Another week in paradise

TGC Oct 2021

Well, who wouldn’t consider this an offshoot of Paradise? Especially when the view from the desk is this –

TGC Oct 2021 view from John Jordan room TGC Oct 2021 ready to work

That was me six days ago, the desk all set up for a week’s work at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan. Previous visitors to this website/blog will know how much I love this place, and the people who work here.  This stay was a long time coming. I was lucky to have received the 2020 Tyrone Guthrie bursary from Clare Co. Council & Arts Office. COVID delayed my arrival by a year. It has also placed a great deal of extra work on the staff here, who are going above and beyond the call of duty to keep the ‘creatives’ safe. 

This time I’m in the John Jordan room, and I like it very much. I especially like the wee artefacts in the room that once belonged to the Guthrie family, or have been found in the actual fabric of the house – such as this linen inventory that was stuck to a panel of a door. 

TGC Oct 2021 Linen list

I’ve just realised that I haven’t had a good snoop at the bookcase yet. Time to do that after my last dinner this evening. Yes, tomorrow it will be time to leave. And before I shut down the laptop and head downstairs to join my fellow writers, an artist and a musician, it’s a good idea to think about the work. 

It was a mixed bag this time around: reading around my next project/new collection, researching and drafting some radio essays and a long poem that I’m working on, and finally a review of neglected drafts in an older notebook. I’m happy that I got through the daily lists I set myself. Today was the toughest: some of those earlier poems were drafted in grief; waiting to be reviewed and reworked. Lying in wait to ambush me. I worked through five poems today and, while they may not be at the final stage, they are certainly in a lot better state than they were this morning. 

I keep this old birthday card with my notebooks to remind me of the age-old truth: ‘poems are hard’!

Poems are hard Oct 2021

Apart from the focus that time at Annaghmakerrig allows me to give to my writing, the fact that there’s no TV and that I don’t have Netflix on the laptop means that evenings are given over to reading and actively listening to music on my iPod. I finished Jhumpa Lahiri’s Whereabouts at the weekend, and I’m now reading Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor. It’s a novel about Bram Stoker and his relationships with Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. In a previous life, I had to research that era in theatre history: the days of melodramas, Shakespeare, and the well-made play. I still own an old biography of Ellen Terry. With the evenings drawing in and the leaves turning, it’s a good time of year to be reading about lime-lit theatres & Victorian London. 

TGC Oct 2021 downtime

Annaghmakerrig – where you learn to balance work & time out.  A writer’s paradise – where you’re greeted like an old friend & you make new friends. 

Grateful doesn’t begin to describe how I feel this evening. 

P.S.  Having arrived with two recent rejections under my belt, I leave with a bit of good news. More about that in a wee while!

Opening up

Poetry Town logo Sept 2021

September was a crazy month – as if opening up further during COVID was a fever in itself.

Don’t get me wrong – it has been great! A month that included a few days in west Clare with my family, and visits from friends who live abroad, or have just recently moved home. Plus Real. Live. Events.

Thanks to the wonderful initiative from Poetry Ireland, Ennistymon in north Clare was one of 20 places designated a ‘poetry town’. The place was full of poetry for over a week: in shops, appearing on the streets after rain, in schools, and during events held outdoors and – gasp! – indoors too. Not least of these events was the Poetry Town launch, when we heard the Ennistymon poet laureate Grace Wells read her poem especially composed for the project. But there was a bonus for us: another long poem that Grace had written for Ennistymon – a copy should be given to every household in the town. It was marvellous – making the point that there’s an Ennistymon for everyone, including the poet herself who made her home there a few years ago. Sarah Clancy was MC for the event, and Siobhán Mulcahy – Arts Officer for Co. Clare – gave a lovely opening speech. Afterwards a few of us sang or read poems.

I said on social media that it was a fantastic feeling to be back with my tribe. And I wasn’t the only one who felt a bit emotional. As the Beatles sang, It has been a long, cold, lonely winter. One that lasted well over eighteen months for many of us in the Arts world.

Poetry Town Ennistymon 11 Sept 2021 launch #2Poetry Town Ennistymon 11 Sept 2021 launch

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, I was asked to give a workshop to secondary school students as a part of the Poetry Town Ennistymon week. On the 16th of September, I met forty students from third year at Scoil Mhuire to discuss ‘Why Poetry?’. Thanks so much to their teacher Mary McGlennon and the students for their welcome. We still had to observe COVID protocols, and I would love to have had more time, but we managed to look at the sonnet as a form – especially in the play for the Junior Cert, Romeo & Juliet. Having shown them an example of an erasure poem, the girls were given copies of poems they will be studying later and invited to dive in and create erasure poems of their own. Take that, Heaney and Owen!

Scoil Mhuire Ennistymon workshop 16 Sept 2021

Photo courtesy of Scoil Mhuire Facebook page

Some Twitter exchanges resulted in a poets’ coffee morning at The Larder Café in my home village. Sarah, and Grace arrived from up and down the road, while Nessa and Leanne & Georgina were visiting. Such a nice way to spend a morning, and we were blessed with the weather. Thanks to Peter for the photo!

Poets' gathering The Larder 23 Sept 2021

September ended with my study/library still in a ‘state of chassis’: having pulled it apart and culled a lot of paperwork, I’ve decided to redecorate. But that will have to wait. My sister is CAT-sitting, and I am typing this during a writer’s residency that began a couple of days ago.

To be continued. Which is how I hope it goes creatively for the rest of 2021!

Take care of yourselves, loveens, and keep the dastardly COVID at bay.