Wednesday 30 November 2011

Powers Stories

A call came out for short stories that included references to Power's Whiskey. The resultant book is now available. All proceeds are in aid of The Hospice Foundation so make sure you buy a copy.

Guest blog from Nollaig Rowan who's story is in the book.

Earlier this month I met Maeve Binchy, queen of storytelling, for the first time. But it was not the first time that her words have encouraged and inspired me to keep going at this thing we call “writing”. On a previous occasion, Maeve had written the foreword to an anthology which featured one of my stories. The foreword was as congratulatory as if we had all been included on the Booker longlist.
This time I met Maeve, along with thirty-nine other writers whose short stories were published in aid of The Hospice Foundation. The competition was a neat little idea run by Power’s Irish whiskey which required writers to tell a story about “what truly matters” while of course including the words Powers whiskey. The launch was in Dalkey, Maeve’s home village, in a pub and yes, you’ve guessed, there was plenty of whiskey. Maeve was regal in her demeanour and generous in her praise of our small efforts, calling us all “published writers” on the strength of our 500-word stories. She said
“Success is not like a cake; it doesn’t mean that if you have more success that there’s less left for me. We can all be successful.” 
Encouraging words from the grand dame herself.

Here is Nollaig's story.

                               THE  USUAL                    by  Nollaig Rowan                    
 I balanced a plastic bag of notes on the carrier while I unlocked my bike. Rain splashed on the back of my neck, trickling inside my cardigan. Torrential showers in May! All I wanted was to be home and warm and away from Trinity Library where I’d spent too many hours in the past four years. The wind whipped up and my bag tumbled, sheets scattering to the corners of Front Square. Disgruntled but sympathetic fellow students returned them to me and skulked away.
“Damn ... where’re the French notes?” I said to no one in particular.
“What’s that Niamh?” said a familiar voice. I looked up. He handed me a clutch of soggy pages.
I didn’t need this. Not now, not in the middle of my Finals. I hadn’t seen Shane since we split up, over a year ago, when he went to Berlin.
“You look frozen. Com’on and I’ll buy you ...” he said.
“No, I have to ...”
“Just one. In The Pav.”
“The usual” Shane said to the barman who knew us.
“Not for me... I have to study. Get me a water ... ” I said, testily, though Shane was always good at knowing what I really wanted. He placed two Powers in front of us and a sparkling water on the side.
“So?” he said relaxing. “Long time, eh?”
I didn’t want this conversation. I had moved on. He took a long slow sip of the whiskey and unwillingly I caught its warm aroma on his breath, despite the respectable distance between us.
“So?” he said again.
“So, you’re back” I said. “I’m at exams and ...” The word ‘exams’ always made me nervous. I picked up the whiskey and swirled it around in the glass before allowing the taste to explode in my mouth. I had felt nothing like this since ... well, since before Shane went away. He moved closer. We drank silently, reflectively.
“When’s your last exam?” he said.
“Tuesday.  Finishes at six.”
Unlocking my bike in Front Square on Tuesday evening, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“How’d it go?” Shane said.
“Not too bad... Good, in fact! Yeah” I said, feeling light and frivolous. I expected him to suggest “the usual” in The Pav. Instead he leaned towards me, his light stubble brushing against my cheek and whispered “I want to give you a baby.”
I lurched away from him, dropping my bike on the cobblestones and tripping over my satchel. Passing students stared at me and frowned at him. He bent to help me.
“A Baby Powers,” he laughed taking two miniature bottles from his denim jacket. “Let’s sit on the grass. Isn’t it great you’re finished and have your exams behind you?”

From “Celebrating What Truly Matters” an anthology of short stories. Editied by Patsey Murphy, Irish Times. Published by Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard. 2011.  €9.99 in aid of The Irish Hospice Foundation. Available in Easons.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Poets to Check Out - Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney reads "Left" She recently won the National Book award for her new collection

Sunday 27 November 2011

Dinky Poetry Book Launch in Dublin

Come to my Dublin launch of this year's most sought after fashion accessory.

My Dinky Poetry Book, Some Poems from moth editions

Wednesday 30th November 2011, 6:30pm
The lovely Winding Stair bookshop (on the quays near Ha'penny bridge)
Ted McCarthy from Monaghan, one of the other 3 poets will also be reading from his book.
All welcome.

