My poem ‘Thaw’ appears in Black Bough – Deep Time 2 & among my poems which make up the January 2021 Silver Branch feature. here
This poem, ‘Freedom’ will appear in Black Bough Poetry’s Freedom / Rapture edition in 2021.
It’s also in Black Bough Poetry’s Silver Branch series which features a poet every month. My work is in January 2021. here
Among the 26 stories in ‘A City Burning’, many are set around the coastline.
The area is inspirational and the library is certainly keen to inspire writers and readers.
I can’t wait to see my book on the shelf in the library, in due course.
Two of the stories were written during lockdown. The setting of one is partly inspired by a stretch of Ballycastle Beach.
A City Burning is published by Seren Books.
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.
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.
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,
Cross Roads will appear in Gaynor’s debut poetry collection Venus in pink marble, soon to be released by Hedgehog Poetry Press. Website: www.gaynorkane.com
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.
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.
Two contemporary poems and some fantastic music from this album –
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.
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
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.
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.”
I’ve recommended three poets in Part Two of this fascinating list of reading tips from Welsh journal The Lonely Crowd: Glyn Edwards, Glen Wilson and Jean Bleakney.
Damian Smyth of Arts Council of Northern Ireland notes writers from Ireland who feature in Parts One and Two of this exceptionally-useful series of bestofs … much here to pursue, purchase & read . These include Caitlin Newby and Scott McKendry.
Notice taken here of Eilís Ní Dhuibhne’s gripping memoir Twelve Thousand Days: A Memoir of Love & Loss; Ciaran Carson’s final collection Still Life and & Frank Ormsby’s The Rain Barrel.
All Things Considered – 9am on Sunday 8th December – reviews the year in Film. I had great fun doing this with Peter Francis, Warden of Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden and musician and tech entrepreneur, Nigel Ipinson Fleming. Roy Jenkins steered our debate.
I am thrilled to receive an award from the Support for Individual Artists Programme (SIAP) of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Lottery funds.
This will help to fund a project on Place and Displacement. I will be working in poetry, memoir and fiction.
I appreciate this support very much in what will be a challenging undertaking.