Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

Blogging Listowel's Literary Scene

P J Kennedy of LWW fame opens an exhibition in Ballinamore

July 29, 2009 By: ana Category: connections, events, painters & paintings, poet

Read this report in the Anglo-Celt

The Solas Art Gallery in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, has a group exhibition of paintings – on the theme of “Painted Poems”.

Recent regulars @Listowel Writers’ Week will remember PJ Kennedy – a Belturbet, County Cavan, poet.

Heaney and Lisbon – What Gives?

June 22, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: poet

My jaw dropped last night when I saw on the news that the Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is weighing in on the Yes side in the upcoming Lisbon Referendum rerun.
I find the temerity of the man galling for the following reasons:

  1. All during the “troubles” up North, Mr. Heaney was noticeably silent, when it behooved him, as a poet, to speak out against atrocity, and injustice, it being a poet’s obligation to do. What more important function does the poet serve in society if not to ask the “hard” questions, even if – especially if – that means putting him/herself at risk?
    Yet, now Mr Heaney sees fit to lend his considerable clout, at no personal risk to himself, to one side in what will no doubt be a very divisive rerun of the Lisbon referendum.
  2. As a citizen of this country, I find it highly objectionable that a poet of his stature should row in behind the Status Quo thereby lending it credibility, given the absolute shambles the said Status Quo has made of our country and economy in the past decade, and the contempt with which it regards the wishes of the people.
  3. Rerunning the Lisbon Referendum when a sizeable majority of the electorate voted against the Lisbon Treaty only a year ago is an insult to the electorate and makes an absolute mockery of our democracy. By siding with the Status Quo on this issue Mr. Heaney is in effect adding to the insult.

For all of the above reasons I would therefore ask Mr Heaney to kindly refrain from taking sides on this issue in an official capacity. He is, of course, entitled to give his views as a private citizen, as we all are. But to use the prestige of his poetic standing in an official capacity to bolster the campaign of one side or the other is not acceptable.

Thursday’s “Open Mic” session with MC George Rowley

June 11, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events, participants, photographs, poets

Thanks to Pauline Fayne who kindly sent me on a photograph she took at the “Open Mic” session in the New Kingdom Bar on the Thursday night (May 29th 2009). In the picture are Patrick Stack on the left and John MacNamee on the right in pensive mood as we concentrate on a poem being recited or a song being sung (I don’t remember which).

Left to right: Patrick Stack and John MacNamee

Left to right: Patrick Stack and John MacNamee

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?


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.

The great Terry Jones signs poet Philip Byrne’s book

June 06, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, events, participants, photographs, poet, storytelling

Two wonderful men…

after Barbarians @ LWW09

after Barbarians @ LWW09

Philip Byrne has been my friend since Advanced Poetry workshop@Listowel Writers’ Week 2007. He writes superb poems of form, shape & substance.

Without Terry Jones, where would we be? He was in Listowel plugging his TV documentary series


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.

A John Sheahan poem

May 30, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: poem, poet, poetry


Cowering under threat
Of leather;
Braced for palm-blistering sting,
Backbiting lash.

Hair-raising swish
Through the frightened air
Diminishing terrified targets.
Unholy aim -
Imprimatur of leather on flesh.

Tear-filled vision
Distorting education;
Blurred lines on blank page
Pleading for inspiration.

Learning through fear;
Remembering little, but pain;
Unrelenting leather
Force-feeding bewildered brain.



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.

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