This is what your handbag needs

or your mother/sister/friend/cousin/aunt/boss/teacher
Your laptop bag needs this
and your jeans' pocket needs this
someone's jacket pocket needs this
And did I mention? Only 4 Euro. The ideal stocking filler

How to publish women writers

An interesting blogpost here with suggestions on how to ensure women are better represented in publishing. As in being published (and reviewed)
women are not published nearly as much as men in most venues in the literary world
The usual excuses are:
  • what we publish is representational of the submissions. Apparently about 75% of the slushpiles are usually from men though I would imagine each slushpile varies greatly.
  • women's submissions are less likely to meet our standards
  • we do publish women (but not very loudly)
  • we consider sexist allusions to be witty and acceptable.
The blogger, Annie Fisch suggestions include:
  • Actively solicit contributions from women. i.e. invite them specifically to submit (Call me, email me, tweet me)
  • Educate yourself on what women like to read and write (OK not so sure about that one as not every women has the same boxes to tick)
  • Read with double awareness (if the writer you are reading is of a different gender, race, class, background, country be self aware of your responses) That's a good suggestion. But I would hope that they are doing it already or am I deluded? 
The writer then goes out to suggest that some women write about small, trivial subjects. That's in the eye of the beholder though.Then she suggests the editors should ask themselves if they publish writing that reads like women's writing. And I'm not talking about childbirth, menstruation and shopping.
  • Next the exercise for the blushing editor is to put on a rampant, angry feminist hat (I have a few in my wardrobe you can borrow if you like) and read through stuff you've published. Look at the featured artists, the cover names, the reviewees. Are you mollified or are you an angry moll?

  • Here are the stats. Quite shocking really. I wonder what it would look like in Irish publications. 
Here's an interesting (actually worringly, off putting) piece about women's writing.

Saturday 26 November 2011

A Creative Writing workshop with Dave Lordan

Kickstart your imagination with Dave Lordan in Hotspot Cafe, Greystones
Friday Dec 2nd. 7.30 to 9pm

10 euro, including admission to the fabulous Speakeasy Cabaret later on that evening.

Where do stories and creative ideas come from?
How can we make creative use of our own vast store of stories and experiences?
How can we jump-start our imaginations when we just aren't feeling up to it?
How do we draw inspiration from our every day lives?
How do we make time in our busy lives for inspiration and creativity?

All are welcome to take part in this fun, informative and stimulating workshop with Dave Lordan. 
Booking is advised. To book a place phone Dave on 087 0921117, or email

Dave Lordan is a multi-award winning poet, playwright and fiction writer as well as a popular reviewer on RTE Radio 1's flagship Arena Arts show. He is the current holder of the prestigious Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Award. He is also once of Ireland's leading creative writing teachers and currently teaches on the MA in Poetry Studies in Mater Dei Institute and for Co Wicklow VEC, 
as well as to numerous school and community groups.

Read more about Dave at his website

Friday 25 November 2011

The Nobel Prize for Literature Balance

Or lack of balance. There's a surprise.

Of the 107 laureates since 1901, only 12 have been women. They are getting slightly closer together than earlier years but there's not a lot of equality there.

Who are they?

Romanian living in Germany
Prize motivation: "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed"
Doris Lessing
Born in Persia, living in England.
Prize motivation: "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny"
 Prize motivation: "for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power"
Prize motivation: "for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality"
Prize motivation: "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality"
South African
Prize motivation: "who through her magnificent epic writing has - in the words of Alfred Nobel - been of very great benefit to humanity"
Born in Germany, lived in Sweden
Prize motivation: "for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength" 
Prize motivation: "for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world"
Pearl Buck
Prize motivation: "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces"
Born in Denmark, lived in Norway
Prize motivation: "principially for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages"
Italian (Sardinian)
Prize motivation: "for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general"
Selma Lagerlöf
Prize motivation: "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings" 

Thursday 24 November 2011

Soundings for Simon

Soundings for Simon 
Where: Badass Café, Temple Bar, Dublin

When: Monday, November 28th at 7pm. 
An evening of poetry old and new, with readings from Paula Meehan, Iggy McGovern, Maggie O'Dwyer, Tom Conaty and Louise C. Callaghan
Admission is €12 which includes drinks and finger food. 
All proceeds will go to the Dublin Simon Community.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

The Sonnet

A well known poetic form. Have you tried to write in this form? Give it a go. It's infectious. It has inspired poets from Dante to Shakespeare, Spenser, Rilke, Auden, Dylan Thomas and Elizabeth Bishop

The Basics - layout

14 lines
usually iambic pentameter
See previous post here on rhyme and rhythm

Petrachian Sonnet, the earlier version.
  • Octave (8 lines) (abba abba) or (abab cdcd)
  • Sestet (six lines) (cdc cdc) or (cde cde)

  • Three quatrains & a final couplet (or all 14 lines in one stanza)
  • Rhyme scheme (abab cdcd efef gg)
  • Final rhyming couplet is defining feature
Both forms usually contain a volta, which is a sort of shift in tone after the first 8 lines.

Shakespeare's Sonnet No 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate;
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

i.e. first half,.
You are lovely like the summer
BUT summer passes and you are forever

How about this one?

