Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

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Book launch at The Seanchai, Saturday 30th

May 30, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events, poetry, poets

I’m sitting next to Thomas P. Gilmartin Snr. from Ohio on the first row of the audience. Mary Lavery Carrig had introduced me to him when I was passing the stone seat opposite the statue of Bryan MacMahon as I came in. She had told him that the poem he was handing out to every and anyone for the past couple of days had been posted on the blog. He was a little startled I think, but pleased.

At the table in front to my right are seated three women which turn out to be Marian Relihan of the Writers’ Week Committee, Joan McBreen who birthed the anthology “The watchful Heart” which is about to be launched and who is the author of the collection of poetry, “Heather Island“, which is about to be launched.
Marian gets up to welcome us.
She introduces Prof. Patricia Coughlan of the School of English, UCD who is launching both books in conjunction with Joan McBreen of Salmon Poetry.
She tells us that the proceeds are going towards Cancer Care West.
“The Watchful Heart” is an anthology of new Irish poets. Reading it prompted her to think of George Herbert, the English Metaphysical poet.
She lauds a previous collection of women writers brought out in 1999 by Joan, and hopes we are all feminists.
This anthology gives “sense of room to … wander with enough from each poet to give you a sense of what they are like” and contains contributions from 10 women and 14 men. The anthology also contains prose pieces from each poet which gives an interesting counterpoint to the poetry. She thinks there is a Dublin bias [in Irish poetry], but that is not evident in this anthology. She talks about the “looser forms” in some of the Irish poems by for example Louis de Paor. Also stuff from performance poets. Leontia Flynn‘s essay about having to write – She gives a special mention to the oral poetry of Kevin Higgins which is “sassy“.
She quotes from a poem by Cherri Smith.
Joan is a poet of place – the place being the West and the North West. Her collection has 3 sections, many of the poems are place poems. “The central long section is personal experiences used as material
She ends by reading one Haiku from the 10 at the centre of the book.

Ivory
A wedding gift
The ivory handled knives
warmed by your fingers.

Joan McBreen reads. She’s been coming to Writers’ Week since 1986 and thanks Proff C. for a wonderful introduction.
She will read a few poems from her own book and then ask 4 contributors to the anthology present in the audience to read.
She reads “Mobretia on the Road to …” – ‘When you left absence and distance became companions” – a poem of loss.
She thanks Writers’ Week for the inclusion of workshops from which all writers can learn.
Loss is the tobacco smoke recalled in the lilac garden where we met”
Winter Light, Lissadell” – “The ghosts of my parents pick flowers at Lissadell
A poem at the grave of Pablo Neruda in Chile – a pilgrimage she and her husband made there.
The last poem in the volume – from her time spent living in Switzerland where the rain was what she missed most about Ireland

Cherri Smith from Co. Derry now living in London reads – she says that “we as poets are especially attuned to the changes the climate“.
About being in Spain, walking inland from the ruined shore, hearing a horrible noise from somewhere – “These Arts” – “some surgery the mountains had a taste for
John McAuliff from Listowel now working at University of Edinburgh. “Return” – about looking for destruction and enjoying it
Who is Anne Kennedy I ask myself?
Eileen Sheehan from Co. Kerry. “Where you are ” which is about displacement.
Paul Perry, originally from Dublin. “Dawn Sun” about visiting his father living in Budapest in the early 90s, with whom he had had a difference of opinion.

The four poets are asked to sit at the top so they can see the faces of those who will be asking the questions. John McGrath asks Joan to tell us about Ann Kennedy. When she died, Ann left a vacuum for a while in Galway cafe society and was terribly missed. John McAuliff adds that she was an American poet published by Salmon – she had a brightness about her as a person and a poet.

Joan is asked about putting the anthology together. She praises the professionalism of all the contributors and the ease with which it all came together thanks to them.
Cherri Smith tells how writing poetry has changed from an emotional response (writing to find out what you feel) to an intellectual response (writing to find out what you think). It’s a very mysterious thing – about transmission, heart and head.
John McAuliff talks of the danger of nostalgia when writing about Irish material while living in England.
Gabriel FitzMaurice mentions the “internal exile” of all poets.
A lady asks why publishers don’t include a CD of the poet reading. Joan McBreen says doing this is a very complicated and expensive exercise given that you need a recording studio and a recording engineer sensitive to the medium and audience of poetry. A man in the audience disagrees, pointing out the ease with which you can record on a laptop and burn to CD. Prof. C adds that lots of poetry clips are available on YouTube.

