Monday, December 10, 2007

Scalderville Rendezvous

Photo: Pat Maddock and Eamon Wall at Scaldy Detail 2007 Launch

An enjoyable night was had last Thursday night, December 6th, at the launch of the 2007 edition of The Scaldy Detail, a journal of Wexford writing.

The launch was held in Enniscorthy's 1798 Centre and Editor Eamon Wall was back on home turf from his post at the University of Missouri to meet, greet and chat with contributors and friends of the journal. Renowned Wexford playwright Billy Roche did the honours, launching the publication with enthusiasm for the quality or work contained within.

The Scaldy Detail is published by Scallta Media, an artist-orientated publishing house who are keen to form further collaborative partnerships - why not drop them a line? Niall Wall and Paul O'Reilly of Scallta were on hand, both extremely modest about their respective roles in this excellent journal coming to fruition. Watch this space folks, there's an exciting energy in the Wexford air these days!

For my part, it was a pleasure to finally meet up with Norman Darlington in person. A regular on the Stinging Fly discussion forum, Norman read a Renku 'She Brings Me Smoke' (Renku being a traditional japanese form, written in collaboration). Mogue Doyle read his new story 'Fruits for the Widow Flynn' in that distinctive voice of his. Pat Maddock and Betty Thompson also read; two fine poets whose work I wasn't familiar with before this, but whom I greatly look forward to reading more of in the future. The poems of John Kelly were also striking, particularly the bittersweet tone of 'Whispering In The Bebo Dorm'.

So much good work! Overall, the event was a wonderful opportunity to put names to faces, meet and hear some of Wexford's established writers as well as up-and-coming talents associated with the county. The Scaldy Detail is filled with wonderful prose and poetry (although there's a couple of mine in there too, I'm afraid). You can buy it here and it would make an excellent Christmas present for anybody with an interest in (a) writing, (b) Wexford, or (c) both of the above!

Well done to all concerned, and best wishes for the future!


The rain came in eventually
Misting over Dublin mountains
Filming over bricks and glazing
On the Georgian square.
The air had been mild
And dry until today

When Winter stirred to lift
And cock a teary eye at Autumn
Who, reading that look,
Lit out fast, shamed by gull invective
And the accusation of
Flapping umbrellas.

© PJ Nolan November 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's all a bit of a blur!

Holy Moly but it's busy at the mo! Too busy to post with any regularity, I'm afraid. Too busy to attend the launch of Seamus Cashmans's new collection new collection 'That Morning Will Come: New & Selected Poems' in Dublin last night. Dammit!

I'd hoped to have a review of the new issues of Poetry Ireland Review and The Stinging Fly up here by now - but haven't even given them a proper read yet. Soon - hopefully.

Meantime - the one bit of writing I have been doing is taking part in the Poem-a-day challenge over on the Poetry Ireland forums. Not my usual modus operandi. Apart from anything, it's a bummer to know that most journals proably won't even consider this work as its already in the public domain. And fast poems aren't always good poems, of course. But one has to face down one's preconceptions sometimes and it's keeping me thinking and writing during a period of otherwise hectic bread-and-butter rationality, so I guess that's a good thing! Here's one of my poems from the challenge - you can check the rest out here.

The Golden City

Graffiti cliches gild my entrance,
Gliding into town on public transport.
Flayed plastic, nesting in the trees
Revealed by decimation of their leaves.

The pewter pavements of the fall
Skirt the railings of the green
Time to turn the clocks back,
While a fine black mare

Pulls her fare out from the kerb.
Cars tick and halt, giving way.
Teenage lovers bullet each other
Under the gateway arch of fusiliers.

Upstairs, on the mezzanine
An isolated wasp is defeated
By the glazing. A gust medals the air
With copper, bronze and brass.

© PJ Nolan November 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Anne Enright Story

For those of you who may have missed it at the weekend, there's a new short story by Anne Enright entitled Caravan available to read online over at the Guardian website.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Paper Capers!

