Evening folks – it feels like much more than a week since the last time I wrote on here, so much has happened. Sometimes it is difficult to write exactly what has been happening, especially if it concerns other people. I am constantly thinking about whether what I’m writing about will upset anybody else, whether I’m revealing something that I shouldn’t. However, if I don’t say anything, I would feel like I was blithely carrying on without acknowledging what has happened, which is uncaring and unfeeling.
So, I think for now, I will just say the bare minimum, which is that due to a family emergency, my husband had to get a flight to Australia yesterday. We spent pretty much every minute together in Ireland for nearly a week, and now I’m suddenly not going to see him for three weeks or so. It feels very strange to be unexpectedly on my own.
I promised that I would write another instalment about my time in Ireland. Two Fridays ago I was staying at my friend Ita’s house in Fermoy. I ran a 2 hour workshop for the Marketplace Poetry Group with 20 participants. The workshop was great fun and they were a lovely group to work with. In the evening I did a reading and there was an open mic afterwards. The pub was full of poets – not only the workshop group, but a whole contingent of poets that had come from Cork with the fabulous Paul Casey, who runs the O’Bheal night there. Other poets that I’ve seen every year I’ve been in Fermoy – Louis Mulcahy, Noel King, Kevin Griffin, Matthew Sweeney, Mary Noonan had also travelled over for the open mic – it was a fantastic night and finished with people playing violins and singing – as most nights in Elbow
Pat O’Connor who is known as the Bard of Fermoy, a talented musician, poet, and artist is doing a series of paintings of poets and he showed me a painting of me that he’d been working on, which was lovely and moving and surprising. The painting is going into an exhibition soon. Pat is one of my favourite people in Fermoy – he is not on social media – I don’t even know if he does emails actually, but he is such a big part of the community there. He is such a good poet and performer that at the open mic, people were shouting for him to perform poems that were their particular favourites.
We went to bed very late on Friday night and we had quite a relaxed Saturday. We got up late and had a late breakfast and then an even later lunch. I’m sure I left Ita’s house a stone heavier than when I arrived. We drove to Killarney after leaving Ita’s and after much knocking on doors, managed to find a really cheap but lovely B and B which I think was called Greenacre. Although the room was small, it was spotless and the landlady was very kind and wouldn’t hear of taking the tip we tried to leave her the next day.
On Sunday we drove to Dingle to see the lovely poet and potter Louis Mulcahy and his equally lovely wife. He has an amazing and famous pottery studio and he showed us all around the workshop and called us eejits when he found out we had ordered lunch in the cafe instead of coming to the house to have lunch. We bought two vases, one for Lindsey Holland, who has been staying at our house looking after our dogs while we were away, and one for us. I also tried to buy Louis’ latest poetry collection but he’d told the girls on the desk to give me a copy so I wasn’t allowed to pay for that either!
We’d booked into an expensive hotel in Dublin – much more than we would normally have been able to afford called No.39 or No.31 – something like that. The problem with expensive hotels in Ireland is that it would be hard for a hotel to top the level of service you get where ever you go and I didn’t think it was really worth the extra money we shelled out for it to be honest. We spent the day seeing the city on an open top bus and eating in cafes – we had a great time.
The next night we had great fun staying at Arthur Broomfield’s, who is the Sunday Poet for this week! More on Arthur’s poem later but suffice it to say, his poetry is much better than his direction giving. If you want to know what I mean, read Kei Miller’s poem ‘In Which the Cartographer Asks for Directions’ and you will get an idea of what I’m talking about, except instead of a big white house and an old woman with only three teeth in her mouth, we were looking for a roundabout with a statue of the Virgin Mary, a row of birch trees and a very slight incline in the road.
Anyway, we arrived eventually at Arthur’s house to find a huge meal awaiting us there as well, cooked by his wife Assumpta (more on Assumpta later as well!) The whole time we were in Ireland, I couldn’t believe how hospitable and welcoming people were. I know it’s a cliche that Irish people are very friendly but it is true – but what we experienced over the last week was beyond friendliness really – it was complete, no strings attached hospitality. I think I left Ireland 2 stone heavier than when I went.
The next day, we had a lovely, long breakfast with Arthur and then headed back to Dublin. We went into the Natural History Museum, full of exhibits of stuffed animals, which seemed very poignant considering what has happened with Cecil the lion this past week. There are hundreds and hundreds of stuffed animals in the museum. It made me wonder about the human beings that killed them, whether this would have been their job, to bring animals back for the museum.
