Kate O’Shea is a crack poet


His poems are words upon words
like eggs smeared with henshit.
They could be free range or organic –
who knows? Too calculated to be risky.
I buy 30 for 1.99 in Liberties Market
and dodge small boys with girls’ earrings
who have never heard of Jackson Pollock
but make an impression on the
bottom of Francis Street and day-trippers,
a stone’s throw from the Bad Art Gallery
which is pretty all right if you like
Mia Funk and well-built women
doing dirty things with bananas.
That’s the problem with men
who are too into blowjobs
more words upon words
like eggs smeared with henshit –
stylised, idolised.
Eggs is © Kate O’Shea


Misery heaped on misery like an Irish Sunday dinner.
It’s hard to swallow; lives like this happen to people
that sprouted dreams like Mr Potato head.
Once fat faces chipped away by keeping body
and soul a hive of useless colony,
the queen bee washed-out and martyred.
Even back then with bamboo rod
and fishing net, catching tadpoles in jam jars,
I wrote sentences in water, used the strange
bodies as living commas, apostrophes
following Os, no ownership,
unlike other daughters I scrutinized in photographs,
I turned wild like the ditches dividing fields,
at the roadside, always on the edge, barbed,
 keeping out of the way, scuttling in the sunlight
with rabbits and wrens, foxes, badgers, and hedgehogs.
Words hurt like a kick in the teeth. A fist.
Sitting at a desk I feel I have come full circle.
Tadpoles swim in the pupils of my eyes,
drip from my tongue, squirm on the page for all to see.
I imagine a thumb come to squish them.
I imagine his hazel eyes,
dumb as nuts telling me nothing –
the mouth moves like a loom.
Conformity, conformity, conformity.
I am sick of language, and even he cannot comfort me.
Old allegiances like dead frogs
spread-eagled to reveal their insides.
Anatomical clocks. Ancillary. Tadpoles.
Tadpole is © Kate O’Shea

Dandelion Clocks

Female poets with cropped hair bang on about their weariness,
world-weariness and immortality on the grey page.
There is grief and they are all alone, day after day after day,
their lovers have skedaddled, now they drag the icy moon
after them like a giant pill into middle age.
This is the stage I dive roll across like a navy SEAL
avoiding cat flaps and vintage night gowns with tiny buttons
up to the neck, trying not to look pensive,
that finger-cocked-under-the-chin faraway gaze
like Rodin’s statue, but not the same. Bang.
I inhabit a different space, my only dread, going home,
or whatever that means, to hang like a windsock
on a calm day, slightly awkward and out of place.
I have moved on and how I chose to wear my hair
contains no clue to my tabernacle, the fugitive in me
plays rummy and quaffs light beer, takes two foreign holidays
a year and listens to Wallis Bird full blast – ‘To My Bones’.
I scrimped and saved all my words for grand sentences
and the joy of christening nameless things,
whether broken or chipped, chilled by the breath of history,
no longer walking on tiptoe but stomping a sean-nós dance,
and here is the mystery, my feet dodging the bodies
scattered across the floor like unloved seeds of blow balls,
our dandelion clocks.
Dandelion Clocks is © Kate O’Shea

Head in clouds
Kate O’Shea lives in Dublin. She was short listed for the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2012. Wurm Press, Scotland published her chapbook, Crackpoet, in March of this year.
She has been the featured poet reading in the International Bar for The Monday Echo, Nighthawks at the Cobalt in Dublin on April 6th, and O’Bhéal, Cork, on May 13th of this year. She has also read in Twisted Pepper, Dublin as part of Seven Towers Themed Thursday in September and November 2012.