Maundy Thursday 
by Wilfred Owen

Between the brown hands of a server-lad
The silver cross was offered to be kissed.
The men came up, lugubrious, but not sad,
And knelt reluctantly, half-prejudiced.
(And kissing, kissed the emblem of a creed.)
Then mourning women knelt; meek mouths they had,
(And kissed the Body of the Christ indeed.)
Young children came, with eager lips and glad.
(These kissed a silver doll, immensely bright.)
Then I, too, knelt before that acolyte.
Above the crucifix I bent my head:
The Christ was thin, and cold, and very dead:
And yet I bowed, yea, kissed - my lips did cling.
(I kissed the warm live hand that held the thing.)

Monday 21 November 2011

Frances MacManus Short Story Award

This annual competition is gradually getting later and later in the year until this year when it's so late, it's next year. But never mind. We can live with that. 

It's a competition to write a short story for the ear, for the radio. That's not the same as a story on the page. Read your story out loud. Remember your audience can't go back to check a detail. Think lyric, rhythmic.

The competition is open to anyone born or resident in Ireland.
Only one entry per person is allowed.
Entries must be original work of the author and not previously published or broadcast.
Stories must be between 1,800 - 2,000 words.
Entries should be double spaced and type written on one side of A4 paper.
The Authors name should only appear on the official entry form.
Deadline: 20th January 2012.
There is no Entry Fee for Submission. Free
Entries should be posted or delivered to:
                                                                RTE Radio 1 Short Story Competition
                                                                RTE Radio Centre
                                                                Dublin 4
Application and details here

Sunday 20 November 2011

Science and Poetry: Not So Different?

Lecture by my good buddy and all round witty, insightful man, Professor Iggy McGovern, Scientist and Poet

16:30, Thursday 24 November 2011

Seminar Room, Long Room Hub (beside Arts Building), Trinity College Dublin

Friends of the Library €2.50, non-members €5

It is over 50 years since C.P. Snow’s Rede Lecture ‘The Two Cultures’; Snow’s theme was that Western intellectual life had fractured into polar opposite groups of Science and Literature. This lecture examines how that theme plays out today in poetry, noting the recent publication of a number of science poetry anthologies. It looks back to when no distinction existed, traces the beginnings of the fault lines in the 19th century and reviews the developing links of our time. The writing of some scientist- poet hybrids is discussed, including the Irish scientist and poet William Rowan Hamilton and the Czech immunologist and poet Miroslav Holub.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Write in the City - Creative writing classes

Creative writing classes with Yvonne Cullen at Café Joly, National Library of Ireland 
The creative writing course inspired by the culture and fabric of Dublin city and by your Dublin stories. 
Comprises five Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. 
Tuition, discussion and readings of Dublin-inspired writing, visits to inspiring Dublin cultural locations, and convivial lunch at Café Joly at the National Library of Ireland accompanied with further creative writing guidance. You will also be given additional challenges to take away each week during this inspiring, fun and surprisingly intensive course. 
Also on offer for groups (by arrangement) are ‘Write in the City’ one-day events. Sessions will be capped at twelve participants. 
To book, contact Yvonne Cullen at or 086 1701418.

Friday 18 November 2011

2012 Hippocrates Awards for Poetry and Medicine

Entries are now open for the 2012 Hippocrates Prize for poetry and medicine, which is for unpublished poems in English.
Deadline for entries is 31st January 2012.

With a 1st prize for the winning poem in each category of £5,000, the Hippocrates prize is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single poem. In each category there is also a 2nd prize of £1,000, 3rd  prize of £500, and 20 commendations each of £50. 

Medicine may be interpreted in the broadest sense. Themes for prize entries may include the nature of the body and anatomy; the history, evolution, current and future state of medical science; the nature and experience of tests; the experience of doctors, nurses and other staff in hospitals and in the community. 

Other topics might include experience of patients, families, friends and carers; experiences of acute and long-term illness, dying, birth, cure and convalescence; the patient journey; the nature and experience of treatment with herbs, chemicals and devices used in medicine.

Awards are in an Open category, which anyone in the world may enter, and an NHS category, which is open to UK National Health Service employees, health students and those working in professional organisations involved in education and training of NHS students and staff.

Awards will be presented in London on Saturday May 12th 2012, at the 3rd International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine, to be held at the Wellcome Collection rooms in London.

Poems entered are to be of no more than 50 lines and submitted online, accompanied by an entry fee (£6 per poem). 

Thursday 17 November 2011

Poetry Ireland Introductions

I did this a few years ago and it was very enjoyable and educational and you get to meet a lot of people and talk about poetry a lot which is a treat. You do have to have a publishing history behind you first.

The Poetry Ireland Introductions Series offers a paid public reading to poets working towards a first collection or with a début collection already published, and who have a track record of publication in journals and 'little' magazines.  

To apply for an Introductions reading and a preparatory masterclass in Spring 2012, send a maximum of 10 pages of poems and a short biographical note emphasising publication credits to:

Introductions, Poetry Ireland, 2 Proud's Lane, off St Stephen's Green, D2.

