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This Galway magazine has done me the signal honour of publishing another poem of mine, ‘Survivor’. I am very pleased to find myself in the company of some fine and well-known writers such as Kate Dempsey, Michael Farry, Brian Kirk and John W. Sexton, as well as some others I have not seen before.

I liked very much the precise demestic details of Kate’s ‘No.1 Mum’ and John’s series of terse tercets. Not sure if the latter could be classed as a sort of haiku selection but they work very well:

how easily the snail

holds starlight

on its skin

and Brian Kirk’s ‘Immanent’ has an immediate appeal to me because it captures that moment (when night is about to ‘fall’) about which I have often written myself.

… The night is ready 

like a cat to pounce,

and idly, like a cat,

it paws the moment …

Another poem of twilight time (favourite time of poets!) is from the pen of Michael Farry. ‘Waiting for the Train’ is the title and that is what the poem is about (Michael writes that ‘down to earth’ type of stuff that I like a lot). he catches the atmosphere of the old station, now falling somewhat into neglect where the dying sun casts

a brief drench of rusty brilliance,

kindling the few last clinging beech leaves,

their fallen fellows thick on the disused platform.

My own contribution is a poem written after an illness in which I suggest there may be some similarity between myself and its long-legged subject:

Survivor

Driving down the Belgard Road

I see again the gossamer evidence

of my sitting tenant, snug

behind the glass of my wing mirror.

Rare the glimpse I’ve had of him

the time we’ve been together, I

so sure the wind would put an end

to his arachnoid acrobatics

but this tiny wight is match

and more for zippy morning breezes,

keen as elephant or moose

or mouse (or me) to cling to life.

In dead of night and lit by streetlamp,

undisturbed by prowling cat

or busy milkman he will toil

to realign his damaged lacework

and, come day, will venture out,

negotiate his deadly silk

to reach his breakfast, all the while

remembering to place his feet

along particular threads he spun

dissimilar from the others, ones

he left bereft of gum. But he

and only he, can tell which ones.

 

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The next issue of Skylight 47 will be launched in Autumn 2017 and submissions will be accepted between 1 June 2017 and 1 August 2017. Send three (unpublished) poems plus bio (60 words max.) to skylightpoets47@gmail.com

Poems up to 40 lines and sent as both an attachment and in the body of the email. Submission detail can be found on skylight47poetry.wordpress.com

Full marks again to Bernie Crawford and her intrepid editorial team on a great issue! And congratulations to Patricia Byrne on her wonderful illustrations (example above).

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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