I am looking forward to participating in the Books Upstairs reading next Sunday, March 10th, in the company of two writers whose work I really admire.
Richard W Halperin is an Irish-American living in Paris and has four Salmon collections to his name, his latest being Catch Me While You Have the Light; and also, eight chapbooks with Lapwing, the most recent, Tea in Tbilisi, both 2018. His works are included in the UCD Irish Poetry Reading Collection Archive. He is currently working on a new collection called Luna Moth.
Liz McSkeane, poet, novelist and founder of Turas Press, will be reading from Canticle, her historical detective novel set in Renaissance Spain and based on the life of the poet and mystic, St John of the Cross. She might squeeze in a poem or two from So Long, Calypso and/or Snow at the Opera House, her poetry collections. We’ll see! 
And I will read from my three published collections and from the one I am currently preparing for publication by Salmon. It would be great to see you there! The reading is from 3.00pm to 4.30pm in Books Upstairs, D’Olier St, Dublin 2. All welcome!
No photo description available.          Image may contain: mountain, text, nature and outdoor          No photo description available.


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!

The featured writer at the Sunflower Sessions this month was Liz McSkeane,

Liz McSkeane
Liz McSkeane

a published and award-winning poet (The Hennessy) who read some new work and some ‘older’ work from her collection ‘Snow at the Opera House’ (published by New Island). Her poem ‘Plea Bargain’ (from that aforementioned collection) is a very impressive piece on the vulnerability of civilians in time of war. It is a poem that, once heard or read, tends to stay in the mind and somehow recalls to me the graphic reporting of great women war correspondents like Adie Roche and Lyse Doucet. This poem, and many more, provided us with a great listening experience for our August session.

Also adding to the experience were a number of NEW FACES, like Eamon Maguire with his acerbic writings on suburbia, and a poem entitled ‘Swaps’ which proved that one can write poetry about stamp-collecting (a poem that brought me back to my early youth … about 200 years ago …).  Mandy (no second name given) and Pat (whose second name I can’t remember) provided some entertaining poems on sport and Kenneth Nolan gave a hilarious prose-poem account of his trying to walk down Dame Street against the tide of Spanish tourists, beggars and chuggers. Strictly non-PC stuff from Kenneth which was surprisingly refreshing. More good stuff from Pauline Mullally, Jim Hynes and several more newcomers, whose names I did not get, so slow am I. It is really great to see the Sunflower Sessions expanding into new territories and attracting new voices.

Of course the ‘old comers’  (like myself) were much in evidence too… and where would we be without them? [please note that this is a rhetorical question only].

Again, everyone was indebted to the usual suave handling of the event by MC Declan McLoughlin.

Another Sunflower Session at Nealon’s Pub in Capel Street with featured guest… myNealons front
good self! And very honored was I to step into the spot with a selection of poems going back to when I started seriously into my poetry in the late seventies. Other contributers included Liz McSkeane, Orla Martin (the latter giving an entertaining take on hospital-speak with extremely clever word-play and also a poem on her wry, satiric view

Orla Martin
Orla Martin

of poets), Anamaria Crowe-Serrano and Anne Tannam … Oh yes and some guys: Philip Lynch, Roger Hudson and Ross Hattaway. Good stuff too from a poet whose first name is Rob but I can’t remember his second name. So too with a brace of other newcomers. I must take down some of the new names next month (when, BTW, Liz McSkeane is featured) instead of just mentioning the usual suspects all the time in this blog, thereby giving the impression of there being a ‘clique’ which dominates everything on the night. I would certainly not want to give this impression since the Sunflower is extremely welcoming to all comers and the time allowed is very fairly distributed by the incomparable Declan McLoughlin MC. Besides, there are surely enough cliques in the poetry world already without the Sunflower Sessions adding to them!

Among the poems I read out was this very early one (below) from the late 1970s which describes the scene when we moved into our ‘brand-new’ house. Then, as now, there was a housing shortage (some things never change!) and we were one of the first on the road (itself not finished), with half -built and unbuilt houses around us. Everything was a bit reminiscent of the Wild West. The poem was published later in my first collection Dispatches & Recollections in 1998.


Scarce into our second week we find

long caterpillar tracks when we return

at evening. Just today another cable

swings in long U-shapes against the sky

and poppies wave on mounds of broken soil.

The road is stopped at stunted hedges gathering

strength to tackle scutch and briar and thistle.

All that once was green is grey here now

and dust hangs in the air as metal monsters

masticate the hillsides, delve ravines.

We make our meals on one small camping stove,

and talk about the mortgage. Only just last night

we heard the water gurgle in the taps

at last. Tonight we thought we saw a light

shine two doors down. Have we neighbours?


A great night was had by all at The Glen of Aherlow pub where the awards for the

Orla Martin
Orla Martin

2014 Francis Ledwidge International Poetry Competition were presented on Last Thursday (Oct. 27th). The competition is now in its 16th year and great credit must go to its organisers Liam O’Meara and Michael Flanagan for staying the course in what must be one of Ireland’s longest-running events.

