Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer Reading : Mars, a text!

Patrick Chapman's latest collection of poetry displays the characteristics which have earned him praise and recognition as one of the more interesting voices of his generation of Irish poets.

The poems in this volume - ranging as they do over broad periods of time and experience – can sometimes appear to be ‘quare bedfellows’. However, this is far from negative - if anything it emphasises the diversity and range of thought and expression in Chapman's poetry. Heated relationships, cold wars, inner and outer space all combine here to provide a backdrop for stories of the heart, mind and body in a collection that exhibits distinctly cinematic qualities. There's a touch of the Noir here - not unrelenting darkness - more highlighted angles and delineations of a gamut of memorable characters. We meet a Queen of her own private Gethsemane, a vampire-priest-ringmaster, as well as certain politicians and ‘vast and cool intelligences' opening church and shopping malls in virgin territories. Musicians and other cultural icons create a sinewy linkage between the poet and his environment.

Throughout, there's a healthy dose of surreal humour. However, one of the strengths of this collection is Chapman's ability to present humour without resorting to glibness. Here it is part of the full tableaux of human experience, woven into love, fear, bewilderment and hope. There's a fair deal of sex too.

Overall the writing is underpinned with a deceptively casual sense of craft (this is Chapman's fourth collection, following on from a recent book of stories. He's also written films and audio plays). Towards the end, the collection heads into (literally) darker waters. Immersion recurs as a theme along with various extinctions, such as the young fisherman in the poem What You Leave Behind, lost at sea while providing for his his family;

“In dying he has lumbered them with boat-wreck
And some lately settled fear an tí
Squatting in the drowned man’s chair.”

At first, this collection charms with its immediate vibrancy - then merits re-reading to tap into some of the deeper currents at work below the surface of this skillful, considered writing.

More info here.

The SLANTy Clause

Myself and other IGI illustrators currently have an exhibition running at Ormeau Baths Galleries, Belfast. You can read all about it over on Scamp. SLANT is all about putting your own stamp on a favoured painting. The tagline is 'imitation : flattery or battery" and there's everything from straight homage to wholesale re-invention. My own painting (above) is based on Dali's Premonition of Civil War. It's ALL good - but some of my favourites are paintings by PJ Lynch, Kevin McSherry and Jonathon McHugh. Also at the same venue is The AOI's Images 31 exhibition, featuring the cream of UK illustration. So, well worth a visit! >>>>>>> UPDATE!!! You can now check out a step-by-step of the above image over here on the IGI blog SCAMP! Make sure and leave a comment!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ronnie we hardly Drew ya!

Myself and a bunch of IGI illustrators have marked the recent passing of Ireland's most distinctive singing voice, Ronnie Drew, by putting pen to paper and coming up with a few nice scamps of the great man himself. Check em out here.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Written back in late 2007, but seems appropriate to the current Irish climates;



This morning, the patio is a chessboard
Drained of fight, a low contrast
Truce of gritty concrete squares

Slick under furniture pieces disarrayed;
Mouldering victims of a thuggish midnight squall.
Brick red when first assembled, inclemency
Has shrunk their ersatz teak to oldbone grey.

I know they've reached the rotting stage.

The last time they were used, not one
But two seats rent that sunny afternoon,
Their rundles detonating under laden
Celtic tiger arses, ambushed.


This poem featured, along with a few others, in issue 2 of Polluto - the 'Apocalypses and Garden Furniture' issue. Now there's a theme and a half - and how bizarre that I actually had a poem which fit nicely!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jusslyktha! (ahurr, ahurr)

And on, and on, and on she kept flowin - the witch bin around before ma mother born! To turtle or not - this be the interrogative? I believe there's excellent value in real estate in Chelonia at the mo? (Limited designs tho.)


Those damnable best intentions went a-wanderin' again; insulting ladyboys, got beaten up on the tube and had luggage redirected to reykjavik; ended up drinking in shoreditch with japanese kylie fans - hence the infrequency of posts of late. Didn't bother me though - stuck here at home ripvanwinklin' through the biblical deluge that is the Irish summer. Thank goodness for stumped fowl, I say!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Raccoon in the Restaurant

The good people at the Evening Herald's HQ magazine (Hi Sue!) asked me to review Meridien Theatre Company's production 'Raccoon' which is currently running at Bewleys Café Theatre, during lunchtimes, until August 23rd. You can read that review here

This really is a very good show, so if you're in the Grafton Street area for lunch before the run ends, I'd recommend it highly. The writer is an American named Tom Hall and, based on this play, I'd think his short stories (I'm guessing he's written a few) should be well worth a read. That's if anybody knows where I might find them / him? According to the bumph, he's lived in Mexico, Cork & Wexford but is now based in Dublin. 'Raccoon' also features in a double bill 'The Lost Field' from Meridien - which will be touring nationwide this November - so keep your eyes peeled.

