Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Belated Happy Christmas : Toast those toes!

Well now, that was a year-and-a-half, eh? You don't get many of them to a pound, eh? Bethahokeythatwasaquarewan? etc.etc.

To be honest, I'm quite happy to get to the end of 2009. It's been a fantastic year in so many ways, but fantastically stressful in so many others - and I'm still counting myself among the lucky ones.

Its been a hectic run-in to the festive season, so I've been neglecting the blogging in favour of... life and stuff. Still, here we are now - misc seasonal ailments in hand, coldcuts a-plenty awaiting mustarding, the world outside a whiteout, inner space rehydrating, resting and resigned to the midwinter torpor. Hope you're all enjoying the break.

We launched Crossroads back on the Feast of the Immaculate Anthology and it was a resounding success. Julie Parsons, in particular, was THE most gracious speaker - and one who had actually read the whole thing! As the various members of the group stepped up and gave diverse voice to the book, I was very proud to be part of Deansgrange Writers. (Promised copies will be winging out in the New Year). We celebrated our achievement with a get-together at Barney's house just before the holidays. More reading, much craic, wine and song (did I really play the spoons?) as well as a delicious apple tart (see above) by the multi-talented Declan. A great send-off to the year and beginning of the festivities, all of which went well.

Not many books in the stocking this year (vouchers, even better!) - but I did receive Beginners and The Mirror in The Sea - both gems of the highest order, even more special when received as thoughtful gifts.

I'm headswamped at this stage - retiring with hot water bottle for a quiet night of rumination and dozing. I may not be posting again until New Year. Of my cultural highlights from 2009, allow me to leave you with Doves and the London Bulgarian Choir, recorded at the Electric Proms last October. Only got to see this on the box - still had my sparse hair standing on end. Well worth letting this video run for both tunes and the full damn-near-nine minutes.

Happy festive midwinter wishes to one and all. Blessed be.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Deansgrange Writers : Crossroads anthology

Well, it's all coming together! After months of chat, planning, submission, editing, tweaking, confusion, collaboration and ehhhh... a bit of writing, Crossroads is with the printers! We'll be launching this immaculate anthology at Bakers Corner, Kill Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, from 7.30pm, Tuesday, December 8th. Why not join us for a bit of pre-budget shenanigans? You're all welcome.

Guest speaker on the night will be novelist Julie Parsons, herself an excellent example of how the whole Writers Group thing supports those aiming to develop their writing. I haven't heard Julie speak before, but she comes highly recommended. After that, some of our group will read a selection of work from the book. There will be wine. Possibly even Porter. A good time will be had, and the book will be on sale - there may even be Special Offers ;-)

It's worth noting that all proceeds from the book will be donated to the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Our group has a long history with the NRH; one member is an ex-patient, and the group has facilitated writing workshops there in the past.

Crossroads will be on sale locally and will be available to purchase online soon, at

We're all very proud of this book - a first publication for several members - and there's quite a range of voices here. As our editor, Katie Donovan, says;

‘Here is a variety of voices, drawing in politics, satire, family life, travels abroad and classical mythology. There is a ghost story about a shipwreck, a story for children about leprechauns, a memoir of the Dalai Lama, and responses to the recession in both verse and prose. Although each writer possesses his or her own distinctive style, there is, overall a confidence in tone and an ability to summon up a scene – from a crowded train station in Belfast to a lamplit farmhouse in Waterford – that makes this book consistently enjoyable and entertaining.’

Two words; Christmas Present!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

OFFSET : IGI Group exhibition

Busy, busy at the mo. I'm putting finishing touches to the artwork for the Deansgrange Writers Group anthology 'Crossroads' , of which more anon.

Went into town on Monday to crack a bottle across the bow of OFFSET, a week of celebration, debate and inspiration among the creative community at large. The opening event was the launch of Peepshow, which sees the walls of the intimate Monster Truck Gallery filled with images exploring dark, erotic, sexy thoughts and weird fetishes. Be warned - this is a strictly over 18 show and not for the faint-hearted. Wellll, its not that dangerous really - there's a lot of humour and some beautiful, smart imagery. Only running until Sunday November 8th - so get in there! My own piece is firmly in the humour category - sort of. If you're up for it, you can see it here. No Freudians please.

The image above is my contribution to another OFFSET gig - a group exhibition by members of the Illustrators Guild of Ireland. This opens tonight, Wednesday 4th November at SOLAS Bar on Wexford Street, Dublin 2 at 7pm and will also run until Sunday 8th of November. If you're in Dublin, why not come on in - should be a fun night! What else would you be doing on a chilly November Wednesday?

OFFSET culminates in a weekend conference at Liberty Hall, with presentations by some seriously inspirational names from the Irish and international creative communities. I'll be chairing one of the break-out sessions, a panel discussion about the illustration scene in Ireland and beyond. (Gulp) Big topic!

Ciao fer now!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Poem : A Sunday Threnody

I've been (am still?) under the weather. Since later last Tuesday, I've been alternating between hot, headachey and clammy or shivery and exhausted. Having had quite a few commitments which I genuinely wanted / needed to meet, I've tried to spend any off-duty time wrapped up warm and horizontal, woozily hydrating. What a waste of a Bank Holiday! Still, it meant I was able to get things done - including meeting some good mates for a couple of drinks in town on Friday. I hope they're all still healthy!

So I'm only getting back in action (ish) today, just in time for TFE's monday poem prompt. This week, the prompt involved listening to a piece of music and / or staring into the mirror - reacting in either case by writing something.

Here's what arrived;

On Sunday


in every face the aftermath of riot

a lineage in cells

the merest flicker spells an epitaph

as rhythm falters

each sunken cheek a despoilt altar

tasks uncompleted

broken windows left unrepaired

no word is spoken


Sunday formed a puddle round my bed
crow dark, my throat scratched out any text
or performance

erased activity - even intent - held woods at bay
leaves fell unobserved, chill winds missed their target
while other torsos filled my space

on hills, on piers, on lawns, on streets, on Sunday.

© P Nolan Oct 2009

This prompt requested no investigation of the musical piece until after writing. I had heard it somewhere before but didn't know it was Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima by Krzysztof Penderecki.

The image above shows paper cranes made by japanese schoolchildren in memory of Sadako Sasaki whose tragic story, while horribly sad is also searingly beautiful. She died on October 25, 1955.

