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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Springing into action #Ennis Book Club Festival 2020

 

Well, it’s hard to believe that another Ennis Book Club Festival is upon us – but it is!

The Seven Sisters poets are part of the programme again this year, and we will be reading in The Record Break Café – our home from poetry home – from 5pm on Saturday 7 March.

There were five of us scheduled – but Nicki is away, so you’ll have to make do with Ruth, Deirdre, Sinéad, and me.

We promise work in response to books, and other poems. I also hope to read some work from a few female poets:  after all, Sunday is International Women’s Day!

Seven Sisters Poets/EBCF

We’ll be going for a while, so if you are free at 4pm, and want a balance of poetry and prose in your afternoon, may I suggest that you take in the gig below:

Hilary Fannin and Rachael English will be in conversation with Nessa O’Mahony, at St Columba’s Church on Bindon Street. No better women!

Then run up and join us in the Record Break Café for poetry. Sure, what more could you ask for?

Burns, baby, Burns! – Readings for #BurnsNight

Burns Night reading at Banner Books

I’m really looking forward to this – as listener as much as reader!

Ruth Marshall – one of our Seven Sisters Poets – and I will be reading on Burns Night in Banner Books, Ennistymon. It’s all happening this coming Saturday the 25th, 6-8pm.  Sally, the owner,  is promising a wee dram and vegan ‘haggis’, so what’s keeping you?  PLUS Bookshop Dog may be in attendance.

Ruth is from Scotland, so in my eyes she’s a Burns expert.  She’s a great performer of her own work, and I’d say she’ll do Robbie proud.

We’ll both read some of our own work as well.  I’ll just give you one or two Burns poems – maybe even sing a verse, if I can keep my nerve.

Photo © Banner Books

Follow Banner Books on Twitter and like their Facebook Page – and if you’re in north Clare, drop in. Sally has a great selection of new and old books, great cards, and quirky gifts too.

 

 

Winter Poetry – warming the soul

Hope some of you can join four of the seven sisters for an evening of poetry next Friday in the library in Shannon. Readings kick off at 7pm.

I’ll read some of my own work – but also other poets’ winter offerings.

Do come along for an evening of poetry, before the Christmas mayhem begins!

(Thanks to Ruth for the great poster!)

The Wonder Workshop – and a new precept!

Prepping my Wonder workshop. Under supervision!

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Clare County Library would I give a poetry workshop based around the book Wonder by RJ Palacio.  Halimah, a teacher from Ennistymon Vocational School, had approached them with the request.

At first, I was hesitant: writing poetry around another book? Would that be restrictive? How to cram a  workshop around a few hundred pages when I’ve only got 90 minutes to do so? And I don’t have children. Wonder had slipped under my radar. I watched an interview with the author on youtube.

I told Dolores in the library service that I’d develop something around several themes, especially that of bullying. [Coincidentally, this week the call-in show on our national radio station is full of adults talking about bullying: their own or their children’s; even now-grown-up bullies who have sought out their childhood victims to apologise. These discussions and stories are happening while their children are in school.]

The other thing I said was that the children would have to have read the whole book!

Well, I needn’t have worried on that score. I soon learned from a Facebook post by Banner Books in Ennistymon that this was very much a community read.  A ‘One Book, One Community’ project in fact.

The One Book, One Community has a programme of events around Wonder:
Readings with local primary schools
Poster competition with local primary schools
Ennistymon Vocational School afternoon tea book club on 13 November at the Falls Hotel & Spa
EVS Poetry workshop on 14 November [That would be me, I guess!]
EVS Coffee morning on 19 November
Wonder film showing at the Falls Hotel on 22 November to round off the whole project.

AND SO … tomorrow I head to Ennistymon to give two workshops to over forty First Years from Ennistymon Vocational School. It’s a couple of firsts for me: my first secondary-school poetry workshops, and the first time that I’ve specifically designed a workshop around a theme – let alone another genre of writing!

Thanks, Ennistymon and thanks, Clare County Library Service. It’s good to be pushed beyond our comfort zones. That’s today’s precept. I’m sure Auggie would approve.

Image result for wonder book

Poet’s Corner Readings – June 2019

 

Cover for This Little World
© Karen J McDonnell & Doire Press

Hard to believe this baby is nearly two years old!

Sinéad continues to host monthly readings at the Record Break Café tomorrow 1 June – with turns from yours truly and musician Brigid O’Neill, who is on a UK & Ireland tour at the moment.  Read more about Brigid here.

We will be splitting the time into fifteen minute slots – so I promise not to bore you with too much ‘recitation’! I’ve decided to read some short fiction too.

It’s a mix-it-up kinda gig!

Hope some of you can make it.

Poetry Day Ireland 2019 – Label Lit in The Burren!

It has been a manic few days, getting ready for this year’s #PoetryDayIrl

This morning, I was at the DeValera Library in Ennis; giving a poetry workshop to 3rd and 4th class from Ennis Educate Together school. Eighteen young poets turned up with their teachers- and taught me a thing or two about poetry! Thanks to all of the children for their energy and interest. They were really great. And thanks to Samantha at Clare Library Services for the invitation.  We’ll be doing it all again on the 23 May with another group of Ennis schoolchildren.

