Tuesday, April 17, 2018

'Is that a Galway accent?' by Anne Marie Kennedy

Reciting the Writing by Anne Marie Kennedy

Award winning Galway writer Anne Marie Kennedy will launch her debut CD, ‘Is that a Galway accent?’ in Charlie Byrne’s bookshop, on Friday April 20th at 6.30 pm.
 I am honoured to be her special guest at this unique event. Not to be missed.

 ‘Is that a Galway accent?’ is a collection of previously awarded, published or broadcast work, reaching across topics of an infidelity hedged, mothers’ secrets, a trapped rat, the perils of decorating a Christmas tree, how to assist a calving cow and the wisdom of tinker women.  
Anne Marie is the winner of the Molly Keane Creative writing award 2014. Her play, A Matter of Modesty, was runner up in P.J. O’Connor Radio Drama 2016 and subsequently won two golds at the New York International Festival for Radio, in Best Scheduled drama category for RTE and Best actor for Eamonn Morrissey. 
She is an editor, shadow writer, freelance journalist, creative writing tutor and performance poet. Her work has been widely published in literary anthologies in Ireland, the U.K. and in North America where her non-fiction was chosen by Jonathan Franzen for Best American Essays 2015. She is shortlisted for the Percy French Comic Verse Award 2018 at the upcoming Strokestown International Poetry Festival.
Also reading will be readers from River Art Creative Writing Workshops: Candy Carrick, Sarah Fahy, Brenda McGregor, Louise O’Neill Vance and Carole Staunton.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Reading the Future New Writing from Ireland

Edited by Alan Hayes and published by Arlen House and Hodges Figgis, 'Reading the Future: New Writing from Ireland' celebrates 250 Years of Hodges Figgis. It will be launched by Josepha Madigan, TD Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht at Hodges Figgis Bookshop,56–58 Dawson Street, Dublin, Thursday 26 April at 6:00pm.

I am thrilled to be included in this beautifully produced anthology with so many of our great writers. Congratulations to Alan for the months of work he put into it. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Irish Times Moon Struck

Poem of the Week: Moon Struck

The moment wolf-moon grips the burnished throat of sun,
the cats cower, the birds frenzy their call.
They sense its lunar teeth
before its light in the kitchen
begins to silver breakfast cups and plates,
before its ice-cold enters our house.
We move in whispers through the rooms, afraid
to look up, even through the pinhole of colander,
for fear wolf-moon will take the eye out of us.
We pull courage to our shaking hands,
stand in the night-lit field, hammer the saucepan lids
as the beast moves in for the kill.
The din fills every inch around us, as does the dark,
but we keep on beating and beating
until wolf-moon is on the run.
Then one more strike, one final clang and we watch him
drop the sun from its jaws, slink away,
our world turned, back to day again.
Geraldine Mills’s publications include An Urgency of Stars (Arlen House), which was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship, and The Other Side of Longing, a poetry collaboration with the American poet Lisa C Taylor (Arlen House, 2011). Her children’s novel, Gold, was published by Little Island in 2016

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What the Snow Brought

What the Snow Brought

Icicles on the eaves of our house,
chevrons of birds' feet up the drive,
a redwing, a brace of pheasants.

A herd of deer
moving around our field in the dark,
staring back at our sleeping selves,

then, away through the gap in the dry-stone wall.
Only for prints in the snow,
we wouldn't have known they had been.

Photo:Courtesy of Peter Moore

Sunday, January 28, 2018


The term, ekphrasis, is a Greek word that means 'description', and refers to describing an object in vivid detail. Today it has come to be defined as poems that are inspired by works of art or vice-versa. Imagery is very important in my writing and I am often drawn to the story behind a piece of art or sculpture. I was delighted that artist and potter, Ness Porter Kelly, decided for a recent exhibition to work on one of my poems for her inspiration. She chose my poem 'Songline'   which is from my first poetry collection, Unearthing your Own, published by Bradshaw Books in 2001.  What I really like about the painting is the way she incorporated the indigenous iconography into the Irish landscape.


Is what the aborigines called it
singing up rocks, trees
their very selves into creation.
Following leylines from yesterday to now
till they came to their end, dreaming.