In the evening, I read with Arthur and Jane Clarke. It was a small audience, but a quality one. I met a couple of readers of this blog who introduced themselves and Una, a woman I was on a course with quite a few years ago, who has gone on to have a collection published with Lapwing and is about to start an MA. Michael Farry, a poet I first met in Fermoy was also there so it was nice to see him again.
After the reading, once everyone else had gone home, Chris and I went for a run in Phoenix Park just as it was starting to get dark. At one point some of the wild deer that live in the park ran across the path in front of us – it was great to get out in the fresh air and it’s a lovely place to run, completely flat unlike our local park! We got the overnight ferry back to England after this and arrived back home Wednesday lunchtime.
I’ve been pretty busy since then. On Thursday I was running a half day workshop with Mungrisdale Writers – another lovely group of people who really got stuck in with the writing exercises. They also paid promptly on the day – a rare thing I’m finding in the world of poetry freelance work! On Friday I had my Young Writers Workshop and of course having to help Chris get sorted so he could go to Australia.
Yesterday was my first day alone in the house and I actually got lots of work done. I emailed invoices through and chased up review copies for The Compass. Please go and have a look at The Compass if you haven’t already – it’s a really high quality online magazine. I’m only in charge of reviews, but the magazine is open for poetry submissions. I also drafted the timetable for the Poetry Carousel which will go up tomorrow. I’ve been emailing back and forth with Clare Shaw and we have our theme sorted for our St Ives Residential Poetry Course in February 2016. I did a tiny bit of writing as well.
Today I’ve been for a run with Walney Wind Cheetahs and then a concert in the park with Barrow Shipyard Junior Band who were taking part in a project called Floodtide. They had to play music generated by a sensor in Walney Channel so that was an interesting afternoon! This evening I went to Jennifer Copley’s house and her amazingly talented husband ( I know he reads this – if he hasn’t got fed up by now and given up) took pity on my husbandless state and made dinner for me. In between scoffing dinner, we also sorted our theme out for the residential week we are running in Grange Over Sands in 2016.
News of the themes for the upcoming courses will be going up on the blog very shortly, so please keep watching this space.
Ok, on to today’s Sunday Poem. As I’ve already told you, it is by Arthur Broomfield, who I first met at Torbay Poetry Festival a couple of years ago. Last year, Arthur was a participant on the course in St Ives and it was great to see him again this year and meet his wife, Assumpta. Assumpta is a professional gardener and is currently writing a book about snowdrops – she is a really fascinating person to talk to and has travelled all over the world in her capacity as a gardener.
I heard Arthur read this poem at the Dublin event and asked him afterwards if I could use it for my blog. This is a quiet poem, which suits the title, about that most unassuming of flowers. I like how it starts as if it is in the mdidle of a conversation, and how all the way through, a hidden story is hinted at but not revealed. In fact this hidden story is hinted at in two lines really ‘after the last descent into alcohol’ and then ‘and for the bleak days’. The rest of the poem is very tightly controlled and the emotion is held in check by the slow and careful description. It is a strange and puzzling little poem – puzzling in that it feels very bleak all the way through, until that last image of the snowdrops on the doorstep, which seems to me so hopeful and optimistic. Those last couple of lines lift you out of the rest of the poem. The other thing that is interesting is that the ‘you’ in the poem and the speaker are very seperate. In fact, we don’t ever meet the ‘you’, only her door and her doorstep, yet the relationship between the speaker and the ‘you’ is of great interest. As you can probably tell, I’m still puzzling away at this poem and enjoying doing so.
Arthur Broomfield is a poet and Beckett scholar from County Laois, Ireland. His poetry has been widely published in Ireland and in Orbis, Agenda and Envoi. His chapbook The Poetry Reading at Semple Stadium (Lapwing) was published in 2012. Arthur is editor of Outburst, an online poetry journal that encourages innovation. His study on the works of Samuel Beckett, The Empty Too :language and philosophy in the works of Samuel Beckett (Cambridge Scholars’ Publishing 2013) is available through Amazon.co.uk. Arthur also tells me that he has a poem accepted in Acumen today which he is really chuffed about!
I hope you enjoy the poem and thanks to Arthur for letting me use it
Snowdrop – Arthur Broomfield
after the last descent into alcohol
I’ll go to your door,
shuffle down the step stones, your design,
through the beds where in summer
Arum Lilies and Gladioli disguise
the dun earth
and for the bleak days, leave,
on your doorstep,
Snowdrops, gathered that morning,
moist with dew.