Sunday, October 19, 2014

Reading at Baffle Festival Loughrea, Co. Galway

There is no trophy more prized than the Baffle Turnip Award,  pictured here. And there is no other livelier weekend festival to be part of than this in terms of poetry, poets, porter, and pleasure.

This  year's theme is: When the Whistle Blew. Now that should throw up some interesting interpretations.

I'm judging the poetry heats on Saturday night 25th October and reading at the Brunch on Sunday 26th at 12.00 in the Hungry Bookworm. 

Come along. You won't be disappointed. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

#readwomen2014 at Tallaght Redline Festival


I am delighted to be returning to Tallaght and South County Dublin Redline Festival  where I will be reading with  EILEEN CASEY and MIA GALLAGHER and afterwards in conversation with SUE HASSETT, on Friday 17th October at  8.15pm Loose End Studio, Civic Theatre, Tallaght.

Are literary women writers undersold and undervalued by the current literary universe? In 2014 a small American literary journal vowed to cover women writers for a full year. Then, artist Joanna Walsh’s #readwomen 2014 project became a popular meme on social media.

So come join three Hennessy award-winning writers in this lively debate as we assess and attempt to redress male writers’ dominance in the literary world.

Booking at Civic Theatre Box Office:
Tel 01 462 7477;
Admission €8/€6

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Publisher who Cares about Books and Writing by Eileen Casey

 From Senior Times September/October 2014

In a recent Irish Independent newspaper article about small publishing houses, Alan Hayes, summed up the spirit of his own independent press, Arlen House. Asked how he felt about authors who might be tempted to move on to bigger houses, he replied: “I’m not upset because I want to see writers thrive and I’m happy to help them along their path. I want to see them take flight.” As it happens, a writer who began her career with Arlen House, Nuala Ní Chonchuir, has just signed a book deal for her third novel Miss Emily, with
Penguin USA and Penguin Canada.

Alan Hayes has no hesitation in wishing Ní Chonchuir the best of luck and even more recognition. Such an attitude is the hallmark of a publisher whose books are consistently of high literary quality and which are undeniably visually gorgeous. Galway based and re-launched in 2000, Arlen House has found its niche in both national and international publishing arenas. Worldwide distribution is via Syracuse University
Press in a dynamic publishing partnership.

Arlen House has, historically, always been closely connected to women writers, although nowadays, not
exclusively so; Hayes has broadened out the scope of the press. But in its earlier formations, its aim was to champion and pioneer women’s writing in Ireland. Two Irelands, Literary Feminisms North and South by Rebecca Pelan (Syracuse University Press) is a good place to start exploring the story of women’s writing and publishing in Ireland. Arlen’s original founder was Catherine Rose and it came into being in Galway
during International Women’s Year, 1975. Early listings were heavily influenced by Eavan Boland. Arlen’s first publication was Rose’s The Female Experience: The Story of the Woman Movement in Ireland.
In 1978 the press moved its headquarters to Dublin and became Arlen House: The Women’s Press. Margaret Mac Curtain, Janet Martin and Terry Prone joined its ranks. The press undertook a rebuilding of ‘lost’ women writers such as Kate  O’Brien, Norah Hoult, Janet McNeill among others. In 1978
also, Arlen House and sponsor Maxwell House (coffee) began a literary competition for new women writers, producing three ground-breaking anthologies and starting many writers’ careers as a result. In tandem with these anthologies, some of the most important critical work appeared, work which included Irish Women: Image and Achievement, edited by Eileán Ni Chuilleanáin (1985). Terry Prone’s The Scattering of
Mrs Blake and Related Matters and Mary Rose Callaghan’s Mothers represent two of the finest
publications by Arlen House around this time.

Another direct result from Arlen was WEB (Women’s Education Bureau) founded in 1984 by Eavan Boland, who organised writing workshops for women and also designed courses on ‘Women into Writing,’ for FÁS.

Regarding how Arlen House operates today, Hayes accepts no unsolicited manuscripts. Instead he commissions the books (over 150 to date) looking out for emerging writers, going to readings, keeping abreast of literary journals. He then contacts the writer and asks if there is a manuscript available. The books themselves are acknowledged gems in terms of original artwork covers, many of them in hardback. Hayes himself was a judge of the 2009 EU Prize for Literature; founder of the Dublin Book Festival and its former Artistic Director; former President of Publishing Ireland during its most successful period and a co-founder of Dublin’s bid for UNESCO City of Literature (which Dublin received in 2010). His own books, published by Arlen House, include Hilda Tweedy and the Irish Housewives Association, (2012) and Madame Sidney Gifford’s The Years Flew By (2000).

