Tag Archives: fermoy

Sunday Poem – John W Sexton


Evening folks.  It’s only been a while since the last post here – but in between the last post and this post I’ve read at a breastfeeding festival and been hiking around Rydal Water.

On Saturday I read at Ulverston Breastfeeding Festival – the main reader was Hollie McNish, whose poem about breastfeeding went viral on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiS8q_fifa0)

I must admit to being slightly reticent about this gig before hand.  I was worried because I didn’t have any poems about breastfeeding, or having children, not having breastfed or had children.  But it was a great night – my friend who does have a child came with me (without the child) and another local poet Kate Davis was performing too.

Hollie was lovely – very friendly but very professional.  She read three poems first and then I read for about 15 minutes.  Then Kate read for 15 minutes, then Hollie read another poem to finish the first half off.

At the interval, Hollie already had a queue of people waiting to buy her book.  I managed to sell nine of my wolves which I was quite pleased with because NONE of the audience were poets.  There was no one there who normally comes to the poetry events that I go to – I think most people there were there for the festival or had come down just to see Hollie – one woman had come from Manchester.  I always get a warm glow when I sell any poetry books – but especially so when it is to people that aren’t poets.  The audience seemed so positive – I think they had a really good night and hopefully this will encourage them to come to more poetry events maybe.

In the second half Hollie did about 45 minutes from a show she is writing about the experience of being pregnant and then having her daughter.  Normally this kind of stuff really wouldn’t interest me – because I don’t have children I kind of tend to switch off from it…but she writes about the experience in a really clever way and brings in politics and feminism and humour – and the way she performs is so good you can’t help but be interested.

Today I’ve been hiking with the hubby and the dogs around Rydal Water- we were going to go up Skiddaw but the forecast was horrendous so we bailed it.

And tomorrow – glory day! I’m off to Ty Newydd – it feels like this place is my second home!  I went on my first residential poetry course there – that was with Sarah Kennedy and Nigel Jenkins as tutors.  I think that was 2007.  Then I went on a Poetry Masterclass one with Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke.  That must have been 2008.  And then I think I went on a course in 2009 with Fiona Sampson and Alan Jenkins.  And then I went on a course in 2010 with Jo Shapcott and Daljit Nagra.  And I haven’t been back since then – in 2011 I got married in the summer of course and swanned off on honeymoon for most of the holidays which meant no writing courses for me.  And in 2012 – I went on a writing course at Holland House with the Second Light Network.  The tutors then were Mimi Khalvati and Myra Schneider.  And tomorrow I’m off on one again – the tutors are Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel.  I’m really looking forward to it – going on writing courses was one of the best things I’ve done – meeting other like minded people is just as important as the tutors really…and now I’m co-tutoring on writing courses..which I love just as much as going on them!

But that is tomorrow – and there is still a bit of Sunday left.    Today’s Sunday Poem is by John W. Sexton, a poet that I met on my recent trip over to Fermoy in Ireland.  John was a great laugh and a pleasure to hang out with but it was a relief to find he is also a great poet too!  He was born in 1958 and is the author of five poetry collections: ‘The Prince’s Brief Career’ (Cairn Mountain Press, 1996), ‘Shadows Bloom’ (Doghouse, 2004), Vortex (Doghouse 2005), ‘Petit Mal’ (Revival Press, 2009) and ‘The Offspring of the Moon’ (Salmon Poetry, 2013).

I bought Vortex, Petit Mal and The Offspring of the Moon from John in Fermoy – (what can I say, I got a good deal on all three!)

and haven’t read the first two yet, but did read The Offspring of the Moon in one sitting – a couple of days after I’d recovered from the poetry hangover.

The main feature of the book are these strange poems which are almost like riddles, except the answer is in the title.  There are lots of these throughout the collection.  The first poem in the book is called ‘Daddy-Long-Legs’ and starts

‘We’re those lopsided puppets awkward
in motion through the air.  Our wings
are fractured windows of pale glass looking
out, looking in, to nothing.’

