Still pinching myself …

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had a bit of good news while I was staying in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. I had to keep my mouth shut until the public announcement a week ago. My poem Driftwood made it to the shortlist of the Irish Poem of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2021. The poetry award is sponsored by Listowel Writers’ Week, which makes it extra special in my eyes.

Listowel Writers’ Week has been a pillar of the Irish writing community for 50 years. I’ve a huge fondness for them: after Storm Emma forced the cancellation of the 2018 Ennis Book Club Festival, Listowel offered EBCF a slot later in the year in their own festival. Such a generous act of solidarity.  A few years ago, I managed to get to the festival and spent a fab week attending a travel writing workshop with Mary Russell in the mornings then going to events the rest of the time. More recently, I read there as part of a festival event hosted by poet Annemarie Ní Churreáin. That was a lovely evening, made all the more magical when I realised that Brendan Kennelly was in the audience.

Co. Kerry and the Irish poetry community bid farewell to Brendan recently and – in the same few days – we bid a farewell to Máire Mhac an tSaoi. Quite a blow. If you are new to their work, click on their names for links to their bios and work. Many Irish people have their ‘Brendan’ story. I have one myself – maybe I’ll share it another day.

My thanks to everyone in the Writers’ Week office, especially Sharon who broke the good news and kept me in the loop! Thanks also to poet Ian McMillan who chose the four shortlisted poems. I’m in fine company; the big celebration is being on the list at all!

You can read our poems here and you can vote here. Voting closes on 15 November and, COVID numbers permitting, the winners will be announced at a live event in Dublin on the 23rd. Just the idea of meeting people in person is a joy!

Irish Poem of the Year shortlist 2021

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!

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.

 

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!

 

 

@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.