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Csilla Toldy joins Sanctuary poetry project

Csilla Toldy Photo ©Alistair Livingstone

I am writing a collection of poetry on the theme of sanctuary.

But I’m not doing it  alone. I’ve sought four other poets to contribute a poem each, written in collaboration with me, though originating with them. This approach is prompted by the notion of opening up a space, hosting, welcoming and also from my desire to open myself up, to learn.

I’m delighted to welcome Csilla Toldy to this collaborative venture.

Two of the Sanctuary poets are from Wales and two from Northern Ireland. Because I live in both places. All have experience of migration or a particular interest in sanctuaries.

Given the sanctuary theme, I have sought a poet in Northern Ireland and one in Wales, who has experience of having been a refugee.

Csilla Toldy is a Hungarian, now living in Northern Ireland. She escaped Communist Hungary in 1981, looking for freedom in the West. She is a European who has experienced being a refugee within Europe. As a film maker and writer she has explored themes of arrival and departure, severance and belonging and I am very pleased that she is bringing her long experience of Sanctuary to this proposed book.

Csilla was born  in Budapest.  She lived in many European countries. She moved to the British Isles with a writer’s visa to work on films in 1995. Her writing was supported by British Screen, Media and Northern Ireland Screen, and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, National Lottery.

She received a Masters Degree in Creative Writing for Film and Television from Sheffield University in 2003. She participated in workshops lead by: Sundance, Arista, The National Film and Television School.

With her scripts she won the Katapult Prize and The Special Prize of the Motion Pictures Association as the Hungarian winner of the Hartley-Merrill Prize. In 2019 she was quarterfinalist at the Big Break Competition of Final Draft. Her film ‘Belfast Exposed’ recently won Best Street Art Film at the Berlin Underground Film Festival. She wrote ‘The Emigrant Woman’s Handbook with Fil Campbell.

Csilla says,

“I am delighted to be asked to contribute to this project for it will give me the chance to revisit and reevaluate my experience of ’sanctuary’ looking back from a long perspective, and find new meanings.  ” Continue reading Csilla Toldy joins Sanctuary poetry project

Inspirational Ballycastle

I am delighted to give a copy of my new book to Ballycastle Library, as seen below in a piece from The Ballycastle Chronicle, 20th October 2020.

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.

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.”


Best of the Books 2019 The Lonely Crowd

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.

Books of the Year 2019 / Part Two

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.

Books of the Year 2019 / Part One




Award from Arts Council N. Ireland & National Lottery

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.


Big Ambitions in “The Big Picture”

Any report whose first word is ‘Although’ is usually heading for a ‘Nevertheless’. ‘Although’ signals an intention to strike out beyond, or push ahead despite, some obstacle, towards a goal that requires a creative sense of the possibilities in a situation and not just the limits.

Hence the significance of the opening sentence of the report from the National Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee: The Big Picture: The Committee’s Initial Views on Broadcasting in Wales.

“Although most aspects of broadcasting and media policy are not devolved to Wales, the role of broadcasters and the media in Wales is of enormous cultural and political importance.”

This simple statement is evidence of an important stage in the maturation of the devolutionary process. Here are AMs, demonstrating, once again, a determination to inhabit as fully as possible the available terrain. Notably, this does not address the issue of the devolution of media policy. It works with present capacity, with what is possible now. Continue reading Big Ambitions in “The Big Picture”