. My own poem also speaks of loss, especially during ‘Those First Evenings’.

All 32 the poems can be read on the website http://www.munsterlit.ie   Enjoy!

February 26, 2017

Publication in Stepaway Magazine #22, January 2017

Filed under: On-Line, Poems Published, Publications — tvivf @ 2:25

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I am very gratified to be included in the on-line Magazine ‘Stepaway’. In its own words, ‘this is an an award-winning online literary magazine which publishes the best urban flash fiction and poetry by writers from across the globe’.  Contributors lead their readers ‘through the streets of his or her chosen city. They do so in one thousand words or less.’

This issue #22 includes poems set in places as diverse as Dublin (me), Moscow (Liz McSkeane), Paris (Seamus Hogan) and several more. Some, ‘Dwelling on Decay’ by Michael Schiffman for instance, do not name the actual place and they are not the less effective for that, perhaps even more effective. Anonymity allows a degree of universality. Michael’s poem is my pick from among the very good material on display in this issue. It is a type of list poem that is not merely a list poem, with people’s histories moving in and out of it. And, despite its title, it has some lyrically luminous descriptions (‘ … a pair of small butterflies / flit among these autumn blooms / (what nectar will they find)’). A really evocative piece.

My own contribution He Walks His Several Cities is a nostalgic piece, which tries to

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Westmoreland Street 1950s

convey my feelings as I walk today through my Dublin realising that it isn’t quite my Dublin, so much has changed. I came across an old photo in The Irish Times in a piece by Arminta Wallace showing the corner of Westmoreland Street in the 1950s with the old Leyland buses taking up people and I then took a photo of the place as it is today. Unfortunately it’s not a good photo because the view is dominated by roadworks for the new Luas (i.e., metro) line but I did mange to capture a modern a bus. Think how amazed the people of the ’50s photo would have been at the sight of it! The two photos show something of the changes I see around me as I walk the street now, but with that old-photo scenario still playing in my sixty-eight-year-old  head! And lest you think I am harking back to ‘the good old days’ well, No Sir! Dublin is a much brighter, cleaner place today than it was back then.

You can view all the poems on  the Stepaway site at http://www.stepawaymagazine.com

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Westmoreland Street Today

and congratulations go to Darren Richard Carlaw (and his team) on producing such a clean, uncluttered website which forefronts its content so well. As you will read on the site, contributions are welcome. Send one story or poem at a time to submissions@stepawaymagazine.com   All submissions should be contained within the body of the email. No attachments.

StepAway Magazine is a nonprofit organization, edited and maintained by volunteers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 8, 2017

Publication in Flare 02, Jan. 2017

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Very much indebted to the Sunflower Sessions (which are held in Jack Nealon’s Public House, Capel Street, Dublin, every last Wednesday) for including me again in their FLARE publication. The editor, Eamon Mag Uidhir, has declared it will be issued four times a year and we have all learned that Eamon is a man of his word. A bright, spacious, sparkling offering, this: 33 p0ems from 33 participants in the monthly sessions, some well known, others new on the scene, all worth a look.

I particularly liked Anamaria Crowe Serrano’s ‘Apple – 7’, with its unusual and very original lay-out. Anamaria’s innovations are impossible for me to quote on the page so you will have lay hands on a FLARE02 to appreciate how near the cutting edge of experimental poetry she is. Alice Kinsella’s short and economic piece ‘Starlight’ concerns the necessary slaughter that lies behind our veal dishes:

In late summer almost winter  

they’d lock the cows up for the day                                                                                

to take away their young …

and Anne Tannam’s ‘When We Go Shopping’ is also one of my favourites. It’s that kind of ‘domestic’ poem she always does very well, this one concerning the relationship between an elderly mother and her daughter.

When we go shopping, just the two of us

I get to be the child again, out with my mam for the day…

Writing a poem is never easy (well, Shakespeare maybe …) and writing a an optimistic, upbeat one I have always found particularly difficult, and so I admire Liz McSkeane’s ‘Remembering the Child’ . Liz is a long-time friend but that won’t prevent me declaring her poem a very fine piece of work. One feels BETTER about the world after reading it. And those awful things that you fear might be coming your way? —

… and just between

us — that won’t happen. Now, the sun is bright,

please step aside. You’re standing in my light.