This poem is dedicated to her memory.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Poem : Laughing Lenny

Another Monday Poem, in response to Totalafeckineejit's ongoing prompts. This time, the prompt was that modern classic of Irish cinema, Lenny Abrahamson's Garage. Responding to this low key tale of a life caught in the cracks was always destined to result in a fairly sombre tone - and so it proved.


given time, the incidental
sweetness held too tightly
can stifle as much as any
relentless night

sugarcubes pocketed
will curb, losing their chastity
to the silt of pocket lint
dissolving finally

as hips immerse
wading into that water
shoes, socks on the bank
trouser legs rolled

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

As The Crow Flew : Temple Bar and beyond

Well, the Crow Gallery show was a resounding success! A great turnout for the launch itself, with plenty of interested bodies through the gallery over the course of the exhibition. It was a real treat to get the work in front of a new audience - and the paintings got a great response all round. I sold about 70% of the work - which is remarkable given the CEC™ (current economic climate). Huge thanks to all those who purchased, attended, sent good wishes etc. It's been memorable!

I also had the opportunity to attend 2 really excellent exhibition launches last thursday; Comhghall Casey at the Merrion Hotel, courtesy of Solomon Fine Art, and Joe Dunne at Ib Jorgensen - two serious painters in fine fettle and full flow at the mo.

Also, due to being in town, I got a chance to take some photos of those Edward Delaney sculptures I mentioned earlier- that's them up top - epic work!

I missed TFE's poetry bus this week - but hope to have something for next monday's challenge. Should be a good one.

Off to the Crow Gallery again tonight, for the launch of Cloudburst - new paintings by Helen McNulty, also curated by my colleague Tony Strickland. Looking forward to this one - the work should be good, and I'll be off-duty :-)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Crow Show : Up the Walls

So, the stuff is stuffed, the deed is done, the walls may not be altogether plumb, but then neither is my head. Finished hanging Ecotones last night and it's looking decent, if I may say so. Launch tonight at 6pm - feel free to drop in. Should be fun - maybe moreso if the rain that's bucketing down on Dublin today goes away for a while.

I've been a bit hectic between this, that and the other - so didn't get to post my Monday poem yesterday - so here it is now. Reacting (not quite sure how, though) to Totalfeckineejit's photo prompts, resulted in something a little different, voicewise;


Tell once again the strange tale of the talking dog
how one day he raised his head and said

"I've only been quiet all this time
because I've been so busy watching you all
and couldn't believe my eyes."

think back to the various expressions of surprise
among the small gathering who happened to be there

to witness the burble of unbelief, self-doubt, fear
then finally the growing chorus of blame

and how that dog ducked and spun through a forest of legs
avoiding most of the blows, until finally disappearing from view

obscured by the dust of the disturbance
leaving behind a streaked crop of twist-legged hunched backs

scouring down into the settling dust, sweating, grumbling
finally meeting each other's eyes and seeing there

accusation, defeat, suspicion, confusion at the supernatural occurrence
that nobody really believed had taken place anyway

until the silhouette on a nearby hill

© P Nolan 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Poetry Day : The Recite Stuff

This thursday, October 1st, is All-Ireland Poetry Day. There's lots of activities right around the country, which you can check out here. One local gig I'd like to mention is happening at 6.30 pm at Dalkey Library. Come along to hear DLR Libraries’ Writer in Residence Paul Perry read with special guests Dermot Bolger and Jane Robinson. All Welcome. Phone Dalkey Library on 01-2855277 for further details.

In a broader context, here's a couple of poetry-related posts on UK blogs that provide some interesting food for thought.

George Szirtes has a short reflection on the role of the 'I' voice in lyric poetry.

Over in Hackney, Ms Baroque has a look at the influence of small presses in the current Forward Prize anthology.

Vibrant, literary, Salt Publishing are rolling their several blogs together into one right here - also officially launching on October 1st. Well worth bookmarking.

Also, back at home, for emerging poets with a first collection under way, it might be worth noting that the Patrick Kavanagh Award have extended their deadline until October 7th.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Poem : A Teddy Buoy

So, into the choppy waves of inspiration, good old Total Feckin Eejit threw his bright, bobbing challenge; to absorb a couple of poems by Ted Hughes - namely The Thought-Fox and The Horses - and see where that might lead.

I thought this could be a tricky one. Hughes's works are a bit of a touchstone for me - I'm a sucker for all that elemental, pagan countryboy schtick - so this felt just a bit close to the bone. Often, those inspirations closest to your heart can provide very little in the way of actual stepping-off points - bringing as they do a certain 'frozen in the headlights' effect. Lamped by your likings, as it were.

However, the particular bea(s)ts in these poems felt very familiar, in many ways - before long I had a line, which bubbled and simmered for a few days, before spilling over into my notebook. So here's my response to TFE's prompt - you''ll find plenty more respondents via the comments on his blog post.


I see my youngest son lay down his head
upon our dozing hound and close his eyes

and I look on and know that kind of comfort
those several warmths of breathing ribs and what they bring

slipping among species, slow and sympathetic
within shared sureties - life's broadest senses


For now we’ll close the midden from our minds
ruffle the drum of a resting torso, settle

into one more slipped Sunday - supplemental
seeking wrestled down - no family tripping in breathable hides


Recall instead houndstooth tweed - born wiry,
unforgiving to young fingertips, later worn smooth

from the workings of a man, drowsing in his familiar chair
diaphragm at rest - yet never resting - until starting unexpectedly

awake in another place entirely, another kind of reverie
rousted by no drumroll

© P Nolan 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Culture Night : Dublin Dreaming

Well that was fun. A beautiful evening, begun with the sinking sun creating a gorgeous glow over the city outskirts as I bussed into town.

Then off the bus into a pleasant Friday evening bustle, which built as the night went on. Spirits were high all round town, a very positive vibe. I started off dipping into Temple Bar for the buskers and the buzz, dropping into the Original Print Gallery to see a great selection of small works on sale for only 50 euro each! Well worth a look. They were busy getting messy in there, kids and adults making prints with great gusto. Swung up to the Gallery of Photography for a nice show by Eoin O Conaill.

A duck and a dive over Capel Street Bridge to visit the artists of New Art Studios, open for the evening. Nice work. Nice People. Chilled out on the bridge on the way back to watch changing animations on Liberty Hall as the night deepened. This worked really well from many vantage points, a beacon for the surrounding activities.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Culture Night 09 : Get Down!

Awright peeps - gather! With all the grimness of late, the poop hasn't just been hitting the fan - it's right in there clogging the mechanism, causing the whining electric motor to overheat and producing a particularly unpleasant odour. So - plug it out, wrap your head in paisley, rouge your knees and get thee to the Culture. Nama Schmama! Lisbon Schmisbon! Arts Cuts, Schmarts Cuts etc, etc.

There's so much on tonight, I won't even start listing. Just check it all out here. I'm heading into the city centre without any real plan, apart from hoping to hit a few Francis Street venues. Y'all have fun now, y'hear!

