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‘The Whetter of the Knife’ and other poems by Judith Mok

Beethoven in New York

Fur Elise

This night is on me like a blank sheet
I have to write
Of people playing my music that
Fills the subway with my submerged sounds
As if I am a whale vibrating through the thick of times
Communicating that my name is: Beethoven
A man of music in a storm of voices
A choir, an army of American instruments
People playing my music, people judging me
How I rode this crushing wave of emotions

I wake up to chaos and constellations in my head
Thinking: I will have to tell her
I heard this choir supporting some statement about me
Thinking: it’s one breath of mine against three of hers
That’s what our rhythm seems to be

I hear this couple talking
Two voices modulating into one
Softly speaking specters of promises

I spy on her asleep
Sensing a child in her with too many dreams
To chose from, her jaws clenched
To keep them inside till they rot
While she dies slowly in her sleep.

Casual chords coming from open car windows
Signaling to me that these are New York symphonies
And also: that Elise is still here with me
That I must write for her.

Her eyes closed in the half-light
A film of cold sweat on her pale skin
Her neck exposed to my murderous mind
And me slicing through her sighs
While all I feel is music, my music melting
In the smothering air we breathe, one against three.

She came to me. Her mouth
Full of crunched up words
A meaningless alphabet to her tune
She turns her slender body away
So I can wipe it dry and write,
Write on her bony back, as on a blackboard
Feeling the whipping flame on my eyes
When I see too much of her
And want to write, my love, my love
But instead I write two notes  –ta –ta
A diminished second , and from there: on.

This I will hear until I go deaf
And then it will last

Two notes dancing in a ripped up dawn
I,s adly take to my formal clothes, a composer again
My mind still playing with the thought of her body
Gasping -ta-ta- while I brush my hair
Reacquire my intense stare
Her glow on me in the mirror
It is her planet I live on
Nothing belongs to me but, music

I bring broken notebooks.
Winging my way down to the New York subway

The entrance is like a gargoyle upside-down
I dive into its steam-spouting mouth
My pores oozing fear
I walked this score
I see, I can hear
The mini masters who play my music have sorted me out
While they keep talking and talking on about Elise and: me
And are hammering out her tune –ta-ta

I am inside the whale, in my ears, in my heart
Wanting to fight against the pulse –ta -ta
But its here, played on a steel drum
Beet- Beethoven on a pot, a drum looking like
A caved in reproduction of our gutted earth,
A rivulet of my music, my feelings scored .
This tender tone: for Elise
Ta –ta- ta-ta-ta from there: onwards
And they say I have aspergers syndrome.

The Whetter of the Knife

No shame would ever redden his days.
He could have shown the eager, entirely,
how much he enjoyed his circus and its tricks.
He should have made spectators pay to watch the things he did to me,
turning me into this acrobat of pain.
But he prefered to keep me in a bullwark for his silence,
this pschyco’s place where he tortured me.
This is how we do things in my country,
he said, a proud and fervent nationalist,
causing distress of a broader spectrum ,
seen through the narrow end of his binoculors,
It made me suffer the cutting shards of a kaleidoscopic feast.

And then, a horrid kiss. Not so, on my lips.
With it, he burned the earth under my feet,
the songs in my soul, the touch of real.

Where it soaked the ground I wished for his blood to feed my gardens,
their putrid stench through my opened windows and music,
camelias, gardenias a tango tune, ragged.
And still : I loved.
I loved his screaming wounds, his sunken sores licked with my pickled tongue.
Help me.

Make or Break

They are standing in a Dublin vegetable shop;
Castanea Dentata, chestnuts said she,
Fauchon, remembering Paris, Marrons Glaces:
The faded butterfly wings of the wrapping paper
The box,half- open, like a promising, sweet smile
Her fingers reaching out for what her tongue would like: love.

We Irish, said he, play Conkers.

Blood or “le sang des autres”

The shots ricocheting against the flanks of the mountains so early in the morning that my sleepy subconscious has not even registered the chiming bells yet, yet…
We are in Sarajevo, suddenly. Le jour de chasse est arrive, o glory, the Hunt, la Casa, funny how the same word for hunt in Spanish means matrimony and hunt, a coincidence? Oh. I am supposed to organize a concert programme for next season in the lovely Roman Church, surrounded by shady trees. I am supposed to eat a rabbit tonight and the man told me two days ago with a macho smile on his ancient face “ je vais le tuer, I’m gonna kill it. Am I still hungry? For rabbit? Shall I suck the raw head raw? Oh. How sad his eyes were, the old boar, sanglier, in his stinky little hut. The man had caught him as a baby and wanted to fatten him up. He did and then he loved his fat boar and kept it as a pet. Speaking of matrimony: do we like to fatten each other up and keep each other as sad pets? Oh. I talked to the traumatized wild animal, unbearable in his smell and even more in the way it looked at me, was I at least bringing it some food for solace ? This morning they’re shooting the furtive beasts that I saw yesterday on the path, running around with shifty movements, the eagle circling with its eyes on a snake. I couldn’t see, the stillness of the view and nature intact, the Pyrenees with wolves and bears, not far, the blue sea not far, humans were far, very far away, except for. Oh. Now I can imagine what it is like to hear shots in the morning and become completely unnerved by it, even though they are meant for the beasts, not me. What’s the difference in the afternoon I saw them hanging from the hooks in the Salle des fetes, the hall of feasts. The blast of blood and wild odours was out in the streets, the dogs had blood on their teeth and in their fur, drenched, and the men had aprons, hiding their male satisfaction by rubbing long killer knives clean on their bellies.
I had to think of the concentration camps, I had to, who was hung on hooks again? Blood is blood and mine surged and I threw up under the Southern Sun with the taste of raw meat in my mouth. Oh


after Leo Tolstoy

Within the mystery of dawn a field feeds me a thought, to name all of them in different languages when they move, drenched in dew: marcassins, javali , wild boars, everzwijn….shifting as a pack swiftly to the wisps of scent from apple to nut tree. It could be, somehow, a choreography. What a fool I have been till today not to see, not to hear what there was to be. In the land of the Troubadour I write a landscape in the morning. Up the mountain dogs follow me where I follow ancient footprints. I know the alphabet, but they know it all, these dogs’ soft snouts, loud talk, barks. And back I go to a village where cats bask in my warm shadow to purr. What a fool I have been till today not to see, not to hear what there was to be had. In the afternoon we speak, other to others, while we work to harvest. The earth hums along, fat on its offerings: chestnuts, grapes, olives, quinces stain our hands. Much more is waiting in these woods mushrooms spread under trees that stand to grow on for centuries. People come together, a basket full of pickings on their arm. The early autumn darkness blotting out their whispers, nothing but a smothered gasp when a white deer struts by, making for history. During breaks we eat the home-made cakes sitting on the fairy ground: the dream of ferns and poisonous snakes, the myth of the mind takes shape. An eagle waits for me, for no one at his regular spot. He rises up and suddenly there are three. When I look up they form a pattern I can’t decipher.They honour my eyes.

What a fool I have been till today not to be able to read what was written. To spell reality.

At night I spy on the dark.When lightning hits I see some natural time, the speed of the bat is the speed of the falling stars caught in the claws of our artificial wishes. Not like the owl who claws his prey in mid-air displaying its own blitzkrieg.

What a human fool I have been, not to be able, but for today, to feel: Love.


In the woods I knew them with my eyes ,
when light broke through a rip in memory’s curtain.
I saw the two of them , walking hand in hand with autumn .
Death had kept them untouched, recognizable.

The wind composed hymns of air in the clattering trees
as I opened my arms for an impenetrable welcome,
and stood alone, wondering how long breath can last .

The Whetter of the Knife and other poems are © Judith Mok

Judith Mok was born in Bergen in the Netherlands. She has published two novels with Meulenhoff. She has published three books of poetry in Dutch. She moved to Dublin and published a novel Gael with Telegram London and a book of poetry Gods of Babel with Salmon Press. She has written widely including for radio and Newspapers, which have appeared in the Sunday Miscellany books edited by Marie Heaney. Her short stories have been short listed twice for the Francis Mc Manus award and her first novel The innocents at the Circus for the Prix de l’Academie Francaise. Her work has appeared in Anthologies and nationally and internationally in numerous literary Dutch, Irish, French, British and American magazines. Her translated erotic poems by Verlaine and Rimbaud appeared in the book Obscene Poems by Verlaine and Rimbaud with Vasalucci. Her next book The State of Dark will appear in 2017. Judith who is a lyrical soprano has travelled the world for years as a soloist and a vocal coach teaching master classes.

‘The Women of 1916’ by Rita Ann Higgins

The Women of 1916

‘the state recognises that by her life within the home’
article 41.2.1. The Irish Constitution

Years before the offending article
was even conjured up by De Valera
and the very Reverend John Charles McQuaid
with the help of a pack of Jesuits –
the plan was set in train
to banish these biddies
back to their kitchen sinks.
The banishing tool of choice
was the airbrush.
The women of 1916
did not sit back
and wait in the wings of history
with tricolor dribblers to mop
the runny eggs
from the chins of the rebels.
These unmanageables,
were there from the start.
They could knit
a thirty two county Ireland
in plain and purl,
with their eyes closed
and never drop a stitch,
while rearing seven sons
and as many daughters.
The rifles they held
were not for showing
but for using.
The handgun could nestle on a hip
or be tucked into a petticoat.
Webley, Colt, Smith and Wesson.
Winnie (with the Webley) Carney
was one of the last people out of the GPO,
revelvor in one hand, typewriter in the other.
I write it out in a verse-
Lily O’ Brennan, Constance Markievicz,
Helena Moloney, Ellen’Nellie’ Gifford
May Moore , Rosie Hackett, Dr. Kathleen Lynn
Margaret Skinnider, Rose McNamara
Nell Ryan, Lizzie Mulhall, Kathleen’ Kitty’ Fleming…
Whenever green dresses are worn,
some tricolor dribblers spill scorn.
The Women of 1916 is © Rita Ann Higgins and was first broadcast on Arena (RTÉ)


Poet Rita Ann Higgins(1)Rita Ann Higgins was born in Galway. She has published ten collections of poetry, her most recent being Ireland is Changing Mother, (Bloodaxe 2011), a memoir in prose and poetryHurting God (Salmon 2010). She is the author of six stage plays and one screen play. She has been awarded numerous prizes and awards, among others an honorary professorship. She is a member of Aosdána.

Rita Ann Higgins’s readings are legendary. Raucous, anarchic, witty and sympathetic, her poems chronicle the lives of the Irish dispossessed in ways that are both provocative and heart-warming. Her next collection Tongulish is due out in April 2016 from Bloodaxe.

The Mission by Rita Ann Higgins

Honour the women of Irish Theatre

I very rarely add petitions on Poethead, but in the case of The Abbey Theatre’s baffling exclusion of women artists from the 1916-2016 Centenary I am willing to make an exception for a number of days. The issue of authority in the literary arts has always been problematic in Ireland. In poetry, in literature, and now in theatre it is usual for exclusions to occur. That exclusion is hurtful, demeaning and abusive is too much for me. That I saw my heroine Olwen Fouéré holding up a bit of paper calling for parity of esteem this morning has really angered me. They should be throwing roses at her feet. The idea that a skewed exclusionary narrative represents the intellectual and creative development of the idea of ‘State’ is not on. It is not acceptable. Eavan Boland referred to the absence of women artists in the canon as a suppressed narrative’, there are too many fine Irish women artists for this type of exclusion to manifest at critical junctures in state celebratory events, in this instance a centenary event.

Petitioning The Board of The Abbey Theatre, #WakingTheFeminists – Equality for women in Irish theatre

Background: On Wednesday 28 October, the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s National Theatre, launched its programme to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising – an event that ultimately led to the founding of the Irish State. The Abbey Theatre and its members were actively involved in both the Rising itself and the debates around the founding of the Republic.
1 out of the 10 plays programmed in the 2016 programme are written by a woman – 3 out of 10 are directed by women. #WakingtheFeminists is a campaign by Irish artists to demand change of the systems that allow for such chronic under-representation of the work of women artists at the Abbey Theatre, and in Irish theatre generally.

From : Sign the Petition

Image from Olwen Fouéré’s website.

‘Inishturk’ and other poems by Alvy Carragher


he gave me three Hail Marys,
even though I couldn’t remember
any sins to tell him and relied solely
on things I’d read in Dennis the Menace,
whispered words I’d heard my parents screaming,
just to hear how they sounded, see his face fall
and figure out how bad they were
I sat in hard pews looking at my sister
bent over in remorse and
wondered if God heard me lying,
stayed head bowed long enough
to look like I’d said mine
I slipped the Hail Marys into my back pocket
and left my sins to sort themselves out
we made our way home,
two miles of country road,
my sister high on forgiveness
I pressed against the cold pane,
our dog cracked against the chain,
there was the smell of scrubbed floors,
the mottle of memories stuck in our carpet
I waited for the slump of my sister through the door,
slower up the last hill home, I had left her there,
the slap of my bag on my back
and from my pocket
the sound of Hail Mary
screaming her own name
the off-kilter crooning of my mother
as she sang eighties music to the oven,
it was easy then,
lost in the ritual of coming home
before the softness broke and the silence fell,
we sat tight fists at the dinner table, waiting
for his words, hoping they landed on someone else
I want to tell my sister, even now,
about the Hail Marys,
how I should have said them for her


I slowed my step for you,
as we dipped between hills,
at the edge of the Atlantic,
they sent us away each morning,
no room in the cottage to hold us,
you tripped to keep up, as we ran
our small wild hearts out to sea
at the cliff’s edge,
our backs to the sun,
that big American wind
ripped the coats off our bodies,
we dropped and rolled to keep from blowing over,
cousins told stories of pushing battered cars in,
to watch the sea’s snarl swallow them whole
our uncle kept an eye on things,
bent to the window of his front room,
the shake of his sick hands
pressed to the telescope,
waiting for that terrible sea to rise-up
and force out another goodbye
we hid in the calm of the bay,
scrambled over wet rocks and seaweed,
settled to a day spent smashing barnacles,
making bait to fish-out a hundred crabs,
just to throw them back in again,
until, one cracked against a currach,
split its hard shell, and we stood still
as the slosh of water pulled it under,
the dull ring of death sat between us
that night, playing suduko
by the turf fire, huddled together,
and you, too young to understand,
watched my numbers dart across paper,
we walked the black roads,
the sky awake with starlight
led us along pot-holed boreens,
as we counted the wink of houses,
and trusted the land beneath us

The carpenter’s daughter

sits in the sawdust heap, because it smells
just like her father, all warm dust and work
sweeps wheelbarrows of it out from under saws,
the scent of steel, the blade still above her head
pulls planks bigger than her across the room,
wants to know how to fix a shelf, or sand a chair
she loves most what wood can become,
rubs the blisters on her soft hands
they’ll turn calloused like his carpenter’s skin,
a small sacrifice, to be the one, to make-
a new world from that which has fallen,
sliced from the sky to never see it again
she has the gist, but not the knack,
the gist is building with bravery
to take a tree stripped of all its dignity,
then put it back together tenderly

It’s easier if you pick a moment

one place in time where your eyes met,
most likely there is red wine involved
or mascara and bad but flattering lighting,
there’s a dance floor with a pulse
driving you into his arms, remember that
or was there a simpler day,
cocooned in duvets till afternoon,
sunlight filtering your laughter
and he made cinnamon toast
in the sandwich maker,
you got butter in your hair and the bed
smelt like burnt sugar for days
you probably fed each other, at least once,
was it chocolate or grapes or
another excuse to have your
hands bare at the others lips,
mouths salty with the taste of skin
did you catch him, sometimes,
shadowed in the morning,
as he slipped into day-clothes,
you pretended to be sleeping,
so he could leave you a love note
and the coffee seemed sweeter
with his morning words
penned across paper
remember when you sat by water,
head in his lap, just listening,
he told you a story about lost loves
finding their way back to each other,
you didn’t think about the words,
just thought that it sounded nice
it’s easier if you forget the context,
the fight before, the hours spent
screaming over dirty dishes,
how the bills grew up around you
details will only make you forget,
the part in the story, when he says
he will always love her
and you know with certainty
that he means it

Inishturk and other poems is © Alvy Carragher.

alvyA Pushcart nominee, Alvy’s Carragher’s first collection is forthcoming with Salmon Poetry (2016). She has featured at events like Electric Picnic, Edinburgh Fringe Fest, RTE’s Arena and Cúirt International Literary Festival. She has a first class honours in her Ma of Writing from NUIG where she focused on poetry. Her work has been published in The Irish Times, The Boheymth, The Galway Review, Ofi Press Mexico, Bare Hands Poetry and many more. She is also an Award Winning Blogger at With All the Finesse of a Badger.

‘Tread Softly’ and other poems by Michael J Whelan


In the orphanage a child
cowers from cursing men outside.
She wants to climb back into
her dead mother’s womb
and hide inside its warm, soft,
un-edged safety,
where no explanation is needed
or reason to hide under splintered
staircases or run the gauntlet to basement
bomb shelters, existing minute to minute
with strangers until the dawn arrives with her
deliverance and she refuses to be born.

© Michael J. Whelan (Published in Cyphers, Nov 2011)



It happens on a Thursday, just after 2pm,
when ancient cultures and beliefs conspire
and vultures spiral above a peacekeepers’ camp,
where cedars age slowly and the Litani River
caresses the ground where Jesus turned water
into wine, where artillery salvos rip the air
on their long flight and bite deep, deep into
that place of safety vaporizing its concrete
walls and burning and blistering and tearing
apart the mass of terrified flesh and innocent blood
seeking refuge from the hate of man.

A soldier climbs from the rubble limbs
and discarded faces, his eyes caked black with tears,
his hands at arm’s length clutching the newborn baby
that looks like a headless doll.

© Michael J. Whelan

(Qana Massacre April 18th 1996)
During ‘Operation Grapes of Wrath’ Israeli Defence Force artillery shells strike a Fijian UN compound in South Lebanon protecting 800 civilians fleeing the fighting, approx 120 died. Published in the Galway Review 2013 & The Hundred Years War – Anthology of 2Oth Century War Poems, (Bloodaxe 2014)



You lay in your frozen field, slack-jawed at how you
came to be there, your mouth caked in last year’s mud,
limbs twisted about your body as if in the midst of some
remembered dance or tempered at your rotting crops,
bent over in disgust, yielding in the half light and startled
at the cold – they have never felt.
This harvest, un-reaped and yet reaped upon you
hides the stale shoe and crushed spectacles,
the broken spade that hastily covered you in the soft
clay you loved, now steeled hard against the sharp sky.

I imagine the fears of your kin as they searched the high
golden horizon that summer day.
They might have felt the distant calamity that took you
following the bullet casings along the beaten track,
and I wonder if they found you,
then I see the scars of cluster bombs and scorched
stalks of your petrified labours and there, there in the shrapnel
of this bitter harvest I behold your seed,
torn apart but reaching out to the one who bore them.

© Michael J. Whelan

Published in And Agamemnon Dead – An Anthology of Early 21st Century Irish Poetry Edited by Walter Ruhlman & Peter O’ Neill (Paris, 2015)


I am forever walking upon the shore
betwixt the sand and the foam.
The high tide will erase my footprints,
and the wind will blow away the foam,
but the sea and the shore will remain forever

Kahlil Gibran

In Lebanon I sought redemption
like the pilgrim at the crossroads of Heliopolis,
on the Bekaa’s great range where Bedouin caravans met
and Romans laid their bodies down in supplication to their gods,
to Aphrodite and Jupiter, and long before this peacekeeper came
on what seemed a fools errant, whose only armour
was the feeble weave of a blue flag,

before these wars for modernity and religion
where the new city’s shadows fall like dead soldiers
on the broken steps of Astarte’s Temple,
where the priests of Baalbek burned incense,
lay themselves prostrate with tribute and homage
beseeching fertility over the land and on warriors on the eve of battle

and the same priests parcelled out her favours to believers
who built new columns to the sun god on her ruins,
before all this there was blood on the stones and in the dust
of Tyre, of Sidon and in Byblos,
and the gods looked down from the heavens and laughed
for they knew that man knew not of their fallibilities,
their eyes kept the storms that belief constructed –

the defence of Masada by Jewish zealots
against ramparts, siege-towers and battering rams of enemies – never giving in,
the caliphs who ordered the conquests of Bilad al-Sham,
Helen who setting forth from Constantinople to Jerusalem
in search of the Cross set beacons ready to burn along the way
and Constantine, her son, converted his empire in promise to his mother

who lit the path for Crusaders and the burial places of a thousand years
under these skies of mumatus clouds that hang like fronds of fruit
above the hills at dusk, who rest like relics with Saracens
and Mamluks, the swords of east and west,
the holy books of Abraham, Mohamed and Byzantium,
where Gilgamesh cleaved the cedars for his ships

and where now the free man might dig with trowels once more,
adjure in the Temple of Baachus, revere the flake-bones of gladiators
under the triumphal arch of Al-Minah – the hippodrome at Tyre,
where fishermen still cast their nets on the same Phoenician shore
in Galilee beneath the stirring sands of Jordan
and camels sometimes carry scholars through the Quadisha Valley
like in the old days passing slopes of red anemone, wild tulip, oleander and poppy

and young girls might seek the damask rose in the gorges of forgotten ambushes,
where sultans and kings slaked their pious thirsts – slew their enemies
and exiled the youth of many futures – those pawns who lay penitent at the altars,
who laid down in the Temple of Aphrodite like the peacekeepers lay down now,
yes we who lay down with our wives and lovers like knights with sacred talismans
and far away they lie down with us under the same different moons,

they wait and pray looking up upon the many faces of the gods
who see us only as a fleeting moment on the pages of passing civilizations,
the rising and setting of the sun and we know the signal fires are burning,
the funeral pyres rise up in pillars of ash in the marches between the watchtowers
along the border wire and we know that so much metal has been fired in this cauldron
from arrowheads and spears to icons and the corrupted jagged shards of bombs,
shrapnelled landmines and bullets. On a rainy day we can almost smell it
weeping through the red mud tracks of an army and we must watch our step.

© Michael J. Whelan

Published in A New Ulster, issue 32, May 2015


The sodden fields are bleak, the road
is broken and I am tired.
Rain shoots off my weary face,
its cold tears count the ribs
that cage my distant heart.
At night I make my rifle safe,
fling this conflict to the floor,
it gathers round the worn-out boots
that tread in miseries of a war.
But I have a rendezvous,
a memory in a future place.
That short black dress, golden hair
tumbling to her shoulders.
Laying foetal, arms wrapping
her soft body, kissing the curve of her
neck, I breathe her in, capturing her.

© Michael J. Whelan


It’s raining, always is,
that sticky hazy rain that gets down your neck,
behind your ears and saturates your face, your hair
as soon as you step from the vehicle
even though the uniform is multilayered,
your boots get soggy straight away
and the pistol grip on the rifle resting in your arms
slips in your fist.

You’re not really afraid – for yourself,
though your heart is racing approaching
the recently finished mass grave- their hurting ground
covered in fresh clay, flags and wreaths,
you’ve just driven over the ancient village cemetery as you entered
like it was a cross country speed test on rough terrain,
the old grave markers are long gone.

No, you’re not afraid for yourself,
the fear comes when no adult arrives to greet you
or check out your party as a possible threat
save for the elderly ones corralling young children
behind hedges and outhouses on the high ground,
who watch you as you watch them
barefoot and half dressed in the rain
and you taking photographs of yourselves
at the place of their parents.

