Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

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Is there any news about LWW2010?

October 27, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: blogs, connections, historical, organisers, preparations

Or is it all under wraps… in committee?

Does everyone know that LWW10 will be number 40?

It means that the planners must be wondering how they can mark the occasion fittingly. It’s not as if there hasn’t been enough time to prepare for it.

No one’s approach this blog to see if we’ll be live for the 2010 Festival. That doesn’t surprise me because no one from the committee approached the blog during 2009. No one official contact – imagine.

It was as if we the bloggers were the elephant in the room.

I bet there are loads of ideas out there concerning how the 40th anniversary should be celebrated. The challenge is how to let others contribute their goodwill?

These are the kind of issues that cause the passion of bloggers to be engaged. If LWW doesn’t get it’s act together and engage with bloggers, what will bloggers do?

Answer: they’ll chatter about myopia on Twitter. It’s the world we live in now – so different from the locals who set up Listowel Writers’ Week.

George Kimball mentions Listowel Writers’ Week in an obituary

August 06, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, historical, journalism, participants

‘.. .This summer I was invited to read at a literary festival, the Listowel Writers Week in Ireland. Another of the invitees was the novelist and director Rebecca Miller, who in addition to being Daniel Day-Lewis’ wife is also Arthur Miller’s daughter. One morning at our hotel there I read her the offending passage from Meyers’ book.

“That’s absurd,” she said. “I’m sure my father never believed that. A View from the Bridge and On the Waterfront were always going to be two separate plays. One had nothing to do with the other.”

I know I told Benn about that conversation when I returned from Europe. But now it occurs to be that I never got a chance to tell Budd, who would have, I suspect, found it comforting…’

Read the whole piece here, in “The Sweet Science“. This is the first time I’ve read George Kimball in the flesh, his latest column.

I must say he’s every bit a wonderful writer as he is a person. Brings back memories of having breakfast with him @LWW2009…

This is the holiday season – so don’t make rash decisions

July 24, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, historical, Imagining, Reflections

Better give plenty of time to ensure everyone has a chance to have a say on the future of this blog…

Tags:

Pauline Frayne’s poem on J B Keane

July 22, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: creative writing, historical, participants, poem, poet, poetry

Pauline sent this poem in a comment to a piece by Mattie Lennon. So that it get the audience it deserves, I’m posting it in a page of its own.

A Farewell for John B Keane

It is four ten a.m.
on the morning after your funeral
and a litany of birds
broadcast a requiem of grace notes
over the mourning town
as I try to negotiate
a straight line
between the Square and Charles Street.

Finally finding the right angle to the corner
I meet your pensive gaze
from a photograph in Landys’ window
and understand
why you once barred me
for not drinking,
while Mary,who held the keys
said softly
‘Don’t worry , you’ll be alright tomorrow’

Pauline Fayne .
(from ‘I’m Fine Really
Stonebridge Publications 2005

John B Keane by Mattie Lennon

July 15, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, historical, photographs, poem, storytelling

John B. Keane By Mattie Lennon (August 2007)

“He’ll be elected all right if he gets the Jewish vote in Lyreacrompane”.

One of the many memorable quotes of the late John B.

John B. Keane was born in Listowel on Saturday 28th July 1928. He was fourth in a family of five boys and four girls. Those who knew him in later life were surprised to learn that he didn’t speak until he was three.

As a child, living in the town, he had a great love of the countryside. In “Self-Portrait ” he says, “Always as a small boy I had a longing to go to the mountains, particularly on sunny mornings when the air was fragrant and the skies were blue”.

Towards the end of his life I interviewed him for my radio programme, “The Story and The Song”.

He told me about how he was dispatched “on the Creamery lorry” to his relatives in the Stacks Mountains during the summer holidays.

” . . . I was dropped off at the Ivy Bridge which for me was to turn out a magic bridge, because the minute I crossed over that bridge I became a new man. I began to know something about country people. And they had a beautiful language, all of their own; half Irish, half English . . . and when that was fused with the language of Elizabeth . . . it became a beautiful language altogether, with great range. You’d never be stuck for a phrase or a word. It’s such a beautiful language. I was never as happy as when I was up there. If I hadn’t crossed the Ivy Bridge on that day long ago . . . I wouldn’t have been a writer”.