Meet the bloggers at Lynch’s Bakery and Cafe

May 30, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events, journalism, participants, poems, poetry, poets

We’re in Lynch’s Bakery and Cafe. Lynn Roberts, winner of this year’s Poetry Collection competition has just come in and sat down at Paul O’Mahony‘s invitation. Jeremy Gould is seated to my left with Phillip Byrne (a concrete poet). The room is reasonably full.
Earlier, Cathy Desmond, a music teacher based in Ennis, wandered in, having just arrived for the weekend. She had a choice of going to see “6 yachts tied up on pier” (her words) in Galway no doubt ogled over by thousands of land-lubbers (my words), the Iniscealtra festival in Mountshannon, Clare, or Writers’ Week. She opted for Writers’ week. She rushes off after a few minutes to catch as much culture as possible in the limited time left.
Mary Lavery Carrig comes in. The funeral of a local Sister passes – she was a great age, Sister Anne was, Mary tells us.
Ronan Tynan has just arrived and sits down. Paul stops recording to give his full attention to the growing assembly of poets – a couple of more and the current stanza of poets will have become a canto of poets.

Kay Donnelly, another writer, arrives – and sits. I met Kay yesterday – she’s based in Waterford.I catch the end of a story Paul is recounting that involves de Valera, poets and Poland. It’s taken from a play he (Paul) is writing in his head.
The discussion swings around to how good the story Gabriel Byrne told at the opening on Wednesday {LINK to POST}. I remark that his piece for Sunday Miscellany (to be broadcast tomorrow morning at 9.10am on RTE Radio 1) was brilliantly written.
The head Librarian from Mayo, whose first name is Austen (or is that Austin?), makes his appearance. I miss the critical bits of the conversation that ensues due to Jeremy and Kay mentioning the 6 degrees of separation theory. Headage payments comes up when Pat McCannon (from Meath) wanders in and gives Paul a copy of a story he wrote for the Special Olympics about his son Niall 12 years ago. Niall played on the basketball team for Ireland at the Special Olympics. The piece was published because of that he tells us. Pat’s grandfather wrote the song “The turf man from Ardee” – Kay knows it.

It’s the 100th anniversary of Brian MacMahon‘s birth, somebody comments and wonders why there isn’t a special event to commemorate it.

One of the multiple interweaving mini-conversations involves spelling. There is too much emphasis on spelling Kay says. Spelling wasn’t standardized until the 1700s (?) I remark.
Mary’s second boy is 13 today – he’s playing football right now.
I learn that Mary Lavery Carrig is a descendent of Sir John Lavery whose painting of Lady Lavery was on one of the old Irish currency notes.
Pauline Frayne and Teri Murray arrive in and sit at the next table.
I spy a gorgeous painting on Jeremy’s laptop and enquire about it. Jeremy tells me he took it at the exhibition in the Lartigue – he bemoans the fact that there was nobody there, as it’s a beautiful space.
Mary reads the first poem from her new collection which she wrote for her son, into Paul’s mobile, for subsequent upload.
Mary tells me that John Sheehan wrote the piece her sons played at the launch of her book yesterday – it’s called “The Marino Waltz” – and was used in the Peat Briquette (of Bord na Mona – not Boomtown Rats – fame) advert on TV.
More than an hour has passed already and it’s time to separate. Teri Murray is kind enough to read one of her poems into my mobile phone for posting on the blog. I’ll be posting it here as soon as I can get an amr to wav or mp3 converter.

My first disappointment of the festival

May 30, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: poems, poetry, poets

As we have a later start this morning (noon instead of 11am), I thought I’d go and purchase Georgina Edison‘s book “Standing in the Pizzicato Rain” which was launched yesterday at The SeanchaĆ­ bookshop. I was sorely disappointed to learn that the bookshop had been unable to acquire any copies of the book, and that Georgina herself had only managed to obtain 6 copies from a bookshop in Tralee, which promptly sold out. It was with a twinge of disappointment that I headed uptown to purchase some lip balm from John Maguire’s Pharmacy – the wind has been playing havoc with my lips – I had been so looking forward to gorging myself on her poetry.

