Calendar of Literary Festivals in Ireland 2022

January

Classics Now
21–23 January, Dublin
@ClassicsNowFest

February

North Belfast Festival
25–27 February
@northbelfast100

March

Ennis Book Club Festival
4–6 March, Ennis, Co Clare
@ebcf

Belfast Children’s Festival
4–13 March, Belfast
@Young_at_Art

NOIRELAND International Crime Fiction Festival
8–10 March*, Belfast
@NOIRELANDfest

Kanturk Arts Festival
15–19 March*, Kanturk, Co Cork
@KanturkArts

Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival
24–27 March, Ballydonoghue/Lisselton, Co Kerry
Facebook/BallydonoghueBardicFestival

April

Dublin: One City One Book
1–30 April, Dublin
@1dublin1book

Cúirt International Festival of Literature 4–10 April, Galway @CuirtFestival

Franco-Irish Literary Festival
8–10 April, Dublin
@afdublin

Cork World Book Fest
20–25 April*, Cork
@WorldBookFest

Brewery Lane Writers’ Weekend
22–24 April, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary
@BrewerLaneT

Towers and Tales Lismore Story Festival
29–30 April, Lismore, Co Waterford
@TowersandTales

Féile na Bealtaine
28 April–2 May, Dingle, Co. Kerry
@feilebealtaine

Annual Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend
30 April–2 May*, Achill Island, Co Mayo
@BollAchill

May

Féile na Bealtaine 28 April–2 May, Dingle, Co. Kerry
@feilebealtaine

Annual Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend
30 April–2 May*, Achill Island, Co Mayo
@BollAchill

Strokestown International Poetry Festival
1–3 May*, Strokestown, Co Roscommon
@Strokestownpoem

Marie Edgeworth Literary Festival
6–8 May, Edgeworthstown, Longford
@edgeworthsoc

Padraic Colum International Literary Festival
15 May*, Longford
@CreativeLongfd

Cork International Poetry Festival
18–21 May, Cork
@MunLitCentre

International Literature Festival Dublin
19–29 May, Dublin
@ILFDublin

June

Listowel Writers’ Week
1–5 June, Listowel, Co Kerry
@Writersweek

Goldsmith International Literary Festival
3–5 June, various locations in Co Longford
@Goldsmithfest  

Festival of Writing and Ideas
10–12 June, Borris, Co Carlow
@Writingandideas  


Belfast Book Festival
10–19 June, Belfast
@BelfastBookFest

Bloomsday Festival
11–16 June*, Dublin
@bloomsdayfest

Dalkey Book Festival
16–19 June, Dalkey, Co Dublin
@dalkeybookfest


Immrama – Lismore Festival of Travel Writing
17–19 June, Lismore, Co Waterford
@lismoreimmrama

Limerick Literary Festival
18–19 June, Limerick
@kobweekend

Hinterland Festival of Literature and Arts
23–26 June, Kells, Co Meath
@HinterlandKells

July

Wexford Literary Festival
1–4 July*, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
@WexfordLitFest

West Cork Literary Festival
8–15 July, Bantry, Co Cork
@wcorklitfest

John Hewitt Society International Summer School
25–30 July, Armagh
@The_JHS

August

Blueway Poetry Festival
30 July–1 August, Lismore, Co Waterford
@BluewayPoetry 

TitanCon, Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Festival
5–7 August, Belfast
@TitanConBelfast

Ennistymon Book Town Festival
28–29 August*, Ennistymon, Co Clare
@BooksEnnistymon

September

The Write Time Festival 1–30 September*, Dublin @fingallibraries

International Dublin Writers Festival
16–18 September, Dublin
facebook.com/internationaldublinwritersfestival

Shaking Bog Nature Writing Festival
10–12 September*, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
@theshakingbog

Cashel Arts Festival
15–18 September, Cashel, Co. Tipperary
@Cashelartsfest

C.S. Lewis Festival
15–18 September, Belfast
@CSLewsisFest

Children’s Books Ireland International Conference
22 September, Dublin
@KidsBooksIrel

Write By The Sea Festival
23–25 September, Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford
@write_KQ

Aspects Festival
24 September–3 October*, Bangor, Co Down
@aspectsfestival

Éigse Michael Hartnett Festival
30 September–2 October*, Newcastle West, Co Limerick
@EigseMHartnett

Bray Literary Festival
30 September–2 October, Bray, Co Wicklow
@braylitfest

October

Éigse Michael Hartnett Festival
30 September–2 October*, Newcastle West, Co Limerick
@EigseMHartnett

Bray Literary Festival 30 September–2 October, Bray, Co Wicklow @braylitfest

Dromineer Literary Festival
1–3 October*, Dromineer, Nenagh, Co Tipperary
@DromineerLit

Echoes: Maeve Binchy and Irish Writers Festival
1–3 October*, Dalkey, Co Dublin
@echoesdalkey 

Children’s Book Festival
1–31 October, Libraries countrywide

Kildare Readers Festival
1–17 October*, throughout Co Kildare
@KildareReaders

Words by Water
 2–5 October, Kinsale, Co Cork
@WordsByWater

Iron Mountain Literature Festival
5–7 October*, Carrick on Shannon, Co Leitrim

Wild Atlantic Words Literary Festival
5–10 October*, Mayo
@WildWordsMayo

Cork International Short Story Festival
6–10 October, Cork
@MunLitCentre

Bookville Festival Kilkenny
7–12 October, Kilkenny
@bookvillekilkenny

Gerard Manley Hopkins International Literary Festival
8–10 October*, Newbridge, Co Kildare

Dalkey Creates Festival
11–14 October*, Dalkey, Co Dublin
@DalkeyCreates

Red Line Book Festival
11–17 October*, Dublin
@RedLineBookFest

ISLA (Irish, Spanish and Latin American) Literary Festival
14–16 October*, Dublin
@ICDublin

Octocon, the National Irish Science Fiction Convention
15–16 October, Croke Park, Dublin
@Octocon

Waterford Writers’ Weekend (part of theImagine Arts Festival)
21–23 October, Waterford
@Wwritersweekend
@Imagine_Fest

Omagh Literary Festival: Honouring Benedict Kiely
23 October*, Omagh, Co Tyrone
@kiely_weekend

November

Leaves Festival of Writing & Music
2–7 November*, Portlaoise, Co Laois
@leavesfestival

Allingham Festival
3–7 November*, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal
@AllinghamArts

An Fhéile Beag Filíochta
5–7 November*, Baile  an Fheirtéaraigh, Co Chiarraí
@Féilebeagfillíochta

Murder One International Crime Writing Festival
6–29 November*, Dublin
@MurderOneFest

Dublin Book Festival
9–13 November, Dublin
@DublinBookFest

Imram Irish Language Literature Festival
11 November–15 December* , Dublin
@Feile_IMRAM

Festival of Reading and Writing for Young Adults
17–20 November*, Waterford
@TheLitYWF

Rolling Sun Book Festival
15–18 November*, Westport, Co Mayo
Facebook/RollingSunBookFestival

The Lit: Festival of Reading and Writing for Young Adults
17–20 November*, Waterford
@TheLitYWF