You – the uniforms that stormed into their hurting place
feeling like liberators but to them resembling conquerors,
you who come to help but instead bring memories of terror
and usher a fear they keep from the last time
soldiers conquered this place,
you who tread softly then when you realize what you have done,
when you see the muddied feet of innocence and the future in their eyes
peering down.

© Michael J. Whelan

Published in Three Monkeys, online magazine, Feb 2013

poethead 2Michael J. Whelan is a soldier-poet, writer & historian (Curator – Irish Air Corps Aviation Museum) living in Tallaght County Dublin. He served as a peacekeeper in South Lebanon and Kosovo during the conflicts in those countries in the 1990s, which inspires much of his work. He was 2nd Place Winner in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2011, Shortlisted in 2012 with a Special Commendation in 2013. He was 3rd Place Winner in the Jonathon Swift Creative Writing Awards 2012, shortlisted in the Doire Press and Cork Literary Manuscript Competitions and selected for the Eigse Eireann/Poetry Ireland Introductions 2012. His work has appeared in the Hennessy New Irish Writing 2013, Poetry Ireland Review, the Red Line Book Festival and many other literary magazines and newspapers. His poems were recently published in a new anthology titled The Hundred Years War published by Bloodaxe UK in May 2014.

Michael blogs at

‘The Halved Stone’, a word image

The Halved Stone


It’s round hump
Suggests a brother,

Saw driven to perfect
It’s egg, but

An ancient sand crack

Unsound, tower cannot
Upbuild its walls,

It would ring wrongly,
enough to disturb a nest.

Word Image © Chris Murray


‘Nadelah’ and other poems by Geraldine O’Kane

Hitting to Hurt

(after ‘The Leaping Lamb’)
Everybody saw us as the bull
and the lamb, that is how I hid for so long.
He was a chunk of a man; I sliced him
to bits with my words, buried him with shame.
I am sorry for using such callous language,
I’ll try to rein myself in; let’s start again.
The first time my hands rose, it felt
like they belonged to someone else;
afterwards I wished so hard that they did.
It’s not like it happened everyday
but the second and third time I knew
the fists were mine and I kept on using them.
He stood there as I threatened to leave him
if he didn’t fight back or if he did I’d go anyway;
soon I was saving all my energy and hitting to hurt.
Once I drew blood and no longer saw him
as either bull, husband or human being;
it was then I knew I needed help.
Commissioned by Artist Brian Kielt for an Exhibition in aid of StART Talking a local mental health charity.


(meaning one who has been transformed)
Pre-boundaries and pre-colonisation, I was Nadelah to my Native American tribe, a sacred gift, a two spirited, third gender, in continuous state of transformation. Born raw, I existed ungendered until the ceremony of the basket and the bow, where my choice let me live revered not feared. Pre-boundaries and pre-colonisation, I transcended the masculine and feminine, to see in both directions. I was a conduit to the spirit world, I lived a life of community, unaware of my sexuality, until the white man straightened the circle I inhabited. Renamed me Berdache – but I tell you I was slave, sexual or otherwise to no one.
Biligaana must show himself
a liar or conceive –
I am his single spectre.
Berdache (Boy kept as sexual slave)
Biligaana (Navajo for White Man)

The Living Room

My grandmother’s kitchen was a tea cosy,
knowledge and love brewed there in equal measure.
Everyone reached full flavour inside that room –
with the softest unsliced bread in Ardboe
and the sweetest bananas.
The cake mixer was always whipping up something
to go with the tin kettle permanently on the boil.
If you were lucky you would hit on licking-time;
buttercream from the bowl is best! Days clinked
to a start, and ended with spoons stirring hot milk
and bread for her cats. She smoked twenty a day
in that room with hardly a window open and
forever smelt of Yardley – Lily of the Valley.
Evenings rendered the kitchen silent
as everyone poured into the living room.


We were playing hide and seek round our estate,
when he grabbed my wrist.
Much older than the other kids
he would know all the good places, so we ran.
He took me to the best spot,
“scream”, he said,
“no one will hear you.”


He used to greet her with a noose,
Wait for her to ‘talk him down’.
Until the sight had her turning on her heel,
voice squeezing through the closing
front door, “do it, see if I care”,
unsure she believed.

Doorman at ‘Invisible Illness’

Falling out of sleep into feeling
all belonging to me is dead,
yet you are there right beside me;
my dad calls it his black days,
mum calls it the days her head
is not in this world.

In my teens this didn’t register
now I know the fight too well;
days when I am quiet,
methodical to rise and shower,
dress, make myself up before breakfasting
but always a hug and a kiss –
wishing you a beautiful day,
before I head out to work,
you keep the wounds from my door.

Tree Tunnel

We walked mid road under the tunnel of trees
huge trunks branched above us
their leaves feathery boas floating
from about their necks, sheltered us for a moment
– only a moment
In a split second through the arc of recess
where the sun had warmed to our skin
came sheeting rain; energetic beads
with bellies full readily dropping their payload.
We did not twist with arms flung wide,
in circles with heads thrown back,
catching rain with our open mouths.
After twenty minutes and two car passing’s,
we were drenched chills crept over our bodies.
We stopped sought sanctuary along the verge
you mimicking the tree trunks
providing as much shelter as your frame would allow,
curling in on me, latent, against your chest,
chin resting on my porous hair,
elemental I attuned to the call –
of your heartrate, your skin…
when a car pulled over
sweeping us away
from the summer downpour.
‘Nadelah’ and other poems is C Geraldine O’Kane.

9975568Geraldine O’Kane is originally from County Tyrone. She has been writing poetry since her teens, and has had numerous poems published in journals, e-zines and anthologies such as BareBack Lit, FourXFour, Illuminated Poetry Ireland, Poetry Super Highway and more.
Geraldine is a regular reader at the Purely Poetry open mic nights in Belfast. She has previously been part of a local writing group at the Craic Theatre, and has performed some of her work in local theatres and at the Dungannon Borough Council Arts Festival. Her poetry is mostly inspired by observation and the human condition. She specialises in micropoetry. She held her first solo exhibition in the 2013 Belfast Book Festival, using art, dance and music to interpret micropoetry centred around the theme of relationships and decay.
The Poet O’Kane

‘The Talking Cure’ and other poems by Angela Carr

The Tiger’s Tail

City, a howl of chemical laughter;
menace fingers the air, seeking purchase
in the drunken smoulder of narrow streets.
Young girls toss ironed curtains of ebony hair —
shared tribal head-dress. Tiger sucklings,
knock-kneed, moon-eyed calves, they perch on the heights
of borrowed triumph: Prada, Miu Miu, Louboutin.
Fierce children, almost feral, wresting frenzied
joy from the teeth of new calamity:
night yawns deep, and they do not know it.
Car headlamps sweep the junction, horns blare;
ground shifting beneath them again, the girls
totter into the bloom of darkness,
each on milky limbs, pale and slender as a birch.


28 October 2011
White slab on the doormat, postmark,
a familiar china blue — the forfeit
of dignity in monthly increments —
and I’m sick to my stomach, again;
on TV, Occupy Wall Street,
as though greed were a discovery,
injustice, a shiny toy or the new black.
I’ve been in my foxhole for three years now,
dug in behind enemy lines: terraced walls,
the polite exterior of war; wrestling
the slick of their machinery, bare hands
ink-bloodied in daily skirmishes with quicksand
bureaucracy and you — with the placard,
the ironic slogan — where the fuck were you?


iPod, laptop, coffee machine (never used),
good for fifty euro, maybe more;
not to be sniffed at, enough to score
probiotic yoghurt, three weeks of Lexapro,
prescribed, of course. You’re nothing without your health.
Sweating, nerves buzzed, I trip rain blacked streets,
flash electrical goods at likely marks:
people who still care about appearances.
Don’t judge me, I wasn’t born this way.
I blame my parents — the ones who weaned me
on this crippling addiction to comfort — pushing
Food, Money, Education as security.
And when the world takes my roof, I learn to crave Roof.
And when the world take my land, I learn to crave Land.
And when the world takes my voice, I learn to crave Voice.
And when the world takes my power, I learn to crave Power.
My parents should have raised me a gypsy:
shown me the road, the cut of air,
the smell of dirt.
I smell it now.
It’s close.

The Talking Cure

The day I pull my face together,
paint lash and liner (the ordinary mask)
is, predictably, the day you make me cry,
as though the smudge of black across my lids
is just the beginning: a surface schism.
You draw me like a rotten tooth:
another battle-blooded version
of myself — raw and tentacled, untethered —
and, as you show me the extraction,
hold me up and turn me over,
I hang there, and sit here —
all tear-stung, throaty bile-burn,
oozing rust-rivered, black-eyed jangle —
and poke the ragged opening
with my tongue.

CAT Scan

A craw wind catches me and I trip
past gatepost guardians, the turn of railings,
into the hospital grounds. Hypodermic
drinks darkness deep, shows it to the light;
an apple’s skin can never know its core.
In the sting of a burnished room,
glass and disinfectant hold me safe and distant,
the scratch of gown makes me smaller than I am.
A cracked voice cuts into the hollow
of the machine, as it spins and slices me
like ham. Don’t worry, it says. You’re almost done.
Inside the blink and grind, the growl of plastic –
deep and still – I see a field in the half-light
of summer’s dusk, grasp a long feathered grass,
the nub of its soft head, wet like a kiss.
Three black lines, track to another somewhere,
pass the house and barn, their cut silhouette
gentle: an inevitable homecoming.
I find a face in a tree, there; black eyes,
truffle snout, mouth agape in silver skin.
I hold its gaze in the drizzle of darkness,
humming to myself; the tree bends to listen.
I hum the song again, in the quiet room,
where they tell me, spinning tree, grass, night,
through and through my fingers. Back out on the street
the wind shifts; I brace for the oncoming squall.



Angela T. Carr is the author of How To Lose Your Home & Save Your Life (Bradshaw Books, 2014). Her writing is widely published in literary journals and anthologies — Mslexia, Abridged, Bare Fiction, The Pickled Body, Crannóg, Boyne Berries, Wordlegs — and has been broadcast on RTE Radio One. Three times short-listed for the Patrick Kavanagh Award, her debut collection won the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition 2013, judged by Joseph Woods. In 2014, she was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions series, short-listed for the Listowel Writers’ Week Single Poem Award and the Cúirt New Writing Showcase, a finalist in the Mslexia Poetry Competition, judged by Wendy Cope, a runner up in the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year, and winner of the Allingham Poetry Prize. Angela has read at numerous literary events and festivals around the country. Born in Glasgow, she lives in Dublin.
Website: A Dreaming Skin
Twitter: @adreamingskin


Let’s Hear Irish Poets Speak; the need for more poetry audiobanks in Ireland

Since this plea was published at The Bogman’s Cannon, I have been notified that one Irish University has been creating a collection of audio poetry. This was brought to my attention via comments under the original posting. Please check out the Seamus Heaney Centre Digital Archive & The Queen’s University, Belfast, Archives.

The Electronic Poetry Center (U.S) was founded in 1995. UBUWEB was founded by Kenneth Goldsmith in 1996, it is an audio archive housing avant-garde works including visual, concrete and sound poetry, UBU also holds film files.  PENNSound was founded in 2003. To date, one Irish University has made a step towards providing accessible poetry archives in Ireland. Poetry Ireland has not gone an inch toward increasing accessibility to Irish audio poetry. Why is this?  Whatever way we choose to look at this situation, we can see that despite the tourist push on arts here. Ireland is one to two generations behind best practice in the area of accessibility to audio poetry. We focus on pushing a few poets (mainly to the American market) and beneath the colossus-like feet of the Yeats, the Muldoons, the Heaneys, and the presidential poets, the green shoots are strangled and lacking in sunlight. I try very hard to understand why the academic and poetic establishment have such a narrow and untrusting vision of contemporary poetry, and I cannot conclude but that it represents a ‘business’ approach to the arts. A conservative fear of being ‘found out’ for this lack has promoted a culture of safety, a critique grounded in a narrowly defined ideology that has destroyed at least a generation of young writers. Some poetry audio does exist via the Seamus Heaney Centre, or maybe hidden in the pages of the Irish National Broadcaster’s site. Even then they can be found scattered about the corridors of Youtube. This thinly scraped and scrappy approach to poetry audio illumines a lacklustre approach to the art which is just short of disrespect. 

Poetry readers and writers are poorly served by critics who do not understand form, managers who do not understand process, and overweening established poets who feel that they must stand between the reader and the work. The reader of poetry is distrusted, is considered immature in their encounter with the poem! There is a contemporary poetry and it is thriving but it lacks good infrastructure Vis experimental spaces for emergent writers and the provision of audio spaces where we (the reader) can find poets like O’Driscoll or Ní Dhomhnaill speaking of their work and their interest in the process of creation. The fact that a new generation of emergent writers must await vehicles like Poetry Ireland Introductions to find an audience stinks of a paternalistic approach to poetic works that sees a few dominant poets stand between the reader and the work, as if it were radioactive.

The Irish poetry audience is not remedial and they like to go searching, hence they will go to where accessibility is respected; to UBUWEB, to PENNSound, to Jacket2, or to The Electronic Poetry Center. I suppose that the difference between these places and the half-assed Irish approach to providing good accessible infrastructure and experimental workspaces to Irish poets, is that the nous necessary to set up spaces wherein poetry can grow and develop its audience is driven by the poets themselves who understand how to bring on the next generation rather than suppressing them! As an example of poorly thought out approaches to writerly encouragement, Poetry Ireland deleted its 12 year old forum in 2013, taking with it a space where poets did peer reviews and experimented with form. There was no portability to the archives, and the remaining poets had to go in and copy everything to archive it elsewhere.

Here are some ideas regarding accessibility and archive that might interest working poets.

  1. An audio archive need not be complex. It involves the use of mp3 uploads, there are multiple types, like Soundcloud, Audioboom, and etc. The PENNsound Index is very simple but it allows wonderful access to lectures and readings. cf.  PENNsound Authors.
  2. Podcasts can be created using OS tech like Drupal, this example was sent by Mark Conroy.
  3. Instead of sending everything to private concerns like broadcasters, would it not be better to institute an archive where uploads that originate with broadcasters can go and be entirely and properly attributed to their source?
  4. There is a need for experimental poetry spaces, both written and audio, to be provided, as there is a need for a drop-in place like Kelly’s Writer’s House for talks and readings. Maybe what we need to see as readers and writers of poetry is passion for the form by those who purport to manage it.

There is a singular lack of cohesive thought given to platforming a generation of writers. There is a shabby merry-go-round approach to platforming the same 6-7 poets as representative of Irish poetry internationally, it is embarrassing. The looming gap in how we present poetry here, especially to our disregard for women poets is wrong, really wrong. Half of the poets we push have been dead years. Recently on St. Patrick’s Day the same bunch of poets were pushed out to represent Irish writing. In my opinion people will just stop listening as ossification sets in. The guardians of poetry do a generation of poets a disservice with their ego-trips and their lack of support to young poets, as my grandmother said fur coat, no knickers; we are all shop front, a tawdry mess. 

‘Knitting a Father from Nettles’ and other poems by Annette Skade

Medici Girl

Beauty adorns virtue, my Father says.
To save the family, and me, from the shame
of my disfigurement, he orders a corridor
to stretch from here to Santa Annunziata.
I beg forgiveness from the Holy Mother
at a hidden chink beside the altar.
Her perfect face is turned from me,
I am to reflect upon her piety.
My bedchamber floor maps out the world.
Every day I pace its length and breadth,
dip toes in oceans, trace the course of rivers,
trample the towers of the powerful,
reach the very edge, the land of monsters,
half-made things, strange and magical.
I slide down the wall, squat in this place,
feel light from the high window on my face.

The Garden of the Fugitives

These castings from the space
where flesh and bone used to be,
the moment fixed in gypsum.
Head tilts back, eyes roll, mouth loosens.
The mould presses replay
of the same death throe, sends one
to London, another to New York.
No grave goods, no funeral.
Lost at sea, the remains
must fetch up to grant a burial.
The ones left behind scout and pray
for anything to wash on shore,
hope ebbing with each acrid tide.
Years back, his body at the pier-
still himself- he held the spark for hours.
I wasn’t there when it left him,
came back to find a shell.
In less than a day his skin a husk,
to cover what had once been radiant.
Here is a zero, an indent in black sand,
ablaze with presence. I pour
handfuls of lava dust
on this never-living kernel,
put words on the frozen tongue,
in place of a coin for Charon.

Knitting a Father from Nettles

Scrape years of dirt
off the date, rip nettles
from the headstone.
Gather armfuls.
Pay no heed
to swollen knuckles,
red welts at the wrist.
Wrap stem after stem
around the needle,
fibrous strands of story,
of faded photos,
in – over –
Stay silent.
Not one word
to pass your lips.
Echo his ghost,
rarest of visitors,
the slow shake of head
at the bottom of the bed.
Bind the waist
with a knitting belt
to pass a needle through.
Knit one–handed;
nursing the baby,
stirring the pan,
stacking the shopping.
Shake out the finished thing
to settle on the space
around a father:
a winding sheet
for a dinge
in the mattress.
Begin again.
Knitting a Father from Nettles and other poems are © Annette Skade

thorston-merz-colourAnnette Skade is an award-winning poet, and teacher, living and writing on the Beara peninsula on Ireland’s south-west coast. Her first collection Thimblerig was published following her receipt of the Cork Review Literary Manuscript prize in 2012.

She has a degree in Ancient Greek and Philosophy from Liverpool University and she has just completed an MA in Poetry Studies from Dublin City University, where she read everything from Anne Carson to the York Mystery Plays, Elizabeth Bishop to Maurice Scully.

Her poems have recently appeared in the SHOp poetry magazine, Abridged and the Cork Literary Review .

‘Someone Wants Lovecraft’s Head’ by Christine Murray

Someone wants to fillet Lovecraft and serve him up,
someone wants his head on a platter, a weird trophy.
It makes me want to read him again, like I did Dante
when Gherush92 found him unsuited to the academy
they wished passages excised, it sounded very painful.
Post-literacy is complex, writers no longer read but they
manage to seed adequate trifling books, empty things
that are cut off from history, stuff that wouldn’t rise a
hair on a mouse.
They cannot stand offence, hair-triggers are embedded in
every single text, it’ll be trigger-warnings next. Art must be
vague. It must reject the psychogeography of the artist and
empty itself of all meaning to suit the post literate non-reader.
They’ll pastel the woods, dock the leaves, blotting the dark
out. Soon there’ll be no interior maps, just the inane mufflings
of some coked-out artist bought by Hollywood seeking a stage
for their tired crap. Someone will have to bring Lovecraft back.
The new academy is post-literate, easy to offence, they tried
to swing Dante from the same root, the same diseased tree
of political propriety. Their stamp is a sliding shoe shuffle,
their platform, an easy media with time on their hands, the
bored crowd fattened on psychopathy and too manic to move.
Someone takes offence at Lovecraftian lore, makes me want
to read him again. To hood myself and go to those nameless
places where genetic aberration and weird alien-fucking are
the norm, where mottled and dusty books wait in dank houses
and the church of despair is a slimey cathedral. To read about 
YibbTstll, Olkoth, The Nameless City. To read about the endless
rot of the endless night, his dank woods.
They eviscerated Plath, twisting her words out of their meaning.
Whitman is too gay for school. While Houellebecq’s dark ranting
has people panting for some arbitrary justice. All their songs rejected,
ignored. Imagination is dark, always will be. The poet suicides
who take up their places in the anti-Parthenon; their cold grip, the
bird claw in your shoulder are taloned antis; anti-humour, anti-light,
anti-semite (maybe).
Far better indeed to stick it all in some briefcase, your tired theories,
than to look, really look, at what they created from loathing, from fear.
Those dark depression raptors, those death birds, yet someone is 
trying to kill Lovecraft, and have his head on their simple stoneware.
Someone thinks hate kills hate.
Someone wants Lovecraft’s Head is © C. Murray, first published in And Agamemnon Dead, an alternative collection of Irish poetry (2015).

‘Lifelike’ and other poems by Jennifer Matthews

Family Portraits

With skin like that,
you don’t have to
open your mouth.
praise; Mother twirled
back the sardine-tin key
of his sister’s tongue.
Richard Avedon, embryonic
fixed his Kodax Box Brownie
on Sister, to exhume
her from her own beauty.

… she believed she existed only
as skin, and hair,
and a beautiful body …

He sought
sun, the negative of his muse
in hand to place on his shoulder:
used his own skin
as a contact sheet
for the image to burn into him,
to carry her
as widows clutch framed photos
of loved ones lost
to war.


His tattoo: a stitch of self
harm, a barcode, a brand,
a word he wants so badly
to replace his own skin
that he signs consent
to be burnt blue.
He lies down
to give his flesh
to the upper-hand,
the cruel beautician.
Beauty is nothing
but a flaw so stunning
it can’t be ignored.
Its twin image burrows
into the soft space
of the beholder’s mind,
home-making, breeding
ideas, word by word
they contort and leap
to twist every eventuality
into the bent shape
of ok.


Transcend the gown without
leaving your body: your first mission
should you choose to redress it.
Followed by negligé negligence,
flattened heels,
unproductive visage
with lips unstuck
and colourless toes.
Forget bridal makeup packages,
beauty queen campaigns,
perfectly accessorised communions.
What lies
on bare skin but dead skin
motes of past times
exfoliated until your final
newness halts
and you are painted lifelike
and dressed
in something really very You.

Scent of a Woman (Echolalia)

Text: NPR article ‘Smell that sadness? Female tears turn off men’ by Joe Palca (7.1.11)
From human testosterone
levels in this specific moment
edge sweat or saliva.
A drop in arousal, colleagues
say, dribbled down cheeks.
A team of scientists starts crying.
Crying serves a purpose.
What is the state
of sexual chemical communications
causing this effect?
Whatever substance
women’s tears may reduce—
tear donors watch, seeing clearly
Researchers had their female
smelling authors of compassion
(a recognisable smell).
Colleagues sniffed, not convinced.
But scientists could be found
in a lot of places, willing
to donate tears.
The urge to signal: your human
tears may have an effect on you.
That was responsible
for quiet after men. Even if
you can’t look at pictures
of women’s faces,
a few drops of a woman was
to see a reality.
‘Lifelike and other poems’ is © Jennifer Matthews

jen_headshotJennifer Matthews writes poetry and is editor of the Long Story, Short Journal. Originally from Missouri, USA she has been living in Ireland for over a decade, and is a citizen of both countries. Her poetry has been published in, or is forthcoming from Banshee, Poetry International — Ireland, The Stinging Fly, Mslexia, The Pickled Body, Burning Bush 2, Abridged, Revival, Necessary Fiction, Poetry Salzburg, Foma & Fontanelles, and Cork Literary Review, and anthologised in Dedalus’s collection of immigrant poetry in Ireland, Landing Places (2010). In 2015 she was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. A chapbook of her poetry, Rootless, is available to read free online at Smithereens Press.

