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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 podcasthttps://www.rte.ie/radio1/sunday-miscellany/#103062434
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!
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.