Dingle Literary Festival
18–20 November, Dingle, Co Kerry
@DingleLit 

Did not run in 2021 but due to return in 2022

Bram Stoker Festival
Dublin
@bramstokerdub

Allihies Inspires Festival
Allihies village, Beara, Co Cork
@Allihiesinspire

Cancelled for 2022

Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
@mountainstosea

Féile Fidelma Mystery Fiction Weekend
6–8 September, Cashel, Co Tipperary
@Cashelartsfest

No information available as yet for 2022

Doolin Writers’ Weekend
Usually held last weekend in January, Doolin, Co Clare
@HotelDoolin

UL/Frank McCourt Creative Writing Festival
Limerick City

Howth Literary Arts Festival Howth
Co Dublin
@howthlitfest

Graiguenamanagh Town of Books Festival
Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny
Facebook/IrelandsBooktown

Something Wicked Crime Fiction Festival
Malahide, Co Dublin
@somethingwicket

Hillsborough Festival of Literature & Ideas
Hillsborough, Co Down
@The_JHS (Did not take place in 2021)

John O’Connor Writing School Literary Arts Festival
Armagh
@johnoconnorws

Directory of Independent Booksellers in Ireland

Prim’s Bookshop, Kinsale, Co Cork
(Bibliotherapy)

My favourite occupation when visiting a new town is to seek out independent bookshops. I’m sure there are other readers and writers like me, who will also appreciate this list.  Hope so anyway.

Where would we writers and readers be without bookshops and their amazing owners?

Academy Books Southgate, Drogheda, Ireland: website

An Siopa Leabhar, Dublin, Ireland: website

Antonia’s Bookstore, Trim, Ireland: website

Bandon Books, Bandon, Ireland: facebook

Banner Books, Ennistymon, Ireland: website

Bantry Bookshop, Bantry, Ireland: website

Barker & Jones, Naas, Ireland: website

Bell Book And Candle, Galway, Ireland: facebook

The Book Centre, Kilkenny, Ireland: website

The Book Centre, Waterford, Ireland: website

The Book Centre, Wexford, Ireland: website

The Book Lady, Roscommon, Ireland: facebook

The BOOK MARKet, Kells, Ireland: website

The Book Well, Belfast, Northern Ireland: website

Bookends, Bangor, Northern Ireland: website

Bookmarket, Clonmel, Ireland: website

Books At One, Letterfrack, Ireland: website

Books On The Green, Dublin, Ireland: facebook

Books Upstairs, Dublin, Ireland: facebook

Bookstór, Kinsale, Ireland: facebook

Bookworm Bookshop, Thurles, Ireland: website

Bridge Books, Dromore, Northern Ireland: facebook

Bridge Street Books, Wicklow, Ireland: website

Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, Galway, Ireland: website

An Café Liteartha, Dingle, Ireland: website

The Campus Bookshop, Dublin, Ireland: website

Chapters Bookstore, Dublin, Ireland: website

The Clifden Bookshop, Galway, Ireland: website

Clonakilty Bookshop, Clonakilty, Ireland: facebook

The Company Of Books, Dublin, Ireland: website

P Commane Book Shop, Tralee, Ireland: website

Crescent Book Shop, Dooradoyle, Ireland: facebook

De Burca Rare Books, Dublin, Ireland: website

Dingle Bookshop, Dingle, Ireland: website

The Dragon’s Quill Bookstore, Dromara, Ireland: website

The Ennis Bookshop, Ennis, Ireland: website

Farrell and Nephew Bookstore, Newbridge, Ireland: website

Fermoy Books, Fermoy, Ireland: facebook

Fitz-Geralds Bookshop, Macroom, Ireland: facebook

The Flying Poet, Kinsale, Ireland: website

Four Masters Bookshop, Donegal, Ireland: facebook

Foyle Books, Derry, Northern Ireland: facebook

Gadái Dubh Books, Ballymakeera, Ireland: facebook

Kevin Gildeas Brilliant Bookshop, Dún Laoghaire, Ireland: facebook

The Gutter Bookshop, Dalkey, Ireland: website

The Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar, Ireland: website

Halfway Up The Stairs, Greystones, Ireland: website

Hampton Books, Dublin, Ireland

(if anyone has a website/facebook/twitter/insta for them it would be appreciated)

Alan Hanna’s Bookshop, Dublin, Ireland: website

John’s Bookshop, Westmeath, Ireland: website

Just Books, Mullingar, Ireland: website

Kenmare Book Shop, Kenmare, Ireland: facebook

Kennys Bookshop & Art Galleries, Galway City, Ireland: website

Kerrs Bookshop, Clonakilty, Ireland: facebook

Khans Books, Kilkenny, Ireland: website

Last Bookshop, Dublin, Ireland: website

Liber Bookshop, Sligo, Ireland: website

The Library Project, Dublin, Ireland: website

McLoughlins Bookshop, Westport, Ireland: website

Manor Books, Malahide, Ireland: facebook

Marrowbone Books, Dublin, Ireland: website

The Maynooth Bookshop, Maynooth, Ireland: website

Midland Books, Tullamore, Ireland: website

Midleton Books, Midleton, Ireland: facebook

The Nenagh Bookshop, Nenagh, Ireland: website

No Alibis, Belfast, Northern Ireland: website

O’Mahony’s Booksellers, Limerick, Ireland: website

Pangur Bán Bookshop, Ballina, Ireland: 

(if anyone has a website/facebook/twitter/insta for them it would be appreciated)

Philip’s Bookshop, Mallow, Ireland: website

Prim’s Bookshop, Kinsale, Ireland: 

The Plot Thickens, Derry, Northern Ireland: facebook

Quay Books, Limerick, Ireland: website

Rathfarnham Book Shop, Dublin, Ireland: twitter

The Reading Room, Carrick on Shannon, Ireland: website

Red Books, Wexford, Ireland: website

Roe River Books, Dundalk, Ireland: website

The Salmon Bookshop & Literary Centre, Ennistimon, Ireland: website

Scéal Eile Books, Ennis, Ireland: website

The Secret Bookshelf, Carrickfergus, Ireland: website

T Sheehy & Sons, Cookstown, Northern Ireland: facebook

Sheelagh na Gig Bookshop, Cloughjordan, Ireland: website

The Skerries Bookshop, Skerries, Ireland: website

Tertulia Bookshop, Westport, Ireland: website

The Time Traveller’s Bookshop, Skibbereen, Ireland: facebook

Ulysses Rare Books, Dublin, Ireland: website

Universal Books, Letterkenny, Ireland: facebook

Vibes and Scribes, Cork, Ireland: website

The Village Bookshop, Greystones, Ireland: website

The Village Bookshop, Terenure, Ireland: website

The Winding Stair, Dublin, Ireland: website

Woodbine Books, Kilcullen, Ireland: website

Woulfes Bookshop, Listowel, Ireland: website

Tied to the Wind, a hybrid childhood memoir by Afric McGlinchey

I thought I’d collect a selection of the reviews and interviews I’ve been privileged to receive to date for my recent memoir, Tied to the Wind. I’m posting the full endorsements I received from authors and poets I admire. For reasons of space, only extracts from these endorsements could be included in the book.

ENDORSEMENTS:

Tied to the Wind, is a whirlwind epic of a young Irish girl coming of age – set primarily against a wild and expansive African landscape and the War of Independence in Zimbabwe.

This is a romantic yet brutal world, where alcohol-fuelled oversight can sometimes blur the lines between childhood freedom and unintentional neglect.

