Limk Writers’ Centre On the Nail/Poetry Slam heat

The Limerick Writers’ Centre monthly On The Nail event will take place tonight (Tuesday September 4) from 8pm at The Loft @ The Locke Bar.

The featured readers include Limerick’s own, John Liddy, who is on a visit from his home in Madrid. The others are: Irish-Canadian writer, Celest Auge and Padraig Mac Fhearghusa, a west Cork poet who writes largely as Gaeilge.

Gabhar Theatre Company is back with another 10 minute play with cast: Grace Cronin, Shane Vaughan and Hugh O’Brien.

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

Next Tuesday (September 11), the same venue will host the Munster heat of the All Ireland Poetry Slam at 8.30pm. Performance poets and spoken word artists from Limerick, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Tipperary and Waterford will battle it out at the ‘slam’.

“For those of you who haven’t experienced one, a slam is a performance poetry competition in which poets perform for not more than three minutes. The winner will be chosen by an appointed panel of judges. The prize on offer to the winner is the honour of representing Munster in the 6th All Ireland Poetry Slam to be held during November in Cork,” the LWC blurb read.

Poets wishing to enter the slam on the night need two, three-minute poems, ideally performed without a script. If you want to participate, all you have to do is arrive on the night to The Loft venue and give your name to the MC or you can email your name to the requesting inclusion.

The Limerick Writers’ Centre run various classes and workshops as well as running literary events and selling books (mostly by local/Irish writers) online so the website is worth a look.

Upcoming literary events and launches

Iwant to flag some upcoming workshops, readings and book launches for the WhiteHouse Poetry Revival and Limerick Writers’ Centre respectively.
Tomorrow(Wednesday November 23), there will be a poetry afternoon and workshopin the Hunt Museumat 2.30pm.All poets and their friends are welcome—those whowould like to read and those who just want to sit, listen and enjoy.” For moreinformation, see or contact MCBarney Sheehan at or086-8657494.
The White House Bar will host theirweekly reading/open-mic night that night at 9pm.It’s been on almost every Wednesday night for years now and is still goingstrong. There’s a great atmosphere. It generally features a guest poet, who is Christy O’Donnell tomorrow night and then otherpoets will read aloud too. Christy O’Donnell was born andraised in a family of 13 in Limerick City’sNorthside. “Growing up we were neverencouraged to write at all, instead we were expected to go into the workplaceas soon as we finished school. Christy likes to write rhyming poetry that hassome humour in it but which is also true to life with an emphasis on the punchline. Writing is both for pleasure and the need to deal with human pain on adaily basis and has found that Kilkee is a good place to ‘chill’ and to gatherone’s thoughts for a poem or a short story”. His most recent book was ongangland Ireland and he is currently working on a humorousbook of poetry which is set for release in 2012.
For more information, check out thelocal press and the Whitehouse Bar is also on Facebook.
From The Ribacollection of sonnets and villanelles by Fiona Clark Echlin—will be officially launched thisSaturday, November 26 at 5pm in Upstairs@Foley’s Bar, Sarsfield Street, Limerick. The collectionwill be launched by Dr John McDonagh of Mary Immaculate College.
Born in London, Fiona Clark Echlin (Newcomb) has lived and workedin London, New York, Istanbul and finally Limerick. As well as being a poet, Fiona Clark Echlin is anaward-winning playwright and story teller. Her poems, plays and stories are allcoloured by her background, which has strong roots in the theatre. Best knownas a Performance Poet, she has read and performed her work at a wide variety ofvenues, occasions and festivals in both Ireland and the UK. Her distinctive delivery will be familiar to manyand her voice has also been heard on radio, reading, performing and discussingher poetry and radio drama. Her one-act play, Builders was recently staged atThe Source theatre in Thurles as part of The Inkubator project with AsylumProductions (Cork). She is currently writing a novel.
The Limerick Writers’ Centre will also launch REViVALLiterary Journal No. 21 on Wednesday November 30 at the White House Bar at 8pm. This issue is a special‘Michael Hartnett at 70’ edition and all are welcome to attend.
Upstairs@Foley’sis also the setting of the popular ‘On the Nail’ readings on the first Tuesdayof every month at 8pm. These events alsohave guest readers but writers (from beginners to veterans) can also readpoetry, fiction, stories and play music. Gabhar Theatre Company often presentsa ’10 minute play’ for the audience too.
For further information on all these events, contact Dominic Taylor at

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 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

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…”