Song-women had their own lines
separate from men,
singing from yesterday to now;
from mother to daughter
their soul-links.

So if I show you like this:
pinnate shape of leaf,
veins that parallel the length of blade,
life-spring in the plant
when it is chewed to poultice,
it is the way it was shown to me
as to my mother and to her mother before that.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Éigse Dara Beag Inis Meáin


The first Éigse Dara Beag will not be its last, such was its huge success this weekend  6-8 October. Inis Meáin, the middle island of the Aran Islands  hosted a celebration of their native poet that I am sure would have made him very proud. It was a great privilege for me to be a tiny part of it, having been given the opportunity to read some poems 'as gaeilge'.

I had attended a week-long course there in the summer, staying in Mairtín Cois Cuan's B&B and going to classes in the 'halla'. Coming from a house that had no grounding in the language, I was terrified by it at school but have always loved its intrinsic music. 

'Tá sé in am an bád a bhrú amach,' bainisteoir, Ciarán O Cheallaigh said to me when he invited me to read some poems at the celebration. I had no excuse and knew that if I didn't give it a go now I never would. Pushing out the boat was a risk as there was every chance that I would fall out and have to be rescued. Thankfully, that didn't happen. Having to read after the local and established poets was daunting but everyone was very kind and I am delighted to have seized the day. Ciarán's translations are  top class  and capture perfectly the essence of the work.

The programme was rich and varied from sean-nós singing workshops to lectures on music, to the music itself. It is the very special experience to be able to walk from venue to venue, no need to get into a car. To watch people walking from the old pier or the Dún or the church. Voices carrying sweetly on the blue-skied sunny day.  Harp and fiddle in perfect harmony, as the notes flowed out the door of Tigh  Chonghaile onto the road, over the stone fields, across the sea that sparkled like a summer's day and anyone on Inis Oirr or the Cliffs of Moher wanting to swim over to be part of it. You had to be there.

My gratitude to Ciarán for all his work and especially the translations which I have copied here. Thanks also for the kindness of everyone I met, especially Mary Fleming and Máirtin for looking after us so well.  
Photographs courtesy of Peter Moore.

Synge's Chair

Uaireanta seasann bean suas
 ag an mbord, am dinnéir,
Is siúlann sí amach an leath-dhoras

Coinníonn sí uirthi
Cé nach bhfuil fhios aici cá bhfuil a ceann scríbe
Is beireann an dorchadas ar an mbóthar

Sula dtiteann an oíche.
Cuireann sí cosc ar na smaointe duairce
Mar a dheineann na réalta le práinn.

                                   after Rilke

Sometimes a woman
stands up from the dinner table
and walks out the half-open door.

She keeps on going, though
she doesn’t know where,
and the road catches darkness

long before it falls.
Black thoughts she stills
with an urgency of stars.

 From: Urgency of Stars (Arlen House, 2010)

The language of stone

Tháinig sé leis an gclapsholas, an t-inneall bainte,
Nuair a gheall an spéir an saol dos na haoirigh,
Daoine óga dóite ag an ngrian is ag iomrascáil leis an gcodladh.

Tháinig sé ag treabhadh tríd an tost,
Ag stróiceadh suaimhneas na hoíche
Is dhúisigh mo mhac is do sheasamar le chéile
Ag fuinneog an tsamhraidh.

Ag análú an scamall-bholadh chomh milis
Is na lanna ag gearradh don dara uair
Ag réabadh neadacha is áiteacha rúnda
Soilse mar lampróga ag titim na hoíche.

Téim chun tobair lem’bhuicéid
faoin ngealach lán, is rith sé liom
go raibh an speal ar crochadh go ciúin
gan bhrí, is tost an traonaigh timpeall orm.


It came at twilight, the silage cutter,
when sky promised the shepherd’s all,
and little sunburnt bodies
wrestled with sleep.

It ploughed up curfew’s silence,
while I, casting off my bedtime routine
lifted my son from his sleeping
to stand bewitched at our summer window.

Clouds of sweetest smelling became our breathing
from blades that knifed a second sward.
It tore through nests and hiding places
Its light – fireflies in the dimming.