The hugely attractive and magical power of Afric McGlinchey’s writing is found in the clarity of her storytelling. The tight weave of this colourful and complex tapestry cuts right to the marrow of the life, love, pain, aspiration and disillusion of a family united in love, yet torn in all directions by culture, career and geographical location.

Afric McGlinchey’s Tied To The Wind is powerful, insightful and fascinating. Through the innocent lens of a child’s point of view, she explores the failures of adults without judgement or recrimination, and learns from her father that failure is but an opportunity to begin again – offering the freedom to set out on a new adventure. 

The narrative ultimately reaches a personal redemption when we meet her and her cousin Freya, both young women, living the life, having fun, penniless and busking in Paris – feet firmly on the ground and tacking into the wind. Absolutely wonderful. – Cónal Creedon

*

Afric McGlinchey is a poet of memory, of migration, of displacement, but also of childhood and of love. Tied to the Wind portrays a life lived between Ireland and Africa depicted in searingly beautiful prose, as sharp and as poignant as black and white photographs. I loved it. – William Wall (author of Smugglers in the Underground Hug Trade, Doire Press)

*

I’ve had a truly lovely experience with Tied to the Wind. It’s a book of intense sensations, and kaleidoscopic atmosphere. I could almost feel its heat, smell its exotic fragrances, hear its gentle sounds. It was beautiful, poignant, and transporting. I finished it last night by the fire, and already I miss it. – Sara Baume (author of Handiwork, Tramp Press)

*

I loved Afric McGlinchey’s lyrical and haunting memoir Tied to the Wind. Simultaneously intimate and epic, McGlinchey’s search for belonging voyages the reader through a sequence of unforgettable landscapes, braiding beauty and challenge into an unforgettable book that lingers long in the reader’s heart. – Grace Wells (author of Fur, Dedalus Press)

*

Afric McGlinchey has written a memoir with prose poetry as her medium; the past returns in waves of memorable, poignant images, where love is challenged, and home is ever in question. Where to be, how to be and how to love are the kinds of questions Tied to the Wind asks; it’s a courageous and moving piece of work. – Paul Perry (author of the Garden, New Island Press)

*

Exquisite – a beautifully-written, lyrical charm.  – Paul McMahon (author of The Pups in the Bog, an Abbey Theatre production)  

*

Afric McGlinchey’s long-form debut steals beguilingly across the spiderweb between poetry, memoir and novel, offering an exquisitely rendered narrative of a young, hurting, growing life. Lush, sensitive, harrowing, gloriously written.  – Mia Gallagher  (author of Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland, New Island Press)  

******  

Here’s a piece I wrote for The Irish Times about the process of writing Tied to the Wind:

Bringing my mother back to life

Afric McGlinchey on writing her memoir Tied to the Wind to pin down her past

Mon, Jan 3, 2022, 06:42Afric McGlincheyAifric McGlinchey: “I had to be the agent of my own story, not merely a witness to other lives.”

Aifric McGlinchey: “I had to be the agent of my own story, not merely a witness to other lives.” 

The compulsion to write a memoir began to overwhelm me, particularly after my mother died. (She had early-onset dementia and I was afraid it might happen to me too.)

If some memories have dissolved, others have retained their significance. I wanted to explore why these, why not others. I haven’t relied on journals and diaries – all of them were lost over the course of our family’s many moves. So these are the memories that came along with me, as part of my psychological baggage. I have included occasional interjections by my father and siblings, to highlight my fallibility as a narrator, and to suggest that their perspectives might have produced an entirely different story.

Of course, I wanted to get my hands on as many memoirs as I could to research ways of entering the narrative, but was concerned that this would have a distorting influence; I might adapt them, and accept words and concepts that would cause my to stray from my own intuitive direction. Also, while others might strive for constraint, my personal mission was to rescue exaggeration, not to write reasonably. Drama has been a key factor in my upbringing, and I’m told I can be quite melodramatic myself.

I was the peace-maker in my volatile family, and a people-pleaser. In writing my auto-fictional memoir, I discovered that I had also become a master of dissociation as a coping mechanism.

As children, my siblings and I had to become accustomed to moving, and with each move, to experience losses and separations. The result of such a peripatetic life is either not to become attached at all, or conversely, to dive in deeply as quickly as possible, to extract maximum emotional value, before you are wrenched away. And the way to people’s hearts, I discovered, was through our family stories, many of them growing taller and taller with each re-telling.

When it came to writing this memoir, I couldn’t be absolutely certain about what was true and what was exaggerated. Which is why the memoir has been cast as auto-fiction. This gave me the freedom to change names (for protection), and to converge memories. I have also altered the chronological sequence for two reasons: because I can’t precisely remember dates, and also for narrative convenience.

But why publish at all?

The public reason is that I was awarded an Arts Council Literature Bursary and felt the need to produce a result. A more private reason is that I also wanted to bring my mother back to life. I was a daddy’s girl and didn’t know my mother well. I wanted to ‘find’ her, and by osmosis, learn something about myself too. Also, I never had closure with her. There were things we both needed to forgive. I wanted to revive her so I could love and honour her more.

And there’s a third reason. When I met the Limerick-born poet Desmond O’Grady in Kinsale, where he was living at the same time as me, he repeatedly offered this advice: ‘live a life. Leave a record.’ And that made an impact on me.

In the end, I had far too much material. I found that by breaking down the stories into micro-memories, and treating them as prose poems, I could apply my editing skills as a poet and keep cutting until each took up no more than a page.

Many of the memories relate to stories my father told us over the years, and to things that happened to my brother, to my mother. But Alan Heathcock, an American writer whose workshop I attended, advised me that had to be the agent of my own story, not merely a witness to other lives. I had to be the actor – find my own acts.

I am conscious that happiness ‘writes white’. But still, when I looked at my narrative more closely, I was shocked: why were the strongest personal experiences based around anger, embarrassment, shame, guilt? Why did my childhood identity seem to be primarily bound up with the concept of fear?

And then I realised something. It was my fears that made me an agent in my own life; that drove me to act.

That revelation led me to focusing my narrative around a single event – the first completely independent act of my life. A parachute jump.

It was to be a defining moment. It would liberate me from my fears. It would change my life.

And it did. During the landing, I fractured four vertebrae, and was lucky to survive. For the first fortnight, the doctors believed I would be paralysed from the waist down. I was incarcerated in hospital for a long time. And during that time, I began to write.

So yes, the jump did change my life. I’ve become a writer as a result of that single mad act. Thank you for helping me to realise that, Alan Heathcock.

The narrative is interspersed with a series of flashes forward to that jump.

So far, the wind has carried me to a certain height, from which I have had a whole new perspective. I trust and hope it will continue to offer a soft landing.
Tied to the Wind by Afric McGlinchey is published by Broken Sleep Booksand is also available as an ebook.