‘Bind’ by Chris Murray


if there are birds here
then they are of stone
draught of birds / flesh bone wing
claw in grass,
rilled etch gathers to her nets
dust and fire / tree-step (again)
bird claw impinge and lift.
surely light would retain in
silica’s cast or flaw ?

bind again
it gathers outside the perimeter
not wanton gargoyle nor eagle
it is  of-one-piece       seamed
migratory pattern of
umber dawns rolling a black frenzy
down condensed corridors
bind I and bind again were first published in Deep Water Literary Journal (August 2015)

Thanks to Tom and Eve O’Reilly at Deep Water Literary Journal for publishing ‘bind’. The new DWLJ is online now and it is well worth a visit. I am adding here a link to Tom D’Evelyn’s blog. Tom wrote about the ideas in ‘bind’. I am, and have been very grateful to Tom who has written so graciously about my work for sometime now. Poets require readers who react to and understand the work, especially when the work is inherently about teasing out the image. ‘Bind’ is from a book in progress that is divided into four main sections, Boundaries, Babel, Wintering, and Park and Corridor. It is a winter book.

‘The Dream Clock’ and other visual poetry by Susan Connolly

Towards the Light  (1)_1

Winter Solstice at Dowth, 3pm (1)_1
One Hundred and Six Days (2)_1
One Hundred and Six Days (2)_2
FireShot Capture -  - https___dochub
Susan Connolly (2)Susan Connolly’s first collection of poetry For the Stranger was published by the Dedalus Press in 1993. She was awarded the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry in 2001. Her second collection Forest Music was published by Shearsman Books in 2009. Shearsman published her chapbook The Sun-Artist: a book of pattern poems in 2013. She lives in Drogheda, Co. Louth.FireShot Capture - The Sun-Artist cover_ -

Looking at how the media presented the Oxford Professor of Poetry Election for VIDA !

maxresdefault (1)There is an interest for women poets in how media presents electoral processes like the recent Oxford Professor of Poetry appointment. Just as there is an interest in how media views poetry generally.

“I would like to see something different at the next election. I would like to see the media discussing women poets and the benefits that they can bring to the chair, and how their role can influence emerging women poets. I feel that this can be achieved by speaking to women candidates with intelligence and not utilising them as filler material in your ossified view of what poetry is.” (VIDA)
I started Poethead as a platform that could create visibility for women poets and their translators. Poetry is primarily a process of creation, however, media often engages with poetry at the point where it has become a product, often within the published book. This convergence of media and poetry was always going to be problematic. That a lifetime of creative effort goes into a finished book or books is not recognised by the reviewer who is only interested in producing copy. In order to fully understand the poem within the book, and the book as object, one often has to read the entire body of work by the poet. That we need magazines like Jacket2, Harriet, UBUWEB, Wording the Between, Poetry Foundation, and other platforms wholly dedicated to the poem is a given for the poetic reader. That the media finds the poet a difficult and irascible creature is also a given. It seems far easier for media to use a simplified strategm or model to present the reader with something amounting to cultivating interest in poetry. Evidently the British national press has been using outdated models to platform poetry. It requires review.
If the media had generally ignored the Oxford Professor of Poetry election, it might have been better than the samey efforts journalists used to generate interest in the voting process. Mostly the British media opted for failsafe methods in an attempt to bring interest to the Oxford Election. That the press chose to generally ignore one of the candidates who happened to be a woman candidate seems to me beyond remiss. A created invisibility on the part of national media organisations in the case of A. E Stalling’s candidature for the Oxford chair points to laziness and to a lack of effort with regard to examining androcentrism in literary publication and in academic appointment. In the three centuries since its inception the Oxford Chair has been almost wholly occupied by male poets, with the exception of a brief nine-day female occupancy. So, this week I wrote about media laziness for VIDA! Women in the Literary Arts.

If the media is incapable of challenging sexism in poetry, is uninterested in the academic perception of poetry as a male preserve, or indeed in the low review numbers of books by women poets that occur in their newspapers, then what happened at Oxford will continue to occur intermittently and that my friends is just boring.

“Summer Haiku” by Maeve O’Sullivan


summer haiku


choppy Irish Sea
failing to dislodge
this red starfish
poppy bed:
the unopened ones
as lovely as the blooms

a garden full of sunflowers swaying tall
 muddy summer frogpond    no splash

reject samsara ?
this wild summer river
this wild path
these stone walls
hemming him in too-
cinnabar caterpillar
cloudy afternoon…
my sweet pea flowers
becoming peas

A Train Hurtles West

morning downpour-
we have both dreamt
about our mothers
in my small bathroom…
mum’s perfume
Auld Lang Syne
in the background-
I sign her DNR request
 mother dying       a train hurtles west
death cert. incomplete   granny’s maiden name

All through the Night:
this out of tune version
strangely moving


cloudy morning…
her solar-powered plastic flower
sways hesitantly

untitledMaeve O’Sullivan works as a media lecturer in the further education sector in Dublin. Her poems and haiku have been widely published and anthologised since the mid-1990s, and she is a former poetry winner at Listowel Writer’s Week. Initial Response, her debut collection of haiku poetry, also from Alba Publishing, was launched in 2011, and was well-received by readers and critics alike. Maeve is a founder member of Haiku Ireland and the Hibernian Poetry Workshop. She also performs at festivals and literary events with the spoken word group The Poetry Divas. Her poem Leaving Vigo was recently nominated for a Forward Prize for a Single Poem by the Limerick-based journal Revival.

“The Last Childbearing Years” by Lindsey Bellosa

The Last Childbearing Years

Deliciously, all that we might have been,
all that we were— fire, tears,
wit, taste, martyred ambition—
stirs like the memory of refused adultery
the drained and flagging bosom of our middle years.
–Adrienne Rich, “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law”

The green leaves: so young against the sun.
How our bodies betray themselves; spine
of white pine, all its vertebrae clinging
to the last of the day’s light—
what insects have fed on it? What birds
housed their young… it being an instrument
and now, not, and now: what? We call it
dignity, what the young fear in their lushness
but the fear once swallowed can’t be swallowed again.
It isn’t the age that tortures; it is the anticipation of the age…
the sons who will forget us, not being forgotten;
the purpose that ruins us and not its loss.
What is empty is not there. Does the past mock
like a calling bird? Do lost opportunities rattle
like phantom limbs? Or what is never tasted,
never remembered? Houses that weren’t built,
children who weren’t born and something, something
else… the scent almost perceptible; the sky always
hanging just out of reach.
They tell me you won’t remember this time
I am weaving around you like daisies. That our walks
by the stream are only burblings; that my work is you
but it can’t be recognized or rewarded as work,
its meaning uncertain— but it must be done
and certainly not in the wrong way.
Dusting the whatnots: waste of a mind;
wasted body becoming an abandoned nest,
a field gnarled and burly with weeds:
eventually past fallow; past use
having been granted only that tenderest of privileges
which withers, then rots. I watch my body make a cage of itself:
sag and bulge with importance that is not its own,
leaving behind the shell that is me, and the me—
being for someone else, when it is not wanted or needed…
what does it mean? What is it to itself and how does it stand
in the mirror without its usual measurements?
Don’t stand at the foot of the bed.
Preserve the allure: don’t see the flower
bulge and pulsate; expand like the moon
which swallows the world, only for another
to emerge. Don’t see how everything comes from this place:
smallest doorway, passage between unbeing and being,
portal. If you see this work, see how the body
is not what it seems: how flesh rips like silk—
not an oil painting, not a porn movie or needlework, not anything
cultivated to the delicate preferences of the eye. Only how power
gushes in laps of grey and blood ; the sheer will of the body
to stretch itself, to reach. How the body houses a sea, all life
teeming in a moment. Only a woman can do this. Only we call them
beautiful. Only we call them frail.
Ornamental, which adorns, which complements
as though we ourselves are not real, as though we only reflect
what is real… because we unfold, because we reveal,
because our bodies are the flowers which weather,
emerging each spring in spite of elements or desire.
We bear what is necessary— beauty being secondary,
beauty being cultivated, prized, heralded. But the blossom
is not the center; coiled roots reach what is essential,
what sustains. Harvested, we bloom again.
Unwanted, we bloom until that season has past.
Spent, what is sewn from us continues the world.
The Last Childbearing Years is © Lindsey Bellosa

6pi9hQn6_400x400Lindsey Bellosa lives in Syracuse, NY. She has an MA in Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway and has poems published in both Irish and American journals: most recently The Comstock Review, The Galway Review, Poethead, Flutter Poetry Journal, Emerge Literary Journal and The Cortland Review. Her first full length collection was recently longlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize.
“Birth Partner” and other poems by Lindsey Bellosa

“Phoenix” and other poems by Müesser Yeniay

The House of God

We landed
from the house of God
to the island of heart

we came into being

we are at the house of earth
bodies are celestial


Poeta pirata est

I should be a phoenix
to the peaks
of my imagination

I should see the tips of my horizon
and introduce myself to it

never I wish
anything remains hidden
from me

since I came here
to see the front and behind
both of dreams
and reality


The wind
                  the sand 


I am 

I am 
the place 

Phoenix and other poems are © Müesser Yeniay

MÜESSER YENİAY was born in İzmir, 1984; she graduated from Ege University, with a degree in English Language and Literature. She took her M.A on Turkish Literature at Bilkent University. She has won several prizes in Turkey including Yunus Emre (2006), Homeros Attila İlhan (2007), Ali Riza Ertan (2009), Enver Gökçe (2013) poetry prizes. She was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Muse Pie Press in USA.
Her first book Darkness Also Falls Ground was published in 2009 and her second book I Founded My Home in the Mountains a collection of translation from world poetry. Her second poetry book I Drew the Sky Again was published in 2011. She has translated the poems of Persian poet Behruz Kia as Requiem to Tulips. She has translated the Selected Poems of Gerard Augustin together with Eray Canberk, Başak Aydınalp, Metin Cengiz (2011). She has also translated  the Personal Anthology of Michel Cassir together with Eray Canberk and Metin Cengiz (2011). Lately, she has published a Contemporary Spanish Anthology with Metin Cengiz and Jaime B. Rosa. She also translated the poetry of Israeli poet Ronny Someck (2014) and Hungarian poet Attila F. Balazs (2015). She has published a book on modern Turkish Avant-garde poetry The Other Consciousness: Surrealism and The Second New (2013). Her latest poetry book Before Me There Were Deserts was published in 2014 in İstanbul. Her poems were published in Hungarian by AB-Art Press by the name A Rozsaszedes Szertartasa (2015).
Her poems have appeared in the following magazines abroad: Actualitatea Literară (Romania), The Voices Project, The Bakery, Sentinel Poetry, Yellow Medicine Review, Shot Glass Journal, Poesy, Shampoo, Los Angeles Review of Books, Apalachee Review (USA&England); Kritya, Shaikshik Dakhal (India); Casa Della Poesia, Libere Luci, I poeti di Europe in Versi e il lago di Como (Italy); Poeticanet, Poiein (Greece); Revue Ayna, Souffle, L’oiseau de feu du Garlaban (France); Al Doha (Qatar); Tema (Croatia); Dargah (Persia).
The Anthologies her poetry appeared: With Our Eyes Wide Open; Aspiring to Inspire, 2014 Women Writers Anthology; 2014 Poetry Anthology- Words of Fire and Ice (USA) Poesia Contemporanea de la Republica de Turquie (Spain); Voix Vives de Mediterranee en Mediterranee, Anthologie Sete 2013 ve Poetique Insurrection 2015 (France); One Yet Many- The Cadence of Diversity ve ayrıca Shaikshik Dakhal (India); Come Cerchi Sull’acqua (Italy).
Her poems have been translated into Vietnamese, Hungarian, Croatian, English, Persian, French, Serbian, Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, Greek, Hindi, Spanish and Romanian. Her book in Hungarian was published in 2015 by AB-Art Publishing by the name “A Rozsaszedes Szertartasa” She has participated in the poetry festivals like Sarajevo International Poetry Festival, September 2010 (Bosnia-Herzegovina); Nisan International Poetry Festival, May 2011 (Israel); Belgrad International Poetry Festival, September 2012 (Serbia); Voix Vives International Poetry Festival (Sete), July 2013 (France); Kritya International Poetry Festival, September 2013 (India), Galati/Antares International Poetry Festival, June 2014 (Romania), Medellin International Poetry Festival, July 2014 (Colombia); 2nd Asia Pacific Poetry Festival 2015 (Vietnam).
Müesser is the editor of the literature magazine Şiirden (of Poetry). She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Turkish literature at Bilkent University, Ankara, and is also a member of PEN and the Writers Syndicate of Turkey.

  1. Three Poems by Müesser Yeniay
  2. An Index of Women Poets

‘Leda Revised’ and other poems by Celeste Augé


More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Forever warm and still to be enjoy’d…’

—JOHN KEATS, Ode on a Grecian Urn
You lie across my thighs as I write,
my bone-warming hot water bottle,
pure latex, guaranteed to delight the most
discriminating women, mottle their thighs
as they lie deep in their beds, pretending
this rubber sack of warm water
could never replace their lover.
The women of Ireland drive with you
across their laps, hand-knit covers
helping to keep you warm. More love,
the patterns passed down from
mothers and grandmothers, still enjoyed.
They knit covers for each new bottle,
battle the cold, inside and out.
Every woman remembers her first.
I was twelve, three hours after landing
in Ireland, in Granny’s front bedroom.
You are the best invention after
hot water on tap, and when old age hits
and you warm through rheumatism—
not period pains—I hope to bits
I will have more to hug than my hottle
(Granny’s word for hot water bottle).

Women Improve With the Years

after Yeats
I am worn out with diets—
those rain-worn, concrete goddesses
among the skinny streets.
All winter long I look at magazines
and try out each new fad
I find in each new book.
Pretending: I am a future beauty, too.
But I’m pleased with myself,
to have the power of all four limbs,
eyes that can read the headlines, a body
that has grown a baby, loved on a whim.
Women improve with the years;
I switch on the light, don’t mind
who sees my stretch marks. If we meet
at my burning age, watch out! I grow
ludic in the rain—a diet-worn, fleshy
goddess at play among the shops.

Leda Revised

There’re worse things than being fucked by a swan.
Try going in—a young woman, full of life—
to give birth to your firstborn—that perfect
fleshy egg. Sim-fizz-ee-otomy. I’ve learnt how to say it,
properly. A slice here, a slice there, my pelvis opens up.
The next day a young nurse teaches me to walk.
Instead of nursing my crying baby I had to learn
to walk again. A big egg, they said, much later. Too big.
Our Lady of Lourdes was worried that if they did one
they’d end up doing ten C-sections on me.
As if my husband wouldn’t keep his hands off me—
and not a condom allowed within these holy shores.
They must have pictured me pregnant for decades.
Like I could let him near me again. Pain too strong
to let me hold my baby, even. Waddling everywhere.
Fuckin Zeus. Him and his big shoulders.

Always Sligo Rovers

for Shea and Sam
The ancestors at Garavogue Villas
don’t care that we can’t pay the rent.
Their stone circle is still here, disguised
as a roundabout. Lichen covers the stones.
In the middle, the Blessed Virgin Mary—
in an all-white strip—protects the ancestors,
prays over them, right on the spot
where their bones used to lie.
Their 5,000-year-old tomb is gone.
Parked cars hide the touchline
where we used to play kerbs. Sometimes,
late at night, I pass Whitewash Mary,
always praying, always quiet,
that half smile playing around her lips,
her curves dimly lit by streetlights—
lone mother of the night—and I want
to kick the stray football to her, shout:
‘Get up to it, Mary, nod it back!’
At the Showgrounds, the mountains surround us,
ancestors everywhere—on Knocknarea,
Keelogboy, the Ballygawley Hills, Ben Bulben.
The sky is thick with ancestors—
there isn’t too far you can go in this town
without someone knowing what you’re up to.
Bohs are in with a chance but we’ve got Joseph Ndo
who brings a kind of stillness to every
pass of the ball, as though he’s surrounded
by a different type of air, the ancestors at his feet.
And sometimes when it’s a good night
in the Showgrounds and no one
has cursed the result, that same kind
of force field hovers right around the grounds,
around the signs for Tohers and Jako,
energy conjured up by the ancestors—
who else could it be?—watching over us.
A minute’s silence for the ancestors, for their protection,
everyone up on their feet, a minute’s silence for any help
the ancestors might give tonight, the night when
Rovers line out against Bohs, the night when Uncle S
brings his newly-fatherless nephew to see his first match
in the Showgrounds, when Googe brings his future wife
to see what she’s letting herself in for, when
Seamus brings his young son to the only place on earth
where he will be allowed to swear loudly
at each lost tackle, wrong penalty,
missed chance, the ancestors watching over them,
that blessed moment before the whistle blows,
a moment’s silence, please,

and we remember

our pasts, our people returned to us for tonight—
as though their spirits could come back to earth,
touch down right there on the pitch.


Today is Friday and I’m out of metaphors—
the wind howling though the trees outside
is just the wind that knocks down the wheelie bin
which is just a bin blown over that scatters
egg cartons, yoghurt pots and plastic bottles
over the gravel stones outside my house
that are simply stones (though a lot of them)
and my house is a house, rectangular,
white, four walls and a roof, nothing more.
This pen I hold writes only words—
blue words. As in the colour blue.
Somewhere else a five-year-old boy picks up
a fragment of a cluster bomb (where it might
be windy, too)—they aren’t metaphors either
(neither the boy nor the bomb).
My own son is with my neighbour,
(somewhere out there in a black Ford)
both of them flesh and bone, representing
themselves (their best and their worst selves).
I sit here and I mean nothing more than
woman sitting on a couch on a Friday afternoon
writing and waiting.

Gym Poem #1

My muscles and tendons stitch along my bones
like a comfortable tracksuit that knows the shape of me,
my life, the limited shapes of the work I do.
These poems from Skip Diving (Salmon Poetry, 2014) are © Celeste Augé

Celeste Augé is the author of Skip Diving (Salmon Poetry, 2014), The Essential Guide to Flight (Salmon Poetry, 2009) and the collection of short stories Fireproof and Other Stories (Doire Press, 2012).

The World Literature Review said that “Celeste Augé’s poems are commendable for their care, deep thought, and intellectual ambition”, while the Anna Livia Review said that “Fireproof is a remarkably strong debut into the world of short stories and will begin to build what is undoubtedly going to be a strong readership for the author”.

Celeste’s poetry has been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award and she received a Literature Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to write Skip Diving. In 2011, she won the Cúirt New Writing Prize for fiction. She lives in Connemara, in the West of Ireland.

‘The Somnambulist Who Stood Still’ by Kate O’Shea

The Somnambulist Who Stood Still




Don’t warble.
She smells you for her own.
His scarf is a garrotte, her on all fours.
Hors d’oeuvre. Opens no doors.
Whores. Don’t warble.
She is not what she seems.
She is real, mean; eats dwarves,
oscillates on fat fingers,
odorous dreamer,
osseous tail – a small pencil from
a bookie shop that wriggled down
the back of the couch –
that is how he wrote poetry,
that is how he got in trouble,
we say they are witches,
no one believes, no one believes, no one believes.
She tells him he smells like cabbage.
He smells like her Daddy.


Lady Gaga

She is twisting hay,
going on about the caul, her helmeted head,
preternatural, making up stories.
An heirloom on paper. Making out with sailors,
but she is drowning in wine and brine.
Pretty unnatural if you axe me.
Goodluck to her. Sleeveen.
We ain’t too chummy with batshit crazy.
Amen to that. Cross yerself.
Her eyes are stains, the dark bitumen
of Asia Minor.
Bich-oo, bich-oo.
Pitchfork men with scabby eyeholes
hurl themselves like golliers
for a peck on the cheek.
But we know she is pure evil.
We know she ain’t meek,
yielding as seasons.
She is a long dark winter.
A blizzard.
A fruitcake with marzipan.
Her landscape the birth membrane
of strangeness. Weird.
Geared for a fight.
It ain’t right for a woman to attack.
All life collapses in her, stretched
taut like wires between pylons,
a zigging and a zagging some catchy
acoustic, a voice like no voice
I remember, percolating like cha
left on too long. Wired.
A spasmodic eruption of history
and hormones. She is stubborn
as an ass; fast on her feet.
Self-taught in a hedge school
that went on too long in her twisted
dimension of our country.
She is bitchin’ the bitumen out of roads,
and maps, her face the texture
of chopped liver. What lies underneath?
Internal organs hanging from her sleeves.


Death by delirium

Stand and deliver! Lily girls a favourite of Sir Galahad.
Galahad a hard on for the Holy Grail
made old ladies, and trolls, spin in revolving doors.
I will die disinhibited and incontinent, he said,
after three bottles of Malbec chugged by the neck.
Find a cure for the bore, fighting bad benzos
to the death, replacing the letters in alphabet soup
with antipsychotics. Galahad thought.
Who are these immobilized men who appear to be dead?
The monitors tell me otherwise. Yet nought to be got
from one French kiss – the stiffs – the tongue is taken,
if I am not mistaken; the tongue is lolling;
over the fire, on the sofa. I will have to take a leak,
fill my belly with bubble and squeak,
as I hurtle towards death – dash; collide; clatter.
The flat affect cannot knock a man in 3D,
armed with Haloperidol and intestinal prosody.


The num num num num num num num poem.

Ooooooooh I so pretty; clitty, titties all for you,
again & again, now the scented scimitar snoozes
in basin hands, a schooner: scissors-legs scoff
the bedrock. Protruding outcrop, again & again.
Scherzo, no scherzo; my highbrow, highlight,
highland fling; knees, knees, yes please,
feet and ears, hears, and here, full of the seed,
the seed, the seed, the seed, the seed:
num, num, num, num, num, num, num.
The glories of the world stuck in me.
first published in Outburst Magazine, 2013.


Bubble Butt Jew

Write me a storytelling, drop me in the action,
contrary rag and bone does a me-and-Mrs-Jones
but it’s tantrums all the way.
No heartbeat, sweets on Bleaker St.,
sanitised, pink and fluffy,
blue stocking to the cleft of her nether chin.
Not by the airs of her chinny-chin-chin.
Where to begin when the game is up and over?
A mechanical hare on a dog track,
now where’s the fun in that?
The bloodthirsty, bloodcurdling scream
like a child’s night terrors.
Amazed the narrator survived thus far:
Let the wind and the rain bring your father back again,
stay away from the window bogey man.
A man groans in a ditch, it was she.
Greyhounds tuck into stale bread and cold tea.
The ignominy; when we must rebut our nature –
to tear the hare limb from limb
is not a whimsy; to do what comes natural,
to do, to be, that is the story.
The tension between desire and action,
blood sports and p.c.
Contrary rag and bones is one-eighth Polack Jew,
a survivor of pogroms, before the great famine
made ye all hungrier in mood, and food.
Fat-arsed, thick, lumbering Irish,
dragging that repressed burden
of starvation and privates, making furrows,
verse and ploughing, meowing.
Much like the Negro slaves sang spirituals,
the Irish sang ballads, and danced roughly
into a mass grave, blind drunk and calculated.
Would you like to be buried with my people?
The world’s worst chat-up line,
Contrary rag and bones the hero of this after world.
Holy Toledo, and Knock, Jerusalem.
All these things mattered like primitive magic.
These things unsaid.
The Somnambulist Who Stood Still is © Kate O’Shea

Kate O’Shea lives in Dublin. Her chapbook Crackpoet is available on Amazon. She was short listed for the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition and the Patrick Kavanagh Award twice. She is widely published in journals abroad. Her latest publications were in The Seranac Review, Orbis, Cyphers, Outburst, and Prole. Most recently she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in America.