So many good poems. A flash-back to times of church oppression in Ireland from Ross Hattaway and a curious, disturbing poem ‘Eve’ from Natasha Helen Crudden which weighs out its words and lines carefully.

My own offering is a rather nostalgic piece which harkens back to the time one could see the Guinness barges on the Liffey. The poem tries to merge those long-forgotten scenes of the past with the present haulage system of container transport by imagining a meeting between the present day drivers and the ‘bargeymen’ of old.

The Liffey at Low Tide

The Liffey at low tide

this evening at Kingsbridge

reveals the ghosts of jetties

built for barges bringing

Guinness down to port.

 –

Jib cranes swing and strain,

men work with ropes and winches,

loading wooden barrels

into swaying holds

and friendly banter drifts

along Victoria Quay

where juggernauts line up

and drivers sleep alone

and wander in their dreams

down to the bargemen, talk

till morning when they yawn,

climb from their cabins, peer

across the parapet

at faint remains of timbers

drowned in rising waters.

If you wish to enter some work for the next Flare the only requirement (apart from 20170208_095250_NEW.jpg quality, of course!) is that you must have read out something (prose or poetry) at the sessions. So come along some evening at 7.30 pm and join our merry throng, at the Sunflower Sessions, every last Wednesday of the month, except December, at Jack Nealon’s Public House, Capel Street, Dublin (7.30 pm), and get your name on the evening’s reading list.

FLARE02 is available for €5 at the sessions and also at Books Upstairs and the Winding Stair bookshops.  The cover shows a detail of Eddie Colla street art, Capel Street, photographed by Declan McLoughlin (our genial open-mike MC). For more information, join online at meetup.com or email sunflower_sessions@yahoo.com. Also on Facebook.

Nealon's Pub, Capel Street

Nealon’s Pub, Capel Street

See You soon!

February 3, 2017

Publication in The Stony Thursday Book #15. Jan. 2017

Filed under: Book Launches, Poems Published, Poetry, Publications — tvivf @ 2:25

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Very honoured to be included in #15 of The Stony Thursday Book, Limerick’s long-running yearly collection of contemporary poetry, this year edited by John Davies. About 1800 poems were submitted, we were informed at the launch, and so John had what must have been the herculean task of selecting the 98 poems eventually included in the book.

And so it is hard to pick out my preferences, but here goes –

Evan Costigan’s ‘Memo’ (p.13) is very short (all of 8 lines) and has the concision and attractiveness of a William Carlos Williams piece. Usually I don’t like cat poems, but exceptions prove the rule. I loved the final  lines which indicate what this particular moggie has been up to:

 … to the pond

where two goldfish

no longer flash.

 And what a poem is David Lohrey’s ‘Muddy Water’ (p.39). I read in the bios that he ‘grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis’ and all I can say is that he has written a poem worthy of that historic region of the USA. One can get a feel of the people and their way of living and the constraints they had to deal with. Going up to northern Mississippi for a ballgame wasn’t a journey undertaken lightly:

They were greeted upon arrival by the local sheriff

And his cow-shit-stained deputies who aimed their shotguns

At their heads and shouted “Niggers don’t play ball down here,

So y’all better git back yonder.”

Edward O’Dwyer’s ‘Going’ (p.60) is a sad poem about someone taken ill in a car at a traffic lights, all the more effective for me because I witnessed something similar one time. I thought the restraint of the last few lines was admirable:

Some people too are moving towards

the man’s car in a tentative fashion,

the way people do when they are expecting

to find something disturbing.

I also liked another rather sad poem dealing with  an older person’s forgetfulness: ‘Testing’ (p.114) by Martine Large.

She knows the name of the prime minister,

it’s right there, give her time …

Ron Houchin’s ‘The Crows of Ennistymon’ (p.14) captures that sinister aspect that clings to crows and which was exploited so well by Ted Hughes and Hitchcock:

 … the crows who keep a little to themselves,

who feed on death so often, know this and their wailing gyre

tells of each new vapor rising, a spirit they must rail about

from each night’s vantage above the Falls Hotel …

And there were so many others I liked very much. Anamaria Crowe Serrano’s  ‘Cauthleen‘,Paul McNamara’s ‘Little Bits of Processed Nature in Small Locked Boxes’, which was very enthusiastically received on the launch night, and ‘Elephant’, enacted  by the redoubtable Norman King.