****

Here’s the The Irish Times link: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/bringing-my-mother-back-to-life-1.4765419?fbclid=IwAR0YyllGTotleNc83PG8t5qJOP0qtCVTk6WR1JmGe8t2MymxYjIvsGatzPo

REVIEWS:

In The Dublin Review of Books by Fióna Bolger (November 2021, 126 Shares)

Skydiving 

Fióna Bolger

Tied to the Wind, by Afric McGlinchey, Broken Sleep Books, 328 pp, €17.99, ISBN: 978-1913642907

Migration, trauma, and shifting identities across borders feature in the questions I circle in my head as I read Tied to the Wind. And there is much here to add to that mix. I also note the space between the protagonist, Itosha, and Afric McGlinchey, the author. Perhaps this distancing allows McGlinchey to write about her childhood self more easily. She mentions in her blog the challenge of writing a memoir, and chooses to define the book as auto-fiction, because memory is too tenuous and fragile to pin down as fact.

As Oliver Sacks wrote: “Every act of perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.” With this, I qualify my own creative reading of Tied to the Wind.

This is Afric McGlinchey’s third book. Two poetry collections, The Ghost of the Fisher Cat and The Lucky Star of Hidden Things, and a chapbook, Invisible Insane, were previously published to much critical acclaim, and her collections have both been translated into Italian.

Tied to the Wind is poetic in intent and portrays “a young girl’s attempts to tether herself to a life that keeps coming unfixed, every time her family moves from Ireland to Southern Africa. Interwoven into the narrative are the puzzle pieces of a fateful decision to undertake a skydive, despite her fear of heights.” There is a family at the centre of these stories. A mother, a father, a brother, a sister. The interjections, set apart at the foot of some pages, by both Molly and Ivor (Itosha’s younger siblings) lend the text the air of something which has been, if not agreed upon, at least discussed with the surviving family members.

The book is formed of a collection of fragments, each page containing a short flash piece, or prose poem (depending on your inclination to categorise) or a right-aligned lyric. These short texts are like a series of interconnecting beads which the reader has to string together to follow the journey for herself. And yes, you must string, your hands, your body becoming implicated in this visceral experience.

Tied to the Wind doesn’t pretend to present a cohesive picture of a life,” McGlinchey warns us. I would suggest that Tied to the Wind doesn’t tolerate pretence of any type; as readers, we find ourselves drawn in but not allowed to suspend our faculties. These flash pieces light up aspects of our own lives, of ourselves, and as such we are implicated in the making of the story in a way a solid narrative novel could never achieve.

On receiving a copy, I was struck by its weight, size and texture. It is similar to an old-style school textbook in its size and holding it is a comforting sensation. The feather illustration on the cover is so realistic you almost feel like blowing it away. And the cover fixes some of the motifs we will find in the text – the colour of a clear sky, the element of air, the windblown feather of a bird.

Other key elements:

The sky: Irish, Southern African, clear or cloudy, rippling with heat, or clouds “eating up the sun”;
day: “Time passes more slowly in a field when you are lying in it. Watch the silvery sun being pulled to the horizon as though there was a secret magnet.”
night:
“He takes my hand. Not a word about the incident, just points out all the stars streaming a sash of liquid silver across the sky.”

The sky is a recurring character. Itosha’s relationship to it deepens through her parachute jump, which is a presence throughout the text. The on-the-brink almost breathless skydiving poems appear at intense moments in the otherwise prose narrative. Air, in its wind form, pushes the words of the skydiving interludes to the very right edges, as if the words are almost being blown off the page.

You’re here,
a comet
on the rim
of the sky,
as the earth spins
and hurtles.
You look up
for proof
that your parachute
is still open,
the wind
shouting
inside it.
Before and after
have been
sheared away.
There is only
this.

There are feathers to be found falling through the text: “The first migration …”, where the birds are air-surfing above the children, the seagull, “Skimming down across the sea … lonely bird, just like me, to Itosha’s mother “folding her cleverness away under bright-coloured wings”, her father’s piano hands “flying like birds”, her mother as a carrier pigeon  and she herself “feeling an uprush of birds in my chest”, or a swift, the bird tied to the Ireland/Southern Africa migration route, to name but a few.

With Itosha, we swallow-dive, “leaping into the air, feeling its rush flow over your body, flipping, then plunging into the pool. Everything is different under water, that denser element.” For someone whose greatest achievement is the reddening of a belly flop, I am in that body leaping, flowing, feeling the dive. For the child Itosha, experiences are intense and embodied and the writing captures this in concentrated form. We are given visceral detail and drawn into the body of the text again and again.

Itosha recounts her many guilty secrets, from the snake killed because she disturbed it, to self-blame after shouting to her brother for help, an act that triggers a family schism. As the Rhodesia she has been living in becomes increasingly militarised, she is surrounded by soldiers on R & R from the war and exposed to the physical and psychological consequences of this. Her detailed snapshots of characters such as Jack before and after service and the impact of their PTSD on those around them are powerful testimony to the damage inflicted by war and conflict.

Jack, when he and Itosha first meet, is not what she expects. “He reaches to rescue a dragonfly fizzing dustily on the surface, wades to the edge, lays it on the concrete and watches until it shakes its wings and totters off.” But later, after he’s been to war, where “He didn’t die, though all the rest of his stick did”, she is horrified by his behaviour. “Now he’s driving the car directly at a mother balancing a basket of avocados on her head, baby swaddled behind her in an orange kikoi. She topples into the ditch, becoming a parcel of soaked orange cloth.”

And the avocados become code perhaps for grenades and violence, reappearing later in the garden of her house, now full of soldiers.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind

                        Emily Dickinson 1263

McGlinchey tells the truth, but from the angle of a skydiver, and we are drawn into this world of spinning experience. Along with Itosha, we are trying to make sense of it all. “Black, why are you called Black? He laughs softly. I can ask the same thing. Why are you called Itosha? Maybe because you are an African girl? I giggle.”

We never find out either of the whys, but the questions resonate in our heads as we read on. “Back in my room, I lean on the sill. Maybe my name is a sign. Maybe I am meant to be an African girl.” And years later, she thinks: “What a name. Who gave it to him? Why didn’t we ask if he had another name, a birth name?”

McGlinchey resists the ever-present temptation to editorialise. Itosha experiences the world in the present moment and we are invited to share her perception. She grows in understanding as she ages but no overarching world view is presented. We are invited to look here, and here, and here, and make of it what we will, just as a child must do.

His shadow looming on the wall, whistle of the thin, flexible riding crop. Ivor makes not a sound. So I hold it in too, but grasp with each successive whip-whip-whip, squeezing Ivor’s hand tight. One, two, three, four, five six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve …
That’s enough Seán. Mum’s grey voice in the doorway.
After Dad follows her out of the room, we stay knelt over the bed as we catch our breath and check out the welts on our bums. They begin to trickle red. Ivor turns to me. We won, he says. How do you mean? I ask him. Because, we didn’t cry.

Later in the book, as her parents discuss moving country, Itosha describes their conversation: “Their voices leave spaces, like a threadless hem with a line of small holes.” And again, we are pulled into this family dynamic, not just as observers, but in a more visceral way.

When Dad returns from the hospital, words are coming from his mouth but they take a while to reach me. Intensive, he repeats. Care. We must take care of her. She almost died, as he looks at me. Do you understand? That heart attack nearly killed her.
My heart caught on a hook.

The use of pauses and charged language intensifies the experience of reading these pieces. Each resonates with the reader all the more for not being fully embedded in a conventional narrative. Glossing over these provocations to remember our own childhoods is not possible: there’s nowhere to run on the mainly white pages. This way of writing, as bursts of embodied emotion in poetically charged language, makes clear the flash, momentary nature of memory. At the same time, the language allows the reader to experience each piece in their own body. “My heart caught on a hook.”

