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The Family of Things

Bar Talk Cover

I have been enjoying a very creative collaboration with Helen Shaw and her colleagues at Athena Media. They’ve just released a kindle edition to my first book, Bar Talk, long since out of print since it was published in 1999, and we’re currently working on the audio edition with the terrific Amy Miller.

Athena produce all sorts of digital content, and are devising a series of podcasts on the theme of The Family of Things, where writers and artists talk about what formed them as creative people. I was delighted when Helen invited me to be the first subject for an interview, and what an interview it proved to be. She is an incredibly astute questioner and the experience of being ‘on the couch’ was both exhilarating and somewhat terrifying.

You can hear the results here – I’d love to know what you think.

Features

Kind Words and Coronets

Like many writers with new books out there, I’ve been living in the suspended animation of anxiously awaiting the first book review to appear. While there have been many nice comments about the collection in person, via text, twitter, facebook direct messaging, there’s nothing quite like the gravity of the printed word to concentrate the mind.

I’d love to claim a lofty disdain to all reviews, good and bad. But I’ve never been much of a liar – I lost my first book dedication in a poker game, after all. So I will admit that I cherish every nice thing said about my work, and promptly forget every single positive word uttered and written in the face of a negative notice. I’m not sure if that’s human nature or simply my own neurosis at play, but it’s a fact either way.

So I’m pleased to report that the first review in print appeared in the Irish Times on Saturday, and that poet and critic John McAuliffe had some nice things to say. You can read the full text of the review, which also discussed new books by Kerry Hardie, Theo Dorgan, Gerard Dawe and Jess Traynor, here.

But before you click the above link and disappear away from this blog, I thought I’d reproduce (with his permission) the stunningly kind introduction that the marvellous poet Damian Smyth gave to my work at the recent launch in No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast. It still stuns me that anyone would pay me so great a compliment as to notice what I’ve been up to, poetically. But Damian, as anyone who knows him will attest, is a very special kind of person. Anyway, here’s what he says:

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Features

Uncovering a Hidden History

For much of my life, I had absolutely no idea that my grandfather, Michael McCann, had fought in the First World War. I grew up with the image of him as the archetypal Irish nationalist hero of the first decades of the twentieth century. A brooding photograph of him in Free State Army uniform and flat-topped army cap dominated the dresser in my mother’s kitchen; stories of his escapades in the War of Independence and the Civil War were an integral part of family lore. But there was no mention of the earlier conflict my grandfather was involved in, as a Lance Corporal for the Royal Munster Fusiliers. His experience, like that of so many of the hundreds of thousands of Irishmen who fought in World War I, had been quietly obliterated from the official narrative. There was no room in the nationalist mythology for any stories about those who fought for other causes.

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Features

Back to School Time 2014

It must be the chiller winds and browning leaves, not to mention the crab apples ripening on the tree outside my window, but thoughts turn to the new academic year, and the various courses I’ll be teaching.

As I write, there are still some spaces available on the 10-week Finding the Story Course which I facilitate at the Irish Writers Centre in Parnell Square. It’s a day-time course, running from 11am to 1pm and starting on Wednesday 24th September.

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Poems

A poem for the first day of spring

St Brigid’s Day, Woodside Road

For Fiona Curran

It’s just as well we didn’t bet our souls on it.
This first day of pagan spring dawns white,
the two-day fall blanking out pavements,
children making hay of it with snowballs.
One attempts, Sisyphus-style, to roll a boulder heavier
than his bodyweight up the embankment.
Mothers in tracksuits supervise from front-doors,
fathers, scrapers in hand, track warily round cars.
Sane people stay indoors, waiting for the equinox
and the met office to make it official.
But I brave the frost, looking for some augury or other,
find it in a melted six inch square in Vi’s planter.
I hunker down for a closer look, then bow before
green shoots tangled in a perfect plaited cross.

(from Her Father’s Daughter, forthcoming from Salmon Poetry, 2014)