Category Archives: Blog

Short Story in ‘The Honest Ulsterman’

I am particularly pleased to have my short story ‘Runner’ in The Honest Ulsterman, online on Thursday June 28th. Launched 40 years ago as ‘A Handbook for Revolution’, it has showcased world-class writers such as Seamus Heaney, Medbh McGuckian, Michael Longley, Louis McNeice – an amazing list.

Time to pay a personal tribute. Continue reading Short Story in ‘The Honest Ulsterman’

Eborakon: Gwyneth Lewis – Henaint/Old Age

Gwyneth Lewis – Henaint / Old Age, a double pleasure in Welsh and English.

Pleasure despite excruciating pain. I find myself recommending a tormenting thrill. Gwyneth Lewis’s Welsh poem Henaint and her translation of it into English, Old Age are excellent examples of the wonderful double enjoyment that a poet working in two languages can offer. Continue reading Eborakon: Gwyneth Lewis – Henaint/Old Age

Gwyneth Lewis – Henaint / Old Age, a double pleasure in Welsh and English

Pleasure despite excruciating pain. I find myself recommending a tormenting thrill. Gwyneth Lewis’s Welsh poem Henaint and her translation of it into English, Old Age are excellent examples of the wonderful double enjoyment that a poet working in two languages can offer.

To read the Welsh poem and find its adjacent English version is like diving into one pool to discover it linked underwater to a twin, from which one emerges, amazed to have experienced two related worlds whose contents are refracted to the eye and ear by differing slants of colour, angle and echo: an exciting, astonishing experience – and repeatable! Do read these poems now in a special online edition of Eborakon poetry magazine. Continue reading Gwyneth Lewis – Henaint / Old Age, a double pleasure in Welsh and English

Dreams and the Writer: a skewed and fresh perspective?

‘A dream unquestioned is a letter unopened’. Apparently. Do you agree?

Twenty years ago I was in the grip of prolonged and serious physical pain due to a then-undiagnosed condition. I couldn’t work as normal. I spent long periods confined to the house. Someone was very unkind to me and, as a way of acknowledging his fault without having to say it aloud, he handed me a book, saying I might find it of interest. I had plenty of time to read it thoroughly, footnotes and all and, in one of those, discovered a reference to a book that came to mind forcefully this morning.

I woke from a  dream so vivid and engaging that I was able to write down the dialogue between the figures in it and to describe their outward and inward dispositions, partly because I had ‘been’ them all, inhabiting the action from their perspectives. This is not possible in waking life. At least not with the immediate and assured access a dream affords.

This morning’s scenes, I realised, in which I was both multiply participant and also the observer, opened up for me a way to go deeper into a character in the novel I’m writing.

I wonder how common it is for writers to take advantage of what dreams offer? Continue reading Dreams and the Writer: a skewed and fresh perspective?

Novel Research 4- Abandoned: Not Forgotten?

The fourth research trip for my novel (6th – 17th April), coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, was necessarily a time of public reflection, assessment and forecasting about peace and conflict, in great depth and with many of the major actors back in the spotlight.

Bill Clinton receives the Freedom of the City of Belfast

Continue reading Novel Research 4- Abandoned: Not Forgotten?

Novel Research, Kindness and Methodology

The third research trip for my novel started and ended with snow. My flight from Cardiff to Belfast was delayed by 23 inches of it near the airport and by another fall on the return but I encountered nothing other than warmth from the people I met in Northern Ireland.

It was a pleasure to spend time with teachers, schoolchildren, community workers, experts in Irish and Ulster Scots, journalists, farmers and agricultural experts. I also enjoyed two great reading gigs and came home with a prize certificate.

Receiving Commended certificate in Bangor Literary Journal 40 Words Poetry Competition from Poet, Moyra Donaldson

Continue reading Novel Research, Kindness and Methodology

Novel Research, Kindness and Trauma

Research Trip 2 for my novel, from 21st January to 2nd February in Northern Ireland, gave me access to generously shared experience and expertise from writers, sociologists, historians, academics, journalists, teachers and an educationalist, former civil servants, librarians, language activists, clergy, lawyers, a farmer, a statistician, a youth worker and many who shared from the cutting edge of their painfully gained experience.

I was struck too by the kindness with which I was treated.

I cannot do justice to the events and individuals who gave me their time. I will, however, single out, among the public events I attended,  the conference organised by the Ulster University Faculty of Health and Life Sciences: Addressing the Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma and Mental Illness in Northern Ireland.

I had noticed something of a narrative about Northern Ireland along the lines of: the effect of the Troubles is exaggerated; it’s all behind us now and I wanted to get beyond personal opinion to some facts about ‘legacy’ and ‘impact’.

Logo of the Institute of Mental Health Sciences, University of Ulster

Continue reading Novel Research, Kindness and Trauma