We find ourselves reading the story of a young girl growing into womanhood, between continents, with constantly shifting surroundings, unable to find stability, as she highlights at the end. The white space in this book becomes the blue sky in which the words are falling towards earth with an inevitability and we as readers are called to construct a narrative for ourselves with an increasing sense of urgency.

This text could be seen as an enactment of trauma. There’s a sense in which all moments exist and are equally relevant at any time: the constant rattling of the ice cubes in a bucket becomes a sound track to the endless parental partying, “and we’ve missed it again, the tree-wafting, world-sleeping nightness of night”; the association of a chocolate bar with an incident of childhood sexual abuse; the teen’s voice declaring “Adults are not to be trusted. Not even priests. Especially not priests.”; and the breathlessness of the interspersed skydiving experience throughout the book. All of these contribute to the sense of a text so intense and fragile it is cracking in places, allowing space and time to mix and meld.

For some readers, secret spaces might be perceived, hidden between these prose poems and skydiving pieces, “places more intimate even than our own bodies”.

I find myself writing about the fact that some people have never had a tree, or a room or even a bed to themselves. They have lived every minute of their lives in the presence of others. But no matter where anyone is in the world, whatever their circumstance, they can go to this secret place, the most intimate thing we have, more intimate even than our bodies.

Although this is a unique work – auto-fiction in a flash-fiction format with an intense use of language and a fearless approach to content – there are two other books with which the themes of PTSD and the search for a place to belong resonate for me. Robin Robertson’s The Long Takealso uses poetry to portray trauma and PTSD. And Sarah Crossan’s The Weight of Water handles the story of a girl’s migration and search for a sense of belonging through a form of poetry. In McGlinchey’s work, she captures both these themes through a similarly hybrid form.

This book is a skydive from the first slap and a four-year-old and her brother on the run, wondering “how will I know my own home?” through numerous shifts of place, family issues, the impact of war on individuals and communities, through violence, racism, sexism, alcoholism, and finally, to the note passed by a stranger to Itosha: “If you tie yourself to anything, tie yourself to the wind.”

The brave reader dives in to these intense experiences, but this book lands you gently, if shaken, at the end. Your parachute is McGlinchey’s sure-wordedness and craft, her ability to catch the winds of language and fly us with her. Do not open this book lightly, but know that the experience will be well worth it.

1/11/2021

Fióna Bolger has lived in Ireland and India. Her first full collection was published in 2019 by Yoda Press, Delhi, A Compound of Words. Her grimoire, The Geometry of Love Between the Elements, was published by PB Press in 2013. She facilitates workshops on various aspects of poetry for all ages and stages. Her next collection is due out from Salmon Poetry in June 2022, Love in the Original Language. www.fionabolgerpoetry.com


Review in the Irish Examiner by Michael Duggan:

                                                              

Here’s a link to an interview for OUT FROM THE CITY (interview by Leah Mulcahy):

Here’s an interview with the author Nikki Dudley for her blog:

Hello!

Thanks for agreeing to appear in my newsletter / on my blog. 

Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your writing?

I live with my partner, an artist and poet, by the sea in a remote part of West Cork.  I’m a book editor, reviewer, workshop facilitator and mentor. So my life is all about the written word. When I’m not working, I’m reading other stuff and writing, walking and swimming. Lockdown has been easy for us, as not much about our life has changed. 

In terms of my writing habits, I don’t have a set rhythm or ritual, although I’m more likely to write in the morning. I hate the idea of being pigeon-holed, although there’s not much chance of that anyway,  as I’ve lived a pretty nomadic life, and don’t really fit into any of the Irish boxes. All I ask of myself is that every new book I write has a freshness to it, a new angle, different from my earlier work. Of course, one’s writing style or ‘voice’ is always going to be identifiable, like handwriting. No getting away from that!

Q: Which book/s have you read at least 3 times?

Well, I’ve read King Lear – my favourite Shakespeare play – at least six times, but as that was for study, maybe it doesn’t count? Sylvia Plath’s Ariel poems, because I wrote my thesis on her work. Recently, I read the Canadian poet, Eva H.D.’s début, Perfect Rotten Mouth several times. Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. Oh, and Amy Leach’s Things that Are. But I am such a bibliophile that usually I get to read  a book only once or maybe twice, because there are so many tantalising others queued up, waiting.

Q: Is there a writer you would love to meet? Who and why?

Impossible question! So many writers, so many reasons! Maybe James Joyce – a very complex character, probably fun when he was drinking. Because even though he was supremely selfish, his self-belief and his gigantic vision, intellect and ambition were spectacular – as well as his ability to win patrons, his courage, impulsiveness and sense of adventure,  his ability to absorb languages the way you absorb a tan in the sunshine. Joyce reminds me of my charismatic, alcoholic, musical, self-absorbed, adventurous father, whom I adored.

Q: What’s your least favourite part of the writing process?

Having to promote a new book. Although I do enjoy readings if there’s another poet reading with me. Much less pressure! 

Q: Which fictional character would you invite for a drink and what do you think you’d discuss?

I’d like to invite both Sugar and Agnes from Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. It was agony reading about Agnes’s continuing ingnorance of sexual matters, even periods, and I’d love to have a heart-to-heart with both of them about being women in those Victorian times, sharing with them how it is these days, discussing the dynamics between men and women then and now.

Q: How would you describe your writing style? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you write everyday or whenever the moment strikes you? 

A pantser. I binge write at first. Once the bones of a book are in place though, strategy comes into it.

Q: What advice would you give a new writer?

Seek out a mentor. Make friends with your local librarian, and request books. Read, read, read, not just Irish, but international writers, and outside your own genre too. Only submit poems you’re proud of to journals you admire (if you can’t afford to subscribe to them, you can access them in good libraries, or online). Always wait at least a month after writing a poem before sending it anywhere, because hopefully you’ll continue editing and improving it. Submit regularly to New Irish Writing and enter competitions. 

Q: What inspires you?

The sea. Swimming. The natural world. Dinner party conversations with good friends. Music. Art. Movies. New places. Flying. Love. Reading. 

Q: Which words/phrases do you overuse in your writing?

Honestly not sure. Just did a check on Wordcounter and the repeated words in an extended piece I’ve just written are: wind, light, sea, body. You can see where I’ve been spending lockdown!

Q: Tell us about your latest work. 

It’s called Tied to the Wind, and is an auto-fictional account of my nomadic childhood. My family moved back and forth between Ireland and Southern Africa, so it was difficult to attach, latch on, to have a sense of belonging. I wanted to re-enter that childhood space, to relive those moments. So I wrote in the present tense, with no advantage of enlightened adult hindsight. I wanted to meet the child I was, and get a sense of her and her perceptions. The I, in the story, is called Itosha. That distancing helped.

The constant moving triggers a sense of destabilisation, exacerbated by my father’s alcoholism, racism, war and the conflicts of complicit colonial privilege. Interwoven into the narrative are flash-forward puzzle pieces of a fateful decision to undertake a skydive, despite Itosha’s fear of heights. She wanted to shock everyone, including herself, to be an agent in her own life. And that impulsive act backfires. But she does learn something too.