One of my poems ‘Kilmainham Elegy’ deals with the 1916 rising, or rather the aftermath thereof.  During a walk some years ago in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham cemetery, I came across the graves of some very young British Soldiers who were killed during that Easter Week. My sadness at the loss of their young lives is no reflection on the lives lost by the insurgents, nor on their cause. I hope this comes across in the poem because I would be seriously upset if there seemed to be any criticism of the Irish rebels. I am no revisionist in matters of the fight for Irish freedom. Still, the death of a 19-year-old, whosoever they are, and in whatever circumstances must always be a sad event. You can be sure that someone somewhere grieved the loss of his young life.

Kilmainham Elegy

for two soldiers, aged 19,

of the Notts & Derby Regiment

 

As in life, now at the last

we are together, side by side,

two English boys who disembarked

to angry streets at Eastertime.

We who thought to ship for France

to fight for freedom of small nations

lie with dust of older wars

in this Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

A century has driven past

along the St. John’s Road. Nearby,

Kilmainham Jail remembers those

were conscripts of a dream and died.

 –

Two English boys fresh from the Shires,

we fought and fell, our long decay

now equal part of Ireland’s soil

with those who raised her flag that Sunday.

My other poem ‘An Emigrant’s Return’ is rather long and deals with some personal family memories. I am particularly grateful to John Davies for including  it in the anthology because it can be quite hard to get a long poem published. And I was particularly grateful to be afforded the time to read out, complete, on the night.

Contributors receive two copies of the book and it is available from the Limerick Arts Office (artsoffice@limerick.ie) for €10, p&p free (+353 407363). The cover art is ‘Heterogeneous’ by Beth Nagle and the overall design is by Richard Mead. Submissions for #16 are now being considered and should be sent to Limerick Arts Office, Limerick City and County Council, Merchants Quay, Limerick.

December 29, 2016

Publication in ‘Crannog’ #43. Autumn 2016

Filed under: Poems Published, Poetry — Tags: , — tvivf @ 2:25

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Cover image: ‘Bardic Shield’, by Miles Lowry, B C Canada

Another autumn, another Crannog, Galway’s (and the world’s) long-established quality poetry and prose magazine that insists on setting high standards  in the writing world three times a year. Of this crop of 32 poems I liked best Bernie Crawford’s She Walks and not just because it is on a subject which determines much of my own output … well, yes, this. But also because of its control of the inevitable emotions raised by the subject. Every couplet is a text-book example of the restraint requisite in dealing with the horror of war, if the horror is to be conveyed fully. And the economy in the use of words is really excellent. Look at those last lines:

She walks to forget the piece that flew from her heart

that day the air strikes started.

She walks.

And I liked the light, but effective, tone of Ask a Tattoist by D C Geis, a poem which which deals with a problem people must have with tattoos chosen at a particular time when, say, one is madly in love. And then, when the love – recalling Hank Williams – ‘grows cold’ – what happens? The tattooist, says the poet, can do a lot to block out former passions,

… Michaels devoured

by butterflies;

the Karens lasered off

with no more considerationt

han bacon friyng in a pan …

But there is a limit to what he can do. As regards birthmarks,

… he informs you,

regrettably –

nothing can be done.

It’s very hard to limit oneself to just one more pick, but here goes: Anne Tannam is a good friend of mine but that won’t stop me choosing her terrific poem ‘By Decree’. It is a poem that brings to mind the age-old desire to create an ideal world devoid of suffering,

There will be no blame in my kingdom.

In my kingdom no one will point the finger, no one will lay fault.

Though the poem is short, or perhaps because it is short, it seems to have a very ‘absolute’ kind of power. I think it is because of the unflinching certainty built into every line.

Of the stories, I liked best ‘Flutter’ by Niall Keegan with its wonderful descriptions:

The air is thick with dust. fat enough to scribble on with a wet finger.

