Foreign but Not Alien

Sometimes, in the words of Seamus Heaney, Hope and History rhyme.  But not always and, for many people, especially not now. When there is a bright vision for the future it is easy to wish history away; to regard its difference as alien and those who pay attention to it as if they were an embarrassing uncle or a madwoman in the attic, to be talked about only with a sigh or a sneer.

Now the same people seem prophetic. (more…)

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At Standing Rock

April 1st 2016

It is 1876.
Sitting Bull stands
silent and alone in the dark
on Standing Rock.

He awaits sight of Mother
Nature’s beautiful plain. (more…)

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The Photograph

Auld Tomás squints back at me, exactly as I remember
Peering up through the curling, yellowed years
From the bottom of the shoebox.
He lounges, propped against the Aga,
Brows bristling-stern beneath an acrid, vaporous halo;
Eternally smoking in his holy sock-soles. (more…)

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Sweet Spot

(Lower Lough Erne viewed from Claragh Road, Blaney)

Each morning,
I grasp the curtains with tired hands
and fling my arms wide.
Rings rattle in retreat on their rail
as the Fermanagh Monet fills my frame.
I await the lift like a cradled child. (more…)

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Borderlines

I remember the Border when it was a Border
before the Common Market as we called it then
when everyone had tales about the old times
smuggling the everyday – butter, sugar –
shopping bags hung on the outside handles of train carriages.
Jokes about wetting the tay. (more…)

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Rosie

The shiny black nose nudges me
and the beloved ball,
sticky, nicely slimed,
appears at the top of my notebook.

The ball rolls slowly down
the paper raised on my knees,
distributing dampness as it goes,
re-arranging words as liquid loosens them. (more…)

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The Glass Arrowhead

The Dead, they see a little at a time.
They go South. They jump through the hole into the other world.
They walk around on the ground. Then they whirl. The whirlwind, people say.
They go up in the sky on a rope, the Dead.

(more…)

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Magheralough Primary School

So – here we are tonight on the longest day of the year, closing the doors of Magheralough Primary school.

The closure of Magheralough is not merely the closing of a quaint, rural school building. It is the closing of an educational community, the closure of a learning community and the closure of a social community which dates back hundreds of years. (more…)

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An Ambush for the Imagination

I’m a big fan of writing workshops. It doesn’t matter to me what the genre is; I find that I can always learn something new about the craft of writing. I write poetry primarily so, naturally, I am a little more excited when the session is tutored by a poet. In August 2018 Fermanagh Writers hosted well-known Dublin poet and writer Colm Keegan for a full-day workshop. Colm called it Poetry in Motion and during the course of the day he certainly kept our pens in motion. He also said it was an ambush for your imagination and that was very true in my case.

(more…)

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Summer Holiday

Our Granny lived about two miles outside Plumbridge in County Tyrone and we lived in Cookstown. No distance in today’s travel; but back in 1952, it was as far away as Cork if you didn’t have a car. Buses stopped at every hole in the hedge and took an eternity, never mind the price of the ticket.

Our transport to the ‘Plumb’ came in the shape of our neighbour, Johnny Robinson. On the 16th of every month, Johnny and his sister Maggie travelled from Cookstown to Plumbridge to sell new and second-hand clothes to local farmers and villagers at the fair. Mammy made all the arrangements and a letter to Granny was dispatched to finalise the date and time of our arrival. (more…)

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Canaletto and the Art of Venice

National Gallery of Ireland 5th December 2018 – 24th March 2019

It is always strange, booking an appointment to see a gallery exhibition; I am more accustomed to rolling up to such events at my leisure. This introduction of formality about the arrangement lends an air of anticipation and expectation. After negotiating the eccentricities of the Luas tram system I made my way to the National Gallery, glancing frequently at my watch as I did not wish to be late. The exhibition itself was held in a small adjunct to the main galleries with its own reception area and serviced by young, fresh-faced attendants. (more…)

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Royal Ulster Academy Exhibition in Enniskillen

In an exciting first venture, the Royal Ulster Academy chose Enniskillen as one of the venues for their Outreach Programme. Part of the 137th Annual Members Exhibition travelled to the West to the Waterways Ireland gallery. This was quite a coup for Enniskillen, brought about in no small measure by the persistent lobbying by Noelle McAlinden, Arts Officer for the Western Education and Library Board. (more…)

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Western Stars by Bruce Springsteen

A new album from the Boss is always an event, but this is something a bit special. Western Stars sees him channelling Glen Campbell and Burt Bacharach among others in a widescreen homage to Westerns. It’s Bruce taking a bold new direction down well-travelled roads. Rumours that Bruce has been through writer’s block give writers everywhere a boost when the results are an album of easy-listening gold. (more…)

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The Watch has Ended

And what a great watch it has been! A decade long in the telling of the story: characters we have loved and those we have hated have met their fates; some got what they deserved, many had surprises, others seemed to have been ill-served by the cruel hands of the author. Game of Thrones has been an epic tale, told over many years, both for the characters and the viewing public. (more…)

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