So Much To Choose From, So Much to Do

Well, loveens, how are you all?

During these strange COVID times it sometimes feels as if my writer’s mind has been running mad in all directions, and with very little new work to show for its activity. The ideas are coming; sometimes at ungodly hours in the early morning. Other times, they are like the birds in my garden flitting from feeder to feeder – using up too much energy without anything to show for it. There are a couple of extended poems working their way through. The long-term project is still at research stage, but every engagement brings a strand or an-almost-idea brushing past my inner eye.

The one thing we writers are all familiar with now is the ‘online life’: whether it is one of shared readings, attending festivals, workshops, or book launches. I started with a sheet of paper last year: just a small list of events lying on the kitchen table to remind me what was coming up on any particular day. That scrawled list has grown to a closely written five pages.  I’m booked into April, and there’s no end in sight!

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This morning’s offering was from the Mountains to Sea DLR Festival in Dublin. Poetry readings from Paula Meehan and Tishani Doshi, with a discussion hosted by Doireann Ní Bhriain.  It was just marvellous. The readings were full of light and heft – the discussion clear and generous. What I loved so much was the grounded knowledge that both of these women have: knowledge of their craft; a solid sense of their creative selves as artists – both within the spaces in which they make their work, and in their relationships with the outer world. I could have listened to them all day.

Mountains to Sea Festival 27 Mar 2021

Looking through my nine months-long list, I’ve ‘attended’ lectures and seminars from Cambridge Literature Online, our National Library’s Seamus Heaney exhibition centre, the Heaney Home Place, Berkley University for a Classics lecture from Mary Beard, and the University of Manchester for lectures by Michael Wood and David Olusoga. I’ve dropped into Liverpool’s Arab Festival to hear one of my favourites, Tim Mackintosh-Smith, chat with Denyse Woods about his ‘3000 Years of Arab History’, while catching up with Samantha Power chatting to Olivia O’Leary at the Kilkenny Festival. Not to mention taking in the performance at that festival of the dramatisation of Mike McCormack’s ‘Solar Bones’.

There are been workshops for writing practitioners, workshops about reviewing poetry, writing poetry, a film about the Brontes, Roy Foster from New York, war poetry in November from the War Poetry Society in England. I’ve continued with my own research thanks to webinars from the Cheater Beatty in Dublin on subjects such as MSS conservation, Japanese fudos, and the story of Beatty’s collection of medieval Books of Hours. The business side of things has been attending funding/bursary information sessions. Can’t let that side of things slide, can we?!

In the last month, I made my first poetry video which was broadcast as one of the shortlisted poems at the 2021 Trim Poetry Festival (online again this year). And a spur of the moment entry to the Cercle Littéraire Irlandais Writing Women competition saw me reading as a finalist, ‘in Paris’, at the end of the magnificent evening hosting the French Cultural Minister’s awarding of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres to Edna O’Brien. It was such a moving event: it’s worth watching the ceremony here. Edna is one mighty woman. Her speech was superb.

The wee bonus was that my parents were zooming in to watch, so there was great excitement when it was announced that I had won the competition.  It was my mother’s first Zoom experience. My sister-in-law said she was still hyper about it days later. Every little thing helps to break the lockdown monotony!

This week, I took a poetry workshop from Birmingham with Liz Berry. And to give the whirling dervish that is my poetry head a bit of time out, I’ve begun four weeks of short fiction workshops (live from Cork!) with Billy O’Callaghan. If you haven’t read Billy’s work, off you go and check out his novels and short stories.

I’ve a date with Hilary Mantel in April. It’s mind-boggling, this zooming around the world. It can be a distraction, but I’m hearing wonderful ideas and work. Some of it is free, some of it paid for. But I know that living in the wild west of Ireland, at the edge of Europe, it would have cost me a fortune to attend some of these events in person. It’s a strange gift that the pandemic has given me. It’s a lonely gift much of the time. But then, at a book launch, or a reading like the one this week by poets Nessa O’Mahony and Eleanor Hooker, familiar names pop up in the chat and comments.

