Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Live Encounters celebrates nine years.




Congratulations to Mark Ulyseas publisher/editor on celebrating the ninth birthday of Live Encounters. Guest editorial is by poet, Thomas McCarthy, who writes on why men should study women's poetry. From the intriguing cover by Emma Barone to the rich, textured selection of poems throughout, it is a true endorsement of the WORD.

I am delighted, as always, to be included in this issue with a sequence of poems titled 'Widows Together'.

Homecoming
Our father is dying. He tells our mother so
when he steps off the train at Galway Station.

With specks of London concrete still in his hair,
he carries his cardboard suitcase home

with his bible, his dictionary, his references
that say he excelled in excavation work, dynamite.

He walks along the platform in his donkey jacket,
his broad shoulders mere shadow beneath the fabric
and all dreams of what might be, become undone.

 That Summer

Galway still in high spirits from the visit of John F. Kennedy.
Stars and Stripes continue to flutter from windows.

Still the whirr of helicopter blades landing in the Sports Ground.
Still the memory of music and dancing in Eyre Square,

the open-topped Cadillac moving down Shop Street,
Mainguard Street, Dominic Street,
and the whole of the town out to wave and cheer.

   
The Biggest News

We visit our father in his starched hospital bed,
twenty-third of November, my ninth birthday.

He stares at the blocks that make up the cold aseptic room,
knows their heft, for he helped put each one in place.

We stand to the left and right of him,
tell him the biggest news in the whole world:

that JFK had been shot in Dallas the day before.
‘Sing me a song,’ he says, and we sing him ‘Charming Salthill.’

  
Widows Together

Only three years between them,
each man with hair dark as midnight, a bad back.

Our mother tries to lift our father up in the bed
when he cries out that he is slipping.

Jackie Kennedy holds her husband’s head
while blood spills from him.
Stars and Stripes draped over the coffin,
the white horses carried his body to Arlington.

My father’s funeral so small, I count
on the fingers of one hand the cars behind his hearse.

Two simple black dresses, mantillas.
The First Lady and our mam widows together.






Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Naming of It from The Broken Spiral

Picture of The Broken Spiral
I am delighted that this review from the Irish Times mentioned my story  'The Naming of It'.
Here is the opening section:
FLAME. SOOT. ASHES. BONES. Blocking my breath, suffocating me. To try to stop them, I walk up and down the port, searching for the moon in the slow hollow of the night, pacing back and forth, too much erupting inside me to know any stillness. Cars drive up the ramp into the maw of the ferry, voices shout directions across at one another; there is the sickening smell of diesel. Then the staff start to let the foot passengers on. I wait my turn, wait for the people to move in front of me.
All chrome and steel, modern, mythical, this ferry sells the passengers an ‘experience’, with its themed restaurants, its cosy bucket seats, golden lighting. Fancy handbags hurry ahead of me, not wanting to catch my eye for fear they might see something of themselves in me. I had a classy bag like that once, any amount of them, in fact, on the top shelf of the wardrobe, matching the outfit, the shoes.
The waiters in the cafĂ© nod their heads in recognition as I order a tea, a sandwich. They have accepted me by now, no longer ask why I take this trip back and over, back and over. ‘Enjoy that,’ they say, as I take the steps up into the open, making sure there is nothing but black firmament above my head, still the smell of burning, still a smoke ball catching at the back of my throat.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hazelnut time