Deadline: Friday 6 January 2012. 

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Irish Times Flash Fiction

The Irish Times is looking for flash fiction, anything up to 500 words.

There's a feature on it here and details

Think you can write a very short story? Send your Flash Fiction of no more than 500 words to and we’ll publish the best.

Here's a link to those published last week. 

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Know the Ropes

Submissions for this magazine are now being sought.

The 2012 MA Literature and Publishing class is delighted to announce the call for submissions for the 20th issue of ROPES.

The theme this year is ‘Links’.

Links may be interpreted as reflections on the past and transformations to the present, on changes in people even if they intrinsically remain the same, or the effect development has had on our now digital culture.

We invite submission of poetry, prose and drama, with a maximum of 2500 words

no more than three submissions per author.

All submissions must be unpublished.

The launch date is set for 26th of April, 2012 at Cúirt International Festival of Literature.

Deadline: 5pm, 9 December 2011

Please send all submissions to

For further information see

Monday 14 November 2011

Submissions for Crannog

Submissions are now open for Crannóg Magazine Issue 29.
Short stories must be no more than 2000 words,
poems no more than 40 lines.

Deadline: December 31st.

Full submission details can be found at

You can also read some back copies here so you can get an idea of the kind of thing they go for.

My poem Slow Poison is in here
It's also included in my dinky poetry book available for the bargain price of €4 or £4 here.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Magma magazine Poetry Competition

I have a soft spot for Magma as they published one of my poems last year. It's the only poem I've written in a Clondalkin accent (I can never read it out loud)

Anyway, they've a competition, two competitions.

Deadline 30th November

Magma's Judge's Prize
Judge: George Szirtes
Up to 80 lines (unusually long)
First Prize £500
Second Prize £200
Third Prize £100


Editors Prize for a short poem
Up to 10 lines
Judged by a panel of Magma Editors
(I would love to be a guest editor on a magazine. Offers please)
First Prize £500
Second Prize £200
Plus 10 Special Mentions £10 each
As part of the prize, all 15 winners will have their poems published in our Spring Issue 2012 and be invited to read alongside George Szirtes at Magma’s prize-giving event on Monday 13 February 2012 in London.

Monday. Hm, London Hm

Competition Entry Fees: £5 per poem or £15 for four poems, except for Magma Poetry magazine subscribers who pay £3 per poem or £9 for four poems.

 More here

Saturday 12 November 2011

Call for Submissions to Mxlexia

Mslexia is looking for (women) writers. Current themes are:

The Year 2212.
What will it be like. What could it be like? Will it be Star Trek or Bladerunner? Battlestar Galactica.

Up to 4 poems up to 40 lines each
2 short stories up to 2,200 words

Email only from overseas writers otherwise snailmail from UK writers.

Deadline: 28 November 2011

Details here

I catch myself doing that sometimes (daily probably)
(When I'm old(er), I'll be one of those old ladies you see who are a little scary.)

Send up to 200 words on any topics in a single characters voice.

Deadline: 16 January 2012

Pen Portrait
Convey a characters in up to 120 words. This quarter, a teenager.

Deadline: 16 January 2012

Friday 11 November 2011

Talks at the Instituto Cervantes

The taste of words: literature, gastronomy and much more
A series of talks
Alcohol and Literature
Some say, literature is located at the bottom of a bottle. It would not be far-fetched to present a view of contemporary literature through alcohol addiction. Up to the Romantic Era, we are mostly guided by literary references. However, from that period onwards, we can count on various types of data, namely biographical, historic and sociological, that allow us to offer a clear overview of a topic full of anecdotes. Although alcohol-related literature is scarce, there have been hundreds of alcohol addicted writers throughout the ages. From Herodotus to Bukovsky and including Poe, Rubén Darío, Alfred Jarry, Neruda, Hemingway, Lowry, Onetti, Dylan Thomas, Chandler or Cendrars. 

Javier Barreiro, a writer and literature professor, has published 36 books and over 600 articles.

29/11/2011 (18:00 h)

Cooking by the book round table discussion
The book “Cociñando ao pé da letra” aims to go beyond the borders of traditional art by showing the similarities between disciplines, such as, literature, cooking and photography.
Dates 08/12/2011 (18:00 h)


Instituto Cervantes - Café Literario
Lincoln House, Lincoln Place
2 Dublin
More info here

Thursday 10 November 2011

Dunamaise Arts Leaves Festival

Dunamaise Arts Centre has a dinky Literature festival.

Memoir/ Autobiobraphical writing with Pat Boran
Is Sold out so I won't tell you any more.

Literary Evening with John Banville and Jean O’Brien
Friday 11th November
hosted by Mary O’Donnell in Stradbally Hall
Time: 8.00pm
Tickets: €15

Literary Evening with Dermot Healy and Anne Haverty
Saturday 12th November
Stradbally Hall, Stradbally
Music by: Robert Solyom, Clarinettist
Tickets: €15

Move info here

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Interesting Links

Interesting take on the men v women debate from Sheenagh Pugh's blog, with particular emphasis on reviewers. Men often do not want to review women's books. Why?