Eight new poems will be published later this year in three anthologies.

‘Lilacs From the Field of Mars’ and other poems by Maureen Boyle


(Hindi: the pleasure of looking)
In my favourite of your Indian stories
you are working in your room in the garden ashram:
the air is heavy with mangoes and dung
the cows in the gowshala sing
the saffron cloths of the swami flap like prayer flags on the line.
You are working on the Gita intent and peaceful
but suddenly you look up and there is the cook,
Santakumar, with his extended family smiling at your door
and when you ask what you can do for them
he says, “No, no – just Darshan Mr Malki, just Darshan.”
And now, on many nights when you are asleep before me
I lie and look and think, “Just Darshan, just Darshan Malachi.”
First published in ‘Incertus’ 2007.

Invoking St Ciarán of Saigher

When the blackbirds begin to build their nest against your house
we take it as a good sign – an omen of continuance, of the birds
knowing it as a gentle place, trusting its rafters, burrowing
into the soft hydrangea, coming right into the luctual house,
the house of the dead. They swoop in – the rich open sough
a sound bigger than themselves, comic with beards of grass,
busy with the build. But at your month’s mind, the birds are frantic
through the night and in the morning the perfect nest is overturned,
one small fledgling left by the sparrowhawk upon the ground
and the bewildered mother bird still flying in with worms, unable
to break her instinctive act. I lift the scalding and feel again the cold
of death as I had on your cheek in the bright mornings of that May week
when I stole downstairs to be with you alone. Now I wish I had the power
of the Midlands Saint, whose prayer alone could bring back the birds,
could put the breath back into men when it had gone.
First published in ‘Festschrift for Ciaran Carson’ 2008

Put Out the Light

in Memoriam Robert Mc Crea, 1907 – 1990
The entrails of a salmon flower in the sink
in the picture I have of you
teaching me to gut fish.
You have lifted it from the river
at the foot of our house
the Mourne filled with Sperrin water
and now its insides stream
like river weed running in the current –
something of the river brought home.
You handle it tenderly, call it “she”,
a hen, and are saddened when you find the roe
that will not have a chance to spawn.
Another time, the weather in the window different,
you show me how to clean out a hen bird,
a turkey, that will hang in the cold ‘til Christmas.
This lesson is serious. You say, “You must take out the lights”…
the lungs that hide in the dark of the turkey’s vaulted belly.
“Put out the lights and then put out the lights”.
On ordinary days you mush up Mother’s Pride
to feed Rhode Island Reds, the smell of wet bread
filling the scullery for hens that scare my mother.
Those days, you had finished with the Mill
and the blizzard of the scutching room that gave you Monday fever.
How cruel that the weekend seemed to mend you, only to begin again.
Proust’s father gave it another name, byssinosis,
from the fine linen you were dying to produce
but would never wear.
At weekends you would make a rosary of the village lanes
up High Seein, spitting into hedges with the other men,
knowing the name of every plant it landed on.
First published in ‘Incertus’ 2007.

Lilacs from the Field of Mars


Bringing armfuls of lilacs from the Field of Mars
blushing girls hide them under cotton skirts,
stiffening petticoats like the dancers’ horsehair net
bought by the shimmering bolt they have seen carried
to the costumier’s in the neighbouring street. Once in place
they must brave the babushkas who sit in the dusky corridors
of the old theatre knitting, darning the dancer’s shoes
holding the block in the satin where blood has soaked into cloth.
The hidden flowers rustle as they walk and when inside
are pulled out in a wash of Spring scent to be handed
carefully over the balcony and down to the blind box
where they will wait until the last beat of his pas-de-deux
and then fall in a lilac shower – flowers warmed
by the thighs of girls as offerings for the young god.
First published in ‘The Honest Ulsterman’ 2014.

Weather Vane

Your love, Lord reaches to heaven
your truth to the skies.


I am on the roof this breezy day,
in the sixth month of my pregnancy,
picking off the moss and lichen and tossing them
in soft bouquets to the ground.

Above me are the chimneys –
their stacks the colour of sand
and round the tops, circles of hearts
opening… to the sky.

I am a billowing blown crow
in my dark work clothes
and this is punishment for vanity.
For finding my face in a bucket of blue

Sister brought me up the back stairs.
The slates I clean are greens and shell-greys
that turn dark ink-blue in rain.
Today is a weather-breeder

the nuns say, presaging a storm,
so I am here to clean the way
and the rain will wash the loosened moss
in green runnels when it comes.

I am as high as the monkey puzzle,
Its open branches wide smiles
at the level of my eye, arms outstretched –
as if they’d catch me.

Down below is the road I will walk
my baby across to give him away
he, in a big dicky-up pram,
me, all dressed. Every Monday

the nuns take me to the parlour
to write a card telling everyone
who needs to know: that I am well,
that the sea is wild, that I am working hard,

that I miss them, when all the while:
I’m sitting at an oak table –
the smell of polish heavy in the air,
the grandmother clock ticking nearby,

dry spider plants on the windowsills
and a sad-eyed Mary hanging her head
in the corner. They take a lot of trouble
with the cards. The gardener runs them

up to Portrush and posts them there
so that the stamp’s right,so that the postman
can tell everyone I’m grand
and it’s not just my parents’ word on it.

I talk to my baby up here.
We’re not supposed to but the wind
takes the words away.
They say Our Lady had no pain

in either the making or getting of God
and she was allowed to keep him.
I’d have liked mine to have an angel for a father –
he’d have been light on me.

I mind my Granny saying
that when the midwife helping Mary
put her hand in to touch
it withered away.

Who’ll help me when the time comes?
It’ll be one of them and I think I’d love
to have that power to wither their hands.
My hands are cold; the first raindrops splashing

on the slate. The red bricks of the walls burn
in the dying sun’s colour and the birds have gone,
taking the little offerings of moss and lichen.
They’ll line their nests with them.

First published in Poetry Ireland Review in 2007.

Audio Poetry by Maureen Boyle

Maureen Boyle on Youtube
From the Fishouse
Maureen-25 (1)Maureen Boyle grew up in Sion Mills, County Tyrone and now lives in Belfast. She was awarded a UNESCO medal for poetry in 1979 when she was 18. She was runner-up in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Prize in 2004. In 2007 she was awarded the Ireland Chair of Poetry Prize and the Strokestown International Poetry Prize. She has been the recipient of various awards from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland – most recently an Artist’s Career Enhancement Award in 2011. In 2013 she won the Fish Short Memoir Prize and was shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize. She was a finalist in the Mslexia single poem competition in 2013 for a long memoir poem ‘Incunabula’ which was published in Germany this year. Her poem ‘Amelia’ was a BBCNI commission to mark the renovation of the Crown Bar in Belfast and was used in an art installation at the City Hall, Belfast in 2014, as part of the University of the Air Festival, marking 50 years of the Open University. Her poems have been published in The Honest Ulsterman, From the Fishhouse, Fortnight; The Yellow Nib; Poetry Ireland Review; Mslexia; and Incertus. She teaches in St Dominic’s Grammar School in Belfast and with the Open University. She lives in Belfast with her husband, the writer, Malachi O’Doherty.

‘Sylvia Plath You are Dead’ and other poems by Elaine Feeney

Charles Bukowski is my Dad

He stands with me in the
holding open my pearl lace
umbrella to the
ravaging Galway rain.
He calls me up on
blue Mondays and gives me
whiskey on bold Fridays.
He fills up my father-space
He fills up my mind-space
He fills up my hot-water bottle
His advice fills up my cheer
and revives my rotted liver,
but that’s a small price to pay
because Bukowski’s my Dad.
He’s my feather pillow
and my guitar string.
He’s my soccer coach and sex therapist
He paints my nails
pepperminty green and sings
raindrops keep falling on my head
on wicked trips to the racetrack.
But that’s a small price to
because Bukowski’s my dad.


Little biteens of people, pieces all over the raven pavements and sprayed on the cracked gutters, bits of them strewn on the carpeted lanes, and propped against wheeley bins like the carcasses of bored butlers, bits of them.
Biteens of people, shards of anoraks and faded canvas shopping bags, sloven splinters of their teeth, angles of jawlines where jaws used to sit, pieces of people, god help them, dead to rush hour, dead.
Silver wisps of greasy dandruffy dead hair.
Dead waiting at the bus stop dead waiting at the counter top dead waiting at the social shop dead waiting at the hospital drop dead waiting at the morgue spot.
Putting biteens of sharred shoulders to the wind,
their half bodies and eaten bones.
The blush-blown look of the cretins, blown out of our way down alleys in corpo houses on free bus spins on acid on nebulisers on tea on glue and sugar on lithium on valium on sadnesss and sorrow on beauty on faith.
Biteens of people, pieces of them, imagine it.
Light a candle or two.
For their mass cards and petitions, for their shopping bags for our lady and their prescriptions, for their mothers for their missing sons and for their saints.

Bog Fairies

The heather like
Pork belly cracked
Underneath my feet-
The horizon like
Nougat, melted
Its pastel line at the heath edge
Blue fading to white light.
We stacked rows of little
Houses for bog fairies –
Wet mulchy sods
Evaporating under our small palms.
Crucifixions of dry brittle crosses
Forming the skeleton-
My narrow ankles parallel to them.
Coarse and tough like the marrow of the soul,
Like the skeletons crucified under the peat.
The turf will come good
My father said
When the wind blows to dry it.
We dragged ten-ten-twenty bags
With the sulphury waft of cat piss,
Along a track dotted with deep black bogholes,
Then over a silver door, like a snail’s
Oily trail leaving a map for the moon,
And for bog fairies to dance in the mushy earth-
For us all to glisten in this late summer.
And behind the door
Once upon some time
Old women sat in black shawls
Bedding down Irregulars and putting kettles
On to boil for the labouring girls.
But I was gone.
I was gone at ten in my mind’s eye.
I was dragging Comrades from the Somme
I was pulling Concords in line with Swedish giants
I was skating on the lake in Central Park
I was crouched in the green at Sam’s Cross
I was touring Rubber-Soul at Hollywood Bowl
I was marching on Washington with John Lewis
I was in the Chelsea Hotel with Robert Mapplethorpe,
He was squatting on my lap with his lens,
Swearing to Janis Joplin I could find her a shift,
Nothing is impossible when you blow like that girlfriend.
I sang Come As You are in Aberdeen with union converse,
Blue eye liner and mouse holes in my Connemara jumper.
I was anyone but me
I was anywhere but here
I was gone
We rushed to hurry before the summer light would fade
Because animals needed to be washed and fed
And turf needed to be stacked
And all the talk of our youth
Would be said
In whispers and secrets, or written on postage stamps
Because light was the ruler as it was closing in around us,
Beating us, like the dark on the workmen
Deep in the channel tunnel that night.
The black light killed the purple heather
Yet I danced on the crackle in the dust
I crackled on the dust in the heather
My dance on the heather turned to dust.



Pity the Mothers

Pity the mothers
who weathered their skin
to raise their sons to die.
Pity the routine,
the daily stretching table
ferociously making meet ends.
Pity the mothers who told
sons the world was tough and wild-
To have them sold out in the early hours
of mornings’ immutable stage
fresh and stung.
Brave the world
They should have said
Brave its bold beauty
Brave the world my brave sons
And be beautiful
Because fear is a choking kite string in a storm.
Fear is a punctuating dictator
Fear will drive you half insane
and there’s no spirit in half a cup of anything.
Fear will wake your sleep and damn your
first born nerves.
There is no fertility in fear
no function, no performance.
Be a kite
Be yellow
Be bold
Be mad
Don’t step at the edge of it
all and send your body half-way
forward to the sea-froth.
For there you will find the headwinds.
Pity the bags, shoes, boots,
hurls mothers left
by the door.
The endless soups and syrups
The forever effort
The long lasting kisses they left on young jaws
To send them to the world fearful
And then feared.
To send them to the world with pity
And then pitied.
Pity the mothers
with their strong
elbows worn from effort.
Struggling against headwinds-
sanding the grain
in the wrong direction.
Pity the mothers
Who weathered their skin
just to raise sons to die.

Sylvia Plath You Are Dead

Sylvia Plath you are dead.
Your tanned legs are dead.
Your smile is dead, and
Massachusetts will mourn her
Girl on lemonady days
on sunshiny days
She will mourn her on dark days
when screaming girls go mad
In maternity wards
and scream in domestic wards,
And cry handfuls of slathery salty water
in kitchens over ironing boards.
Sylvia Plath you are dead,
and girls try rubbing out stretched marks
on their olive silver skin, until they
bleed. Their tiny babies cry in the halls
until windows framed with candy
colours, fog over their minds, their aprons, their skirts
their college ways, where there were no lessons on
crying. Silvery Plath the moon howls at them
taunted by strong winds, out the garden paths
gusts blow heads off the ivy shoulders,
but heather keeps her low profile
her head down, smiling.


Mass will be said for no more bad language and gambling and wanking that the Athenry boys are doing, down the back of the castle, down the back of the couch, all the punching and hitting and groaning, moaning at the Turlough boys, the Clarinbridge boys, the boys from Killimordaly, down the back of the Presentation grounds.
There will be mass when you lose at the Galway Races
 and for the saving of your soul if you take the boat to Cheltenham.
There will be a mass for when the horse runs, and when the horse dies, and for the bookies who win and the punters who win,
and the bookies who lose and the punters who lose.
There will be mass for hare coursing and flask-filling.
There will be mass for your Inter Cert and your twenty-first,
There will be a filling-out-your-CAO-form mass.
Mass will be held in the morning before the exams, mass will be held in the evening for your bath.
There’ll be a special mass on Saturday afternoon for your Granny. There will be a mass for your Granny’s boils and aches and black lungs and ulcers and spots and diabetes and psychosis.
There’ll be a mass for the anointing of the bollix of the bull above in the field near the closh over the railway bridge.
Mass will be held before the College’s Junior B Hurling Final, it will be held for the Connaught Cup Junior A Regional Final in wizardry and sarcasm.
Mass will be held on top of the reek for the arrogant and meek, and the bishop will arrive by eurocopter. There will be a mass to get him up in one piece and back in one piece.
Masses will be held in the outhouse.
Mass will be held for the safe arrival of new lambs and the birthing of ass foals.
Mass will be held in your uncle’s sitting room but his neighbours will be envious and later stage a finer mass.
There will be a mass to find you a husband, and a few masses to pray he stays.
There will be a good intentions mass. Your intentions if they’re good will come true. Mass will be held for your weddings and wakes and when you wake up.
Mass will be held for the Muslim conversion.
Mass will be held for George Bush.
Mass will be held for the war on terror.
Mass will be held for black babies and yellow babies and the yellowy black babies.
Mass will not be held for red babies. They have upset Pope John Paul.
Mass will be held for your brother when he gets the meningitis from picking his nose. Mass will be held for your cousins when they stop going to mass.
Mass will be held for the harvest and the sun and the moon and a frost and a snow
 and for a healthy spring and red autumn, for a good wind and no wind, and for a good shower and a dry spell, and for the silage and the hay and the grass and the turf.
There will be a saving-of-the-turf day. There will be a saving-of-the-hay day. There will
be a saving-my-soul day.
There will a mass for the fishing fishermen.
There will be multiple masses for Mary around August when she did all the appearing.
There will be a good mass when the statue cries rusty tears. There will be a good mass and a great collection.
Mass will be held for the cloud people.
Mass will be held for apparitions and anniversaries and weddings and baptisms.
Mass will be held to church your sinned body after giving birth, there will be mass to wash your unclean feet.
Mass will be held for all your decisions so you don’t have to blame yourself.
There will be mass for the poor dead Clares.
There will be mass for the Black Protestants if Paisley allows it. Mass will be held for the De Valera’s and the Croke Park goers.
There will be a mass for the conversion of the Jews (and their collection).
There will be a mass for the communion class, there will be a mass for the no-name club non-drinkers. There will be a giving-up-smoking-the-Christian-way mass.
There will be a mass for the Christian Angels, only Christian ones.
There will be no mass for your freedom, but the air will be pea sweet and the sky will clear.
Mass will not be held for the souls of your gay sons.
Mass will not be held for victims, for cynics, anti-clerics, the song-and-dance makers, the antagonising atheists, the upsetting-the-apple-cart persons.
There will be no women’s mass.
There will be no mass solely by women for women. Your daughters will not hold mass.
There are strict rules for the masses.
The above poems are © Elaine Feeney and have been published by The Stinging Fly, Once Upon Reflection, and The Radio was Gospel (Salmon Poetry 2013)

photoElaine Feeney is considered a leading part of political contemporary Irish writers. She was educated in University College Galway, University College Cork and University of Limerick. Feeney has published three collections of poetry Indiscipline (2007), Where’s Katie? (2010, Salmon) and The Radio was Gospel (2013, Salmon) Her work has been published widely in literary magazines and anthologies. She is currently working on a novel.
“Elaine Feeney is the freshest, most engaging and certainly the most provocative female poet to come out of Ireland in the last decade. Her poem ” Mass”, is both gloriously funny, bitter-sweet in the astuteness of its observations and a brilliant, sly window into the Irish female Catholic experience. Her use of irony is delicious. Her comments on the human condition, which run throughout her lines, are in the tradition of Dean Swift and she rightfully takes her place alongside Eavan Boland and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill as a very, very important Irish voice.” Fionnuala Flanagan, California 2013 (Praise for The Radio was Gospel, 2013, Salmon)
“A choice collection of poetry, one not to be overlooked, 5 Stars” Midwest Book Review, USA, (Praise for Where’s Katie? 2010, Salmon Poetry).
Elaine Feeney saying Mass

‘Popping Candy’ and other poems by Sarah O’Connor


This poem
Will be
Exquisitely short
Dinkily dedicated
To you.

Popularity, Personified

Smugness was her scarf,
Inked pinkly, cerisely,
She stroked it smugly.
Smugness was her scarf.
Idleness was her chignon,
Gleaming, burnished, shiny
She fondled it idly.
Idleness was her chignon.
Cuteness was her weapon,
Trigger fingered, ready,
She cocked it cutely.
Cuteness was her weapon.
Blandness was her boyfriend,
Broad-shouldered, dreamy,
She loved blandly.
Blandness was her boyfriend.

For Heaney

The sorrow’s mine and yours.
It’s all of ours. We shake our heads.
Now, when we want words,
We will rifle and riffle
Through pages printed.
We will thumb-skim his volumes.
We will become accustomed,
And forget to mourn, as we do today,
For his bits of the world welded to
Bits of the meaning of the world.
With those new silvered weldings,
Hand-soldered together by him,
Scudding from him to us.
We will miss his missiles of insight.

Tír na nÓg

I saw Tír na nÓg
For the first time
From the car, while driving
On the M8, before Thurles.
All the plants,
All the trees faced it,
Pulled to it.
I felt the pull myself.
The draw.
And the island?
A mossy green copse,
Saturated in spring green.
On this bright day,
A wisp of mist hung
There. Around.
The rounded island
Ah, the longing.
The longing for it lingers.


I would bring you white roses
And mysterious irises
And open sunflowers
If they would let me
I would bring you sweet port wine
And hoppy beers
And tiny dry Champagne bubbles
If they would let me
I would bring you blissful heat
And cooling showers
And misty hovering bridge fog
If they would let me
I would bring you woven blankets
And intriguing ceramics
And all the treasures of this New World
If they would let me
But they won’t let me
And I just can’t choose
The best offering for you
So my lines will have to suffice.
Please let my lines suffice.

Popping Candy

Your company is
Like popping candy
Fizzing in my head.
Your company is
Like deft acupuncture
Painlessly needling me.
You say something
So unexpectedly funny
That I almost snort.
How long does
Popping candy last?
Does anyone know?
Popping Candy and other poems published here are © Sarah O’Connor.

IMG_4751Sarah O’Connor is originally from Tipperary. She studied in UCC and Boston College, and she now lives in Dublin. She previously worked in publishing and now works in politics. She is 34. She is working on her first novel and on a collection of poetry. She has been published by Wordlegs and The Weary Blues.
Sarah O’Connor blogs at The Ghost Station & tweets at @theghoststation.

‘Blackbird’ and other poems by Imogen Forster


A bone-hard carapace,
a shell cast on a hot shore,
emptied by the labour
of leaving the nurturing
sea, scraping broad ribbons
up the sand’s glassy slope .
Gasping, digging a damp hole,
she lays round, sticky eggs,
a hundred leathery balls.
Then spent, noon-dried,
she dies, picked clean
by quick scavengers.
Her hatchlings flail
and scuttle towards
the sea, led by the
gazing moon, their plates
small patterned
purses, hardened
in the rich sea-soup
into a vaulted chamber
built to the blueprints
of this old architecture.
Published in Visual Verse


The blackbird sits, a smudge
in the prickly hedge, stooped,
wings and tail all downward.
I want to touch him, to feel
the quick, warm shape
in a cage of bare branches.
What does a bird fluffed
against the cold see
in his crouched stillness?
If I could grasp him by
his ashy back, hold his whole
breathing body in my hand
what would the soft bones
tell me, the barbed primaries
and the mite-infested down?
The bird stirs, and now
shows a bead, a pinhead eye,
a beak ripening to yellow.
Then the sudden thrust
out of the damp bush,
the perfect trajectory.
This was his first lesson,
the enactment of his ease.
Submitted to The Rialto Poetry competition, February 2015

Dancer, after Yinka Shonibare, ‘Girl Ballerina’

I am tailored, buttoned, piped,
the colonist’s clothes a tight fit
round my slim child’s waist.
Net and frills, my costume’s
a good girl’s best party dress.
But am I a welcome guest
or a blackface clown?
Headless, I say nothing.
I am a dancer’s body
in a pair of cotton shoes.
I am a sister to Marie, the wax
and bronze work of M Degas,
shiny, moulded on a frame
of pipes and paintbrushes.
Called monkey, Aztec,
a medical specimen,
the flower of depravity.
I am ten, to her fourteen, and so,
you could say, innocent.
My neat bodice of East India
Batiks is the bright stuff
of conquest, traded from
Batavia to Benin and now
spread across south London stalls.
My Brixton market wardrobe,
my new flags, my hopeful anthems.
Hands behind my back,
my finger resting on the trigger.
Submitted to Faber New Poets competition, January 2015

WP_20150116_19_52_26_ProImogen Forster is a freelance translator, mainly of art history, from French, Italian, Spanish and Catalan. She translated one of the French volumes for the new edition of Vincent van Gogh’s Letters published by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, in 2009. She has published poems on-line, and in a number of magazines.

intv. Kimberly Campanello at the Prague Micro Festival



Kimberly Campanello was born in Elkhart, Indiana, and she now lives in Dublin and London. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, an MA in Gender Studies and she recently got a PhD in Creative Writing. She has written a pamphlet called Spinning Cities, which was published in 2011 by Wurm Press. She later wrote her first full-length poetry collection called Consent in 2013, published by Doire Press, and in 2015 her new collection of conceptual poetry MOTHERBABYHOME will be published by zimZalla. Also in 2015, Strange Country, her full-length poetry collection on the sheela-na-gig stone carvings will be published by The Dreadful Press. Campanello’s work is influenced by investigation of the society in Ireland from a multi-angled feministic viewpoint. Her poems are often of a highly political nature, and she seems to search for justice in an unjust society.



First of all, you have lived in different places in the United States, and now you live in Dublin and are often visiting London. Could you describe how the changing communities you have been a part of have influenced your writing, if so?