He’s also published Women Emerging (NUIG 2005), Irish Women’s History (Irish Academic Press, 2004) and The Irish Women’s History Reader (Routledge, 2000) among others. The list of Arlen House authors is long and illustrious, including names such as Pauline Bewick, Maeve Binchy, Geraldine Mills,
Nuala Ní Chonchúir, James Liddy, Liam O’Flaherty, Joan Newmann, Kate Newmann, Vincent Woods, Celia de Fréine and Martin Dyar.

Important books on gender issues continue to be published, internationally-acclaimed books such as Ariadne’s Thread: Writing Women into Irish History by Margaret Mac Curtain (2008) and Mary Cullen’s
Telling it Our Way, Essays in Gender History (2013). My own debut collection of short fiction Snow Shoes, appeared in 2012 from Arlen House (with original artwork from Offaly artist Emma Barone ). Galway based writers Colette Nic Aodha and James Marytn Joyce were launched with me. Joyce also compiled Noir by Noir West, an anthology of dark tales from thirty writers, again testimony to Alan Hayes’s commitment to getting writers published. This sentiment is echoed by fellow Galway writer Alan McMonagle when he says “In these difficult publishing times, Arlen House provides a rare opportunity for writers of short fiction.” McMonagle’s Psychotic Episodes is a collection of short stories described by Patrick McCabe as being “precise, tender and glitteringly compelling.” The title story in this collection was nominated for a Pushcart prize.

On a personal level, my second collection with Arlen House, A Fascination with Fabric, prose and memoir, is everything and more I could wish for. When I reflect on the list of Arlen House writers, I realise its historical significance in terms of women writers in particular and I feel fortunate to be counted among a long line of gifted writers, some of whom are profiled here. Writers, for example, like Martin Dyar (Patrick Kavanagh Award Winner, 2009). His debut poetry collection Maiden Names was shortlisted for the Pigott Poetry Prize and the Shine Strong Poetry Award, 2014. Poet Bernard O’Donoghue described Dyar’s work as being “A thrilling new development in Irish poetry.” 

Awards are no strangers to Arlen House writers. Tom Duddy who passed away in 2012, was the only Irish poet to make the shortlist for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry and the Aldeburgh Poetry
Prize with his debut collection, The Hiding Place.

Of Arlen House books, Dyar says that they “resonate with the personality of the press itself. The feminist origins abide in the trademark sense of the individual book as a means for the preservation and renewal of
experience, a sense of voices tended and understood. This quality continues, it seems to me, by virtue of a special editorial talent and commitment, and a special sense of Ireland itself, along with a love of the book as a physical object. My own understanding of the significance and potential of poetry has been deepened through being exposed to the Arlen House ethos. It has granted me a new ideal of writing.”

Seven Ages (2005) is a sumptuous celebration of Pauline Bewick’s life and work. The book is arranged in chronological order, charting the artist’s journey from the age of two to seventy. Bewick is much loved and admired as an artist and is Ireland’s most successful woman artist. In 2006 she donated 600 artworks from her collection to the Irish State, and Arlen House catalogued this in Pauline Bewick’s Seven Ages (2006).
Bewick has the highest respect for how Alan Hayes works as a publisher, citing his always “sympathetic response.” To mark her 80th  birthday in 2015, Arlen House will publish a memoir from Bewick, an event to be looked forward to.

Galway writer Geraldine Mills (Winner of the Hennessy New Writer of the Year Award, 2000) has published five books with Arlen House, two collections of poetry and three of short stories, the most recent being Hellkite. Geraldine’s reputation has grown steadily over the years, garnering substantial literary successes and solid affirmation from her peers. Her dedicated approach to the writing process itself has also been richly rewarded in works that will undoubtedly stand the test
of time.
“A writer puts his/her life into each story or poem, perfecting every phrase, every sentence. Arlen House does the same with its publications, ensuring that every aspect of the finished product is beautiful: the font, the typeface, the quality of the paper, the cover image. Anyone who picks up an Arlen book admires it immediately for its solid individuality, something that e-publishing can never compete with.” Artwork on her
books is courtesy of artists such as Pauline Bewick, Joan Hogan, Charlotte Kelly and Gerald Davis.
On the question of the economics of publishing, she says: “In an age where the Amazons of the industry are constantly trying to strip booksellers and publishers of any chance of a livelihood, small Indie publishers such as Arlen House defy all of that by continuing to believe in the power and beauty of the book. I have no doubt but my writing life would be very different if I hadn't had the opportunity to be published by Alan Hayes. Having international distribution with Syracuse University Press has opened up the world for me with my work being taught in many universities in the US including Connecticut, Boston and Seattle. Hellkite has even found its way to Turkey and this autumn some of my stories will be taught to college students there. Gratitude to him is a small word here.”