Edward Delaney : RIP

Sad to hear of the passing of Edward Delaney, that fine Irish sculptor. I love what he did with his figuration in bronze, for pieces like his famine memorial piece and Wolfe Tone statue (above) , both of which can be seen at the northeastern corner of St. Stephens Green in Dublin. The Tone statue was blown up by loyalist terrorists in 1979 - only the head surviving, to be incorporated into the statue as it appears today. Although this piece is less abstracted than many of his figurative works from the same era, it still displays the rich texture and empathy of the sculptor to his subject - seen here in a detail of the head.

In a fitting tribute, a bronze statue, Eve with Apple, recently donated to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, is due to be unveiled there tomorrow. Hopefully I might get out to see it tomorrow for Culture Night.

I've spoken before about the possibility Delaney's approach was lurking in my subconscious when I designed the logo for the Irish theatre awards. In recent years, he had been producing work in stainless steel, which has an elegance of its own and carried on his particular fascination with proportion. But it's his cast bronzes that will remain close to my heart, for their expression, tension and sheer organic beauty. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flying Solo : The Crow Show

Just back from the framers to check details on a few paintings for 'Ecotones', a solo exhibition that I'm having at the Crow Gallery in Temple Bar in a couple of weeks. It's only a small show, about 16 pieces - all at very affordable prices ;-). The launch is Tues 6th Oct - consider yourself invited - and the paintings will be on show thereafter from 1-6pm until Sat 10th Oct. I'll be invigilating Thursday and Friday, so feel free to drop in then to say Hi if you can't make the launch.

I've been thinking about doing this for a while, and the work is ready - so... Kablooey! The right honourable Tony Strickland is curating - a helpful and experienced collaborator.

FYI, an Ecotone is a transitional area containing a density of diverse elements from bordering environments; the so-called Edge Effect. Seems about right.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Drogheda Writes 2 : The Editor's Tale

My writers group, Deansgrange Writers, are currently preparing our first anthology for publication this November (working title : Crossroads) with our editor Katie Donovan. Earlier this year, Drogheda Creative Writers launched their second anthology, entitled Drogheda Writes 2, edited by writer, tutor and fellow blogger Barbara Smith. In the interests of research and general curiousity, I asked Barbara to tell me a little about the process she went through in preparing the anthology and she kindly obliged. The result is a very interesting insight into what's involved in getting a project like this off the ground.

Drogheda Writes 2 is (logically enough) the second anthology from Drogheda Creative Writers - can you give us some background to the group?
Drogheda Creative Writers group has existed for about twenty odd years now in one form or another. In the past, various compilations took place as photocopied pamphlets, but the anthologies have come through a combination of good organisation from their leadership and steady sponsorship from the local arts office and local businesses. The group itself ranges from those who just write for themselves, to writers who are quite successful in their own right and are established nationally as well as locally.

How did the decision to publish a second anthology come about?
Basically, because the funds were there, and to help keep interest in the group growing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Poem : Hometown Thoughts

Monday again, and here's my contribution to Totalfeckineejit's Monday Poem exercise. Another quickie, broadly on the theme of hometown / leaving;


Aged five, we moved two miles outside of town
trees greened and became my playmates

hunkered snug between their roots
to shelter from a squall

toting arm-thick branch lengths, lancing
through head-spun territories

or serving as a gnarled Lee Enfield
from the comic strip trench of a laneway ditch

gleaming hazel rods forked, bronzing
some never-certain divination

early Autumn rain drummed down mystic jewels;
chestnuts, glowing burnt umber

then - older - the tempation of those lowest boughs
hoisted me, finally breaching the canopy, a head

among the beech tips, wondering how I measured
on the grey cathedral spire of a world left behind.

© P Nolan 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stanley Kubrick : Taming Light

Curated by film critic John Maguire, this exhibition marks the tenth(!) anniversary of Kubrick's death and will feature work from Irish and international artists, including the incredible, hugely inspirational (for me, anyway) Polish poster artist Leszek Zebrowski!

Also exhibiting are my IGI colleagues Chris Judge, Steve Doogan, graffiti artists Maser and 2Cents, photographers David Cleary, Conor Horgan and Cliodhna O'Flaherty among many, many interesting others.

My own piece (above) is entitled 'Essenzseltsamliebe', (Essence of Strangelove) and features the good Doktor himself, caught in self-delusional, mid-apocalyptic erotic reverie. Or something.

Kubrick, of course, is one of those artists whose imagery has become part of the popular visual vernacular. He also retains a devoted, feverish following among other artists, right across the spectrum, far beyond the world of cinema alone. It's great to be part of this inspired tribute - thanks John - and judging by the people involved, this show should be a real smorgasbord of creativity.

There's a website due here. The show opens on October 1st - so get thee(ahem) To The Light House!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's all Academic : Belfast bound

It's all painting-related round this way at the mo.

Delighted to announce that both of my paintings in the recent RHA annual exhibition were sold. Yay! My humblest thanks to those exemplars of good taste who bought - long may they prosper!

Hot on the heels come somes more good news - that I've had two further paintings accepted for this year's Royal Ulster Academy annual exhibition. Yay again! The selected paintings are Poor Beast (above) and Bolg, and I'm looking forward to seeing them hanging in the old Northern Bank building in Belfast when I head up for the opening on October 1st. Unfortunately, that means I'll miss the opening of Stanley Kubrick : Taming Light, an exhibition of artwork inspired by the films of that late great visionary director, which opens at the Light House Cinema that same night - more news on that very soon.

*** UPATE : Yay! This exhibition now opens on Sep 3oth - so I WILL make it to the opening after all. Sweet.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Massive Attack : Splitting The Atom

I'm loving this beautiful cover image by Robert Del Naja (aka 3D from Massive Attack) for the Bristol group's upcoming Splitting The Atom EP. If you like your beats moody, spaced and treacle-dub-dark, a new release from the godfathers of Trip Hop is always an event. While the Bristol duo have a pretty established formula by now, they always seem to bring something new to the mix and their choice of guest vocalists is usually inspired.

This EP features Guy Garvey from Elbow, Tunde Adebimpe from TV On The Radio and ex-Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird and serves as a taster for the new album, due early in 2010.

I like what I've heard so far and I lurv that image. Unsurprisingly, Del Naja has been painting longer than he's been a musician, having been wellknown as a graffiti artist before getting involved in music. The image reminds me a little of another graffito-done-good whose work I keep going back to, the tragic Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Monday Poetry : A Cafe Scene

A certain blogging acquaintance came up with the idea of making Monday a sort of rolling poetry day - with a new theme / challenge each week. The idea being to write something quickly and post it equally quickly around about 7pm. This weeks theme was a café scene - here's mine - and you can check out other participants via the comments here.