Living in different places has certainly influenced my work. Even when I lived in the US I was constantly moving – from Indiana to Alabama to Florida (west coast) to Ohio to Florida (east coast, very different from the west!). The differences among these locations prepared me for living in other countries. There is a tendency to think any given country or place is monolithic and predetermined – we have a sort of place-holder definition in our minds for what a location is. Only when we are there, and, I would argue, there in a very open way, do we note massive differences among people, interactions, expectations, politics, even within a square mile. A friend of mine, Dylan Griffith, who is also from the Midwest in the US and who is now a filmmaker in Los Angeles refers to the idea that as Midwesterners we are extremely flexible and adaptable because we have no distinct culture ourselves. We can easily live anywhere. They call our part of the US ‘flyover country’, and many Europeans and East or West coast Americans perceive us that way. However, to truly understand the American psyche, if there is such a thing, you’d have to understand its immense variation, which includes those lands and people you might normally ‘fly over’.


Which authors inspire you?


I’ve been influenced by the work of Etheridge Knight, H.D. and Susan Howe, all extremely different poets in terms of their approach, but all equally resonant for me. All three are ‘American’ poets approaching their work in different modes but with a similar core. Howe refers to her belief ‘in the sacramental nature of poetry’, which I think also applies to Knight and H.D., and which ultimately underpins my own work.


Much of your work has a sense of roughness about it, like when you write: “The number elevens on the necks/of hungry children. Tendons pushing/flesh at the base of the head. They record/the odds. One to one. A fifty-fifty/chance of making it out alive” in the poem “All Saint’s Day”. Why does this radical raw poetry interest you?.


I wouldn’t say it interests me as much as it seems necessary at the time of writing to create a certain imagery. Some of my poems do have a more familiarly lyric poetic approach: imagery and figurative language are emitted from a distinct poetic speaker. And my particular style of imagery does sometimes head into the rough, as you put it. However, other work definitely does not. Sometimes the imagery is deliberately muted in contrast to the subject, or sometimes the poem comes out of found text, sound poetry, visual poetry. I’m a magpie poet and refuse allegiances to schools (beyond the fact that I do feel more modernist than postmodernist). This belies the influences I’ve outlined above. I can use devastating imagery and a direct voice like Etheridge Knight. I can work on a vatic level like H.D. to create poems that feel like translations of recently discovered ancient texts, but which in fact are created from found text. I can manipulate and excavate an archive visually, like Susan Howe.


Actually, Irish language poet Aifric Mac Aodha recently translated a poem of mine into Irish for a large-scale project I’m working on ( This poem was created from a large archive of texts on the sheela-na-gigs, which I amassed over two years. When it’s translated into Irish, the poem sounds ancient. But this ancientness has a strange texture as it’s in modern Irish and some of the contemporary sensibilities in the English text have come across, of course. This process of translation after excavation can have a truly unexpected effect.


Do you consider your found poems to be ‘conceptual’? What is your opinion on conceptual poetry?


In the case of the found sheela-na-gig poems in Strange Country, I don’t see them as conceptual, rather I see them as re-assembled fragments resulting from the excavation of an archive. This excavation strives toward discovering and displaying something essential about the sheela-na-gigs that was previously hidden or submerged. I suppose the process I’ve just described is in itself a concept, but I don’t think that the concept is the driver here. The poem itself emerges from the text, as if from stone being carved


On the other hand, my book with zimZalla is conceptual, and concept is its driver. It will memorialise the 796 babies and children who died at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland. I will create a 796-page record-book as there are death records, but no burial records for these children, so no one knows where they are buried. The mother and baby homes operated in Ireland even as late as the second half of the 20th century. Women who became pregnant out of wedlock were sent there. Their children were often adopted by Irish or foreign families in what is reminiscent of a business transaction brokered by the church. In addition to this trauma, the conditions in these homes were horrific, which led to high rates of infant and child mortality, and a huge amount of suffering for the women. There are accounts of women in labour not being given pain relief by the church-run medical teams because they were meant to appease for their sexual sin. More on that story can be found here. So again, I use whatever tools or modes feel necessary.


Your poetry seems to draw on the unpoetic to a high degree, what is it about the unpoetic that fascinates you?


I’m not sure what is meant by poetic in the 21st century. I think that arguably the notion of the poetic as ‘beautiful’ never actually existed, or if so, only very briefly and not even consistently in the work of those poets who might have espoused it for a little while. Blood-and-guts battles, degradation, injustice, suffering – these tropes have occurred in poetry since the very beginning.

In addition to the question above, I have noticed the fairly frequent use of the word “cunt” in your poetry – what meaning does this word have to you, as a feminist? Do you see this word as a dirty word at all?

In the contexts in which I use it, it is, variously: a provocation, a pun, a cast-off remark, a spell, a descriptor. It is like any word a poet might use, but perhaps with more genealogy.


Is there anything, a feeling, a stance, that you especially want to awaken in your readers? Most of your work provides a critique of the society and human behaviour by means of a certain amount of irony; do you find irony more powerful than other tools of critique?


Irony does seem to be used in my poems in a critical mode as you say, one that’s most often meant to reveal some catastrophic failure in the dominant logic (or a lack of logic altogether). This happens in my poem ‘Birthing Stone’ through the juxtaposition of Doubting Thomas insisting on touching Jesus’s wounds with the Irish medical team insisting on checking for a foetal heartbeat before granting Savita Halapannavar a termination, a delay that resulted in her death. Jesus’s wounds are sometimes portrayed like a vulva or cervix in medieval paintings to evoke the idea that his suffering and death gave birth to the ‘new world’ of eternal life. Pretty ironic in this context.


I’m not sure irony is more powerful than other tools of critique, or whether poetry can sustain and systematically critique in the same ways political or philosophical writing can (or whether it should try to). Irony in my work is a kind of last-ditch effort that certainly won’t win anyone over on a rational basis. None of it is rational, certainly not a person dying for no reason. It follows poetic, figurative logic, rather than the logic you can bring into Parliament or even a political blog post. This can awaken something, I suppose, in some readers? I don’t know.


Your way of reading your poems is very characteristic and at some moments even reminiscent of sound poetry, where does this technique come from? Has there been any inspiration by sound poetry?

I’ve always been intent on the sound of poetry, on poets reading their work and on the reading or reciting of a poem as something quite specific. It’s a quasi-performance, and yet the poet should be out of the way of the poem. There is the phenomenon of the poet who doesn’t read their work very well, or of the poet who inflects all poems with that dramatic ‘poet voice’. An article has even been written on this recently: What I’m aspiring to when I read most of my work is what is naturally in the poem as I composed it. This is why I often have problems with actors reading poems because they have little regard for things like linebreaks and rhythm embedded in the text.


When I was in high school, my friends and I made recordings of ourselves reading poems by Whitman, Rimbaud, Rilke, Celan and Ginsberg. We did a complete recording of Leaves of Grass on a cassette tape. Sometimes I would play records at the same time and distort or disrupt the poetry. This made sense at the time, but I’m not sure where I was getting the ideas. This was in the 1990’s, before the internet was such a vast resource, so I was piecing together an understanding of art, literature and music from an old-fashioned thing called a library card catalogue, as well as an amazing second-hand bookstore called The Bookstack in downtown Elkhart, Indiana, and whatever records and books various people in my family happened to have. My friends and I also jumped on the South Shore train to Chicago where I saw video installation for the first time at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I was not exposed to sound poetry per se until university where everything just opened up and it got so much easier to access everything both in libraries and digitally. I also trained as a musician. So I suppose all this culminates in how I read today.


Finally, are you looking forward to “Prague Microfestival” and could you perhaps reveal a little about what the audience can look forward to from your performance?

I’m very excited about the Prague Microfestival and grateful that Olga Pek invited me. I will be performing on the Sound Poetry evening. I will use my translation of the Hymn to Kali (an ancient tantric text written in Sanskrit). It’s quite a refined, H.D.-esque translation. It’s not sound poetry at all. The purpose of the performance will be to digest, degrade, distort and abjectify this translation all the way to the point of pure sound and then back to its original language, which is a very particular language indeed in the context of sound as the mantras themselves are meant to be actual vibrational presences of the gods/spiritual beings.

I will be performing with composer and guitarist Benjamin Dwyer. The guitar itself will also go through this same process. We will create a graphic aleatoric (semi-improvisational) musical score with text that we will use in the performance and which will be projected behind us.

The Prague MicroFestival (PMF) came about in an effort to resuscitate the Prague International Poetry Festival, which took place in 2004, a major undertaking on the scale of the Prague Writers’ Festival, with over 40 writers participating from over 20 countries (including Charles Bernstein, Andrej Soznovsky, Tomaz Salamun, Drew Milne, Jaroslav Rudis, Sudeep Sen, Anselm Hollo). Unlike the annual Writers’ Festival, the Prague International Poetry Festival was integrated into the local culture, with events in established local reading venues, with the aim of fostering dialogue among writers and audience members. PMF’s history dates back to April 2009, when a group of Australian poets (Pam Brown, Phil Hammial, Jill Jones, Mike Farrell) and Irish poets (Trevor Joyce, Maurice Scully) visited Prague thanks to funding from the Australia Council and Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs. Along with UK poet Kevin Noland and a group of local Czech and English-language writers, this combined week-long visit became the first MicroFestival. During the three years since that time, PMF has evolved into a major event on Prague literary scene and the only non-commercial literary festival of its size. Since 2011, PMF has entered into a partnership with the Czech poetry magazine Psí Víno and the publisher Petr Štengl, who has released the first anthology of Czech translations originated with the festival, Polibek s rozvodnou (2012).

The purpose of the PMF is to provide a forum for poetic exchange, an alternative to the existing Festival circuit which caters to primarily establishment writers with the inclusion of token Czech authors, and is commercially orientated. The PMF is run by artists, volunteers and students; all events are fully bilingual (English/Czech). The focus of PMF is threefold: to present writing that is innovative/experimental; writing that moves across genres and media (visual culture, music, film) and writing that could be broadly defined as “translocal”, that is, writing outside the confines of nationalism, pursuing a broadly cosmopolitan agenda. It aims to introduce new innovative approaches into the Czech milieu, as well as put Prague on the map of experimental world literature, show Prague as a re-emerging genuinely cosmopolitan centre, whose citizens from all backgrounds and nationalities are contributing to a vital and unique literary culture.

The PMF target audience is anyone with an interest in new writing, in experiment. This year the festival is being co-hosted by the magazines VLAK (in English) and Psí Víno (CZ), and will take place at Student Club Celetná, Celetná 20.


‘The Mission’ by Rita Ann Higgins

The Mission

I think of the last time we met
on the prom in Galway.
A sunny day in May
you looked cool in those shades.
You looked taller somehow.
We talked for ages.
You told me about plans
for your mother’s sixtieth.
I felt lucky to have such a nephew.
Shades or no shades.

You hid your distress well, John.
None of it was evident that sunny day.
The day of good nephews.
A month later you went to Beachy Head.
WTF John.

I think of you
leaving your bundle
on top of Beachy Head.
Your belt coiled around your watch
your wallet with a photo of your daughter
your fire fighter’s ID card
your blood donor card
your bus ticket from Brighton.
Losers weepers.

Margaret, your Irish twin,
was on a holiday she didn’t want to go on.
She had been worried sick,
she had us all demented
saying you were going to do it.
Twins know things, Irish twins know more.
I was at a wedding in June
when some friends of yours called me outside.
‘It’s about John Diviney,’
and something about Beachy Head.

Later we went to the priest
he came down to Castle Park
to tell your mother.
She thought we were there to show her the wedding style.
I wouldn’t mind, John
but I had hired a dress for the wedding.
It was a deep blue.
It sailed when I walked.
Your mother was in a daze.
‘I dreamed of him on Thursday night,’ she said.
‘He went in and out of every room.
Himself and Shannon were laughing.’

We went to Eastbourne to bring you home.
Your mother to collect a son,
Margaret to collect a brother,
Caroline and Majella to collect a cousin.
Me to collect a nephew.
Five women on a mission.

Your mother couldn’t sleep,
she was smoking out the hotel window.
She saw the undertaker
collect your best suit from reception at six am.

Despite all the sadness
we had laughed a lot on the way over.
The girls nearly missing the flight
because they had to get food.
We laughed too at nothing at all.
Declan, another cousin of yours turned up
and chauffeured us around Eastbourne
and later to Heathrow.
Loosers weepers.

You had a photo in your wallet
of your daughter Katie.
I have a photo in my study
of the day we bumped into you
in King’s Cross, you and Katie.
Ye were going to some match or other.
What are the chances?
We were over to surprise Heather
on her thirtieth.

What are the chances of bumping into you now, John?
We weren’t laughing when we saw you in that coffin.
Your Irish twin ran outside and puked.
Your mother whispered things in your ear.
We started the prayers
it was a mumbo jumbo litany
We couldn’t remember how anything finished.
Hail Mary full of grace the lord is with thee…

On the way back
there was a bad storm.
We were at the airport for five hours.
Your mother kept going back out for a smoke.
Each time she went out we worried
that she’d never get back in.

You were in the hold,
in your new suit
your designer shirt
your best shoes.
We forgot your socks.
Losers weepers.

We arrived at Shannon
in the early hours.
The Divineys were there en masse.
So was Keith and Aidan.
We followed the hearse,
a night cortège.
‘At least we have him back,’
your mother said,
more than once.

After the funeral mass
your friends from the fire station
hoisted your coffin onto the fire brigade.
The army were there too.
It was a show stopper.
I never told you this, John
but I love a man in uniform.

I think of you
leaving your bundle
on top of Beachy Head.
Your belt coiled
around your watch
your wallet with a photo of Katie
your fire fighter’s ID card
your blood donor card
your bus ticket from Brighton.
Loosers weepers.

‘It’s about John Diviney,’
the coroner’s office said.
‘Some young people found his things.
His belt a loop around them.’
He flew without wings
off Beachy Head.
He landed at the bottom
his back against the wall
his eyes looking out to sea.

The Mission is © Rita Ann Higgins

Poet Rita Ann Higgins(1)Rita Ann Higgins was born in Galway. She has published ten collections of poetry, her most recent being Ireland is Changing Mother, (Bloodaxe 2011), a memoir in prose and poetry Hurting God (Salmon 2010). She is the author of six stage plays and one screen play. She has been awarded numerous prizes and awards, among others an honorary professorship. She is a member of Aosdána.
Rita Ann Higgins’s readings are legendary. Raucous, anarchic, witty and sympathetic, her poems chronicle the lives of the Irish dispossessed in ways that are both provocative and heart-warming. Her next collection Tongulish is due out in April 2016 from Bloodaxe.

‘modern art’ and other poems by Anamaría Crowe Serrano

the stress clinic

it’s ok	no one need know	only negligible
impending threat 	i’m going to leave you
let healing happen
i’m turning left into the coffee shop	it’s easy 
	like this		one step	
one more
comforting to sit 
even on seats slashed by spooks	

i can wait	learn patience is learnt on the edge
	other worlds where others wait
for the breath		something that “presents”
a hiatus between one distress and 
the nest you’re reluctant to leave

it’s ok	the world is out there	still	the density
you love suspended in space	preparing 
the next problem for you to solve 	you’re good
at that		talented		
are you ok?	me too 		it’s just 
the acid sprung on a tensile in my stomach

at ulica Freta, 16 – before radium or polonium

the wood seeps into your bones
in a room that lives	as if its grain 
& whorls were part of your nervous
system – smooth	marrow – polished 

in your tea one lump, two	meticulous
the molecules contract till they disappear
optical illusions have their own reality

billowing on the balcony	Poland
is diluted	Prussian Russian 
fission renames a people
invents a purpose of its own

but you can shut it out	indomitable
in a room that soon is rubble while thunder
splits the summer	partitions your
future	gladioli everywhere 	alert
to your black dress	alive	your luggage
waltzing in the street

(originally published in Can-Can #2)

modern art

you’re slung 
against the wall

boxed in the past

your mouth apes
bereft of tongue
hoping to emit
a word
a silence, even

something, anything
of the side-tracked route
you had to take
from primitive iron
lodged in some alpine nook
through ism, to prism
to plexiglass

you’re waiting - aren’t you
for me 
to gut you
get the warm feel
of your spasm
when I tug
on the spinal cord

and watch you
to the ground
refusing to be pressed


i wake 		my arms wrapped 
around the city		legs enjamb-
     ed with its towers 	
skyward			/a formal

       silence 		      /stylized/
         flowers through its lights	
the smallness of them		struck
			by shadowed stills
     the colour of cavities	
    of not wanting to disturb	   /harmony 

28 degrees at midnight	slums unshimmering 
slumber	the eye insists on definition
          colour resists		/chaos v order/
                         could hang me 
         it’s a hollow that isn’t black 
          but marinated 
			stinky tofu 		
             where the street light 

	maybe it’s a smell	a size
			the meaning of a name		
				i can never forget   /beautiful 

corrugated iron angles into place	discreet  /elegant/
                          blanketblue & rustroof red 	 
     staggered across some great want			
                          where the revolution daubs
	its palette of scars

the stress clinic, at ulica Freta, 16 – before radium or polonium & modern art are © Anamaría Crowe Serrano. Read Jezebel & Taipei (PDF)
Anamaria Crowe Serrano-by RK at 7T

Anamaría Crowe Serrano is a poet and translator born in Ireland to an Irish father and a Spanish mother. She grew up bilingually, straddling cultures, rarely with her nose out of a book. Languages have always fascinated her to the extent that she has never stopped learning or improving her knowledge of them. She enjoys cross-cultural and cross-genre exchanges with artists and poets. Much of her work is the result of such collaborations. With a B.A. (Hons) in Spanish and French from Trinity College Dublin, Anamaría went on to do an M.A. in Translation Studies at Dublin City University. Since then, she has worked in localization (translating hardware and software from English to Spanish), has been a reader for the blind, and occasionally teaches Spanish. For over 15 years she has translated poetry from Spanish and Italian to English. Anamaría is the recipient of two awards from the Arts Council of Ireland to further her writing. Her translations have won many prizes abroad and her own poetry has been anthologised in Census (Seven Towers), Landing Places (Dedalus), Pomeriggio (Leconte) and other publicationsShe is currently Translations editor for Colony Journal:

‘Nocturne for Voices One and Two’ by Christine Murray

Nocturne for Voices One and Two

Voice 1
Sea pummels shore, wind and reed knock trees,
winter trees’ wooded music is not green sapped
‘under the Greenwood tree.’
But yet, yet but,
and alone,
the moon is all ?
Voice 2
Moon is not all,
while the restive sea and you separate. Separated.
peace !
Voice 1
And sleep now?
bird skims dark waters
bird skims silver streams.
Streams encroach on the bay,
stream sieves the sand.
Voice 2
And sleep now ?
In silence
or peaceably.
The moon is all,
it lights a trail.
Voice 1
It is with the voice of longing that you speak,
Close your eyes that mock the moon.
Close your eyes that tremble on the reed,
Close your eyes that discern the wing.
Not distance,
not distance from.
Voice 2
V1 /V2
We do not in our bodies meet.
Voice 2
The moon is all, it is an emptiness.
The moon is all,
The moon is all.
Voice 1
And sleep, and dream with ?
Or a wisp of memory to wake a nothing from cold sun,
What now, sleep ?
Nor grieve.
Voice 2

Quiet !
The soul whispers reed (…)
Soul troubles the wing
Soul gathers in the dewy
morning, and the heart it ties to.
Quiet !

Nocturne For Voices One and Two is © Christine Murray (Published in Outburst 15)

Outburst 15 Preamble by Dr. Arthur Broomfield.

The age of the triumph of the lowest common denominator is upon us, it seems from the RTE short list of Ireland’s best poetry of the past hundred years, and the so predictable winning choice, Seamus Heaney’s potato peeling sonnet from the ‘Clearances’ series in The Haw Lantern . The majority of the ten named poems indulge the national predisposition to wallow in the sentimental and the anti-intellectual, Derek Mahon’s ‘A Disused Shed in County Wexford’ being the notable exception, though this, we fear, will be misread by a people who shy from poetry that challenges the cerebral. Yeats’ ‘ Easter 1916’ a pre-Beckett poem that in its irreducible essence addresses the relationship of language to perception is included, we fear, as a sop to the vulgar Nationalist agenda that has long sought to hijack the outstanding work for ideological purposes. Eavan Boland, for too long side-lined by a Southern, guilt driven urge to doff the cap to the Northern Ireland block, has written poems that confront the lazy inclination to sentimentalize, but ‘Quarantine’ is not one of them. With a few exceptions the shortlist sits firmly into the death and potatoes tradition and struggles to escape the tired vocabulary of Catholic ritual and the bleeding heart victim. The list, of course, will be lauded by those with vested interests. It’s a bad day for poetry. The few who encourage innovation, those who struggle against the influence of the Heaney sycophants, has been dealt another cruel body blow.


Christine Murray   is a Dublin-born poet. Her chapbook, Three Red Things was published by Smithereens Press, Dublin (June 2013). A collection Cycles was published by Lapwing Press (2013). A dark tale The Blind  (Poetry) was published by Oneiros Books (2013). She  a book-length poem was published by Oneiros Books (2014). Signature a chapbook was published by Bone Orchard Press (2014).
Creative Commons License
Nocturne For Voice One and Two by Christine Murray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Slán Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Dr. Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin, Senior Lecturer of Early Irish (Sean-Ghaeilge), at the Centre for Irish Cultural Heritage at Maynooth University. Obituaries and remembrances are too formal a way to encapsulate the energies of the person who has passed away. What we may say about her on paper; on her authorship, her survivors, and her activities, pale in comparison to the ball of energy that she was. Muireann had a huge and warmly generous physical presence despite her tiny size. She was quite literally a ball of energy.
I first met Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin at the Four Courts, as one did during the campaigns that dominated the Celtic Tiger era. Protestors would be in and out of courts fighting on issues related to the complete destruction of any and all heritage laws by the Fianna Fáil Party who came up with new planning bills even as they tore down and scrapped institutions that were charged with the preservation of our natural and built heritage. News media would jostle to get near the government ministers who thought up new and ingenious ways to fast-track planning laws and ramming their tastelessness into property bubbles, bad housing, dublin satellites, and the ephemera of trash that can only be described as garbage politics. People like Muireann were almost criminalised for objecting to the fact that in the 13 years of political dominance by Fianna Fáil and it’s motley collection of political props, not one of them actually bothered to bring in a single heritage preservation bill. The media never asked why there were no heritage bills, they were busy selling houses for the government.
Muireann asked the awkward questions like why Dúchas was abolished by Martin Cullen TD, Why Bertie Ahern was so intent on a leadership that passed endless fast-track and Strategic Infrastructure Bills, and why successive Environment Ministers could not pass The Aarhus Convention into Irish law, they still haven’t. Why above all were we demolishing (‘Preservation by Record’) unique sites at Tara (39 sites were demolished) in the Gabhra Valley to allow for the M3 Toll Road. Decentralisation of protections like the OPW, and the defunding of existent preservation programmes were policies that ensured cheap housing and good profit to companies like the NRA (who also managed to take on the majority of archaeology programmes nationally) The media not alone did not trace these issues but they deliberately ignored or obfuscated them within a sugary silence that disallowed anything negative or challenging to emerge that might effect the status quo. There was no joining of dots, just a lot of quangoes and silence in the Tiger Era.
Despite this juggernaut of profiteering and short-termism, Muireann for the most part kept her temper and went into the courts, or she stood out on the Hill Of Tara in all weathers, or she waved orders into the faces of the Gardaí. She never cried in front of me but she witnessed a scarring and vicious tragedy that seems to encapsulate the appalling recklessness and greed of the Tiger Era. It was a devastation that was fuelled by greed and lack of education: bulldoze everything and make some cheap tract housing , extend the Dublin suburbs into Meath and while we are at it make a tidy little profit from unhooking all laws that preserve our unique heritage. Gombeenism is not the word for it.
Muireann’s gentler side emerged when she involved herself in cultural events like the Feis Teamhair where poets like Peter Fallon, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Susan McKeown and more came yearly to Tara to raise cultural voice and to sing their protest. It was probably at Feis Teamhair that I last saw her turn back toward someone who grabbed her arm and asked her a question or greeted her warmly.
We make public poets, great men and women who are imprisoned in the media glare. We want them to represent all that is good in Ireland, and we consign the irritating questioners to the margins. Muireann was an irritating questioner, a restless and enthusiastic spirit, a friend and colleague of great poets, she defended and embraced our literary and poetic heritage with all her health and drive.
She has not lived as long as those she opposed, but her name is inscribed in the history of Tara, a visual sign that people will battle great odds to illuminate truths that politicians and their wordless and grey supporters ignore. Dr. Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin has died a respected and feisty woman, unlike the liars she challenged daily and I will miss her big heart.
Tara Abú
Rest in Peace Muireann x
Christine Murray (published at The Bogman’s Cannon )

‘Sea Scarf’ and other poems by Victoria Mosley

Shiny shine

Milk on the turn
midnight history muffles
owl’s cry: narcissus pulsing
through dull earth to release
birthday colour.
I’ve become muted: afraid
of the shine shine glitter
hidden here as time
brushes messages
on parched skin.
Pacing corridor
always waiting for
sun – skim star-burn
impatient of humdrum
yearning magnificence.
Milk on the turn
garden hovers to unfurl
blossom of spring: new joy
pulsates at the click click clunk
of the white sea gate.

