On the Nail/Stony Thursday Book 2012

This month’s ‘On the Nail’ literary event will take place tomorrow, Tuesday August 7, at 8pm in the Loft Venue at the Locke Bar.

The free event will include the launch of issue 23 of the Revival Literary Journal and readings by Kevin Higgins, Bríd Ní Mhóráin and Donal O’Flynn. There will also be a 10 minute play by Gabhar Theatre Company, starring Grace Cronin, Shane Vaughan and Hugh O’Brien.

Everyone is invited to take part in the open-mic after the main event including poets, storytellers, musicians and writers. Even if you don’t write you are welcome to bring something along to read.

More information on www.limerickwriterscentre.com.

Also, The Stony Thursday Book is seeking submissions from local, national and international poets for its next issue to be published as part of CUISLE Limerick City International Poetry Festival in October 2012. This year’s editor is the Limerick-based poet, Jo Slade.

The Stony Thursday Book was founded by Limerick poets John Liddy and Jim Burke in 1975, and has also been edited by Mark Whelan, Kevin Byrne, Patrick Bourke and Knute Skinner, Thomas McCarthy and Mary Coll.

The annual publication is one of the longest-running literary journals in Ireland and celebrates its 37th Anniversary Edition in 2012.

How to Submit: Send no more than six poems and when submitting poems, write your name and address on each page. Send poems to: The Arts Office, Limerick City Council, City Hall, Merchant’s Quay, Limerick or by email: artsoffice@limerickcity.ie.

Poetry, f**k yeah! Cuisle video/All Ireland ‘Limerick’ Championship

I mentioned Brian MacAree (fellow audience member at the Friday evening Cuisle poetry festival reading) in a previous post. Well, he sent me a recording of Paul Durcan reading a poem, some pictures of the event AND a recording of the winning poem in the White House Poetry Grand Slam on the Saturday night. I thought that deserved recognition so I made a (very rudimentary) AV package out of it. You get the gist of Cuisle from it anyway!

Brian wasn’t sure who the winning poet in the slam was and I wasn’t there so if the man himself or someone who knows wants to send his name, I’ll be sure to acknowledge him.

There is another exciting poetry event coming up soon in Limerick…

Limerick Writers’ Centre will present an On the Nail Special: The 2nd All Ireland ‘limericks’ Championship on Tuesday November 1 at 8pm. The venue is Upstairs@Foleys Bar, Sarsfield Street.

The championships will take the form of a two round contest (so contestants should bring at least two ‘limericks’) and the verse must strictly follow the ‘limerick’ formula and must be entirely original.

The winners will be chosen by an appointed three person panel. The prize on offer is a trophy for the winner and two runner up prizes. If you want to participate, all you have to do is arrive on the night to the Foley’s Bar and give your name to the MC. Alternatively you can send on your name to the limerickwriterscentre@gmail.com requesting inclusion. Admission is free.

John McGlynn from Clare, last year’s champion, will be back to defend his title. The special interval guest is Fergus Costello—a performance poet/songwriter/musician/ comic and storyteller.

LWC explains: “What is a Limerick? To be a Limerick, a verse MUST have: Five lines. Lines one, two, and five must rhyme. Lines three and four must rhyme. A good Limerick will have a clever, unanticipated punch line as line five. A good Limerick will not be insipid or pointless. A good Limerick often has puns, word play, eccentric spelling, or some other witty feature.”

LWC is also running a course, ‘Releasing The Poet Within-A Creative Writing Course in Poetry, Lyrics and Versification’.

This is a six week course is designed to inspire writers to discover/extend their poetic voice. Existing poets and lyricists may explore new directions while those seeking to write poetry for the first time will find a springboard for their ideas and style. It starts this Wednesday, October 26, 7-9pm for six weeks.