Diner Dance

each time I come back to this dining place
despite the random peppering of chairs
with varied faces never seen before
the empty ones are always waiting there

some face me while the others coyly skirt
the crooked aisle that makes my walk a dance
these passive partners frozen to the floor
I swing my hips through their feigned nonchalance

foursquare they sit, denying molecules
that whizz and dip and pirhouette inside
that kiddy's blurt of juice, the mother's lift
of eyebrow and her pressure-venting sigh

time and again I touch the wallflower chair
melt one into the other, take the floor
as watchers changed to prey avert their eyes
we turn the tables on the pack once more

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Hi Again! Getting back to something like a productive headspace here. Between the studio move, holidays (of sorts) and a bunch of other distractions and privations, I'm only really geared up for posting regularly again rrrrright aboutttt........NOW!

So here I am. What's been happening? Loads, by the look of things. All youse writers out there reading in tents, for one thing. No festival worth its salt is without its spoken word element these days. Oxegen, Knockanstockan, Flat Lake etc. saw the lit-blog community well represented and the upcoming Festival of World Cultures and Electric Picnic seem to have plenty more on offer. Woohoo! Warm up those tonsils agus eirí libh!

Myself, I've been more visually-orientated of late, which seems to be the case as the light of summer makes itself felt (shorter days breeding more wordplay). I've freshened up my painting website a bit - it's still a work-in-progress - more work to be added etc. - but a bit cleaner than before. Check it out.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Michael Jackson : Auf Wiedersehen Pet

So the Guten Burghers of Scampstadt asked for some images to mark the passing of Michael Jackson and got quite a few interesting responses at pretty short notice. That's mine above - the last image created in my old studio - the first posted here from the new one.

What a to-do, eh? This one will run and run.... or Moonwalk a while anyway. Whatever way you slice and dice it, Jackson was a remarkable individual - such grace and beauty, horror and ugliness - so many facets, so many flaws. Through such riotous contradiction is our fragile humanity cleaved. I've tried to capture some quality of that in my image.

I really, really love the music Jackson made with Quincy Jones, whose input should never be underestimated. But then, he was working with quicksilver too - the resulting alchemy a sheer wonder; Kalimba rhythms flickily synched on strats and synths with a twitch and a flinch, mmmmmmmm that's good groovy!

So, while the circus wheels on its inevitable way, I'll keep schlepping boxes and sweating profusely through the humidity as the move to the new studio nears completion. You should see how much stuff has been shed along the way - bags, boxes, big, small, binned, recycled, re-purposed. Now I'm sitting here in an airy Dun Laoghaire garret. One more day of removals and that's it - I'm not lifting or packing anything again for the rest of the Summer. Ciao.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day : And a Happy Solstice 2 U!

Still sporadic with the blogging these days - a fractious time. Another week and a bit and I'll hopefully be ensconced in a new office/studio - then we'll see what happens. But for now, it's Father's Day and verging on the Solstice, so a good time for reflection, perhaps.

Here's a little something from two years ago today.

Father’s Day

Processing around the foot of the bed
The children circle with a tray,
Which displays a bespoke breakfast
For the day that’s in it.

There’s toast and chicken soup, a coloured glass
Of fridgedoor milk, handprinted cards.
An egg-carton-spined butterfly, big as a gull, nestles
Four hundred grammes of angular Swiss chocolate.

Later, flock abroad, I return to bed
With coffee to crack the seal on my gift;
This rainy Sunday morning - mock-mourned by
The easy lament of a lone woodpigeon
Who then becomes quiet.

© PJ Nolan 2007

Monday, June 08, 2009

Redemption? Please. As much as you can spare.

Janey Mac, it's a while since I posted here. Not 100% sure exactly why that is? A culmination of various stresses and strains that have seen written output drop off undramatically. Partly seasonal, I guess - in that I tend towards visual work when the year gets brighter - and boy, has it been brighter recently! What was that big blue thing in the sky? Oh, the sky, you say? I see.

So, with our lease running out, I've been looking around for a smaller (cheaper) office - I think we've found a good one. Been painting quite a bit too. Been keeping a tight, slitted, watery eye on finances (emphatically small 'f'). Also, a glut of various familocentric activities - birthdays, communions, covert guerilla actions, yaddah yaddah. Stretched thin - but not in any buff sense - as borne out by the displacement factor upon my annexing of the kids' paddling pool (Archimedes would be shocked).

This whole recession has been encrusting itself on my consciousness too - pricing issues, projection anxiety, accusing spreadsheets - luvverly work if you can get it - the problem is in the getting? And also the remitting? So, shackled by the woes of the western world, I went along to see the stage version of the Shawshank Redemption a couple weeks back. Here's my review for the Evening Herald.

It's a good enough night out - no major surprises - except maybe that there are no major surprises. Peter Crawley reviewed it for the Irish Times and also contributed to The View. His thoughts about it being a potential musical seem quite on the money IMHO - I could see this rocking along nicely in the West End, if the songs were solid. And there's plenty of meat in the writing for some cracking numbers. Perhaps.

Anyways, I'll try and up the ante a little in the next week or so. For one thing, I've a couple of awards from fellow bloggers that I really should acknowledge and pass along. In facta, I'm considering bringing the full power of my sad little virtual dominion to bear in smelting said tributes down to one fused alloy - a killerwatt medallion of accord - then dispensing it throughout the Ethersphere at my whim. What do you think? Hubris Immaculata? Welllllll, we all have to flail sometimes. Ciao :-)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Feedz the Feederz : Anarchy on the 46A

Among the visual dross and wasteful clutter of environmentally hateful corriboard leers which are currently blooming across our byeways, I spotted this nice little agit-prop-grafik on my morning commute. Can't say I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment, but it struck me as a beautifully simple, integral piece of work - crafted, thought-provoking and opportunistic. The bubble reads "If you think it is humiliating to be ruled, how much more degrading is it to have to choose your masters?" and the credit is "Courtesy of the Feederz Department for Anti-Public relations." I'm not a sure if the 'choose your masters' quote can be attributed to Frank Discussion himself - any ideas?

The Feederz were one of those anarchist punk concepts that seem so terrifyingly elegant compared to today's cookie-cutter rebels. Lesser known on this side of the pond, for me they sat right in there alongside Jello Biafra, Throbbing Gristle, Crass and all those other Re:search performance-orientated anarchy/industry crossovers. Frankly, for a quiet teenager growing up in rural Wexford the discovery of these would-be destroyers of the free world was both exhilarating and quite bloody scary!

The assault rifle diatribes, blood spattered venues, ribald pseudonyms and General Shocktaktik feel a bit distant now, post-marilyn-manson-the-brand. Especially seeing as the capitalist-godhead-lackeys are doing such a good job of f*cking it all up themselves anyway. And yet?