He met and observed some very interesting characters in the Stacks. He told a story about a German named Karl Gutthind who acted as technical advisor to Bord na Mona and,

“When the second World War came he left for Germany. The Russians, I’m sure, must have been surprised at his Lyreacrompane accent and wondered what strange business a Stacksmountainman might have in Stalingrad. He gave me a small flashlight which I swapped a week later for ten Woodbines . . . “

Writing was to become his life. One early experience would probably have turned a lesser person against the pen. During an elocution class in school each pupil was asked to recite a poem. John B. recited “Church Street” which was his own composition. When asked who wrote it he replied,

I did Father“. ” . . . there followed the worst beating of all and ejection from the class”.

During school holidays he worked at many jobs from fowl-buying to toiling on a farm in Wicklow.

He wrote a one-act play, “The Ghost of Patrick Drury” which was performed on the top floor of the Carnegie Library, Church Street, Listowel.

After leaving school he worked as a Chemist’s Assistant in his native town for five years. When he said that he wanted to be a writer and that he was going to England his boss pointed out a fact that John B. was to fully agree with later in life, ” It’s as easy to write here as there”.

It was about this time that, with Stan Kennedy, he started a local Newspaper, The Listowel Leader. The first edition sold 960 copies. There was no second edition simply because the Editorial, in the first edition, told the truth about some local Councillors.

Prior to the 1951 General Election he set up a fictitious political party, the Independent Coulogeous Party, complete with a fictitious candidate, Tom Doodle, who appeared in Listowel.

(It’s a long story but if enough readers petition the Editor I may be permitted to tell it in a future edition)

During Writers’ week 2007 a life-size statue of John B. was unveiled in the small Square, Listowel by his friend Niall Toibin. (John B’s son, Billy, told me, with true Keane solemnity, that “the statue moves at night”

And this year a limestone monument by Kerry Sculptor, Padraig Tarrant was unveiled in the European Garden by Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker.

(left)Billy Keane with father’s statute

The following is by no means a comprehensive list of his works but it gives an idea of his prolific output:

Sive (first staged 1959)

Sharon’s Grave (1960)

The Highest House on the Mountain (1961)

No More in Dust (1961)

Many Young Men of Twenty (1961)

Hut 42 (1962)

The Man from Clare (1962)

Seven Irish Plays (1967)

The Year of the Hiker

The Field (adapted later as a film of the same name starring actor Richard Harris)

Big Maggie

Moll

The Crazy Wall

The Buds of Ballybunion

The Chastitute

Faoiseamh

The Matchmaker

Novels

The Bodhran Makers

Durango

The Contractors

A High Meadow

Letters of a successful T.D

Essays

Love Bites

Owl Sandwiches

I was always fond of quoting from his works and once when I was spouting a piece from “The Chastitute” the motley gathering listening to me shooting my mouth off thought I was making a boastful autobiographical utterance. The line in question was, ” I was seduced by a sixty-two year old deserted wife when I was fifteen. After that auspicious beginning I never looked back”.

While he could be hot-headed in matters such as Gaelic football, in the area of understanding the shortcomings of others and forgiveness he was out on his own. Didn’t one of his Characters in “The Bodhran Makers” point out that no man should be penalised because he had an industrious penis? He laughed heartily when a person, who hadn’t seen “Sive” condemned it on the grounds that, “‘Tis all about bastards isn’t it?”

During Writer’s Week 2002 I walked behind the coffin of this, the humblest of men, who only wanted to be remembered as..” . . the player who scored the winning point in the North Kerry Intermediate Football Final against Duagh in 1951“.

I was moved to take up my pen and make a feeble effort to commemorate him:

JOHN. B.

By Mattie Lennon.

Chorus

Before you went you told us not to cry.

On that sad night.

“Let the show go on” you said and then “goodbye”.

We shouldn’t question why you had to die

Before you went you told us not to cry

As Writer’s Week had opened,

For it’s thirty-second year,

Where poet and peasant mingle

To absorb Listowel’s good cheer.