Celia de Fréine is another such highly regarded writer, equally at home writing in English or Irish. She lives in Dublin but is originally from Newtownards, County Down and still maintains her links to Northern Ireland. A Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award winner, she is a poet, playwright, screenwriter and librettist. She has published seven books with Arlen House, including a ground-breaking bilingual 3 volume set of plays inspired by Brian Merriman’s The Midnight Court, and most recently cuir amach seo dom: riddle me this (2014).
Donegal award winning poet Mary Turley-McGrath is the 2014 recipient of Trocaire’s Poetry Prize, in conjunction with Poetry Ireland. Her second book of poems, Forget the Lake, is published by Arlen House. For Turley-McGrath, “Being an Arlen House writer means belonging to a publishing house that is
dynamic, independent, inclusive and professional, a publisher who brings Irish writing to the forefront of the Irish and international scene.”

American writer Lisa C. Taylor’s most recent poetry collection, Necessary Silence was published by Arlen House in 2013. “I wouldn’t be a writer without readers,” she says, not remembering a time when she didn’t use writing “to make sense of the world.” Taylor has much praise for Arlen House, “Alan Hayes’s dedication to literature and authors is steadfast. Not only is he a great editor, his support of literature and Arlen House writers enables us to get our work out into the larger world. My tours in both Ireland and the United States have given me opportunities I would not have otherwise had. The collaborative collection (The Other Side
of Longing, 2011) with Geraldine Mills allowed both of us to read widely in the United States as well as in Ireland. ” Órfhlaith Foyle has been an Arlen author since 2005; Revenge (fiction and poetry), Red Riding Hood’s Dilemma (poetry), Somewhere in Minnesota (short fiction). “Arlen House is an independent publishing house and while that is a challenge these days, Alan Hayes is utterly committed to publishing literature, poetry and art. Clemency Browne Dreams of Gin is my fourth book with Arlen House and I am
proud of it and how it looks. After a writer writes what is their gut, all a writer wants is to be published, and Arlen House does that with great respect for the work, the book and the writer.” 
This solid appreciation for a level of care and attention to detail resulting consistently in beautiful books; is
shared by many. Writers and readers alike. For information regarding any of its books or authors, Arlen
House can be contacted at


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Clifden Arts Festival reading

   Delighted to be reading with 
Michael Gorman on Friday, 19th at 4pm 
in Clifden library.

Looking forward to seeing loads of you there.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Noir by Noir West Reading at Clifden Arts Festival

      2pm Thursday 18 Sept  ALCOCK & BROWN

Published by Arlen House and edited by James Martyn Joyce, Noir by Noir West  is new short fiction by 30 of Ireland's best established and emerging writers; stories filled with menace and intrigue.  Local author Pat Mullan says “I am very pleased to be one of the writers chosen for this superb new work.” 

We invite you into this dark, dark world to hear  Hugo Kelly, Aideen Henry, Pat Mullen and myself read from the collection. Your life will never be the same again.

Noir By Noir West - disquieting Galway stories


The Missing Link

Here is a new poem that has just been published in Human Journal.Thank you to Susan and Mustafa for inviting me to submit. The link below will let you see the amazing work of all the other contributors. 

The Missing Link

The head-hunters came to the wildness of Mayo,
eighteen nineties, with callipers and camera,
to prove our nigrescence, our blackness.

They lined up full face and side view:
measured to a fraction of an inch −
forehead to crown, temple to temple
the jut of the bone from ear to ear:

Seán ‘the common noun’ Daly,
The schoolmaster at Ballycroy,
The King of North Iniskea

or my great-grandmother milling grain in the quern
the purse of her full bottom lip, 
the protruding lower jaw.

If it wasn’t for the white of her skin
she’d be the living proof.

