Friday, November 6, 2020

Celebrating Live Encounters

Congratulations to the online Journal Live Encounters which is now celebrating its eleventh year. Founded by Mark Ulyseas, it never fails to bring joy to my heart when I read the wonderful poetry there. It is further enhanced by Mark's stunning photography. A huge amount of work has gone into the present editions, featuring 130 poets and totalling 768 pages.The guest editors are Terry McDonagh and Mary McDonnell and I am so delighted to to have my poem 'All Hallows' included in it. The cover by Emma Barone celebrates the uniqueness of the journal as you will see here:
There are so many of Mark's images that deserve a wider audience. I was particularly taken by the photo of nutmeg, wrapped in its mace armour. I am producing it here by kind permission.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Corona Cinquain Sequence

Corona Cinquain Sequence

Droplets deadly
Lurking there in the breath
Unknown enemy replicates

Blue tit
Pecks at the windowpane
Opens the morning into our day
Bright bird

Useless senseless
Piling trolleys mile high
Toilet rolls the new currency

Hope-giving days
Recharge the sky all round
Hearts expanding in the light of it
A gift

Cleaning painting baking
A time for every purpose now

Gives the birds space
To fill their day with song
Each branch their Roman balcony
Heart time

Locked in no friends
Supports taken from them
Parents alone at their wits’ end

            Young hare
Colour of soil
Bounds into our night world
Sits on the ridge while dark falls down
Saves us

The next fashion
Catching the sneeze sickly cough
Makes us all look like aliens

            Take to the air
            Falling like snow on grass
Land like birds onto fresh turned clay
Tree birth       

Heart-breaking counts
Families grieve alone
Coffins crowd high in parking lots
More deaths

            New ways to live
            Gardens become the way
            To bring us closer to ourselves
Slow time

Glorious news
Letting us out at last
Hopefuls running into the streets
To live

            White deer
            In the forest
Glimpse beyond the trees
Miracle on our day’s walk
A path.

Photographs courtesy of Peter Moore 2020

This sequence of cinquains was first published in the July edition of Live Encounters

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Launch of Belmullet Heritage and Historical Society

When my poetry collection Bone Road was published by Arlen House last year, my greatest wish was to read in Belmullet. This was where the story started of my great-grandparents  who emigrated from Elly Bay to the US in 1883 with their six children as part of the Tuke Emigration Scheme. This verse memoir charts the course of their leavetaking and homecoming  and I wanted to acknowledge where my ancestors left from.

I couldn't have been more delighted when an invitation came from the Belmullet Heritage and Historical Society (Coiste Oidreachta Iorrais) to be part of their launch night with researcher Rosemarie Geraghty on 18 January. Rosemarie is an expert in this field and has done tremendous work bringing the past and the present together through recording the passenger lists of all the ships and  and contacting as many of the descendants as possible.

Ian McAndrew Photo: Peter Moore
Belmullet will be 200 years old in 2024 and the launch of the society was a very positive  and successful step towards  its celebrations.  I would like to thank the committee,
Ian McAndrew, Katherine Mangan, Mary Barrett, and Rosemarie Geraghty for their wonderful hospitality. Check out Blacksod Bay emigration for more information on this great work.

Here are three poems from the collection
Hunger for Somewhere Else

They’re glad to see the back of
all the wind-crippled whins,
turn their heads from
the rain over Achill head,
smoor the final fire.

They’ve had their bellyful
of stinking haulms,
grateful now to hand back
their hungry piece of grass to the landlord

and watch the dog on a scatter of stone,
a fetch in the tumbled-down scailp,
a fling of dunlins on sand
waiting for the boat to sail.
Rosemarie Geraghty Photo: Peter Moore


The longest day still lighting up their dawn,
they follow the carts of hopefuls,
along the famished track
down to the sea.

Beyond the calm waters of Elly Bay,
the S.S. Waldensian lies anchored,
brighter than any golden hoard
offered to ManannĂ¡n, the sea god.

There are scant tears,
for their passage is paid;
new clothes on their backs,
landing money promised.

The whole family going:
my great-grandparents, six children,
ten-year-old Brigid, my grandmother
– that’s Tuke’s deal –
Geraldine Mills Photo: Peter Moore

Waiting for high-water
the chosen clusters
are ferried by the blue jackets
on the Seahorse gunboat.

They leave the bay

then out through
the Narrows of Achill,
where the water runs
with unmerciful force.

They climb aboard the steamer,
men in forward, women aft.

Outfitted with a straw bed,
a pillow to lay their heads,
enough marine soap
to wash the whole of Erris
out of them.

A swell builds mid-Atlantic.
Through spume and spindrift they sail,
fog too thick for soupers,
they sight an iceberg.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Review of Bone Road by Lisa C. Taylor

The ambitious trajectory of the latest poetry collection, Bone Road, by the accomplished Irish writer, Geraldine Mills, begins with the journey of her great-grandfather and his family from County Mayo, Ireland to Warren, Rhode Island in the late 1800s. The Assisted Emigration Scheme created by James Hack Tuke enabled Irish families, ravaged by poverty to emigrate from County Mayo and Connemara to the United States between 1882 and 84. This scheme offered a paid passage, and each person was given a new set of clothes and landing money. As many as 10,000 Irish citizens on the western seaboard took advantage of this opportunity. The decision by the author’s great-grandfather to be on that ship gives credence to the idea that the actions of our ancestors continue to ripple through future generations.

