Sunday, February 14, 2016

On Valentine's Day

Look, We Have Come This Far
(For Peter) 
There was little we packed for this journey:
a fox’s  promise, the blue of a heron’s egg,
bed ends from a skip on Northbrook Road
so full of woodworm we had to throw them back.

Me riding backwards on the motorbike
as we went up through the Sally Gap, 
the curve of the Dublin mountains
holding its place on my lap.

Winters when pipes burst and snow lay
indolent on path and  rooftops,
we sat before a fierce fire, weaving baskets
while cane suppled in the basin beside us.

You asleep on the last seat of the bus,
I wishing you would wake
so that  you could see it too,
the sun burning up the fog at Delphi.

We didn’t pack for the children
we gave each other,
one with the language of your bones
the other with the thin of my skin,

my journey west with them to wait for you
to someday follow on. When you did,
you had nothing but the shape of my horizon
on which to lay your head.

Look, how we’ve come the other side of children.
Today as if there were no tomorrow left to us,
you calm me in the way clapped cymbals soothe
the swarming bees. Closer than breathing, we hold.

 from  An Urgency of Stars, Arlen House, 2010)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Launch of 'Rising Beyond'

What a great buzz there was in the City Museum, Galway, last Thursday, January 21 when babies and nonagenarians alike were celebrated in an exhibition of photos titled  'Celebrating a Century of Galway People 1916 to 2016.

The 100 TO ONE Project  is the brainchild of three Galway-based photographers: Ian McDonald, Enda O’Loughlin, Bill Barry and journalist, Caroline Whelan. And what a refreshing idea it is to commemorate 100 years since Ireland’s Easter Rising by celebrating the people of Galway born in that time.This was a huge undertaking, finding people whose age matched each of those one hundred years.

The exhibition and book are a really important portrait of a century’s social history as each subject’s birth year is displayed with a short biographical note as well as some of the news headlines of that year. The fact that the text is also in Irish is an equally ipportant aspect of it as it gives a platform to our native language.

As the introduction says: ‘the subjects chosen represent people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds who have made a contribution to community in general: be it national, county, club or parish. For some it has just been the happiness they have brought to their own families. The totality of their input has contributed to the many positive changes which have taken place in County Galway over the past century.’

This is a limited edition so it is highly prized and selling like all good books should. None of the creators will be retiring on the proceeds as they are giving all profits to charity. It has been a real project of love taking over two years to complete so if you haven't bought a copy yet, then hightail it to the Enable Ireland Shop and the St Vincent de Paul Shop in Galway City and  News and Choose Bookshop in Loughrea. Also check out

My thanks to Andrea Parry for the photo below with  Ness Porter Kelly in front of her portrait and Andrea.
Congratulations to all who got it off the ground and already it's getting lots of publicity. It will feature on Irish TV 'Galway Matters' and the launch featured on Tg4 last week: Link:  

Photo by Andrea Parry

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Reading for the snow

True friendships are those that hold through absence and long distance. Having the chance to meet up with my dear friend and poet, Susan Rich, last weekend, filled me with gladness as once again my husband and I took the ferry across Puget Sound to meet her in her home in Seattle.

It was time luxuriously shared with good food,  discussion on favourite writers and the mystery that is this life of ours. In her house of sky we could see from her writing room red-tailed hawks and the snow on the Olympic Mountains. Spending those precious hours talking with her and her partner, Jeff, soon opened that squeaky door of creativity for me that is inclined to blow shut sometimes from all the storms of life and living.

We had breakfast in the Easy Street Café, food for the body and the soul with its collection of vinyls and CDs, and a menu that mirrors the music on the stands. Trying to decide between a Dolly Parton Stack or a Salad of John and Yoko, I finally settled on a Little Richard: Eggs, bacon and hash browns.

One of our traditions that we have built us since our first meeting in The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, many years ago is to find a place where we can do a reading for one another. We have read our poems on mountains, by rivers and in bell towers. This time it was on Alki Beach, as people walked by with their dogs or their cell phones while the sky was building to let go of more snow. I had the privilege of hearing some new poems from Susan and I read from An Urgency of Stars and The Other Side of Longing   (both from Arlen House) which is the collaboration with my friend Lisa C. Taylor from Connecticut.

I was no sooner back on the ferry heading home but the pen was out, the pages of my notebook becoming gravid with new images, words that filled the sound of my imagination. Once again, sustained, enriched, ready to face a new story. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Letting go of the old

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
Minnie Louise Haskins (1876 -1957)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Poem as Haw Chutney

Twenty-one years ago, on the shortest day of the year, our house arrived on a lorry from somewhere in Sweden. By that evening there was a roof on and lights in all the windows. We had moved from Dublin and while we were planning the house I lived with the children in a tiny mobile on my sister and her husband’s land in Moycullen, Co Galway. 

My beloved commuted from the big smoke to our little home at the weekend. Our biggest treat was to go to Drimcong to feast on the beautiful food cooked by Gerry Galvin, a fantastic chef and a fine writer to boot. One of his cookbooks had a recipe for Haw Chutney, which took so long to make that it put me in mind of the similar effort involved in the crafting of a poem.

The poem was recently published in Crannóg #40 which is a most handsome journal. I was thrilled to see that Eamonn Lynskey has just given it a very positive review on his blog.

Crannog 40 Cover by Robert Ballagh: 'Bloom on the Diamond Stone'

Many times when I read a poem by Geraldine Mills I feel like throwing in the thesaurus as a poet myself because she is so good. ‘Poem as Haw Chutney’ (p.26) is a marvellous creation:
‘Dump all you’ve plucked into the pot of possibility / with tart of vinegar, the wages of salt / raisins dried down to size.’

I’m not saying one could produce a poem using her recipe but the comparison of the skills of preservative-making and poetry making is strangely apposite. The last stanza is particularly applicable to both ‘disciplines’:
‘… and pour into a clean jar of page/ before hiding it in the dark larder of promise, / to mellow, settle, become its own name.’

Here is the complete poem. Thank you Eamonn.

Poem as Haw Chutney
i.m. Gerry Galvin

First, scour the hedges for word fruit,
vessels crammed to overspill
with scarlet letters, blazing vowels.

Dump all you’ve plucked into the pot of possibility
with tart of vinegar, the wages of salt,
raisins dried down to size.

Add spices that blood was spilt for:
clove, ginger, nutmeg
and simmer in liquids, mutes,

until the kitchen steams
with hissing fricatives
and each thing loses all semblance of itself.

Press the boiling mess through the waiting sieve,
the pulp that’s left behind − metaphor, enjamb
ment − is only fit for compost worms.

Bitter-sweeten the paltry trickle
that finds its way
through the pinhole of mesh

and pour into a clean jar of page
before hiding it in the dark larder of promise,
to mellow, settle, become its own name.