Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Musings (ngroooannn) to my Ears

Laid up with a feckin' annoying sinus infection (and my trusty laptop) I was struck by the vast amount of resources for poets and other writers out there in deepest cyberspace. The growth of personal blogging alone has opened possibilities for research, networking, debate and promotion that would have been unimaginable to previous generations. As you know, if you're kind enough to be reading this.

YouTube, and internet video in general is coming of age, of course. But there's a wonderful virtual library of audio out there too - much of which is writing-related. The fact that most radio shows are now archived online makes it possible to catch programmes that clash with other activities, but there's lots of other sources of online audio too. Listening at the computer is one option, but I find these podcasts ideal for downloading to listen to on commutes and other journeys. Here's a few of my own regular haunts.

I've previously mentioned the exceptional archive of interviews at Don Swaim's Wired for Books. Mostly dating from the 80s and 90s, you can listen to Ray Carver, Tobias Wolff, Atwood, Asimov - allsorts, in fact! Other recent additions include readings of Whitman's poems, Thomas Lynch, Macbeth and other Shakespeare plays and, topically, A Christmas Carol, as well as a growing section of children's writing.

The Guardian Book Club is another good source of interviews with writers - one highlight is an interview with Jeanette Winterson from 2007. You can subscribe to this series via iTunes.

Another treasure chest is the Lannan Foundation podcast series. You can subscribe to these via iTunes too, but there seems to be something astray in the cataloguing there - browse their homepage instead. A pretty strong Irish flavour in this series; John McGahern, Eavan Boland and Eamon Grennan all feature - the latter interviewed by Denis O'Driscoll, who also interviews Seamus Heaney. A tempting taster in advance of reading Stepping Stones, perhaps. Unfortunately, some of these files suffer from digital artefacting due to audio compression. But there's plenty of gems in there - well worth a rummage.

Poetry, the US magazine, has a whole range of podcast material, including a 'poem of the day' and an inside look at each issue of Poetry magazine, hosted by the editors. Good Stuff.

There's also the Association of Poetry Podcasting - a veritable jumble sale of links to a wide range of podcasts from many, many sources. You'll have to do your own rummaging here, as I've barely broken the surface.

Check out iTunes for many, many, many more, including RTE's own Sunday Miscellany, The Penguin Podcast, and The New York Times Book Review. Lots of miscellaneous quirky stuff there too!

So, plenty of food for.... eh, your ears, I guess. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Resistable (Tour de) Force

Gawd - sorry about that dingy headline - couldn't resist. :->

Went along to review The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui at the Abbey Theatre for the Evening Herald last week. Review is online now over here. Its a great production, directed by Jimmy Fay and well worth a look. Curious how many of the issues that seep through the play bear relevance in today's troubled times. Of course its only our own recent insecurities that bring the focus of the developed world to bear on nastier aspects of economic politics. Outside of our whitebread enclave, the fallout from economic monsterism is a daily burden. The old 'virus-in-shoes' effect at play again. Anyway, get thee to the Abbey for some brainfood and you'll be treated to a virtuoso performance by Tom Vaughan Lawlor in the title role - shading Hitler, Mussolini, Richard III, Chaplin, Marx (Groucho, not Karl) into a remarkable, athletic meld. Sounds funny - and it is - in part. But things can dark very, very quickly.

I've seen TVL once before, playing Solyony in Brian Friels's version of Three Sisters, also at the Abbey. His performance then, as the histrionic army officer guest, was also a tumbling, skidding physical treat. There's a short interview with the actor over on Trinity News about his career to date and the challenge of playing Arturo Ui.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Never rains but it... ..poets (and novelists)

There's no shortage of reading events these days. Next Tuesday, November 18th, sees an unfortunate clash of three very interesting readings in the Dublin area.

Poetry Ireland presents a reading by Caitríona O'Reilly and Robin Robertson at the Unitarian Church, 112 St Stephen's Green West, D2 at 6.30pm. I've seen O'Reilly read on a number of occasions and like the taut, gothic tinge of her collections The Nowhere Birds and The Sea Cabinet a lot. Robertson is a fine Scottish poet and a good reader of his work, so I'll be sorry to miss this one.

The Hour Glass Readings present John Boyne, writer of The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, at the Irish Writers' Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1 at 7pm (Admission: 7 euro). I've never hear Boyne read, but he's a very interesting storyteller whose star is very much in the ascendant at the mo. A good one for aspiring novelists, I'd guess.

Finally, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown presents a public reading by their two writers in residence, Sean O'Reilly (IADT) and Paul Perry (libraries). That's the one I hope to attend. Admission is free, all welcome. Venue is The Purty Loft, Dun Laoghaire at 8 pm. Sean O'Reilly comes highly praised as a skilful stylist who believes in testing language, pushing it in unfamiliar directions. His book Watermark, was (I think) the first title from the Stinging Fly Press, a vote of confidence from a quality publisher.