It might be I like this story – apart from the story – because the language approaches the ‘poetic’ at times.

My own contribution is a poem ‘Next of Kin’ written when the George W Bush American invasion of Iraq was in full swing but I hope, as in the Bernie Crawford poem I mentioned above, it is relevant to the wars presently raging and the ones that, unfortunately, will rage in the future. The poem is constructed out of the actual words said by people trying to express their feelings and which I read or heard on TV over the while. They are necessarily reconfigured to fit into a stanza/rhythm/rhyme format but I think they still convey their original sense of bewilderment and heartbreak. We have to remember that the death of any one soldier will be devastating for the many relatives and friends  who loved him, or her.

Next of Kin

 

 … see, David was the kind when things got rough

he’d always help… … He leaves a wife and son.

She took it bad … For all of us it’s tough.

We miss him awful … … Can’t believe he’s gone.

*

Matthew was … … the best you’d ever find.

The army man spoke of the legacy

courageous men and women leave behind…

But losing Matthew … It’s a tragedy.

*

Our Carl was killed while clearing IEDs.

His tour was nearly up … He was that close

to coming home …  … and then the news he’d died.

It’s hard on them out there … and hard on us.

*

… our Kay. Our girl … So good at everything.

There wasn’t any challenge she wouldn’t meet,

no matter what … … So when they came recruiting

she enlisted. Only there a week …

 

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Crannog is published three times a year in Spring, Summer and Autumn. Submission times: November, March andJuly. To learn more or purchase copies log on to the website http://www.crannogmagazine.

 

 

 

 

December 19, 2016

Publication in Orbis #177 (Autumn 2016)

Filed under: Poems Published, Publications — Tags: — tvivf @ 2:25

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Lots of good things in this issue of Orbis and congratulations to editor Carole Baldock and her team. Not often one sees Alexander Pope appear in the pages of a modern magazine, but here he is (by courtesy of Stuart Nunn in the Past Master section), the Great Curmudgeon himself laying waste around him at the low standards he sees everywhere he looks:

‘See skulking Truth to her old Cavern fled,

Mountains of Casuistry heaped o’er her head!

Philosophy, that lean’d on Heaven before,

Shrinks to her second cause and is no more…’

Ah, would he were alive today!

Unlike other magazines, Orbis comes down from the heights of Parnassus and invites readers to participate by nominating their favourite pieces. This provides the entertaining and informative section ‘Readers’ Award’. My own four choices were:

  • Remembering Capel Celyn: Liverpool 1965, by Kathy Miles, about her Welsh village flooded to create a reservoir. I know no Welsh and yet I can hear the lilt of that beautiful language echoing in the back of my mind as I read this sad poem with its wonderfully-placed Welsh words:

‘For we were Welsh too, our names cwtched

away by marriage, loved the hidden lyric

of our streets: Rhiwlas and Pows, Dovey …’

  • Forms of Embrace by Christopher Allen, attempts the capture the essential construction basis of visual artworks: the circle, the block and the curve. The third stanza brings to mind (one might almost say inevitably) Hokusai’s great wave:

‘A smooth black curve

proclaims a solid solitude

shaped like a Japanese wave

cresting a great silence …’

–  She Died Today, by Cristina Harba is an excellent treatment of how long it takes for loss to manifest.

‘ … It is a week later that I lie face down on the bed,

willing it to swallow me whole.’

  • Picture, by Anne Banks is an attractive, quirky poem, reminiscent of Magritte’s great surrealistic painting ‘ Not to be Repoduced’ (1937)  of  a  man looking into a mirror and seeing himself, but not as he expects to see himself.

‘I intrude on the space, my reflection

Bright and photographic in its clarity…’

I also liked very much Contained by Alison Chisholm and Guidewire insertion, pre-surgery by Jan Whittaker and indeed many more.

 My own contribution is A Professional in Charge, a poem referencing the fate of one of Henry VII’s unfortunate queens. The story behind the poem is a wonderful portrait of a woman who stoical in the face of injustice but determined not to have her final moments laid open to cruelties inflicted her enemies. When I read of her fate many years ago I was impressed by her courage and presence of mind in the face of such injustice and my admiration has not lessened in the years since. For true horror stories, the Tudors were well ahead of the genre.

