Tag Archives: poetry

Cork Spring Literary Festival Wrap-Up

There were many sad faces as Cork Spring Literary Festival came to an end – but there were also a few relieved faces dotted in the crowd (organising and attending four days of poetry is no mean feat). But what I noticed most was that everyone walked away contented – sated with stunning poetry and prose and, in many cases, loaded up with a host of new friends.

The final day saw Catch The Moon collective, made up of four female poets (Tina Pisco, Cathy D’Arcy, Shirley McClure and guest Geraldine Mitchell) and one female harpist (Anya backer), take the stage. The format was brilliant – four themes, each clearly introduced, followed by a musical introduction and then two poems on that theme from each poet. The chosen themes on the last day of the festival (picked, says Tina Pisco, “in terms of where we’re reading, the time of year and how we feel that day”) were ‘spring, body, love and writing’. The combination of music and poetry worked magically and as each poet revealed their personal take on each theme, the audience gained an insight into the different voices and experiences of four very different women.

Gerry Murphy, Julijana Velickovska and Dave Lordan also gave a fabulous reading, which Lory Manrique-Hyland described as “electric, funny, revealing, intense and fun”. You can read Lory’s full account here. And we were also treated to four poetry-based films; Paul Casey’s adaptation of Ian Duhig’s The Lammas Hireling, a short film by Maram al-Masri, the BBC classic with John Betjeman interviewing Philip Larkin, and Liz O’Donoghue’s masterpiece which featured all of Cork’s finest poets in 1999/2000; In the Hands of Erato.

Three poets, Patrick Cotter, Leanne O’Sullivan (both from Ireland) and Maram al-Masri (Syria), wrapped up the proceedings. The man behind the event, it was the first time Patrick had included himself in the festival programme, despite the fact that he has been the organiser for the last ten years. So it was a real pleasure to hear some of his stunning new poems. Maram’s poetry was as beautiful, sensual and enticing as the poet herself; if you haven’t had chance to see Maram in action, she is one of the most alluring individuals I have ever met – no wonder all available copies of her book sold out immediately after the reading. Leanne provided the perfect close to the festival, with evocative, imaginative and touching poetry, steeped in Irish landscape, relationships and history. It’s been amazing to watch the changes in Leanne’s poetry over the years, and this was one of her most mature and enchanting readings to date.

Although it’s always a shame when something wonderful comes to an end, I leave the festival behind with a glad heart. From the organisation to the programme to the kindness and friendliness of all the writers, as well as the Munster Literature Centre staff, this has been a truly inspiring few days, the memories of which will last a lifetime.


Leave a comment

Filed under Elizabeth Rose Murray

Gerry Murphy, Dave Lordan & Julijana Velichkovska by Lory Manrique-Hyland

Saturday evening, second to last event in the Cork Spring Literary festival was: electric, funny, revealing, intense and fun.

I’d been across McCurtain Street grabbing a bite between events with Nuala Ní Chonchúir (Chinese waiter told me they had no tofu, but both Nuala and her husband’s meals came with tofu – curious). Nuala was enjoying the literary festival, in town ahead of her reading at O’Bheal Monday night (21 Feb at the Long Valley, Cork).

I rushed into the festival venue at the last minute, after my tofu-free dinner, and grabbed the last seat in the corner. The Douglas Vance room at the Metropole was packed – its fullest night of all, I think. Pat Cotter (Poet and Director of both Festival and Munster Literature Centre) remarked on the turn out. It was fantastic to see a poetry even so well attended.

Gerry Murphy was already on stage when I ran in. He’s as hilarious and irreverent in person as you think he’d be from reading his material. In pauses during readings, most writers and poets sip on water; Gerry sipped on a long neck bottle of beer.  It was also my first time hearing the word “clitoris” used in a poem, but I don’t get out much.

I was seated behind Conal Creedon. I stared at the back of his head while Gerry read, noticing that his hair was perfectly coiffed. I’m a fidgeter by nature, and kept rustling the pages of my program, crossing and uncrossing my legs, knocking the back of Conal’s seat. Eventually, he got up and stood at the back of the room. As the Irish say, I was morto (that’s short for “mortified”, for you non-Irish.)