A cloud crossed hill and valley

From Carnsore to Malin Head,

As news went ’round our island

“The great John. B. is dead”

Chorus.

He who walked with King and beggar

Will lift his pen no more,

To bring out the hidden Ireland

Like no one did before.

He banished inhibitions

To put insight in their stead.

The world stage is brighter

But The “Kingdom’s King” is dead.

The dialogue of two Bococs

Is known in every town.

Now the Ivy Bridge links Broadway

To the hills of Renagown.

While men of twenty emigrate

And Sharon’s Grave is read,

Or a Chastitute ‘s forlorn

His memory won’t be dead.

Chorus.

They stepped out from the pages

Of The Man From Clare and Sive

To walk behind his coffin

Each character alive.

His Soul, with One-Way Ticket

To The Highest House has sped,

And this world has lost a genius;

The great John. B. is dead.

Chorus.

Copyright Mattie Lennon 2002

(Put to music by John Hoban.)

Thinking back over the experience of Writers’ Week : Mark Twain came to my side

June 12, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, historical, Reflections

We should be careful to get out of an experience all the wisdom that is in
it — not like the cat that sits on a hot stove lid. She will never sit
down on a hot lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit
down on a cold one anymore.

*** Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) American Author ***

For more information on this quotation and the author:
http://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/id/X0013E7D2/

Sean Lyons: winner of Strokestown poetry competion 2009 performed

June 11, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: events, historical, organisers, participants, poem, poet, preparations

Historic records will say Michael Lynch introduced Gabriel Byrne who opened Listowel Writers’ Week 2009.

But those of us who were there know another story…

Before 745 pm, the room was jammers. People were turned away at the door. It was Sean Lyons from Kerry, winner @Strokestown International Poetry Festival 2009 of

The Percy French Prize for witty – possibly topical – verse

who was first to speak. The vital, warm-up act, stilling the crowd.

And with what did Sean Lyons, member of Listowel Writers’ Week (organising) Committee strive to quell the cacophony of conversation in Listowel Arms Hotel ballroom?

A gong? A shout? Tinkling of a glass?

No.

A poem… no ordinary poem… his winning poem from 2009 Strokestown Poetry Festival. [Even that didn't shut the crowd up.]

Thank you Sean. We are privileged to publish it here, in all its glory…

A middle aged man goes shopping for trousers

I went shopping for trousers the other day.
Though I’m not getting any taller
The waist band on the present slacks
Is definitely getting smaller.
I don’t like shopping as a rule
I find shop assistants snotty
And I feel a tad embarrassed
When they measure my once taut botty.
‘Does Sir dress to the left or right?’
One asked me like a riddle.
When you get to my age, son, I said
‘You leave it in the middle.’
‘Upstairs, sir,’ he remarked,
‘Is for the more ample figure.’
And as I climbed the cursed steps,
I swear I heard him snigger.
I made a super human effort
To hold my beer belly gut in
But even I could not deny
The pressure on the upper button.
The salesman here was another one,
With muscles trim and hard
I cursed again the Mayo cuisine,
The black pudding fried in lard.
I cursed as well the drinking days
When with other knaves and fools,
Instead of running around racing tracks