Total and Utter Chaos! Bedlam! Rí Rá agus Rúile Búile...
...and then some!

I was back at the Pavilion Theatre on Saturday last for Paper World, a gem of a show by Mimirichi, a touring company of Ukrainian clowns (I kid you not!) who created a blithely manic world for a rowdy and appreciative audience of adults and children. Paper World is part of the inaugural Flip Flop International Children's Theatre Festival at the Pavilion and bodes well for the future.

Large paper backdrops literally set the scene (paper courtesy of Datapac, Enniscorthy and The Event Guide and props of all scales and sizes were fashioned ad hoc from the same material. These were utilised with immense creativity (and abandon) to frame a delightfully surreal narrative, flipping from shadow play to mime to slapstick to dance to football(!) and far, far beyond. Audience participation was irreverantly pursued and consistently effective, with children baying in delight as parents were randomly and skilfully tomfooled into proceedings both on and off the stage.

The adults and children in our group enjoyed it immensely - with only the very youngest becoming uncomfortable on occasion, as the anarchy approached tipping point. After the show, the majority of children spilling out of the theatre seemed to bear their own malleable souvenir stash of semi-destroyed newsheet as testament to a show which, no doubt, continued to riot in young imaginations all the way home.

Flip Flop is running for the rest of the week with equally charming shows by Corona la Balance from Denmark and Ireland's own Monkeyshine Theatre, with their show GrimmJamm which gets down and delerious with some favourite Grimm Brothers tales.

It's perfect timing to start building that Halloween vibe, so grab a young relative (gently, of course) and get thee down to the Pavilion, while the lunacy prevails! Nyam Nyam!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Patrick Chapman Launch

Photo: No Keats, just Chapman and Cashman

Nice to see a good turnout for the launch of Patrick Chapman's poetry collection "Breaking Hearts and Traffic Lights" at Waterstone's in Dawson Street on Thursday.

The collection is published by Salmon Poetry and includes work from previous chapbooks from Lapwing Press along with new and previously uncollected poems. And it's pretty good stuff!

Seamus Cashman (founder of Wolfhound Press, among other myriad credits) did the launch honours, with a very entertaining and interesting introductory speech. Referencing American poet Jane Kenyon, he talked about the obligation of poetry to be a communication, not only personal reflection and as a medium to 'keep places, people and things alive". This led to a look at the role of the poem in a world where it is increasingly difficult to 'be quiet" and went on to praise the value of honesty in poetry, whereby truths may emerge even long after a poem has come into being - "Better a fumbling at truth than a slickly packaged lie".

Cashman also referenced Máighréad Medb, for the performance aspects of her poetry and the excitement of it's rock'n'roll, profane qualities - with similar traits to be seen in Chapman's work. We were reminded also of Eavan Boland's praise for Chapman's first collection 'Jazztown' and how highly praise from Boland should be valued, as a critic not prone to casual endorsements!

Then it was on to the reading, with Chapman reading Cobain, Eidolan ( a type of ghost, apparently), Cicatrice, Tunisia, Winter 1998 and many others, perhaps favouring the more recent poems in the collection just a little. Some of the featured poems are already published online and can be accessed via Patrick's website here.

So, an enjoyable launch for some excellent work from 'one of the very best modern irish poets'. (That's the cover blurb talking there, but I tend to concur). Patrick's work constantly exhibits a sharp, insightful mix of play, passion and perspective. Throughout his work there's a pared back honesty on display which continues to gleam through this urbane and mature collection.

One good thing about attending these launches is the chance to catch up with old acquaintances and perhaps make some new ones. It was a pleasure to finally meet Philip Casey, Patrick's colleague over at the Irish Literary Revival, whose novel The Fabulists is generously available to read there, along with a number of other out of print titles from Irish writers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Autumn Haiku

In turning leaves
I hear another writer read
the wood from the trees.