She will be reading at the Dromineer Literary Festival in early October as part of a showcase of new writers.
She has been published in Icarus, Electric Acorn, Poetry Ireland Review Issue Number 34 (1992), The Burning Bush, Riposte, Poetry on the Lake – Silver Wyvern Anthology (Italy), Out to Lunch Anthology 2002, Poetry.com, Shamrock Haiku, Bamboo Dreams an Anthology of Haiku Poetry from Ireland, Poetry Bus 3 & 4, http://www.outburstmagazine.com – Issues 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13, First Cut, CANCAN (Scotland) June 2013, LucidRhythms (U.S.A) http://www.lucidrhythms.com/2013. Angle Poetry Journal, Australia (Issue 3, March 2013) http://www.thegalwayreview.com and will also be included in their hardcopy journal out soon, Turbulence magazine (U.K.) June 2013.
Her first published work was a short story, and for this, she won the Prudential Young Irish Writers’ Award 1990. Her humorous sketches were broadcast on Mike Murphy’s Arts Show on RTE Radio 1.
She was one of the youngest members of the Dublin Writers’ Workshop, and after that went on to found Chocolate Sundaes at La Cave with William Kennedy and Christopher Daybell in the mid nineties.
She was the winner of the Gerard Manley Hopkin’s Poetry Award 1991 and took the overall prize for poetry in the 1998 Clothesline Writers’ Festival.
Two poems highly commended by Al Alvarez, were published in The Silver Wyvern Anthology in Italy, 2001.
Kate edited and published posthumously, the selected poems of her good friend Christopher Daybell, The Man With The Crowded Eye (2001).
She is an accomplished performer and respected on the open mike circuit. She wrote about her experiences in Poetry Ireland Review Magazine (2003), and has read in New York and Rome. She recited in The Palace Bar 2009 to honour Patrick Kavanagh; in 2010 she did a reading/stand up routine, for GLÓR, International Bar.
She was one of the poets from Dublin’s lunchtime reading series organised through Bank of Ireland’s Arts Centre and featuring contemporary poetry in Ireland today. The OUT TO LUNCH anthology (2002) featured the works of “…young, emerging poets like Paul Grattan, Conor O’Callaghan, Kate O’Shea, and Enda Wyley.”

A Reading of All Stepped / Undone – by Michael McAloran.

the griefscape as no-place: All Stepped / Undone – by Michael McAloran.

endless ribcage of the sky / the glut of blood beneath
and a pulse of shit / dry your eyes / it’s just beginning

( p123 ,  all stepped / undone - ) is © Michael McAloran

All Stepped /Undone- is Michael McAloran’s fifth full poetry collection, and his second full collection with Oneiros Press. Tracing a line through McAloran’s work to date, one can discern a drive to whittle his poetic voice to its essential core.

All Stepped /Undone- is sometimes a griefscape, the collection is by turns both nihilistic and elegiac in its tone:

as if to -

bled winds of
   the unspoken
spasm lock of the atoned blood
   no not enough
paling into
birthing as if to ….

(p54 , as if to – from in thin dreaming- ) is © Michael McAloran

In structural terms All Stepped /Undone is loosely tripartite, however it is not as structurally underpinned as in McAloran’s In Damage Seasons – (Onerios Press 2013) which was somewhat more defined and contained within the poet’s structuring of his text. This is no bad thing in itself, as an evident structure can limit the movement of the text. I have included my reading of In Damage Seasons- at link.  cf. my note at the end of this post.

The three parts of All Stepped /Undone- are :  till claimed – of thin dreaming - ,  and all stepped /undone- .

till claimed- and of thin dreaming - are quite similar in form and in their sharing of theme and image. all stepped /undone- while sharing and picking up on these themes is aphoristic and condensed in its poetic expression:

head of dust / no /that was the drapery of the silence /
called upon /subtle till graceless / till bounty / reflected
upon /lest the burgeoning see

(p106 , all stepped /undone - ) is ©  Michael McAloran

One can see the development of McAloran’s voice from his earlier collection of aphorisms , Attributes, through the third section of this current book. His poetic voice has become skilled and honed to allow for his sure expressiveness which he achieves in the least amount of words.

Readers of Michael McAloran would do well to acquire the books Attributes and In Damage Seasons to see how he has developed and opened out his poetic work. I mention those previous works in particular as they are most related to the current text under review, in my view.

I feel that McAloran is directing his skill toward a quality of expressiveness that is the sure mark of the artist. He is developing a mature poetic voice that has a quality of tone  rare in contemporary Irish poetics :

back-flexed / the arrow’s breath to claim the sky of /
night / the bread broken / such was the blade’s redeem /
or the blood-cut star of light / glistening /of the heart’s

(p 116, all stepped /undone -) is ©  Michael McAloran

Whilst related to McAloran’s collection of aphorisms, Attributes, in form, and to In Damage Seasons - in its intent and expression, this work is more loosely structured than both, and is therefore built wholly in the active poetic voice. The poet’s voice as mouthpiece of the internal landscape. In this case the voice or protagonist is mouthing his grief and alienation.

Of the three parts to this book , till claimed- is the furthest the writer will go in terms of his willingness to express alienation. The poems herein, and those of in of thin dreaming- are generally longer than in the final eponymously titled section.

There is as always with McAloran  a complexity of image and a deprecating humour, the poem scuttle- can be read a few ways:


scuttle -

impossible ashes
splice of
 dread knock and yet …
of the lock upon
spill of spurious lights
    caress of…
sun light
worthless as breath
with my little eye
longing of
scuttle of dead hand wavering

scuttle - is from till claimed - p11 of All Stepped/Undone and © Michael McAloran

 One is never quite sure, hence my delight at word-play and at McAloran’s image-play/ply of.