I really liked this poem – later on the daddy long legs are described as ‘Ghost Needles’ – that is beautiful isn’t it?  And I quite like having the answer to the riddle in the title because I’m too lazy to work it out.  Written in the same vein is ‘Frog’, ‘Sunlight’, ‘Pulls’, ‘Cat’, ‘Sandman’, ‘Comb’, ‘Grass’, ‘Crow’, ‘Badger’, ‘Brain’ and ‘Bog Asphodel’.  They’re spaced out throughout the book and they were a real delight – very inventive language used throughout.  And then the other thing about this book is a vein of fairytale/fantasy/folk lore running through it – a twist of strangeness which I really enjoyed.

The poem that I’ve selected stands out from these two concerns that run throughout the book and I think that is why I like it.  I was all set to ask John for one of the wonderful riddle poems and then I got to this poem, which is near the end of the collection and it kind of jumped out at me – delightfully bonkers and as in a lot of John’s poetry – the title is of utmost importance to the reader’s understanding of the poem – it gives us insight.  It almost feels like the writer has let us in on a secret  that we are not supposed to know!

I think this poem is very funny and very sinister at the same time.  You can’t help but laugh – but then you feel uncomfortable for laughing.  I love the line ‘for they could not be/forced to do anything against their will’.

If you would like to buy ‘The Offspring of the Moon’ you can buy it from his lovely publisher here


I hope you enjoy the poem!

On the Morning a President Ordered the Invasion of Iraq – John W. Sexton

Fascinated by the ants in the sugar-bowl first thing
in the morning, black-helmeted and moving about
as if pedalling on low and invisible bicycles,
he tried several experiments, starting with feeding them
to the goldfish; but found the goldfish disdainfully
disinterested.  More fascinating was the fact that
the ants appeared unable to break the surface of the water
and paddled shallowly from one end of the fish-tank
to the other.  Admiring of their perseverance he
rescued them one by one, gave them all a chance to dry out
on the window-sill with a heap of sugar to keep them
focussed.  Then he tried to see how many he could keep
in a teaspoon without them crawling out, but found it almost
impossible to put them in there in the first place, for they could not be
forced to do anything against their will.  All in all
he spent over an hour playing with the ants, found it difficult
in the finish to leave them and make his way to work.  The last he
glimpsed of them was a swirling spiral of black dashes with legs
busying themselves around the tipped honey-jar he’d left
on the kitchen floor.  He watched momentarily the viscous golden mess
spreading out along the tiles, then turned his back and made his way
towards the car and his dull job.

Fermoy Poetry Festival 2013


Evening folks!  The festival is over – I’m currently sat in my room in my friend’s house.  I stayed with Ita last year and she kindly put both me and the hubby up this year.  I’m absolutely exhausted – have decided I can’t hack having a social life – which is what the festival has felt like!  We arrived on Thursday and we have stayed out most nights till one or two in the morning, and been out, all day at various poetry happenings.

Thursday night was the launch of the festival at the Grand Hotel in Fermoy.  There were lots of poets that had come from all over the world to be there – quite a few from America, one from India, a few from England and three from Holland.  Thursday was relatively low key – we introduced ourselves and a lot of the American poets read poems as a kind of American showcase event.

After the reading had finished, me and the hubby popped over to Elbow Lane, which had been the focus of the festival last year to say hello to some old friends, including Billy, the landlord of the pub.

On Friday we spent the day reading poems in various locations throughout the town including the barbers, which was great fun as the barber turned up to the poetry reading later and read a poem he’d written after having us all in his shop.  The barber experience seemed to inspire quite a few of the poets to write poems about it!  I decided to go in the next day to watch him at work when there were no poets there but at least two other poets said that they were writing about him as well! Poor man!

Friday night was the launch of the official anthology of the Festival, the Blue Max Review which has poems from all the poets who read at the festival.  If you felt so inclined you can order a copy of the anthology from http://www.fermoypoetryfestival.com/Blue-Max-Review-2013.html

My favourite poem from the anthology is Rachael Davies’s poem ‘Ten Things My Mother Never Told Me’.  I think it is a cracking poem and it is worth buying the anthology for that poem alone!

There were also readings from American and Irish poets on Friday night in Lombards bar.  This was the night I was prancing around the pub with my top on inside out, and didn’t notice till a local pointed this out to me.  How embarrassing.  I had a long white label trailing at the side of my top!  And a poet that shall remain nameless poured the milk that was meant to be for my cup of tea into his whisky by mistake (he thought it was water).

