Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

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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.

Author & Brenda Woulfe in Woulfe’s Bookshop

June 10, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: competition, creative writing, organisers, photographs

Before leaving Listowel Writers’ Week, I had to visit Woulfe’s Bookshop. It’s where I bought my first Moleskine notebook.

I found these two together, an author doing business with a proprietor:

dsc03341
The question is : who is he?

The first person to send in the correct answer in a comment wins a signed copy of the book… The author and the bookseller are not eligible to enter.

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.

Watch out Listowel Writers’ Week – here comes West Cork Literary Festival

June 05, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: competition, connections, creative writing, events, localinfo, organisers

Coming up on the inside lane, is a cheeky Literary Festival…

Why do I call it “cheeky”?

According to Ruth Flanagan, Cork County Librarian:

“The West Cork Literary Festival can now, with some justification, be regarded as Munster’s premier literary festival.”

Does she not know Kerry is in Munster?

Does she speak with the arrogant justification of a West Corkonian?

Does she only say this because she works for Cork County Library Service?

Or might she have a pint?

We’ll return to this issue in due course.

I just want to flag it up, so that you can take a look at what they are offering & compare it with Listowel Writers’ Week.

I’d like to publicly invite Ruth Flanigan [who’s responsible for publishing my first short story, “The Ring” in Bealtaine Short Story Competition 2006] to come on here and support her contention.

It would be wonderful to welcome her on here, wouldn’t it?

If anyone knows Ruth Flanigan, please let her know of the invitation.

It would be a fine opportunity for her to market West Cork Literary Festival 2009.

It runs in Bantry, from Sunday 5 July – Saturday 11 July, so it is a ‘full’ week.

Tony Guerin launched this book

June 04, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: creative writing, events, novels, organisers, photographs, storytelling

Tony Guerins novel

Tony Guerin's novel

At 1330 on Saturday 30 May, straight after Rebecca Miller read from her new novel, Tony Guerin‘s novel was launched by Billy Keane.

Billy Keane looked so relaxed, sounded so fluent, that he seemed a different man from the one who’d been in the ring with George Kimball.

Billy was speaking to his people, in his way, about his kind of book.

I’d watched a long line of people queue to have their “Tomorrow is another day” signed by Tony Guerin, including…

Bryan McMahon’s son read from Tony’s book. So did a young woman who said “my father died before J B Keane“. She may have been Bryan McMahon’s daughter. (I couldn’t catch her name

She described Tony Guerin as having “a massive heart” for the generosity he’s shown her father.

One aftermath of Listowel Writers’ Week

June 03, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, events, organisers, participants, poet, preparations, starting up

There can be no one aftermath.

I sat upstairs in the English Market this afternoon, going back through my “Moleskine notebook (lined).

I used a green highlighting pen. Put names in hand-drawn boxes, and circles around intentions. Every time I carry through something I planned, I give myself a big tick (fulfilling my bottomless love of positive feedback).

I put the date on every page, the place I was, the time…

Now it looks like a live animal.

I’d forgotten how rich the notebook became during Writers’ Week. There are drawings and prose contributed by others – people willing to take up my book and mark the page.

I was incredibly excited going to Listowel.

I was incredibly tired leaving for home. The journey to and the road home are part of my LWW09 experience.

First Moleskine entry reads

Listowel Arms Hotel @ 1450 on Wed. 27 May.

  • Booked in to the hotel (put name on list) for 2010
  • The family manage the hotel between them.
  • Met George Rowley & James McGrath sitting in bar.
  • George’s story of mental illness [all in his book]
  • Met Colm Toibin, told him of blog – he listened, I shook his hand.

The last entry [43 pages, 4 days & 4 hours later] reads:

M Sweeney – reading with…

The End.

For me now, the challenge is to walk the space between being an archivist (valuing the Moleskine as a document of record) and an artist (stretching, moulding & sculpting the Moleskine, so that it reaches out to the imagination of others).

