All posts by angela

Le Ortique – launches podcasts with my translation of Notturno n.4 by Livia De Stefani

Livia De Stefani (1913 – 1991)

In this recording, Nandi Jola reads my translation of Notturno n. 4 for the Le Ortique project, a group of women authors committed to discovering forgotten women artists.

For more of De Stefani’s poems, see:

da Poesie in diesis di Livia De Stefani (ita/eng)

 An online event on 7th July 6.30 – 8.30pm invites contributions of work by female artists whose work deserves greater recognition Le Ortique Open Mic

I am very much enjoying my encounter with the work of this passionate, uncompromising poet, Livia De Stefani.

Notturno n. 4

Non morirò. Vivo ancora. Ancora di te
del tuo profondo sonno fra le braccia dell’altra.
Ti odio. Nell’odio io incendio foreste
più fonde di quelle d’amore.
Al lume di fiamme vermiglie m’inoltro
nel fuoco vestita dei miei capelli.
Voluttà rinnovate, interminabili saziano
le affamate notti, alzano maree
fra le sponde dei giorni.
Non muoio. T’inseguo ti trovo ti schiaccio
e mi succhio il tuo sangue e lo sputo.
È amaro il tuo sangue, dà sete, dà sete.


Die – I will not. I live on still. Still on you
On your deep sleep in the arms of that other woman.
I loathe you. In loathing I set ablaze forests
deeper than those of love.
By the gleam of vermilion flames I give myself
to the fire wearing only my hair.
Endless voluptuous pleasures, tasted again, again, sate
the famished nights, flood tides
between the shores of the days.
Dying – I am not. You – I follow you find you crush you
Suck up your blood – spit it out.
Bitter, your blood – makes me thirst, thirst.

translated by © Angela Graham 

podcast version by © Nandi Jola (South African born poet and writer based in Ireland) .

For a discussion of Livia De Stefani’s poetry:

Livia De Stefani: poesia per ritornare (alla poesia) / Livia De Stefani: poetry to come back (to poetry)


Gorse, Whin, Furze 6: poetry in The Low Country and on the Coleraine bypass

In 2 poems by Gaynor Kane we find the glowingness of whin in these contrasting views of the same countryside.

Gaynor is from East Belfast. She came to writing late, after finishing a (mid life crisis) degree with a creative writing module. In October 2018, her micro pamphlet, Circling the Sun, was published by Hedgehog Poetry Press. Tradition appears in her poetry pamphlet, Memory Forest, on last wishes and burial rites.


A whitewashed cottage holds the family tight,

Him – all boxed in oak and brass,

and the priest – who’d visited often that final week.

Everyone else spills out across the yard, 

against paddock fences, down the lane 

where daffodils bud, their heads bowed.

Burnished whin bushes catch the low sun.

Oil slicks ripple on pothole puddles. 

Three hee-haws, long and low, cut silence.

Whinnied responses stuttered from four in hand, 

drafts as dark as Guinness, their plumed 

headgear like black clouds dancing.

Plaited tails, the smell of leather and Brasso, 

oiled hooves shine, the clop of shoes shifting weight.

They breathe in sombre air, exhale acceptance.

Glass carriage, reflecting dark 

pallbearers in top hats and tails 

fit with Dickensian demeanour, gloved hands.

The procession takes the obedient pace

of cows to milking, along the long lane.

Every man takes a lift, order called by respectful nods.

Rural men, mostly farmers with dirty fingernails,

performing the graceful choreography 

of a symbiotic ceremony. Cars convene 

Ardkeen to Ballyphilip, to an ancient graveyard 

on Windmill Hill, overlooking the mouth 

of Strangford Lough, where he is laid to rest.


Autumn Books: ‘Memory Forest’ by Gaynor Kane

Gaynor says:

The Low Country is the name for the lower Ards area of the Ards peninsula – from Greyabbey to Portaferry. We moved from Belfast to Kircubbin to get away from sectarianism.

Cross Roads

When I left school, I crossed a bridge

to work. I was thrown into a world filled

with names I struggled to pronounce.

There I met a boy, from the other side of town.


Friends at first – we talked about our weekends,

shared stories, laughed at youthful antics.

Then I moved, back across the bridge, back

onto familiar roads. We stayed in touch.


Later, we had our own home, mid-terrace,

on a road with coloured kerbs, it didn’t matter

which. Inside was neutral, magnolia walls, beige

carpets and a coffee coloured bathroom suite


City folk, we lived in fear of angry balaclavas;

crossfire cutting communities in two.

Sirens resonated across the Belfast sky.

We took to the roads looking for a haven.


In The Low Country, whin bushes shone under

a hay-bale sun, the lough glimmered. Harbour

boats waltzed on golden strands of summer.

