Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reading at Cúírt Literary Brunch

The Cúirt Literary Brunch was certainly a very special morning in Vina Mara last Sunday where I shared the platform with Geraldine Mitchell, a very, fine poet whose work I greatly admire and Edward O'Dwyer whose debut poetry collection  is one to watch out for. I read Centre of a Small Hell from my third short story collection Hellkite (Arlen House). My gratitude to Alan McMonagle who gave such a considered introduction to my reading that I asked to publish some of it here. He kindly agreed.  If you are not already familiar with Alan's compelling short fiction go and get a copy of  Liar Liar (WordsontheStreet) or Psychotic Episodes (Arlen House, 2013)



Thanks Alan for the following:

Finn MacCumhaill shows up in the fruit and veg aisle of a Dublin supermarket. The Angel Gabriel takes a shine to a trampoline set up in a moonlit, country garden. We witness an adulterous man's metamorphosis into a pig. While another man, for whatever reason, takes one step too many and finds himself locked away in a room of little ease.
     These are just some of the scenarios offered by Geraldine Mills in her third collection of stories, Hellkite, a collection courageously peopled by a cast of mischievous, indifferent, cruel, and indeed hellish women.

     Men are in trouble in these stories. They are betrayed, pecked at, lied to, stowed away, literally put on leashes. Indeed, upon reading the title story in this new collection I can safely say I am never going to look at a cubbyhole the same way again. And I now have a new mantra. Ladies First... 
     When I read Geraldine's stories many names come to mind: the earthiness of Flannery O'Connor, the comic surrealism of the great Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano, the imagery of Pauline Bewick. To paraphrase a well-known boxer, Geraldine's prose floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Geraldine takes risks in her writing. And like any self-respecting risk-taker the acknowledgement implicit here is that things may not always go according to plan, the writing itself becomes a high-wire act, a leap of faith and ultimately its own reward. 
     Listen to some of these opening lines. A man fell out of the sky and into my garden... All through the day the geckos come, flicking up the walls, their tails writing dark all over the plaster...With the splutter of the chainsaw the birds rose from the trees like black letters into the blue page of the sky...and one I really like...When it comes to women I'm as helpless as a cow in quicksand.
...notice the avian imagery, that stretching of reality, the mythical atmosphere we are instantly immersed in, the almost casual surrealism of it all, the playfulness and of course the foreboding.   
     Geraldine has said in interview that It’s not enough to have a good story if the writing doesn’t stand up and equally no good if you have well constructed sentences and no plot. The alchemy is in the melding of the two. 
     And so let me now invite an alchemist extraordinaire to the platform.





















Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In Conversation with Valerie Sirr


I’ve admired Geraldine Mill’s work for a long time now. I first came across her writing when her story ‘Lick of the Lizard’ won the millennium Hennessy New Irish writer award. Her winning story became the title story for her debut collection of short fiction published by Arlen House in 2005. I reviewed that collection here.
Hellkite, Geraldine’s third short fiction collection published recently by Arlen House, is a powerful and original work that explores the goodness of men, and the cruelty, sometimes indifferent, sometimes hellish, of women to men. There’s a lively, imaginative playfulness in these stories and the abandoning wife in the opening story is further developed in the final story, which allows an exploration of the humanity of the hellkite and frames the collection beautifully. Below, in this review/interview, we explore the many strengths of Geraldine’s collection. 
Valerie Sirr: The idea of a collection of hellkites for a book of short fiction is wonderfully inventive. How did the idea come to you? Did you come across the word somewhere, an image? Was it an emerging theme in your work?
Geraldine Mills: The collection didn’t start out like that at all. There was never a moment when I said I was going to write a book about cruel people or about men who have been cruelly treated by women. Like most writers, it is not the way I work. I go with the gut instinct of what is chipping away at my imagination; what will not give me peace until I start to give it some attention; until the image begins to hold. 
Thank you Valerie for the time you put into preparing the questions for our interview. I loved getting stuck into those questions that make me consider the craft and why I write.  Check out Valerie Sirr's Blog for the the full interview. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Update on Hellkite


It is always very heartening when people take time to write to you to tell  you how much they are enjoying your book. Letters and emails have been coming in from the most unlikely places around the world  to say they ordered Hellkite from Kenny's and have been reading stories to one another or discussing the different themes in their writing circles.

 It is also rewarding when the reader gets it; knows what you are trying to do in the stories and see the patterns and nuances within the different ones. The limited-edition hardback is almost sold out but the paperback is still available in  good bookshops. Here is another extract from:

The Devil’s Dye
First Eliza must chase Marisolle from the barn. That girl with her pangolin eyes and slouching walk carries bad spirits in her pocket and every time she is within bleeding distance things start to unhappen. She is best sent off to the fields at the end of the farm where she can sit in the blistering heat and hex no one, float around the corn shucks; let the duende of her mind dance like a mad thing – if that’s what a goblin does – but not here. Not here in the barn where Eliza knows everything depends on it, the plantation’s livelihood, their house, their mother’s nervous disposition.
            Eliza gathers as many bundles of the plant into her arms as she can manage and piles them into the big expanse of vat that squats on the dusty floor.  She orders the servants to carry buckets of water from the cistern to the big zinc bath, pour. The colour a  dirty yellow, the odour so offensive it chokes the whole space around them and they have to  pull their aprons over their mouths, their noses as they continue to bring more buckets to its rim.
‘Go now. Leave me.’ she says. ‘Go about your other chores and leave me, for this is my task only.’
She waits until Nathanial and Amos pull the big door closed and apart from the light that comes through the slats of the windows and the motes that scatter out around her, there is just herself and the putrid container of mud liquid before her.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Precipitation


                                        

This poem was recently published in Southernmost Point Guest House (Pretend Genius Press)

Precipitation


I carry a mountain of cloud on my shoulders,
patches of fog drizzle along strands of my hair,
I open the window and rain tumbles onto my head,
thunder hangs its coat behind the door.