All prepped for LabelLit

Yesterday was spent tearing around the Burren: from Carron, to Finavarra, to Bishop’s Quarter; then out the coast road to Fanore, stopping off on the way back at Black Head, Murroohtoohy, Ballyconry, & Sans Souci; more stops at the old pier, the Coast Road, the Cottages, the new pier; to the school, looking back to Cappanawalla; and finally to a nook or two in the village. ALL in aid of Label Lit – the brainchild of the dynamo that is Maria McManus – who already has brought the Poetry Jukebox concept to Ireland.

From ‘Super Moon’. LabelLit at the Burren Perfumery

Label Lit has been going for a few years now, on each Poetry Day Ireland.  Maria organises the whole thing and we poets are sent 20 labels. We write a line of poetry on each one and then sign them on the back, where there are links for the finder to use. This year we also recorded our poems. Finders of the labels – and you – can click into poetrymapp.com here, and listen to the complete poem. This year poets from abroad are also taking place: you’ll find LabelLit in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia. I had my labels prepped since Easter, and a ‘keeper’ sent off to Ursula in the Poetry Collection project at the library in U.C.D. I’ve left labels all around my part of the Burren for you to find. Many of the places mentioned above are mentioned in my poem Super Moon.  At Sea was in response to a reported incident just off Black Head.  If you’re not in Co. Clare at the moment, look at the map: there may be labels where you are!

Go to poetrymapp.com ,  https://soundcloud.com/poetrymapp , or click on the titles to listen to  Super Moon and At Sea

From ‘At Sea’ – LabelLit at Black Head lighthouse in The Burren
From ‘At Sea’ – LabelLit at the Finavarra martello tower

#WorldPoetryDay

It’s World Poetry Day!

Here’s an offering from my poetry collection, This Little World (Doire Press)                                The path of poetry doesn’t always run smooth!

Birthing

Not away on a mystery

train. First class. Fine

coffee, and a book

in my hand.

 

No. Stuck.

Here with a

weighting inside me

cutting off the flow.

 

Birthing.

 

Not always joyful.

Forceping dactyls.

Similes I’ll never like.

Elusive adjectives.

 

Stillborn. Or an awkward

child, mutinous in the face

of inadequacy.

And, all the overcompensation.

© Karen J McDonnell

Sunday Miscellany: alive, alive – Oh!

A couple of posts back, I scribbled a quick note before I headed into the Ennis Book Club Festival.

Well, I’m happy to report that it was a lovely weekend. The visitors to Ennis really seemed to enjoy themselves. As I grew up in the place, I feel proud that the whole town takes the Festival and visitors to heart. Local businesses had some fantastic book-themed window displays.

Our ‘Seven Sisters’  poetry reading at the Record Break Café was standing room only – we were delighted with the turnout and the audience response. It was lovely to welcome EBCF attendees to Sinéad’s venue, as well as our usual faithful supporters. This year’s readers were Sinéad Ní Síoda, Deirdre Devally, Nicki Griffin, Ruth Marshall, Mary-Ellen Fean, Deborah Ryan, and yours truly.

The Seven Sisters after our EBCF reading at the Record Break Café Photo. Ruth Marshall

I also managed to get to hear Thomas Lynch, in the lovely setting of  St Columba’s Church. By the way: If any of you are around this evening at 6.30pm, Tom will be reading at a Salmon Bookshop gig in Oh La La café in Ennistymon with Stephen Powers and Rain Leon.  I’d already committed to something else and am really sad I can’t be there. It will be a stonkin’ reading.

Ennis Book Club Festival 2019. Photograph by Eamon Ward

The biggie for me was the live recording of RTÉ Radio One’s Sunday Miscellany, which happened on Sunday morning. I was excited and nervous in equal measure. It was a trio of firsts for me:  first time I appeared on the stage in Glór, first live recording, and also my first ‘essay’ for Sunday Miscellany. There was some fine writing, and wonderful music. My thanks to producer Sarah Binchy, and to Carolyn Dempsey for making it all so easy. Also to Cora Gunter of EBCF whose enthusiasm was infectious. Most of the contributions were broadcast last Sunday the 10th of March, including The Hanging Sheriff by Mae Leonard; My First Pint by Joe Ó Muircheartaigh; Preventive Measures, a poem by Caoilinn Hughes; Growing up in Miltown by John Hurley; and Joe Ninety, by Dee Collins    – here’s a link to the podcast https://www.rte.ie/radio1/sunday-miscellany/#103062434

Sunday Miscellany at Glor during the Ennis Book Club Festival. Photograph by Eamon Ward

My own radio essay will be broadcast this coming Sunday, St Patrick’s Day, so keep an ear out for it! I’ll put up a link here, when the podcast is up on the RTÉ website: https://www.rte.ie/radio1/sunday-miscellany/#103067788

Sunday Miscellany at Glor during the Ennis Book Club Festival. Photograph by Eamon Ward

Do listen out for Niall Allsop’s essay on the 24th, and a lovely tribute to her grandmother by Margaret Hickey on Mother’s Day, the 31st March.