© PJ Nolan October 2007

Man Booker Woman!

Well now, there's a turn-up for the Booker! Congratulations to Anne Enright on her well-deserved win. Genuine surprise and joy is infectious and there's definitely a spring in the step round here this bright, clear autumn day.

You can view Enright's post-awards BBC interview here.

Much discussion, online and elsewhere, about the perceived merits or otherwise of the judges' decision. Quite a few fans of Nicola Barker's Darkmans seem particularly disappointed. However, I guess that's the nature of these competitions.

There's a somewhat churlish article over on the Guardian Arts blog, whose writer isn't a fan of the winner. And much of the criticism seems to be aimed at the 'familiar' nature of the subject matter. My own take is that it can be seen as all the braver to head back upstream into familiar territory (well-travelled for good reason) in order to attempt to prise core truths from abeyant material by.....wait for it....the writing?

You might also enjoy a short interview from before the announcement by Sinead Gleeson with Enright over on her Sigla blog.

I'm delighted by the judges' choice. I hope many, many more people read The Gathering as a result and increase their enjoyment of, and appetite for, fine writing.

Anyways, Well done Anne.

In the words of the poet "G'wan ye good thing!".

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fortright Enright on View

Booker nominee Anne Enright featured in a pre-awards television special on last night's RTE Arts programme The View.

Presenter John Kelly spoke to the writer for about 25 minutes, covering topics such as her early life, time spent as a writer/producer in RTE and the difficulties of maintaining a writing life while a parent of young children. A revealing and intimate portrait emerged, albeit with a certain amount of professional discretion.

Some interesting topics included her perceived 'masculine style'. Enright spoke about how punditry can be a necessity for a working writer, in order to keep body and soul together (the downside being a requirement for female writers to slot into certain expectations). Also interesting were her comments relating to the publishing stature and perceptions of 'women writers' in an Irish context and how that differs from roles in the UK and US literary marketplaces.

You can watch the interview online here. The winner will be announced tonight, Tuesday 16th October at an awards ceremony at Guildhall, London. Good Luck, Anne!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Barry wins Rooney!

Further good news from The Stinging Fly Press with the announcement that Kevin Barry was named last night as the recipient of the 2007 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

The Rooney Prize, established in 1976, is awarded annually to a writer under the age of forty who has produced a significant body of work. Previous winners include Anne Enright, Colum McCann, Claire Keegan, Claire Kilroy, Nick Laird and Philip O Ceallaigh. Good company, Kevin!

The writer was presented with the 10,000 euro prize last night at a special reception in the Provost's house at Trinity College.

Acording to Declan Meade, Stinging Fly editor, the new paperback edition of There Are Little Kingdoms has been sent to the printers and will be in shops by the end of October.

In the meantime, there are still copies of the previous paperback edition to be found, both in shops and, I believe, from the Stinging Fly website. Also a small number of the limited casebound edition left (from the original 100 signed and numbered copies). Christmas is coming, folks - could be a nice pressie for somebody?

As per my earlier post, you can read a new story from Kevin in the current issue of West47.

Well done that man!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'Flux' on West47

One of my poems, Flux is featured in the current (October-December 2007) issue of West47. You can read it here. I hope you like it.

West47 is the online literary journal of the Galway Arts Centre and I feel quite privileged by inclusion in this issue, which features some top quality writing. There's some fine poetry, including an elegant, evocative snapshot Love in a Run-down Street from Philip Quirke. Also a somewhat scatalogical take on the local Poetry Slam phenomenon from Pete Mullineaux, resident MC of Galway Arts Centre's monthly Poetry Slams, as well as a widely published poet in his own right.

Other gems include an excerpt from a new play, The Avenue, by Christian O'Reilly (who, coincidentally, also wrote Is This About Sex? as reviewed below) plus a new story from Kevin Barry. Barry's first collection of stories, There Are Little Kingdoms, was published earlier in 2007 and is somewhat of a phenomenon itself, in that the first paperback edition, from The Stinging Fly Press, sold out in record time and a second edition is printing now!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rough Sex Scores OK!

