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.

20180812_090010.jpg

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!):

Material Support

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!’

 

flare-02

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!

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.

20160921_120333_NEW.jpg
‘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!

20160915_144841.jpg
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160512_172155_NEW.jpg

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.

 I a Exiles.jpg

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.

 

 

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.

EARLY DISPATCHES

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?