Note: Mayo is a county in the north west of Ireland


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Starting Over

How random our lives are. How we can be born on a whim of chance, a loneliness in the heart, a hunger to be somewhere else. I have become very aware of this as I try to attune myself to the cold fact that my husband and I will be long-distance grandparents.  Before the summer is over our first and only grandchild will have moved to the United States with her Irish mother and American father to start her new little life. And so it puts me in mind of my own lineage. How this precious part of us would never have been born if my forebears hadn’t crossed the Atlantic.
At a time when the Erris peninsula was anything but ‘the best place to go wild in’ as it has just been voted, my great-grandparents and six of their children emigrated from the shores of Belmullet in June, 1883 on the SS Waldensian, bound for Boston. This was the eleventh steamer that year to leave Blacksod Bay under the assisted Emigration Arrears Act. 
The project was funded by the Tuke Fund, named after a Yorkshire Quaker, James Hack Tuke who spent most of his life trying to relieve the starvation and poverty in the west of Ireland. His scheme granted passage to large numbers of tenant farmers and their families from the most deprived areas of Ireland willing to seek a new life beyond the pinched existence of post-Famine Mayo. My great-grandparents chose to do this, handing their hungry piece of grass back to the landlord, packing up whatever little possessions they had and set their sights on America. In all, 3,300 people left those shores between 1883−84.
A fine morning by all accounts. Late June, the weather clement as they followed the winding road down to the sea, the S.S. Waldensian waiting for them in the calm waters of Elly Bay. No need for tears, they were going as a unit and it was still too early for anyone to wave them off.
And maybe they were glad to see the back of it all, the smell of rotting, the wind-crippled trees, the last smoor of a cold fire. For their passage was paid; they had clothes on their backs. The women given a second set of petticoats, dress, a bonnet, a brush and comb; the men an overcoat, two shirts, a muffler, six pounds in their pockets: landing money. The anchor was raised and the SS Waldensian set sail.
According to the passenger list they landed in Boston Harbour on 4th July 1883. What a New World celebration they would have arrived into: flags flying, brass bands, speeches, fanfares, How delighted they would have been to think it was for them alone, a welcome to the land of plenty where the streets were paved with gold, no comparison with the scatter of stones that they had abandoned.
They moved to Rhode Island where my great-grandfather was given work in a manufacturing company. A swanky home by their standards, steady work, a school for the children, another baby born, a child christened.
But after the first flush of excitement, they couldn’t settle. And who is to say what brought them back? Whether it was all those factory chimney stacks blocking out the sky, no burnished sand of Elly Bay, no  sight of geese on Iniskea, no curlew. Either way, against the tide they bought a return passage on a ship still marked with famine and headed back, spending six months in the workhouse in Cork where young Margaret died of phthisis. She is buried in a mass grave somewhere.
Which road they took to find their way back to Belmullet is lost with them but they picked up the pieces and moved home. 
            How different this life narrative would have been if they had stayed. Who would have married who? Who would have begotten who? Only that my grandmother would not have met her husband at the August Fair Day in Belmullet, my mother, I, my daughter, and now our granddaughter would not have entered this earth.   
         And so the story repeats itself. Not a boat but a plane, not famine but opportunity, not my ancestors but my own, daughter, her husband, their child, our granddaughter.  Beginning a new life. Starting over.
If you or some members of your ancestors were part of this emigration, and you are trying to find them, there is no better site to start your search than with
Initiated by Rosemarie Geraghty, she has worked tirelessly since 2009 to record and document this very important part of our history. A visit to Ionad Deirbhile in Eachléim Belmullet, Co. Mayo is also a must where Rosemarie and her team can show you all the ships' manifests and other documents.
Then visit the beautiful memorial garden in Black Sod where the names of all those who took that journey  are recorded and will be forever remembered.  

Published in Ireland's Own, August 29, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

All in the name of research:Balloon Ride

Albuquerque,just before dawn preparations are already under way to see the sun rise from the hot air balloon. There is a balloon ride in a scene of my latest story so I'm all for making my writing authentic.

Propane gas lights up the  sky 

Keith checks it all out  to see that the balloon is filling properly with air

Is my life worth more than three paltry sentences?

 No time to change my mind for we are up,up and away

Sunday, August 3, 2014

By the Time I Make Albuquerque I'll be Reading

Having left North Dakota for New Mexico I have gone from a world of badlands and buffalo, longhorn cattle and flax fields  to the land of  mesas and roadrunners, Georgia O' Keeffe and Route 66. These dramatic landforms (above) are created when the top layer of the plateau resists the natural weathering process. As the softer soil around the harder cap-rock is eroded a  mesa forms.

The Kimo Theatre is on Route 66,and was built in 1927 as a Pueblo Deco picture palace which was a very flamboyant  short-lived architectural style that combined the spirit of the Native American cultures with art moderne that was popular in the 1920s. Its elaborate interior of colourful Indian symbols, air vents designed as Navajo rugs and buffalo skulls with red, glowing eyes it's a  jewel in the Albuquerque cityscape.