The competition winners were:

First Place: Ann Moriarty,  Co Limerick
              Poem:  Preparation
 Second Place: Orla Martin,  Dublin
               Poem: ‘ The Poets
Third Place: Liam Ryan, Co Laoise.
               Poem:  ‘Orpheus’

Ann and Orla were on hand to read their work, as were many

Catherine Ann Cullen
Catherine Ann Cullen

others who featured in the ‘Commendeds’ . The competition is very inclusive and that’s one of the great things about it. I featured in the ‘Commendeds’, along with The Bard of Longford (and my good friend) Mary Melvin Geoghegan, and other noteworthy scribes like Catherine Ann Cullen, Christine Broe, Michael Farry  and James Conway (to mention but a few).

crannog 37Very gratified to have made it into Crannog again, Galway’s long-enduring, top-notch poetry and short stories magazine, edited by Tony O’Dwyer, Ger Burke, Jarlath Fahy and Sandra Bunting. Delighted too to read on the launch night (Oct 31st) in The Crane Bar with the rest of the gala company. The magazine is, as always, well turned out and immaculately proofed, with an arresting cover by Sandra.

This edition (no. 37, autumn 2014) lines up plenty of good stuff. My own favourtite poems (apart from my own one, of course!) are Frank Farrelly’s ‘Everest’, an unrhymed hexameter sonnet which springs a surprise in the sestet; also I liked very much Patrick Chapman’s ‘The Infinite Questionnaire’ with its humanistic take on philosophical questions. Great last line: “A god is not required. In fact it rather spoils the view.” Edward O’Dwyer’s list poem ‘Wall’ is good too: “That day the God of Other Plans/tore up the list of things you were meant to be…”

My own poem is a two-voice, ‘counterpoint’ piece entitled ‘Warrior’:




Who did he leave behind

that morning he set out?


“… and as to age, the carbon dating

indicates a lengthy time span

of some nineteen hundred years …”


Who prayed for him each night?

Who watched for him by day?


“… Our X-rays of the skull, indeed

the actual skull itself, reveal

the arrow struck him from behind …”


Who stopped each passing stranger

to ask for word of him?


“… The angle of trajectory tells us

much about the victim’s stance

the moment just before he fell …”


Who listened every night

to hear his step outside?


“… We have here that unfortunate

and not infrequent military

occurrence: death from friendly fire …”


Who hoped when hope was dead?

Who mourned for him a lifetime?


“… Well, I think we have resolved

the most important questions. Any

from the floor? No? Thank you all.”


How many generations

before his name was lost?





Phil Lynch and Kerrie O'Brien
Phil Lynch and Kerrie O’Brien

As part of the Seven Towers ‘Tuesday Lunchtime Readings’, Philip Lynch and Kerrie O’Brien read from their works on Tuesday 5 February at The Twisted Pepper Cafe in Dublin. Phil covered some ‘old ground’ works, including his evocative poem ‘Guernica’. Reminds me of the story of how a German officer once asked Picasso about his painting: ‘Did you do this?’, Picasso replied: ‘No. You did.’ Philip also read some of his new stuff. Glad he did. We  … ahem … senior poets need to show we still have it.

Kerrie O’Brien read from her book ‘out of the blueness’, including a very impressive poem (for me, anyway) called ‘Ashes’. Kerrie is in the running for a Hennessy Award this year so good luck to her from all at Seven Towers! To read more about Kerrie see http://www.kerrieobrien.com

The next 7T lunchtime session will be on Tuesday 5 March at the White Lady Art Gallery at 14 Wellington Quay at 1.15pm. I will be will be quizzing Oran Ryan on the secrets of writing novels and poetry. Never too late to learn!

Be pepared to be AFRAID. Very AFRAID… No, no! Come back! … It’s not that bad! But plenty to listen to (click HERE) as regards poetic and prose-poetic offerings for the season that’s in it. Anne Tannam, Bernie O’Reilly, Pauline Fayne, John W. Sexton, Karl Parkinson and Anne Morgan deliver some haunting moments (pun intended) in Chapters Bookstore. Oran Ryan from the Seven Towers Agency does the MC honours and the reading was broadcast on Liffey Sound 96.4 FM  last Tuesday (18.10.2011) on my programme ‘Behind the Lines’ (every Tuesday 8.00pm and available on the station website http://www.liffeysoundfm.ie).  Because of the podcast time restriction I couldn’t squeeze in Ross Hattaway. I will include him another time. He  also had some fine work to deliver on the evening. Click on the podcast (see above) and see what you think.

Oran, Ross and John W.

Last week’s Seven Tower’s themed reading at Chapters Bookstore in Dublin was on

Bernie O'Sullivan

‘Animals’ and first into the fray was Karl Parkinson with his City Sonata, a poem which mentions gulls and so, if you consider gulls as animals… but who cares. What a great poem it is (‘ I sing the city into exsitence from my dreaming…’). Also a new poem called ‘Fishing’. Eileen Keane gave an excerpt from a story in which a cat figures prominently (very good, but I’m somewhat damaged as to ‘cats’, having endured an awful lot about ‘Kilkenny cats’ during the previous week). Then Bernie O’Reilly with some poems, among which one with a moral: don’t creep around the house late at night looking for cheese. OK, Bernie. Point taken. Richard Halperinon a brief visit from Paris read from his book ‘Anniversary’ and one published in that

Oran Ryan

new magazine ‘The Moth’ which I’m never able to find anywhere. John Sexton gave a powerful rendering of ‘The Green Owl’ and some others. Terrific stuff. I found shades of Bukowski in his (John’s)  ‘The Invisible Horses’. Alma Brayden read from her ‘Prism’ book and then Oran Ryan described how ‘Alexander Wormgrind Saved the World’ and Phil Lynch came up with a polemical poem referring to those now far off days of the Economic Boom (remember?). I was last (but of course not least) with poems about cats, dogs (‘The Dogs in the Street…’  from my book ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’) and rats. Veryenjoyable to read and to listen. Next month (Thurs 13th Oct) the theme is ‘Ghosts and Ghouls’ in keeping with the month that will be in it. Come along and have a great evening.