I intended the narrative to be in the form of prose poems, but some critic is bound to argue that it’s no such thing. Of course, it depends on how you define a prose poem. I read the Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, and the diversity of those poems is exhilarating. I also read Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept – another one I’ve read a few times! My story isn’t as lyrically ‘heightened’ as that. But if I define a prose poem as having a certain compression, an atmosphere,  as having its own entity, who’s to contradict me?

Q: Where can we find out more about you and/or your book?

Here’s a link my book on the Broken Sleep Books website, where you can order the book:

https://www.brokensleepbooks.com/product-page/afric-mcglinchey-tied-to-the-wind

And here’s a link to my website: www.africmcglinchey.com

Twitter handle: @itosha

Thank you for your questions, Nikki. It’s been fun.

Here’s a link to Nikki Dudley’s website: https://www.nikkidudleywriter.com/blog/speaking-to-afric-mcglinchey-about-her-new-collection

*****

Ghost of the Fisher Cat

Ghost

Honoured and thrilled to receive this generous close reading of my collection, by Abigail Ardelle Zammit. I hope you’ll indulge me if I post it here. Ach, I can’t resist! Besides, it’s also a great example of how to write a review. 🙂

Ghost of the Fisher Cat by Afric McGlinchey (Salmon Poetry)
Review by Abigail Ardelle Zammit
Appears in Issue 58 of Ofi Literary Magazine (Mexico)

Poetry is often considered to be difficult because it challenges the mind to pin down language into units of limited signification, opening it up, not only to plurality, but to the bizarre, the surreal and the unexpected, where the word is more connotation than referent, the verse more music than signification, the whole poem more like a symphony than the unravelling of some secret meaning. The extent to which poets play on this subversive use of language varies enormously, but in Afric McGlinchey’s second collection, Ghost of the Fisher Cat, the reader is often at the far end of the spectrum where the juxtaposition of unusual metaphor and conceit, the surprising lexical connotations, the tight stanza forms and highly-charged line breaks demand the reader’s trust in the poet’s ability to inspire feelings, sensations and emotional turbulences, even when the meanings or narrative layers are not immediately cohesive.

Occupying a liminal space between fable and reality where the dead and the living converge, it is necessary for these poems to reach towards a linguistic and thematic otherness. In ‘Shadow’ therefore, which comes with a nod to Hans Christian Anderson, it might be less important to pin down the speaker and the mysterious ‘she’ who moves ‘to the sun’ than to savour the beauty of the sexual pull ‘towards/the body of the world’, the delicious tearing following ‘a catapulting leap’ where the speaker, simultaneously cat and human, discovers ‘passion’s bounty, a lover’s tongue’. In this poem, the recurrent motif of open windows suggests an escape into a surreal space where the characters can merge into their shadows or their ghostly incarnations, but also where the writer can swim into the embryonic freedom of her creative self.

In ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, ‘ John Mayer’s love song allows the first person narrator to ponder why she is attracted to ‘the unknown / of the known’, to savour her lover’s proximity, feeling her heart’s push against his body. She must move around ‘blindly’, vulnerable to the light and the openness that freedom brings: ‘the doors, both back and front / are still open, and the yellowwood floor / is glowing’. Even in the well-executed villanelle, ‘Alchemy of Happiness’, which is dedicated to the poet’s son, the boy ‘flies through doorless rooms / across a private ocean’; imagining this joie de vivre is more rewarding than trying to pin down the precise question that his body asks, or the way it ‘gives an answer’ as the young limbs float into the airy space of childhood and half-tamed wilderness. The poem is indeed a ‘song of slanted movement’ because of its circular re-telling and reaffirmations and its refusal to pin down meaning. In the poem that precedes it, ‘The Importance of Being’, the epigraph from Wilde suggests that the soul can soar beyond human comprehension, so that in trying to imagine its metaphysical orbit, one has to talk of ‘slanting rain’; once again, the conclusion is an indirect commentary on the role of the imagination:

Each reflection
takes him far beyond

these four-walled days,
floats his soul

through this tiny window
into illumination.

Doubtlessly, ‘Ghost of the Fisher Cat’, which comes toward the end of the collection, continues the trajectory of the very first poem, ‘Cat Music’ – the transformation from cat gut to violin strings – which is also the exploration of art’s capacity for transcendence. The poem starts with a rhetorical question – ‘How to describe the topography / of the imagination?’ Despite the speaker’s directions to the readers: ‘Let your eyes go soft,/ sense peripherals / like an animal tracker’, there will always be those whose mind’s eye does not capture the ghost-cat, ‘her sinuous spring, back / into the shadows’ for this is always a fleeting moment and mental conjuring is not for everyone:

You didn’t catch her?
Well, there are always losses and gains
as with any fishing expedition.

It requires a certain leap of your own
to jump out of one world
and into another.

Sometimes, we are told, it is just ‘A Matter of Persistence’: again, the conditions must be propitious, light and weather being a recurring feature in this collection: ‘aftermath of rain’, ‘certain slant of streetlight’. So the lads in the poem become merged with the superstitious young vigilantes in ‘Familiar’, the ones who drowned Dom Perlet’s diabolical cat. In this poem, the black cat is reincarnated, struggling ‘for days and decades / until this evening’s new constellation – lynx’, and the mind picks up its half-presence, tenuous but real enough to acquire the charge of a ghost story. The way the poem moves rapidly from observation, to narrative, to conversation – ‘just an illusion’, scoffs the taller one to his staring friend’, is very much indicative of the poet’s own attempt to break into the reader’s world, pointing at that ‘bristling, vivid, green-eyed / density’, which is so clearly visible to her that she wants to gift us a glimpse of it, as if lifting the veil onto some other world.

That this kind of seeing is bitter-sweet, making one subject to suffering and vulnerability, is also a thematic concern. The man in ‘The Glass Delusion’ has to protect his glass-body from breaking; in this reading, he is not merely a self-absorbed individual who forgets his duty towards the society where he belongs, but an artistic soul who has to live with the terror of isolation; he is a fragile presence made alien and invisible as a result of his heightened sensibility: ‘though you see right through me / like the glass in that window, I remain invisible?’ It is why the poem is followed by ‘Pareidolia’, the tendency to perceive a meaningful image in an apparently random visual pattern; it is these seers who carry within them apocalyptic fears of otherworldly proportions so that even the setting sun becomes a metaphor for a collapsing world: ‘the arc / of the sun, in the silent moment / before the plummet’.

What this kind of vision entails is a keen awareness of otherness in all its forms, not least its political ramifications. The fisher cat, together with his owner, the alchemist canon, might lend themselves to contemporary migrant narratives because they also represent whatever seems foreign or alien to a particular society; the vigilantes may be an expression of the callousness or cowardice with which we destroy that which we fear, particularly when it appears strange or uncanny. In ‘I is Not Always Me’, winner of the 2015 Poets Meet Politics competition, the female speaker is an immigrant and a victim of racism, but what hurts her the most is the erosion of her own identity because of the violence of linguistic imposition:

In Advanced, we talk about erosion,
cliffs giving way, landing in the sea.
I think of how a foreign language percolates your own
until its idioms even permeate your dreams;
that’s not acquisition, but erosion too.

