The Sunflower Sessions continue to flourish, consummately compered by Declan Mcloughlin, albeit with a change of venue and now reincarnated in The Lord Edward Fitzgerald (opposite Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin). And so too another incarnation of its magazine, or ‘narrowsheet’, as its editor Eamon Mag Uidhir calls it, because of its unusual shape.
There definitely is room in Dublin for a publication that brings the poetry of the NOW out into circulation immediately. The poems here in FLARE 08 have all the appearance of being as up to date as you will get, with their ink just freshly dry. There is a lot to be said for a magazine that appears several times a year and features poetry written most probably very recently.
Good quality too. Look at Claire O’Reilly’s paean to the someone (Alva) who arrived into a rather staid place and transformed it: ‘… she was as exotic as pineapple / from another parish … ‘ and who ‘ … nourished our monochrome minds / in the kaleidoscope of her existence …’. What a phrase! ‘monochrome minds’.
And Rob Buchanan’s For You Is OK is wonderful in the full sense of the word: it is full of wonderful usage of language: ‘Away from line of sight, ascending arabesque railed basement steps / An ancient battle-scarred bare-chested aulfella, drunk and bald like myself / but black, smoke stained arthritic … ‘ I don’t usually go for OTT poems but this is irresistible! Really great stuff.
Peter O’Neill’s extensive Sonnets from The Henry Street Arcade Project brought me new discoveries of a place I see most weeks. It evokes the famous cave, ‘which according to Vico / In Scienza nuova, Plato singles out as the origin / Of civiisation’. I hadn’t thought to find Plato’s cave round the corner from the GPO but now I will always. Such is the power of poetry!
I liked Richard Halperin’s sombre Farewell to a Beloved Brother too, with its abrupt start (‘The heavens opened / And he went into them’) reminding me of John Donnes’ straight-to-the chase first lines and equally Henry Vaughan’s (‘They have all gone into the world of light…’). And so I have to say again how privileged I am to be published amidst such fine work. My own offering is also a ‘farewell poem’ in a way, a farewell to all the things I used to do and cannot now do. And despite Allen Ginsburg’s famous line about the dreaded DIY destroying people’s minds, I have to say I always really enjoyed putting up shelves (no, really!):
He is come again to haunt the aisles,
so desperate his need. Come to inhale
the resin scent of deal and pine, planed
and unplaned pointing roofward, waiting
for the careful blade will recreate them
into shapes as yet still hovering ghostly
in his mind like Plato’s caverned forms.
Again he wanders down long corridors
of paints and brushes, white electricals
and dazzling displays of indoor lights
that promise to undarken any soul,
surveys unsullied pruning shears and trowels
displaying gleaming edges, circular saws
and hand-tools nestling pristine in their boxes,
sharing side-by-side a universe
where every cordless drill will guarantee
its teethed chuck to grip the bit so tightly
that no tremble of the hand, no lapse
nor weakness in the aging brain will skew
the outcome. Who will pass these choirs of angels
shining in their tiers and not allow
he feels a sorrow lifting from his heart?
Others come with measuring tape and chart
and calculating eye and tilt of head
to weigh a purchase— Motionless, he stands
in Fixings, undecided whether slot
or Philips screw or toggle-bolt or plug
would best secure a shelf to cavity wall
when suddenly the task appears before him
whole, its every separate part in place
and splendidly complete and now he knows
that he can leave, depart as empty-handed
as the hour he entered all his years ago.
FLARE 08 also features great poems from Seamus Bradley, Rob Buchanan, Natasha Helen Crudden, Kate Dempsey, Helen Harrison, Michael Farry, Eithne Lannon, Jonathan Armas McGlinn, Jen O’Shea, Adriana Ribeiro, David Richardson, Polly Richardson, Daniel Ryan, Roman Rye and Breda Wall Ryan. It is available at the Sunflower Sessions every last Wednesday (7.30pm: The Lord Edward Fitzgerald), and at Books Upstairs in D’Olier Street. €5.
Cover and illustrations are from DMC (instagram@artdmc) photographed by Declan McLoughlin.
Come along and read on the last Wednesday of every month (except December) and fulfill one of the conditions for inclusion in FLARE. The other condition is … good stuff! As they say these days in all the best poetry circles in Dublin … ‘See you at the Sessions!’
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Also on Facebook.
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.
The Sunflower Sessions in Nealon’s Pub are well and truly on the road now since they first began a few
Nealon’s Pub, Capel Street
short months ago. Those veterans of the ‘Last Wednesday’ open mic in The Twisted Pepper in Abbey Street will know that this is the re-branded, new-located version of that long-running event. Nealon’s Pub at the bridge end of Capel Street is a very attractive venue and the starting time is still 7.30pm, so you can get out early enough for that late bus. Another bonus, besides the great poetry and prose on display, is that we still have the inimitable Declan McLoughlin to steer the ship and keep manners on over-enthusiastic scribes.
Last week (24 June) the featured writer was Anamaria Crowe-Serrano (left), who gave a rich sampling of her poetry from her collection ‘Femispheres’ (Shearsman Books, 2008), including the poem ‘Breadmaking’ which I have always liked for its simplicity and depth. She also read some of her more recent work. Anamaria is a translator and her poetry very often reflects that analysis of language as language that often appears in the work of poets fluent in a number of tongues. A truly professional and dedicated writer who weighs her words carefully.
Also on the programme were some of the usual suspect (myself, Ross Hattaway, Roger Hudson, Anne Tannam and Philip Lynch (to name but a few) and Daniel Wade, a relative newcomer, who produced some of the very best poems I’ve heard in a while. Two of them were based around Dunlaoighre and Howth and were really very fine. I heard that he was placed in the Henessy Awards and I am not surprised. An honorable mention also must go to Eileen Keane (right) who read part of a story entitled ‘Snap! , which can be heard on the website Longstoryshort.
There were some other writers with really good work but I can’t remember their names. It’s no accident that one of the poems I read out was entitled ‘Old Guy’. Slightly autobiographical …