I’m a hoarder and long-winded. I talk&write and write&talk and sense&listen.

I wonder how others are processing the experience?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people who read this immediately write a comment & share insight into the joy of ending

- flashing on the inward eye… (pardon me William Wordsworth)

Imagining the conversation between Brian McMahon & J B Keane …

June 02, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: historical, Imagining, organisers, preparations, storytelling, theatrical plays

[In the bar of J B Keane’s pub, Listowel, Kerry, Ireland, winter 1969)

Brian: John?

J B : Yes Brian. Will you take one for the road?

Brian: Go on, hit me. I’ve been thinking John…

J B : I’m sorry for your trouble Brian. Is that head of your’s throbbing again?

Brian: John, we have no Hell’s Angels in Listowel, no Black Panthers either.

J B : Tis drawing Brian. I like to let it sit until the dark has settled in.

Brian: You pull a great pint for such a young man John, as we all know. But what are we putting back?

J B : Into the youth? Is it the futute of the young people or the ancients that you’re thinking of?

Brian: Tis time we put down a foundation John. We’ll not be here for long. As they say in Paris, the youth deserve the earth left to them cleansed with the best their writers can deliver from tombstones.

J B : No wonder your head’s aglow. I see light in those eyes.

Brian: Let’s see if we can gather a fair crowd John. A fair crowd in Listowel. And get them all talking, all exciting, all doing their own thing. Let’s see if we can show them the Kerry way to revolution. Words John, imagination from the soul, for the soul. with the soul. I have a dream John, that one day there’ll be a fair in Listowel, and twon’t be cattle starring and drovers selling. It’ll be girls and fellas driving their writing into new places. I have a dream John that’ll go out from this parish, watered by the streams of the hinterland. I dream John, therefore I am, in Listowel on a damp dark night.

J B : I’m with you. If you’re going on the long road, and putting in writers to this pub, so that we can listen, and fill the town with the music of stories, I’ll walk the road with you. We’ll have one for the road together.

Mary Keane: Yee better hurry up boys.

Brian: You’re right Mary, we better hurry up. John, I hear the twittering of birds, a face-book of voices, your tube of toothpaste refilled, even the inter-netting of artist’s from Listowel with the wanderers from abroad this parish.

J B : Jaysus, that’s virtually a feast.

Brian: Yes John, a feast for sore eyes. They’ll be up fierce late in Listowel that week. Let’s make a “writers’ week”, and make a meal of it.

J B : Be Jaysus Brian, you’re some dreamer for a teacher.

Mary Keane: Good night Brian, safe home.

Brian: Good night to you both.

J B : Tis indeed Brian.

meet the bloggers on Saturday

May 29, 2009 By: jeremy Category: blogs, events, organisers

We’ve been working hard the last few days running around writing, recording, videoing and photographing. At the same time we’ve been trying to reach out online to as many bloggers / twitterers / social networkers etc we could find at the festival or in the local vicinity.

Well, we’d love to take a break for a while tomorrow and meet you!

From 2pm on Saturday Patrick, Paul and I will be sitting down in Lynch’s Bakery on Church Street (just off the Square). Walk through the door and turn right past the counter into the old bar. You’ll be able to spot us by the amount of technology sitting on the table in front of us.

Please come and say hello, have a cup of tea and a chat. There’s no agenda, no formality. Just a drop in, rest your feet, something to eat and/or drink and good conversation.

Hope you can make it, and we look forward to meeting you.

Goodmorning from Lynch’s Bakery & Coffee Shop, downtown Listowel

May 29, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, organisers, preparations

At 1034, after excellent Americano and meeting of the ‘central committee’ for the project, I sit alone.

You are never alone. I have time for company. Space for thought. And fingers to tap.

By my side, my trusty Moleskine, the memory of living without internal memory. There are times I feel I’ve outsourced my memory to a little black pocked-sized book, the type used by Picasso & Bruce Chadwin.

What’s Listowel really like?

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.


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