Great Craic at the Pavilion Theatre last night, with the opening night of Is This About Sex? from Rough Magic as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Somewhat of a post-tiger bedroom farce, this comes across as a well-written (and directed) study in questions of identity, masculinity, fidelity and, for at least one character, food as a sex substitute. With the main character drawn to cross-dressing and much talk of cavemen and cunnilingus, one might expect this production to be a nudging titillator for the chattering classes and so it proves to be - to a point. The humour is pretty upfront, especially early in the play, serving to eyeball a few taboos that aren't really taboos any more, but which get more lip-service (!) in public than in the workaday bedroom lingo of lovers' lives.

In the programme notes, the playwright Christian O'Reilly offers his view that the sexual revolution in ireland is quite a few steps behind our UK counterparts, which may be why the play received a somewhat quizzical approach at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. That may be true, but I wouldn't burden this production with any heavy responsibility for moving our collective arse very far along that slippery road. It's more of an after-dinner yarn, and a funny one at that - with some very comic throwaways in the script.

Solid performances all round, particularly from Darragh Kelly as 'would-be woman' Daniel, and a very strong comic turn from Rory Nolan (he of the mugging Meteor ads?) - no relation BTW! The 'guys' have great material to get their teeth into; covering the aforementioned caveman schtick, the self-doubt of an overly-generous male, the performance-obsessed, competitive lover - all well-observed insights into the Platonic Cave of Irish masculinity. The female characters seem less successfully drawn, although Hilary O'Shaughnessy brings a tender, funny femininity to her role as Cathy and Ali White attempts to invest her character, Kay, with real depth as she deals with a spluttering attempt at an affair, sexual confusion as well as fitting in a decent lunch! Ruth Hegarty plays an insistent role as Kay's interfering friend Angela.

It's definitely the 'good laugh' that's at least part of the writer's stated intentions, but I couldn't find the eventual segue from bed-hop to personal enlightenment wholly convincing. Well worth the ticket though - and if you make it along tonight (Oct 2nd) you can take advantage of a post-show discussion with the writer as well as director Lynne Parker, who's done an excellent job in staging this genuinely entertaining piece.

Setting a fine precedent for the inclusion of the Pavilion in the Festival as a whole, it was gratifying to see a well-deserved full house - including at least one Booker nominee ;-) - to mark the occasion! Is This About Sex? runs at the Pavilion until 13th October.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sunnerful Wunnerful

unnnnnnngh, yahhhh baby - that'sa waya lakit. Sunnerful wunnerful allllllday long. Me'n'ma fokpoppet livin it larj'n'shiny alllll de way back. Zippinstyleeee! yahhh'allll know whymeean, ohhhhh that an alarm clock?

Sez Toibin to Cronin...

Photo: ranelagh arts festival

Tony meets Toby! Beside the Saoi! Scalder Central! Or, in the words of one Father Jack Hackett, "Feck!"

Due to a prior commitment, last night I missed out on the chance to hear these two literary worthies and fellow Enniscorthy natives, Anthony Cronin and Colm Toibin, going at it in a conversational stylee for Ranelagh Arts Festival. I'm kicking myself just a tad - but then, should I be? I'd welcome comment from anybody who attended? Were they in the zone or was it just a drone?

As well as shared upbringings in the shadow of Vinegar Hill, both writers have unique prespectives on the Soldiers of Destiny which might have delivered some interesting insights on Bertie's current difficulties, were they so inclined.

However, I'm guessing the meat and spuds of the evening must surely have been the relative viewpoints of two writers who between them have pretty much witnessed firsthand the remarkable development of Irish writing in the international context.

