Monday, August 18, 2014

All in the name of research:Balloon Ride

Albuquerque,just before dawn preparations are already under way to see the sun rise from the hot air balloon. There is a balloon ride in a scene of my latest story so I'm all for making my writing authentic.

Propane gas lights up the  sky 

Keith checks it all out  to see that the balloon is filling properly with air

Is my life worth more than three paltry sentences?

 No time to change my mind for we are up,up and away

Sunday, August 3, 2014

By the Time I Make Albuquerque I'll be Reading

Having left North Dakota for New Mexico I have gone from a world of badlands and buffalo, longhorn cattle and flax fields  to the land of  mesas and roadrunners, Georgia O' Keeffe and Route 66. These dramatic landforms (above) are created when the top layer of the plateau resists the natural weathering process. As the softer soil around the harder cap-rock is eroded a  mesa forms.

The Kimo Theatre is on Route 66,and was built in 1927 as a Pueblo Deco picture palace which was a very flamboyant  short-lived architectural style that combined the spirit of the Native American cultures with art moderne that was popular in the 1920s. Its elaborate interior of colourful Indian symbols, air vents designed as Navajo rugs and buffalo skulls with red, glowing eyes it's a  jewel in the Albuquerque cityscape.

Kelly and Pamela with Cinnebar
It's the first time that I've had a horse come to my reading but Cinnabar was most attentive when I read at Jacqueline Loring's home with a number of her friends who came to meet me. We had a wonderful reading in the garden, the sun shining and everything right with the world. Other animals that dropped by were Thumper and Cuddles, the road runner and a two hummingbirds. The bull snake and the raptors stayed at home.

As well as new work, Jacqueline also read from her award-winning collection The History of Bearing Children. The following poem was recently selected to be part of an exhibition at the Museum of the American Military Family which has been curated by Caroline Le Blanc.

A comma can save your life

Let's eat Grandma

Let's eat, Grandma

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What Our Shoes Say About Us

Saturday afternoon in Richardson's Pub on Eyre Square and a great launch of Gerry Hanberry's fourth poetry collection What Our Shoes Say About Us with Celeste Augé's second collection, Skip-Diving and Knute Skinner's Concerned Attentions. 
Here is one of my many favourites from Gerry's:

So this is where all the poems come
to eye each other up,
to snigger and bitch
over fancy cocktails,

mocking the jaded clichés
still loud and glitzy at the bar
or the pale metaphors with fraying cuffs
who creep away before closing time

to forage in the skip out back
and the nervy confessionals staring
at their own reflections as they sip
blood-red liquor distilled from worn-out hearts.

Occasionally the place falls silent
when a pale figure in a black cape
and floppy hat loops in distractedly.
Ah, the real thing, they mutter enviously

but all in all, nothing much happens here
and it can get messy as the evening wears on.
The poems grow ever more edgy, you see,
dreading the thought of another lonely night unread.

From Left: Geraldine Mills; James Joyce; Gerry Hanberry and Hugo Kelly

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spolia Magazine 9

Spolia Magazine is a beautiful on-line literary magazine that publishes really good poetry, fiction, non fiction and art. Thanks to Mia Gallagher who suggested my name to the editors I now have a story in this issue.

There is a small charge to download it but if you click on the link above it will give you an idea of its quality. Here are the opening paragraphs of my story:

Where the Dark is
‘It blows no good,’ Carmina says of the wind that comes without warning, battering the chairs against the terrace wall. It whips our whole world, lashing it with heat strong enough to turn sand to glass. It shreds the tines of the palm trees as their trunks strain to hold onto their stricken selves; whips the husks of the sunflowers in the fields, their little, burnt, pilgrim faces yielding before it.
She closes all the shutters against the dust, stuffs the keyholes, but it comes right through, into our eyes, our ears; into the nostrils of the horses so that papa and Esteban have to stay and soothe them. It disturbs Blanca’s kittens in the drawer where she gave birth to them and I have to calm the mewling little bundles whose eyes haven’t even opened yet. Carmina’s mouth turns down and furrows appear in her brow, her olive eyes troubled. ‘Something will have to give soon,’ she says as she takes my hand and brings me up to bed.
For three days and three nights it stops us from sleeping, the sky blocked out. No heaven on Calle Cielo, no moon on Calle Luna, nothing to be heard save the howling of the wind. It blows the dust and the heat right into people’s minds and clogs their thinking. Esteban tells me that when it got into Jose Luis’ head that he took to his boat drinking, and never came back. That’s why Carmina hates it. It builds up inside bodies, inside blood.
It has got into Mama’s.
Then as quickly as it comes, it’s gone. I wake to a sound that I have almost forgotten. No wind.
‘Where is it?’ I ask Carmina.
            ‘Gone back through the mountain gap.’
‘But where then?’
‘Nobody knows.’
‘Why don’t they?’
‘Because the wind tells no one. It doesn’t want anyone to know.’