Kelly and Pamela with Cinnebar
It's the first time that I've had a horse come to my reading but Cinnabar was most attentive when I read at Jacqueline Loring's home with a number of her friends who came to meet me. We had a wonderful reading in the garden, the sun shining and everything right with the world. Other animals that dropped by were Thumper and Cuddles, the road runner and a two hummingbirds. The bull snake and the raptors stayed at home.

As well as new work, Jacqueline also read from her award-winning collection The History of Bearing Children. The following poem was recently selected to be part of an exhibition at the Museum of the American Military Family which has been curated by Caroline Le Blanc.

A comma can save your life

Let's eat Grandma

Let's eat, Grandma

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What Our Shoes Say About Us

Saturday afternoon in Richardson's Pub on Eyre Square and a great launch of Gerry Hanberry's fourth poetry collection What Our Shoes Say About Us with Celeste Augé's second collection, Skip-Diving and Knute Skinner's Concerned Attentions. 
Here is one of my many favourites from Gerry's:

So this is where all the poems come
to eye each other up,
to snigger and bitch
over fancy cocktails,

mocking the jaded clichés
still loud and glitzy at the bar
or the pale metaphors with fraying cuffs
who creep away before closing time

to forage in the skip out back
and the nervy confessionals staring
at their own reflections as they sip
blood-red liquor distilled from worn-out hearts.

Occasionally the place falls silent
when a pale figure in a black cape
and floppy hat loops in distractedly.
Ah, the real thing, they mutter enviously

but all in all, nothing much happens here
and it can get messy as the evening wears on.
The poems grow ever more edgy, you see,
dreading the thought of another lonely night unread.

From Left: Geraldine Mills; James Joyce; Gerry Hanberry and Hugo Kelly

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spolia Magazine 9

Spolia Magazine is a beautiful on-line literary magazine that publishes really good poetry, fiction, non fiction and art. Thanks to Mia Gallagher who suggested my name to the editors I now have a story in this issue.

There is a small charge to download it but if you click on the link above it will give you an idea of its quality. Here are the opening paragraphs of my story:

Where the Dark is
‘It blows no good,’ Carmina says of the wind that comes without warning, battering the chairs against the terrace wall. It whips our whole world, lashing it with heat strong enough to turn sand to glass. It shreds the tines of the palm trees as their trunks strain to hold onto their stricken selves; whips the husks of the sunflowers in the fields, their little, burnt, pilgrim faces yielding before it.
She closes all the shutters against the dust, stuffs the keyholes, but it comes right through, into our eyes, our ears; into the nostrils of the horses so that papa and Esteban have to stay and soothe them. It disturbs Blanca’s kittens in the drawer where she gave birth to them and I have to calm the mewling little bundles whose eyes haven’t even opened yet. Carmina’s mouth turns down and furrows appear in her brow, her olive eyes troubled. ‘Something will have to give soon,’ she says as she takes my hand and brings me up to bed.
For three days and three nights it stops us from sleeping, the sky blocked out. No heaven on Calle Cielo, no moon on Calle Luna, nothing to be heard save the howling of the wind. It blows the dust and the heat right into people’s minds and clogs their thinking. Esteban tells me that when it got into Jose Luis’ head that he took to his boat drinking, and never came back. That’s why Carmina hates it. It builds up inside bodies, inside blood.
It has got into Mama’s.
Then as quickly as it comes, it’s gone. I wake to a sound that I have almost forgotten. No wind.
‘Where is it?’ I ask Carmina.
            ‘Gone back through the mountain gap.’
‘But where then?’
‘Nobody knows.’
‘Why don’t they?’
‘Because the wind tells no one. It doesn’t want anyone to know.’

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Taste of the Sweet Mouth

Here is a short video of some of the readings and wonderful landscape of Belmullet where An Béal Binn, or the Erris Festival of Words  was held  from 6-8 June. I was delighted to be reading in the company of John Banville, Donal Ryan, Martyn Dyar, Mike McCormack, Rosita Boland, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, Platform I, Terry McDonagh, the Galway Poets and many, many more.

Dr Éimear O'Connor gave a riveting presentation on the artist, Seán Keating, and Des Kavanagh's illustrated talk on Séamus Heaney 'The Boy He Was and the Man He Became' was a very generous insight into his personal relationship with our poet.