Our little band, our community of writers, is out there: sharing the moments; wrapped in comfort blankets of words and online fellowship.

As dear Sam put it: [We’ll] go on.

One more thing – this link came to me via an email from Manchester Poetry Library. Enjoy!

Exploring cities through poetry. (poetrycities.co.uk)

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A Residency in a Writer’s Paradise

NEWSFLASH!

It’s official now, so I can say that I’m delighted and grateful to have been awarded a 2020 Tyrone Guthrie Bursary from Clare County Council/Clare Arts Office.

See the source image

This bursary is especially sweet this year as COVID 19 meant that plans I had made to go to Annaghmakerrig in April had to be abandoned – as was the workshop that would have provided some of the means of paying for my stay!

At the time of writing, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre is still closed, so I’ll have to wait a while longer before I head back up to ‘Paradise’ in the drumlins of Co. Monaghan. It’s lovely to have that to look forward to; to have something to work towards. Right now, I’m researching and drafting work for my next collection of poetry: a response to the magnificent collections held by the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

By the time I get to use my residency there should be a body of work to redraft and edit.

HUP!

See the source image

Photo: The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ireland.

 

Best of the Net 2019: and the nominees are …

During National Poetry Month in April this year, I had two poems published with Al-Khemia Poetica in the US.

I’ve just heard from the editor, Marie Lecrivain, that ‘An Invitation to the Late Mr Yeats’  has been nominated for Best of the Net, 2019.  Delira & excira, so I am!

If you’re interested, you can buy last year’s Best of the Net Anthology here 

Here’s a  link to the original post on Al-Khemia Poetica:

http://alkhemiapoetica.blogspot.com/2019/04/karen-j-mcdonnell-two-poems-invitation.html

Poetry Month: keeping on keeping on

There’s quite a post waiting to be written about ‘The Year of the Book’.

This time last year, I had just submitted the final MS of This Little World to Doire Press, and was waiting for the first editor/writer discussion. It was an exciting time, and everything was so new. Well, it was my first book, after all!

And the new experiences continue … 

The new year was barely a week old when I received some invitations to take part in readings during the year ahead. In a way, it’s hard to believe that it’s April already.

This week I got news that I’ve been awarded a writer’s residency, I was invited to participate in the Wild Voices Writers Salon readings at Listowel Writers Week, and I was invited to be a part of the special Take Heart edition of spontaneity.com The edition links up with the Take Heart Pop Up Exhibition which takes place in Dublin on 10 May. More details of that here.  Images and signed books will be auctioned, with all proceeds going to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Congrats to Ruth, Angela, and all the organisers of this great event.

For such good news, my thanks go to Co. Offaly Arts Office, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, and Ruth McKee.

Finally – It’s Poetry Month! April 26th is Ireland’s Poetry Day.

On Thursday the 26th, at 4 pm, in Ennis Educational Centre we will announce the winners of the Every Child A Poet Competition – organised and judged by the Poetry Collective. I helped draw up the shortlist, so I’m looking forward to hearing the children read their work. We had an increase in entries from last year. It’s fantastic that the kids engage with poetry, and to see the support that’s given to the competition by their teachers and parents.

Before all that fun, I’ll be reading at the DeValera Library with other members of the Poetry Collective at 11 am. The theme this year is Poetry Without Borders: we will read poems by non-Irish poets, and works we’ve written about places & people encountered abroad.  The lovely people in the Library will supply morning coffee/tea, and everyone is welcome. What we REALLY would like is if you would also bring along a favourite poem to read.

Poets and librarians don’t bite – generally! You would be so welcome.

Back to School for Me!

John Hewitt logo

You know yourself: “I’m just going out for milk, I won’t bother bringing the phone.”

Oops. A missed call from a number I didn’t recognise.