More Information from www.limerickwriterscentre.com

Excellent evening poetry readings at CUISLE 2011

I went to two evening readings at the CUISLE Limerick City International Poetry Festival last week. I don’t care what Charles Bukowski said about them (in two poems, which he probably read aloud ironically), I like a good poetry reading. CUISLE 2011 seems to have been a big success. Hardly surprising as the niche festival has a loyal and appreciative audience. The Belltable’s 220-seater auditorium was at least half-full both nights. It also helps that they get excellent poets to take part every year. It is organised by a committee made up of Sheila Deegan (Limerick City Arts Officer); Ciaran O’Driscoll; Bertha McCullagh and Mark Whelan.

Thursday never looking back…at poetry

On Thursday, the line-up was Clare Best, Lee Harwood and Mary O’Malley—all very different poets. CUISLE has a connection with a similar festival in Brighton so Best and Harwood were representing from there. Harwood has had an illustrious, 40 year career with a unique style. O’Malley, from Galway, is an award-winning poet and reads regularly in Ireland and abroad. The skills of all three were obvious. Harwood has a knack for creating expansive worlds out of words for the reader to wander through. Nature and memory were recurrent themes, as were urban and train imagery. O’Malley drew heavily from Irish mythology/history but also touched on the passage of time and emigration. She has an extraordinary, rich reading voice too.

But it was the first reader, Clare Best, who stood out for me. Her poems were emotionally raw and dealt with the most challenging of themes—love, death and self-image. She took the audience on a journey around the world (figuratively in opening poem ‘Drive time’) to the foreign planet feel of the Lincolnshire Fens to a rainy night in Manhattan. In ‘Knowing the prognosis’ she described pain medication as “white stepping stones” and morphine like a goddess with a “voice like rain on water”.

This confessional tone continued when she explained how she chose to have a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing a hereditary form of breast cancer. With titles like ‘Last walk with breasts’, it was obvious she was not going to shy away from sharing the details or impact. In ‘Breast Care Nurse’ she is not interested in trying to hide behind dummy breasts, defiantly thinking “I let go of the pretence weeks before the surgeon drew his blue lines on my chest”.

She shops for new nipples in Ann Somers in the playful ‘No adhesive necessary’ and delights at the fact that “they are always firm”. In ‘Self portrait without breasts’ she is a landscape “without hills” and her son’s tender compliment that she is “more beautiful” is a lovely moment. In ‘Seduction’, the lovers tracing their respective scars is a very evocative image of intimacy. I just thought she was so frank and so brave. Although I get the feeling she wouldn’t like to be labelled ‘brave’…isn’t it funny how you get an idea of someone from their writing? That’s what I liked about the reading; her poems were honest and well-written. The sequence Self portrait without breasts is in her first book-length collection, Excisions, (and I think a few copies should be sitting out in the Mid-Western Cancer Care Centre).

Friday, I’m in love…with poetry

On the Friday night, there were only two poets on the bill—Paul Durcan and Carol Ann Duffy. They are both award-winning and prolific. Durcan is often described as one of Ireland’s most distinctive poets and Duffy is the current Poet Laureate of the UK.
I thought Carol Ann Duffy was slightly eclipsed by Paul Durcan, who was on first. Her poetry is deserving of praise but while I could appreciate, I confess I didn’t connect with it very well. Her range of subject matter ranged from a protest poem about her poem being banned by a school to war poems to tributes to her mother, particularly heartrending in the sensuous ‘Cold’. She is brilliant at crafting rhyming poems with ‘Counties’ and ‘John Barleycorn’ being fine examples. She launched her latest collection, The Bees, and these themed poems were very clever i.e. ‘The Human Bee’.

I wasn’t familiar with Paul Durcan’s work before now so I was very pleasantly surprised! He’s an enthralling reader. It’s like he has absorbed the poem and then it pours out of him in whatever is the most appropriate persona, like an actor. But what about the poetry, you cry?! The material is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking.

The audience was cracking up with laughter at his observations of the idiosyncracies of Irish life in poems like ‘The man with a bit of jizz in him’, ‘Ireland 2002’ and an extract from the book-long poem, ‘Christmas Day’. In ‘The Story of Ireland’, he explains that bank manager and bank robber now meet on the golf course and even Sinn Féin members play golf now; it’s practically the measure of civilisation. In ‘Doris Fashions’ he gives the impression of an imagination ready to go wild at the slightest nudge.