On Saturday we went to a couple of places to do readings but then we got a bit full of poetry so we went to the park and played on the swings and the exercise machines instead.  Saturday night was the launch of Gene Barry’s first collection ‘Unfinished Business’ published by Doghouse Press.  I like going to launches – they are different to normal poetry readings I think.  Much more celebratory and fun and you get lots of non-poets there who have come just to support the poet.

I read at Elbow Lane after Gene’s launch.  It was great to be back there again reading.  Rachel Davies, who I met originally on the MA at Manchester was one of the winners of the international poetry competition this year.  The other two winners were Ben Johnson and Erin Murphy – their prize was a flight to Ireland and a reading at the poetry festival and I thought they were all great.  Knute Skinner read and i liked his poetry enough to buy his book – but what I loved was his dancing!  You couldn’t stop him.  Not the same time as he was reading his poetry of course – this was afterwards when the musicians got up.

Sunday was the poetry bus and a poetry reading in the evening that was streamed live to Texas – hosted by Michael Clay.  By this point, after four solid days of non-stop poetry, I’m afraid I got a little hysterical and kept getting the giggles.  On the bus we had also invented the cliche whistle – I debated about whether to talk about this here in case some people got offended…but I will risk it as in the law of averages, four days of poetry readings are going to produce some cliches….

The cliche whistle is actually a little whistle that the hubby has on his hiking rucksack which you are meant to use if you are in distress when walking or climbing mountains.  We decided that two short blasts on the whistle should be sounded every time someone used a cliche in a poem.  This then developed to one long blast on the whistle if anybody introduced a poem with the words ‘This was inspired by’ (a personal pet aversion of mine).

Of course we didn’t actually blow the whistle at anyone apart from each other….

So last year, my highlights of the festival was meeting all the wonderful people there and how friendly everybody was.  This year was exactly the same – it has been great to spend time with some of my favourite friends from last year – Jan Glas and Tsead Bruinja.  But I also got to know Saskia Stehouwer a little better this year which was really nice.  Rachel Davies and Ben Johnson were a very funny double act this year and I’m so glad I met Ben – who lives in England, so I hope I will see more of him when I go back home at poetry events.  Michael Clay, who runs the poetry website Mad Swirl (http://www.madswirl.com/content/poetryforum.html)  is a lovely, lovely guy, unfailingly enthusiastic about other people’s poetry and about life in general.  John W Sexton was also great fun and I’m hoping to put a poem of his as a Sunday Poem in the not too distant future as I think he deserves to be much better known over here.

Lovely poet/musician/artist Pat O’Connor – a Fermoy legend has been great again – he picked us up from the airport, did a poetry reading and then burst into song and then the next day came and played violin and guitar and sang.  I hope Fermoy knows how lucky they are having Pat!  Michael Corrigan and Niall O’Connor were two more poets from last year who it was lovely to see again this year-  I enjoyed Mike’s poetry last year but I think it is really, really strong this year.  And Niall has a book out ‘Winds of Change’ which I haven’t got round to reading yet, but I’m sure it will be good.  Another star of the festival was Miceal Kearney – absolute legend.  He was even doing cartwheels in the streets.

There were lots of other poets that I haven’t mentioned which I am sorry for – but it is getting late now and I’m too tired!

Tomorrow I’m off to Gene and Margo Barry’s house – the organisers of the festival.  They are hosting the Dutch poets and we are having a translation day tomorrow!  Which I’m very excited about – all three – Saskia, Tsead and Jan are fantastic poets – they have such unusual voices and I’m really looking forward to it.  So, no, I haven’t had enough poetry yet.

If anyone reading this would like to add their own comments about the festival, please feel free to do so underneath.  And I’m sorry if I haven’t mentioned you all by name – but this post is already way too long….

Blogging from Boredom


Good morning folks.  I am about to do something I have never done before, which could end in disaster – I am blogging from boredom…

I am currently sat in Manchester Airport with the hubby – we have been here since 6.am – our flight was at 9.05 or was supposed to be – but it’s been delayed – don’t know why.  It’s now 10.10 and it is supposed to leave at 10.40.  So I should be just coming into Ireland now, but instead we are sat at the airport.

