If it’s another Wednesday, it must be Bantry

West Cork Sunset
©Karen J McDonnell

I’ll be hoping for evenings like this next week when I head to Bantry – the lovely town situated between the Beara and Sheeps Head peninsulas.

I’ve been to the West Cork Literary Festival several times as part of the audience. This time – HUZZAH!! – I’m going as one of their featured writers. 

WCLF brochure. Artwork by William Crozier

I can’t wait to be there. WCLF is one of those events that has everything: a great line-up, a wonderful bunch of volunteers, a superb location, and a fantastic hinterland to explore when you get a bit of time off. If the weather is good – well, that’s a bonus.

I will be chatting to Eibhear Walshe, and reading from This Little World, at 11.30am in the Bantry Bookshop next Wednesday, 19 July. Thanks to Margaret and her staff for having us. If any of you are down for the Festival – please come, and say Hello!

This gets to be a bit of a working holiday for me. I’m taking an extra night off so that I can take in as much of the other writers’ events as possible. Lucky me.

We’re due a write-up about the whole book thing. Life in the book lane has been pretty fast and furious this past month. And, real life has also got in the way – as it does. I think time to regroup is in order; then I promise a ‘daycent’ sit-down-with-a-cuppa post over on the Writer’s Blog.

In the meantime – enjoy the summer, my lovelies. And if you want to purchase This Little World, please visit www.doirepress.com where Lisa & John will be only too happy to sell you a copy!

Cover for This Little World
© Karen J McDonnell & Doire Press
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‘This Little World’ – Freebie!!

 

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

This Midsummer’s Eve, I’m celebrating the launch of my poetry collection, ‘This Little World’  – published by Doire Press.

You can buy the book at Charlie Byrne’s and Kenny’s bookshops in Galway, or online from http://www.doirepress.com

Just comment below and I’ll pull two names out of the hat on July 1st.

One of you will get a copy of the book, the other will get this (very) limited edition book tote bag.

Launching This Little World

Well, Launch Day is almost upon us!

The house elves in Doire Press and Ballyvaughan have been busy: organising wine, glasses, a lectern and – in my case – sorting out what to wear, Darlings!

You are invited!

It’s been an amazing few months: chock-full of poet-type angst, comradeship at Annaghmakerrig, excitement at being chosen by Doire Press, worry that I wouldn’t make the grade, delight in signing the contract. It was thrilling to see the proofs appear on the desktop; even more so to tear open the envelope and hold the first copy of my debut collection in my hands.

This Little World – my precious!

So now is the time to celebrate with Lisa and John from Doire Press, and with my family and kind, loyal friends. I’m extremely grateful to writer & poet Celeste Augé for launching This Little World into the wider world. Apart from the speeches, there will be wine, and a bit of poeting. Mostly though, PARRRTAAAAY!!!

If you happen to be in Galway on Saturday, don’t just stand there peeking through the window, or standing in the doorway. Come in and join us!

You’ll be so welcome.

Getting on with it

Basically, I’m getting on with it.

I’ve been preparing the manuscript of my first poetry collection. And I invested in a week at beautiful Annaghmakerrig to give myself a good run at re-drafting newer poems, as well as looking over the older ones. Of course, being where I was, the first thing I did after unpacking was to sit down and write a new poem. It was a great start to the week and set me up well for the next day’s writing. No trips off on the gatch this time, apart to Newbliss for the newspaper.

© Karen J McDonnell

It was wonderful being back in ‘my old room’! They’re very good to me in that place. I had tweeted Miss Warby to let her know I was on my way. She tweeted ‘Welcome, darling.’ when I arrived! Spoilt, I was, pure spoilt.  It was lovely to meet a whole new bunch of people – artists and writers, musicians and a dancer. But, typical in Ireland, it turned out that the writer Liz Nugent and I had met – many moons ago! A long story, and you’re not getting it here.            The nightly dinners were a joy – great food and conversation – sometimes presided over by the Centre’s director, Rob.  Many thanks to vegetarian Helen who was our cook on St. Paddy’s Day. she went beyond the call of duty: The ham was scrummmmmy.

Home to reality, and writing, writing, writing. But also a moment or two to enjoy the fact that Marie Lecrivain, guest editor at Al-Khemia Poetica had published my contribution for National Women’s Day in the U.S., and on St. Patrick’s Day at that. Nice one, Marie.

You can have a look at it here:

http://alkhemiapoetica.blogspot.ie/2017/03/national-womens-month-karen-j_17.html

Also came news that my poem, ‘A Bad Dose’, had been shortlisted for Cúirt/UCHG Poems for Patience, 2017.  I was delighted. And a tie this year – well done to poets Lorna Shaughnessy and Marie Cadden on their joint win. Both of their poems will be printed and hung in University Hospital Galway. It’s a great idea, I think.

