Wednesday 27 April 2011


Here we are, Margaret and myself, in the summer of 2008 among Italian friends. The setting is a converted farmhouse in the countryside near Perugia. On Friday (29 April) we are returning for a few days to the farmhouse, where we spent a most amazing and creative year in 1994 – 1995. We are looking forward to meeting these friends again after almost three years, which is the longest period we have stayed away from the place since our year's sojourn there.
The area has become the setting for a gothic novel, 'A Year's Midnight', which I hope to publish shortly. I have already published a number of excerpts from it on this blog, e.g. 'A Desecration of Considerable Magnitude' and 'The Canine Position on Abortion'.
The idea of the novel was a sort of 'what if?' proposition. What if the year we spent in Italy had been a complete disaster, instead of a complete success? Imagine two characters like yourselves, who arrive in the heart of rural Italy with a five-year-old child, knowing practically nobody, with only a rudimentary knowledge of the language, hoping to make it a period of renewal, and everything gradually goes haywire for them.
It is largely thanks to the people in this photo, and a number of others, that we can look back on that year in Umbria with such affection and vivid memories.

Friday 15 April 2011


The person I am pointing at in the above photograph is Derry O'Sullivan, an Irish poet who has lived the best part of his life in Paris, and writes in Irish, translating much of his work into French and English. The occasion is the launching last year of his fourth collection, An bhfuil cead agam dul amach, má's é do thoil é? at the Centre Culturel Irlandais. The title means 'May I go out, please?' (literally Do I have permission to to go out, if it is your will?) Three of O'Sullivan's collections have titles which are questions, the previous two questions being 'Where is your Judas?' meaning judas-eye but with a hint of betrayal, and 'Where is the landlord of l'Univers?' – l'Univers being a pub in Paris which Derry frequented, but with a hint of God. His other collection is a long poem which was sparked by the discovery that his apartment in Paris housed a Jewish family during the Second World War, and that the family were taken away by the Nazis; it is called An lá go dtáinig siad  – 'The day they came'.

'An bhfuil cead agam dul amach má's é do thoil é?' is quite a lengthy title for a book, and indeed it was quite a mouthful for a primary school child in the 1950s to have to say if he or she wanted to – or pretended to want to – leave the classroom and go to the toilet. In my primary school in Ballyline, County Kilkenny, it became truncated to 'Mac-mac a dul é?' which of course is complete gibberish, reminiscent of the gibberish anglicisation of many Irish place-names, e.g. Knockcrockery, which to me conjures up an image of mayhem in a china shop. And what may we say about Termonfeckin? 

Tuesday 5 April 2011


Mighty Munster Poets at Crawley WordFest!
As part of our presence at Crawley WordFest, we are delighted to present a special free event featuring some of the finest wordsmiths from the poetry-rich region of Munster, Ireland.
With the support of Arts Services, Limerick City Council, the following three fascinating poets are to fly in especially for the Crawley WordFest:
Ciaran O'Driscoll
Jo Slade
Bridget Wallace
The event will take place at 8 pm on Friday 8th April, upstairs at
Pizza Express,
2 The Boulevard,
West Sussex,
RH10 1XX.
Tel: 01293 531678.
With its blend of dark humour and lyrical craft, it's no surprise that Ciaran O'Driscoll's poetry has received international acclaim. As shown in his Pighog collection, Surreal Man, his work combines a killer sense of humour with the acumen and verbal dexterity gained over a lifetime creating and teaching art and literature. 
     He was born in Callan, Co. Kilkenny, and presently lives in Limerick. He is a retired lecturer from the School of Art and Design at the Limerick Institute of Technology. In 2007, he was elected to Aosdána, an institution established by the Irish Arts Council to honour Irish artists and writers who have made an outstanding contribution to art and literature.    
     He has six collections of poetry to his credit: Gog and Magog (Salmon Publishing, Galway, 1987); The Poet and His Shadow (Dedalus Press, Dublin, 1990); Listening to Different Drummers (Ibid,1993); The Old Women of Magione (Ibid, 1997); Moving On, Still There: New and Selected Poems (Ibid, 2001); and Life Monitor (Three Spires Press, Cork, 2009). He has also published two poetry chapbooks, The Myth of the South with Dedalus in 1992 and Surreal Man with Pighog (UK) in 2006. Reviewing his most recent poetry collection Life Monitor in The Irish Times, Eamonn Grennan wrote of Ciaran O’Driscoll as "a poet in confident possession and exercise of his craft. [His] poems do what good poems should do, widening and deepening the world for the rest of us." 
   Liverpool University Press published his childhood memoir, A Runner Among Falling Leaves in 2001. 

Jo Slade is both poet and painter and lives and works in Limerick. She is celebrated both at home and abroad for her elegant and thought-provoking poetry. Her poems are widely published in journals and anthologies internationally and have been translated into French, Spanish, Romanian, Russian and Slovenian. Her first collection In Fields I Hear Them Sing came out in 1989. Her second collection The Vigilant One (1994) was nominated for the Irish Times / Aer Lingus Literature Prize. 
    Her Certain Octobers (1997) combines French and English verse and exemplifies the linguistic prowess which has earned her recognition as Writer-in-Residence at the Centre Culturel Irlandais and as a nominee for the Prix Evelyne Encelot Ecriture Prize, Paris. City of Bridges was published in 2005. She has led poetry Master classes throughout Ireland, and represented her country at International Poetry Festivals in France, Canada and Slovenia. She has been Writer-in-Residence with Limerick County Council Arts Office.

Bridget Wallace is a native of Limerick city. She has been writing poetry for many years and has been published in Incognito and The Stony Thursday Book. Some of her most recent work appears in Sextet, an anthology published by Revival Press. Bridget has a strong academic interest in literature, particularly poetry, and has been a tutor with Oscail, the Irish Open University. In 2010 she graduated with a Phd. from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Bridget’s special area of interest is Postcolonial theory and modern Middle Eastern literature with an emphasis on poetry. 

The WordFest already boasts a superb selection of events, including Report, Discuss, Promote, a panel discussion on spreading words with new and old media, featuring Pighog Press Director John Davies, and a Live Open Mic night featuring the launch of Antony Owen's stunning new pamphlet, The Dreaded Boy.
Our friends in Crawley expect to be adding to their impressive line-up of poetry, music, fiction and debate over the next week, so please check their events page for all the latest information,
See you there!