The speaker is very much like a poet, safeguarding the silence inside her head, seeking the tranquillity of river banks, recuperating her primal language from the flotsam of loss. If McGlinchey too is a migrant and lifelong traveller, then she can better understand what it is to live in so many places and never to belong, a theme which is played out in ‘Blink’, where no house is a home. Moreover, she is less prone to judgment when confronted with difference or seemingly bizarre behaviour. In fact, in ‘Holy War, the speaker could very much be Joan of Arc, ‘traitor, heretic, idolater’ who refuses to ‘betray’ her Voices, just like the poet who has to conjure the voices of others in order to sing variously in couplets, tercets, sonnets, villanelles, free verse and a variety of structural possibilities. Because the language she uses is so multi-referential, the title and the conclusion of the poem may remind readers of all those others, the suicide bombers, for instance, who, like the Maid of Orleans, are utterly convinced of salvation through martyrdom and self-sacrifice:

Though thick stone walls, I hear the bells again,
lifting me beyond this earthly fear. Like death,
my fate is certain, and Paradise awaits!

This is a writer who, like Karen Blixen (who features in the epigraph to ‘Contact’), can truly understand why ‘God and the Devil are one’; it is this subversive destabilization of a well-established dichotomy that allows her to play with language in the way she does, albeit a bit too madly at times, as in ‘Fin de Siècle’ where the speaker can ‘tweak’ God ‘out of you / like Medusa’s hairbrush snarl’, but alluringly enough to keep us engaged in her unique poetic language. It is in poems like ‘Sonnet in B Major’ that the powerful rhythm and oomph of her language are most apparent. As readers, we must hold our breath and accept the speaker’s invitation to Promethean courage, doing ‘magic, like feral creatures turning quick to a language,’ which is full of auditory energy:

A wet black semi-quaver opening up
the fanatic eye of an arbitrary Icarus.
Oh, these bells. But I digress.
If we must die, ingloriously, let’s first
rise up like snakes from the monumental pit.

*

This review originally appeared in Issue 58 of Ofi Literary Magazine, edited by Jack Little.

To order a copy of Ghost of the Fisher Cat, please click on the link: http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=380&a=221

Abigail Ardelle Zammit

Dr Abigail Ardelle Zammit is an English Literature at the University of Malta (Abela Junior College). Her most recent poetry collection is ‘Portrait of a Woman with Sea Urchin’ (Sentinel, 2015).

Tipping my hat to female poets

Books

I’m doing an inventory of my poetry books in anticipation of preparing my writing room for a tenant who’ll be moving in while we move to Zimbabwe for a few months. In honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d do a roll call of the female poets on my shelves: the 178 full collections and chapbooks together are the works of 148 poets (damn, I bet I have one or two lurking elsewhere in the house…) I picked up most of these books at festivals, as well as a few gems at the Time Travellers’ Bookshop and also the Salmon Poetry Bookshop in Ennistymon, which has a great second-hand section; a number were sent to me for review too. Another favourite bookshop is the Book Stór in Kinsale.

Each of these poets has been an inspiration in one way or another, and I just wanted to say thank you! Here are the names:

Aifric MacAodha
Alice Oswald
Alice Walker
Alyson Hallett
Amy De’Ath
Andrea Mbarushimana
Angela T. Carr
Angela France
Anna Akhmatova
Anna Journey
Anne-Marie Fyfe
Ailbhe Darcy
Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh
Anne Carson
Anne Fitzgerald
Anne Rouse
Anne Sexton
Bethany W. Pope
Breda Wall Ryan
Brenda Shaughnessy
Carol Ann Duffy
Caroline Smith
C.D. Wright
Chrissy Williams
Daphne Gottlieb
Deborah Tyler-Bennett
Deirdre Hines
Denise Blake
Denise Levertov
Djuna Barnes
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Eileen Casey
Eileen Sheehan
Eleanor Hooker
Elizabeth Bishop
Ellen Kombiyil
Emilia Ivancu
Emily Berry
Emily Dickinson
Eva H.D.
Fiona Moore
Fiona Sampson
Fran Lock
Frances Horovitz
Geraldine Clarkson
Gill Andrews
Gillian Allnut
Gillian Clarke
Grace Wells
Hannah Lowe
Helen Farish
Helen Mort
Ileana Malancioiu
Ingrid de Kok
Isobel Dixon
Jackie Kay
Jane Clarke
Jane Kenyon
Jane Hirshfield
Jane Weir
Jannice Thaddeus
Jean O’Brien
Jessamine O’Connor
Jessie Lendennie
Jessica Traynor
Jenny Lewis
Jodie Matthews
Joan McBreen
Jo Shapcott
Kapka Kassabova
Karen Press
Karen Solie
Kate Noakes
Katherine Kilalea
Kathryn Simmonds
Kathy D’Arcy
Kerrin McCaddon
Kerrie O’Brien
Kerry Hardie
Kit Fryatt
Kimberly Campanello
Kim Moore
Leanne O’Sullivan
Leeanne Quinn
Leontia Flynn
Lianne Strauss
Lo Kwa Mei-en
Maeve O’Sullivan
Maggie Harris
Marcela Sulak
Marie Howe
Martina Evans
Marion McCready
Mary Mullen
Mary Noonan
Mary O’Malley
Maya Catherine Popa
Meg Bateman
Medbh McGuckian
Meredith Andrea
Minal Hajratwala
Michelle O’Sullivan
Molly Minturn
Monica Corish
Moniza Alvi
Moya Cannon
Natasha Trethaway
Nell Regan
Nessa O’Mahony
Nicki Jackowska
Nina Karacosta
Nuala Ní Chonchúir
Nuala Ní Dhomnhnaill
Orlaith Foyle
Paisley Rekdal
Pascal Petit
Pat Borthwick
Paula Cunningham
Paula Meehan
Renée Sarjini Saklikar
Rita Ann Higgins
River Wolton
Robyn Rowland
Roisín Kelly
Rosemary Tonks
Ruth Padel
Robin Houghton
Sandra Ann Winters
Sarah Clancy
Sarah Howe
Shirley McClure
Shikiha Malavia
Silvia Secco
Sharon Olds
Sinéad Morrissey
Sophie Hannah
Sujata Bhatt
Susan Millar du Mars
Suji Kwok Kim
Sylvia Plath
Tania Hershman
Theresa Muñoz
Ulrikka S. Gernes
Victoria Kennefick
Virginia Astley
Vona Groarke
Wislawa Szymborska
Zoë Brigley

Why would anyone in their right minds write a memoir?

IMG_20170926_182336 (3)It’s quite terrifying, I’ve discovered, writing a memoir, especially as I’m attempting to write it in the form of prose poetry. A concern is crossing a line in terms of family loyalty. How to accommodate their right to privacy while telling my own story? One way, of course, is to change almost all the names. I’m also keeping the dateline vague. Wish me luck!

Next up: an African road trip

Zimbabwe strip road

Thrilled and excited to have been awarded an Arts Council bursary, which will enable me to travel to Zimbabwe and South Africa to research and write my next book. I leave next week! I plan to keep a reading record and a weekly journal, describing my two-month trip. I had been feeling some trepidation about returning to a country in a state of economic crisis, but now that there’s an atmosphere of jubilation and hope about future prospects, I can’t wait. As Aristotle said, ‘There is always something new coming out of Africa.’ Let’s see.