I was shocked into not fidgeting for several minutes when Gerry all of a sudden asked, “Is Lory Manrique-Hyland here?” I waved at him from way back in my corner (behind Conal Creedon’s empty chair).  He went on to tell the audience that I’d thrown a chicken leg at him, in some sort of Cuban Voodoo ritual. (Like there’s room for that sort of thing in the back of the Boqueria tapas bar.) I’d read the night before from my novel Revolutions, set mainly in Cuba, and I must’ve made him fearful. Fortunately, Gerry doesn’t hold a grudge, and dedicated this poem to me: Memories of ‘El Jefe’ and the Cuban Revolution (from his latest poetry collection My Flirtation with International Socialism, Dedalus Press, Dublin, Ireland, 2010).

For the record, the greasy chicken bone popped out from between my fingers and landed on his lap like a tiny harpoon.

Next up was Dave Lordan, who did not drink beer (on stage). He started with a popular poem, The Boy in the Ring. His reading, of this and all his poems, was powerful. His voice was clear and projection fantastic. His background in performance poetry showed. Though restrained in the setting and confines of a literary festival stage, he maintained a powerful presence.  Other poems which stood out for me were one about his alcoholic Uncle who’d stay up all night drinking tea when he was trying to kick the booze (unsuccessfully, by the way); and another delivered in the voice of a crazed, fascist town committee member. I also liked his reading of Da, the Melodeon, written for Pat Cotter. His poetry is both “pure Irish” and universal. It’s exciting to hear and watch.

Last up was Julijana Velichkovska, a Macedonian poet, writer, artist and translator. Julijana has a gorgeous voice, like the ringing of a bell. Wonderfully, she read poems in both her native tongue and in English. I don’t know what Macedonian looks like on the printed page (Slavic, I believe), but the sound of it is lovely. Her poetry was full of energy– both pent up sexual energy and the energy of resistance. She has a unique take on love. A highlights in her reading included Fuck Off, Disney. I agree, Julijana! She ended her last poem singing the words “Just Dance,” which left everyone laughing and clapping.

We broke for a 20 minute drinking and book buying frenzy before the last event of the festival started at 9. When I stood for the break, I noticed Conal Creedon still standing at the back of the room. He was pleasant to me that evening, but I bet he won’t sit near me again.

Lory Manrique-Hyland blogs at http://motherblogging.blogspot.com 
You can also follow her on twitter: @lorymanrique
or Facebook: facebook.com/ManriqueHyland


Filed under Cork Spring Literary Festival

What’s the theme? – Day 3 of Cork Spring Literary Festival

It is said that every possible theme has already been covered in the arts, so whether it’s a love poem, a still life painting or a war film you’re working on – it’s all been done before. Yet, throughout history, literature and storytelling has thrived, and they continue to thrive. So if it’s all been done before, how can writers create fresh, exciting pieces of work that can attract and thrill an audience?

Day three of the Cork Spring Literary Festival demonstrated the answer to this question as another six talented writers took to the stage to share their work with us, each taking inspiration from different areas to create a colourful evening of literary goodness.

Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh gave us evocative poems in Irish, accompanied by their English translation. Alibhe explored unexpected themes, such as a whistling language in the Pyrenees which as now disappeared, payments received for hunted wolves, and a Basque-country shouting language which ends with the stunning line, “we’d be frog voiced and full of love.” As a talented linguist and poet, Ailbhe provided an original platform from which the audience could learn about antiquated, extinct languages and historical events.

Matthew Sweeney took a different approach, reinventing the ordinary, making everyday occurrences come alive before turning them into something magical or bizarre. I loved the poem Fish and Chips which switched from a person enjoying this simple meal to the viewpoint of a gull, dreaming about setting up his own fish and chip shop on a remote island, complete with a bird poetry radio station. Sweeney also gave insight into how writers find their inspiration after reading The Glass Chess Set, saying; “I read that poem to my brother, he said, ‘Dad didn’t play chess’ – I said, ‘poets have to lie their way to the truth’.”

With incredible stage presence, Catherine Smith read several poems which used her own experiences as a youth as their focus, creating a personal, “confessional” touch. With comical and familiar themes such as skiving school to watch bad TV programmes (How it All Started), underage drinking (Snakebite) and lack of confidence (Smoking and Reading Nietzsche in the Cardoma), Smith included her audience, drawing them in by asking questions. Smith revealed, with much hilarity, that one of her students told her that during an MA in the US, grandparents were highlighted as a banned topic – before launching into a poem about grandparents. In addition she had a few poems that used dreams as inspiration, saying “dreams have their own truth, their own force.” Another idea that Smith raised was that when writing; “you can explore experiences you haven’t had in real life.