On  the weekend when Belmullet was voted 'the best place to go wild in Ireland' by the Irish Times,
It was also the best place to be tasting sweet words. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Mary-Turley McGrath says about Hellkite

Congratulations to Mary Turley-McGrath for winning the Trócaire/Poetry Ireland Award for her poem  'Valley of the Birches'. No doubt she will produce some more great work at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre which was the coveted prize. Mary took some time to give me her thoughts on Hellkite.
 Many thanks Mary for that. I really appreciate such a personal response.

I really enjoyed these stories though few of them made me smile. They are deeply reflective pieces on human behaviour and relationships moving from the interpersonal to the intrapersonal. The characters and situations are true to the world we live in with all its ambiguities and contradictions.

The writing is convincing, persuasive and direct so that I feel I am being taken into the deeper regions of the human psyche where extraordinary things happen to men, women and children. Circumstances, random events, and past histories influence the characters in the actions and choices and in each story a major shift takes place between the start and finish; perhaps this is why there is at the end of many of the stories the possibility of redemption, or even some happiness for the tortured soul of the protagonist.

Short stories do not have the luxury of back story…they are more like a cross sections of lives. I find these cross sections reveal isolation, anger, despair, rejection and loneliness bordering in some places on alienation. Yet these stories are not devoid of love and affection. The characters in ‘The Street with Looking-Glass Eyes’ are bound together by tragedy but also by a deep affection; they live in an imaginary fairy tale world which seems about to end.

The man in ‘Once Bitten’ is mysterious and secretive and his behaviour is extraordinary; he is at odds with himself in many ways, seems to have studied history and works in accountancy; quite intriguing, living in a surreal world through the letters he writes and receives from an ‘old flame’. Perhaps he needs to come to terms with his past and accept his imperfections. Quite an enigma! This story has a filmic quality, very vivid and is perhaps my favourite.

In ‘Apidea’, Hilary and Ambrose are dealing with mutual loneliness; both have been abandoned by their children and have developed an interdependence which sustains them both through and interest and fascination for bees. (This reminds me of Sylvia Plath’s, ‘The Bee Box’ and and Carol Ann Duffy’s recent collection The Bees.) The need for human contact and understanding is at the heart of ‘The Call’. The swans become Kieran’s family after his sister destroys his chances of finding a wife and subjects him to a life together with her without a word spoken. Perhaps here, the issue is one of self protection for the sister and not as deliberately vengeful as Cora’s premeditated attack on Doyle’s prospects for happiness in the future, in ‘Hellkite’. Her treatment of her ex-husband is inexplicably cruel, just as the change in the character in ‘Foraging’ takes on an extraordinary turn.

The gradual transformation in his person is very well handled and rather Kafkaesque to say the least. Yet I found a layer of humour in this story which I did not find elsewhere; I think it came with the tone adopted by the narrator…four stories I think are first person…this one does very well in first person. I feel there is a tongue in cheek element to it!

There were two stories that I did not quite get, ‘Drinking his Strength Back’ and ‘Feeding the Wolf of Lies’
On the other hand ‘The Devil’s Dye’ is short, descriptive, emotional, poetic and powerful as if the girl is on the point of desperation.

I expected this book of stories to be one thing but found a multitude of facets and situations and characters. It gave me a lot of things to think about. Wonderful piece of work   Congratulations again.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Galway's Answer to David Lynch

The Pauline Bewick painting used on the cover of Hellkite.

SINCE 2001, Geraldine Mills has published six books - each its own particular kind of gem - and yet she is much less famous than she should be.
If Mills spent less time fine tuning her writing, and more networking,  then I have no doubt she would have at least been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize by now.
Literary networking is like prostitution, only with lower ethical standards and far inferior levels of customer satisfaction. Geraldine Mills happily leaves this darkest of arts to the professionals. Instead, she works away at stories and poems, which are honest about the awful, and blackly hilarious, stuff of life in a way that is often scary.
Hellkite, published by Arlen House, is her third collection of short-stories. Her prose is up there with that of George Orwell and Jonathan Swift, in that it is always clear as a window that has just been washed, with not a word added for merely decorative purposes.
The first sentence of the collection’s opener, Centre Of A Small Hell, is a perfect illustration of this quality: “The morning after his wife’s ashes were brought home, Bernard Curran took a sledgehammer to the hunting table out there in the yard where the air was still enough for snow.”
These are sad, laughable, stories of lives gone so ragged things are liable, at any moment, to get a little sinister. In The Best Man For The Job, the henpecked Jimmy thinks he hears “bouncing out in the garden”; hardly ever a good thing, in my limited experience. His wife, Dolores, tells him “It’s just your tinnitus acting up again”. Jimmy goes outside to find a man older than himself jumping up and down on his granddaughter’s trampoline:
“‘Good evening, sir’, he said, in such a polite voice you could tell he wasn’t from around these parts. ‘If I may be so bold to say, this is a high-quality trampoline. It has put some much needed Je ne sais quoi back into me’.”
This is a scene worthy of David Lynch. A man is in bed, minding his own business, when his peace is disturbed by a probable Fine Gael voter jumping up and down on his grand-daughter’s trampoline in the middle of the night.
This has never happened to me. But I somehow know how Jimmy feels. It is a great metaphor for the way we are, as we go on, constantly assaulted by strangeness just at that point when life looked as if it might be about to calm down for a bit.
Another fantastic story is, Foraging, in which yet another of Mills’ beleaguered males of a certain age is given a gift voucher by his wife for a night class titled: Beginners Guide to Avoiding Adultery. In this book, Geraldine Mills takes us roughly by the hand, as she forensically examines the strange and terrible places which most of us have at least visited, and where some of us live all the time.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hybrid Writing as Mirror, Canvas, Liberator