                                     
I cannot read the ocean. I am a lands-woman, and all my life have been drawn to the sanctuary of trees. The house of my childhood was called Hazel Grove, the grove being a small wildness of hazel bushes beyond our back garden. It was there that my siblings and I spent our days, for that small coppice reared us. We were not feral, no not feral, more like hunter-gathers that scavenged briars and branches throughout the growing season. We threaded wild strawberries onto long filaments of grass; purple stained our mouths with blackberries that we had cooked over our daily campfires. We gnawed the flesh off ripe haws as if they were miniature apples, only ever returning to the edge of our boundary wall when a growing spurt made us extra hungry and we shouted into our overworked mother that we wanted ‘a piece’. She understood that single word and did our bidding, hurried out to hand us a piece of bread and jam that we demolished before we hightailed it back to the under-wing of branch, of leaf.
            But it was when it came to the hazel tree that we were true foragers. We knew nothing of its reverence in Celtic lore or Greek mythology, its connection to divination and dowsing. We did not know that the messenger of the Gods, Hermes, carried its stick or that poor demented Aengus went off wandering in its wood with a fire raging in his head. But we knew its power all right.          When we had done something particularly punishable, our mother lined us up on the cold kitchen floor, cut and peeled a hazel wand and threatened us by putting it under each of our noses. “Smell that, smell that!” she commanded. It was all it took, its potency so great that just to sniff its mystical scent had us quivering in our standing and forced confessions from us as effective as any interrogator. 
Nor did we know that its fruit was equated with wisdom and poetic inspiration: That it was the hazelnut falling into the mouth of the salmon of knowledge that in turn made Fionn Mac Cumhaill the clever clogs that he was. All we knew was that when autumn came we were connoisseurs in the art of gathering. We tracked the timing of its development from the white embryo of early summer to a blush of pink that appeared on its August shell. We studied the branches, debated the way the cobs hid themselves under leaves, and rated their grouping from the paucity of a single one to the magic of a five- star cluster. Like the best hunters, we learned by experience that unripe nuts were not for consumption. They gave us black mouths and angry rashes that had us scratching all night and our mother worn out going from bed to bed to soothe arms and legs with calamine lotion. So we practised denial, not touching such temptation until days began to lose light and shells bronzed, hardened, turned nut-brown. We had the knack when it came to checking them for ripeness. One push from the thumb and they had to surrender from their sheath, gracefully. It was then time to grab our paper bags, head off into the day, climb stone walls; cover tracts of mossy terrain to search out the bread of angels.
 We found them, gloried in their silent letting go as they yielded to our waiting hands. Those that were stubborn within their bracts we didn’t push. As with our mother, we knew when there was no shifting them. Our bags now full we squirreled our bounty back home. We sat, a study of deep meditation, at the gable end of the house. Nothing distracted us from the labour, each with our own chosen stone snug in our palms as we clacked away. The sound of granite on shell echoed throughout the village and one by one we split the brown casing to reveal its sweetmeats.
And then came the best bit. We filled bowls with the brown kernels, topped them with sugar and milk and feasted on our largesse. We never knew until we were much older and the word became part of breakfast vocabulary that we had created our own Muesli, Galway Muesli.

First broadcast on Sunday Miscellany as part of Clifden Arts Festival.  





Monday, August 13, 2018

Lea-Green Down



I am so delighted to have a poem in Lea-Green Down, an anthology of poems by established and emerging poets who have been inspired by the poetry of one of our greats: Patrick Kavanagh 1904-1967. From the striking cover image of ‘Man and Poet’ by Irish artist, Paul McCloskey, to the fine opening essay by Gerard Smith, to the thought-provoking call and response of each poem, it is exquisitely published and edited by Eileen Casey at her own Fiery Arrow Press.

Launched by Kavanagh Scholar, Dr Una Agnew, on 18 July in the Irish Writers’ Centre she summed it up perfectly in her speech when she said that: 
The army of contemporary poets that grace these pages, some neophytes, some seasoned bards, winners already of prestigious literary awards: all have a voice in Eileen Casey’s unique collection. These also, testify to Kavanagh’s enduring mentoring influence. Each poet here, turns the lea green down and opens a new furrow that responds to or reflects in a new way on a chosen Kavanagh poem.
It is a work of the miraculous to see how each writer transforms an image from the established poem to something that indeed opens a furrow into a new and different world. This is a book to be cherished, to be taken down and read over and over again.
I have always loved his poem, ‘Memory of my Father’ and once I started working on my response it took me in a surprising and contemporary direction for: 'I Keep Looking'.

