Writing in the time of COVID19 & the Pendemic project

Four people, some of whom are writer buddies, began Pendemic as the impact of lockdown on our creative community became obvious. The online site went from strength to strength, and will wind up shortly.

All the contributions will find a permanent home, however. University College Dublin has decided to take the accumulation of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction that makes up Pendemic, and will archive the content.

I haven’t written a post here about COVID19 and the lockdown in the west of Ireland, though I did contribute to this article in the Irish Times during the first months.

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/loneliness-in-lockdown-i-ve-never-been-alone-for-so-long-in-my-life-1.4247483

I’ve found it difficult to summon up any energy for writing new work about these days. To be honest, enough people seemed to have no problem doing so, and I couldn’t see that I’d add anything to the existing columns!

One poem came to me, however, quite early one morning. It was during the quiet time, here in the Burren. Hardly any cars, no overhead jet trails. Wonderful weather. I could sit on the bench in the front garden in comfort; enjoying the sun and the views over Galway Bay. If a neighbour or someone from out the road cycling into the village passed by, there was time to stop for a socially-distanced chat – in the knowledge that a stream of holiday traffic on its way to the Cliffs of Moher wasn’t going to drown out the conversation, or beep at someone pulled up inconveniently in the middle of the road. To be honest, I miss that hush around the place. Especially as I write today, when the cars passing the door haven’t given me a moment’s peace. But that’s what you get when you live on the R67 in the height of summer!

So – the poem. One morning, in the quiet time, I heard a sound overhead. It took a wee bit longer to than usual to recognise that it was a Search & Rescue helicopter. Around here, it’s not a good sound to hear. Someone walker is injured in the Burren uplands, or there’s a medical emergency in the village, or someone has fallen – or jumped – from the Cliffs of Moher. That, quite simply, is where this poem came from. It was published in Pendemic, and you can read it here.

Lockdown, early morning by Karen J McDonnell

An ambulance has just whizzed by, sirens at full tilt.

But I’ll leave you with a few photos of the place at its loveliest; during the quiet time.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, ocean, outdoor, nature and water

Photo: Ballyvaughan, the old pier. ©Karen J McDonnell

Image may contain: cloud, sky, outdoor and nature

Photo: the approach to Ballyallaban. © Karen J McDonnell

This is where things are ‘normal’ for me. Sitting in the sun outside The Larder café: with a treat, a cup of Anam coffee, and a good book. That’s when it’s almost possible to believe that COVID19 isn’t lurking somewhere.

No photo description available.

Wear the mask. Wash the hands. Go easy on yourselves. Be kind.

 

A Residency in a Writer’s Paradise

NEWSFLASH!

It’s official now, so I can say that I’m delighted and grateful to have been awarded a 2020 Tyrone Guthrie Bursary from Clare County Council/Clare Arts Office.

See the source image

This bursary is especially sweet this year as COVID 19 meant that plans I had made to go to Annaghmakerrig in April had to be abandoned – as was the workshop that would have provided some of the means of paying for my stay!

At the time of writing, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre is still closed, so I’ll have to wait a while longer before I head back up to ‘Paradise’ in the drumlins of Co. Monaghan. It’s lovely to have that to look forward to; to have something to work towards. Right now, I’m researching and drafting work for my next collection of poetry: a response to the magnificent collections held by the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

By the time I get to use my residency there should be a body of work to redraft and edit.

HUP!

See the source image

Photo: The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ireland.

 

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?

The Western Skyline Podcast – Spring Podcasts

We go by the old Irish/pagan calendar on this website!  Spring is February, March, & April.

FEBRUARY 2020

Kinvara-based poet Mary Madec joined me on the Western Skyline to discuss poetry, the other work!, and to read from her new collection The Egret Lands With News From Other Parts (Salmon Publishing). Mary also read several of poems from earlier collections. Good music too, of course, and the show is book-ended with arts news.
Not bad going, considering the studio had had a technical meltdown! Hope you enjoy the show.

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!)

When Push comes to Cart!

One of my poems has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and I’m thrilled!

Editor Marie C Lecrivain nominated ‘Scent’ from the anthology Gondal Heights, which was published in Los Angeles earlier this year. The anthology features prose, poetry, and art responding to the work of the Brontë women and their brother.

‘Scent’ is written from the point of view of Mr Rochester’s dog, Pilot.ë

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46226738-gondal-heights

 

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

Best of the Net 2019: and the nominees are …

During National Poetry Month in April this year, I had two poems published with Al-Khemia Poetica in the US.

I’ve just heard from the editor, Marie Lecrivain, that ‘An Invitation to the Late Mr Yeats’  has been nominated for Best of the Net, 2019.  Delira & excira, so I am!

If you’re interested, you can buy last year’s Best of the Net Anthology here 

Here’s a  link to the original post on Al-Khemia Poetica:

http://alkhemiapoetica.blogspot.com/2019/04/karen-j-mcdonnell-two-poems-invitation.html

The Western Skyline Podcast – Summer podcasts

Dearie me! Where has the summer gone? I hope it has been just peachy for all of you.

Time to get up to date with the podcasts from The Western Skyline. Due to writing and life commitments, the show is being broadcast on a monthly basis since June. Here’s what we’ve been getting up to this summer:

13 JULY 2019

Some arts info on this mid-summer Western Skyline, but July’s show is mostly about the music: Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, One Republic, Fleetwood Mac – and it wouldn’t be summer for me without a does of the Spencer Davis Group.
Enjoy. I’ll be back in September as my August slot is during the Cruinniu Festival – and I’ll be working elsewhere!

15 JUNE 2019

Eilis Haden-Storrie dropped in on The Western Skyline for a chat about her book launch. Spotlight is on this year’s Galway Intl Arts Festival, with music from ABC, David Bowie, Kim Wilde, Howard Jones, Joy Division, Blue Oyster Cult, and The Hothouse Flowers. Plus more local arts news.

 

18 MAY 2019

On the show I was joined by four members of The Poetry Collective – poets based mainly in counties Clare & Galway.
Patrick Stack, Knute Skinner, Mary Ellen Fean, & Fred Johnston discuss, and read from, their work. There’s some arts news, and the music is from the Middle East and Africa: Senegal, Egypt, Libya, Palestine and Jordan. A wee change from the Eurovision, which happened to be on that night. Ahem.

 

04 MAY 2019

On The Western Skyline we looked at Fleadh na gCuach as it happened in Kinvara, the forthcoming Galway Theatre Festival, and committee member Tonii Kelly dropped by to chat about the new HEART of Gort Festival taking place on 17/18th May. Plus lots of great music, and news of an arts opportunity for young Co Galway people!