Afterwards with moon full,
I took my bucket to the well
With thoughts of the scythe hanging
Impotent. The corncrake silent.

From: Unearthing Your Own (Bradshaw Books, 2001)

Sceachóirí ag teacht/haws ripen

An mhaidin is atá m'iníon ag fágáil.
Tá sí fós ina codladh suain,
na málaí san halla
is fonn imeachta uirthi.
Tá chuile rud pacáilte agamsa
í síol-sparán a cuimhne.
Fágann sí na réalta ar an úrlár dom le scuabadh,
tinte ag titim ón spéir ag seó éigin
Tráth a bhí sí ag lonrach.

Sceachóirí ag teacht is rósanna fiáine
ataithe lena bhfuil i ndán dóibh,
úlla ar creathadh faoin solas, ag feitheamh,
tá siad ag foghlaim teanga nua,
conas scaoileadh le rudaí.

Aimseoidh sí a cuid torthaí féin,
piocfaidh sí iad is íosfaidh sí iad
leanfaidh sí an boladh ar an ngaoth.
Is craoibhín beag bídeach mé ag lúbadh.


It is the morning of my daughter's leaving.
She is still asleep, her cases in the hall eager to be gone
while I have packed all I will
into the seed purse of her memory.

She leaves stars on the floor for me to sweep up,
sky fires fallen from some show,
some moment when she shone.

Haws ripen, guelder swells with the future,
apples shiver in the waiting light,
are learning the language of letting go.

She will find her own fruit, pick and eat it,
follow its scent on the wind.
I am a small branch bending.

From Toil the Dark Harvest (Bradshaw Books 2003)

Harry Clarke windows in the church

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review of Hellkite by Sarah Harsh

Am so happy with this review of Hellkite by Sarah Harsh of Emory University that was published recently in the digital journal of Irish Studies Breac

Furious Women and Scorned Men

Author: Sarah Harsh (Emory University)

Hellkite Cover
Geraldine Mills. Hellkite. Dublin: Arlen House, 2014, 160pp.
Irish women’s short fiction is in some sense a twice-marginalized genre. Women’s writing has, at times, been overlooked, while short stories are frequently misread as profitable breaks from the serious business of novel writing. The compilation of The Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature, for instance, aimed to establish the Irish literary canon and, in the process, exemplified both problems in its initial underrepresentation of women writers and its lack of separate sections devoted to short fiction. Yet critics and readers alike have long celebrated the Irish short story, mastered by such writers as Frank O’Connor and James Joyce, while, more recently, feminist scholars and writers work to reclaim Irish women’s voices. Irish women’s short fiction thus proves a productive intersection for literary analysis. Heather Ingman’s A History of the Irish Short Story pays significant attention to the contributions of Irish women writers from Emily Lawless to Edna O’Brien. Elke D’hoker’s Irish Women Writers and the Modern Short Story situates her subjects in relation to the canon while focusing on “how their work challenges the norms and orthodoxies of the Irish short story itself.”[1] Geraldine Mill’s startlingly imaginative collection Hellkite demonstrates this potential for Irish women’s short fiction to both enrich and unsettle our understanding of the genre.
Hellkite is the third short fiction collection by the Galway-based poet and teacher. Throughout the collection, Mills articulates her own voice and vision while simultaneously casting a sidelong glance at her literary forefathers. In “Frost Heave,” Mills revisits “The Dead” by probing the emotional distance between a husband and wife in a colder, darker story than Joyce’s original. Stripping away the familiar comforts of Irish hospitality, Mills sets her story in the hinterlands of the domestic realm. On a nocturnal stakeout in his henhouse to catch the animal that has been slaughtering his chickens for sport, Folan reminisces about the demise of his marriage. Thinking back to a seemingly happier time on a beach, Folan remembers how he failed to recognize his wife:
He looked back to see Gretta as she strolled the strand… something about her startled him. Something he didn’t recognize. As if a creature had come in from the sea and enveloped her so that the wife he looked at was the wife he couldn’t see. A great loneliness came down over him then. He wanted to run to her and put his hands on her face and feel the warmth of her while he promised her a new microwave, a maple tree, the heavens (37).