I adore these anonymous book sculptures that have been appearing in Scottish literary institutions recently. I, for one, want them to remain mysterious.  More pictures here

And how about this? Poetry bombing, sewing poems into clothes donated to charity shops.

Almost as good as IPYPIASM International Put Your Poem In A Shop Month – 3rd year this December.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Interview with poet, Alice Lyons

Thanks very much for agreeing to this interview. Could you introduce yourself to the readers please? 

I was born in Paterson New Jersey in 1960 into an Irish-American family and grew up in the United States. I studied for degrees in European Intellectual History (BA Connecticut College), Sociolinguistics (M.Sc. University of Pennsylvania) and Fine Art (MFA, Boston University)and have taught English literature and language and art&design at third level for most of my career. I love teaching, especially across disciplines. My writing wanders in an out of all these fields as well as into the fields and hedgerows I now live among.
I moved to Ireland in 1998 because I felt it would be good for my work to be here. It was an intuitive leap, and I'm glad I jumped. After being in academia for most of my twenties and early thirties, I removed myself and just worked; it was a process of absorbing all the valuable material I had studied (and lived) and casting off what was of no use to me. That's when the work started to coalesce and take on a life of its own. To talk back.
I make my living by working part-time as a curator of contemporary art and teaching poetry and visual art. I live with my twelve-year-old daughter and soon-to-be husband, filmmaker Colin McKeown.

How did you get into poetry? 

It got into me has always seemed to be the sort of language that feels most familiar. A home. I wrote poems as a child, wrote the usual intense stuff as a teenager. When I visited Connecticut College as a prospective student in 1978, I was lucky to be plopped into William Meredith's poetry seminar in the basement of Harkness Chapel. The students were slumped on shabby sofas and armchairs and Meredith read a couple of poems, which they discussed. The casual atmosphere was alluring. It was my first exposure to a 'live' poet, to 'live' poetry. I was hooked from the get-go. Meredith was wonderful. Erudite, but warm, wise and exceedingly generous. I took all the classes with him I could during the four years I was at Connecticut.

I'll be looking up William Meredith now.
What do you consider your highlights so far?

Winning the Patrick Kavanagh Award was completely unexpected and a very nice thing. I had entered at the last minute, didn't give it a thought, submitted stuff I'd written very quickly and hadn't shown to anyone. An award like that, for a person who knew no one in the literary community here, who hadn't published much before that, helped me to keep sitting at my desk with the notebook open and the pen moving.

Congratulations on that. Can you explain how it works when you are involved in a collaborative art project such as the The Polish Language film?

Films can be a variant of a poetry reading. They can capture the rhythm and sound of words; they can, of course, give the poem a visual dimension. I loved the idea of using film to extend a poem, not illustrate it. I started trying to make poetry films with really limited software that I learned to use on my Mac laptop (iMovie mostly). It was fun, but I felt ham-fisted with the animation.

A friend who teaches animation knew Orla Mc Hardy as she was in his class and making a film based on an Ivor Cutler poem. He thought we would like each other and introduced us. We've completed two films together and are working on a third, all based on poems I've written. Orla is a visual/animation svengali. She always has either an exceedingly elegant or completely random visual idea. I trust this. She has a poet's approach to film making. We laugh a lot and work really hard, always dissecting the text, trying to stretch it, trying to amaze ourselves. These projects have been supported by grants from the Irish Film Board and the Arts Council. They are interested in cross-disciplinary work, so our projects have fit their bill. Our film "The Polish Language" has won a number of Best Animation awards and has been selected for competition is over 30 film festivals world wide.I'm just back from Ukraine, where the film screened as part of the Krok International Festival of Animation, which takes place aboard a river cruiser that travels from Kiev to Odessa over 10 days. It was an amazing trip, and I saw so many interesting films.

There are loads of ways that writers can collaborate in cross-disciplinary ways. I think the best way is to think about people whose work you admire in other disciplines and imagine ways that you might do something together. At first, it might seem like 'merely' playing, but I think play is an extremely under-rated activity for adults, and you never know what kind of serious stuff can come from it!

The films are well worth seeing and are at and
What are you working on now?

My book Staircase Poems is available from and Amazon and fine bookshops around Ireland. I'm working on a new collection of poems, which is called The Breadbasket of Europe, and I am writing it in my capacity as a doctoral candidate at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's in Belfast.

Three new poems and a Q & A with me will appear in the December issue of POETRY (Chicago).
Orla Mc Hardy and I are in the final stages of working on our third poetry film, Developers, which has been funded by a Film Project Award from the Arts Council. It will be out early next year.

Congratulations again on the film project award. I look forward to seeing it. Thanks for telling us about your poetry and films.