Getting from the Ordinary to the Extraordinary: Experimenting with Hybrid Forms in Your Writing.
Writing Workshop with U.S. writer Lisa Taylor
An Gairdín
Portumna, Co Galway
Sunday May 18th
3− 5pm
Numbers limited so BOOK NOW!
Booking with  0863195603
Workshop will be followed by readings from three Arlen House writers: Geraldine Mills, Lisa Taylor and Alan McMonagle  at 5.30pm in An Gairdín.
Cost : €10 for the afternoon

Breaking Structure: Hybrid Writing as Mirror, Canvas, Liberator 
Lisa C. Taylor
 Borders are becoming blurred all over the world.  Web videos invade our search for the local weather with their pop-up persistence.  Movies experiment with stories that tell the ending first or offer an omniscient narrator in a voiceover.  Hybrid cars transition smoothly between gas and battery power sources.  Likewise, hybrid narratives contain within either a style or a topic that counters the narrative or the style.  Hybrid writers can blend fact and fiction, poetry and prose, memoir and history, or even art, media, dance, or music.  They can choose to write in a nonlinear fashion as Lidia Yuknavich did in her memoir, The Chronology of Water or they can mix subjects as Annie Dillard did in For the Time Being, a mosaic of topics that included travels in China and Mongolia, the teachings of an 18th Century Jewish Mystic, and the drama of rocks, rivers, lichen, and clouds as witnessed by scientists, poets, and painters.  Hybrid writers can break up lines, create a collage-like random association of ideas, morph a character into different incarnations as was done with Bob Dylan in the movie, I’m Not ThereThese artistic and commercial creations blend and fragment content as an expressive model and reflection of today’s evolving culture.  In this workshop, you will play with form and content, inventing a new way to represent your own emotional truth.

Lisa C. Taylor's poems show the importance of slowing down and paying attention, of listening to others, of asking what the deepest self feels. Taylor knows that the imagination is the most powerful tool we have for transformation. -Ted Deppe

