The featured writer at the Sunflower Sessions this month was 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… my
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
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
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:
Ann and Orla were on hand to read their work, as were many
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).
Very 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?
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!