 

A Professional in Charge

 

I know the way of things:

the talk of justice, law –

But there is also vengeance, spite

and marital inconvenience.

 

Other heads were left

to dangle by their sinews,

took three cuts or more

before the deed was done.

As token of his mercy

or, some would say, his guilt,

my Royal Lord allowed

an executioner from France

 

because I was too much afraid

the heavy-handled axe

might fail at separating head

from neck in one swift slice.

 –

The man who waits to sunder

Henry’s second Queen

discreetly hides his sword blade

as my Ladies help me kneel.

 

A sorry end, but not prolonged

through cruelty, or botched.

There will be dignity. I have

a professional in charge.

 

Orbis #177 contents:

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Orbis is a quarterly journal. Full details re submission and subscription at http://www.orbisjournal.com

 

 

 

 

September 22, 2016

Pre-Launch of Skylight47, issue 7, by Robyn Rowland at Clifden Arts Festival 15 Sept. 2016.

20160921_120501_NEW.jpgA great time was had by all at the pre-launch of issue 7 of Skylight47 at the public library in Clifden on Thursday 15 September as part of the Arts week. The magazine is the result of some very hard work from the Clifden Writers Group and the accomplished poet Robyn Rowland was at hand to officiate. A number of the contributors attended and read out their pieces. I was very taken with Anne Irwin’s ‘Omey Island Races 2015’ with its vivid description of the event; and ‘Elegy to Some Mysterious Form’ by Ria Collins was quite a moving and unsettling poem on a very personal and traumatic decision that had to be made. Indeed all the contributors must be congratulated on a very fine selection of poems. There are prose articles too in the magazine on topics ranging from poem-writing itself (Kim Moore’s ‘Poetry Masterclass’) to reviews of recent books published.

The venue of Clifden Public Library contributed enormously to the cordial atmosphere of the proceedings, especially the three skylights overhead which, Tony Curtis assured us, were put in specially for the occasion and at great expense! Congratulations to all the Skylight Team on such a fine magazine and compliments to the library staff on the wonderful venue.

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‘This Intimate War: Gallipoli/Canakkale 1915’,  5 Islands Press 2015

As mentioned, Australian poet Robyn Rowland did the honours and I was pleased to meet up with her again. I remember well her reading from her collection ‘This Intimate War’ recently in Dublin at The Sunflower Sessions in Jack Nealon’s (Capel Street, every last Wednesday, 07.30pm. Come along!). It is a most impressive book dealing with the terrible Gallipoli engagement in WWI and is a hard read since it eschews any self-serving attempts at ‘glorification’, and conveys much senselessness and absurdity of war. Robyn gets down into the dirt and blood with the soldiers and the sense of verisimilitude is stunning. Extra-fine poetry, then. And what a great writer she is and what a great thing to meet her … twice within a very few months!

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Robyn Rowland and self at the Skylight47 launch

My poem, Day of Judgement, was the last to be read out, and just as well too since it is a poem about ‘last things’. Not the kind of poem one would like to hear at a Christmas party (or any party!) but poems like this do have their place in the Great Order of Things to Come (but not to come too soon we hope!)

 

 

Day of Judgement

 

They who come to clear this room

will show a ruthlessness unknown

to me. The histories of my books

and how they came to claim a space

along these shelves will be unknown

to them. The brush and vacuum cleaner

will probe every corner, frames

will leave rectangles on the walls

and files of half-formed poems will bulk

black plastic sacks. This desk and chair

and radio/cd/clock will find

our long companionship concluded.

 

Half an hour will be enough

to sweep away a life, to feed

the hungry skip, allow the skirting

run around the room again

unhidden; there will be no mercy

for old pencil stubs, news clippings

yellowing in trays. Each spring

I tried, but never could be heartless,

emulate that day of judgement

when my loves must face the flames

or crowd the local charity shop,

forlorn— hoping for salvation.

 

Single issues of Skylight 47 are available at €5.00 plus postage, from skylight47.wordpress.com or come to the launch in Galway City Library at 6.00pm on Thursday, September 29 and pick up a copy.