Thank you Kate. Best of luck in all your work.

Monday 7 November 2011

Grace O'Malley discusses the Awdl Gywydd

I hadn't come across this particular Welsh poetic form but here's a primer from Grace O'Malley on her blog Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

There are twenty-four traditional poetic formats attributed to Welsh literature, and there were even more before our current list was compiled in the Late Middle Ages, when some formats were omitted. Bardic tradition claims that the great court poets began to die out when Welsh knights began to move into the English court, as the poets depended upon the wealthy knights' patronage. One such gentleman, known as Grufydd Phylip of Ardudwy, was said to be the last professional poet, and on his death in 1666, the art was left to amateurs. Let's revive some traditions this week as we discuss our first format,
An awdl ("owdl") is a long-format poem similar to the ode, and the awdl gywydd ("owdl gow-widd")  is a short piece in the "cywydd" category of meters, which were purportedly the most popular of the formats. This basic stanza is an excellent format with which to get warmed up for a longer piece. It's another building block, and can be written to any length. Each stanza is made up of seven-syllable quatrains and an interlaced rhyme scheme, with the second and fourth lines making a perfect rhyme. Sound a little complicated? Here's a four-stanza example from John Litzenberg of Radical Druid, named "On Her Sleeping Form". It has one minor variation--see if you can spot it!
She’s sleeping there on the chaise,
on her face a gentle look;
dreaming no doubt of flowers,
and quiet hours with a book. 
Her eyes are closed, her heart eased,
and I am pleased that she rests;
May her dreams be sweet and kind,
and may she find peaceful hours. 
When she wakes in the morning
may the day bring her gladness
filled with laughter and sunshine
and a decline in sadness. 
I listen to her soft snore,
wanting no more than her joy;
she fills where I am nothing,
and brings happiness sublime.
First we see each line is seven syllables. Next, note that there is a rhyme at the midpoint of the second and fourth lines, as well as the perfect rhyme at the end. This interlaced rhyme can be a half-rhyme, consonance, or assonance, and can even be moved around, placing it in the third, fourth, or fifth syllable of each of those lines.
For brevity's sake, I have placed the example midpoint rhyme on the third syllable. You are free to place it in the same general area or move it around a bit! The strictest part of this exercise, for me, is to keep each line at seven syllables.
While scouring the net for some examples of this format, I ran across a gentleman named Gary Kent Spain, who made a list of awdl gywyddau under the name "venicebard" for This one stood out as my clear favorite, and it is titled "Ode to Alexandria (Awdl Gywydd)":
Alexandria, what tones
and intense groans you evoke
from man’s memory, proud nest
of the best that ancients spoke 
concerning science, the gods,
how fate plods: what you preserved
of the past’s glory that now
into the sand’s brow has swerved, 
lost for all time! Had you stood,
Serapeum, would our schools
not still be teaching the scrolls
that lined your walls? would not fools 
who thought the ancient world lacked
any ear for fact be seen
for the emptiness they are?
But your star has lost its sheen— 
quite literally, since sight
no more sees light from the isle
Pharos with its beacon tall
whose beam’s call announced with style 
that here stood Ptolemy’s gem,
pliant stem of writing’s bloom,
swaying with those winds of thought
it had wrought to rend man’s gloom.
Please check the links for several more of his entries!
Wales has an intriguing and ancient literary tradition, full of bards and poet's guilds, even the first recorded literary work from a Northern European woman! They're also known for some of the most strict formats in existence. I look forward to exploring these with you, because I believe that the merit in these exercises grows with the difficulty of the attempt.
For a much more concise and pleasingly written summary of Welsh poetic format, visit Poetry Magnum Opus.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Interview with poet, Miriam Gamble

Thanks very much for agreeing to this interview and welcome to Could you introduce yourself to the readers please?

My pleasure, Kate – many thanks for asking me.

I published my first collection, The Squirrels Are Dead, with Bloodaxe just over a year ago and just before I moved to Glasgow, where I currently live. I’m originally from Belfast. I work as a subtitler for a media company at the moment, though I’ve also been a university tutor in literature and creative writing, a bookseller, a barmaid and a pony-trekking guide. I love animals – I’ve got two cats and a horse, all of whom got bundled over the Irish Sea when I moved last year.

How did your collection with Bloodaxe come about? (a dream publisher)

Through a couple of things, I think. I’d been publishing poems in journals and magazines, and then there was the Eric Gregory Award in 2007 and the tall-lighthouse pamphlet, both of which will have put me on the radar, so to speak. There’s always a reading the night after the Gregory Awards are given out, and Clare Pollard was at that – she subsequently co-edited an anthology for Bloodaxe, Voice Recognition, which some of my poems were included in. So Neil Astley, the editor, had seen my work in there, and also in the pamphlet. I didn’t send a manuscript in the first instance; he got in touch and requested one. When I signed, I didn’t have a full collection – only about three quarters of one. It was another year and half or so before the book came out.

