Seamus Heaney – on his 80th birthday

Two Seamuses – photo taken at the Home Place – Karen J McDonnell

A dear man.

A fine poet.

Much missed.

Heaney MS. The Home Place, Bellaghy
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#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.

A Festival of Writing; A Festival of Reading

Image result for ennis book club festival 2019

If it’s the first weekend in March, it can only mean one thing – it’s time for the Ennis Book Club Festival.

And this year, thank goodness, there’s no Storm Emma dumping tons of snow on the country to cancel the whole thing.  Storm Freya is approaching from the south though, but so far all we have had to deal with is LOTS of rain. And hey! – a book festival is mostly indoors anyhoo!

Yesterday, I joined my companeros in the Poetry Collective, and other poetry lovers, for the monthly First Friday in the library in Ennis. We had a great crowd – the interest is growing for this monthly event. Thanks to Martin Vernon who is such a good host, and who read a lovely poem in memory of his sister. AND who brought a lovely vase of daffodils and treated us to Wordsworth’s poem. A lovely Spring reading.

Then to St Columba’s church to hear Thomas Lynch speak on death and grief and memory. He got a wonderful introduction from writer Grace Wells. Then he mused on the loss of writers Philip Casey, Macdara Woods, Dennis O’Driscoll, Seamus Heaney and Matthew Sweeney – such a rollcall of the lost.  But the work remains.  Thank you, Tom, for your company and gracious words.

And now, I must sign off and head into Ennis again. This morning it’s the tradition to go to ’10 Books You Should Read’  with my mother.  In the afternoon, I join my sister poets for a #Fired inspired reading in the Record Break Café –  The Seven Sisters.  As with last year, we will read some of our own work, but also work by Irish poets who have been neglected in the last hundred years or so.  This year I’m reading work by Helen Waddell.

After last year’s cancellation, it’s a joy to be joining in the live recording of RTÉ radio’s live recording of Sunday Miscellany. That takes place in Glór at 11.30am. There may be a few tickets left for the early birds!

And so – to the Festival!

Writers’ Christmas Party in Capital City

. . . at least that’s what I’m calling it!

I’m off to Capital City in the morning to take part in this rather fab Christmas Staccato session. And I’m look forward to sitting back and listening to others as much as having the chance to read some of my own work.

I may bring along a Christmassy poem by someone else . . .

If you’re in town tomorrow, come along to Toner’s in Baggot Street. This promises to be a mighty evening!

Mine’s a hot port; I’m fighting the dreaded lurgy.

Another Month, Another Adventure!

I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends and connecting with writers this weekend, at the Wexford Literary Festival.

I’ll be reading from my collection This Little World in one of the New Voices slots on Saturday afternoon, at the Riverside Hotel in Enniscorthy.

There are some fab events, for readers and writers alike.  You can check out the whole programme by clicking here.

The trip ‘East’ is also giving me a chance to stay with a dear friend. So, after ‘work’ there’ll be time for a nice meal, drinkies, and a catch-up!

Books, poetry, writing, and friends.

What more could a gal ask for?

 

Culture Night 2018 – What made me a reader

Delighted to be taking part in this event, which is being hosted by the mighty Sarah Clancy.

Culture Night – ‘The Book that Made Me A Reader’

Venue: DeValera Library, Harmony Row, Ennis, Co. Clare.  At  6.30pm  Friday, 21 September.

And what book have I picked? An impossible choice, as I’m sure you will agree.                                At first I took the idea a bit too literally – as is my wont.  A kids comic, read aged four, isn’t going to hack it. Enid Blyton and the Chalet School books are all a bit obvious. When I’d got through all those and my brothers books, my mother pointed in the direction of her Agatha Christies on the bookshelf in the sitting room.  No wonder I was such a ghoulish teenager! But, though my car is called Agatha in honour of the same lady … no, Poirot and Marple aren’t the people for this gig.

So, what have I chosen? As you probably can’t come along to the session in Ennis library, I’ll let you in on the secret.  Walter Macken. As the bored child with nothing to read, I was given these Mackens by my darling Grannie. And I couldn’t stop reading his books. I devoured all of my grandmother’s copies, eventually buying more myself. I was still a young teenager.

And for afters? Zola. My father gave me ‘Earth’ (La Terre), when I was about fifteen. My love affair with Zola didn’t diminish. I even ended up buying the whole Rougon Macquart series a few years ago – in French!  There they were, in the front window of Scéal Eile – the gorgeous independent bookshop in Ennis. ALL of them. Calling to me.  So I bought them.

The list goes on and on and on and on and on and …

Reader, I’m a fool for a good book.

What about you?

 

Seamus Heaney – a home visit

Here at the Tyrone Centre, the work continues apace: new poems have been drafted; research and notes are ongoing for a radio segment; and, if you’re interested, Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words are on the iPod.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, a short break in the work to give you a link to an article I had published today in the online issue of the Irish Times – marking the fifth anniversary of the death of Seamus Heaney:

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/five-years-on-remembering-seamus-heaney-remembering-loss-1.3612408

I visited Bellaghy at the weekend, staying in a lovely B&B – Dew Hamill. I’d recommend it to you as a lovely place to base yourself if you want to visit the Seamus Heaney Home Place, the local area, and nearby Lough Neagh.

After a lovely brekkie and chat with Margaret & Patrick, I drove to Heaney’s grave to pay my respects. I brought another shell from the Flaggy Shore.

It was the first time that I’d been there since the Home Place was built. I’ll write more about that visit another time.

Reader, I made a show of myself! Tears all ’round. But, a wonderful experience.

Whatever you do today, if you love poetry seek out recordings of Heaney reading his work.

The best way to remember him.

Two Seamuses – photo taken at the Home Place – Karen J McDonnell

 

A Working Holiday: Bellaghy, Annaghmakerrig, AT the Edge

It’s impossible not to feel that autumn is creeping in. Had to put on the woolly socks last night, and the light is dying in the western sky so much earlier these evenings. Even Bessa the cat is back sitting on my lap, or on her car mat in the sitting room!

Sanctuary!                                                                                                                                                    After a busy summer, I can’t wait to get back to the haven that awaits at Annaghmakerrig: a whole week to myself. And though it is a working week, it will be fantastic to have no distractions; to knuckle down to a steady period of writing. This stay will be interesting. No new collection to redraft or to edit and collate. A variety of focus:  a poetry project with national school children to prepare, a radio brief, and then – only then – more poetry.

But first, to Bellaghy . . .                                                                                                                              … and the overnight stay that had to be abandoned a couple of years ago. Since then, the Home Place has been built, and I’m looking forward to my overnight visit.  The poem ‘Grave Good’, in my collection This Little World was written about my first, flying trip to Bellaghy; made less than a year after Seamus Heaney died.  This time around, I’ll be there just a few days before the fifth anniversary of his death. Hard to believe it’s been five years.

No rest for the wicked.                                                                                                                While I’m up Ulster way, I’ll be reading on Tuesday 28 August at Cavan Library for AT the Edge – hosted by the indefatigable Kate Ennals. There are three AT the Edge sessions this year, so I’m chuffed to have been invited to take part in one of them. Tanya Farrelly and David Butler are motoring up from Bray, Co. Wicklow for the evening, and there’ll be an open mic also. Kick off is at 6.30pm.

If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, drop by!

 

 

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.