Thursday, 17 August 2017

Submission Call: Poems about Poetry

Lagan Online Submission Call: 
Poems about Poetry

Creative writing tutors, editors, and sometimes other poets will all tell you the same thing when it comes to your writing: “never write poems about poetry“ It’s too obvious, it’s too commonplace, it’s clichéd, and it’s dangerously insipid.

Well, we say damn that. We want your poems about the very thing itself: the art of poetry. Whether reading it, writing it, poetry as survival, as raison d’être, trying to make sense of it, mourning it, challenging it, let us have it.

We've had some great work through for our Poems About Poetry submission call. We'll be publishing the best ones in a free e-chapbook, available for download at the end of the month. Here's the cover...

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Reading at Eastside Arts Festival

A big thanks to everyone who attended our special Over The Edge / Poetry NI event last night at EastSide Visitor Centre for the EastSide Arts Festival, we had a great time reading for you and experiencing all your poems. A sold out crowd for a Monday night is amazing (poets usually haven't sobered up by then...)!

It was a thrill to read along the great and talented Kevin Higgins and Susan Millar DuMars, a rare double husband-and-wife teaming!

Big props to Rachel Kennedy for allowing us to do the gig in the first place, Matt McIvor for being an amazing soundman, and Gaynor Kane for handling tickets, registration and everything else, and of course to all the poets who came along and shared their work in the open mic.

I was reading poems from The A to Z of Belfast project that I did in 2015 under an ACNI General Arts Award. 'I have looked for inspiration' still gets me riled...

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Paying the Price for Poetry

So, at Purely Poetry last night, after we started, I noticed a few latecomers arrive and not pay at reception. After the first speaker, I welcomed them with a friendly reminder to pay at the front desk. Two went and paid. A group of four without tickets decided to walk out. Well, excuse me that we ask you to depart with your hard earnt cash to support the daily operations of the fine and upstanding arts centre that is the Crescent! "What, pay for poetry? Fuck that!" Well thank you. F**k you. Bye!

Thursday, 3 August 2017


#showerthoughts Biscuits should come with a 'dunkability rating' so you know how long you can dip one in your tea before it breaks off.

(Added: tweeted this. Got a reply back saying "Is this the most British tweet ever?")

Friday, 12 May 2017

Poetry Mentor - Irish Writer's Centre

I'm now officially a poetry mentor with the Irish Writers Centre, offering one-to one mentoring. If could you use a trained eye to help you finish your book of poetry, looking some feedback and guidance on your poems, as well as friendly advice and general pointers, then I am available.

The Irish Writers Centre has developed a panel of Professional Members who are published and experienced authors or industry professionals acting as mentors to help you make your writing as good as it can be. This initiative is aimed at intermediate and advanced level writers looking for professional input.

For poetry, the terms are up to 240 lines of poetry read in advance, 300 word report, followed by 1.5 hour one-to-one meeting. Meetings can be on a once-off basis or repeated over time, and can be in person, or by Skype or phone.

For further information, booking, and terms and conditions, please contact the General Manager at IWC, Bernadette Greenan, at 00353 1 8721302.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Open Arts releases 'Words of Wisdom'

Over the last few months, Open Arts have been engaging with older people's groups, collecting poems, stories and anecdotes for the new Words of Wisdom book. 

I worked with Beyond Words (Cruse Bereavement) in Derry, Living Well Living Longer in Dungannon, and Mount Oriel in South Belfast, encouraging conversation and setting writing exercises, listening and learning from each group. 

We worked hard to make sure everyone was heard and included, and I feel the book is a real testament to the inclusivity and outreach Open Arts stands for. It was fantastic to catch their reactions today on seeing their words in print for the first time. 

Many thanks to my co-facilitators Anna Kyle and Mary Jordan (who also worked with Orchardville Day Centre) for helping to bring out the stories and memories, Ruth Carr for editorial guidance, and to Joanne McCrum for another marvellous job on designing the book.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

National Poetry Writing Month... Day (Part 5)

Completing the challenging, the last set of six! Poems 24-30.

25. First Impressions

Much like the crème brûlée,
with all the sweetness trapped
underneath its burnt offering,
you need to crack the sugarcoat
before tapping into real richness.

Do not think of constituents,
all their cream, milk and sugar
masked with vanilla as attar.
Rather, accept what’s on the plate,
scored ramekin and all.

The blowtorch has not been kind
to some, so go easy with your spoon.

26. Combustion
inspired by the attack on Reker Ahmed in Croydon

Any differentiation,
what could be deemed ‘abnormal’:
an accent, a skin tone, a faith,
as innocent as the wrong hairstyle,
as blameless as being in the wrong place.

‘Protecting’ their own,
although few felt any need,
the insularity of victimhood
that threatens to bite
and mauls when it does.

They were too many of them
for witness to report of any blood.
Haemorrhage. Fractured spine.
An unrecognised face.
“Are you my brother?” I am.

27. Falling Off

Who could blame the daffodils
if they decided to keep their heads
down until summertime?

If the gestation period
of sheep increased twofold,
receiving August lambs.

If frogs delay mating season
so that spawn does not freeze
in the laze of February nights.

If the bark falls off the trunk,
trees having no other choice
but to continue their abscission.

And even someday, we might wake
to find a forgetful sun
still sleeping in, awaiting Spring.

28. Eventuality

With a finger rested
in the gap where a dentist
killed off a molar,
I chew and lie in wait.

Something will happen,
always does, the inescapable
illusion of time bringing
forth one more moment

in which we can say -
if we are awake and wide enough -
that a thing occurred,
and we shall find names for such things,

and associated these names
with the people and places
these moments happened to.
Some already call it ‘life’.

You can call it ‘living’
to a certain degree,
the fruits of mere existence
dropping from mere gravity.

29. The Preparation of the Artist

Accumulate enough canvas,
stockpile your paint-pots
and ready your brushes,
and just like following a recipe,

It can’t be done. Give us a face,
a place, real or imagined,
let the world break your silence:
nothing occurs without
the spark.

An object will not paint itself,
only amass your dust
as you rearrange the model
and time the curtains for sunlight
to strike.

Take all the light and colour
out of the day, bottle darkness
in a jar, twist the sketchpad
into torch paper, but without fire,

30. Explore the Angles

There is nothing so repetitive as existing:
shave – growth
eat – starve
sleep – wake
wash – dirt
speak – hush
laugh – cry.

We go around in our little cycles
barely knowing where we are
on the circumference of things,
plotting our radii against dreams,
comparing diameters,
looking for three πs
to appear on a scratchcard.

Hold on to the events
that force you to form tangents,
the small miracles not repeated
day-to-day, those bits of magic
where time and space breaks out
from their rigid geometry
for God to move the Universe for you.