Sea scarf

Sea a black scarf
wrapped around the harbour
it’s cold tonight, so cold
the wind is taut
& moon hangs silent
huge immobile willing.
Sea sends whispers
of how it should be
sailors ghosts ride high
their songs mixed with
mermaids breath
the slink of seal at rest.
Sea calls to me
I’m immune caught up
beach sweeps a canvas
of wind ,water ,longing
connection to every other,
footsteps follow I turn
sea is a black scarf
enfolding me.

Mute route

Deaf with night’s hollow whispers
silk shawl cast aside
bare flesh masking muslin pillow
love untying caution’s ribbon
as we let it slide
like young girl’s curls
masking asking faces.
You rest in oblivion
stroking candied women
delicate filigree phantoms
breathless in their brilliance
while I try to tame the tiger
hush the rush of sweetness
turn aside from logical explanations
see you as you want me to,
a summer sorbet
fresh with sun kissed satisfaction
that crisp wisp of magnificence
tipped to fly away:
& I plug these riptide words
the cries that raise me from my sleep
why’s and how’s dulled with ice cold wine
follow your unmapped route
to a mute and foreign destination
where nothing is given away
but time.

Walk with me (for my Dad)

Walk with me again
over sunlight speckled streams
through the tart nettles & the
sharp tooth brambles to the
smooth green sward of an upland field
where the sheep scatter crazily at our feet
& the cuckoo spits her tuneless song.
Walk with me once more
arm in arm through the breathless hordes
of the rush hour crowd,
to turn aside at an open bar, rest in silence
while the traffic roars & the ferryboat plies
her starlight trail, across the harbour.
Sit & hold my hand
round an open fire, just to tell me
how you are & why you’ve been
so far away when you promised me
you’d be here to stay. Why you left
in that awful rush with those bustling nurses
the sweat of the incense, the rich red mass.
Walk with me again
along our small curved shore
with the fishermen mending nets
the harvest moon blazing
turning to solitude, for there is only ”I”
& the essence of ”you”.
These poems are © Victoria Mosley

  • ICA standing (1)Victoria Mosley is a poet novelist and spoken word artist. She has four published poetry collections and nine published novels. She has run events and club nights in London and beyond, from the Groucho Club to the ICA, Austin Texas to Indonesia, from Jazz nights and Charity Events to new bands. She has worked for the British Council in Surabaya and in Canada, has produced and presented her own radio shows. She has worked as Artist in Residence in the Film and Media Studies Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies London University, and in the Astro Physics department of Imperial College where she taught her own courses on Creative Writing and Performance and wrote an MA option. She is presently concentrating on writing novels. She has written nine novels in the What if series now available on Kindle. Her debut novel, published by Quartet in 2011 Moonfisher is set in Second World War torn France and present day London, and is a story of the Maquis and the Special Operations Agency which sent British Spies into occupied France. (Published by Quartet on D day 2011) is available on Amazon.
    Poems from her new collection Out of Context are published in small press magazines, in anthologies, by Forward Press and in online magazines such as Ronin Red Ceiling and Poems are published internationally online from Australia to America she has a poetry following in fifty three countries and she also writes online articles. She has just completed a Heritage Lottery Funded project in Kent.
  • Amazon Author Page
  • All At Sea (Amazon)
  • Ultramarine (Amazon)

‘Self Portrait as She Wolf’ and other poems by Breda Wall Ryan

Self Portrait as She Wolf

You sheer away from the warm,
many-tailed beast,
spurn the communal dream.
Beyond the shelter of pine and fir
you lope across open ground
where cold scalds your lungs,
feel a soft-nosed bullet’s kiss,
lick the salt wound clean,
almost drown in a starry bog,
but break through its dark mirror,
meet your reflection
in a boutique window on a city street
among mannequins in ersatz furs,
the last of your kind,
or the first.
Only look back once,
for a silhouette, a hungry scent.
There is still time to re-trace your spoor,
answer the tribal howl. Your throat opens
on one long, swooped syllable,
almost a word.

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

(Katsushika Hokusai. The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, woodcut c.1820.)
In the dark my fisherman shapes
me, his girl-diver, to his wants,
tastes his dream-geisha,
inked teeth in her reddened moue,
face nightingale-shit bright,
hair a lacquered bowl, camellia-oiled.
I slip from his shingle-hard grip,
sink in the dark undersea with octopi.
I dream Hokusai dreaming me,
a frisson as his paper-thin blade pares
deep into woodblock, each of us
picturing jet hair undone,
strands fish-oil glazed root to tip,
a reef-knotted waist-long cascade.
Two days have passed since I bathed;
my breasts are sweat-pearled,
ripe with aromas of fruit de mer,
My tentacled one unfurls, his touch
exquisite as the brush of electric eels,
his glossy fingerings on my nape
supple as young pine shoots.
The artist’s chisel probes
again and again, sliver by fine sliver
till at last I am dreamed
heartwood, printed in India ink.
He hand-tints my skin
while I dream his mouth-filling tongue,
my dream of a thousand years
in colours fleet as this floating world
no fisherman comes near.

Woman of the Atlantic Seaboard

You might meet her anywhere on the coast:
at Moher she is Rosmari, she walks the high cliffs
away from the busses and tour guides,
her face turned towards the west, sea in her hair;
or at Renvyle where a white carved stone
remembers the unbaptised, as Maighdean Mara,
she keeps vigil where the sea stole
their bones from the shore.
Call her Atlantia, she who waits in the lee
of the sea wall at Vigo for the boats to come in.
She looks deep into fishermen’s eyes,
as if eyes can give back what they’ve seen,
a waterlogged husband, brother’s shin bone,
a son’s lobster-trap ribcage to carry home
in a pocket of her yellow oilskin.
Enough for a burial.
She is Marinella on Cabo Espichel, Morwenna
in. Among wild women who comb
blueberry barrens in she is Maris,
her fingers long as the sea’s ninth wave,
stained from plucking sharp fruit in sea fog.
Find her on shore where ponies
ride out the surf. Take her home,
give her the stranger’s place at the hearth:
she won’t stay. Inland, she adds salt to her bath,
boils potatoes in seawater down to a salt crust.
Feed her dilisk and Carrigeen moss; she can’t help
but return to the waves, to kelp and ozone.
She is Muirghein, born of the sea, the sea
salts her blood. Or call her Thalassa, mother
of Kelpies, Selkies, fin-flippered sea-mammals,
neoprene-skinned fish-hunters, creatures of the tide.
All lost to her. the seafarer’s daughter,
sister, mother, wife; on a widow’s walk in ,
scanning the horizon for a floater or a boat.
Meet her on the brink of the ocean, alone, winter
seas in her eyes. Call her by any of her names:
she will turn from you, to the blue nor’wester,
shake brined beads from her hair. She will wait
for her drownlings forever, standing in the salt rain.
(from Céide Fields)

The Inkling

To the last Neolithic farm woman of Céide Fields
That first time it breathed a sigh on your neck,
why did you brush it aside?
You should have taken it into your head.
There was still time to build it a shrine,
offer crowberry prayers and top-of-the-milk.
White breath hung over the cattle-pens.
You carried on felling and burning,
spread baskets of kelp and sand on the land.
The inkling shivered your spine.
Did it come from the ocean?
It lurked in the mizzle, blackened the haws,
wormed down to your worrybone.
Years have gone by. The cradles lie empty.
Summer is wetter than winter. Rain
drenches the land. It quenches the sky.
Your sleán breaks the earth’s skin,
you drive the blade deep with your foot.
Bogwater wells from the wound.
Grass lies down in the fields and drowns,
cattle bawl their hunger pains.
There is only one child in the house.
You can’t shake the inkling,
it niggles, raises the back of your hair,
sly and fat as a tick.
Barley decays in the ground.
The cow is near dry. You must choose
between calf and child.
It is out of your hands.

The Snow Woman

She was a blow-in then,
the snow a wordless paper sheet,
her footprints the first blunt penstrokes
with everything still to write:
spring planting, barley sheaves,
a bitter crop of stones and chaneys
at the turn of the year.
Windblown crows dropped in
through holes punched in the sky,
gossiped year after year.
She wrote children,
they built the scarecrow in the field.
Now she’s a native,
the graveyard peopled with some of her own:
a greyed husband planted these two years,
a girl half-grown,
the rest of her children flown
a thousand miles as the crow
flies from the snow-blind fields,
silent hills shoulder her close,
crows call her name from tall trees.
She has carried the scarecrow into the house.

Self Portrait as a She Wolf‘ and other poems published here are © Breda Wall Ryan

Breda-852 (Colour) (1)Breda Wall Ryan grew up on a farm in Co Waterford and now lives in Co. Wicklow. She has a B.A. in English and Spanish from UCC; a Post-graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and an M.Phil. in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Trinity College, Dublin. Her awarded fiction has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories 2006-7 and The New Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction. Her poems have been published widely in journals in Ireland and internationally, including Skylight 47, Ink Sweat and Tears, Deep Water Literary Journal, And Other Poems, Fish Anthology, Mslexia, The Ofi Press, Orbis, Magma and The Rialto. Her first collection, In a Hare’s Eye, was published by Doire Press in 2015. A Pushcart and Forward nominee, she has won several prizes, most recently the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, 2015.

‘Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree’ and other poems by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree

I didn’t see my grandmother’s tree in Chile,
araucaria araucana,
though they grow tall there and are many.
I must have walked under them every day, tripped
over their seeds, but I didn’t think of her, oceans away,
standing in a square of green, raking leaves
around her monkey puzzle tree.
For over a hundred years, that tree stood between
pruned rosebush and clipped hedge, a long shadow
moving over wet fields and stone walls.
As a girl, I clung to the trunk when we played hide and seek,
rough bark printing maps on my palms.
In April gales, the tree sways. From the window,
my grandmother watches a chainsaw blade
spin the tree into a flight of splinters,
until only logs and sawdust are left.
In each neat wheel of wood, an eye opens,
ringed by lines of the past. The logs are split,
stacked, the tree turned into armfuls of firewood
which will rise as smoke to the sky,
a puzzle unravelled.

Frozen Food

In the frozen foods aisle, I think of him
when I shiver among shelves of green flecked
garlic breads and chunks of frozen fish.
I touch the cold door until my thumbs numb.
Strangers unpacked his body in a lab
and thawed his hand, watched long-frozen fingers
unfurl one by one, until his fist finally opened,
let go, and from his grasp rolled
a single sloe,
ice-black with a purple-blue waxy bloom.

Inside the sloe,
a blackthorn stone.
Inside the stone,
a seed.

Standing in the supermarket aisle,
I watch my breath freeze.


I am custodian of this exhibition of erasures, curator of loss.
I watch over pages of scribbles, deletions, obliterations,
in a museum that preserves not what is left, but what is lost.
Where arteries are unblocked, I keep the missing clots.
I collect all the lasered tattoos that let skin start again.
In this exhibition of erasures, I am curator of loss.
See the unraveled wool that was once a soldier’s socks,
shredded documents, untied shoestring
knots — my museum protects not what is left, but what is lost.
I keep deleted jpegs of strangers with eyes crossed,
and the circle of pale skin where you removed your wedding ring.
I recall all the names you ever forgot. I am curator of loss.
Here, the forgotten need for the flint and steel of a tinderbox,
and there, a barber’s pile of scissored hair. I attend
not what is left, but what is lost.
I keep shrapnel pulled from wounds where children were shot,
confession sins, abortions, wildflowers lost in cement.
I am custodian of erasures. I am curator of loss
in this museum that protects not what is left, but what is lost.
‘Cleaving a Puzzle-Tree’, ‘Museum’ and ‘Frozen Food’ are © Doireann Ní Ghríofa

DOIREANN b+wDoireann Ní Ghríofa is an award-winning bilingual poet, writing both in Irish and in English. Paula Meehan awarded her the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary 2014-2015. Her collections are Résheoid, Dúlasair (Coiscéim), A Hummingbird, your Heart (Smithereens Press) and Clasp (Dedalus Press). Her work is regularly broadcast on RTE Radio One. Doireann’s poems have previously appeared in literary journals in Ireland and internationally (in Canada, France, Mexico, USA, Scotland and England). Two of her poems are currently Pushcart Prize nominated.
. & DoireannNiG

AND AGAMEMNON DEAD : An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry

Christine Elizabeth Murray:

Thanks to Michael J Whelan for this post on ‘And Agamemnon Dead: An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry’ 

Originally posted on Michael J. Whelan - Writer:

And Agamemnon Dead An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry Edited by Peter O'Neill & Walter Ruhlmann And Agamemnon Dead
An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry
Edited by Peter O’Neill & Walter Ruhlmann

Hi everyone, I’m really happy to announce that a brand new anthology of contemporary Irish poetry has been published today (St Patrick’s Day) in Paris and I am also delighted to say that I have five poems included in the collection alongside a number of exciting and interesting new voices coming out of Ireland in the these early years of the 21st Century.

And Agamemnon Dead An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry, Edited by Peter O’Neill & Walter Ruhlmann is published by Muavaise Graine (Paris 2015) –


and among its 187 pages you will find poetry from

Michael McAloran — Amos Greig — Dylan Brennan — Christine Murray — Arthur Broomfield — Peter O’ Neill — Rosita Sweetman — Michael J. Whelan — Anamaría Crowe Serrano —…

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Let’s Hear Irish Poets Speak; the need for a poetry audiobank in Ireland

Christine Elizabeth Murray:

The fact that a new generation of emergent writers must await vehicles like Poetry Ireland Introductions to find an audience stinks of a paternalistic approach to poetic works that sees a few dominant poets stand between the reader and the work, as if it were radioactive. The poetry audience is not remedial and they like to go searching, hence from Ireland they will go to where accessibility is respected, to UBUWEB, to PENNSound, to Jacket2, to The Electronic Poetry Center.

Originally posted on The Bogman's Cannon:

The Electronic Poetry Center (U.S) was founded in 1995. UBUWEB was founded by Kenneth Goldsmith in 1996, it is an audio archive housing avant-garde works including visual, concrete and sound poetry, UBU also holds film files. PENNSound was founded in 2003. To date, not one Irish University has made a step towards providing accessible poetry archives in Ireland. Poetry Ireland has not gone an inch toward increasing accessibility to Irish audio poetry. Why is this ?

Whatever way we choose to look at this situation, we can see that despite the tourist push on arts here, we are one to two generations behind best practice in the area of accessibility to audio poetry. Instead we have a focus on pushing a few poets, mainly to the American market, and beneath the colossus-like feet of the Yeats, the Muldoons, the Heaneys, and the presidential poets, the green shoots are strangled and…

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‘Demeter Does Not Remember’ and other poems by Mary Madec


I land in you unexpectedly,
down and something silky like new grass
and it is soft and I fit perfectly
like in memory foam
and maybe it is a memory
and it is silky like a caress, your fingers
stroking me
and new, I have never come here before
and green somehow like soft summer
warming me
down deeper than I have ever known
and maybe you heard the whimper
as I gave myself to
the comfort of you concave
as a moon but not cold or blue
and I gave myself as a child
extends her little arms wide
and trusting on the world
the edge between inside and outside
blurred like tears blur
eyes that still see
and your arms wrap around me and I am satisfied.

Hades to Persephone

Your hand is so close it could touch mine
but you pull it away in time
tracing the boundary
any closer and I step
into your shadow
you into mine
and rather than disrupt
affection’s awkward reach
we play at catch the plural pronoun,
go round and round each
of our language islands,
eddies of meaning in the delta.
This vertigo of words
could throw us into each other’s arms,
leave us confused
about how to distribute
endings on verbs,
as their tense, their mood come to light.

Demeter Does Not Remember

Persephone, her shadowed daughter
in the portico, peeping through the cracked wall.
Or what she said to keep her away.
Or what she gave her to dam her legs
when blood flowed,
red into the underworld.
Demeter cannot remember her first smile or teeth,
the words she made.
Persephone would have liked to know.
Now, a woman, she looks into the still lake of her dreams,
filled by the purlings of the Styx.
What does she see?
She walks away heartbroken
from the quivering reflection.
Cries out, ‘Demeter is not me.’

Soon It Will Be Winter

And Demeter does not know what she hates most
about the change-her straw hair, her broken nails,
a shrivelling up inside, no blood rain,
insomnia as she tosses her tired head this way and that.
She thinks of Persephone, the daughter she fed
and is jealous of those pert little breasts,
those eyes, reminding her of another bed
where she was desirable as a wife.
She can feel her hardening arteries, her sagging eyes
stretched to crows’ feet as she smiles.
There is no sap inside her anymore, a greyness
rising up through her thighs.
Persephone is wet with smiles
her soft legs parting for Hades.

Demeter: Coming of Age

As I bathe alone, I wonder
what would be a good outcome.
This time I let my head
below the level of the water
and my hair spreads out
like thong weed in the sea.
My middle-aged body lops
and the water makes
tides around my hips
and breasts.
My legs with their varicose veins
the legacy of maternity
I embrace
I let it all hang out.
It makes no difference now
that this man or that
loved this body
rested on it like summer sun
on grass
Just as the grass barely notices
the creatures who crawl on the earth
just as the earth itself is indifferent
to movements on its surface
waits for boiling magma
to rise up to its thin skin.
It will take something like this
to shift the tectonic plates
reunite the old continents.


You turn me around and change the frame.
You’re sorry and winded.
There’s some awkward readjustment of limbs,
like trees that find their branches
when the wind dies down.
We go back the way we came, the cloud breaking up
as it comes in from the sea.
Everything from this angle looks different,
you take out your thermometer,
barometer, wind vane:
The outlook is good, you say:
Cumulonimbus calvus, your favourite,
a sky filled with narrative,
great big faces puffed,
playfully portentous.
You say they will be tipped
with red and gold at sunset.
© Mary Madec

74755Mary Madec was born and raised in Mayo. She studied at NUI, Galway (B.A., M.A., H.Dip Ed.) and at the University of Pennsylvania from which she received a doctorate in Linguistics in 2002. She has published widely (Crannóg, West 47, The Cuirt Annual, Poetry Ireland Review, the SHOp, The Sunday Tribune, Southword, Iota, Nth Position, Natural Bridge and The Stand Orbis, The Fox Chase Review,The Recorder among others. Her first collection, In Other Words, appeared with Salmon Poetry in 2010 ; her second collection, Demeter Does Not Remember also with Salmon Poetry at the end of 2014. She has received several awards and prizes most notably the Hennessy XO Prize for Emerging Poetry in 2008. She co-founded a community writing project and she teaches a residential course at Kylemore Abbey every summer. She works for Villanova University in Ireland.

Dear Freda Laughton, Your Poems are being discussed at Jacket2 Magazine

Dear Freda Laughton, Your Poems are being discussed at Jacket2 Magazine:

Walt Hunter writes for Jacket2 on Dave Lordan’s interview with Emma Penney about the modern Irish woman poet Freda Laughton. Freda Laughton was born in Bristol in 1907 and moved to Co. Down after her marriage. She published one collection of poetry, A Transitory House, in 1945 but little else is known about her life and work. She may have lived in Dublin for sometime, as her poem The Welcome details the textures of Dublin City and its suburbs, and suggests she knows the city by heart. Her date of death is unknown.There are some Freda Laughton poems published on Poethead here

The most interesting thing I read during a weekend of convalescence, under a March sun that seemed surprised at its own intensity, was this interview with Emma Penney on the website The Bogman’s Cannon about an Irish modernist poet, Freda Laughton. Although Laughton was born in 1907, I feature the interview and her poems here because critical genealogies of twentieth-century Irish poetry are in the process of expanding dramatically. Laughton provides an alternative provenance and inspiration for some of today’s writers and their concerns or interventions—as Penney points out:

The lack of critical interest in Laughton reflects the selective vision of literary traditions which often exclude poets who do not fit with the contemporary moment or who may trouble the formation of new movements. Irish critics during the 70’s and 80’s held Eavan Boland to be the first writer to express what “poetic being” was for a woman; the first to express the domestic; motherhood; the first to map Dublin city as a woman. Laughton expresses all of these experiences in her work decades before Boland.

You can read the full article here Now I am a tower of darkness | Jacket2.

FireShot Capture - Now I am a tower of dark_ - http___jacket2.org_commentary_now-i-am-tower-darkness

‘Birth Partner’ and other poems by Lindsey Bellosa

Becoming a Woman

The first time: my underwear,
stained and crumpled, squashed
into our bathroom cupboard and I am paged
to the nurses’ office at school where the nurse
asks in hushed tone if something has happened—
we have watched the videos and been shown
the diagrams, and my mother has called the school,
having found my underwear, asked: voice
full of pride and worry…so I nod as though
I know something the other girls don’t,
that the boys snicker at: still small; squeaking—
and I am so tall and so soft : already in a bra,
sprouting hair; already not a child but still
wanting to be a child, and something so tender
is lost and bleeding in me. Now, there is a secret
I am keeping but I can’t tell what it is—
something to be careful of; something
to be concealed and I am given plastic razors
and perfumes and pads and I am afraid, afraid, afraid
like a child in the dark, not knowing of what.


First there is a lush, quiet sky: sea
filled with anticipation. Then something
is released, and time grows fingers.
The moon cycles, triggering our cycles
and the cycles of fish, feeding; turtles
emerging to shore
egg-laden; heavy as moonlight.
Life is mostly waiting: on possibilities,
on hope. There are chances—
shadows that never become.
But this is not hope; this is the one,
definite thing, the only thing
that reaches and it is inside of me—
sea hovering around the start
of unseen stirrings.