Red and black flags adorned main street houses.


A loyal arch, arced across that same road;

we exchanged knowing glances, we wouldn’t

be taking chances. Surveyed the site

and soon after foundations were footed


Years later we migrated; held hands, gold bands,

under a calypso sun and returned as swans.

Added to our brood, just once;

let her choose

which cross to wear,

if any


Cross Roads will appear in Gaynor’s debut poetry collection Venus in pink marble, soon to be released by Hedgehog Poetry Press. Website:

In Yvonne Boyle’s thought-provoking poem, whin serves as an emblem of both love and conflict. It appeared in the Easter 2018 edition,’Spring’s Bride’ of The Bangor Literary Journal .

Yvonne says, The whin or gorse blooms in spring and it’s also: ‘when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love..’ (Alfred Tennyson). I had been talking with my partner about Easter and eggs. I remember my mother dying eggs with gorse blooms in my childhood but I had never thought to do it myself again until he suggested it. And I kinda liked that he knew about ‘old customs….’

Yvonne has had poems published in The Dunfanaghy Writers’ Circle publications, The Bangor Literary Journal and The Community Arts Partnership’s Poetry in Motion Anthologies (2017, 2018). She is a NI Arts Council (SIAP) Awardee 2018/9 and a member of Women Aloud NI.

Gorse, Whin, Furze 5 – Names – a shared love in Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots English

Want to know about furze? Find all you could want in FURZE: a Survey of its History and Uses in Ireland by A.T. Lucas. This  detailed and fascinating book was published by An Cumann le Béaloideas Éirinn (The Folklore of Ireland Society) in 1960. More than 200 pages of information and analysis.

My thanks, once again to Róise Ní Bhaoill for telling me about this book.

Continue reading Gorse, Whin, Furze 5 – Names – a shared love in Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots English

Gorse, Whin, Furze 4 – even more shared love in Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots & English

Two contemporary poems and some fantastic music from this album

Cover Image by Trina Hobson (with permission) ‘A Note Let Go’ oil on canvas. Album title from Ciaran Carson’s translation.

In Gorse Blog 2 we met ‘The Blackbird of Belfast Loch / Lon Dubh Loch Lao’. Mary Shannon’s poem  ‘Syllables Rising’ was inspired by Ciaran Carson’s translation set to music by Ulaid and Duke Special.


Courtesy of The Ultach Trust


Old Irish syllabic verse in the margin

of a ninth century manuscript rises as

the Scribe’s and Poet’s word merge.

Twelve centuries on the Belfast Blackbird’s

dulcet song rises from the verge.


Notes let go, swirl around Malachy’s

medieval wall and as the little bird takes

flight, the lough’s ink-black shallows

are washed with light from sunset’s

stained-glass palette.


Lon dubh loch lao perches for choral

evensong on an altar of sunlit whin:

his sweet tune carries on warm winds.

As dusk falls, inky-feathers fly to nest

as centuries old eye-rings scan the

hedgerows for Pangur Bán.

The poem  appears in Poetry in Motion Community anthology 2019/20 compiled from entries to the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing.

Mairéad Breen brings gorse and hawthorn together:


 This time of year I fall in love with

the jazz of Maytime blossoms

on gorse and hawthorn bushes

that make a show of rough ditches


hemming lush emerald fields, and

patchworking proud rugged slopes

that lord it over grassy valleys

lazing under warm June sun.


Homely gorse, mostly overlooked,

cinderellas in spring with blazing

clumps of orange-gold blooms that

linger for months, everywhere.


Happy hawthorn’s my favourite –

sprays heavy with pink-white flowers

dangle, dance and tease

and ooze nectar-sweet perfume.

© 2019, Mairead Breen. All rights reserved.

Poets’ Biogs:

Mary Shannon is a member of Wilde Writers◊ creative writing group. She won The Heather Newcombe Poetry Award 2019 and was Runner Up in The Bangor Literary Journal Aspects Festival 2019. Poems published: Community Arts Partnership: 2018/19 and 2019/20; Lagan Navigation Trust:  2018 and 2019. In 1999 she produced and contributed to an anthology of children’s poetry to raise funds for the N.I. Children’s Hospice. She enjoys art and crafts and her painting ‘Flowers For a Lady’ hangs in the Cancer Centre, Belfast City Hospital. @MaryBShannon

Mairéad Breen A native of Co Armagh, Mairéad Breen settled in South Down several decades ago. She’s a peripatetic teacher of young people with special needs and on her daily work journeys is captivated by the golden displays of gorse that enhance and enliven the countryside for much of the year, a reminder of her childhood by Slieve Gullion where whins flourished and blazed on nearly every ditch, field and mountain slope. She began writing poetry relatively recently and writes short stories, flash fiction and memoir. Some of her writing has been published in anthologies and online.