Cronin, as the elder, has been there, done that and written well about it in Dead as Doornails - a must-read for anybody interested in the long-disappeared Dublin of quarehawks like Behan, Kavanagh, Donleavy, na gCopaleen etc. It was one of those books that was the perfect match for a scalding coffee in the 'lofty clattery cafe' back when I was trying my best to be a bohemian student, i.e wearing secondhand clothes a lot.

A while back I came across a copy of his Personal Anthology, a book of poems selected by Cronin for the Irish Independent newspaper column of the same name that he contributed over several years. It's an interesting touchstone of poems selected 'on the simple basis of personal liking' in Cronin's own words.

As well as writing prolifically, including poetry, non-fiction, biography, plays and criticism, he was also a founder member of Aosdana. Not to mention, his role as arts advisor to Charles Haughey, who introduced the tax-free status which artists can still acquire in Ireland. So, not too shabby for a boy from Slaney Street!

Not much needs to be said about Colm Toibin. The IMPAC winner has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice and has had a prolific and successful career as a journalist, editor and critic as well as serving up a fine, pared back prose from a well of emotional intensity. My current favourite of his books is The South, a skilfully drawn portrait of one artist's life, from Wexford to Spain and back again. His website, while currently a little out of date, features a good selection of interviews and essays.


Earlier in the same evening (Sep 26th) Toibin was also to be found launching a new publication, The Dublin Review Reader, featuring essays, travel writing, memoir, reportage and criticism from the past pages of The Dublin Review and edited by Brendan Barrington. Coincidentally, the latest edition of this fine journal features Toibin writing 'en memoir' on his "Brush With The Law', detailing various assignations relating to the workings of the courts while in his role as editor of Magill magazine (in a Dublin where certain civil liberties were still woefully inadequate). For me, the interesting aspect of his article is the relationship and effect of his journalistic findings on the development of his fictional characters. So that's how you do it then ;-)

Anyway, an opportunity to witness the combination of a couple of writers, each well worth a listen on their own. Were you there? If so, please let me know what you thought.

For my part, I promise my next entry will be about something I actually managed to experience. Or even a poem!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Muldoonia, Muldoonia! So good etc....

Well now. Smashing tidings from that Apple of Bigness on the Hudson with the news that Paul Muldoon is henceforth to man the poetry pumps at that vessel of literary bigness itself, The New Yorker! It's a magazine apparently? (I jest, of course).

We're all giggling like schoolchildren here at the prospect of the telecaster-wielding troubadour getting his mitts on one of the choicest (or at least most visible) positions in literativille.

Not only a poet exemplar, but a scholar of the highest rigour and abilities, his editorial credentials are soundly proven and this, coupled with his inherent sense of creative play, should make for an interesting sojourn in Times Square. (Sorry about the gushing tone, but he's a fan of poetry and I'm a fan of Muldoon). Times Square - now there's an inspirational address.

There's a short article and some discussion on the appointment over on the Guardian arts blog.

Muldoon, recently seen wielding his axe around the country (mightier than the sword apparently) will replace longserving Poetry Editor Alice Quinn, herself a recent-ish visitor when she gave the keynote address at PNO7 in Dun Laoghaire last March.

MacNeice would be proud.

Miss July gets Frank

Congrats too to Miranda July on winning this years Frank O'Connor Short Story Competition (including a cool 35k!) with her collection, entitled No One Belongs Here More Than You. Check out the quirk factor of her promo website for the book here. This is one kerfunky lady who's making a pretty good job of whatever creative endeavour she turns her hand to, be it movies, visual art, music, writing or (to quote my inner teen) 'whatever'. Very much the "Renaissance Wan" of the mo, then. Spotted recently at the Electric Picnic, nice to know she's still willing to get down with the (slightly aging) kids too!

So, yet another book spliced on to my 'to read' list. Much debate this year about the shortlisted authors for this prize. Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times was less than flattering and perhaps she has a point. However, awards of this nature elicit much debate and that, I guess, is the real pay-off for readers?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Enright makes Booker shortlist!