 How did you get into poetry?

I started writing when I was an undergrad student in Oxford, though I suppose in reality it goes further back. My mum says that, when we were kids, my sister’s favourite bedtime books were stories, whereas mine – singular – was The Quangle Wangle’s Hat by Edward Lear, and that I didn’t care about the narrative so much as the sound of the language. So we’ll say it started with Lear. Eliot and Donne were the poets who made me want to try my own hand at it. But I wouldn’t say I started taking it seriously, or thinking I was anything other than terrible at it, until my early twenties, when I was a post-grad student at Queen’s in Belfast. There was a lot going on there – lots of inspirational people around, lots of events, and, crucially, a writers’ group, chaired by Sinéad Morrissey. After a year of procrastinating and being too embarrassed to show up in case everyone thought my stuff was rubbish, I started going to that, and I’ve never looked back, really.

What do you consider your highlights so far?

It’s a highlight for me if I write a poem I’m proud of, and that I didn’t know I was capable of writing. I think you have to work like that, rather than looking for bigger pictures all the time. And after all, individual poems are what it’s about; you don’t have anything if you don’t have poems that you yourself believe in. But there have been a couple of important turning points. Finding the group at Queen’s was one – I’d probably never have stuck at it if it hadn’t been for that, or only in a ‘I’ve written this and I’m putting it away in the drawer now’ kind of way. Then, I won an Eric Gregory Award in 2007, which led to me getting a pamphlet out with tall-lighthouse – my first publication. That was really exciting. And there was the day I opened my email and there was a message from Neil Astley. You can’t beat that on a Monday morning! More recently, I’ve been given a couple of travel awards, which I’m very much looking forward to using.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you knew what you know now?

You make it sound as though I know the secret of life, or have just returned from the underworld or something! Nothing, really, poetry-wise. I couldn’t have done things differently anyway – I can only write what I can write, and if other people like it, they like it, and if they don’t, they don’t. I’d not be able to style myself to a trend or anything; nor would I want to. Serendipity has always played me a good hand when it comes to important things: I went to Queen’s by accident, because it was in Belfast and I was going out with someone who wouldn’t move away at the time. It was the best place I could have gone, but I didn’t know that or do it on purpose; I only found out when I got there. Doing a PhD has got me nowhere in terms of jobs, but I wouldn’t not have done it for the world. It’s been the happiest period of my life to date, and the most productive. I wouldn’t have started smoking when I was 18 because I thought it looked cool. That’s the only thing I’d change with hindsight.   

Which poets, living or dead, do you recommend people search out and read?

How long have you got? I’ll give you an abbreviated list, based on what’s got me ticking over the past couple of years, and on people I return to again and again. Elizabeth Bishop is one of the few poets I read tirelessly and whose brilliance I’m always surprised by anew. Janet Frame and William Carlos Williams blow the top off my head; also Edwin Morgan and Les Murray. I’ve only recently got into reading poetry in translation, so that’s (literally) opened up a whole new world. Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda and CP Cavafy are all excellent. With regard to more recent work, Sinéad Morrissey and Paul Muldoon rarely put a foot wrong. Well, Muldoon does sometimes, but only in the service of trying things that others wouldn’t dare to try, and saying things that others wouldn’t dare to say. I think he’s the most important English language poet of our time. I love Frances Leviston’s first book, and Meirion Jordan’s – both far too young to be as good as they are. Simon Armitage’s most recent book, Seeing Stars, I found exhilarating, political, deeply disturbing and absolutely right. I’m also a recent convert to Glyn Maxwell. Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet should be read by everyone, force-fed to everyone, poetry buff or otherwise. Finally, I’ve just discovered Ailbhe Darcy. Please read Ailbhe Darcy. I’ve only read a handful of poems – I haven’t had time to read the book, Imaginary Menagerie, yet, though it’s sitting on my desk waiting to be devoured at the first opportunity. The poems I have read are startling – startlingly good.

What advice would you give to aspiring, new poets?

Am I in a position to give advice? I think probably not, but if you’re asking, you’re asking. 
  • Don’t do it because you want to be applauded for it. 
  • Do it, if you’re going to do it, because you have to. 
  • And don’t write fakes. Or if you do write them, don’t publish them. People will know, and worse, so will you. 
  • Live somewhere where you can have an intellectual life, and friends who care about the same things as you. But don’t spend all your time with them! 
  • Send out to magazines, and enter competitions, and don’t be surprised when you don’t get into the magazines and don’t win the prizes. Don’t be surprised, and don’t give up. 
  • When you get poems back, turn them round and send them to another magazine. 
  • Have mates you can compare rejection slips with over a pint, or several, and laugh about it. 
  • Read poems. You can’t, and shouldn’t, write poems if you don’t actually care about reading poems
  • I should probably say self-promote, but that s*** turns my stomach. I can’t stand it when poets hoor themselves about. We live in a celebrity culture; that doesn’t mean we have to contribute to it. I’m not saying poetry should be ‘above’ all that – it shouldn’t be, and isn’t, and if it were it would be redundant – but, well, it ought to have standards. And you want to get there because your work is good enough, not because you have some shiny website. 
  • Finally, (and this is Anne Enright’s wisdom, not mine): “Failure can kill a writer slowly. Success can do it much more quickly”. That’s one to keep in mind, I think.
What have you got coming up?