Birth Partner

I saw what was your world
spin away from you in moments.
It was replaced by a body.
The body was yours but also not yours.
It had its own limbs, its own cries
and also your limbs and cries.
I saw how the sea opened its mysteries—
slipped gleam of grey curve.
I saw your dreams emerge.
When you woke up, you were crying
and laughing. Death had tumbled you;
finally you knew pain.
You clasped your new life in your arms,
seeing love for the first time. You murmured:
It was you. It’s you.


The wild landscape of love,
moon-soaked and ragged plain.
All the edges too clear; animals
ruthless. The barren moon rules,
bald in its light, which illuminates
writhing Earth: swill of fertility,
pain and want. A squall, a mass
of tails: spinning and spinning. Now,
the heart fixes like a hook to a cry.
It is plaintive and true. Nothing
was ever so clear. Like stars
on a winter night, piercing
the uncovered universe black
and white. This is life.
This is how time keeps itself.

The Tree of Time

(based on Maria Rizzo’s painting of the same title)
Time grows in branches,
one moment very like the other:
Second son, I have been here before.
This is a dark time; your cries are waves
colliding with my dreams. Reality
is twisting into something new,
and my life is changing color….
The view of the night sky boxed,
like a window. But your eyes
are stars, constant—
shining, bright yellow,
at corners of my nights
as I wake to feed you:
obsessed with numbers—
the ounces you drink, weight.
My face is clouded moonlight:
less than slivering light. Little son,
shadows are waves on water.

This is a magical time.
We will put down new roots,
but not now. Not here. Now the sea
races like a heart, your hand
presses my face, in sleep.
Now nights are like days,
and every day is a ladder rung
reaching to a brand-new life.


The eyes: hooded sky
the rest of the face hangs from—
little crescent moon.
Now you cast them to me:
ask your questions, make pleas,
defy with your white scowl.
Your lips are mine, drooping
roses; the pink shape of wonder
and the slope of your cheeks, mine,
but whitewashed of flaws; white
and pink, translucent as light
and thin-skinned as an egg.
Blue trails beneath the surface,
lines of a map, where eyelashes
linger: catching, giving depth.
Every day you grow arms and legs
and more looks, like light—
from me but not mine.
Like my mother in an old video—
I see me as I see you in me. She sees herself;
in the mirror, sees her mother.
The fourteen-year-old me in the video:
wiggling, excited for something I didn’t know
yet: bursting from my pink swimsuit—
My mother knew. Lips stitched into a line:
eyes on the horizon, as mine are now.
The past comes in like the tide—
and our faces swallow themselves.
We shrug in and out of them
like a borrowed sweater;
like the two imprints, potter’s
thumb slips just under your eyes:
up go the pupils,
up knit the eyebrows—
always up and away.
This is the way love travels.
© Lindsey Bellosa

 lindseyLindsey Bellosa lives in Syracuse, NY.  She has an MA in Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway and has poems published in both Irish and American journals: most recently The Comstock Review, The Galway Review, IthacaLit, Crannog, Emerge Literary Journal and The Cortland Review.  Her first chapbook, The Hunger, was  published with Willet Press in 2014.


Freda Laughton and the Critical History of Women’s Poetry: an Interview with Emma Penney

Christine Elizabeth Murray:

You can read a sample of Laughton’s work here.

Originally posted on The Bogman's Cannon:

Who is Freda Laughton, and what trail has led you to her?

There are very few ‘facts’ about Laughton. She was born in Bristol in 1907, moved to Co. Down early in her life and married. Her first and only collection of poetry, A Transitory House, was published in 1945 and she was a regular contributor to The Bell magazine. Despite this, there is no available death record for Laughton.

This lack of critical interest in Laughton reflects the selective vision of literary traditions which often exclude poets who do not fit with the contemporary moment or who may trouble the formation of new movements. Irish critics during the 70’s and 80’s held Eavan Boland to be the first writer to express what ‘poetic being’ was for a woman; the first to express the domestic; motherhood; the first to map Dublin city as a woman. Laughton expresses all of…

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Poems from ‘Her Father’s Daughter’ by Nessa O’Mahony

Waiting Room

The rules for survival:
don’t catch an eye
on the first day,
look away
if their blank grief
grazes over you.
If still here the next,
permit a faint smile,
a nod to a fellow traveller.
But keep your space,
don’t approach
unless invited
and only then
with care.
Avoid those
with a story to tell,
a need to eat you alive
as they rave
about hands squeezed,
the twitch of a closed eye.
You can’t spare
a shred, a prayer;
it’s dog eat dog here.
The odds are too high,
if somebody has to die,
let the noose swing

Deserted Village, Achill Island

in memory of my father
A gap between showers,
blue filtering half-light,
so we take our chances
on the slopes of Slievemore.
Those who’d called it home
knew about impermanence,
the reach of bog,
the gaping sockets of roofs.
Hap-hazarding lazy beds,
slip-slides of water
pouring down
the side of the mountain,
we settle for the track,
the safety of shale and quartz.
Sun wets white shards,
crystal lures us
as the track forks
to where a burnt-out digger
acts sentinel over oil slicks;
wind chimes music:
a plastic bottle
trapped by bog-lethe.
The quarry opens out,
slag-heaps improbably white,
as if someone had cleared snow
into neat piles,
or had scattered detergent
like there was no need tomorrow,
no white sheets to be spread out,
no single rose bud to be left
beside a hospital bed.

Notes for an exhibit

Spotfin Porcupine Fish, Cuba 1991,
D.J. O’Mahony, MI31.1992
It catches the eye:
half globe, half water-mine,
outrage suspended
in display case 781 Vertebrata Pisces
on the first floor landing.
When threatened, it doubles in size,
swallows air and water, bristles spines,
sends neurotoxins till each tip sizzles
with venom more potent than cyanide.
Still netted all the same,
(there is no armour against fate)
transformed to artefact,
presented in great state
to one who’d done some service.
What else need we know?
That it spent a year
atop a china cabinet,
caught dust, snagged cloth?
That it was the extra guest
at many a family party?
That, seeing it encased,
a grandson made an excited phone-call?
A six-inch black-type card
acknowledges the donor
of whom little is known;
his dates are found elsewhere.

Madam Butterfly at Beaumaris

Tonight I observe the old rituals,
run a warm bath, descend,
soak, sponge, massage each limb,
let the heat enter me.
After, I’m gentle when I rub myself down,
anoint with oil of cocoa butter,
finger-tip smooth cream in elbow folds,
around each breast, caress
the waist sloping to buttock rise.
I go to the window seat,
kimono loose-wrapped, hair unpinned.
All is readiness; Callas sings,
a red buoy light flashes my intentions to the Straits.
I wait for tomorrow
when you said you’d come.


Your first shot,
me framed in the door
of my grandmother’s house
in Garbally.
Our first stay,
and it feels strange when
I’m trusted with the key,
with instructions
on how to keep the fire lit.
You mention
Granny’s house
and it sounds alien
on your lips;
she was dead years
before I met you.
But she always predicted
the old sock would find
the old shoe

Role reversal

after Eavan Boland
There will come a time, mother,
when the transformed spring opens up
and the charioteer holds out a hand;
he might have my father’s face, might not;
his gestures might be gentle or rough
as he eases you into a space made ready
and shows you the pomegranate.
And you will take the seed and eat,
willingly perhaps, not caring
that every bargain has its cost,
or will your hand be stayed
by the sun’s ray on your face?
I will not have time to catch up,
to forestall the nine long days,
the nine long nights of wandering.
And I’ll have no deal to strike;
no backward glance, no waiting
for the seasons to turn back to me.
These poems are © Nessa O’Mahony from Her Father’s Daughter  (Salmon Poetry)

NessaNessa O’Mahony was born in Dublin and lives in Rathfarnham where she works as a freelance teacher and writer. She won the National Women’s Poetry Competition in 1997 and was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Prize and Hennessy Literature Awards. She was awarded an Arts Council of Ireland literature bursary in 2004 and 2011. She has published four books of poetry – Bar Talk, appeared (1999), Trapping a Ghost (2005) and In Sight of Home (2009). Her Father’s Daughter was published by Salmon in September 2014. She completed a PhD in Creative Writing in 2006 and teaches creative writing for the Open University. She is a regular course facilitator at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin.

‘Warning Shots’ and other poems by Geraldine Mitchell

Warning Shots

When you live on the edge
of an ocean, you cannot pretend
you did not see it coming.
The leaves are still, birds
chatter, the sea is a sheet
of steel. But out west
where last night the sun
left a sky illumined
like stained glass
dirt heaps up,
someone else’s dustpan
emptied on your doorstep
and a magpie
rattling gunfire
at first light.
First published in Cyphers and subsequently in Of Birds and Bones



‘Heaven Scent’ Magnolia
They tack in, full rig, under cover of darkness,
dock before dawn in cement-paved ports
at wharves of picket fence. The voyage
has been long through winter’s bald estates,
gusting grit and dust have shred their sails
to votive rags, bound now to every leafless branch.
Waxen petals blood-tinged white
glow like manna at first light.

First published in Abridged and subsequently in Of Birds and Bones

Left Luggage

This morning I woke with seawater
in my mouth. My eyes felt rinsed,
like after crying, my veins were
scoured, my limbs wrung out.
I was beached on a fogbound bed.
Adrift. Missing the aquatics.
Nothing is lost, just out of reach.
Everything that ever was, is –
somewhere – if only we can
get there, find the key, remember
the encrypted PIN, be brave enough
to jump. Know how to swim.
If only our feet have not been bound
at birth, our wings trimmed back
like wicks to suit our mothers, or
cobbled to a gooey mess by fathers,
confusing the discrete powers of
son and sun, deluded and controlling.
As long as no-one changed the locks
along the way and didn’t tell us, or
dropped the keys or, worse still, built
a breeze block wall – a suicide bunker –
performing hara-kiri on our dreams. Left
bag and baggage rotting on the floor.
This morning I was reminded
by a taste of salt that we do not waste
those supine hours spent sprawled
unconscious in an oarless bed;
that we are all at sea, our time well spent
diving, back and back, to unpick locks, find home.
First published in The Stinging Fly and subsequently in World Without Maps

Le Jardinier Vallier

after Cézanne
There is an ease slips through the body
after work well done. The heart
minds its own business, leaves alone
the slack repose of limb and bone.
On summer days we’d find him there,
still as a lizard by the orchard wall,
hat over his eyes, his hands asleep
on his thighs. The chair
was never moved. C’est la chaise
de Monsieur Vallier, we were told.
As if this explained everything—
the silence of his deer-like tread,
his loping gait. The way he came
and went unseen. How the garden
sang with light and shade.

First published in Small Lives (Poddle Publications) and subsequently in Of Birds and Bones


The Suitcase of Bees

She brought it with her everywhere,
its silver, dimpled surface effervescent
with the whirr of wings within. In public
she would spread her skirt’s thick folds
to mute the angry drone, paint a smile
across her face, hope no-one would notice.
Once inside her own four walls
the vibrations grew so shrill
she held her head and hummed.
The ambulance crew was gentle
as they led her owl-eyed through the gates,
bees still rustling taffeta in her head.
The case was silent, a ruse
in sly collusion with the doctor
who swore she was an expert,
knew all there was to know
of stings and swarms, their stridency,
how to outface the queen.
They built a wooden beehive,
surrounded it with lemon balm, sweet basil, mint.
And now, except for mild tinnitus, she is calm.
A version first published in The Interpreter’s House; subsequently in World Without Maps

Geraldine MitchellDublin-born Geraldine Mitchell lives on the Co. Mayo coast, overlooking Clare Island. She won the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2008 and has since published two collections of poems, World Without Maps (Arlen House, 2011) and Of Birds and Bones (Arlen House, 2014). She is also the author of two novels for young people and the biography of Muriel Gahan, Deeds Not Words.

Christine Murray’s ‘Brightest Jewel’ at Poetry and Being

Originally posted on The Poem Between -- Essays by Tom D'Evelyn:

This poem by Christine Murray is more than a text. I have been wanting to say something about it; today, having spent some time with Sinead Morrissey’s “Yard Poem” from the acclaimed Parallax (2013), I have a focus. “Yard Poem” is a very well-written, indeed sumptuous poem, a gorgeous outrageously conceived and executed text. “The Brightest Jewel” is something different. They are both poems but Murray’s poem somehow exists off the page. It creates its own spaces within spaces.

The note at the bottom of the text (which includes a second version of the poem which I won’t discuss at this time) refers to a place and an occasion: The National Botanic Gardens share the both River Tolka and a perimeter wall with Glasnevin Cemetery, wherein a plot known as ‘The Angels Plot’, a possible resting place for my infant brother, although there are no records.

Between the river and…

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Mary Cecil’s Rathlin Island poems

Adagio for Strings

My heart that soared and climbed
To other realms of fantasy
That longs to find the answers
To everything
To dream those endless dreams
To drift in waves of oceans
Of oneness complete
And really know
In pools of beautiful thought
Transport my soul
Where heaven will be
And let me be
© Mary Cecil

The Golden Hare

Where wild flowers cling
And heather sweetly grows
The magic hare reclines
With fur of glowing gold
His spirit of quiet magnificence
In lands of legends born
Where unicorns are dreamt of
And fairies sport in human form
To catch a fleeting glimpse
Against the burning sky
A moment in a lifetime
A flash of mystery goes by
Where came his golden sheen
That gift from other realms
To add a glowing wonder
Hidden in the ferns
So swift he flees
With graceful lops he leaps
Transporting us to mystical lands
To dream of when we sleep
© Mary Cecil
Rathlin Island


Written for Master Daire James Mc Faul of Rathlin Island

so wild the seas that flow,
Around his island home
Gently slept a baby,
Waiting to be born
Dreaming in his world,
Where perfection waits to be
A Raghery boy is made,
To cross the wildest sea
Generations of hardy men,
Created in his bones
A harmony of oceans,
With men from island homes
So sleep and dream your days,
The tides will wait for you
To carry you ever onwards,
Towards your faithful crew
And you will lay your anchor,
As generations before
Where your footsteps lead you,
Beside the beckoning shore
8th December 2014
© Mary Cecil

Mystic Days

I see you, a shadow in my mind,
Like a half remembered dream,
Drifting in the periphery
Of my consciousness
I glimpse you in the sunlight,
Like a song floating in the air
That cannot be captured,
Yet so sweetly enraptures me
My mind hesitates,
To escape the illusion of you
Your un-summoned presence,
That embraces my heart
Until again you vanish,
Like petals in the wind
The turbulence in your wake,
Tearing the tranquillity of my reverie
Yet stay my sweet
In my loving longings,
That we again can be,
In our world together
© Mary Cecil

profile for poetry picMary Cecil is the mother of large family and Grandmother to eleven. The widow of Rathlin Island’s famous campaigner, diver, author (Harsh winds of Rathlin) Thomas Cecil. Lover of Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island. Mary enjoys community development and current events. She has  been writing poetry for several years. Enjoys writing a variety of poems, spiritual, war, romantic, protest and nature. Keen to compose more poems based on Rathlin Island’s myths & legends. She worked in owning andmanaging tourist facilities both on and off Rathlin Island. Public Appointment as Lay Member, The Appropriate Authority, Criminal Legal Aid Board .

‘Red Hen’ and other poems by Shirley McClure


I want to have poems
by Caesarean section
wearing my Infallible lip gloss
and counting on my designer
I will keep my bump discreet,
drink litres of San Pellegrino,
strive to avoid striae gravidarum,
laser them later if it comes to it.
I want to live a normal life
despite the media,
and when it’s time,
my lines will glide out raring
to open their lungs and wail
as true as any natural birth.
Published in Clifden Anthology 35, 2013


Red Hen

We know nothing
about hens, yet find ourselves
in charge of half a dozen.
The odd girl out –
you call her Mrs.One – loses
her footing in the mud.
You carry her
into the hen-house
with piano player hands.
Still there the next day,
she has turned her blunt
red beak to the wall.
We talk to neighbours
about red mites, infections,
wonder if she’s egg-bound.
We fill her bowl
with cabbage-leaves,
stroke her tight wings.
Her sisters cry out,
foul her water,
shit on her plumage.
We are told you’d get
a new hen for the price
of the vet. For the first time
I want to crack a bird’s neck.
Instead we hand her back,
ailing but alive.
Weeks later you find me
in quick tears
for the red hen;
you brush the rust
of my feathers, fill up
my hopper with oyster shells.
Published in Orbis, 2014

Yoga class

I skipped my yoga class
because the man was due
to fix the curtain rail.
Upstairs, he poised in heavy boots
on the edge of my bed,
but not before prudently
peeling back the elegant blue
Brown Thomas duvet.
Beneath him I stood
at optimal angle to flaunt
my cleavage, to hand him screws.
Smoothly he inserted the rawl plug,
then with slightly quicker breath
he drove it deep
into my freshly painted, trembling
Orchid White walls.
Threading the hoops unto the pole
we lifted it together,
our fingers touching
as he tenderly
completed the work.
Later we did yoga together
dreamt up new asanas
and held them, and each other
until light began slinking through
my brand new curtains.
From Who’s Counting?


Text Sex

Text messaging,
the first hot Sunday in May-
he: I hope you’re doing something
wild. I’m
busy with lambing.
She: Sun-bathing
out the back,
does that count as wild?
He: That depends
on how naked you are…
She pictures him delivering,
in placenta,
imagining her nakeder, fuller,
redder than she really is, outside
on a blue rug holding
a silver mobile phone.
She turns over, pale still,
unhooks her bra;
they joke about his sad life
chatting to sheep
phone dating,
dreaming of nakedness
in Edenbrook Heights.
If she were less prudent,
She’d ask him over now,
shower him, sponge each finger carefully,
massage his neck and armpits
with apricot soap;
but it’s not like that with them,
his wedding band has left a mark
that no lamb’s blood can cover.
She dresses, texts goodbye
and phones
the take-away.
From Who’s Counting?

ShirleyPhotoBoyle12_smallShirley McClure’s new collection Stone Dress, is published by Arlen House in August 2015. Her CD Spanish Affair, with her own poems plus poetry and music from invited guests, was launched in June. All proceeds from the CD go to Arklow Cancer Support Group, where she facilitates a writers’ group. Her first poetry collection, Who’s Counting? (Bradshaw Books) won Cork Literary Review’s Manuscript Competition 2009. She won Listowel Writers’ Week Originals Poetry Competition 2014. Shirley lives in Bray, Co. Wicklow.

‘Encounters with a Hare’ and other poems by Aoife Reilly

Encounters with a Hare

A fighter with grace and fertility
magical helper in the unexpected
moment of my early morning
backyard smoke and scribbles.
I know it means something when we meet.
I wonder about your tunnel vision
if you see me, seeing you,
what you’re a sign of.
Will it rain, what’s the right action?
before I consult the cards you vanish
quick as a breath
over the stream and into the willow
leaving my destiny up to me.
Second coffee on the second day
we meet again
somehow I’m meddling in your world
but in the split second of
my mindless thoughts, your steady grace
our rhythms mingle
In the meadowsweetened hedgerow
I could be Alice or Artemis
and you the trickster
reminding me I’m sometimes more,
sometimes less than you
Whatever the sign
animal medicine startles me
into stretching time and gratitude
this everlasting game of hide and seek.


Swirls of starlings
absail between sun and moon
hurl themselves into a dance
through ghosts of trees
they go where they need to go.
winter shrouds
Long nights slide in
embers empty the land
dying woods wait for the earth to turn
In the betwixt and between
I am a still frame in the granite glow
and leaves are twisted silver songs
Stars gasp, turf smoke curls
Crisscrossing the place where love was exhausted
and blankets way down in the moment before light
Ready now, I follow the starlings and birth another year.

January Bliss

The women bathe
on diamond silver stone
no want for summer dream
or winter thought to dash
the hope of a splintered ash
gently nursing frozen water.
Nothing frayed or betrayed
my raven ally somersaulting over Burren
between valleys, a slice of stream
and fern cushioned wishes
No longing
but for the tree to find
the whoosh through western winds
and starling murmur,
offering rest to each fox mother.
All forgiven
in the new year’s gasp.
a splint of heaven
and a prayer to the ground,
reach in the cracks,
spirit found.


Ghost leaved poplars flicker
lighten my step
their jigsaw bark seeps with story
connective tissues and my muscles remember
In walking I shed old stories
I don’t even have to try
every beat I drop in a little more
bits fall to the road
gold wheat horizon and blood red poppies
bob the answers
Old demons raise up to test me
see if I’m willing to say goodbye
to the furrowed brows and wrinkled thoughts
time to sing out the sad lines
I imagine
what this place was like before us
if it was always rich and strange
would the sky still be sliced
with swallows and pinches of light
Evening settles into a blustery stretch of fire
a swirl of me and fifty mountains
the feeling of the beginning
the deliciousness of the moment
before the path owns you

I Want

That smile
not the jaw clenching “grand”
give me the real you
with a freezing Atlantic dive of pleasure
I’m not looking for that golden ticket to heaven
I want the cake, chocolate heavy
I want the sugar to stick to my lips
to drag me to my senses and like swans
we’ll fly the hell out of here to the free place
beyond “thanks” and “good”
Give me fresh south westerlies,
five knots rising slowly
from my head to Malin head
from the base of my spine
to the edge
to the circus tigress, cage less
to the elephants bigger than the room
I want the dirt under my nails
to slide through slippery brown puddles
and mossy tumbling limestone
tripping me up til I remember myself
I want the tightrope joy of a fall
between docks and nettles
Give me that imperfect circle
the kink you can’t straighten out.
All poems are © Aoife Reilly

aoife reillyAoife Reilly is living in County Galway and is originally from County Laois. She is a teacher and psychotherapist. She has been attending poetry workshops with Kevin Higgins at the Galway Art Centre since September 2013 and has read at open mike of the Over The Edge Series at Galway City Library.

‘Sufferance’ and other poems by Rebecca Foust

Prayer for my New Daughter

with lines by Audre Lorde and William Butler Yeats

A soul in chrysalis, in first agonized molt,
must choose: LADIES, or MENS.
For some—for you—these rooms are fraught,
an open field where lines are drawn: think of
the White-Only signs. Or Serrano’s Piss Christ
and Duchamp’s Fountain, pitted with acid
and icepicks, de-faced. As for restrooms called
“Bathrooms with Urinals,” no, his words
will never dismantle the master’s house.
For an hour I have walked and prayed,
musing on icepicks, how they’re made
to fit a blind hand; how kept so well honed.
You are soft as sown grass and fierce as cut glass.
You pack your new purse with lipstick, and mace.
First published in North American Review, Fall 2014.
[Note: written after an attack on transgender college students attempting to use a restroom with a sign that said “Bathroom with Urinals”]


1,123 reported killings of trans people worldwide within the last five years.—
Transgender, as in counterfeit, as in someone appearing
or attempting to be a member
of the other gender, as in equated with transsexual
or cross-dresser or pervert

as in a term used by ugly girls as a defense mechanism
against prettier girls
. As in

the only solution lies in psychology or religion or,
until 1960, an icepick lobotomy
done without drugs. Sufferance means passive permission
from lack of interference

as in tolerance of something intolerable, the teen set on fire
at the back of the bus, the way the world
daily scathes you, my fear for your safety a daily sufferance,
as in endurance, as in [archaic] misery,
as in Middle English or Latin equivalent of suffer, akin
in its way to suffrage,
the right to vote. As in vote for, support—child, I am trying
to support you in this—
as in Ecclesiastical, a prayer, an intercessory prayer or petition.
Intercessory, come between.
Intercede, yes—my body—between yours and theirs.
First published in the Bellingham Review 2015 (Finalist, 49th Parallel Award)
the olive tree that dropped its great gout
of dark fruit onto asphalt for the swerve
and spinout etched in fresh virgin press;
blame the natural law that made helpless
bodies attract and collide then come to rest
in the acacia-treed canyon. The driver sat
behind the wheel, his side not pierced,
not yet. Yes, he was drunk, but only
with joy for the lovely, lithe boy
now fused with the car, shrinkwrapped
in leather and steel, and veiled
in the webbed windshield; the boy
who sang backup Gospel like a bruised angel
and was the hope of his whole Bronx block.
Blame the last bright note that opened
his throat and sank into pollen and dust.
First published in The Seattle Review, 2010.