Good Friday by Daragh Breen

Daragh Breen.jpg

Good Friday (Part III of a poem sequence titled The Sun King)

The sun, as always, sets just off the stone-rubble
of Connemara, dragging with it the dark from
just beyond Mars, drowning all the fuchsia-clogged
lanes of childhood summer evenings out along
Dog’s Bay,
and Clifden also topples into the dark,
only its rooftops visible in the moonlight, like
the jellyfish that cobbled the coast’s warm beaches
and across which we step once more into the hotel
hallway where you once lead the four of us
to look at the photographs on the wall of
Alcock and Brown who made that first Trans-Atlantic
flight in what looked like a homemade aeroplane of
lashed together tarpaulin, travelling sightlessly
through the Atlantic night.
Some morning saw us rumbling
towards the flaming pyre of the sun as it coloured
the inside of the plane the yellows of the gorse
that smells of the cheap macaroon bars that you
loved so much, talking about Little Richard, Jerry
Lee Lewis and Midfield Generals,
and in this ford of your memories
I realised that someday the same Dark Bull would
trample free of its stall and come snorting
across the sea of clouds, coming ashore in the weakening
mind.
Yet, I have seen you now as a man,
a youth, a young boy, and when all our collective
years have slipped from us, drip by slow-slow drip,
and lie pooled in the universe’s stilled dark silence,
the spaces where we sat or walked or talked
will remain, like hollowed-out ghost forms,
waiting for some future sun to nest in their
wide, bridging arms.

From the collection, What the Wolf Heard (Shearsman Books)

Curiosité – un Regard Moderne and Fields by John FitzGerald

imgres

John FitzGerald is Ireland’s new rising star. He was announced as the 2014 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition winner the same week he was shortlisted for the Hennessy Emerging Poet Award. And my money’s on him winning. His work is always exhilarating and unexpected, due to his extensive travels and seemingly inexhaustible depth and breadth of knowledge. Naturally, he’s the main librarian, at University College, Cork. He was also commended in the 2014 Gregory O’Donoghue Prize and longlisted in the 2014 UK National Poetry Competition and in the 2014 Fish Poetry Prize. Here are the poems that appeared in the Irish Times this week. Watch this space.

Curiosité – un Regard Moderne

The latest Sotheby’s email                                                                                                                     sale announcement                                                                                                                           proclaims the chance to                                                                                                                         obtain a pair of Aepyornis                                                                                                             maximus (Elephant Bird) eggs,                                                                                                         an exceptional complete                                                                                                                   Moa (Megalapteryx didinus)                                                                                                             [sic] skeleton, or even a collection of                                                                                                   Nô masks:                                                                                                                                                   ‘Get the last of your eggs, bones n masks’                                                                                     you can almost hear the criers proclaim                                                                                             at the gates of the chateau                                                                                                                   in Dampierre of the impecunious                                                                                                      latter-day Duc de Luynes.

Fields  

There’s a place on the Dublin-Cork line                                                                                           where woodland opens out to fields within the wood –                                                               two or three,                                                                                                                                       irregular in shape and secretive in their deep surround,                                                 unperturbed by the sudden pulsing passing-by of trains.                                                         And then they’ve gone.                                                                                                                           I always seem to lift my eyes at just this point in the journey,                                           signalled by some animus of field                                                                                                   and its possession of me since a child,                                                                                             for all the fields I have traversed                                                                                                           and loved and lost.

Mo Mháistir Dorcha by Nuala Ní Dhomnaill, translated by Paul Muldoon

paul_muldoon_and_nuala_ni_dhomhnaill

Táimse in aimsir ag an mBás,
eadrainn tá coinníollacha tarraichthe.
Réitíomair le chéile are feadh tréimhse is spás
aimsire, achar roinnt bliana is lae mar a cheapas-sa.

Bhuaileas leis ag margadh na saoire.
D’iarr sé orm an rabhas hire-áilte.
‘Is maith mar a tharla; máistir ag lorg cailín
is cailín ag lorg máistir.’

Ní rabhas ach in aois a naoi déag
nuair a chuas leis are dtúis faoi chonradh.
Do shíneas mo láimh leis an bpár
is bhí sé láithreach ina mhargadh.

Do chuir sé chrúcaí im’ lár
cé nar thug sé brútáil ná drochíde orm.
Ba chosúla le greas suirí nó grá
an caidreamh a bhí eadrainn.

Is tugaim a tháinte dubha chun abhann,
buaibh úd na n-adharca fada.
Luíonn siad síos i móinéir.
Bím á n-aoireacht ar chnoic san imigéin
atá glas agus féarach.

Seolaim are imeall an uisce iad
is gaibheann siad scíth agus suaimhneas.
Treoraím lem’ shlat is lem’ bhachall iad
trí ghleannta an uaignis.

Is siúlaim leo suas ar an ard 
mar a mbíonn sciollam na móna le blaiseadh acu
is tagann míobhán orm i mbarr an mháma
nuair a chím faid mo radhairc uaim ag leathadh

a thailte is méid a ríochta,
an domhan mór ba dhóigh leat faoina ghlaic aige
is cloisim sa mhodardhoircheacht bhróin
na hanamnacha ag éamh is ag sioscadh ann.

Is tá sé féin saibhir thar meon.
Tá trucailí óir agus seoda aige.
Ní bheadh I gcarn airgid Déamair
ach cac capaill suas leo.

Ó táimse in aimsir ag an mbás,
is baolach ná beidh mé saor riamh uaidh.
Ní heol dom mo thuarastal ná mo phá
nó an bhfaighidh mé pá plaic’ nó cead aighnis uaidh.

My Dark Master

Translated by Paul Muldoon

I’ve gone and hired myself out, I’ve hired  myself out to Death.
We drew up a contract and set the seal
on it by spitting in our palms. I would go  with him 
to Lateeve
for a year and a day—at least, that was the deal

as I remember it. When I met him at the hiring-fair
he inquired if I’d yet
been taken: ‘What a stroke of luck,’ he declared,
‘when a master who’s set on a maid finds a maid who’s set

on a master.’ I was only nineteen years old 
at the time the bargain was struck.
I made my mark on a bit of paper and was indentured
on the spot. What a stroke of luck,

I declare, what a stroke of luck that I fell
into his clutches. Not, I should emphasize again,
that he meddled with or molested me for, to tell
you the truth, our relationship was always much more akin

to walking out, or going steady. I lead his blue-black cows
with their fabulously long horns
to water. They lie down in pastures of clover and fescue
and Lucerne. I follow them over hills faraway and green.

I lead them down beside Lough Duff
where they find rest and where they are restored.
I drive them with my rod and my staff
through the valleys of loneliness. Then I might herd

them to a mountain-pass, to a summit
where they browse on bog-asphodel and where I, when I 
look down, get somewhat dizzy. His realm extends as far as the eye

can see and beyond, so much so
a body might be forgiven for thinking the whole
world’s under his sway. Particularly after the sough-sighs
of suffering souls

from the darkness. He himself has riches that are untold,
coming down as he is with jewels and gems.
Even John Damer of Shronel, even his piles of gold
would be horse-shit compared to them.

I’ve hired myself out to death. And I’m afraid that I’ll not 
ever be let go. What I’ll have at the end of the day
I’ve absolutely no idea, either in terms of three hots and a cot
íor if I’ll be allowed to say my say.