◊Wilde Writers describe themselves as “a reincarnation of two creative writing groups of the wonderful Joan Carberry (tutor, poet, short story writer and all-round legend): the Whiterockers (West Belfast) and the Ballyhackers (East Belfast). These groups go back many years and formed a refuge for (among others) the recently retired. The groups merged when Joan retired and fell under the wide, embracing wing of poet Shelley Tracey and includes dreamy poets, forensic memoirists and short story and flash fiction fiends. Since the lockdown the current group has successfully moved into Google Classroom with the ever-patient Shelley.”


2 poems in ‘North Star’ an anthology of writing by Northern Irish women

I’m delighted to have 2 poems in the new anthology: ‘North Star: short stories and poetry by female Northern Irish writers’ released on 4th June 2020.

With 45 contributors, the book’s six sections reflect the counties of Northern Ireland. It is currently number 1 in new and hot releases coming soon on Amazon within anthologies and number 5 in Women’s short stories out of 1,000 titles listed in that genre.

In the Tyrone section is my poem ‘Ballycastle Granny: her husband, Thomas Graham of Gortin’. This  won Joint 3rd Prize in the Almost Dancing Poetry Competition and Heather Newcombe Award 2019 organised by Ballycastle Writers’ Group.

My grandfather lived in Gortin where he worked with his brother, John Graham in their saddlery business. John’s his wife, Letitia ran the Post Office.

My poem in the Antrim section is ‘The Scottish Referendum: A View from Carraig Uisneach’. This is set on Ballycastle Beach. It’s about the relationship between this north-eastern area of Ireland with Scotland.

This anthology is unique among collections by Northern Irish women in its dynamically wide embrace of writing talent.

Conceived and produced during lockdown, the North Star anthology comes from women’s writing collective, Women Aloud NI.

Chairwoman, Angeline King Kelly, whose idea it was, says: “The submission process for North Star was open to WANI’s 165 members, without selection. Every woman has a story to tell. Many of the most fascinating stories from Northern Ireland are locked within the minds of people who do not perceive themselves as storytellers or writers. I believe we have opened a door to those people, in addition to nurturing the talent of some of the most respected writers in the country.”

‘North Star’ is available to buy in hardback, paperback, and kindle edition on Amazon. The Collection is also available to buy in local bookshops such as No Alibis and The Secret Bookshelf.

Gorse, Whin, Furze 3 – a shared love in Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots & English

Gorse (in Irish. ‘aitinn’) in some Irish music.

My thanks once again to writer and folklorist, Róise Ní Bhaoill for these links. She tells me she finds gorse referred to in Irish more in songs than in poetry. The three examples here are an absolute treat.

This wonderful tune will set your heart racing.

Seán Ó Riada, “Cnocáin Aitinn Liatroma” – The Whinny Hills of Liatrom

Continue reading Gorse, Whin, Furze 3 – a shared love in Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots & English

Gorse, Whin, Furze 2 – more shared love in Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots & English

My first blog on gorse ( see end of this post) gave rise to some lovely reactions.  I went looking for more gorse-related poetry in Irish and Róise Ní Bhaoill, writer, editor and folklorist, gave me such a generous response that her material will supply more than one blog. I am very grateful indeed.

I had referenced the ancient Irish poem commonly known as ‘The Blackbird of Belfast Lough’ so Róise draws our attention to some thoughts from a talk of 2012 by the late Aodán Mac Póilin, formerly Director of the Ultach Trust where he and Róise  were colleagues.

“I’d like to give you a taste of the culture of that thousand-year period. I’ll start with a tiny little 9th century poem set on the shores of Belfast Lough, which at that time was called Loch Lao.

Int én bec                fo-cheird faíd

ro léic feit                ós loch laíg

do rinn guip            lon do chraíb

glanbuidi:               charnbuidi Continue reading Gorse, Whin, Furze 2 – more shared love in Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots & English

Creative Writing in Lockdown – Writing About Place

I’ve been delighted to contribute the first of two blogs to the Creative COVID19 Blog Site of the Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations at the University of South Wales.

This site pulls together research and information about a wide range of responses to the constrictions experienced in many fields of creativity: Theatre, Screen Industries, Public Service Broadcasting, Tourism and other areas.

And it hosts also the first Screen Industries Census for the Cardiff Capital region. I am a fan of counting things in the media sector because otherwise policy and practice develop in an ill-informed vaccuum.

I’ve written about Creative Writing in Lockdown – Writing about Place.

I am unable to get to the place I undertook to write about for a prose and poetry work for which I have received a SIAP Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland this year. A book about the performance of culture in Wales has helped me get my head around how to keep my writing on track: Prof. Lisa Lewis’s ‘Performing Wales’.