Georgina read “Tragedy” at the Open Mic poetry session compered by George Rowley in the New Kingdom Bar last night. On a foray to the bar for another pint our paths crossed and I seized the opportunity to tell her how much I enjoyed her poetry. She told me that her daughter really enjoyed “Spell of the Wicked Fairy” which I had performed sometime earlier. It’s nice to get feedback, and even nicer when that feedback is of an affirming nature.

Poets Corner, thursday evening

May 30, 2009 By: jeremy Category: poets, songwriting, video

Up at the New Kingdom bar on Church Street, George Rowley compered an open mic night for poets, singers and musicians on the Thursday and Friday of the festival. Here we have a short films from the first of those evenings.

Apologies for the lack of credits to the artistes, if you put me right as to who everyone is I’ll update the page.

02/06/09 UPDATED: Apologies to Pauline Fayne and John McCarthy. Credit where credit’s due (though I still don’t know who the singer is).

MC George Rowley gets the proceedings going with a song:

Pauline Fayne reads “Carol”, written in memory of Tallaght Poet , Carol Carpenter:

Musical interlude. Singer / song names unknown:

John McCarthy reads “Two Doves Mating”:

Book launch at The Seanchai (11am Friday)

May 29, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events, poems, poetry, poets

I’m at the launch of two poetry books by two up-and-coming women poets, namely Georgina Edison and Mary Lavery Carrig.
The limited space in the bookshop at The SeanchaĆ­ is filling up very quickly. George Rowley seems to be the Master of Ceremonies for the launch. Both authors are seated at a table in front with a member of the LWW Committee whose name badge I can’t make out. With 5 minutes to go it’s getting really packed as people flood in. One Gabriel FitzMaurice has just made his entrance and sits at the front after greeting one of the authors.
georgina_edison Gabriel is launching Georgina’s book “Standing in the Pizzicato Rain“, while George Rowley will launch Mary Lavery Carrig’s book “Through an Open Window “.
Gabriel FitzMaurice is standing in for Jessie Lendenning of Salmon Publishing who was unable to make the launch. He gives a short introductory speech on Georgina Edison as poet and launches the book.
Georgina speaks – she grew up in a house full of poetry and music. She reads “Duet“. She captures 90 years of silence from the WWI: a recently found letter from her grandfather in the trenches to her grandmother asking for “sweets from you” sparked the poem “Between the Lines” which ends with “Other words, hidden wounds he did not send“.
Namesake” is a poem on a 17th century atheist painter of church interiors – “a shared line on every canvas / I cannot paint him out“.
Transplanted Aunties” – on her aunts who emigrated to England – follows.
She finishes with a poem about her parents – 65 years married this year, called “Tragedy“.
I absolutely must have a copy of this book. The poems have great power and compactness.

Mary Lavery Carrig’s three sons, two wearing Kerry jerseys, play a well-known and loved tune on a dulcimer, accordion and banjo to open. George Rowley introduces Mary – the cover photograph on the book was taken by Mary’s husband Michael who stands at the back. “Detail is Mary’s strongest suit…” according to George.

mary_lavery_carrigMary reads: “Raspberries“.
Askeaton is where her mother comes from – the Deal river runs through it and “Fishing the Horizon” is about her grandfather who fished the Deal.
The Diviner” describes how a local man helps find the body of a young man who disappeared last summer with the help of his diving rods.
High Summer Mid Morning” – inspired by Mossie Langan, a local character, horse and trap and ferry traffic is what I see.
Mary finishes with “The Widow“.
All proceeds from Mary’s book are going to The Hospice.

John Montague Reading at St John’s Theatre (4.00pm Thursday)

May 28, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events, poems, poetry, poets

I’ve arrived with plenty of time to spare this time. There is still a queue outside the door but it’s much shorter than this morning and I’ve managed to grab a corner seat on the raised section at the back of the room which affords a great view of the proceedings. I’ve removed my jacket because it’s very warm and I don’t want the buttons on the sleeves making a racket against laptop as I type. At the Sunday Miscellany recording this morning in the same venue the woman seated next to me told me not to type during the music as it was distracting her – I noted down the occurrence in Spanish as she was sitting next to me and had a perfect view of what I was typing. Having the algunas palabras comes in handy from time to time.