Well, it was only a call from Stephen at the John Hewitt Summer School, informing me that I’d won a full bursary to attend the school at the end of the month. Yahoo!

john hewitt poems

I’ve known about Hewitt, and had seen a documentary about him. My pal Ian has performed a one man show about the Northern Irish poet. I don’t know a great deal of his  work, however. Click here for biographical info on Hewitt, or here to listen to Seamus Heaney discussing a glossary of colloquial words from his poetry (from the archives of RTÉ).

Poster for Ian McElhinney's one man show about Hewitt
Poster for Ian McElhinney’s one man show about Hewitt

So – off I go on another adventure to Armagh town; where there will be creative writing classes, wonderful readings, lectures, music and, of course, lots of talking!

I’m so grateful to have been awarded a bursary. You can find out more about the John Hewitt Society and the Summer School by clicking here. I’ll post more about it when I get back.

I’ve never been to Armagh before. Now, where did I put my map, and the leftover sterling after my trip to Bellaghy … ?

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Totally Baffled!

The Baffle Turnip
The Baffle Turnip

There is, in the town of Loughrea, an organisation.

A group of people capable of severe seriousness, and rowdiness of the highest order.

This group, friends, is the Baffle Writers’ Group. And they’ve been going at it hammer and tongs for many’s the year. In fact, I overheard someone say 2016 is their 30th anniversary. You can find out more about them here. And the full details of the all the events.

Now, summat baffling popped up on Facebook during the week, so I emailed a writer well-versed (ahem) in the comings and goings of said Society. Yes, she said. There’s a DO. A bit of an EVENT. An annual SHINDIG. Get over to Loughrea pronto, and join the fun.   So I did.

And I was in such a rush I never posted it here under ‘Events’. Tut tut.

On Saturday night I met Anne Marie Kennedy (she being my Baffle ‘mole’) in Harney’s pub in Loughrea and registered for the Baffle poetry competition. Two heats  took place in different pubs, and fifteen people were picked to compete last night in the final, which was held at the Loughrea Hotel.

Well, all I can say is: this lot know how to put on a gig! Great emceeing by Declan, and super interval music from Cian, and – important this, poets are a hungry lot – lovely finger food from the hotel. Heartiest congratulations to all on ‘de comm-itt-eeee’.

The competition for the Baffle Turnip was fierce, and there was also the People’s Choice – voted by everyone in the audience. This year’s theme was ‘The Lady’s Revenge’. Why a turnip? You might well ask. Well, this time of year has the whiff of turnips about it, and I also heard the story of a man hanged for stealing a turnip during the Famine. Now, I heard a lot of stories last night. Those Bafflers are fierce men and women for shtooooorrrries!

The competition was judged by the writer Geraldine Mills. I would urge you to seek out some of her work. Before announcing the winners, she went through the list; with a positive word for everyone. A lady.

Noelle Lynskey took first prize with a lovely poem The Bed, and Tony Callinan (hope I spelt that correctly, Tony!) won both second prize and the People’s Choice for his extremely clever and funny poem about the Bafflers’ patron saint – Lady Margaret Kildysart.

My poem ‘Elizabeth Pepys Contemplates Adultery’ took third prize; I was chuffed to bits. That totally unexpected result was the icing on the cake on my first Baffle weekend.

Then it was home, and as the bould Samuel Pepys often said,  ‘So to bed.’

(With a celebratory cuppa)

celebratory bedtime

Away to Beara

Wild Atlantic words

I’m delighted to say that my poem At Sea has won second prize in the Wild Atlantic Words poetry competition, organized by the good people at Hungry Hill Writing. You can find out more about them here, and you can buy the Wild Atlantic Words Anthology, and those from previous years, via the website.

I won a fantastic prize – and can’t wait to use it!

More about that on my writer’s blog, readwritehere.wordpress.com later. For now, it’s tooty-pip as I’m off to the beautiful Beara pensinsula to hang out with poets, read my work, and take a workshop with Breda Wall Ryan.

Lucky me.