I’m not really bored actually – more frustrated because I want to get going.  And I thought I might as well take advantage of the free hour of wifi you get in the airport…

Yesterday was a manic day – in a slow kind of way. I’d decided it would be a brilliant idea to get a manicure, pedicure and my hair coloured the day before we went on holiday – forgetting that left me no time to pack.  It’s a hard life isn’t it?!  Two hours getting my nails done and then my friend H came round to get the key so she can look after the cat – and we had a nice lunch – well it was nice after she valiently saved it from my attentions – I’d managed to undercook the jacket potato and slightly burn the quiche – but it was salvageable.  Then I had to get down to the hairdressers and spent nearly three hours getting my hair coloured – and then me and the hubby drove over to Calder Bridge which would normally take about an hour and fifteen minutes to drop the dogs off at the dog sitters house, who is a lovely lady who keeps them in her house and walks them for a couple of hours each day…anyway – we had torrential rain last night and the window wipers on the hubby’s car decided to stop working so we had to keep pulling over, giving them a wiggle and then they would groan into life again.  This is the car that cost us 200 from a teaching assistant i worked with who was going to scrap it – it has lasted two years now, so I shouldn’t complain really – but the journey took double the time because of this drama and I thought we were going to crash and die.

So we got back at about 11pm and then, of course I hadn’t packed and I kept procrastinating about shoes because I was worried about going over the weight – so I’ve ended up wearing my hiking boots because they are the heaviest shoes I own, my fave baggy jumper, my winter coat in case it’s cold so I do look a bit – well, large, whilst everyone else is in summer gear – but then it did say it was raining in Cork – so maybe I will have the last laugh when they all have soggy feet…

I got to bed at about 1.45am and we had to leave at 4.  I felt terrible this morning and flaked out on the sofa whilst the hubby loaded the car.  Then I snored all the way from Barrow to Manchester whilst the hubby drove.  What a hero!

I am thinking more and more I would quite like to blog throughout the Fermoy Poetry Festival – I don’t know yet whether I will be able to access the internet easily or not – if I can, then I will blog at night and let you all know what’s been going on.  Last year was like no other poetry festival I’ve been to, so I think it is a worthwhile enterprise….. I don’t know.  I have a suspicion this blog post is sounding very dull and I sound like I swan off getting my hair coloured all the time and nails done – which I don’t….but I wish I did!  I wish I had more time to go I mean…

oooh….apparently the plane is just pulling into the gate, so hopefully we are going to get going!  I will get to Cork, by hook or by crook.

Sunday Poem – Miceal Kearney


So it’s now the end of the Easter holidays.  Tomorrow school starts again – although I don’t because it’s my day off!  It is however, the first rehearsal for Barrow Shipyard Junior Band in the evening, so it’s not a full day off.

On Friday I went to Liz Venn’s in Glossop and had a lovely evening talking about poetry and drinking red wine.  The next morning we were both going to the Advanced Writer’s School workshop in Sheffield at the Poetry Business, and as I pulled into the car park my car stopped working.  Cue much ringing around, as of course I didn’t have the details of my breakdown cover – I knew it was through my car insurance, but I couldn’t even remember the company I was insured with.  I cursed myself lots for being so disorganised and swore to change in future.

Eventually hubby found details to discover I’d been stingy and paid for the lowest level of breakdown cover which would take my car and leave it at the nearest garage – which would be no good as it was Saturday.  I don’t know what my logic was when I bought this – especially as I am flying up and down the country so often in my car.

I was also giving Jennifer Copley a lift back to Barrow and I remembered my Dad telling me when I first started driving, after paying for me to be an AA member, that they would come and get me anywhere, as it was me that was insured, not my car.  I had of course, let my membership lapse when my dad decided I was old enough to pay for it on my own.  I asked Jenny if she was an AA member – and we were saved!  It was like being with the Queen, as she had Gold Membership, which meant the AA came out and towed us all the way back to Barrow.  The AA man was very nice as well – not only did he drop Jenny off at her house, he then dropped my car off at the garage, and then dropped me at the house.

So amidst all of this sorting out I was also trying to do some writing at the workshop, which I’ve been looking forward to for weeks.  I did manage to start one poem which I think could be something .  It’s called ‘An Ode to my Trumpet on the 1st Year of its Retirement’.  I’m going to try and type that up tomorrow.