This memoir-in-verse traces both the journey to America, and the family’s eventual return to their beloved but still suffering Ireland. Work in the cotton mills consisted of grueling hours yet steady pay for the author’s great-grandfather and his family. Initially the new clothes and pocket money seemed an adequate enticement but over time they realized that “they have forsaken/one hunger for another, /mill work ten hours a day/six days a week/all year round/thousands of spindles/hundreds of looms” (33). The longing for familiar landscape echoes throughout the collection as the cotton mill call up the memory of bog cotton and the sea at Achill Head. The physical toll of mill work served to crush any dreams of permanence. Although the Ireland they left seemed hopeless, the unfamiliar community, and the drudgery of the work tempered that view.
Cover image by Charlotte Kelly

There is no easy way to mitigate hunger and poverty, and these poems posit that the concept of home is not just about feeding ones’ family; it is about history and the longing for a familiar place. “There is a place beyond the dark/where the heart goes when it is drawn/further into a winter it is already in.” (39). The Ireland they returned to might have been physically the same but the family was forever altered by their experience in Rhode Island. The author brings the reader into the challenges of the return journey and the family’s subsequent time in a workhouse. This is the story of a choice between the factory stacks and ceaseless work, or gray drizzle and hunger in the land that her great-grandfather loved. Not everyone would survive the grueling journey and the conditions at the workhouse but this decision ultimately would change the future for the author and her grandparents. “Here it breathes its best self into the light/glints open the first blackbird’s eye to sing, /shines through the kitchen window/to the slow hum of waking. /Slips the whole of the sky into its mouth, /holds onto it for all the hours/the new world beyond the ocean/is still in darkness, waiting.” (49).
A new child is named after a sister who died, and work eventually would change the day-to-day life of the family, offering a modicum of hope for the future. In the author’s generation when a butter stamp is passed down from the grandmother to the author, it becomes a symbol of the renewed prosperity of the family with its imprint of chevrons and golden wood. “Its grip burnished to sheen from all that use, /my hand folds over the honeyed wood/where once her palm pressed it/into the golden round/leaving a perfect imprint of chevrons, /a cluster of strawberry leaves, its seeded fruit, /and in that way, overlaid/all that had gone before:/blight blossom, down-lying, poorhouse.” (57).
The progression of the poems in Bone Road is musical, a sonata consisting of four movements; the quick tempo of the treadle and the turbulent tide in the first poems, followed by the brief and slower resignation to the mill conditions that eventually led to the faster-paced decision to return to Ireland. The echo of that decision is beautifully rendered in a penultimate poem called Legacy where the author celebrates her grandmother through the physical characteristics and traditions passed on to her own children. The final poem celebrates the anticipation of a new grandchild; subsequent generations offer hope and the possibility of a more prosperous future, one that incorporates history, and also the process of simultaneously embracing the past and letting it go.
Bone Road by Geraldine Mills
Arlen House, distributed in the US by Syracuse University Press, 2019, $13, paper
ISBN: 9781851322152

Lisa C. Taylor is the author of four collections of poetry and two short story collections, most recently Impossibly Small Spaces (2018). Her honors include the Hugo House New Works Fiction Award and Pushcart nominations in fiction and poetry. Lisa was a mentor with the AWP writer-to-writer program, and she offers private workshops and mentoring in New England, Ireland, and Colorado.

Monday, September 23, 2019


After three years of work I am delighted to finally let Bone Road (Arlen House) into the light of day.

My great-grandparents, Philip and Mary Heveron and their six children, one of them my grandmother, left Elly Bay in North Mayo in 1883 as part of an assisted emigration scheme to give them a better life in Rhode Island, USA. My great-grandfather was given work at one of the cotton mills. But for some reason, they couldn’t settle and returned less than two years later.

Photo courtesy of Peter Moore

 Through documented fact and imagined memory, Bone Road charts the course of their lives during those years in order to record it for future generations.

Here is a sample poem from the book:

Hunger for Somewhere Else

They’re glad to see the back of
all the wind-crippled whins,
turn their heads from
the rain over Achill head,
smoor the final fire.

They’ve had their bellyful
of stinking haulms,
grateful now to hand back
their hungry piece of grass to the landlord

and watch the dog on a scatter of stone,
a fetch in the tumbled-down scailp,
a fling of dunlins on sand
waiting for the boat to sail.

My deepest gratitude to Alan Hayes of Arlen House for another beautiful publication and to Charlotte Kelly for the perfect cover image.

I also wish to acknowledge the assistance of Galway County Council who awarded me an Individual Artist Award in 2019 to work on the first draft.

Related image

Friday, April 5, 2019

Travel Grant from Culture Ireland

                 Image result for Culture Ireland logo

I wish to express my gratitude to Culture Ireland who has awarded me a grant to travel to the US to  accept a number of  reading invitations. First stop will be the University of Connecticut, where I will read with my good friend and award-winning poet, Lisa C. Taylor. Arlen House published our poetry collaboration, The Other Side of Longing (2011) and that year we were invited by Dr Mary Burke from the English Department to present the prestigious  Elizabeth Shanley Gerson Reading. It will be a real treat to return and read again with Lisa as part of Dr Burke's Contemporary Irish Literature programme.

Lisa and I will also read together at Camber Arts, Mansfield Center.

I will then travel to St. Louis Missouri, where at the invitation of  Smurfit-Stone Corporation Professor in Irish Studies, Eamonn Wall, I will give a presentation of my forthcoming poetry collection as part of the ‘Irish Lectures, Reading and Concert Series’ that he curates. I will speak to an audience of students, faculty and community about the importance of the United States as a destination for those who availed of the Tuke-assisted emigration scheme from Ireland after the famine as experienced by my great-grandparents.