The series of poems by Valerie Rouzeau were even more personal, taking the “write about what you know, what moves you” route. An incredibly emotive poet, Rouzeau’s poems were laden with anguish and loss but filled with stunning ideas and beautiful images such as; “the snow has dreams she doesn’t know about.” Rouzeau brought the audience on a journey, carrying them along beside her in the train carriage as she hurries to see her dying father, drawing the audience in further still as she experiences waves of regret, anger and hurt after his death. Rejecting black as colour of mourning, “I can spend whole days thinking of you in blue”, Rouzeau’s deeply touching theme and passionate approach guaranteed the audience was enthralled, right up to the final line uttered; “I wanted to see you but you shut your eyes too tight.

When Ian Duhig took the stage, it was clear that many of his poems were centred on the joy of language and joy of verbal dexterity. Covering a variety of themes, each with a strong sense of place, Duhig mixed social consciousness and politics with humour. His first poem was what he referred to as “the most unsuccessful love poem ever – in fact, the person it was written for two decades ago still hates it.” Like Ailbhe, Duhig also had a historical element to his poems, where “masked gods walk among us as a test”, looking towards examples from the past for modern solutions. Particularly potent were the series of ‘navvies’ poems, including Jericho Shanty and Ornithology, where “the Navvies cry is the pick-bird song.”

Closing the evening with the first chapter of her novel, Lory Manrique-Hyland’s reading contained a delicate yet colourful mixture of an American childhood and displaced Cuban roots (which received a dedication the following evening from Gerry Murphy). Filled with superstition, pace, punchy dialogue and vibrancy, the characters leapt into the audience with a vigour that only such a personal understanding of a situation could enable.

I guess the answer to the question I posed earlier – how can writers create fresh, exciting pieces of work that can attract and thrill an audience? – is that there isn’t a single source of inspiration. There are ideas to be found in all areas of life – whether personal or imaginary, truth or lies, rooted in politics, history or the every day. But the key is writing about it so skilfully, so passionately and so convincingly that it can move an audience, taking them outside (or inside) their own lives, and come out feeling informed, entertained and renewed.



Leave a comment

Filed under Elizabeth Rose Murray

Dad – A Poem by Adam Wyeth



I’ll always remember those Sunday drives home.

How a blackening silence came over us

with the night. I’d look back at the road

we set out on when our weekend had begun:


singing songs, stopping at petrol stations

in the back of beyond, turning off the beaten

track and finding a pub for lunch –

with swings and climbing frames to play on.


But all that was fading fast, as signs marked

the dwindling miles, oncoming headlights

dazzled us, the final catseyes blinked past

and the road emptied – losing its nerve


as we curved off the motorway. Then the real

darkness set in – and the chill of parting

made me numb. I’d run upstairs to my room

without a word spoken, and out the corner


of my window watch your silver Citroen slip

into the night; a final sliver of light then total eclipse.

Another week of staring into space in classrooms,

waiting for our next outing all together. Save mum.


From Adam Wyeth’s forthcoming poetry collection, Silent Music.


Adam Wyeth will be launching his book with a wine reception tomorrow, Saturday 19th February, at 2pm FREE event, all welcome.

Leave a comment

Filed under Adam Wyeth

James Harpur, Tomas Lieske and William Wall

The next event saw three excellent poets come together to deliver two hours of literary joy.

First to read was James Harpur, a poet with four collections of poetry published by Anvil Press, who has won a number of awards, including the 2009 Michael Hartnett Award and the British National Poetry Competition. George Szirtes described one of Harpur’s readings as ‘beautiful … melancholy, monastic, mystical, like prayers shaped out of despair with the hearsay of some small light just over the horizon’. This certainly describes the effect of his poetry as his poetry spilled out into the crowd.

From the hypnotic use of repetition (“unless it was the swish of scythes/ the swish of scythes”) to the mastery of closing lines (“So I might rise like Adam, ribs intact” – Ode to an Osteopath), Harpur’s poetry tantalised, beguiled and unnerved (“There’s one night that awaits us all/ And only one road that leads there/ It won’t take long to say a prayer /And then you can hurry on your way”) the audience. My particular favourite was The Leper’s Squint – a poem based on a type of letterbox built into a cathedral wall so that lepers could reach through to receive blessings: “On the North wall, a wide dark slit/ I picture fingers poking in like shoots.”