The weather forecaster speaks like Sylvia Plath,
tongueful of words hailstone-sharp,
clipped as the north wind that fells elms.
My mind has visibility greater than ten miles.

Indigo nimbus, cumulonimbus, violet storms
shatter the bee box under the bed,
wings, limp from damp, swarm
headlong onto the floor, buzzing.


Photo courtesy of Peter Moore

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review of Hellkite

I am delighted with the review of Hellkite in this month's Midwest Books Review by Lisa C. Taylor


Geraldine Mills' new collection of short stories, Hellkite, is brave and uncompromising. Breaking stance with the common theme of exploitation of women by men, the female characters that inhabit the world of her stories reveal themselves through infidelity, mental illness, abandonment, and on occasion, sheer evil. From an angel who appears in the body of a man jumping on a trampoline, to the hellkite of an ex-wife, her characters dwell in a place without ordinary boundaries, where a life of predictability and comfort may be an elaborate deception. The collection is unsettling in the best possible way as it challenges the status quo, the basis of institutions and relationships that the characters (and ourselves) come to trust. As metaphor for the present turbulent times of upended financial institutions, corrupt politicians, houses in foreclosure, and individuals who disappoint and sometimes devastate each other, the collection reminds us both of our vulnerability and the necessity to look beyond the obvious for answers, or perhaps the true questions.

When the young man in 'The Street with Looking-Glass Eyes' becomes responsible for his suddenly agoraphobic sister after a terrible accident claims their parents, he brings the world to her each day through stories: ...he searches out everything that might have a story hidden in it. Something he can bring back home in the evening. A moment in time swallows this character, his sister, and outside, the life that might have been his but instead is slowly ebbing away.

The rich language of Geraldine Mills' stories is otherworldly. In 'Foraging', a adulterer named Lazarus is thrown out by his wife after her gift of a class in avoiding adultery fails to dissuade him from the practice. When his heart fails, and he has a heart transplant, he becomes an entirely different man, a man who craved the green of chlorophyll, Little Gems, Cos, Romaine, in their gloriously-wilted existence. Like all of the stories in this tightly woven collection, this story dips and turns into an alternate universe of canaries who perch on broomsticks and a transplant patient who develops unusual proclivities. Nothing is literal in the world of Hellkite; the stories existing instead in a universe of tropes, a world built on sand and flood plains.

Here is a writer in control of her character's paces, from the first moment shading his eyes from the sun that was already half way to its own death to the conclusion when his coat flapped against the bruised sky and brazier of moon. Like these hapless characters, the reader travels unpredictably at a place in time that reinforces the notion that every action has a reaction, and life, in all its complexity or horror will doggedly push forward.

In the end, the stories in Hellkite are testimonies to both naivete and a human willingness to endure in the worst of times, in spite of deception or bad fortune, as if around the corner, a light might illuminate the reason for the pain, the only sign out there to show he wasn't on his own on this side of the world. Tenacity and misplaced trust wrestle with each other, proving at last that it is the story that endures, the process of giving a voice to that unspeakable, intangible part of being human, not to heal but to uncover.


For more reviews go to: http://www.midwestbookreview.com/rbw/feb_14.htm#rchttp:

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Southernmost Point



I am delighted to be included in Southernmost Point Guest House, an anthology of poetry from the same publisher as New Short Stories and funded by profits from the Willesden Herald Short Story Competition. Many thanks to Stephen Moran for inviting me to contribute. The cover itself is deserving of a poem and the title is taken a poem by Alex Barr
 
This collection brings together poetry by writers currently living in America, Britain, Ireland, Italy and New Zealand. They have little in common other than finding themselves here, in this book and in the early part of the 21st century, with something to say. 

So I am particularly  pleased to be between covers with:  Stephen Moran,  Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Alex Barr, Andrew Mayne, Charles Lambert, David Cooke,James Browning Kepple, Judi Sutherland, Kim Göransson, Laura Lee, Lee Webber, Lynn Blackadder, Lynsey Rose, Mikey Delgado, Raewyn Alexander, Richard Peabody, Sean Brijbasi, Susan Campbell, Tim Craven, Vanessa Gebbie. 
It is available from:

 
 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hellkite Launched

Thank you to all who made the launch of Hellkite in Dublin and Galway such a huge success.  Fellow writers, Vivienne McKechnie; Mary Turley-McGrath and Geraldine Mitchell
John and Vivienne with writer, Gerry Boland

With writer Aoife Casby