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Noir by Noir West

Noir By Noir West - disquieting Galway stories

Noir By Noir West - disquieting Galway stories
How about this for revenge? A man dumps his wife for a younger model. Wife appears quite civilised about it. But just as ex is about to go off on a classy holiday with new model she asks him to check out an old property she is thinking of buying. It’s in an awful state, but she needs him to trip a switch on the meter box in the tiny space under the stairs so she could check the lights on each floor. It will only take him a minute. Its a small space, and she is wearing a tight skirt and hates spiders.
It is the least he could do. He leaves the new model waiting at the airport. He’ll only be a few minutes. But once inside the ‘tiny space’ she slams the door closed, reinforcing it shut. He is trapped ‘ hunkered there, on his knees like a penitent, shouting...’ Hours later he feels water coming in slowly. His clothes are soaked. And then he remembers what she had said: “ Flood plain. The blocked drain outside the door, swollen river, and rain promised for days to come...”
Or the man who loves pike, those fierce looking fish ‘who devours 200 times its size in a lifetime.’ He hates the tourists who come to kill them.‘ I live on the boat Easter to October. Moonlight is the best time on the Corrib. I like to glide in the shadows, pike nuzzling up to the boat. They know me. Beautiful creatures. But tourists come and kill them.
‘There was a fella last year, big German with a belly. Fell off the jetty. I could see the cut above his eye. Kept shouting and clawing at the side of my boat, gasping, trying to say something. Couldn’t make out what. Don’t speak German...’
Or the terrible confrontation between a father and son in Crowes pub on Sea Road. The Kray twins aren’t in it for viciousness! The father, who was sitting at a table with an ice bucket in front of him. He was called Baby Face by Galway girls when he was a teenager. Galway boys knew not to say it. They were the savage Kings of Galway who dealt in all kinds of ‘merchandise’.
Except for the father, the pub was deserted. ‘The Galway Novena was on in the Abbey church.’ The son enters. His three minders follow, and stand to one side. A fierce argument erupts between the father and son. It is evident that the son, at some stage, is going to wipe out the father, but in a dramatic movement the father beats him to it. He suddenly produces a gun from under the table, aims it at the three bodyguards, warning them to freeze. At the same moment he brings a blade down on his son’s left hand and cuts it off. ‘The son screams. He tries to struggle. Blood spurts onto the table. The father grabs the other arm, and cuts off the right hand....He drops both hands into the ice bucket. And arranges them so they point upwards as if in prayer.’
After all, the Novena is on at the Abbey...
Widespread popularity
These stories, written by Geraldine Mills, Gerry Galvin and Séamus Scanlan respectively, are just three of 31 collected by James M Joyce, and gleefully published in a macabre and very entertaining collection Noir By Noir West - Dark Fiction from the West of Ireland, which was launched at the recent Cúirt festival.*
I am not quite sure why many of us enjoy noir or dark fiction/movies or those Scandinavian detective series. There is a difference between ‘horror, and ‘noir’. Monsters and other elements of horror have appeared in storytelling since prehistory, such as Beowulf and The Odyssey. In the 19th century Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Henry James incorporated monsters, vampires and ghosts into their stories, which enjoyed widespread popularity. But noir, or dark fiction, is more subtle, I think, exploring the darker side of human nature without the recourse to total fantasy, such as monsters. The Grimm brothers have been disturbing our children since they first published their German folk tales in 1812. And generations of children love them.
A disturbing story
One of the objectives of this collection is to encourage new talent. Kernan Andrews, in his Im Niemandsland, presents an original twist on World War I. A Jewish soldier, Hans Rubenstein, is fighting in France for Germany. He receives a letter from his brother Emil who is serving the Kaiser in western Russia. Emil is amazed to discover ‘the numerous villages , and even some towns, where the inhabitants are almost entirely Jewish. I hear snatches of Hebrew amidst the Russian and Yiddish.’
He writes that he is ‘ immensely proud to be both Jewish and a German soldier, playing a role, however small, in alleviating the suffering of Russian Jews, one Ashkenazic aiding another.’
The irony is of course that barely 24 years later the Germans came back to round up all those Jews. Millions were murdered. At Babi Yar, a ravine in Kiev, Ukraine, on September 29/30 1941, at least 35,000 men, women, and children were shot in one action.
An equally disturbing story, by Cristina Galvin, is set in a world without beauty; only ‘ boarded up pubs, the once-upon-a-time grocery store with produce still moulding on rusting shelves - hairy orange, wizened turnip, tomatoes gone a-mush with maggots.’ In the streets ‘the smell of fetid matter assaults you and you clasp your belly and heave...’
But into this decaying world, a mysterious blue flamingo comes and nests in a young women’s garden. The woman watches the bird ‘all tension dissolving’ her eyes lit up lantern -like...her heart opens.’
The woman is inspired to act. Putting on her warm clothes she takes to the streets, and the reader follows her, camera-like, as she passes through the rotting city until she comes to a queue of women with small children and babies. They are waiting outside a concrete barracks.
Apparently there is a surfeit of children in the country. The mothers are handing in their babies. We do not know what happens to them, but the women leave ‘buggy-less and weary-looking, and make their way back towards the estate’.
The woman the reader is following manages to enter the barracks, and emerges with a baby hidden under her coat. But she is disturbed by a man running up the street. Frightened she runs down an alley and hides the baby in a wheeliebin.... In a beautiful piece of writing Cristina cleverly allows the reader to enter the story and to take the baby into its care, while ‘with feathers shimmering against the sky’s indomitable grey, the blue flamingo sits.’
NOTES: * Noir by Noir West (has a suitable Alfred Hitchcockian ring about its title), is published by Arlen House, and is on sale in all local bookshops at €17. Dagmar Drabent’s cover design is perfect.
It is dedicated to the late Gerry Galvin, and follows two previous collections: Galway Stories, edited by Lisa Frank( €13), and What’s Not Said, edited by James M Joyce (€13).