Submissions for Skylight 47 issue 8 (Spring 2017) will be accepted between 1 Nov 2016 and 1 Jan 2017. See skylight47poets.wordpress.com for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 25, 2016

‘Cyphers’ at Strokestown, 2016.

Filed under: Book Launches, Poems Published, Poetry, Publications — Tags: , — tvivf @ 2:25

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Following a time-honored tradition, the Spring/Summer Cyphers magazine was launched in April  in the elegant surroundings of Strokestown House, Longford, during the Strokestown International Poetry Festival.  Eilean Ni Chuilleanain officiated and, as always, the launch itself was a festive occasion, combining  the debut of Cyphers 81 with that of two new poetry collections, On a Turning Wing from Paddy Bushe and Music from the Big Tent from Macdara Woods (both from Daedalus).

This Cyphers edition features a selection of New Zealand Poets, among which are fine pieces from  Dinah Hawken (Haze) and Bill Manhire (Coastal). Among the rest of the poets I particularly liked Mary Montague’s The Road back and Where the Brown River Flows by John Murphy.

A poem  of mine also features in this edition and I just cannot believe that it is thirty years since I first had a poem in Cyphers. Thirty Years! A Connaught Man’s Rambles is a poem about my father, one of that ‘lost generation’ of Irishmen of the 1940s and 50s who  worked in England for practically all of their lives, sending money home to their families. Besides being a hard-working miner in the coal pits of Lancashire, ‘Sonny’ Lynskey  was also an accomplished Irish Fiddle Player who shared many a session with some well-known names, such as the great piper Felix Doran (pictured with him below) This is the only photograph I have of my father playing. It was the age before Facebook and camera phones.

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A Connaught Man’s Rambles          

(in memory of Eddie (‘Sonny’) Lynskey, 1914-1972)

1921:

and Michael Coleman cuts the discs

will guide the bow a generation.

You in Mayo find the tunes

are slowly forming in your fingers –

Miss Mc Leod’s, The Creel of Turf…

 

1928:

to Holyhead and Lancashire:

a collier’s life of dust and dirt.

Your bow has split the resin stick,

your fingerboard has lost its black –

The Munster Jig, The Frost is All Over…

 

1947:

back in Dublin you will try

to leave behind the life you’ve lived

since first you lied about your age

to take the cage with pick and lamp –

The Sheep in the Boat, The Morning Star…

 

1953:

and tired of jobs on building sites

you’re back in Manchester to rooms

and mineshafts, ever shorter letters

to your family of strangers.

Toss the Feathers, Cherish the Ladies…

 

1972:

in Meelick cemetery someone

pours a naggin on your coffin

just before the sods are shovelled.

Old men watch, remembering –

The Sailor’s Hornpipe, The Kesh…

 

2013: 

I hear Tommy Peoples play

and hear you chase the slurs and slides

with Michael Coleman’s 78s –

I see you raise your shoulder, bring

The Connaught Man’s Rambles to a close.

Cyphers, Ireland’s longest running poetry and prose magazine (with some artwork as well!), is available wherever good poetry magazines are sold, as are the two Daedalus collections by Paddy Bushe (On a Turning Wing) and  Macdara Woods (Music from the Big Tent).

And hearty congratulations also to the Strokestown International Award winners John Murphy, Beatrice Garland and Jed Myers.

 

 

May 6, 2016

Publication in’Boyne Berries 1916′. Spring 2016. ISSN: 1649-9271

Filed under: Poems Published, Poetry — Tags: , — tvivf @ 2:25

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                                                                                                                          Another fine issue of Boyne Berries,  edited by Orla Fay.  This is a themed edition, centered around the Easter Rising of 1916 and it reviews that cataclysmic event from a variety of angles with an extensive range of poetry and stories/articles. I can only deal with a few and the fact that  I leave some out of my reckoning is absolutely no reflection on their quality.

Michael Farry’s ‘John Gormley’ is based on the death of a 25-year-old RIC constable shot dead at Ashbourne on Friday 27 April 1916. It is a fine combination of the usual humdrum life of a policeman transformed by  the chaotic arrival of the Rising:

Back in the barracks that evening news

of the Dublin rumpus unsettled us.