We vegetated on high stools.
We drank our pints and placed our bets on the races on the telly
Totally oblivious to the time bombs
I was placing in my belly.
Time bombs yes, you heard me right
That clung to my hips like rubber
And reappeared in middle age
As great big blobs of blubber.
By now my face was turning puce
From holding in my breath
When the salesman produced his inch tape
And gave my pride the kiss of death.
‘A forty two sir, I suppose,
Could do you at a pinch.’
With bravery above the call,
I sucked in another inch
But the inch tape doesn’t lie.
It’s much more honest than me
The salesman did a final check,
‘We’ll say a forty three.’
‘A forty three it is,’ says he,
I didn’t say a meg.
He muttered then as he rubbed his chin,
‘We’ll take six inches off the leg.’
The trousers bought, the next dread thought,
Was more than I could bear.
Through gritted teeth, I asked me man:
‘Where’s the underwear?’
That grin again, it crossed his chin,
With the tiniest of flickers.
‘Would Sir prefer the traditional style,
Or this season’s thongs and knickers?’
‘I’ll try the thongs,’ says I, ‘bedad.’
His face paled with the shock.
He handed me a piesheen of silk,
Thin as the second hand of a clock.
”What’s that?’ I cried as I looked down,
At the sliver in his hand.
‘It gives support in work and sport,
For today’s more active man.’
‘Where I come from, young man I said,
We ate butter and drink milk.
And our smalls are made of cotton blend,
Not lace or puncy silk.
And this is more of it as well,
Like miles and pounds and punts
If the Lisbon Treaty’s ever passed,
They’ll ban string vests and Y fronts.
And one thing more,’ I said,
My voice was getting louder.
‘You can keep your under arm deodorant,
I’ll stick with talcum powder.
It served me well in courting days,
Like hair spray and nylon ankle stockings
And I don’t have to take your guff
Or your not so gentle mockings.
So, take your trousers, sir,’ I said,
‘And your fancy fol der dols,
No garment from this shop,
Will ever chafe my walls.’
And with that, I turned my back,
And went down the stairs again,
My heart was light, I was right
Because inside I know I’m thin
But self delusion soon gave way
I realised with dread
I’d gone straight from baby fat
To bloody middle age spread.
The lads were right, their inch tapes true,
No lies, no tittle tattle.
As I left the store, I knew for sure.
The bulge had won the battle.

Just to correct a possible misunderstanding…

June 09, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: blogs, connections, events, historical, organisers, participants, photographs, poem, poetry

This may not be technically a great photograph, but to catch these two rehearsing for the next series of “Strictly Come Dancing” was fabulous…

Audrey Dunphy & Rowley George…

dsc03296

I was privileged to be there, sitting on the floor with Sony Cyber-shot 8.1 mega pixels.

In background, John Sheehan, one of the Dubliners, and a man whose name I don’t know. Unseen by the camera, is a large group of session ‘attendees’ and performers. It was a very public performance – what you could call a miracle of a session.

I’ll post more photos from it later today.

As Billy Keane said, this is “History”. There was no dancing coach. They just seemed to click.

If you came to Kerry for LWW & wanted to go to another festival

June 08, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, historical

I’ve put a new “Link” on the blog: Immrama, Lismore Fesival of Travel Writing.

You can find it under “Literary Sites” on the righthandside…

I’ve also written to Bernard Leddy to let him know about this blog. He used to be (and may still be) chairman of Immrama Festival of Travel Writing.

Many people don’t know that Immrama is the only festival of travel writing in Europe.

Mattie Lennon’s true story: Billy Keane features

June 04, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: blogs, events, historical, participants, short story, Street drama

Mattie Lennon & Billy Keane

Mattie Lennon & Billy Keane

Cash for Ashes

Man, when he burns, leaves only a handful of ashes. no woman can hold him … “? (Tennessee Williams)

A celebrity hit the headlines recently when he stated publicly that he had snorted his father’s ashes. He gained further publicity when he denied it. Jokes about spilled urns are legion but how many people think about the commercial side of it? I know I didn’t until about a year ago.

It was the Friday of Writer’s Week 2006. I was walking up William Street, Listowel, minding my own business when I was accosted by one William Joseph Keane, (AKA Billy Keane) publican, journalist, author, raconteur, comedian and entrepreneur.

After I had congratulated him on the publication of Moss Keane, The Last of The Heroes and his most erudite newspaper articles in the Irish Independent, he said, “Matt” (he always drops the “ie” because he says Matt is the opposite to gloss). “Matt” says he ” you are logical, methodical and mathamathecal and you must have people and survival skills since you have managed to stay on the pay-roll of Dublin Bus for more than thirty years. I have a busines s proposition for you “.

It turned out that he had come up with the idea of building a crematorium in Lyracrompane and he wanted me to be his business partner. He had even settled on a name for the project, The Pyre in Lyre.

In tones more stentorian than soft I set about convincing him that a mobile crematorium would be a better idea (have you ever tried convincing a Keane about anything?)