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Taste of the Sweet Mouth

Here is a short video of some of the readings and wonderful landscape of Belmullet where An Béal Binn, or the Erris Festival of Words  was held  from 6-8 June. I was delighted to be reading in the company of John Banville, Donal Ryan, Martyn Dyar, Mike McCormack, Rosita Boland, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, Platform I, Terry McDonagh, the Galway Poets and many, many more.

Dr Éimear O'Connor gave a riveting presentation on the artist, Seán Keating, and Des Kavanagh's illustrated talk on Séamus Heaney 'The Boy He Was and the Man He Became' was a very generous insight into his personal relationship with our poet.

On  the weekend when Belmullet was voted 'the best place to go wild in Ireland' by the Irish Times,
It was also the best place to be tasting sweet words. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Mary-Turley McGrath says about Hellkite

Congratulations to Mary Turley-McGrath for winning the Trócaire/Poetry Ireland Award for her poem  'Valley of the Birches'. No doubt she will produce some more great work at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre which was the coveted prize. Mary took some time to give me her thoughts on Hellkite.
 Many thanks Mary for that. I really appreciate such a personal response.

I really enjoyed these stories though few of them made me smile. They are deeply reflective pieces on human behaviour and relationships moving from the interpersonal to the intrapersonal. The characters and situations are true to the world we live in with all its ambiguities and contradictions.

The writing is convincing, persuasive and direct so that I feel I am being taken into the deeper regions of the human psyche where extraordinary things happen to men, women and children. Circumstances, random events, and past histories influence the characters in the actions and choices and in each story a major shift takes place between the start and finish; perhaps this is why there is at the end of many of the stories the possibility of redemption, or even some happiness for the tortured soul of the protagonist.

Short stories do not have the luxury of back story…they are more like a cross sections of lives. I find these cross sections reveal isolation, anger, despair, rejection and loneliness bordering in some places on alienation. Yet these stories are not devoid of love and affection. The characters in ‘The Street with Looking-Glass Eyes’ are bound together by tragedy but also by a deep affection; they live in an imaginary fairy tale world which seems about to end.

The man in ‘Once Bitten’ is mysterious and secretive and his behaviour is extraordinary; he is at odds with himself in many ways, seems to have studied history and works in accountancy; quite intriguing, living in a surreal world through the letters he writes and receives from an ‘old flame’. Perhaps he needs to come to terms with his past and accept his imperfections. Quite an enigma! This story has a filmic quality, very vivid and is perhaps my favourite.

In ‘Apidea’, Hilary and Ambrose are dealing with mutual loneliness; both have been abandoned by their children and have developed an interdependence which sustains them both through and interest and fascination for bees. (This reminds me of Sylvia Plath’s, ‘The Bee Box’ and and Carol Ann Duffy’s recent collection The Bees.) The need for human contact and understanding is at the heart of ‘The Call’. The swans become Kieran’s family after his sister destroys his chances of finding a wife and subjects him to a life together with her without a word spoken. Perhaps here, the issue is one of self protection for the sister and not as deliberately vengeful as Cora’s premeditated attack on Doyle’s prospects for happiness in the future, in ‘Hellkite’. Her treatment of her ex-husband is inexplicably cruel, just as the change in the character in ‘Foraging’ takes on an extraordinary turn.

The gradual transformation in his person is very well handled and rather Kafkaesque to say the least. Yet I found a layer of humour in this story which I did not find elsewhere; I think it came with the tone adopted by the narrator…four stories I think are first person…this one does very well in first person. I feel there is a tongue in cheek element to it!

There were two stories that I did not quite get, ‘Drinking his Strength Back’ and ‘Feeding the Wolf of Lies’
On the other hand ‘The Devil’s Dye’ is short, descriptive, emotional, poetic and powerful as if the girl is on the point of desperation.

I expected this book of stories to be one thing but found a multitude of facets and situations and characters. It gave me a lot of things to think about. Wonderful piece of work   Congratulations again.