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Celebration in Washington of Northern Irish female writers

A lovely start to the year – a writerly celebration of Nollaig na mBan (Christmas of the Women). It was an Irish tradition that women had a day off household work on the feast of the Epiphany, the 6th January, the last day of the Christmas season).

On Wednesday 5th January at 17.30 ET/10.30pm UK time) the Irish Network DC has arranged a zoom reading of work from North Star, an anthology of work by female writers from Northern Ireland. This  was published by Women Aloud NI, a burgeoning network of women writers.

Angeline King, Gráinne Tobin, Shelley Tracey and I will be reading our work from the anthology.

The event is supported by the Irish Embassy in the USA, the Northern Ireland Bureau (the Northern Ireland Executive’s diplomatic arm in the USA) and the Irish American Partnership.

I’m particularly pleased to be reading a poem which has a link to America. As for many Irish people, emigration has resulted in my having relatives across the United States and this poem is about an appearance of my grandfather at his great-grand-daughter’s wedding, all the way from America.

KINTRA BBC Radio Ulster

My Ulster-Scots poem A Heerd Tha Sodjer on Tha Radio was featured on BBC Radio Ulster’s KINTRA

The poem won first prize in the inaugural  Linen Hall Ulster-Scots Writing Competition. It’s about the evacuations from Kabul in August. A person in Ulster hearing a British soldier talking on the radio about preventing people from accessing the airport. His vivid account sweeps the listener up into a tragic event and into the trauma suffered by the soldier. Listening in the safety of home, thousands of miles away, how can one react to such circumstances?

It isn’t often a poet gets to listen in on a discussion of a poem and, thankfully, this one was entirely positive. I was particularly struck by co-presenter, Rab Lennox’s reaction. He made the point that every time he’d heard about that evacuation situation it was always reported in English ‘but tae hear it in yer ain tongue, it maks it all tha mair real.. It shakes ye.’

Poet, Anne McMaster commented on the strong emotional current in the poem and said that when she writes in Ulster-Scots she is going ‘tae tha wurds that lift frae yer hairt’, as though writing in Ulster-Scots drives the process down a layer, deeper into her emotion.

Presenter, Helen Mark, in an interview with me, said that I had used, ‘rich, strong Ulster-Scots… for a very just-happened, modern-day’ story. Ulster-Scots is, to me, very much about ‘present experience and everyday life.’

It was a pleasure to hear Gary Morgan, who won second prize for poetry, in an interview with Jonny Crawford. Gary is from Carnlough , or ‘Carnla’, as locals say. He talked about growing up in a Catholic background and what that meant ‘tae us weans’. HIs poem, ‘The Confeshion’ is about a child’s experience of recounting his sins and the interaction between parish and home. He said that ‘sometimes Ulstèr-Scots has, maybe unfairly, been seen as a Presbyterian language and  that’s not a hundred percent true… where I live it would be quite a diverse community an everybody wud engage in speakin in wurds o Ulster-Scots at some time o the day an I just wanted tae maybe inspire ither people tae show an interest an express themelves through tha Ulster-Scots.’

 

1st Prize Poetry – Linen Hall Ulster-Scots Writing Competition

I’m very, very pleased to have won 1st Prize for Poetry in the inaugural Linen Hall Ulster-Scots Writing Competition. It’s a tremendous encouragement.
The 1st Prize for Prose was won by Alan Millar. Second prize for Poetry went to Gary Morgan, and in Prose to Angeline King. The competitions were supported by the Ulster-Scots Agency.
The Linen Hall Library is opposite the city hall in Belfast. It was founded in 1788 and remains an independent library.
In the words of the late Seamus Heaney, former Patron and Honorary Member of the Library, “…the very words ’the Linen Hall Library’ represent not just books, but better hopes for the way we live.”
My poem is about the evacuations of people from Kabul in August 2021. The judges’ adjudication includes these comments:
This is a really touching & heartfelt piece of work made even stronger by the Ulster Scots in which it speaks truths in a non-narcisstic & open way to which many could relate… in the modern world it speaks of.

Continue reading 1st Prize Poetry – Linen Hall Ulster-Scots Writing Competition

Derry Launch of Local Wonders 3 Dec

The pedigree of Dedalus Press is enviable. Founded in 1985, it is one of the leading publishers of poetry in Ireland.  Its editor, Pat Boran has selected the contents of this new anthology.

Dedalus invited poets to contribute to

a poetry map of the island of Ireland, south and north, a map like no other.

‘We want to recognise and celebrate the power of poetry to guide, to heal, to console and to reassure, to offer a necessary glimpse of otherness and elsewhere in troubling times such as these.