Well, I’m working on a second collection – that’s the main thing. I’ve also just completed a bit of a side project with a visual artist, Douglas Hutton, who’s based in Enniskillen. You’ll remember Douglas, Kate, as I think you’ve also written a poem in response to one of his paintings. 

Oh yes. Douglas, I can only apologise...

He has an exhibition showing at Enniskillen Castle Museum at the moment, and I’ve written some poems to go along with the paintings. It’s on until the middle of February; the opening was last weekend. Beyond that, I’m just about to move to the Isle of Skye: my fiancé, who’s from Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, has got a one year Writer in Residence job at the Gaelic College there. God knows what I’ll do for work, but I suppose something will come up! And I have the travel bursaries I mentioned before. I won the Vincent Buckley Prize this year, which means I get to go to Australia for a couple of months in 2012, and I also got a Somerset Maugham Award from the Society of Authors, which has to be spent on foreign travel. I’m thinking Spain with that – Andalusia, land of Lorca – and maybe also Malta. I was involved in a translation workshop over the summer where I met and worked with a Maltese poet, Adrian Grima, with whom I’d like to collaborate further. So, a bitty year, but an exciting one!   

I'm also on Poetcasting, which is a site that keeps recordings of folk reading. I've some poems in the first edition of Poetry Proper. And I've a whack of stuff - recordings again - on the Seamus Heaney Centre Digital Archive, which is the PhD project of Paul Maddern.

Thanks for agreeing to do this.

You’re very welcome. Good talking to you.

Saturday 5 November 2011

100 word story competition

The Reader's Digest ran this last year. Deadline is January 31st 2012 Prize is £1,000 FREE to enter. There are three categories—one for adults, and two schools’ categories: one for children aged 12–18, and one for children under 12
Entry is open only to residents of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland.

Friday 4 November 2011

So Much more than Shopping

(So they say...but get between them and a pair of Jimmy Choos and see can you hold your ground)
Saturday 19 November 11am
Lost Society, First Floor, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, South William Street, Dublin 2
Café treats with a topping of literary cream!
Enjoy a morning treat from the Lost Society café menu with Claudia Carol, Sinéad Moriarty and Sheila O'Flanagan.
Admission is free.
Booking not necessary.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Poets To Check Out - Robert Seatter

His poem, Good bye
from Seren Books

Wednesday 2 November 2011

The Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Competition

This is a a prestigious award, often won or shortlisting non-Irish poets, usually American.

1st Prize €1000, publication in Southword
and a trip to Cork, Ireland.

2nd Prize €500 publication in Southword
3rd Prize €250 publication in Southword

Ten runners-up to be published in Southword and receive €30 publication fee.

Deadline Sunday, 18 December 2011

Link here with loads more details

The judge is Patrick Cotter, who will read each and every entry himself.

I was lucky enough to see Patrick reading at the lunchtime readings at the Irish Writers Centre. Really these should be called Out To Lunch again so that everyone knows what's going on. There was a very small audience for what turned out to be a really good reading. I'm off to find more poetry by Patrick now.  Recommended.

There will be an entry fee of €5 per poem or €20 per batch of five. (Postal entries can be paid for in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. No cash, please.) 

You can submit through paypal and email.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

The Wisconsin Review is looking for Irish writers

The Wisconsin Review publishes both new and established authors of outstanding poetry, fiction, and non-fiction as well as practitioners of the graphic arts. Our staff comes from diverse aesthetic backgrounds, so send us works of overwhelming excellence.

We read for the Spring issue from May through October, and for the Fall issue from November through April. Submissions sent during the summer months may stay on our desks for longer.

The Wisconsin Review retains First North American Serial Rights of published work. Electronic submissions require a $2.00 reading fee. Current subscribers can submit without paying the fee. We also consider postal submissions without reading fees.

Submission link here
Magazine link here

Duotrope says:
Wisconsin Review is a student funded organization and a member of the Oshkosh Student Association. Its chief goal is to produce Wisconsin Review, the literary magazine of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Through this publication and other activities, Wisconsin Review introduces students and subscribers to fine contemporary poetry, fiction and art.
FICTION: Standard or experimental styles will be considered, although we look for outstanding characterization and unique themes.
POETRY: We are open to any poetic form and style, and look for outstanding imagery, new themes and fresh voices--poetry that induces emotions.