Listen” says I, “Kerry has held an almost permanent lease on Croke Park for most of the twentieth century, has a thriving tourist industry since the Famine (if not before it) and now you have Fungie and John O’ Donoghue. You produced Brendan Kennelly, Kitchener and Paudi O’Shea”. (I didn’t, at the time know that they were going to send Micko Dwyer up to Wicklow).? “And now” says I, “you want to locate the only crematorium outside Dublin in Kerry?”

I did lower my voice on spotting the arrival of Dublin poet Martin Delany. Martin has a, Bronte like, penchant for writing about graveyards and I didn’t want to upset his sensitivities. After all a man who commemorates the faithful departed in iambic parameter mightn’t favour their being reduced to ashes by conflagration. He believes they should spend eternity under a weathered tombstone.

I pointed out to Mr.Keane that although I was familiar with all the writings of his father, the late John B., I couldn’t find any reference in his works to the incineration of the dead.

He burned midnight oil writing about wakes, funerals, grave digging and other allied activities but not a word about cremation.

I asked him where he got the idea for the crematorium from but he was abruptly and conveniently distracted by the arrival of two visiting literary heavyweights. Frank McCourt and Clive James arrived on the scene. (Whatever about the apparel proclaiming the man it doesn’t appear to reveal anything of his background; the man from a rain-sodden Limerick sported an open, short-sleeved, shirt while the affable Aussie wore a buttoned up leather jacket).

After their departure I continued with my pitch and I could see that he was weakening and we finished up shaking hands on the partnership. His parting shot, in true cute-hoor-Kerryman fashion, was “OK, you do the research on it and get back to me”.

When I heard about the hullabaloo about the proposed Poolbeg Incinerator, I set the wheels turning straight away by writing to the Department of the Environment to ask what, if any, restrictions and regulations governed the operation of a Mobile crematorium.

While I was waiting for a reply I made some enquiries about the necessary equipment needed for the project, hereinafter referred to as the MC.

I found out that in the USA Patent 6729247 has been taken out on aforementioned invention.The following jargon is used:

“The mobile crematorium comprises: a first combustion chamber, wheels, and a trailer hitch. The deceased remains are then heating in the first combustion chamber to a temperature of at least 1000.degree. thereby creating combustion gases and non-combustible materials. The combustion gases are allowed to exit the first combustion chamber and the non-combustible materials are removed and placed in a storage device such as an urn.

“The incinerator comprises a first combustion chamber with a first combustion source and a second combustion chamber with a second combustion source. Combustion of the deceased occurs in the combustion chamber. Gases created by the first combustion are further combusted in the second combustion chamber.”

It is possible to disguise the MC (mobile crematorium) as a boat, being towed, or as the designer puts it, “… the incinerator provides the visual perception of a ship… The flue may be utilized with additional chambers for further combustion or they may be aesthetic.

I think I have a better idea for this part of the world. Why not use a tractor to tow it and disguise it as a threshing mill? I’m sure P.J. Murrihy wouldn’t object to me writing a bit of a parody on “The Old Thrasing Mill” to use as a jingle.

Further technical tips are given about the construction of the MC: “Typical insulators comprising oxides of silicon, calcium, and magnesium with lower levels of aluminum and iron oxides are particularly suitable for the present invention.”

After weeks, having not received a reply, I wrote to the Department of Environment again. That’s several months ago and at the time of writing there’s not a word from Dick Roche. Since silence gives consent and there appears to be no restrictions or regulations on the construction and/or operation of a MC the way is clear, apart from getting permission from the inventor a striking a deal with a firm of bodybuilders.

I started kicking around a few ideas about a name; something catchy. Then John Cassidy, a Donegal Undertaker, pointed out to me that funeral directors and those in allied professions, who deal with the departed, do not use trade names, but family names to advertise their business. I told him that I wouldn’t mind having “Mattie Lennon” or even “M.J.Lennon” in foot-high letters on the side of an ice-cream van or the fleet of a Plaster-moulding company but I’d prefer not to have my moniker on something as sombre as a MC vehicle.

It doesn’t have to be your own name. Where are you from?” says he.

Wicklow” says I.

And what is the most common surname in Wicklow?” says he.

Byrne”, says I.

There you have it” says he “C.U.BYRNE.”

_____________________________________

first published on G21.net. Hyperlinks added on this blog by Paul O’Mahony


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