We've seen renewed engagement from the anarchic spirit of late ; the Mayday riots in Turkey, Germany & Greece didn't get all that much coverage in the mainstream media. Always quite happy to propagate the 'self-styled anarchists' label in favour of the reason behind the protest - with nary any mention of 'self-styled democrats'. Of course outlets like Indymedia have their own editorial bias - but one of the legacies of our stuttering information age looks like the sure proliferation of smaller, idealistic nuclear media channels - information cells? - stealing a march on 'Big Media'.

Just not sure how one should approach a similar dismantling of 'Big Politics'? Other than with a Big Hammer, of course.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Miller's Tale : All My Sons at The Gate

It seems fitting that The Gate’s production of All My Sons opened on the evening of d'Emergency Budget. Arthur Miller’s first successful play may be set in post-war America, but his underlying criticisms of capitalist immorality have a resonance here on home turf - profiteering fiscal egotism casts a long shadow, the ultimate cost still unclear.

Over three acts, the secrets coiled around the roots of the Keller household are laid bare within a remarkable set – a skillful evocation of post-war suburban affluence - all back porch, shade tree and picket fences. Neighbours pop in and out – no locked doors here – but as the play unfurls, we soon find that all is not quite idyllic.

Eldest son Larry has been missing in action for three years, his mother Kate still nursing unhealthy delusions of his homecoming. Self-made patriarch Joe and their son Chris realise otherwise – but even they can’t guess the full truth of his disappearance. And what of that court case and those flawed cylinder heads, responsible for the deaths of twentyone young airforce flyers? Slowly and painfully, truths emerge into the fading light of a balmy summer evening. What at first seems a family comfortable within their collective skins, soon reveals a host of faultlines, undermining romantic expectations and apparent neighbourly respect with moral culpability.

Money, money, money. Family. Country. World. All hinge on the results of individual decisions. When lust for the good life, and the profits necessary to maintain it, overwhelm the moral centre of any one individual, the resulting horrors can spring from the ground like so many planted dragons teeth.

A skillful ensemble cast brings us deep into the core of the themes here, with several stand out performances; Garett Lombard, in particular, shines with an immaculately paced performance as the idealistic Chris, conflicted between love, duty and battle-hardened morality. A classy production of a classic drama - well worth a look.

All My Sons run at The Gate Theatre has been extended due to popular demand until 13 June 2009, 8.00pm 
nightly. A version of this review originally appeared in the Evening Herald, 8.5.09

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Twisted Visions : Social Scenery

The Social (previously MASH) - hit a new level last Sunday. The addition of the UV 'glow' factor, a couple of new additions to the ranks of doodlers and an influx of bank holiday party animals made for a real zippy evening as the crowd (and graphics) jostled for space in the Twisted Pepper. Being an auld fella, I sloped off around 1 am, just as a whole other level was kicking in. A pleasant stroll back through mild, busy, but good-natured Dublin streets and a chatty taxi trip home wrapped up an evening that started out catching up with a couple of old artschool buddies. Earlier in the day, I'd been to see Coraline (absolutely beautiful, BTW!) in the company of several very excitable seven and eight year olds, all of which made this a bizarrely 'indoors', yet hugely enjoyable bank holiday sunday. More Social pics here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mayday Mayday : Time to be Social

It's all illustration-related stuff round here at the mo. Off to the Candy & IGI event at the Sugar Club tonight, then on Sunday it's back to the Twisted Pepper for the next installment of club nights from The Small Print. This one is called The Social, and once again myself and a cohort of pen pals will be a-doodlin' and a squigglin' large-format-stylee to beat the band. Well, to complement the DJ actually. This time we'll be drawing on large sheets of transparent acrylic, with flourescent markers under UV lights, so the whole scene should be somewhat GLOWtastic, daddio.

Why not drop by for good beats, good beer, good times? And say hi if you do - I'll be the lanky, baldish guy with startled creatures oozing out me markertips.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sweettalk 34 : IGI flavoured Candy

Something a little special for all you fans of the drawn image.

CandyCollective & the Illustrators Guild of Ireland (IGI) proudly present a special Illustration SweetTalk featuring presentations by… Ros Shiers [London, UK] and IGI Members Jonathan McHugh [Belfast, NI] and Steve Simpson [Dublin, IRL]. I was chatting to Steve last weekend at the Walker Books symposium, which was a wonderful event. Steve's a fantastic illustrator who has been moving steadily in the area of children's books for the last while. This should be a really interesting evening, with three quite different illustrators in the rooom, talking about their work and approach.

This one-off event will be held this Thursday, April 30th 2009 at the Sugar Club, 8 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2. Doors @ 7pm. More info on event and speakers can be found on the CandyCollective website. Get your tickets fast as these events sell out quick! Admission is €10 plus booking fee. Tickets are available here. I'll be there - hoping to see a few familiar faces.

Also present at the Walker books gig was Poetry Ireland webmaster and blogger supreme Dave Maybury, who's just about to embark on a period of globehopping. I missed his going away drinks that evening - due to ongoing daddytaxi obligations - so missed his being-barbered-for-charity bit too. Best of luck on the travels Dave - may your ears enjoy the tropical breeze!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Alackaday : JG Ballard RIP

“Twenty years ago no one could have imagined the effects the Internet would have: entire relationships flourish, friendships prosper…there’s a vast new intimacy and accidental poetry, not to mention the weirdest porn. The entire human experience seems to unveil itself like the surface of a new planet.”

JG Ballard, 15 Nov 1930 – 19 April 2009, RIP

** UPDATE ** There's a nice review of the man and his work by Irish writer Patrick Chapman over at Eyewear.

Walker Books : The Story in the Picture

THE leading children's book publisher Walker Books and The Reading Centre at The Church of Ireland Collegeof Education come together to present The Story in the Picture, a day of conversations about making picture books, featuring Patrick Benson, Bruce Ingman and our very own Niamh Sharkey, accompanied by Deirdre McDermott and Lizzie Spratt from Walker Books.

The event takes place this Saturday 25th April 2009, from 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. at the Reading Centre at The Church of Ireland College of Education, 96 Upper Rathmines Road, Dublin 6.

This sounds like a really great opportunity to get below the skin of the processes involved in creating picture books.
The speakers are all seriously talented individuals, and very experienced in their field. While the emphasis might seem to be on illustration, it's bound to be of use to writers who are interested in this area too.

The cost is a very reasonable €35 (students €20) to include coffee/tea and lunch. Click here for a flyer about the event or contact or telephone 01 4970033 for further information.

Friday, April 17, 2009

RHA Annual Exhibition : White Smoke, Daddio!

I'm chuffed! Just got word back from the RHA that two of my submitted paintings have been selected for the 179th Annual Exhibition. Yay!

