I’m delighted to have a poem in Issue 9 of The Bangor Literary Journal, launching as part of the Open House Festival 1pm Sunday 18th August, Bangor. Especially pleased that the poem, Re-entry, Ulster is in Ulster Scots, inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing.
This is a week of momentous anniversaries, of the Moon Landing and also of a significant escalation of unrest in Northern Ireland, including two deaths in controversial circumstances.
The call-out for poetry for Issue 2 of Black Bough Poetry, for Imagist poems on the theme of the Apollo mission, prompted me to write three poems (one in Ulster Scots). One of these, ‘Moon, Landing’, is in the issue and another is here below. I wanted to consider the context in which I experienced the Moon Landing, and anniversaries which make us reflect on progress and also how we deal with memories, and with events, resolved or unresolved. Continue reading A Telling Week: 50 Years On→
I’m particularly pleased that it is a poet from Northern Ireland and a poet from Wales who have been instrumental in giving me this wonderful gift as I have a project on Writing in Wales and Northern Ireland with the Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations at the University of South Wales.
On June 9th, at the Belfast Book Festival, I had the great pleasure of reading at the Northern Irish launch of The North issue 61, devoted to contemporary Irish poets. It was edited by Nessa O’Mahony and Jane Clarke. I read my poem A Northern Irish Wife to a Northern Irish Catholic Priest.Continue reading Reading at the Belfast Book Festival→
March 18th 2019 is the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Welsh novelist, Menna Gallie. She wrote one of the very first novels to engage with the Troubles: You’re Welcome To Ulster.
Set in 1969, it was published by Victor Gollancz in 1970. It is a fascinating double perspective on political agitation in both Wales and Northern Ireland written by a Welsh-speaker who had swiftly got under the skin of Northern Irish society.
Honno Press has re-issued four of Gallie’s novels and this month there is a 25% reduction on their price , using the code mg100.
The Irish Literary Society hosted the London launch of issue 61 of The North magazine on February 25th. Published by The Poetry Business it is devoted to contemporary Irish poetry:
“119 poems by 106 fantastic poets”.
The Irish Literary Society is a child of the Irish Literary Revival of the late nineteenth century. Among its founders were WB Yeats and Douglas Hyde. Since 1892 it has championed and promoted Irish literature and facilitated discussion of and engagement with it. Continue reading The North at The Irish Literary Society→
Was it at night he launched the boat?
The surf was sound,
Thudding, thrashing, arriving, arriving
And he mad to be gone.
Was he a stern commander of his men:
Jerking a slack rope taut,
Skewing a too-straight line;
Or was he the silent type:
Hunched at the prow,
Stinting his energy from tasks
That could as well be done by any,
Knowing himself to be
The only crucial compass for them all?
Whichever, the sea was wide
And the boat small.
The lamp at the masthead swaggered crazily,
A spangle, hoist to light a vaulted dome.
The sea, un-seeable, was chaos, roaring,
Nothing stable but a few stars:
Of all this casting-off and letting go.
In bone-tight cold and swingeing spray
Those on the wind-skinned strand
Watched a departure into black −
No wake, no skyline −
But when the voices shredded
As the sea swung in behind them
Then (since in darkness any light is Light)
The eyes who sought made out an ensign:
The boat itself become a buoyant star.
When the Saint Wavered
At the last moment
He took a small stone with him to the boat,
Roughly round, a solid talisman.
Dry beach, it said among the waves,
Powder; desert; firm, un-tilting mass; stanchion; plumb-drop …
An un-staunched litany:
Praise of the parched or steady
At every touch.
When, after many days, he knew (they knew, all knew)
That they were at a loss,
He weighed in his palm
He felt their anxious, trusting eyes
And let his pumice Jonah go
Over the side.
That night in drifting sleep he heard
A hunter among leaves:
In the pursuit of love, beloved,
You have to risk the throw.
Loser takes all.
With nothing left to hold, be held.
He woke among veils of drizzle, grey as dust,
And the sound of birds:
Their first landfall.
Winter came early for that girl
When the unreturning brother –
The endlessly prevented youth –
Was thrown first in a ditch
And then a grave.
She was the Winter’s girl,
Wearing its icy dress,
So when she saw one parent
Smash the other’s face into a wall
She wasn’t fazed. She understood how well
The rounded skull fits to the palm;
How deep the need to make pain visible since he
Had been hooded when they tortured him.
But she − to Mammy and Daddy both −
She had become
As faint as frost on glass.
Then even the mirrors emptied.
A neighbour, meaning to be kind,
Had asked her to help him set December bulbs,
Late possibilities. She’d cupped a Winter White,
A cranium, papery-skinned and primed,
But when his back was turned
She’d plunged the bulb in upside down,
Cursing it to torment itself
In growing towards the dark.
Since she was a murderer too
She sentenced herself to drink till she was sick
On school-nights out beyond the playing fields.
And only the cold would do.
But a long dormancy
Can keep something alive.
Forty years on, even the Winter tired
Of cold. It dis-adopted her,
Heading for Spring
When she shouldered her dying mother
And felt how well that heavy head
Fitted the hollow below her collar-bone,
In that embrace sensing
A possibility, though late.