Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

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George Rowley – the Open Mic @ Listowel

May 16, 2010 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: 2010, events, participants, workshop

I went into the White House Pub in Limerick on Wednesday evening. The poets were gathered for their weekly session. Matthew Gedden was going to read from his new collection “Swimming to Albania“…

My intention was to read a poem or two with all the other poets who surrounded the guest.

A man in a dark coat clutching a paper muttered “Hello Paul“. I didn’t know him. “Hello, how do you know me?” “Listowel” – and then I realised he was one of the poets who’d read in The Kingdom Bar last year. A Listowel poet who’d performed under the light of George Rowley.

Here’s George Rowley singing – a YouTube video shot in the poor light of the pub. Those of us who know George’s style know he sings, dances, rhymes and generally makes a lovely atmosphere for many hours during Writers’ Week.

The man in the dark jacket told me James McGrath will take George’s place this year. James will be MC (master of ceremonies) in The Kingdom Bar two or three times – when so many people crowd in to perform and partake.

I’d like to wish James well. George Rowley is an impossible act to emulate. Keep George’s seat warm in 2010.

ps I first met James McGrath at Listowel Writers’ Week in 2007. We did the Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill poetry workshop together.

Who’s the performer @ Listowel Writers’ Week 2009?

July 20, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: competition, creative writing, events, participants, poets

Quiz question number 8: who is the man beside James McGrath from Mayo who lives in Listowel?

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)

My greatest cock-up all week, my greatest regret

June 02, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: events, photographs, poems, poet

I missed the launch of James McGrath‘s new collection of poems.

Complete screw-up by me. I got confused over the day, thought it was on Sunday. It was on Friday.

This is my apology to him.

We were together on Nuala NiDhomhnaill‘s workshop in 2007. In my opinion, he’s a wonderful poet: he could change your way of thinking…

He has no internet. Never looked at a blog in his life. And probably doesn’t use phones. He lives in New Mexico, USA

At least I saw and heard him read one poem @Poetry Cafe.

Here he is with David Park (author of The Truth Commissioner, watched by Mr Browne from Writers’ Week committee

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?

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)


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