Just as with Gabriel’s double-take, a moment of misrecognition prompts waves of both isolation and affection. Yet in Mills’s story, the reader can follow the consequences of this intimate distance through Folan’s memories. Not long after this startling moment, Gretta leaves Folan for an American man she met on the internet. In Mills’s clever updating, Gretta’s hidden romantic life is revealed through her Facebook privacy settings.

Five of the fifteen stories in Hellkite deal with adultery, but Mills is more interested in the before and after than in the act itself. One of the strongest stories in the collection dwells on the possibility of an extramarital affair. The unnamed male protagonist of “Once Bitten” reconnects with a woman with whom he once shared a feverish, fleeting intimacy. Their renewed relationship involves all the trappings of a tawdry affair: lies, promises, midlife ennui, and clandestine hotel rooms rented by the hour; yet the relationship is conducted exclusively through letter-writing. The narrator has compartmentalized the epistolary affair into P.O. Boxes and hotel rooms, yet his emotional investment cannot be contained and must instead be cauterized.

More than adultery, emotional and occasional physical violence between lovers serves as the connective tissue between Hellkite’s stories. In the title story, Cora lures her ex-husband to a ghost estate where she locks him in the utility closet and leaves him to drown in rising flood waters. Mills renders Doyle’s claustrophobia with a vivid yet detached realism. This tale exemplifies a recurring theme in Hellkite; one in which women force men into uncomfortable domestic situations.

The opening story, “Centre of a Small Hell,” finds Bernard and his two small daughters coping poorly with the death of the mother, Margaret, who had abandoned the family. Margret’s departure and subsequent demise has left Bernard heartbroken, helpless, and enraged. Forced into the typically maternal role of primary caregiver and homemaker, Bernard grieves his own entrapment with animalistic intensity: “he let out a roar like the cow did when the calf was stuck insider her, and it had to be cut out, its vernixed head lolling to the side, dead” (22).

Animals roam across Hellkite and throw into relief mankind’s extraordinary capacities for both cruelty and companionship. From the predatory mink of “Frost Heave” to the panicked sow of “Centre of a Small Hell,” Mills finds the animals kingdom a productive foil to complicated world human relationships. In “The Call,” for example, aging bachelor Kieran cares for a family of swans with the loyalty and generosity that his human family denied him. Cross-species friendships are not always employed so effectively, however, as in the weakest story in the volume, “Pretty Bird, Why You So Sad.” Predicated on a tired equivalence between songbirds and women, the story treats immigrant women’s experience in clichés.

Characters from the otherworld also bubble up in the collection. Drawing on the techniques of magical realism, Mills weaves her supernatural characters into the lives of ordinary characters. In “Drinking his Strength Back,” Finn MacCumhnaill wanders into a supermarket and is taken in by a lonely divorcée. In “The Best Man for the Job,” the angel Gabriel pays a visit to an elderly couple’s back yard and reveals a family secret. In “This Street with Looking-Glass Eyes,” a devoted brother reimagines quotidian events as fairy-tale-like miracles in the hopes of coaxing his sister out of a debilitating depression. Whether magical or mundane, Mills is preoccupied with transformations: yellow seeds become blue dye (“Indigo”), tusks become piano keys (“Every Piece of Ivory a Dead Elephant”), cheating husbands become pigs (“Foraging”), and ex-wives become murderers (“Hellkite”).

Ingman identifies “changing identities” as the predominant theme of the Irish short story since the 1980s and notes the tendency for women writers to move away from the male-dominated “realist” mode toward more imaginative fiction.[2] In both theme and technique, Mills’s collection exemplifies Ingman’s assessment. With its violent reversal of domestic roles, exploration of female cruelty, and mythic imagination, Hellkite is a rich contribution to a tradition in transition. While Hellkite will surely appeal to those invested in Irish women’s writing and the short story tradition, it should also interest any readers weary with happy endings.

[1] Elke D’hoker, Irish Women Writers and the Modern Short Story (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 2.
[2] Heather Ingman, A History of the Irish Short Story (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 225.