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Hands Moving at the Speed of Falling Snow – Aideen Henry Poetry Collection

07/07/2010 Comments off

I’ve been reading Aideen Henry’s first poetry collection, Hands Moving at the Speed of Falling Snow (Salmon Poetry). We both attended the poetry workshops given by Mary O’Malley and Mick Gorman as part of NUI Galway’s MA writer programme. I have good memories of listening to Aideen read some of these pieces in a room that looked out on the city’s Quincentennial Bridge.

So taken was I by that particular view that I even wrote a poem entitled ‘Quincentennial Bridge’, where I experimented with the ghazal form (rhyming couplets with a refrain repeated in the 2nd line of each couplet):

Gulls float above in their worldliness, like they’re licking Heaven

and a rat crawls on broken glass at the base of Quincentennial Bridge.

Aideen’s collection is an intriguing world of Irish language speech, west of Ireland places, anatomy references and emotions of searing loss. Above all, the writing is visceral and instinctual: the child eating brown bread and fresh duck eggs with the Seanchai; the bone-crunching handshake at mass; the steel surgical knife on soft flesh. The heightened experience of the body and the flesh in all its senses is at the heart of the collection.

In a humorous poem, and one of my favourites in the collection, an undertaker tells the writer that she will make a great corpse and when she asks why, he replies: Those cheekbones. Time won’t touch them. The collection is wonderfully illustrated with several images by the artist Carmel Cleary, taken from her photographic tour of Utah and Arizona.

It’s good to see the fruit of all those hours spent overlooking Quincentennial Bridge!

 

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Yesterday’s Newspaper Today

07/07/2010 1 comment

It’s seldom I don’t get to flick through the newspaper on the day I buy it. I’m afraid I’m not one for the online version. I have to feel the rub of the print ink on my fingers and the anticipation of what’s over the next crackling page.

But last evening my fingers were black from gathering the fruit in my small garden plot. I was mesmerized by the volume of gooseberries and blackcurrants. Not so many loganberries, which isn’t surprising, seeing as I’d watched many a blackbird waddle off with a red juicy piece in its beak.

With my attention on the fruit picking it was this morning before I faced yesterday’s paper. It’s the faces looking out at me from the pages that hold my attention, especially those that don’t appear to have set-up expressions for the camera.

Maura Mulkerrins owned the first B&B on Inish Meāin and she doesn’t look at the camera but looks down towards the ground with faint images of dotted island houses behind her. She wears a royal blue cardigan, her grey hair is combed back tight over a lined face and she has a fine bone structure that seems to tell in itself the story of her island years. Her face makes me think of summer trips to Irish college in Aran.

Marian Wallis looks up at the camera, standing outside the court after the inquest into the death of her son, Maurice , in a cycle accident. There is such searing pain in the face that I I have to look away. I find myself wondering if that look will ever leave her. There’s a photograph of her child underneath – the same eyes, but this time laughing with mischief.

Drew Faust is head of Harvard University. She’s pictured in Dublin’s  Stephen’s Green with the ducks floating on the water behind her and not taking a bit of notice of the important visitor. She seems to be telling us to be careful least we turn education and the creative arts into a utility.  Construction and property were our saviour in the past decade and now it looks like it’s going to be the creative arts.

Harry Clifton is our new Professor of Poetry and I put his latest book Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994-2004 on my list of ‘books you can buy me for Christmas’. I like his apt line: ‘Our one-step-forward-two-steps-backward advance’.

I fold yesterday’s newspaper in half, then in quarters, and place it in the recycling bag on top of a squashed Heineken can and an empty box of Barry’s Gold Label tea and wonder if I’ll make a habit of it: leaving the news to settle and reading yesterday’s newspaper today.

 2 July 2010

Toe in the Water

07/07/2010 Comments off

I’ve taken the jump as a blogger!

I write poetry, fiction and nonfiction and hope to be a weekly blogger on all things writing – my weekly musings, what I am writing about, what I am reading, what helps and hinders the writing and generally letting words float across space and time.

A bit nervous about it all but here goes!

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