I was sent to Slane to guard the castle. 

Robert Tully’s ‘Flags’ with its down-to-earth assessment of patriotism appeals to me. The question in the final triplet demands an honest answer:

We’ve come such a way

In a hundred years.

Haven’t we? 

 ‘Conversing with Our History’ by Stephen O’Brien is a fine poem, and is also given in an Irish language version by the poet.  Both versions work  well but I have to say that the Irish reads and sounds better. The poem picks up on Robert Tully’s question quoted above:

How would they react,

Our nation’s heroes,

If they could see our

world?

An outstanding poem in the book is Clare McCotter’s ‘Epsom, 1913’. Based on the death of suffragette Emily Davidson, which resulted from her falling under the hooves of the King’s horse at the Epsom derby. It is a poem that one can read again and again and still be moved, especially at the way Emily was force-fed in hospital afterwards:

I cannot breath

I am not breathing

I am drowning

and will drown forty-nine times

My own contribution, ‘I fought for King and Country in My Boyhood’, is a poem of Ireland’s ‘eastern seaboard’, that territory where I grew up reading about how the bravery of the European pioneers wrested the lands of North America from the savages who deserved no more than to be shot on sight, and how the British had single-handedly defeated Hitler. That is to say, my head was filled with the exploits of comic-book heroes like Kit Carson and General Montgomery rather than with the sacrifices of the 1916 insurgents. I admired them too but, because of my family background (and I do not blame everything on my family!) the more recent World War Two and the epic stories of the Wild West were more in my mind:

I Fought for King and Country in My Boyhood

 

I fought for king and country in my boyhood,

surveyed the trenches from an R.E.8

in constant danger from marauding tri-planes,

was saved a hundred times by Sopwith Camels.

I flew Spitfires too, downed Messerschmitts

in flames with no regrets, though he was I.

At Alam Halfa and at Alamein

Montgomery owed his victories to me.

 –

At school by day I learned about the men

who shook the Empire. Momentarily

I faced the bullets with them in Kilmainham

and admired their sacrifice and yet

 

by evening shells exploded all around me

in block lettering, and speech balloons

above me shouted orders to my troops

to make the final push for Anzio.

Many other poems bring alive or commemorate that 1916 triumphal failure: Orla Fay’s ‘First Frost in the Park’ concerns an insurgent raid on the Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park on Easter Monday 24 April 1916, and Andy Jones in ‘An Easter Visitor in 2010’ has a a person from 1916 having a look at present-day Ireland. He/she doesn’t feel entirely welcome and sardonically observes that it is

Just as well I’ve become I’ve become invisible.

No one would have bought me a pint!

And now I must risk the ire of my fellow poets when I say that the most striking piece in the magazine is, for me, a prose piece by Noel French, ‘Remembering 1916: A United Ireland’ is a bewildering read for the first page or so until one grasps that Noel is indulging in what is called ‘speculative history’. That is to say, his piece centres around the idea that the Rising had never happened. It is a highly unusual and imaginative piece and very thought-provoking.

Finally, remember the great illustrations that William Blake designed to accompany his poems? No? Let Rory O Sullivan remind you. Every Boyne Berries has one his extraordinary illustrated poems. ‘Ashland’ and its accompanying design has chilling echoes of Edgar Allen Poe. Rory’s regular contributions are an art-form in themselves.

roryosullivan_NEW.jpg

December 17, 2015

Publication in ‘Crannog’ (no. 40) Autumn 2015. ISBN 978-1-907017-40-7

Filed under: Poems Published, Poetry, Publications — tvivf @ 2:25
Crannog 40 Cover by Robert Ballagh: 'Bloom on the Diamond Stone'

Crannog 40
Cover by Robert Ballagh:
‘Bloom on the Diamond Stone’

Another Crannog Magazine full of good things and with the added bonus of a cover designed by our own internationally acclaimed artist Robert Ballagh (‘Bloom on the Diamond Stone’).

