Kindred Spirits

Drew University’s fifth Transatlantic Connections Conference was held in Bundoran from January 10–13 to celebrate the many ties between the United States and Ireland. The cover image features the Choctaw Nation memorial that commemorates how they, though suffering greatly themselves following the Trail of Tears that drove them from their own land, sent money to buy food during the Great Famine.

In that same dark time, according to family tradition, Paula Meehan’s family left Leitrim for Liverpool, only to remain stuck in the Monto district of Dublin for the next century. These are a few notes from her final keynote speech which was, she said; just an excuse for giving out poetry.

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The Human Condition

They would have thrived on our necessities.
– Eavan Boland, The Emigrant Irish

Whenever I’ve thought about the honour of writing this over the past while, the line from Boland won’t leave me alone. Poetry has that strange habit of hitting me when I’m wandering along minding my own business. Often, such as now, as a line removed from the context of its original poem. For a while, I wasn’t sure why I’d been possessed by Boland’s words. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that these are poems that thrive on our necessities. Kate has a wonderful gift to take moments and sculpt poetry from their essential self – a gift I’d likely be wildly jealous of if I didn’t feel so privileged to call her one of my closest personal friends. Continue reading “The Human Condition”

Hunters in the Snow – A Perspective

Three hunters trudge wearily homewards through the snow: it is by far the most popular non-religious Christmas card image scene, and with good reason. Pieter Breugel the Elder painted it in 1565, yet we feel it is a world we can understand. Not long ago, men very like these hunted on Boxing Day, and wood was gathered for the fire, and the winter was cold enough to safely play on frozen ponds. You could easily imagine a local artist fifty or so years ago, painting such a scene from life or memory.

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The Healing Story

Seventeen writers each take a theme: a middle-aged woman, two kids, is packing her bags in the supermarket. Seventeen stories emerge, each different. Those who know the writers can tell – this is John’s story, this is Bob’s; no one else would have taken the same approach. Yet our stories are not always simply our own, nor are they merely commonplace. The best stories take their life from the twilight zone between the individual and the universal. They bring with them the sense of something both unexpected and inevitable. Continue reading “The Healing Story”

The Blossom or the Bole

The original idea for this book came from a short story I wrote as far back as 2008 about two boys growing up in the Sperrin Mountains at the turn of the 20th Century. Later that year I was given the opportunity to visit WW1 Graves in Belgium and France, and it sparked the question, why did so many young men go so readily to a war-torn country and how did their decisions impact on the families they left behind.

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