Meridien are a lively and innovative company, with some interesting work in their archive. Their forthcoming production is 'There Are Little Kingdoms' - a play based on the short story collection of the same name by Kevin Barry. Barry was a worthy winner of the 2007 Rooney Prize for this cracking collection of tales from small-town Ireland - one of the best debut collections of recent years. The author himself is adapting the work for stage, so make a note folks, this should be a pretty hot ticket, IMHO.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Summer Reading 2 : Some Journals

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks since getting back from hols. Any headway I made in my summer reading has bottlenecked somewhat. However, before what passes for summer these days has flown, here are a few journals whose summer issues I've been stuck into;

The Stinging Fly

The Summer 2008 issue of The Stinging Fly lives up to its now well-established reputation. The regular 'First Passions' feature, where writers discuss their early reading influences, features Vona Groarke, whose recollections range from the first book she ever owned, aged five (or six) to the 'full force gale' of individual poems. There's the usual rigorous selection of innovative new prose - a Stinging Fly trademark by now - alongside a very healthy mix of original poetry. Featured poet Grace Wells exhibits an artful whimsy over seven poems. Reviews include Tom Mathews investigating Wendy Cope's newest collection and Yvonne Cullen absorbing Harry Clifton’s extremely well-received Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994 -2004, among others. The highlight for me is an astonishing story by Desmond Hogan, a writer who has been in the news for less salubrious achievements of late. To simply call 'Old Swords' a story seems understated. This writing is a congealed amalgamation of reference and insight, with innocuous detail and character reminiscence layering and shifting to eventually conflagrate a human life, in all its tawdry hopes and limitations. Fascinating technique!

The Dublin Review

Another journal with impeccable editorial credentials here, the only bum note for this reader being a rather dry essay referencing Henry James - 'On Style and Freedom'. Worthy, no doubt - but perhaps a shade too academic for this slight intellect. Much more satisfactory were two (very) short stories by Kevin Casey, Maurice Walsh's squint into Salvadoran street gangs and a wonderfully evocative trip to Inishbofin in the company of Tim Robinson. Brian Dillon also provides a fascinating perusal of the various manifestations of Marcel Duchamp's 'ready-mades' - somewhat of a misnomer, as Duchamp, cute hoor that he was, held a 'flexible' approach to his own manifestos on what constituted an 'objet d'art'.

Crannóg 18

Bookending the covers with striking images by Jaber Lufti, the summer 2008 issue of Crannóg is crammed full of fine poems and some pretty good prose too! Standouts for me include poems by Fred Johnston, Deborah Moffat, Nicholas Messenger and Maureen Gallagher. My own poem 'A Piece' features here too, bringing the issue to a close on page 57. Thanks for the selection, people!

Pen Pusher 10

I've mentioned before that Pen Pusher is one of the more handsomely produced journals, and this issue is well up to the usual standard in all areas, with a cover illustration by Richard Short - who also contributes a story inside! It's hard to define the editorial policy at work here - but the result is a very classy selection of clean, crisp writing - to match the design perhaps? ;-) Peter Higgins writes on Elmore Leonard, that crime writer beloved by Hollywood. Elsewhere there's striking story 'My Stalker' from Pia Chatterjee, a little madness from Sir Charles Maxwell-House and a couple of somewhat surreal poems from Leah Armstead and Heather Phillipson. Still have to finish reading this one! BTW Pen Pusher have come up with an inspired way for supporters to sponsor their production costs by donating 2p per page - so for a quid you can sponsor a whole issue and get mentioned by name ....unlike us poor loyal subscribers then ;-)

Fiddledy Diddledy Deeeeelicious!

I had the pleasure of attending the opening event of TRADITION:DL (Dun Laoghaire festival of traditional music) last friday. We were treated to a rare solo performance by fiddle virtuoso Paddy Glackin. Glackin is the real deal - a dyed-in-the-wool virtuoso, whose range and deftness were given an airing on the full gamut of jigs, reels and slower airs. On the slower passages, the full range of the instrument's expression was brought to bear in the hands of an obvious master of his art. Some of the other 'tunes' brought out my inner contrarion. (Please bear with me here). Not having been brought up in one of those classic trad-filled environments, I sometimes find the emphasis on 'tunes' in trad a bit chafing. To my (admittedly untutored) ears - the difference between one 'tune' and another can often seem minimal. I must own up to a bit of a knee-jerk rebeliousness when po-faced tradsters talk reverently of newly composed 'tunes'. More often, the composition in question seems to to comprise of inverting a triplet here or transposition of a couple of notes there, when compared to the another 'tune'. Unlike Rhapsody in Blue, for example, much trad stuff is more of a repetitive motif for leppin' around to, no? OK, I'll put my hands up - my name is PJ and I'm a trad dullard! Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed Glackin - just found myself mulling those aspects of 'trad' that irk me during the interval.

After that came the highlight of the evening for me. Spiers & Boden are a couple of young men who are to the forefront of a New Folk revival that seems to be sweeping along nicely in the UK. Also members of Bellowhead and previously part of Eliza Carthy's entourage, these guys know their stuff, have the credentials to prove it, but also display an irreverant attitude and willingness to entertain that often seems lacking in our homegrown folkies. I know, I know - English Folk isn't 'pure' (like ours?). It's all based on dodgy 'revivalism' and nostalgia innit? F*ck that. This was a vibrant and energetic performance of new music that knows (and feeds) its roots. Admittedly, in embracing experimental influences, Carthy et al can sometimes verge on pop music with a folk tinge - but that's no bad thing. Why shouldn't folk music also be popular music? These guys deliver - buy the album - or better still catch them live!

Anyway - a great double bill to kick off this wee festival, more power to its elbow. I'd have loved to make it along to 'The Frost is All Over' on the Saturday night - Dermot Bolger's collaboration with Tony Mac Mahon - but didn't make it back from Belfast in time. Anybody who was there care to fill me in?