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Archive for November, 2010

In Patrick Kavanagh Country

30/11/2010 Comments off

 

I seemed to loop my way around the North of Ireland to make my first visit to Inishkeen and the Patrick Kavanagh Festival this weekend.

I first travelled north by Ben Bulben to Letterkenny, past mile after mile of election hoardings for that day’s by-election; my destination a North West Words event at Cafe Blend, Letterkenny, that has to be one of the most welcoming poetry reading venues in the country.

Sinn Fein coasted to an easy electoral win. I made it through Omagh and Monaghan to Inishkeen with snow threatening and visitors mingling in the frosty air. We did the tour of Kavanagh places, taking in Rocksavage Fort, Cassidy’s Hanging Hill, Billy Brennan’s Barn and Shancoduff: ‘I looked and three whin bushes rode across / the horizon …’

In Carrickmacross they have their own trail of Kavanagh haunts when ‘moments big as years were mine to squander’; and frisky mares could ‘kick the stars out of the sky’.

By Sunday morning I was headed south, making my way as best I could through motorway slush listening to Emma Donoghue and her father Dennis being interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan and he talking of his  daughter’s writing that impresses ‘sentence on sentence’.

I was distracted by a dangerously filthy windscreen due to the cleaning water freezing. I vaguely heard Dennis Donoghue talk of his memoir Warrenpoint that I read almost twenty years ago, visualising the photograph of a  stern RUC father on the cover.

It was time to concentrate on getting home through the snow and bracing myself for announcements from the IMF and ECB of Ireland’s austerity programme. Patrick Kavanagh would have something sharp to say about it all.

Fear, Grief and Unexpected Hope

22/11/2010 2 comments

This Irish Citizen found hope from an unexpected source in a week when four children died violently in rooms at their homes and the IMF and ECB arrived in Ireland.  My source of hope came from Emma Donoghue’s novel  Room. In a 12-ft square room where a sky-light gives the only glimpse of the outside world, a young woman nurtures her child and preserves her own sanity through the power of language, storytelling and imagination.

I could not have believed that I would turn to such a book in a week when we were shocked and numbed by public and private tragedy. How could a novel that evoked the horror of a family’s incarceration by Joseph Fritzl  bring hope? But it did just that for me in a memorable and multi-layered read.

Five year old Jack finds richness and wonder in the confined room that he shares with Ma – he knows no other world. It is a place where he has  ‘thousands of things’ to do  like following a spider’s movements, watching a new leaf emerge from a potted plant and listening to Ma‘s advice: ‘It’s called mind over matter. If we don’t mind it doesn’t matter.’

This trailer for Room catches some of its magic, I think.

This is my book of the year.

Maybe you found hope this week gone in story?

How to Get Yourself Off Your Lazy Butt and Start Writing Already

18/11/2010 Comments off

 

Get off your lazy butt and write!

 How to Get Yourself Off Your Lazy Butt and Start Writing Already.

Thoughtful and provocative suggestions in this Blog on starting and keeping a writing routine.

Summed up in make it your goal that you will START to write.

Maybe you have suggestions to add.

Rolling Sun on Croagh Patrick

15/11/2010 Comments off

I didn’t get to the Rolling Sun Book Festival in Westport this week-end. Only heard about it late in the day and was intrigued by the title. It seems that at certain times of the year the sun appears to roll down the side of the mountain on the nearby Croagh Patrick.

I spent my childhood some twenty-five miles from Westport and Croagh Patrick. My memory is of the evening sun oozing around the mountain’s silhouette in a creamy light as we squinted through our kitchen window.

As for the Rolling Sun Book Festival, it looks like it was loosely literary but also about music and storytelling and chat and cooking. Yes, cooking, as Tamasin Day-Lewis, daughter of Cecil Day-Lewis, brother of Daniel and a regular visitor in the Westport hinterland, was one of the festival guests.

It’s a full dozen years since I bought Tamasin’s book, West of Ireland Summers Cookbook, based on recipes she  remembered from her childhood days in Mayo. Apart from the braised lamb shanks, I’ve tried few of the recipes. But, many times, I’ve feasted on the wonderful photographs by Simon Wheeler and enjoyed  Tamasin’s nostalgic narrative pieces that accompany the cooking tips.

She recalls the time as a child when she came second in a horse race on Carrownisky Strand, Louisburgh and her father wrote a poem, ‘Remembering Carrownisky’, about the moment: ‘an image that time may bury but not unmake’.  

Maybe you were lucky enough to get to some of the Rolling Sun Festival events?

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Image credit here.

6 Fun Ways To Spend a Cold, Dark Night « New Urban Habitat

10/11/2010 2 comments

 

 6 Fun ways to spend a cold dark night

 

 

Read on the New Urban Habitat blog about six fun ways to spend a cold, dark night and get through these days of stark, depressing economic news.

Read aloud to one another.

Tell a story.

And more suggestions for these windy nights.

The Irish Story – Bite Chunks of History

08/11/2010 Comments off

The Irish story is bad and getting worse if we are to believe Morgan Kelly in today’s Irish Times.

Maybe it’s time to get some perspective – and some solace – from our history. We can do it online through The Irish Story, a digital first publisher of concise ebooks and short, snappy features on Irish history. Their very first ebook is  The Story of the Easter Rising (15,000 words).

In the features and ‘Today in Irish History’ sections we can dip into varied and vivid scenes from our past. Some pieces I enjoyed:

Dip into the stories and maybe you’ll come out with a sense of perspective on our contemporary tale of woe. Worth a try.

Photo credit: informatique photostream

So you want to write do you?

01/11/2010 Comments off

I’ve nothing to say.

What would I write about anyhow?

My grammar would be all wrong.

They’d laugh at me.

All this at a recent writing class. And then there was a tea-break and the chat and the story-telling started and could have gone on all night.

So you want to write but just can’t work up the courage? 

Here’s a list of a half-dozen tips I’ve picked up along the way. Maybe they’ll help you to get started on the writing or to keep going.

  1. You are a camera: You can try this anywhere –  in a place you know really well, in a doctor’s waiting room, in your back garden. Write a detailed description of the scene. Another approach is to take an actual photo of the scene or place, go away  and write about it from the photo. This approach can work well with old photos that conjure up vivid memories.
  2. Tune in to what people around you are saying. I visited a chiropodist once who talked non-stop and very vividly about her young children. I tuned in to rhythm of her sentences and as soon as I left wrote down as much as I could remember. Soon after I made a poem of my notes, keeping lots of the turns of phrase she had used.
  3. Write your stories like you talk.  To begin with write down your stories like you tell them. This will get you started. A good idea is to keep your stories filed by the actual year in which they happened. This gets you started on building up a memoir file.
  4. Imagine your daily life is in a foreign country. Carry a notebook around with you. Imagine you are traveling in a foreign place (Deena Metzger suggestion) and want to capture everything you see and experience.  Record it all.  Add in dialogue, your own thoughts, feelings, memories evoked …
  5. Write a letter. This is great writing practice and can draw out memories and storytelling well as re-connecting with friends and family.
  6. Fix a writing time and place. I write first thing in the morning, in an upstairs room that looks straight out at a chestnut tree where the yellow leaves are swirling down in the rain right now as I write. Fix a time and keep the appointment.

As Stephen King once said, you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start (writing), you will.

Try out a great writing resource site at Writing4all and their excellent section on getting started on writing here.

Have you any tips to share with would-be writers?

 

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