Joanne Keane welcomes us and gives a brief intro to John Montague, listing his literary awards while John readies himself by removing a couple of things from his jacket pockets before taking it off, putting it on the back of the chair and sitting gingerly down.
With a quote from Thomas MacCarthy Joanne finishes. John begins by saying he almost feels like clapping himself!

He then reads a few poems on the Leaving Certificate syllabus – “Killing the Pig” reminds me of the time in my childhood when a pig was killed in our backyard – “The walls of the farmyard still hold that scream / are built around it“. “The Cage” and “The Locket” – also on the Leaving.
Wind Harp” came to him from looking at an exhibition by Patrick Collins.

He mentions the row he had with Ted Hughes in the Listowel Arms again, and says Ted “really did think that the laureateship was part of the psyche of England“. John then reads “The Trout” in deference to Ted Hughes’ “The Pike“.

The Dolmens” – “into that dark permanence of ancient forms

John takes questions from the audience.
He is doing a sequence about his own grandfather who “is after me” because he’s done too much on other members of the family and not enough on his grandfather. He recalls his mother as an old woman taking snuff “which was the coke of the time!“. Instead of being normal he became a poet. John is a Pisces. A note received from Heaney – “we should think about 90!“.

John finishes off with “My Grandfather’s Library“, which he prefaces by recommending we read the Bible, “not for Mr.Paisley’s reason, but because it contains great stories.

At Joanne Keane’s suggestion, the entire audience sings a few bars of Happy Birthday for John who has turned 80 recently. It brings a tear or two to his eye.

2.5 days to go to Listowel Writers’ Week

May 25, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: participants, poetry, poets

Never did we need to be so focussed.

Certain things we can’t control: the weather. But will you all pray for sun…

The price of drink. But, if you’re a publican will you please accept poems in lieu of pints… stories for shots of spirit… songs for rounds…

Where is James McGrath?

He is believed to have set off from New Mexico, without a mobile phone or even a cellphone. I last found him wandering round Listowel during the 2007 Writers’ Week. If you see a man in a pair of moccassins who looks like he’s walking in the footsteps of ancient wisdom, that might be him.

Ask him about the internet, and he’ll look at you with a smile: he abstains.

I can’t wait to meet him again.

George Rowley too. He’s already in Listowel. Without a mobile either, and barely able to spell internet, George is probably practising in New Kingdom Bar.

We need a “sightings on Twitter” tweet eh?

Accommodation in Listowel (3)

May 23, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: Accommodation, localinfo, organisers, participants, photographs, poetry, poets

I’m sorted. Got a phone call this morning from Listowel to say I can stay with the couple who put me up in 2007.

I must have done something right. The universe is looking after me, eh.

This is so much better than staying with someone new, and staying out in Abbeyfeale.

I’ll be able to drink freely, and toddle home late at night after those sessions with George Rowley

George Rowley when he was younger

George Rowley when he was younger

in the New Kingdom Bar.

If you still haven’t sorted out your B&B in Listowel, don’t worry: the universe will look after you – pick up the phone to Norella Moriarty now.

Dishing the dirt on a Listowel Workshop (chapter 3)

May 15, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: historical, participants, poets, tutors, workshop

Over the first teabreak, I found out I hadn’t been late.

The workshop had started dead on time. I’d been three minutes late into the room. Shows how nervous I was, that I let that upset & disorient me.

(You can read the first two episodes here & here.)

James McGrath had come to the workshop from New Mexico. He turned out to be an extraordinary individual and poet (author of “At the edgelessness of Light“), but I didn’t realise that straightaway. My first impression was his accent. It was different and fresh.

Philip Byrne was from the Irish east coast. He’d been sitting across the table from me, and also sounded different: his poem had shape to it. It made a picture on the page. Gradually I found out he had loads of ‘concrete’ poems, and a litany of other talents.

I forget the name of the man from Clare, the Burrenman. He read out his poem, and it sounded as if it came from deep within segmented rock. My first impression with that I was in the presence of a mythvoice.

As I recall that first 90 minutes with our leader, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, I remember my disgruntlement at her lack of apparent organisation. Soft voiced, she had no interest or investment in being in control. She simple asked us to pick postcards, write and read. No other introductions. I don’t think she even introduced herself. She had no ego on display.

What a marvellous way to get introduced to poets.