This week I’m formatting the manuscript and this is what I was doing two mornings ago:

Pieces of poetry
© Karen J McDonnell

Each slip of paper is a title of a poem. Talk about getting into shape!

Wish me luck, lads.

 

@MissWarby – I’m on my way!

Yes, I’m heading back. To the house, the lake, the lovely staff and – if the vibes are all aligned – perhaps a meeting with Miss Worby, the resident ghost.

I’ll be redrafting and making the final push towards my first collection: This Little World. 

The dreaded lurgy has been getting me down for the past few days, but the antibiotics are kicking in and I can’t wait to get up to Annaghmakerrig.  (For more about this wonderful artists’ residence, have a look at Forward! Retreat! – Part the Second on my Writer’s Blog above.)

Now, I must away to pack my books, notebooks, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

A Reading According to the Poets

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow evening – 3rd February.

I’ll be reading at the Record Break Café in Ennis at the monthly poetry slot.

This time, I’m delighted to be joined by Limerick poet & playwright Mary Coll, who will be reading from her new collection, Silver. Join us for what promises to be a great evening. (We might even get a word or two of fiction out of Helena Close who is travelling from Limerick as well!)

Door open at 7.30pm with poetry is from 8-9pm, followed by music from Pele, a local musician – and a pal of my sister as it happens!

And remember, Sinéad makes great coffee & lovely treats!

FINALLY –  My poem ‘The High Road’ will be published this month in The Honest Ulsterman. It’s my first time being published in that fine journal so, thanks Greg!

New Year; New Publication.

Goodness, would you look at that! February already.

Well, here it is Spring. I like to go by the Irish calendar. Not that you’d know by the weather. As I type, Storm Imogen is on her way.

So – we are due a good ol’ blog post. There will be one soon on my writer’s blog – I promise. But for now, I’m posting a link to an online publication by Poetry Northern Ireland: an anthology to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in January . It has an expanded remit to acknowledge atrocities other than those committed during World War II.

You can read it at the Poetry NI site, or download a PDF:

http://www.poetryni.com/poems-for-holocaust-memorial-day-2016.html

My poem ‘East’ is included in the anthology. It’s the final poem in my song cycle Notes from the Margins – but in a strange way it’s also where the song cycle began. For many years I had Ottla Kafka (married name, David) in my head. And eventually it was she who inspired the whole concept of the song cycle. The final project was formatted with what I hope might one day become the programme notes. These are the short notes for Ottla:

Ottla Kafka

ottla kafka

 

Ottla David was born Ottilie Kafka in Prague on October 29th, 1892. She was the youngest of four children, the eldest of whom was the writer Franz Kafka. From an early age Ottla proved to be the most independent of the Kafka children. Although she worked in the family shop after she left school, in later years she insisted on going to an agricultural college – against her father’s wishes. In 1917 she went to work on a farm owned by her brother-in-law. Later that year her brother, already suffering from tuberculosis, joined her for an eight-month stay. Throughout this time the relationship with her brother developed into a deep bond which lasted until his death in 1924.

In 1920 she married a non-Jew, Joseph David, with whom she had two daughters. In 1941 the deportation of Czech Jews began. Both of her sisters were deported to the Lodz ghetto where they died. As the wife of an ‘Aryan’, Ottla was exempt from deportation. It appears that she could not reconcile this situation with her sense of herself as a Jew. Ottla divorced Joseph. Having lost the protection of a Gentile husband, she was sent to the Terezín ghetto in 1942. On October 5th, 1943 she volunteered to accompany a children’s transport to Auschwitz. She was killed upon arrival on October 7th.

Her husband and daughters survived the War. The letters between Ottla and her brother Franz are now in a permanent collection at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

*   *   *   *   *   *  *  *

My research led me to the children who survived the carnage of the Bialystock Ghetto, and who were moved to Terezín. It seems to me that the dates of their final journey match that of Ottla. Not long into drafting the poem, I found a list of just over one hundred children omitted from the original Bialystock list.

The names in ‘East’ are some of those children.

Unsettled – excerpt published

Unsettled - A West Bank Journal © Karen McDonnell
Unsettled – A West Bank Journal © Karen McDonnell

A short excerpt from Unsettled – A West Bank Journal has been published by the Bogman’s Cannon. You can read it here: http://bogmanscannon.com/2015/10/30/an-excerpt-from-unsettled-a-west-bank-journal-by-karen-j-mcdonnell/

An account of time spent in Palestine, Unsettled is the length of a chapbook. So – if anyone out there knows someone interested in publishing a literary non-fiction chapbook, let me know!!

Things have been a bit mad in the last couple of weeks since I got back from Beara, but I will have a new post on the writer’s blog ^^^^ . Soon, I promise.

Now, back to that poetry deadline!