The Spirit of the Place

For the ancient pagans, they say, every sacred place was haunted by a familiar spirit – the genius loci – something less than a god but equally uncanny: some dryad, naiad, elf or goblin. Dinnseanachas or placelore was one of the earliest forms of Irish vernacular writing. Every hill, river and road, sacred or not,  once had its story. They still do. So this issue of Corncrake is all about Place, or rather particular places, and what they mean to people. (more…)

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A Townland Journey – Derrylea

Landscape – Memory – History

Becomes a landscape heard and felt and seen
Sunshine and shade one harmonizing green

John Clare

The legend of the land endures, in men and clay,
In heart and marrowbone, in acre, perch and rood,
Offering and accepting always
A passion never spent,
A song of sacrifice, the hot testament
Of blood.

Brendan Kennelly (more…)

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Monument to Home

We return home-home for the day,
to pay our respects to another one gone.
On the way down from the funeral,
we pass each other, stop, turn, stare,
recognise childhood friends by their eyes. (more…)

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Autumn by the Roe

The leaves are glowing, yellow, red and gold.
The river’s laughing through the narrows
Where the rocks are frilled with white.
My path is splashed by giggling waves
Of tea-brown water dashing down the glen. (more…)

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Haibun (winter)

The shivering of a frosted lake as nesting swans trouble its unfamiliar surface, their beaks long, orange beacons in forensic sunlight. (more…)

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China Girl Sleeping

Dragged down by the weight of the world on her shoulders
She climbed onto the dragon’s back and saddled herself
Behind the mighty, ferocious head of the rumbling beast
She curled herself cat-like, eyes closed, ready to leave (more…)

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Cheney’s Hill

You’ve come to find the hill from where your ancestors were driven.

You’ll come in off the Dublin road to rest under the shadow of Wicklow’s old hills. Posters of last Autumn’s Music Under the Mountains will intrigue….a small place like this to host such artistes.. If you are inclined to play some notes or sing with the Hollywood robins and thrushes, your music too will be under the mountains. (more…)

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Leave the Calling-Card

There is a map in my head, and I pick the four elements of my childhood compass. Roads were meaningful back then; the asphalt road had its own scent. After rainfall in Summertime, it was intoxicating – mooched through nostrils, as dust rose. Broad leaves of the chestnut trees, buds of amber bursting out, contrive to make me a child again. I stand still. (more…)

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The Great Isle

Beneath a starry night
like the Dutchman would paint
we met as star-crossed lovers
This with a kiss I die (more…)

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Fallen Giants

A thousand men once worked this yard
Beneath bright cranes with bible names
A golden rivet driven home
For each to build a happy house
That was the days of yore
Written of in history books. (more…)

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What Water Reveals

Last summer as I considered what to write for Loughshore Lines, I was reading Katherine Howe’s The House of Velvet and Glass. The novel explores a woman’s obsession with scrying, using a reflective object or surface such as a crystal ball or the surface of water to attempt to see the past or foretell the future. (more…)

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River Song

My voice may lull and soothe your troubled mind
With sweet concentric notes of layered song
And if the ropes of living tightly bind
I’ll loose those knots and carry you along (more…)

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The Edge of Strangeness

What makes a place familiar? What causes that feeling that you have left your home ground?  I can feel the change near the Ulster border more than on the political one, yet parts of Leitrim seem like home to me, and parts of Cavan do not. Rivers and loughs do not divide but rather unite – and therein lies a clue. The Erne basin holds me in the hollow of its hand. Wherever rain may fall is home to me, so long as that rain will eventually end up at Assaroe. Elsewhere it runs to stranger seas – to the Liffey or Limerick or Londonderry. That strangeness begins a bare seven miles to the North, on the Omagh road, somewhere between The Harp and Togherdoo, and if I travel up the Erne and round the corner of Cuilcagh, it is waiting for me somewhere on the road to Ballinamore. (more…)

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Loughshore Lines

Loughshore Lines was the brainchild of Ken Ramsey, who proposed that Fermanagh writers should invite creative responses to The Erne and the surrounding landscape, to include public performances in Ballyshannon, Cavan and Enniskillen. Some of the writers are well known, but some are published here for the first time. (more…)

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The Loss of Yellowhammers

In the lambent light of a shebeen, in the company of men of a certain vintage nursing tumblers of amber-coloured liquid as the fire in the hearth crackles with mischievous laughter, tales are told of soft-remembered times. It is here you will find this astonishing debut collection of John D Kelly’s The Loss of Yellowhammers.

(more…)

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Smiles to Go Before I Weep

The sun always rises after a storm writes Rodney Edwards of the Impartial Reporter on the back cover of this anthology. Nobody knows this better than Mary McElroy. This brilliant book is a testament to that.

Yet, as the title suggests, the truth that Mary knows is more complex. Wishing for the sun will not make the storm go away sooner, and the thunder may come again long after the sky has cleared. (more…)

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