The third painting almost got there too - making it into the 'possible' category, before losing out in the second round selection. For me, this is A Very Cool Thing. To have one piece selected would be cool enough - two feels like some kind of objective vote of confidence - that this work is speaking to an audience.

Cardamom III above, is one of the pieces selected. It's only a wee thing - about 210 x 150mm, (framed in a double window mount under glass). The other selected piece is Cardamom II.

So, if you make your way to Ely Place between 26 May - 25 July this year, you can play 'Hunt-The-Nolan' along the gem-packed walls of the RHA Galleries. You can see more of my paintings here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Talking Books : Bolger in Deansgrange

‘Talking Books’ is a series of intimate public conversations by novelist, playwright and poet Dermot Bolger with leading Irish writers about the art of writing and the everyday practices, routines and difficulties involved with creating a sustained piece of literature. Presented by DLR Arts in association with the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Library Service, they will take place in Deansgrange Library. Further info here.

The series kicks off tonight with Bolger talking to Gerard Donovan, author of Schopenhauer’s Telescope and Julius Winsome.

This should be good, but I'll have to miss tonight's gig, as my writers group - Deansgrange Writers - is meeting, frustratingly, just up the road. I'd like to hear Donovan speak, having enjoyed his collection of short stories, Country of the Grand, last year. While a bit inconsistent, the overall tone was very impressive, with a number of excellent stories. You can read an interview with him about that book here.

I think the 'Talking Books' Series will be appearing online as podcasts at some point, similar to the previous 'Library Voices' series, which is available here.

Bolger is also writing a number of 'How to..' essays on the writing process, which will appear in three free newsletters, over the coming weeks. Here's a quote from the first;

"Writing a novel is almost like opening an imaginary hotel for the phantoms of your subconscious mind. You cannot be guaranteed that any guests are going to turn up on any given night, but you need to have the light on and the door open just in case they do."

I like that.

** UPDATE : Anybody go along to this? ***

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter MASHing : This ain't no mudd club, or CBGB

So, yes. I diddlyiddly doodlyoodled. No Heaney. No Jesus. No Lily. Nada but La Middle Abbey Strada for me this Easter. Well, to be truthful, I'd had a couple of days gardening, then a big Easter lunch, before heading in to the Twista Peppa to make some biggly squigglies. Nice people, nice beer, no eggs, good craic. Donal Dineen on the divil's cogs created a great vibe for making marker marks, including a very smooth remix which I hadn't heard before of the track Paris, from the excellent debut album from Friendly Fires (one of my favourites from last year).

That's me 'contributing' above. You can check out some of other snazz drawings from the club over on Posca Pen Pal Chris Judge's blog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cill Rialaig : Retreat to Advance

Thanks to Nuala for news of a private viewing of Emer Martin’s exhibition “Oh Rider of the White Horse” based on ‘stories’ by seanachaí Seán Ó Connaill at the Origin Gallery next week. The main purpose of the evening is to inform writers about the proposed 6 MONTH (!) WRITERS RESIDENCY PROGRAMME AT THE CILL RIALAIG RETREAT in KERRY from OCTOBER 2009 – MARCH 2010.

You are invited to go and have a glass of wine this Thursday 16th April 2009 from 6.30 – 8.30pm at the Origin Gallery, 83 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2 and hear what writer and artist Emer Martin got from the Cill Rialaig Experience.

I went to Cill Rialaig for 2 weeks in February 2007, thanks to my understanding family (who probably enjoyed the break too). I found it to be a splendid isolation, which did wonders for my head, heart and the scruffy bag of metaphysic that passes for a soul.

Participants are given the use of restored (rebuilt, actually) houses - on the site of a small village, deserted since Famine times. The basic, yet comfortable accommodation is (was?) free, with an expectation that visitors will donate something to the project. Be churlish not to. It's easy to donate visual art, for sale in the gallery there - not sure how writers might donate (royalties?) other than in cash? I'd guess an anthology may be in the offing at some point.

I can highly recommend it. The rugged beauty of the area is one benefit, also the solitude - although one can choose to commune with visitors in the other houses, or not. The site is apparently named for a 'church of the regular orders' - a long-departed community of monks, whose atmospheric, but easily-missed settlement ruins are sheep-enhanced a little further up Bolus Head. There is long, deep history here. It's a good base for exploring the wider area too, if you bring car or bike.

Thinking about it now, I'm hankering to return. But it won't be for a while yet.

The slideshow above shows work-in-progress photos from my visit, and here's a poem, likewise;

Last Night in Seán’s House

There’s handwriting upon the sea
But not a one can read it

Churning surf below the head
Is marble in the night

Beyond the swollen stomach earth
Skellig teeth are waiting

Away by Coomanaspic, six bar gates
Are fluting tube steel airs

Wind sings the empty flue
Pierces seams of window sash

Mozart consecrates the room
Yet here I am alone

Layered up under rafters, duvet
And an ashen sleeping bag

On Bolus Head tonight within
these walls of re-awakened stone

edit: © PJ Nolan 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

MASH : An Easter Revel

The Small Print is a new venture from Richard Seabrooke and BrenB, formerly of Candy Collective. Now, in association with BodyTonic they're launching MASH, a new series of bank holiday parties at The Twisted Pepper combining music, art, visuals, guest talks, spoken word & lots of other groovy happenings.

The first MASH takes place this Easter Sunday throughout the 4 rooms of that venue. Donal Dineen,, Shock, Dublin Streets and The Small Print have all come together for the makings of a riproaring evening kicking off at 9pm & running till 3am. I'll be there, improvising, doodling murals and suchlike around the venue with a bunch of other artniks including BrenB, Chris Judge, Dave Comiskey, Joven Kerekes, Phil Dunne and Steve Doogan.

Should be a lot of fun - why not come along and burn off some of them Easter Eggs! Tickets are €5 from here : and will be €10 on the night

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Royal Hibernian Academy : Maybe (maybe not)

Well, the deed is done - the lure is cast - the stable door is open - the countdown has begun - yadda, yadda, cliche, bloody yadda.

Last Friday I handed in my submission for this years Royal Hibernian Academy Annual Exhibition. It's all in the hands of the RHA assessment committee now.

Every year, hundreds of hopeful artists do their paperwork, pay their fee and hand in their artworks in the hope of selection. By the time RHA Members' own artwork allocations and any invited artists have been taken into account, it means there'll inevitably be a lot of disappointed entrants. I believe only about one in ten works made the cut from the open submission process last year. I've been unsuccessful to date, having only entered work intermittently down the years - sometimes due to lack of confidence in the work, sometimes lack of advance preparation, sometimes lack of the few quid for the entrance fee. This year, I've submitted 3 small, related paintings - Cardamom I pictured above - so.... fingers crossed! It's a very similar feeling to submitting a manuscript for publication. Should know one way or th'other in the next couple of weeks though, which is a faster response than most publishers.