Congrats to Anne Enright on making the shortlist for this years Man Booker Prize. In the face of tough competition, her latest book The Gathering is now among elegant company as one of the chosen six finalists.

I'll have to reserve judgement on the book, as I haven't yet read it, but I've enjoyed much of Enright's previous work. Particularly memorable is the short story 'Honey' which won the lucrative Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award in 2004, marking the centenary of Bloomsday. The story is available online here in the Irish Times archive (but only to suscribers, alas).

There's also an excellent recent interview with Enright over at the Book Depository. (Its a good place to shop too!)

Best of luck on October 16, Anne ( here's hoping you do a bit better than fellow Brayhead Fionn Regan at the Mercury Music Prize). Never mind Fionn, keep the Underwood clicking.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Poetry Ireland website update

The Poetry Ireland website has just been re-designed in fine style. It is now much easier to get around and includes some tasty new features such as a forum and integrated calendar of events. Also included are a media archive, with audio and video from past events.

Of course, you can still download the latest issue of Poetry Ireland News from the site ANNNNND in the longer term, the entire back catalogue of Poetry Ireland Review, (more than ninety issues to date!) is to be made available online to subscribers in the form of a searchable archive. Well 'Yay' says I!

Well done again to the good PI folks (and their designers) for what looks like an excellent and well thought through upgrade.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Preoccupied Spacechick

Always on the mind - the motivating factors of intergalactic fowl; their dreams, frustrations and compulsions. It can't be an easy vocation?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Certain Uncertainty

Every day, in every way, things are getting weirder and weirder but then this guy's gotten his brightside zap on BIGTIME! Buttsure it'll be graaaaaaaaaaaaand, daddio, just keep yer flume flowing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Unclean Tablet Entity

Ever since that one-eyed courier cursed my graphics tablet, we've had strange observations in the vicinity : pings, bumps, grinds, sudden chills, long naps, longer necks, angry rashes, unsolicited texts, green earrings....and more.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Stinging Fly Buzzin'

The Stinging Fly is an Irish journal featuring new prose, poetry, reviews and occasional song lyrics. To mark the publication of their 25th issue, their online presence now includes a discussion forum where readers, writers and other ornery critters can now have their say. Why not come into the parlour and say 'Hi!' or some similarly controversial opening gambit?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Freakfly Flags Flaming Eye

This public service announcement is brought to you by some wholly godawful human error. Must feed machine.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Feel the BurnyBurnBurn!

Hot as Hades and don't we love it! For now. Summer busting out with sizzletude right across the land and people goin' all a-lobster. To the passing bemusery of the the more sensible species.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Tubero Uno!

So, what with being Irish'n'all, potato-like doodles crop up in various guises fairly regularly. Which is nice. This guy may not be the sweetest, but he yam what he yam. Reminds me of that time I saw 3 chips cum sailing. Not so sweet that. Nor hygienic.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The In-tray crowd

They moved in on my desk and have begun intimidating the tipp-ex.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dublin Review of Books

A new Irish quarterly journal featuring quality reviews and essays is a welcome addition to the online literary landscape. Dublin Review of Books is edited by Maurice Earls of the well known Dublin bookshop Books Upstairs on College Green and Enda O'Doherty of The Irish Times, and it promises indepth writing for booklovers, by booklovers, as well as a blog for feedback and discussion.

Forthcoming topics will include Paul Muldoon, Celtic Tiger crime writing and the perennial much, much more.

A good idea, whose time has come, we wish them well!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Napkin guy says NO!!!

NO!!! to number ones, mullets and fins. YES!!! to bubble perms. (Still very big in the napkin community).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"The Name's System.....ON System"

ON, son of Gremlin, son of Glitch, son of Doohickey, son of Hassle, son of Grief, son of Splice, son of Fatigue, arise! Go forth and wreak your pleasures. Switch off the lights on the way out.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Fears!

May the blue bird of happiness track you to your lair and fumble among your epiphanies.