Thursday, November 30, 2017

On the 50th anniversary of Patrick Kavanagh's Death

Patrick Kavanagh died on this day fifty years ago - 30th November 1967 - and I cannot let the day pass without paying my respects to him and pausing to reflect on one of my all-time favourite poets. For now, I'm just going to post one of his poems below, 'Innocence' and I am hopeful of finding a quiet moment to write more in the coming days about Kavanagh and his poetry and, specifically, about my memories of curating the programme of events for his centenary year, thirteen years ago, in 2004.

Patrick Kavanagh saving the hay in 1934 with his sister, Josie and brother Peter

As I move through a different phase of life now, with two small boys of my own and the wisdom of experience, Kavanagh's words remain radiant as ever. The poet's confidence in stating that 'love's doorway to life / is the same doorway everywhere' still resonates, as does his celebration of the everyday, the simple things and 'the placeless Heaven that's under all our noses'. Kavanagh urges us to pay attention; he said that 'to get to know even a small field is a lifetime's exploration'. The subject of 'Innocence' is the little field his mother purchased for him in 1926, which is still visible under Rocksavage Fort in Inniskeen. The reluctant farmer preferred to use the hedges as shelving for his books! 

Nobody is laughing at Patrick's 'hungry hills' now. To those of you who have yet to visit Kavanagh Country, I would urge you to do so as soon as you can and, especially, to call into his former parish church, which is now the Patrick Kavanagh Rural and Literary Resource Centre. And if you are fortunate enough to encounter the very wonderful Rosaleen Kearney - Kavanagh expert and all-round exceptional human being - please give her my very best.

They laughed at one I loved—
The triangular hill that hung
Under the Big Forth. They said
That I was bounded by the whitethorn hedges
Of the little farm and did not know the world.
But I knew that love's doorway to life
Is the same doorway everywhere.
Ashamed of what I loved
I flung her from me and called her a ditch
Although she was smiling at me with violets.
But now I am back in her briary arms
The dew of an Indian Summer morning lies
On bleached potato-stalks—
What age am I?
I do not know what age I am,
I am no mortal age;
I know nothing of women,
Nothing of cities,
I cannot die
Unless I walk outside these whitethorn hedges.

Patrick Kavanagh

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Getting set to teach Appreciation of Poetry at NUI Galway again

Only a few days left - until this Friday - to book a place on the 'Appreciation of Poetry' course I'll be teaching for Adult Education at NUI, Galway, which starts next Tuesday, 3 October at 7pm. Contact Berna Morgan on 091-494055 to book your spot. Full details on page 6 of the NUI Galway Short Courses booklet here
Poems by a variety of Irish and international writers, including Louis MacNiece, William Carlos Williams, Pablo Neruda, Frank O’Hara, Elizabeth Bishop, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Paula Meehan and many others will be explored in a lively, informal atmosphere. Some of the themes addressed include: how poetry is made; the sonnet; the villanelle and forms of rhyme; poetry in free verse; language and vision in ekphrasis; image, nature and description in the haiku; poetry of common things and the antipoetic and spoken word. Let's put the adventure back in reading poetry; lets find the music and fun in prosody! Here's the inimitable Kim Addonizo doing just that:

Prosody Pathetique
Trochees tear your heart to tatters.
Lovers leave you broken, battered.
Fuck you, fuck off: spondees. So what.
Get high. Drop dead. Who cares. Life sucks.
Dactyls are you getting boozed in your underwear,
thinking of someone who used to be there.
These are iambs: Dolor. Despair.
And going on and on about your pain,
and sleeping pills, and dark and heavy rain.
Now for the anapests: in the end, you’re alone.
In the bag, in the dark; in a terrible rut.
With a smirk, in a wink, the wolves tear you apart.
Kim Addonizio

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Exciting News: New Director of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature

We are on the cusp of June and I'm surprised to discover that I haven’t blogged in a full six months! Don’t consign me to the netherworld of dormant Blogspot sites just yet though – I have some valid excuses! It’s been a roller coaster of vicissitudes since the turn of the year, replete with health scares, the tragic loss of an old friend, and our two boys catching horrible flu viruses (we are all fine again, thankfully) but also with bright new career and extra-curricular opportunities. In March I was invited to be the Guest Editor of the next couple of issues of The Weary Blues - a neat online journal of literature and art founded by writer and digital humanities scholar, James O'Sullivan of New Binary Press. I’m thoroughly enjoying the range of themes and vibrant voices in all the work I’ve received to date. While our window for submissions for Issue 8 just closed last Friday (26 May), don’t worry if you missed this submission period as it will reopen for issue 9 anon. Keep an eye out here and on The Weary Blues website for further details soon.

Another development I'm excited to report relates to my professional life. After lovingly attending the Cúirt International Festival of Literature as an audience member for many years, (since I first came to Galway to study for my BA back in the early 1990s….oops am I giving away my age now?), the planets have aligned, and last month I was appointed Programme Director of the very same festival. Cúirt has brought many joyful memories over the years, of hearing great authors read their work and interact with other writers, and then of getting to meet them in person as they signed books (see pic below), or spying literary luminaries such as J.M. Coetzee sauntering down Eglinton street in the afternoon during the festival week.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tobias Wolff at the 2016
Cúirt International Festival of Literature
It is an honour to be appointed to this post and I’m already imagining new generative possibilities for the festival, engaging themes, potential collaborations and interesting pairings of writers and interviewers, etc. (The Connaught Tribune published a short piece about my experience as an arts curator and recent appointment to Cúirt last month here.)
So maybe now I can somewhat justify the citadel of books that is our home with evidence of my sprees in Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, Kennys and the Book Depository overflowing in every nook and cranny of our house! My husband – also a bibliophile, but not as much of a book hoarder as me – is uncommonly forgiving and, thankfully, a great assembler of bookcases! Watch this space for gradual announcements of highlights for Cúirt 2018 (23-29 April) which I may be able to sneakily share with you on the QT over the coming months….!