With McAloran a longer poem can be less expressive than the short aphorism. it is often akin to witnessing the unleashed voice in I (till claimed – ) warm up and spit out a gully :


why ask
answered /
   (absence of light)
rage of death
and the cold ravage
of stone
    in dead weather sun light
coil/casket of
X.-ed out
final throes

(p 71 , of thin dreaming - ) is © Michael McAloran


The unaccommodated and loosely structured poetic voice suits the visual artist in McAloran:

biting still-

vortices of …
(ah spill the night
     ..into cups of earth)
in this dry sunlight
   breaking for favour sensed
earthed from out of which to cast
vacantly as shadow

(p46 excerpt of biting still- from of thin dreaming- ) is © Michael McAloran.

Note : I have linked my reading of In Damage Seasons- here , the reason being that while the two texts share a tripartite structure , they are vastly differing works in terms of how the writer manages his expression. In Damage Seasons- has a structural containment, a triptych architecture, that felt almost imprisoning as it tied down the poet’s voice.


Poems by Doireann Ní Ghríofa


The knitting needles
drew melodies from silence
as stitches seemed to follow
one another like swallows
alighting upon a wire,
watching the tiny dress
of softest yellow wool
grow like a sunrise
waiting for she
who waited within.

She, who came
and left
all too soon.

Stretched and stitched,
I lie empty, raw, alone
In the cold corridor of the hospital
grey knot of my mind
grasping blindly for meaning
I hold the soft brightness to my cheek,
then unravel the stitches

Swallows of hope
disappearing at sunset
to some unfathomable,
faraway land.

My grief grows, like wound wool.
Dull. Full.

Swallows is © Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Recovery Room, Maternity Ward

(for Savita Halappanavar)

The procedure complete,
I awaken
alone, weak beneath starched sheets.
As the hospital sleeps, my fingers fumble
over the sutured scar, a jagged map
of mourning stitched into my skin —
empty without and empty within.
Beyond these white curtains,
stars shine bright as Diwali
in a cold night sky.
Someday, within these walls,
I will hear my baby cry.
Cradling my hollowed womb,
I trace this new wound and weep.
The only sound I hear now is the fading retreat
of a doctor’s footsteps, echoing my heartbeat.

Recovery Room, Maternity Ward is © Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Rusted Relic

Drifts of dust muffle the old typewriter’s surface
each dead key is encrusted with rust—
a forgotten Gaelic font
of blurred syllables and bygone symbols.
Muted music. Smothered percussion.

 Rusted Relic is  © Doireann Ní Ghríofa

doireannDoireann Ní Ghríofa’s poems have appeared in literary journals in Ireland and internationally. Her Irish language collections Résheoid and Dúlasair are both published by Coiscéim. The Arts Council of Ireland has twice awarded her literature bursaries (2011 and 2013). In 2012, she was a winner of Wigtown Gaelic poetry contest— the Scottish National Poetry Prize. Her short collection of poems in English Ouroboros was recently longlisted for The Venture Award (UK).

In Damage Seasons by Michael McAloran

‘Clear the air! Clean the sky! Wash the wind!
Take the stone from the stone,
take the skin from the arm, take the muscle from
the bone, and wash them.
Wash the stone, wash the bone, wash the brain,
wash the soul, wash them wash them!’
The Chorus , from Murder In The Cathedral by T.S Eliot.
(we convulse in sun light there are skins to trace and there is flesh to caress in some sudden dawning where the sudden shakes the boundary’s clasp….)

