• Features

    Guest post by poet Colin Dardis on poetry and mental health

    To coincide with the launch of his latest poetry collection, ‘The Dogs of Humanity’, I’m hosting poet Colin Dardis, who discusses here the overlaps between poetry and mental health in his work:     “I have not been named, so they never talk of me. I call myself runt, a title earnt through exclusion.” (‘Runt’) I’m twelve, and sitting in my doctor’s GP clinic, waiting to be seen by a nurse for an appointment. The reason why I am here exactly have been lost through the distance of time. However, a new reason for future appointments will soon appear. I’m on a cushioned bench, on my own, outside the nurse’s office. The colours are…

  • Blog,  Features

    Discussing the creative response to historical events in early 20th century Ireland

    I recently gave a paper at the inaugural Association of Writing Programmes Ireland conference at University College Dublin about the challenges of writing historical fiction – I was part of a panel with novelist Mary O’Donnell, who discussed the writing of her recent short fiction collection, Empire (Arlen House 2018). There was some fascinating discussion afterwards so I’m posting my paper here:   FINDING THE FICTIVE SPACE WITHIN CONTESTED FACT As our abstract has suggested, the current Decade of Commemoration has brought into the open many stories previously hidden from the narrative mainstream of received history. In my presentation I am focussing on the creative response to the convulsive events…

  • Blog,  Features

    The man behind the Branchman – Michael McCann

    Five years ago I began to research the life of my grandfather, Michael McCann, a man who has haunted much of my creative writing since I first heard my mother’s stories about his exploits during the War of Independence and Civil War, not to mention the first World War. I’d written about his war record in two poetry collections, but now I wanted to explore his fictional potential for a piece of crime fiction, and so honed in on his experiences as a policeman in newly independent Ireland. Grandad left the National Army in 1924 and, like many other ex-soldiers, joined the nascent Garda Síochána. To get further background on…

  • Blog,  Features

    A novel new experience

    Although I’ve focussed on poetry throughout my writing career, I’ve always been an avid reader of fiction, and much of my poetry has tended towards the narrative. So it was only a matter of time before I ventured into the brave new world of fiction writing. That I should want to write crime came as no surprise to me; my earliest reading as a young teenager was the novels of Agatha Christie; I worked my way through P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and though I never read Colin Dexter’s novels, I became addicted to the TV adaptation of his Chief Inspector Morse (and the sequels and prequels that followed). I’ve always…

  • Blog,  Features,  Workshops

    What we remember, what we choose to forget

    On Easter Monday 24th April, 1916, a group of some 1,000 Irishmen and women came into Dublin and occupied a series of buildings around the city. Their aim was to overthrow the British Government in Ireland by military force and to proclaim an Irish Republic. Over the next seven days, over 450 people died, 2,000 were wounded and the centre of Dublin largely destroyed by shelling. 15 of the leaders of the uprising were executed; a 16th was executed later that summer. On the same day in April 1916, the second Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers was stationed in France, awaiting orders for the next big push that was…

  • Blog,  Features

    Beat up little seagull – old tunes and new in Baltimore and DC

                                                  I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing writers and teachers over the past number of years. One of my happiest collaborations has been with the amazing faculty of the Armagh Project, a US-based outfit that brings undergraduate students over to Armagh for the month of July to experience the life, culture and politics of that extraordinary part of our island. Some of the faculty members of the Armagh Project are based at the University of Baltimore, in Maryland, and many of their students participate in…

  • 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…

  • 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,…

  • 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.