The exhibition usually gets a very good attendance and is often an interesting overview of current Irish painting, in particular. It would be an achievement to be selected for exhibition alongside work by more established, recognised artists - and exhibit work to a wide and knowledgeable audience.

To my eyes, recent years have seen the exhibition refresh itself somewhat - the selection policy perhaps a little less conservative than in the past? The recent re-modelling of the RHA gallery has also created a cleaner, modular exhibition space - well suited to contemporary exhibits. The RHA has been busy re-inventing itself, without losing touch with tradition - here's hoping there's space for a wee Nolan or two in the mix.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Heaney Factor : Snipe and Awe

I'll try to make this the last Heaney-themed post for a while - but there's a couple of interesting tidbits related to the man's work which have recently popped up online.

One of those pesky lit-scraps is blossoming nicely over at The Jacket, where poet Jeffrey Side takes issue with comments made by Heaney regarding perceptions of the 'avante-garde'. Sides sees this as revealing Heaney's sensitivities to criticism of his own poetic as being ' ...distinctly old-fashioned, a sort of neo-Georgian retrogressive "poetic" utterance.'

Needless to say, there are plenty of alternate points of view, resulting in a growing body of response to Side's article, with contributions from Jamie McKendrick, Todd Swift and our own, ever-fluent, Desmond Swords among others.

In counterpoint, Mark Thwaite has a short interview with Dennis O'Driscoll about Stepping Stones - his book of interviews with Heaney - over at The Book Depository (a great online bookstore, just in the middle of a major overhaul).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

DLR Poetry Now : A Beautiful Broadside

Poetry Now since it's inception fourteen years ago, the organisers wanted to do something a bit special to mark the poet's upcoming birthday. They delivered - big time! Entitled At the Centre of The Circle, the event saw all seventeen of the festival poets gather onstage to read their personal choice of Heaney poem. I thought it a pity the four poets shortlisted for the Strong Award weren't involved too, but learned afterwards they had the pleasure of tea and sticky buns at the Heaney household earlier - a treat in itself! 

Introduced by John Kelly, some of the guest poets elaborated on the reason for their choice of poem - others simply kept to Heaney's words. The (almost) complete listing of who read what is as follows;

Chris AgeePostscript
Paul BatchelorDocker
Sujata BhattPunishment
Frank BidartA Dog was Crying Tonight In Wicklow Also
Eva BourkeThe Blackbird of Glanmore
Colette BryceA Sofa in the Forties
Paddy BusheRemembering Malibu
Harry CliftonIn Iowa
Ian DuhigSúgán
Adam FouldsMossbawn ; Sunlight
Ellen Hinsey(didn't read)
Valzhyna MortPoem for Marie
Eiléan Ní ChuilleanáinThe Scribes
Robert PinskyThe Little Canticles of Asturias
Tomaž ŠalamunThe Railway Children
Tomas VenclovaMid-Term Break (in translation!)
Carol Ann DuffyPersonal Helicon
The Seed Cutters
The Guttural Muse
Seamus HeaneyAt The Wellhead
At Banagher
In the Attic

All the readings were special in their own way. Paul Batchelor recounted how his choice of poem brought about a teenage realisation that the gruffer details of a working class life were valid material for poetry. Robert Pinsky recalled how his choice was enthusiastically supplied in response to his request to Heaney for the first issue of The Slate - one of, if not THE first online magazines, of which he remains Poetry Editor. Tomas Venclova read expressively in Lithuanian. Carol Ann Duffy's reading was augmented by musical accompaniment (O'Carolan, I think?) from John Sampson and her young daughter Ella - who had the honour of exclaiming a chirpy ' Happy Birthday!' to Heaney as the guest readings concluded.

A birthday present was then unveiled, a texturally rich and atmospheric painting by Hughie O'Donoghue, incorporating a found photo image - ethereal, richly hazed and timeworn in character.

Heaney came to the stage, visibly deeply moved to a rare wordlessness. After a moment or two, composure still faltering, he began to speak and gradually that familiar voice and humour was restored. He spoke of his gratitude, humility and joy before proceeding to read, finishing with In The Attic, a recent poem, of which a commemorative broadsheet was printed for the occasion.

I had the great pleasure of designing this limited edition print - everybody in attendance received a copy, signed by the man himself. It was a personal delight to hear Heaney pronounce himself 'indebted for the beautiful broadside'. The entire theatre; audience, festival poets, staff, family, friends, peers and admirers rose together in a warm, resounding yet intimate ovation. A beautiful broadside indeed.

You can catch a fine flavour of the event in an audio slideshow over at the Irish Times - (coincidentally celebrating a birthday of it's own at the moment) which features the music, Heaney's reading of In The Attic and the photography of Bryan O'Brien & Matt Kavanagh.

Friday, March 27, 2009

DLR Poetry Now : Robert Pinsky, "Born for Death"

The keynote address at Poetry Now was delivered impeccably by Robert Pinsky. The former US poet laureate chose as his starting point Keats' Ode To A Nightingale - or, more specifically, the line;

"Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!"

It was the phrase "born for death" said the poet, that struck him with a surprising sense of exhilaration at a certain stage of life.

He then recounted a conversation with a South African friend, while en route to visiting with a local Sangoma, or spirit diviner. He was told "We Zulus don't worship our ancestors - we consult them". This statement also caused a certain elation - becoming a key consideration while writing his latest collection 'Gulf Music'.

For Pinsky, the resonating and consistent factor in these two references is the placing and perception of a duality - conscious or otherwise - in how we deal with life, death, memory and ancestry in defining ourselves in our own terms; the current, the modern. This is where he sees Modernist writing, from the early 20th century onwards, getting to grips with the human condition. He has written elsewhere that;

“Deciding to remember, and what to remember, is how we decide who we are.”

This theme was a touchstone throughout his address, along with the observation that neither remembering nor forgetting can ever be a complete act. He noted that the name of the river Lethe, which flows through Hades in Greek mythology, means forgetfulness - and how, via Latin, the word 'Lethal' shares the same root.

He spoke about the particularity of Joyce choosing Ulysses as the classical matter for his dealings with the modern - a choice that allowed the writer full reign in embracing those contrary aspects of the modern condition within the framework of myth.

The address culminated in reading the first poem from Gulf Music. “Poem of Disconnected Parts” draws together, in closed couplets, many of the concerns discussed in his address. You can read it here.

Finally, Pinsky provided a Coda of sorts, reading several lines from his own translation of Dante's Paradise.