Gratitude for an Autistic Son

He speaks, and when we speak, he understands.
Not like my friend’s boy, who tap-taps the board
behind his bed, sucking on both his hands.
Who taps the wood with his forehead, in a kind
of mandarin code. A light’s gone underground:
no speech, but he can gesture and understand
—better off than the steel-cribbed child, blind
even to pain, left at the Home. Whose eyes are wide
and blue. Who also began by sucking his hands,
then his teeth came in. What’s left of his hands
are mittened in gauze and bound to his side—
our son speaks. He talks, we talk. He understands.
And this is the crux: he talks; we understand
when he hungers or thirsts, is sad or scared.
He’s not left in his shit, we put food in his hands.
He’s not wild pinned in a trap, chained
to his own spine, gnawing the only way out.
He speaks. He holds a pen. He understands.
He has all of all of his fingers. On both of his hands.
First published in North American Review, 2013, Second place for the James Hearst Poetry Prize


O Heart, this happened, or it did not.
In a room with green walls,
my son was born. The cord was torn
too soon, so his head
was cut off to save his heart. He lived
for a long time.
For a long time there was no breath or cry.
When finally he spoke,
he spoke the wide, whorled leaves of corn.
He spoke the crickets
in clusters beneath the sheaves, he sang
the soil in. He sang the wind
in the dune and hush of ebb tide. Some say
he died. Some say he died.
First published in The Hudson Review, Summer 2013.

Rebecca Foust
Rebecca Foust’s most recent book, Paradise Drive, won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry. Foust was the 2014 Dartmouth Poet in Residence and is the recipient of fellowships from the Frost Place and the MacDowell Colony. New poems are in the Hudson Review, Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, North American Review, Omniverse, and other journals, and an essay that won the 2014 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Award is forthcoming in the Malahat Review.
Rebecca Foust Website

Eamon Ceannt Park; a Cycle

Eamon Ceannt Park; a cycle

Her boot leathers are wet, grass greened.
Things have gone aground at the grove,
only the fairy-ring stands in her circle
of spectral gowns,
her parasols all caught up in a breeze of light.
Wood clattery heels sound
against the stones at the gate,
against a cluster of coppered leaves;
their outsoundings, a filigree.
The park is scattered as after a storm.
The destruction is knave-wrought

A crescent moon is inscribed into the soil
by the small grove,
a willow weeps by its exit.
And the sky is close as goose down.
Brent geese screel and beat overhead,
someone has sprayed yellow paint on his memorial stone.

There is a man in the stone.
The dew is playing fire at her feet,
wetting her legs.
A legion of rooks guard his stone.


The route through the groves is frozen today;
even the treetops are caught in ash.
There is no mistaking this scene for a balletic stasis.
It’s stick-strewn.
A cold sun rises above the minarets
at park’s edge.
And the sound of bells emanates from behind somewhere .
She is glad to leave,
glad to kick the ice from her feet against the stones.
The Queen’s Rook.
And what if she entered that garden wearing her last veil?
The others being ripped by fierce wind and claw.
The willows lash her face
driving her into ecstatic groves.
The only thing seeming alive in this desolate place
Is the Queen’s Rook.
He stalks above her veiled head,
his call drowning in his throat.
She heard a name.
She looks back to the stone
From thence to the furrowed hill,
It is of ordinary green.
A rook is atop the gate.
She no longer sees the far away
lit by careening crows.
The path is different by day.

It is dark beneath the tree.


The rising sun has not yet caught
the edge of the stone.


A clutter of dry debris, a black feather
is housed there.


She would sing him if only he let her.


“Intreat me not to leave thee
Nor to return from following after thee
For whither thou goes I will go ..”

she leaves.

‘Eamon Ceannt Park; a cycle’ by Christine Murray was first published at Bone Orchard Poetry Ezine and collected then in Cycles (Lapwing Press, 2013)


‘Reverse Emigration’ and other poems by Alice Lyons

Reverse Emigration

When I boarded the plane, everyone looked like Uncle Tom
ruddy, some were empurpled
grey hair or auburn in terrier thatches
pale blue of eye
a smidgen of resignation:
the tribe.
I thought We are driving to the interior
I thought, holy god
the airline upholstery
was Kavanagh, Ní Dhomhnaill and Heaney
handwriting. I thought
holy shit, this is the maw.
The maw.

The Boom and After the Boom

The Shannon when it washes
the shoreline in the wake
of a cruiser slurs
exactly like the Polish
language you hear in LIDL
on Friday evenings, seven p.m.
payday. That’s what
Gerry says.

The river surface offers
space to the song:
hammer taps of Latvians
and Poles nailing planks
of a deck. The place
between water and sky
holding sound. It is underloved
and an amphitheater.

Latvians and Lithuanians
are nailing planks
of grooved decking.
It will be a nice feature
of that riverside property.
! Their tap-tapping
underscores the distance
between this side and that.

Winter gales have made swift work
of the billboard proclaiming
REMAINING Crumpled up
on the roadside now
two-by-four legs akimbo
a circus-horse curtsy
or steeplechase mishap.


Greed got in the way. We built a fake estate.
Levinas said to see ourselves we need each other yet
doorbells, rows of them, glow in the night village
a string of lit invitations no elbow has leaned into
(both arms embracing messages). Unanswered
the doors are rotting from the bottom up.
It’s another perplexing pothole in our road, loves.
Hard core from the quarry might make it level,
hard core and cunning speculation into matters
concerning love and doubt, concerning want and plenty.
O the places where pavement runs out and ragwort
springs up, where Lindenwood ends but doesn’t abut
anywhere neatly, a petered-out plot of Tayto tumbleweeds,
binbags, rebar, roof slates, offcuts,
guttering, drain grilles, doodads, infill, gravel !
A not-as-yet nice establishment, possessing potential
where we have no authorised voice but are oddly fitted out
for the pain it takes to build bit by bit.
When the last contractions brought us to the brink
of our new predicament, we became developers.


You e-mailed your whole desktop, which is typical
  the blue of it Scrovegni chapel blue
a smile I’ve never seen before it is aware of smiling
reveals itself to the camera in the computer.
Squared-off angels, no they are JPEGs, hover
over a faux Polaroid you switched to sepia mode
so I wouldn’t look like a geyser
a river of years to reach such tender self-regard
for a moment you are unencumbered
by the monster critical eye (you meant geezer)
scissored hair blunt and sister-like and merciful
your entire kitchen liquid in the glossy Frigidaire.
It puts me in mind of Fra Angelico, those tricky frescoes
(I seem to translate everything to quattrocento time)
Christ in a blindfold, eyes like poached eggs gazing
down and inward, the gathered regal robes
the marble throne all white and pouring up, yes
like a geyser pouring up while Roman soldiers
unencumbered by their bodies beat and spit and mock.
I have always loved those arrested gestures
the mute green rectangle beautiful as your computer
in Philadelphia where Safari’s compass points
permanently Northeast and the Finder icon smiles
twice and benevolently straight on and in profile.
from Poetry Ireland Review 100 (ed. Paul Muldoon)
Note:  Versions of ‘The Boom & After the Boom’, ‘Developers’ and ‘Reverse Emigration’ first appeared in Poetry (Chicago), December 2011. A Poetry Foundation Podcast The Woman Who Quit featuring work by Alice Lyons.

Alice_Lyons_sepiaAlice Lyons was born in Paterson, New Jersey and has lived in the West of Ireland for fifteen years. Her poems have appeared in publications such as Tygodnik Powszcheny (Kraków) and POETRY (Chicago), as public installations in Staircase Poems at The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon and as poetry films in cinema and gallery screenings worldwide.

She is the recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry, the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary, an Academy of American Poets Award and multiple bursaries in literature and film from An Chomhairle Ealoine/The Arts Council. Her poetry film, The Polish Language, co-directed with Orla Mc Hardy, has screened in competition in over 30 film festivals worldwide and garnered numerous awards including an IFTA nomination. Her new poetry film, Developers, premiered at Oslopoesie, Norway in 2013. She has lectured in English and Fine Art at Boston University, Maine College of Art, the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and Queen’s University, Belfast. She holds a Ph.D. from the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University, Belfast. She is currently curator of Poetry Now, Dun Laoghaire.


Alice Lyons

Curator Poetry Now 2015

Mountains to Sea Book Festival

Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin

Curator | The Dock
Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim

‘Evensong’ and other poems by Cherry Smyth


The way evening comes in
(or on or down)
brings the word closer
than it’s ever been:
the blue levelling deeper,
evening to a fade
that seems to make the colour
brighter, the best possible
way to age. I keep watching
its beauty as if I could learn it,
shaking a month’s dust from
a carpet out of the top window,
my face paused in the cold air,
joining indigo,
the lidless city,
the universe heard.

Where it Led You

(for John Maggio)
You say the wind in the trees brought it.
Your grandmother’s house nested by woods,
a cabin more like, with an outside toilet
and the smell of fallen apples masking it.
It isn’t the rotting, sweet thickness but where
it leads you: into the woods, where small
creeping shadows called to city boys who
could play lost, jungle commandoes.
You followed your brother into a clearing.
There lay something you knew but didn’t,
something that should move but couldn’t
– a heap of smattered fur, even before the flies
knew, a litter of puppies, the texture tangy
in your mouth, a fruit bruise, the pelts asking
to be petted, the bloodholes where the pellets
entered. Around you circled the knowledge of BB
guns, the deadly capable forest boys and the rustling
that shocked a new silence into you both.
When you say you want more space in the
maze of your paintings, I hear whimpering
in the trees, the pop-pop-pop of boyhood, see
a mound of warm heads. You will paint a path
out of the woods, making room for each and
every one, in fathering light. Your world is
kinder, figuring the dense, bewildering mass,
the face-down side of the bright apple.

Anniversary Poem

Dark barely lifts from
the rooftops, winter casting
its poorly washed sheet down.
January, the time of year I am least,
I stop on the stairs, refocus on
plum branches where green
nodes are clustering,
unwinding the clock of sap.
One year on, her warmer
hand taking mine has made me
almost immune – here’s the
very second, the hill of snow,
our sex-bright skin that graphs
a cycle beyond the usual lustrum;
look at her fingers fanning out
the count from her thumb;
hear the click of the abacus,
promising something foolproof
in calling love a number.
Evensong, Where It Led You and Anniversary Poem are © Cherry Smyth

Cherry on beachCherry Smyth is an Irish writer, living in London. Her first two poetry collections, When the Lights Go Up, 2001 and One Wanted Thing, 2006 were published by Lagan Press. The Irish Times wrote of this collection: ‘Here is clarity and realism, couched in language that is accessible and inventive. The title poem carries all Smyth’s hallmarks: precision, linguistic inventiveness and joy.’ Cherry’s work was selected for Best of Irish Poetry, 2008, Southword Editions and The Watchful Heart: A New Generation of Irish Poets, Salmon Press, 2009. Her third collection Test, Orange, 2012, was published by Pindrop Press and her debut novel, Hold Still, Holland Park Press, appeared in 2013. She also writes for visual art magazines including Art Monthly. She is currently a Royal Literary Fellow.

Poetry by Cherry Smyth
Water, Shine On Sarah Lucas, and other Cherry Smyth poems on Soundcloud

‘Silt Whisper’ and other poems by Ailbhe Darcy

Silt Whisper

That summer one-eyed jacks were wild:
we learned new rules, left tea to brew.
Smoke stilled air. Leaves lay unturned.
Unemployment was another high.
I had been a storm in a polystyrene cup,
seeking scald, steam, instance, but now
we drew up lists; mapped out desire lines; skipped
interviews to collect blooms; paused before flight.
The only record of that time the silt of prophecy,
the memory of weight in our cupped hands.
For a short while we held the one breath:
I could never set it down.
Silt Whisper appears in Imaginary Menagerie(Bloodaxe, 2011) and has been the Guardian poem of the week.


When the Poles came to the National Gallery
I lowed at a painting by this Edward Okún,
and what I was thinking was that was me below
your drop-gemmed black coat all winter, wind
around us beating like wings, chests pressed together.
I had put down roots right there in the street
and told you this now is home and you
said now we can go anywhere. I hear now
that they’re finished building Dublin up
the side of a mountain, the Poles have hied
home and put up signs: No Irish;
and no one blames them. A slow flight;
the old crone creeping; the cupped flower;
his wife looking at him and not around her.
Poles was originally published in Salamander and appears in Imaginary Menagerie (Bloodaxe, 2011.)


“Only don’t, I beseech you, generalise too much in these sympathies and tendernesses – remember that every life is a special problem which is not yours but another’s, and content yourself with the terrible algebra of your own”
– Henry James, in a letter to a friend.

We are up to our pits in Sunday papers
when my father says that things never used to happen
when he was growing up. He means
the black crawly crawly Darfur fly, man
on a leash, girl with burns, crumpled machinery
at Inishowen; and he means Matthew,
who died last night at last of madness.
My father and I at the eye of the panopticon,
two of Prometheus’ descendants, bound
at the centre of a shrinking globe. Sometimes
he used to turn the television off, newspapers
would grow angular holes
where bloodshed had been. Now it’s I
want to fold cranes of the papers for him,
build bonfires of TV sets.
It circles us, the noise, all the same. When people ran
from the falling towers, they stopped
to buy cameras, stood
with their backs to the towers to watch
the cards fall over and over
on shop window screens. No wonder
that you with your too much of gentleness
wanted out, and we did not stop you.
Your friends expect to weigh forever
what we could have given
against what we could not change.
What kind of algebra would it take?
Matthew, love, I carry myself with care on Mondays.
I lie to hairdressers. I walk. I carry a notebook
to write down feelings
in case I need them again. I pretend
to be someone else at traffic lights. I stay clear
of mirrors, newspapers sometimes. I live
as best I can. I do the awful maths.
Panopticon was originally published in The Cortland Review and appears in Imaginary Menagerie (Bloodaxe, 2011.)

After my son was born

Grit shone on the surfaces
of my bedazzled eyes.
Flesh pooled about me,
so that it was difficult to run.
Disease squeaked an entrance
at the corners of window frames,
the gap beneath the door, my
shut mouth.
There was noise.
I wished you all dead.
After my son was born,
my mother came to me
and was gentle.
After my son was born was originally published on


They shipped Donegal workers into Dundrum
in 2001. I worked in the Dundrum House all summer,
lumping sods of peaty scurf from there to here.
Those lads ordered with a nod or lifted star
of dark-skinned feelers, not a nay, not an aye.
“They must talk among themselves, they
must,” a Cantonese colleague of mine
hissed as we swiped the ashtrays to wipe.
We vied between us to be the first to kiss
one of those black Northern men. I got
closest when, once, a man stood and took
a too-heavy tray from my arms and moved
ahead of me to the bar. He leaned in
to empty his hod to the barman, turned
and let drop his chin to raise a remark.
What emerged then was a bubble as large
as a brick, slick with aurora borealis,
viscous and globular, spinning slowly forth
over the tables of drinkers, the Norners
in their nighted corner, blinking cigarette machines,
locals blinking at that unidentified word.
Local was originally published in Connotations.

Service Not Included

Who’s to thank for the buckets of lavender thrown open beside us,
for the foam-clouds on twin cappuccinos,
for the carved boxes that hold sugar,
for the child telling reams about superheroes,
for the darkening sky of the waiter,
at a café in the shopping centre
when you cannot speak for your tears?
Hospital coffee was never so kindly, so quick to make believe.
On the morning I wed, you and I
came here to the shopping centre
and scented women pared our nails in a scented room.
Who’s to thank for their cool hands
working away in our memories? Here, your hands
are out of my reach. You must have thought it but,
when my son was born howling and writhing
and thrust to my skin, how your own son left the room
and the snap they left you to hold of him. Your hands
are smaller than mine, and neat.
How they told you the hospital name and you thought
that dun square of Monopoly board,
made your way there by a route you’d score
into your palms by the end; saved change
for the car park; packed a Thermos, perhaps.
Now families glide about the shopping centre
in neons fresh from invention, eyes shiny with gratitude,
music tasteful and tender.
You must have thought, when my son has made strange,
raged at being made come asunder,
of all the times you had to leave the hospital
and drive home to your daughters.
Of all the skin we need to touch and are not touched,
of all the starving to the touch, the familiar injustices.
Spread coins thick across the tables,
go about the shopping centre,
praise the coffee, the kindness of the escalator, haircuts,
the beautiful, the beautiful, the familiar,
the comfortable weather. Who’s to thank? Who’s to
praise for your hands, who sits up there in head office
taking our minds off the past waiting rooms and coffee docks?
Service Not Included was originally published in Eire-Ireland.

Image by Matt Bean

Image by Matt Bean

Ailbhe Darcy was born in Dublin in 1981 and grew up there. Her first full-length collection, Imaginary Menagerie, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2011 and shortlisted for a Strong Award. A poem from the collection was chosen by the Guardian newspaper as their “poem of the week.” Selections of work appear in a chapbook, A Fictional Dress (2010) and in the anthologies Identity Parade, Voice Recognition and If Ever You Go.
Ailbhe has published scholarly work on the poet Dorothy Molloy in Contemporary Women’s Writing and regularly reviews new poetry for The Dublin Review of Books, The Stinging Fly and The Burning Bush 2. In 2014 she took part in “Yes, But Are We Enemies?”, a reading tour of Ireland and London, presenting experimental writing in collaboration with Patrick Coyle, S.J. Fowler and Sam Riviere. With S.J. Fowler, she is working on a book-length project entitled Subcritical Tests. She lives in Germany.

‘This Is The Point Where Colour Comes in’ by Christine Murray


gold-bodied a beetle dives
into muck and dirt, a silica
of glitter on his porch,
his wing.
there is no evidence of his home now
it is vanished,
small soil tabernacle
he carried in the sun.


this is the point where colour comes in
a slap of blue/ the wooden baker’s palette
hits glittering concrete
city of silica, its bedrock trembles a bit
glossy/ the blackbird’s sunbath/his beak
goldened almost/ yellow.
From The Silences is © C. Murray

This Is The Point Where Colour Comes In was initially published at Bone Orchard Poetry, from a MSS series called The Silences

‘blurring’ and other poems by Kerrie O’ Brien

Bamboo Grove, Kyoto

everything seemed familiar
and so we kept walking
the light, hushed with green
no path looked different
we didn’t speak –
a bright rain
left the earth fragrant
we found a temple
hidden, waiting
and paper fortunes
only you could read
your tears –
gold rivers
felt like stars
falling on my hands


you know pride is a terrible thing
and we’ll be a long time dead
what does any of it matter now
when it’s all stripped back
it will hit you one morning
crying making eggs crying trying to eat them
the love won’t go away
worse than the fear or the hate
stubborn around you
red ball and chain
the days don’t make a difference
I’ve tried to stamp it out
like I’m constantly on fire
when we meet now there’s a sadness
like we’re talking from the dead
like we’re both being unfaithful
but also the odd beauty
of how the love can still live
even if we’re not in it
we still talk
we are always talking
but never saying a thing
and what are words
they don’t matter
they’re just the noise we make
it’s muscle that has memory
muscle that make me shatter and twitch because
our bodies are used to touching
memory and habit and want
the body doesn’t understand it’s not allowed
I focus on your eyes while I try to get used to it
your hands two jump leads on the table
I try not to touch
I think you just want it to be ok
I’ll put on the smile you offer, I’ll put on the mask
I can see those eyes through it
they tell me they’re sorry
they tell me this is hard
they tell me we can’t do it again
all that love still pulsing
but this time
love saying no.


my great-grandmother had it
though few will talk of it
how she lived on a hill
closer to the heavens
where the cloud shadows
would change the colour of the fields
screaming yellow in July
something sacred, godlike
they would come for miles
to be healed
wide holes in their cheeks, mouths
a lifetime smoking pipes –
carrying too much
bird feather suspended
in glass
the scent
would linger for days
the sight of the wounds
something about this
stirs memory
trembles within me
the burning urge
to cure


Take off your coat.
Let it fall from you.
Want to watch you do that.
I’ve been thinking of you too much.
Now, I want to make you real.
Do that and come here,
Fall from yourself and don’t think.
Stop talking.
To name this moment
Is to sap it of itself.
Stop looking.
Don’t ask love,
It’s beyond me.
Leave before I wake, will you?
It’s kinder that way.
Morning, and your searchlight eyes,
Shining, trapping, blinding.
Who can bear that?
I’m sorry I talked
To everyone but you tonight
But I find I’m like that.
Please accept it all, or go.
It’s all the same to me, these days.
Now I know I’m saying
None of this out loud,
But I’m hoping you’ll hear it in me
This time,
If you’re listening.


The bed is too small
as I turn and try
not to wake you
your body is still unfamiliar.
It could be anytime –
my first time
in your room.
I should go.
There’s a smell of incense
you burn it like a priest
hoping to purify
you burn it like flowers
that will cling and remind me.
Slowly you begin to touch
without opening your eyes
as if your hand is awake
and the rest of you sleeps oblivious to
your slow touches and the morning
making its entrance.
I move with you
without words
my hands in your black hair.
I’ll never be yours.
There are no birds singing


you need to be very still
to hear the concert of your body
to think about what you contain
salt and water
knows what it’s doing
renewing itself
back to earth
it is a quiet thing
this is where our riches are
we are all red inside
brimming with love
all fluid and quiet and fire.
These poems are © Kerrie O’Brien

picKerrie O’ Brien has been published in various Irish and UK literary journals. In February 2012 she was the first poet to read as part of the New Writers Series in Shakespeare & Co. Paris. Her poem Blossoms was chosen as the winning entry in the Emerging Talent category of the 2011 iYeats Poetry Competition and her work was highly commended for the Over the Edge New Writer of The Year Competition 2011 She was the winner of the RTE Arena Flash Fiction Competition 2012 and Culture Ireland sponsored her to read in Los Angeles in June 2012. She has received an Arts Council Literature Bursary for her first official collection and two of her poems have appeared in New Irish Writing in the Irish Independent. She was one of the emerging writers chosen to read at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2013 as well as the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2013, Listowel Writers’ Week 2013, Cuisle International Poetry Festival 2013 and The Bram Stoker Festival 2013.  She will have work forthcoming in The Bohemyth and The Irish Times. Her poetry chapbook Out of the Blueness was published in 2011 and she is currently working on her first official collection Illuminate.