Memory of My Father  

Every old man I see
Reminds me of my father
When he had fallen in love with death
One time when sheaves were gathered.

That man I saw in Gardiner Street
Stumble on the kerb was one,
He stared at me half-eyed,
I might have been his son.

And I remember the musician
Faltering over his fiddle
In Bayswater, London,
He too set me the riddle.

Every old man I see
In October-coloured weather
Seems to say to me:
‘I was once your father.’

Patrick Kavanagh



I Keep Looking

Every young girl I see
reminds me of my daughter,
when she was unloosing the old coat of herself
to step into this world she would master.

The slip of a thing on the Ha'penny Bridge 
who smiled at me was one,
(when all others rushed by, heads bent, no apology)
her nose-stud – a newfound sun,

and the little one only last week,
who waved from the top of the bus
as if to remind me I do exist,
within my house of dust.

Or a day when the stropped blade
of wind sliced up along the Quays,
a butterfly tattoo between forefinger and thumb
dropped a coin in my shivering cup.

Every young girl I see
in school uniform or knee-torn jeggings,
might one day say to me:
‘I am still your daughter.’

Geraldine Mills

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

For Poetry Day Ireland

Changing Ground

I have spoken to no one for days
but the small bird with the black band
of neck as it bobs its way in front of me,
feigns nesting in the torc of wrack in the sand

and a man in a scrapie wool jumper
picks broken teeth from the strand;
if he opens the black cavern of his mouth
and utters three, two, even one word
I’ll be gone with him.

The day comes when you can no longer
squeeze into the old coat of yourself.

Slievemore stays where it is,
has never moved its whole old life
but waits for the farmers to shift
their animals up and down with the seasons.

My bones know change the way birds know sky,
the way they let go of the light over the deserted village
the way the grass knows it, bitten down to the quick.



From Urgency of Stars ( Arlen House, 2010)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

'Is that a Galway accent?' by Anne Marie Kennedy

Reciting the Writing by Anne Marie Kennedy

Award winning Galway writer Anne Marie Kennedy will launch her debut CD, ‘Is that a Galway accent?’ in Charlie Byrne’s bookshop, on Friday April 20th at 6.30 pm.
 I am honoured to be her special guest at this unique event. Not to be missed.

 ‘Is that a Galway accent?’ is a collection of previously awarded, published or broadcast work, reaching across topics of an infidelity hedged, mothers’ secrets, a trapped rat, the perils of decorating a Christmas tree, how to assist a calving cow and the wisdom of tinker women.  
Anne Marie is the winner of the Molly Keane Creative writing award 2014. Her play, A Matter of Modesty, was runner up in P.J. O’Connor Radio Drama 2016 and subsequently won two golds at the New York International Festival for Radio, in Best Scheduled drama category for RTE and Best actor for Eamonn Morrissey. 
She is an editor, shadow writer, freelance journalist, creative writing tutor and performance poet. Her work has been widely published in literary anthologies in Ireland, the U.K. and in North America where her non-fiction was chosen by Jonathan Franzen for Best American Essays 2015. She is shortlisted for the Percy French Comic Verse Award 2018 at the upcoming Strokestown International Poetry Festival.
Also reading will be readers from River Art Creative Writing Workshops: Candy Carrick, Sarah Fahy, Brenda McGregor, Louise O’Neill Vance and Carole Staunton.




Sunday, April 8, 2018

Reading the Future New Writing from Ireland


Edited by Alan Hayes and published by Arlen House and Hodges Figgis, 'Reading the Future: New Writing from Ireland' celebrates 250 Years of Hodges Figgis. It will be launched by Josepha Madigan, TD Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht at Hodges Figgis Bookshop,56–58 Dawson Street, Dublin, Thursday 26 April at 6:00pm.

I am thrilled to be included in this beautifully produced anthology with so many of our great writers. Congratulations to Alan for the months of work he put into it.