Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

Blogging Listowel's Literary Scene

Lynn Roberts won the poetry collection prize @ Listowel Writers’ Week

June 04, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: competition, creative writing, participants, poem, poet, poetry

Lynn Roberts with Dillon Boyer

Lynn Roberts with Dillon Boyer

At the “Meet the Bloggers” event in Lynch’s Bakery & Cafe,
Lynn Roberts gave us this poem from her winning collection of 12 poems …

Isn’t it a beauty?

Let us consider the translator:

amphibian; moving between elements,
breathing water, breathing air; ingesting
complex planktons under the shark’s
political eye; excreting guano
to fertilize mutual incomprehension;

immigrant loomsman, weaving
from diplomacy’s exquisite fine wool
interlaced carpets of Isphahan or
coarse drugget; making peace or trade;

oenologist, brain yeasty
with spores; fermenting words, converting must
to Chateauneuf du Pape, and standing wine
to vinegar; Homer to Pope, or
poetry to motion;

interpreting the shuttered circles of
a zoo-bound bear into the ordinary round,
or moonlit howl into doleur de vivre;

intermediate woman,
sieving the Sanskrit grunts and verbal
hieroglyphs of teenage speech
through mesh of instinct, winnowing out
the little knotted, folded seeds and grains,
searching for meaning in the alien corn.

Let us consider the translator,
through whom words pass, like water, like wine.

Lynn Roberts.

first published in the book of Writers’ Week Competition Winners.

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 Seanchaí 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.

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 Seanchaí 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.

Workshops we haven’t yet featured…

May 27, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: creative writing, novels, participants, tutors, workshop

Julia Bell on Writing Funny

  • turn a good joke into a good piece of fiction
  • write funny without turning out cartoons
  • difference between comic hyperbole & just plain old melodrama
  • developing comic characters
  • using point of view & structure to tell stories…to amuse and entertain.

Brian Dillon on Memoir Writing, author of “In the Dark Room”

  • first-person writing through consideration of history, methods & motivations of memoir
  • autobiographical narratives: Vladimir Nabokov, Joan Didion & Dave Eggers
  • confession in contemporary culture
  • how memories may be remade as literature.
  • experiment writing a short piece of prose memoir.

Declan Hughes on Crime Writing

Declan Hughes reads from his new novel

Declan Hughes reads from his new novel

  • anatomy of a crime novel.
  • crime writing forensically examined through character, dialogue, action, plot & structure.

Paddy Breathnach on Writing for Screen

E.M Forster wrote of the story, “It has only one merit, that of making the audience want to know what happens next. And conversely it can have only one fault, that of making the audience not want to know what happens next.”

  • ways of achieving the former and avoiding the latter by
  • recognising what you’re trying to write: tone, genre & simple stuff that’s often forgotten
  • mythic journeys & sequence theories that help structure your screenplay.

Michael Harding on Writing for Theatre

Putting the story on the stage.

  • finding your story.
  • what is the best starting point for a story?
  • examination of characters in the story & the world of the story
  • shaping your story, how to structure & shape as play for theatre
  • essential rules & principles of the craft
  • making your story work on the stage
  • examination of the personal & socio-political aspect of your story
  • how your story must serve the requirements of the audience.

Martina Evans on Advanced Poetry

  • Everything written is as good as it is dramatic – Robert Frost
  • screenwriter Waldo Salt spoke of thinking like a poet in order to visualise the Dustin Hoffman character in Midnight Cowboy
  • explore film techniques as a way of creating lyrics that are vivid compressed narratives.

Matthew Sweeney on Poetry Getting Started

  • Robert Frost: ‘Poetry is a fresh look and a fresh listen’
  • fresh look at the world around us
  • fresh listen to the language people are using
  • looking at poems that do this & taking your cue from them
  • writing in a way that might surprise you
  • If you surprise yourself, you just might surprise your reader.’(Frost)

Sheila O’Flannagan on Popular Fiction

  • practical, interactive
  • building a popular fiction, covering characterisation, story development, writing skills & editing
  • advice on how to get publisher
  • how to work with a publisher.

Carlo Gebler on Writing a Novel

  • start a novel, advance a novel or finish a novel
  • a better sense of the book you want to write
  • how to set about starting it, advancing it or finishing it.
  • those with work already written should bring it to the workshop
  • tutor cannot undertake to read it outside of the class.

David Park on Creative Writing Advanced

  • construct a piece of fiction, having focused on the cornerstones of structure, characterisation, setting and perspective
  • be willing to share both self and work
  • feedback given individually on all work produced.

Hopefully some of these workshop leaders will write a piece for us…


Hopefully those of you who are at these workshops will also write for us…

Dishing the Dirt on a Listowel Writers’ Week Workshop (chapter 1)

May 11, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: blogs, historical, organisers, participants, poetry

Listowel Writers’ Week has a menu of workshops for aspiring writers.

You can download details of this year’s workshops here.

If you’re going to a workshop, you’re surely wondering what it’ll be like? Like me in 2007, you may never have been to a Listowel workshop.

Well do I remember the curiosity and trepidation.

The purpose of this post is to offer you an insider’s view of what it was like for me. I owe nothing to anyone, and it’s time I told the full story, the unexpurgated version…

Entering the workshop:

I was late. Everyone else was in the room when I arrived – thinking I was about three minutes ‘late’. (In Ireland, that is not late.) Immediately I knocked, entered and sat down, I decided I must be 33 minutes late. Everyone was in the middle of writing something.

For years, I’ve earned my living running workshops for managers (anyone who needs to achieve results through others). Always taken the start of any event slowly. That day I assumed I must have missed the personal introductions, the objectives of the workshop, the ground rules and certainly the timetable for each day. That’s why I assumed I was very late. Talk about being back-footed. I felt lost.

Some background:

After I applied for the Advanced Poetry workshop with Nuala NiDhomhnaill, I suspected I might be going on the wrong one. Perhaps I should be on the beginner’s one? After all, I’d only been writing poetry since 22 June 1995 @ 1620.

Before setting off from Cork, I’d bought one of Nuala’s books, The Astrakhan Cloak (1992), and read a few poems. Otherwise her work was unknown to me. My excuse is that I lived in UK from 1975-2005, and only began reading poetry in 1994.

I’d been mad enough to write a blogpost analysis of one of Nuala’s poems. Did this to put down a marker, so I’d have something to remind me of what I was like before I fell under her influence.

I knew no one in the room…

(except for one person from Cork. I’d not seen her in ages, and wasn’t on speaking terms with her.)

There was reason for me to think I was a fish out of water…

- 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!

Creative Commons License
This work by various authors is licensed under a Creative Commons License.