My best pick of the poems is entitled ‘Amuse Bouch, the Ortolan’ by Anne Harding Woodworth (p.7) which describes how a type of small song bird  – an ortolan –  is trapped, cooked and then eaten whole and entire in a particularly gruesome way (an ‘amuse bouch’ is a single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvre). I saw this meal enacted on TV some time ago, and the images have stayed seared  on my consciousness ever since.

‘The plucked and footless morsel roasts for eight minutes // in a ramekin*, goes whole into the mouth / but not without the amusing ritual of the napkin held / so that delicious vapours steam into the gourmand’s nostrils …’

(*a ramekin is a small dish)

The event is summed up by the poet in the last line as being equivalent to ‘eating song’ which I found exactly right. Like the poet, I think it an horrific way of eating the unfortunate bird. This is, of course, a kind of squeamishness on my part, but I’m heartened to see that someone else shares my feelings. The language of the poem – coldly and descriptively relentless – is well-suited to its subject. I thought it a top-class poem. I must mention also that there is another classy poem by Ann Howells – ‘Sage of St George’ – on the page opposite (p.6).

Many times when I read a poem by Geraldine Mills I feel like throwing in the thesaurus as a poet myself because she is so good. ‘Poem as Haw Chutney’ (p.26)  is a marvellous creation:

‘Dump all you’ve plucked into the pot of possibility / with tart of vinegar, the wages of salt / raisins dried down to size.’

I’m not saying one could produce a poem using her recipe but the comparison of the skills of preservative-making and poetry making is strangely apposite. The last stanza is particularly applicable to both ‘disciplines’:

‘… and pour into a clean jar of page / before hiding it in the dark larder of promise, / to mellow, settle, become its own name.’

Quite so.

Michael Farry’s ‘Passage Grave and Shopping Centre’ (p.61) I liked very much because it’s like a poem I’d write myself (only not nearly as well as Michael’s poem, of course), so near is it to my own concerns about unfettered commercial development and its effect on ancient sites (and small towns). ‘Fatal Distraction’ by Pete Mullineaux (p.75) is a poem that gets to the heart of the way we are all wrapped in our mundane distractions to the point of being blind to what’s going on around us. I loved the snappy language. I liked ‘Bog Cotton Rhythm’ too, by Vincent Steed (p. 44). With its strong visual impact is one of those poems that brings to mind one of those beloved old master painting such as Jean Francois Millet’s ‘The Gleaners’ because it is so earthy and grounded in the real.

My own poem ‘Gun Control’ (p.16) is a slighter offering than any of the above, but treats of a very serious subject. It’s not really about the ‘gun control’ that is so much in the news these days, i.e., the limiting of gun ownership, particularly in America. But of course it IS about gun control and has something to say about the mishandling of deadly weapons and the unfortunate consequences that can ensue therefrom. I have a problem with those who think that it is the gun that is the cause of the problems.

Gun Control

 –

This showcase of old firearms

recalls the Lee-Enfield 303

I learned to handle years ago

 –

my left hand cupped below the barrel

right hand firm around the neck

both twisting in against each other

 –

cheek aligned along the stock

the butt-plate hard into the shoulder

eye squared to the sight and then

 –

and only then the finger easing

back into the slack and paused

before the gentle (gentle) squeeze

 –

or else she jumps into the recoil

and fires wide and leaves a bruise

and worse: he now knows where I am.

There are lots of other great poems by great poets too numerous to mention. And Crannog is of course a platform for short stories too and one which had great impact

The Crane Bar, Galway

The Crane Bar, Galway

when read by its author at the well-attended launch night in The Crane Bar was ‘The Perception Illusion’. Rebecca Kennedy invested her story with great energy and managed to get the dialogue exactly right for all her characters. It’s a comic narrative with something of a serious undertow and with just the right mix of both. A very amusing, entertaining piece of writing.

Crannog is edited by Sandra Bunting, Ger Burke, Jarlath Fahy and Tony O’Dwyer. They are to be congratulated on reaching the 40th issue of this fine magazine, helped along the way by The Arts Council, Galway City Council, Galway Language Centre and The Galway Study Centre. Crannog accepts poems and stories three times a year. See http://www.crannogmagazine.com

 

 

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