Perry is predominently a poet, although formerly a recipient of the Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year Award for his short story The Judge. According to his blog, the readers will be introduced on the night by poet Katie Donovan who will also launch an anthology called 'Fishing for Change', featuring new writing from students at IADT. Some of my colleagues from the Deansgrange Writers group will be in attendance too, so it should be a fun evening all round!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The IGI blog, Scamp, celebrated the remarkable events in the US by asking for scamps responding to Obama's victory - and there's some great stuff to be seen. I was more than happy to contribute to this one with my piece above. The quote is from Lincoln's Gettysburg address. Here's to Hope!

"...dedicated here to the unfinished work..."

image: scalder

Wow! What a week. As Jonathan Raban said in The Guardian, on Saturday;

“What America has succeeded in doing, against all the odds, and why we cried when it happened, is to elect the most intelligent, canny and imaginative candidate to the presidential office in modern times - someone who'll bring to the White House an extraordinary clarity of thought and temperate judgment.”

Poet Desmond Swords caught some of my own optimism about Obama the individual, in his blog comment about his exceptional communication abilities;

"... which (I think) appears to be the forthright human honesty of a seemingly normal person who has plucked the day by harnessing new medias and making them the vehicle for a message of hope and change by inclusion."

George Szirtes, initially welcomed Obama's victory as predominently symbolic - a cautionary stance we must accept, given the vast intricacies of US and geopolitical systems;

"Consider me symbolically delighted, over the proverbial moon. It is, as the moon-lander said, a pretty terrific leap for man. Therefore I rejoice. Party time. Work later.

Forgive me. I have never trusted elation, not in the long run. Wind blows one way: I tend to lean the other. Can't help it. Just instinct."

As for myself, I was quite overwhelmed - symbolism or no. In recent days I've been surprised to shed some of my cynicism - for the better - and find myself embracing possibilities of new measures of hope and change in my own life. And that's the most surprising and inspirational aspect of recent events. Would that there were some way of allowing the bitterest of hearts to allow room for one small change, or room for new hope in themselves. Perhaps then, growing hope could build new engines of change for all of us. If nothing else, Obama represents a remarkable example of the power of poetry in our lives, for without poetry, where might we find those abstract aspirations that allow change become manifest in our lives?

And yet, the same weekend newspaper that showed one family of four on the way to the White House, carried pictures of another family of four mown down, bodies touching, in their home in Kiwanja. So many steps, in so many journeys yet to be travelled. One. Step. At. A. Time.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

image: Shepard Fairey

image: Shepard Fairey

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

if it's Tuesday, this must be the Internet?

Harsh Expletive! It’s been a Hell of a few weeks. Good Hell mostly, I guess. But some suspicously tart, gritty bits that may have been Bad Hell mixed in there too. Hence lack of posts. Hello. Good to be back!
Highlight of my absence was a trip to London with herself and the eldest offspring. Taking in Rothko, Meireles (soooo good!), Frieze Art Fair, Bacon and the Turner Prize exhibits was an uncommon treat, as we spend most of our days rooted (routed?) to the various local grooves of work, school, family in this here parish of the auld sod. No Celtic Tiger pondhoppers we. Bizarrely, we’ve travelled more since the poor creature started sneezing and looking decidedly dizzy than at any time while the nation soared on the hot air of its carnivore breath. Good! I like a slice of contrary every now and then. Here’s a toast to all the financial guano that’s been sprayed fanwards over the last while – may it nourish the roots of a whole new perspective. As if! But we can live in hope, can’t we? Yes we can.
A few things then, just to catch up;
Boyne Berries 4 was launched in Trim, Co Meath recently. A fine selection of work includes one of my own poems, Evening Recital. Personal favourites include Accident, by Mary Rose Callan,  Bayardelle, Scent of the Faculty, by Landa Wo, and Good Friday Planting by Shirley McClure (which you can read here).
Brian Friel's version of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, continues its run at The Gate. Check out my review (of sorts) over at the Evening Herald’s HQ magazine.
Also, the second annual Poem-a-Day challenge is in full swing over on the forum at Poetry Ireland’s website throughout November. Why not pop over and join the outpouring of poesy? Last year, the challenge of writing and posting a poem every 24 hours did wonders for beating the crap out of my inner censor/slash/editor, who has since moved to Alaska in search of a new client, who needs the ermmm....restraint..
Finally, it’s wintertime (or daylight savings time, depending where you’re reading this). That came quickly!  So here’s a poem to mark the glooming;

Grey days are here again
I dress in the half-light
Discovering at lunch
That I’m wearing odd socks
Still, the day’s half gone
And no harm done
I’ll relish each further step
Secretly out of kilter

© PJ Nolan 2008