Thank You, World

2017 has been good to me, so far. My mother would say that by announcing this, I am putting its future in jeopardy! But to hell with caution, my yellow daffodil of spring wants to trumpet!

I have funding from Cavan Arts Office for a fourth series of AT The Edge this year, and not only that, we have nine brilliant readers (think cat and cream and you have the right image of me here). The first on Tuesday 2 May will see Cavan welcome Kate Dempsey, Colm Keegan and Helena Mulkerns. In August, Maurice Devitt, Stephen James (tbc) and Lisa Frank and in October, Afric McGlinchey, Mairead Donnellan, and Brian Kirk. I am so looking forward to seeing them all in Cavan.

So, I was surprised when another Cavan Arts Office envelope plopped down into the porch of The Bungalow last week – the porch is where I occasionally sit when my muse goes awol. I smoke, keep an eye on the neighbours, and watch for what my garden is growing. Anyway, this envelope from Cavan Arts Office was telling me that I had been given a professional development award to get a mentor to help me finalise my first novel and collection of short stories. This was brilliant news which came at a very good time for me as my muse has been more missing than musing recently. Not writing is another ‘art’ of writing that my mentor may have to help me with! In fact, in the past few months, I have spent more time submitting material (thanks to Angela Carr for her circulation of submission and competition deadlines) and editing my early stories. It has been alarming but interesting to see how raw and unkempt my early short stories are; a raggle taggle of cock tales in sore need of pickles and extra shots! I vaguely wonder, how I know this. When and how did I learn the craft? More to the point, what exactly did I learn so I can do it now? I’m hoping my mentor who has much more experience than I will be able to tell me!

Anyway, that is not all! There is more good news. We are having a poetry party in Cavan at the Town Hall Arts Centre on Poetry Day, Ireland (Thursday 27 April at 6.30pm). The Town Hall has just received good news too. It has received three quarters of a million euro from the Department to refurbish the listed building. They plan to install poets on every landing to recite poetry every thirty minutes (not really, I’m just getting carried away). So, we having a poetry party to celebrate Poetry Day, Ireland, but not just a poetry party, we’re having a poetry and cake party. What better way to spend a few hours on National Poetry Day, reading poetry and eating cake!

So, this Spring is good, and I want to say thanks. Thanks to Crannóg in Galway, the Lakeview International Journal, Anomaly, and the Honest Ulsterman for publishing four of my short stories.  I loved reading at the Crannog launch in Galway last Friday. My son, Joe, said there were two women who were crying with laughter. I could hear their guffaws and it was very encouraging, so thank you to them. (The story is Irish Mothers, Beware and you can read it in this edition of Crannóg ( Thank you to Cavan Arts Office for supporting At The Edge, Cavan, and myself. Thank you to all the readers who are prepared to come to Cavan and read. Thank you to Nuala, and all the local poets who come to my own poetry workshops, and thank you for reading this blog. I should also thank my family, and Poppins, my dog, and, Ciaran, the postman who brings such good news and is nice about Poppins barking at him, and oh, my mother! I should thank my mother!


Listowel, Boys and Men

I have just returned to Cavan from three days and three nights at the Listowel writers week. It is a festival of wannabe, successful and dead (John B Keane features greatly), mostly middle aged, writers and celebrities. There is theatre, talks, interviews, trails, readings, classic conversation between hotel armchairs, glad handing and gossip in bars, music and workshops. Sun hats off to the Listowel Committee.

I enjoyed my three morning advanced poetry workshops with Tom McCarthy, a wonderful, erudite, and well read poet. I definitely benefited from his advice. He gave me a four year publication strategy which certainly will help guide me through the morass of the submitting process.

I stayed in McMahons in the centre of town. It was a tiny room but it became my nest, safe from all the strangers thronging the sunny streets outside. They weren’t all strangers, I saw a few familiar faces, and everyone was friendly and full of smiles before moving on, wishing me well. At a festival, everyone has somewhere to go, someone to see.

I enjoyed the poems, the readings, the river, the town park, watching the people on Ballyheigue beach. There were seven boys, half grown, giggling like girls, full of curses, treading gingerly in the break of the wave, beneath cobalt skies and mountains. They were beautiful. I watched them teeter out, waist high, arms out stretched, laughing and shouting instructions to each other. They formed a circle, holding hands and took the plunge, together as a man. And they raised their faces into a spray of silver salty sparkles, bubbles, waves, like mermaids, though they wouldn’t thank me for that description.

I didn’t write though. In fact most of the time, I felt awkward, like the smallest fish in the shoal. I tried to live in the moment, relish the minutes, but each one felt like a rather long a time. It is an exhausting business, mingling, talking to strangers, going into pubs alone, sitting next to town statues, eating, being convivial, alone. Next time I’ll bring a friend to share .

I did wonder if my age had anything to do with my feeling of loneliness. Yes, I thought, when I was young I wouldn’t have had the confidence or courage to go to a festival alone. It wouldn’t have happened. It’s not that I don’t like being alone. I do enjoy solitude. It’s being alone in a crowd that is a challenge.

By the way, Tom advised me on how to attract men to my next poetry workshop. Colm Keegan, are you reading this? You may be interested. Tom told me a tale about a chef friend of his who ran cookery classes in the evening. They were full of women. He decided to call his next workshop a Master Class and all the participants turned into men. There and then, I decided to call my next workshop a ‘Master Class’ but I thought better of it. I can’t imagine a workshop of men. Men! Think about it! Honestly, it would be really bizarre. An all men workshop.  I might write a story about it.

There…Listowel gave me inspiration after all!

music in the square listowel