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.
‘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. (more…)
She lies, sad with loss and grief
blankets tucked under chin
Her. Knee. Aches.
Simply can’t face it, she decides
permits herself to say no, this once
No. Funeral. Today. (more…)
We don’t really know our parents until we look back and do the sums.
My mother was born in 1916.
She was Maureen O’Halloran. Her father was a sailor.
There was a war on. There were a lot of wars on. (more…)
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.
Wears St. Patricks Academy
Striped tie, pen in pocket,
wool socks, strong leather boots.
Nordic good looks,
a confident gaze.
We ran the hazel byways he and I
And chased the morning glory down the lanes
And tumbled through the meadows on the way
To lay our tousled locks in secret glades. (more…)
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. (more…)
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.
If you wish to see a veritable cornucopia of creative art in all its variety locally, just take a dander to the Collage Collective at The Buttermarket in Enniskillen. Actually, don’t wish – just will yourself to go and look. On sale there most days of the week is the work of a range of local artists and artisans. (more…)
The Girl With Rainbow Hair
I never really knew you
That’s the sad truth of it;
Just a smile and a chat
In my morning paper shop
When you were on shift.
You would colour your hair
In a range of bright hues;
A rainbow formed a halo
Around your fair head. (more…)
Walking in the nearly full moonlight
A shooting star falls
Into my mouth
A vixen screams
across the navy blue of the
Cast a cold eye
on life, on death
Horseman, pass by!
I was for years intrigued by the structure of this epitaph. I wondered about the rhyming pattern of these three lines which are cut into Yeat’s gravestone in Drumcliff churchyard, Co. Sligo. (more…)
A long time ago – not in a galaxy far, far away, but right here on Earth – a little boy stared up in wonder at the big screen at the incredible story that George Lucas put up there: Star Wars. In hindsight, one can perhaps see some of the cracks in that original story, but for that little boy it offered the belief that there is something greater than the individual self – something that even death cannot defeat – and that anyone, no matter how low and base their origins, can aspire to greatness. That was a powerful message that he could not yet articulate, but it inspired him nonetheless. (more…)
Now and then a band appears which seems to defy any definition by genre. On Friday 26th May I was lucky enough to catch the second set of one such band, the Belfast five woman outfit Wookalily in the Gallery Bar of the Ardhowen Theatre. (For those curious about their name, the urban dictionary refers to “wooka” as meaning “very sexy woman”, and “Lily” coincidentally was the name of several band members’ grannies!) (more…)