No preamble. No spoof. Simply a poem that spoke for the DNA of the author.

I can think of no better way to begin working with a poet than hearing them read one of their poems, so fresh, that if it was an egg, you’d lay it aside before cracking the shell.

I can’t find my notebook (the place where I wrote my thoughts and inspirations.

Shit, bollocks, feck…

I’ll have to go on exposing my imaginative memory…

(to be continued)

My links with Listowel

May 06, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: connections, historical, organisers, poets

I grew up in George FitzMaurice country, in the village of Duagh, 8km (5 miles) from Listowel on the Abbeyfeale road. It was natural then to attend St. Michael’s College in Listowel where I counted Billy Keane, eldest son of John B., and now manager of the playwright’s famous bar, as one of my class mates.
The school bus dropped us off in the big square each morning between 8.15 and 8.30, from where we walked the mile or so up Church St. past the Listowel Printing Works, Flavin’s bookshop, Brian MacMahon‘s house, and Listowel Library to the College.
Lunchtime saw me rush down town to Sandy Fitzgerald’s for a hot nutritious dinner, followed by a quick, or, time permitting, leisurely poke through the second-hand books in Flavin’s which consisted of an assortment of cheap paperback romances, the odd Zane Gray, and a liberal sprinkling of decades-old hard-cover treatises on Ancient Greek and Latin grammar and poetics, several of which I acquired in my first three years at St. Michael’s. In those days the A classes did Greek with Mr. Given while the B classes had to make do with “old” Mr. Molyneaux for the rather less exotic and therefore less desirable (at least to my mind) Latin. Being in the A class I was fortunate to have Mr. Given for both Greek and English as he was an excellent pedagogue.

It must have been in my first year that I came across a slim volume of Mr. Given’s poetry during one of my frequent forays to the nearby Library. This made a big impression on me, though I was somewhat puzzled by his insistent use of the archaic “thee”, “thy” and “thou” forms in his love poems. Nevertheless, having recently begun to write verse myself, I proceeded to ape him by liberally peppering my clumsy schoolboy poems with archaic forms. It was sometime after this discovery that my father, much to my surprise, asked if I’d like Brian MacMahon to look at my poems. I, of course, assented and there followed several visits to Brian’s house for advice. The very first piece of advice he gave me was to avoid using archaic forms! The second was to read as much as I could of good contemporary poetry. He specifically recommended Heaney‘s “Death of a Naturalist“, and if memory serves me, the work of Michael Hartnet.

But what sticks out most in my mind from those days was being in the presence of one of my favourite poets on the Leaving Cert syllabus, namely Thomas Kinsella. I particularly liked his “Another September” and “Hen Woman“. It must have been the year before (1975) I sat the Leaving that he talked about his poetry for the benefit of the LC students from all the schools around. This seminal event in my poetic life took place in one of the large classrooms at Presentation Convent Listowel, and may well have been organised in parallel with Writers’ Week. I can’t imagine him coming just to talk to us LC students, though I may be wrong on this point. Seeing and hearing a real live famous poet up close and in the flesh had an enormous impact on me. I even plucked up the courage to ask him a question!

Having successfully sat my Leaving Certificate I read French and English at Dublin University, Trinity College (TCD) where I was fortunate to have another North Kerry poet in the shape of Brendan Kennelly as one of my professors. Brendan was a fabulous lecturer with an infectious enthusiasm for his subject that rubbed off on all his listeners. This, combined with his quick and gentle wit ensured that his lectures were always packed out. He was also very approachable on a human level and always had a kind word to say when needed.

Artistotle's Poetics

Artistotle's Poetics

That first year in Trinity I also had his then American wife, Dr. Peggy O’Brien, for tutorials. I remember we started with Longinus’ “On the Sublime” and Aristotle’s “Poetics“, both of which I found rather difficult having had no exposure to many of the concepts therein discussed. One of the first written assignments Dr. O’Brien gave us was an essay on what we understood catharsis to be. At the following week’s tutorial each student (there were no more than seven of us) was asked to read his/her essay aloud. My likening of catharsis to rhubarb in the very first line of my essay caused shock, surprise and much hilarity, prompting Dr. O’Brien to enquire if I was from George FitzMaurice country. Upon hearing that I was, she stated that George FitzMaurice could well have written that line himself, which I took as a great compliment!


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