‘By Local Wonders we mean the things, places and experiences (the smaller the better) that, over the past year or so … have kept us connected to and inspired by the world immediately around us… we’re interested in seeing the country on a truly local scale, as if through a zoomed-in lens, and in seeing that seeing happening. Which is not to say we want to retreat from the wider world or shut it out of our minds. On the contrary; as in ecology so too in poetry – think global, act local.’
I immediately wanted to offer a poem. Lockdown for me meant Ballycastle, County Antrim. My daily walk was the Carrickmore Road, behind my house. This little road skirts the last cliffs before the land gives way to the Sea of Moyle – very much a place on the edge of the island.
Just after lockdown ended I was walking there as usual when I had a kind of vision. I saw the cliffs and hedges and bushes as though in a new light. I saw, radiating from beneath – from within –  the familiar scene a quality that must always have been present but not perceived by me. It was a gift.
I wondered if the sequestration of lockdown had rinsed my eyes of some customary film and allowed me new sight. Perhaps it was, as Dedalus says, ‘a necessary glimpse of otherness’ but, though I can see that element in the experience, it seemed rather that my surroundings were revealing, not so much otherness (stressing a gap between us) but rather something of their genuine nature alongside my own.
Perhaps,  I had shed some preoccupations or been re-set, to some degree, by the pandemic circumstances and was more capable of ‘reading’ my surroundings as they really are.

DERRY LAUNCH

 

Poets featured in the anthology appeared either in person or virtually at the Centre for Contemporary Art in the heart of Derry city.  Hosted by Cat Brogan

Little Acorns bookstore has the anthology available to buy. Online purchase via Local Wonders – Dedalus Press

Local Wonders can be ordered here

VISION, NORTH ANTRIM

The Carrickmore Road hems my parish of Culfeightrin

where its townlands − Broughanlea, Drumaroan, Tornabodagh, Tornaroan −

dip their skirts into the Sea of Moyle

(with a last flounce of grassy clefts, precarious caravans

and a beading of white houses)

before relinquishing themselves

to waves that take the colour of the sky, a jumbled grey.

 

Here all is profusely, wetly, Irishly grey or green;

even the light arrives through a dampened veil yet

pagoda roofs, crimson

− the hedges are full of them.

Each dangles a furl of imperial purple,

a firework spurting tiny comets

down to a mossy sky.

 

That veil’s dissolving. I see

sulphur-yellow sunbursts in the ditch;

hard globes of military red strung on the bushes

for a brash tattoo; cockades – vermilion –

tossed up among the brambles by a hidden crowd;

medals of cerise pinned to the ferny cliffs; corsages of

hot lavender, burnt orange, the colour lucifer…

 

Is it because I’ve reached this edge

that I have eyes at last to see

what has been burning always

within my coolest day?

 

After these months of paring down, let me keep

my vision stripped,

here where there is no further north.

A Poem in Black Bough Poetry’s Christmas/Winter edition

They’ll soon be here! And I am very pleased to have had a poem accepted for Black Bough Poetry’s anthology for Christmas / Winter 2021

If you like imagist poetry, short and intense, this could be the present for the poet in your life. Last year’s edition was beautifully illustrated by Emma Bissonnet. Continue reading A Poem in Black Bough Poetry’s Christmas/Winter edition

Poems in 2 Arachne Press publications

I’m delighted to have a poem accepted for 2 publications by Arachne Press : A470 and Words From The Brink.

An Irishwoman is Introduced to the Major Roads of Wales will appear  in March next year in the anthology  A470

Because I Have Been Complacent About Climate Change will appear in the anthology Words from the Brink and at the Solstice Shorts Festival this December. Continue reading Poems in 2 Arachne Press publications

Llandeilo Lit Fest: Writing Wales – incomer & native

Have you ever read a book about a place you know well and thought No, that’s not it at all!

What are the challenges to an incomer writing well about a place they weren’t born and raised in? Is  the perspective of a native inherently more valid? Do the relative merits complement each other or clash?

Tickets

Sun 25th April 4pm English
Debut Authors: Writing Wales | Sponsored by Mari Thomas Jewellery

Join debut authors, Welsh woman, Angela Johnson and Belfast-born Angela Graham, as they discuss their experiences of putting Wales on the page in their new books, Arianwen, a warm and witty novel set in West Wales, and A City Burning, a confident collection of stories set in Wales, Ireland and Italy.

Arianwen has been described as ‘brilliantly evocative’ with ‘lilting Welsh rhythms and poetic imagery’; A City Burning was named ‘ a book of the year’ by Nation Cymru in 2020, and described as ‘wonderful’ by the Irish Examiner.

I’d like to think ahead to my session alongside Angela Johnson, author of Arianwen.

I was born and raised in Belfast. I’ve had to ‘learn’ Wales. I’ve written stories about Welsh people and places (some partly in Welsh) in my collection, A City Burning. Does my perception differ from that of a native? Yes, I believe it does. Do I get Wales and the Welsh ‘right’? Right by whose criteria? Continue reading Llandeilo Lit Fest: Writing Wales – incomer & native