Next week there is an open mic at Zefirellis in Ambleside and I’m the guest poet – but there are poetry and music slots so it would be lovely to see some of you there if you live within striking distance.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Miceal Kearney.  I met Miceal in Fermoy last August at the Fermoy International Poetry Festival ( http://www.fermoypoetryfestival.com )

It’s running again this year so I hope he is going to be there again!  Miceal is a really interesting poet and a lovely guy .  He lives in the west of Ireland and works on the family farm.  He is a brilliant and memorable performer of his work and the fact he has won various poetry slams – the 2006 Cuirt Poetry Slam in Limerick, the 2007 Baffle Bard, the 2007 Cuirt Poetry Grand Slam and the 2007 North Beach Poetry Nights’ Grand Slam all attest to this.  His first collection was published by Doire Press in 2008 and is called ‘Inheritance’.  You can order it from http://www.doirepress.com

The book is full of the real life of living and working on a farm.  It is a mixture of loneliness and camaraderie, of an understanding of what it is to work on the land and a bluntness about the harsh realities of this.  I am a true hypocrite – an animal lover and a meat – eater and I found Miceal’s truths challenging yet brutally honest and thought-provoking.  I really would recommend the book – or go to Ireland and find out where he’s reading.  It will be worth the trip.

I chose this short poem from the book because I think it illustrates some of those themes that weave their way through the poems.  I think it’s a beautiful poem – simple, direct, convincing.

Make a Wish – Miceal Kearney

In this sunny meadow sheep bleat.
Today is my birthday.
The evening breeze
blows out my candles.
The sheep still bleat.

Before I go,
each guest will get some cake –
rude not to share.
Five pieces I will cut:
the sun, the wind, the sheep
and me.
The last piece I will keep
for the moon.

Fermoy Continued – Tsead Bruinja Poem


I know it’s not Sunday, but I couldn’t resist putting up an extra poem by one of the poets that I met last week at the Fermoy International Poetry Festival.  Tsead Bruinja is a Dutch poet who writes both in Frisian and Dutch.  He did a great reading over in Ireland and a lecture on the Frisian language – I think he said there are only350,000people who speak the language and something like 4% of the speakers of the language can read or write? (see Tsead’s comments below this post for the proper figures!) But maybe I’m completely misquoting those figures – if he puts me right, I’ll amend this post! 

Tsead is a great guy and a wonderful poet and deserves to be much more widely read in this country than he actually is!

Tsead’s biog is underneath this wonderful poem, which is the first poem in his pamphlet ‘Tongue’ which has been translated from Dutch and Frisian into English by David Colmer and Willem Groenewegen.  If you would like to find out more information about Tsead, his website is www.tseadbruinja.nl


darling no one knows about the previous lives
in which we passed each other by or missed the bus
one of us was on or you were my sister my mother
and it was doomed between us because too many

years or a faith loomed up between us
sometimes the distance must have been as solid
as a continent with me for instance busy
inventing fires while you and your lover

were lighting candles on the other side of the ocean
am I holding you too tight again I don’t want
to crush you but I’m scared and glad at once that

nothing will ever come between us again beyond
this universe where we can’t come together because
it’s much too small for the sorrow of two becoming one

darling let time tear us apart as we die one by one
we will fight back with bridges of words

Tsead Bruinja is a Dutch poet who writes both in Frisian and Dutch. He was born in Rinsumageest (17-7-1974) and educated in Groningen, where he studied English language and literature at the University. His Frisian debut De wizers yn it read [The meters in the red] was published in 2000. In 2008, he published his fifth collection of Frisian poetry, Angel / Sting. His Dutch poetry collections are Dat het zo horde [The way it should be] (2003), Batterij [Battery] (2004), and Bang voor de bal [Afraid of the ball] (2007). Dat het zo hoorde was nominated for the Jo Peters Poetry Prize. Translations of his work have been published in several international magazines, such as Atlas (India/UK), Action Poétique (France), Mantis (USA) and Mentor (Slovenia). Tsead performs his work widely and lives in Amsterdam. In 2008 he was nominated to become the next Poet Laureate of the Netherlands.