Reading poems such as ‘The Drimoleague Blues’ and ‘Bovinity’ he builds poems out of sounds like a musician (He did perform a song with Van Morrison). When he reads, as Bertha McCullagh referred to in his introduction, it is sometimes like an incantation: “I am the centre of the universe…I’m always here if you want me…” In the whimsical love poem, ‘Waterloo Road’, he softly repeats “You were a whirlpool and I very nearly drowned”.

The reading had dark moments. Political poems about former president, Cearbhaill Ó Dálaigh, and the murder of two policemen by the IRA in the north made the audience realise that his work was not all sweetness and light. He spoke about the possibility of Martin McGuinness being president before reading The Bloomsday Murders, 16th June 1997. It begins with the line “Even you, Gerry Adams, does not deserve to be murdered” which was so simple yet so powerful in its utter condemnation.

He finished off with poems about his family and most poignantly, his mother. He left everyone with the image of elderly women with gold dressing gowns fanning out behind them as they jumped from a bridge into the water below. The audience was hanging on his every word and he made every single one count. It was in a different league to any reading I’ve been to.

So, it was good poetry and good company at CUISLE although chatting to the nice man (Brian McAree, a writer himself) who took the spare seat beside me, I found myself uttering the depressing sentence “I used to write poetry but I just stopped in my early twenties”. Now I’m in my mid-twenties, you see, I prefer to have poetry read to me. I don’t even think I could write a Limerick at this stage. Hmmm, “There once was a disparate blogger…”

CUISLE poetry festival celebrates sweet 16 this week

Most people seem to have an idea of poetry that stems from being at school and being forced to learn it by heart whether you liked it or not. I think people are pleasantly surprised at hearing contemporary poetry, which isn’t all about Raftery an file, daffodils, Grecian urns or comparisons with a summer’s day.

If you are interested in seeing poetry in a new light, the CUISLE Limerick City International Poetry Festival is running from this Wednesday October 12 to Saturday 15 at venues all around the city. It is always one of the highlights of the cultural calendar, having built up a great reputation over 16 years.

The festival will encompass book launches, poetry readings, open mic sessions, film screenings, schools workshops, the Young Poet of the Year Award ceremony and the famous Poetry Grand Slam finale—where contenders read live in an energetic ‘poetry-off’.

Events take place at all times of the day and in several venues including the Belltable Arts Centre, the Hunt Museum, the White House pub and the Daghdha Space in St John’s Square.

This year’s line-up includes British Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy and the hugely popular Paul Durcan; Catalan poet Joan Margarit; a night of Slovenian poetry with Iztok Osojnik and others; Paula Meehan; Mary O’Malley; Lee Harwood; Clare Best; Mark Whelan; Robin Parmar and a few more!

The highlight of CUISLE in my experience are the poetry readings. When I studied for a semester in the US, I took a poetry-writing class with an American poet of some note called Gerry LaFemina and he said that poetry was meant to be read aloud. Reading it adds a new dimension i.e. you can hear the rhythms and emphasis. That’s so true. At readings, I listen out for what I call the “poetry sigh”—where one or more audience members make an audible noise of appreciation.

I’ve been to some fantastic readings at Cuisle. I saw Theo Dorgan at Cuisle ’07, reading his own poetry and translations. He’s such a charismatic speaker and really engages the audience. I took the pictures decorating this post at a reading in Cuisle ’09 when the festival welcomed Donald Hall, Poet Laureate of the USA; Robert Haas, Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed UK poet, Penelope Shuttle. Both Hall and Shuttle read poems about their respective other halves who had passed away recently so it was very emotionally charged and moving.

If you’re more interested in the informal, there will be open-mic sessions by poets in the White House; a documentary film about poetry festival abroad and lunchtime readings too.

So, if you want to do something new this week, try a poetry festival event. I’ll be going along to some things so I will duly report back. More information is available on www.limerick.ie/cuisle.