You can read samples of Harpur’s poems on his website, here.

Next to read was Tomas Lieske, a poet who describes himself as a late starter, having debuted at the age of 38 with poetry published in the literary journals Tirade and De Revisor. Since then, he has written several novels, receiving the Libris Literature Prize for Franklin (2001) and the VSB Poetry Award for his collection of poetry Hoe je geliefde te herkennen (How to Recognize Your Lover, 2006).

From the outset, it was clear that magic, myth, and chance play a central role in Lieske’s universe. From the celestial images in A Caravan of Salt, where a train of camels disappeared and “emerged into swaying starships”, to the “wordless dream-balloon speech” of The Eggshell, every word in Lieske’s poetry contains a wealth of possibilities. We were also treated to the fabulously titled “The Blushing Beast” and a reading of the poem that Tomas donated to the blog earlier in the month, How to Recognise your Lover.

To finish the evening, William Wall regaled us with an array of poems and the fabulously witty story I Bought a Heart which had the audience roaring with laughter.

The author of four novels, two collections of poetry and a volume of short fiction, William’s 2005 novel This Is The Country was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. A collection of poetry entitled Black Ice is scheduled for publication by Salmon in Summer 2011 and his next collection “The Ghost estate” will be launched on April 21st in the Farmgate Cafe, Cork (a date for your diaries).

Starting his reading with the claim that “it turns out that they lied to us…as a kid I was told that Ireland was defined by its language and landscape – but it turned out its the property market”, Wall set the scene for the darkly comic delights to follow.

From the hilarious to the haunting, Wall brought the audience through a journey of realism; half-finished housing estates, where “if you lived there, you’d be home by now,” nightmarish supermarkets, pulling us through the “police state of mind” and “fruit psychosis”. We were treated to love poems (“if you can call them Valentine’s poems, my wife Liz is doubtful”) which interspersed the mundane with beautifully touching lines such as “I am crazy with you/ after thirty years of the same” and “I love your sleepy head.” The end goal? To make us laugh and marvel at our own foibles.

And laugh we most certainly did as Wall launched into I bought a heart which proved to be the perfect end to a fabulous evening – I  spoil it for you, but I do recommend you get hold of a copy and read it for yourself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cork Spring Literary Festival, Elizabeth Rose Murray

Chamber Music – a poem by Adam Wyeth

Chamber Music


The one piece of music that churns my stomach

is Schubert’s Quintet in C.


Since my grandmother told me

this is what Nazi officers played full volume


to drown out the moans of millions of Jews

as they were led into those rooms.


No matter how stirring a pitch the violins reach,

or how plangently the rasping cellos sigh –


I see their gaunt naked forms fall like flies

in a poisonous fog, reduced to cow pat


lining the floors, then shit-shovelled into pits –

while the whole movement plays over and again


never reaching the end, like a scratched record

that keeps jumping back.


From Adam Wyeth’s forthcoming poetry collection, Silent Music.

Adam Wyeth will be launching his book with a wine reception on Saturday 19th February 2pm FREE event, all welcome.

Leave a comment

Filed under Adam Wyeth

May The Road Rise – a poem by Adam Wyeth

From Adam Wyeth’s forthcoming poetry collection, Silent Music.

*(to be read from the bottom-up)




a warning to

on the tip of its black tongue


every notice revealing a lyric:

to the highway of the stars;

lighting up the banks like a runway

of whitethorn and gorse

lead back in time to a hedgerow

signposts pointing the wrong way

in the middle of nowhere

scuttling off to die

like a wounded animal

then coming to an end

a fairy ring road

or branching off

over a new leaf

each bend turning

like Celtic knots

going round in circles

through ancient riddles of hills

twist and snail

their blarney boreens

Irish roads

tell a different tale

and their high-speed highways.

emblematic of America

he scribbled On The Road

of tracing paper

one hundred and twenty-foot scroll

like Jack Kerouac’s

in my rear view mirror,

in an endless scrawl

and fall beneath –

would rise to meet me

I’d make it so each line

If I was to write a poem on the road

*May The Road Rise


Adam Wyeth will be launching his book with a wine reception on Saturday 19th February at 2pm FREE event, all welcome.

Leave a comment

Filed under Adam Wyeth