It all went a little deep for this non-academic at times - yet it was a thoroughly engaging talk. Pinsky's smooth, warm voice had a tactile quality which called to mind expertly crafted woodwork - smooth, warm and running with the grain. Speaking with the aid of notes, occasionally using repetition to stress key points, the flow and control of ideas was remarkable.

The over-arching expression seemed to be a recognition of the freeing potential in embracing the fact that we are all 'born for death'. That in 'tramping down' our ghosts, we allow our ancestors to find their place among our words - not haunt us as ghosts - to our own better, vital understanding of our (inevitably) modern condition.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coasting : Vineyards from Curses

It's all been a bit dark round here this last week - the bright colours and cheery sounds of Paddy's Day suddenly scythed by one G Reaper Esq. In the shadow of column inches and airwaves bulging with Massareene, Goody, Richardson, Hughes et al, we were shredded far closer to home / heart / gut by an unexpected family bereavement - followed within the same 24 hours by the sad news of a close friend's mother passing away. All far too young. RIP.

It's been difficult to work, difficult to write, just bloody difficult. Now, a week later, we're somewhat less blank, less dumb, but very, very tired. Still here, closer - perhaps a little more alive, or conscious of that state - but very much saddened. Still.

Last Saturday's Grand Slam victory was a heightened and poignant moment - T would have loved it. In his absence - and memory - we celebrated, cried, hugged; a vital release - the stone of grief transmuting into almost-joy. When that last Welsh kick drooped short of the posts, one family member assured us of supernatural intervention from beyond the grave. It's a nice thought - our T, doing his Morph the Cat bit over the Millennium Stadium.

So, life carries on, the blur thins out and I find myself on the doorstep of the Poetry Now Festival again. I made it to Belinda McKeon's opening lecture at lunchtime today. Entitled 'Broken News', she spoke about Phenomenology, in the context of the well-known Auden quote "poetry makes nothing happen' - but also bringing that statement into context, by reminding us of those lesser known lines that come later in his tribute to Yeats..."With the farming of a verse / Make a vineyard of the curse."

With that in mind, I look forward to a few days immersion in the restorative power of poetry. So much quality and variety on offer - AND I managed to get into Frank Bidarts' workshop! I had intended to check out local WiFi options, with a view to some live-blogging throughout the festival. I think that might be a little over-ambitious now, but I'll try to post regularly over the next few days. In honour of the location, the image above is another of my paintings, entitled 'Coast'.

Off now to hear Robert Pinsky's keynote address. Ciao. Hug your loved ones.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Babbling Bookfest : Words of Thanks

Attended Medbh McGuckian’s poetry workshop at the Dublin Book Festival yesterday. A very interesting and useful experience it was too, despite the fact we had to grab our belongings and move en masse to the coffee shop downstairs in the hope of actually hearing one another.

Whoever had the notion that an open-plan workshop in the Rotunda of City Hall would add to the ‘voice chorus’ ambience of the venue, has either no notion of what a poetry workshop entails or doesn’t actually care. So, while thanks are due to the festival organisers - for the opportunity to workshop with one of Ireland’s premier poets – no thanks for plonking us right next to the children’s reading, replete with mandatory high-energy call-and-response. They had the numbers – and amplification – we hadn’t a chance. Even the coffee shop was a stop-gap measure – with plenty of visitor traffic, loud conversation and assorted clatterings – but the commitment of the group was high and things worked out OK.

Unqualified thanks to Medbh, for her steady hand on the tiller, steering us back into our work, pointing out curiousities, resemblances, weaknesses, strengths, resonances and considerations. Superfluous conjunctions and descriptors seemed to be a recurring issue. Also the voicing within the poems – clarity of perspective for the reader wasn’t being pointed up in several cases, including my own - with the attendant danger of confusion, rather than the intended opening of interpretative possibilities.

Thanks to the other participants too, for a stimulating mix of high quality drafts. Inishcrone, Carrantuohill, Kabul, an extinct chapel on D’Olier Street and the dusky tomb of a Mughal emperor were among the places we visited. Along the way we met Corncrakes, snow women, victims of the Taliban, a disillusioned fairytale heroine and a hot nun!

Nice to meet Andrew (currently writing his PhD on Thomas Kinsella), Kate (from round these environs), Chris (hope to see you at Poetry Now) and all the others, including one very quiet, very young woman who said little but blew us away with her elegant and sophisticated love poem, in which ‘white pillars of light’ spotlit silent lovers under ‘bloodied beaks’ of timeless parakeets and a New Delhi dusk.

That reverie was soon dismissed, however, as we spilled onto cool, freshly rain-slicked streets to join the lunchtime crowds returning to work. Having exercised excellent fiscal restraint at the tempting tables of the festival bookshop, I fell at the final hurdle; Books Upstairs on College Green. Their SALE sign tempted me in, some extremely good discounts serving to lighten my whimpering wallet.

Today I’m feeling a bit guilty. Firstly, for criticising the organisers of that rare treat - a free workshop - and then for not even making my impulse buys at their venue! I’ll make a deal - a quiet room for next year’s workshop, please. Then, even if I’m not a participant, I promise to spend my allowance at City Hall.

The festival continues today and tomorrow. Poet and namesake Helena Nolan is reading later today, which I’ll be sorry to miss – but Daddytaxi services are required elsewhere. Full festival listings here.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Clubbing Time : Life beyond Books

If you're in town for the Dublin Book Festival, you might like to make a little detour towards Fitzwilliam Street over the weekend. An exhibition of work from the Thursday night life drawing group is being launched by Irish author Fiona O'Brien at the United Arts Club tonight. This exhibition will run until 29th March, with viewing daily from 5.30pm - this quirkily shabby building only wakes up around then; septuagenarian baggotonians rubbing shoulders with the great, the good, upstart artists, poets, models, rakes, knaves, all sorts really. If you've attended any of Irish Pen's regular events there, you'll know the venue. Founded in 1907, by Countess Constance Markievicz among others, the club celebrated its centenary in 2007 (obviously enough).

Among the artists exhibiting in the show are Brian Gallagher, PJ Lynch, Oisin Roche and Comhghall Casey, winner of the Hennessy Craig Award 2008. The image above is one of two drawings I'm showing in the exhibition.

On a related note, I've an interview with PJ Lynch (in my illustration alter-ego, Scalder) about his most recent book over on the Illustrators Guild of Ireland blog, Scamp.

I'm looking forward to tonight's launch - but will be taking it easy on the hooch, as I've been lucky enough to score one of the places in Mebdh McGuckian's poetry workshop at the Book Festival. So, I need to be bright-eyed and bushytailed for Friday morning! I'm looking forward to this, coming after disappointment at missing the cut for this year's Poetry Ireland Introductions series. Again. Doesn't look like my submission to South was successful either. Ah well, onwards, upwards, wordwards.