Scene Forty Two, In Damage Seasons

 The structure underpinning Michael McAloran’s In Damage Seasons is Palladian (a.b.a) or a quasi-triptych. It isn’t however an altar-piece or a pleasure-dome of a book. The parts of the triptych structure are: Onset, In Damage Seasons, and nothing’s bones-. The thematic thrust of the book which fully comprises 130 pages interspersed with kaleidoscope images, is barely contained in the second section eponymously titled and consisting of fifty individual scenes. Onset opens the book setting the myriad kaleidoscope theme, and nothing’s bones-  the third part of the work, is a paean. It forms an accumulation and gathering of the essence of the book. It is a beautifully written after-death, where life is the exilic condition.
Make no mistake, the doors of the triptych: Onset and nothing’s bones-, barely enclose the mid-section of the book and do not make for a sense of containment let alone comfort. Their purpose is to iterate the wolf howl of loss and an uncompromising poetic-voice that sometimes feels oxygenless. The book encloses this disembodied voice that has deranged from its centre and meaning. In visual terms the book is the raw howl of a lost generation. McAloran is too consummately skilled  in his image making to drop his theme (the howl) and he works it with a fine acuity:
‘sing spun alone till dry of speech the asking of the
prayers from the hollow entity unto some foreign grace
 traceless depth will in end no end in depth sing spun
alone till speech evaporated’
from nothing’s bones-
The dystopian landscape and setting of In Damage Seasons is dense with image and requires the reader’s full concentration. Here the wusses may leave, it is not for you. Onset and nothing’s bones- form the closable field of the overall triptych that is In Damage Seasons. They are as splattered with blood, torn nails, ejaculate and shit as the Hieronymus Bosch nightmare mid-section of the book:
‘an amber nocturne and the force of blue stun a
silhouette a shadowing a trail of dead words scattered
behind in retrospect of hollow oblivion’s benign claim I
 or we/eye dead of yet but once heart meat heart less…’
Scene Twenty Five (is dead meat heart…) 
 The walls of the cylinder form occur throughout In Damage Seasons. The cylinder, of polished metal-sides, with an interesting kaleidoscopic window detail. Sylvia Plath often described the rarefied air of her bell-jar, and her reader knows that its breach involved the fatal-wounding of her panic-bird. She described her artifice, her work, as the blood-jet of poetry. In McAloran’s case its blood-jet, ejaculate, tearing, bruising, incision and excreta. It is loss, torture, violence and pain:
the blood comes to the fore and there is nothing.…’
 Colours inherent in the book are amber and blue, a streak of red, and shades of metallic. One minute the writer is imprisoned in the doom of the non-working affair, the next he is shattering the funnel against a stone-wall and walking through the shardings of glass barely observing the beauty he made. It is meant to wound his feet, his hands and his body. We read rupture, derangement of form and the screaming voice:
‘kicking convulsive in the reek asking of the breaking
night’s dissemble through the cortex mirror a sheen of
 black iris flowerings a kaleidoscope of burning
carousels spun alone reaching for none…
 the blade asks of the final wind the death inhaled the
caress of some vital wound ask of till subtle bound
some stasis somewhere other than sung aloud in glint
of darkness…’  Scene Forty Two (is stillness to brace…)
 There is no piety to the howling of the poet. There is a type of tenderness and wry acceptance which could not be called compromise in any way, shape or fashion. This is strong and assured work. It is unrelenting for the reader:
 ….here and there the blind terse the fettering of all spun
till head of till spire of spine recorded as if to un-know
hence laughter cracks the ice like some obscene
 symphonium trace of desire still the living clot in the
eye the tongue torn out silenced of all …
ah break the bones of it there’ll yet be asked of till
splendour held in mockery of stun shards of bone and
foreign silences child’s toy fragments the walls peeling
in the artificial light…
from Onset, 5-
 The sense, or aftertaste of a book gives it its meaning. I tend to leave down a McAloran book with a sense of altered-reality. To me that is the meat of the poetic work, and it is often absent from the canon due to a mistaken sense that poetry should lack violence, or maybe it should do something pretty. Like adorn the margins of a chocolate-box culture bent into its own restless consumption.
 If your taste runs to Bataillesque, then this is the meat for you. In Damage Seasons is post-apocalyptic with a hint of tender. The apocalypse inherent in the book’s imagery is of body and of mind. It contains the reality of violence worked on the body and told through the disembodied mouth in the brilliantly written nothing’s bones-
529303_526490027394180_1927032004_nIn Damage Seasons by Michael McAloran is Published by Oneiros Books In 2013.

25th Ezra Pound International Conference

Sheets_of_toilet_paper_on_which_Pound_started_The_Pisan_Cantos“The conference’s main host will be Trinity College Dublin, Ireland’s oldest university institution, founded in 1592 and located in the city centre. Our second host and other conference site on Thursday, July 11, will be Mater Dei Institute, the college close to what was Leopold Bloom’s residence at 7 Eccles Street.
The 2013 EPIC will open at Trinity College Dublin on 10 July with a Welcoming Address by the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. Individual plenary talks by distinguished scholars throughout the week will be on such topics as Pound and Irish Poetry, Pound and other writers (Beckett, Coleridge, Joyce, and Yeats), The Cantos Project, New Translations of Pound’s poetry into German and Italian, the Drafts & Fragments Notebooks, and Doing Justice to Pound. There will also be four days of paper sessions and discussions on a wide range of topics related to Pound’s works, life, and influence.”