Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Ó Bhéal - Weekly Poetry Event - Cork, Ireland

In April 2017 the Ó Bhéal poetry event celebrated it's 10th year running every Monday night with the exception of three Mondays mid winter.   It's home is upstairs at The Long Valley, Winthrop Street, Cork.   The director of Ó Bhéal is Paul Casey who has been at the helm since its inception.

The evening starts from 8:30 pm with a selection of poetry-films followed from 9:30 pm by the Five Word Challenge.  Five words are offered by the audience members (one maximum per person) and heads down for 15 minutes as poets compose their responses.  Afterwards, the mic is open and those that are ready read their poem.  The winning poem is selected by the emcee based on audience response (clapping etc).  The winner reads their poem again and is awarded with a free drink from the bar and a book or two of poems.

After a short break the guest poet(s) are introduced around 10 pm.  This is a great opportunity to hear voices, known and unknown.  It has certainly broadened my knowledge of living poets.  A listing of all guest poets that have read in the past and a look into the future is available on the Ó Bhéal site. Poetry books by guest poets and Ó Bhéal publications are usually available for sale.

Another poetry film or selection of poetry films are shown during the break after the guest poet has read and before the Open Mic kicks off.  Anyone who wishes to read during The Open Mic adds their name to the list during one of the breaks.

At the Open Mic all poets are welcome and supported, whether it is their first time or have been attending for all of the 10 years.  I came to Ó Bhéal for the first time in Feb 2016 and participate in the Five Word Challenge and Open Mic most nights.  I was so pleased to have had my poem selected as the winning piece for the Five Word Challenge on Monday 19th June 2017.  My tipple was a large tonic water, a copy of Five Words, Volume X, [Poems from the 4th Five Words International Poetry Competition and from 50 Five Word challenges April 2016 to April 2017] published by Ó Bhéal Press and 'A Butterfly's Wing' by Vivienne McKechnie, published by Arlen House.  I have just now read her poem 'Empty Nests' and a swing connects us.  The guest poet on Monday night was Jo Slade and I reach for her book 'The Painter's House', published by Salmon Poetry and open the page at 'The Handyman's Daughter' to find 'a different space', a space of emptiness.

The lovely thing about this event is the randomness of who you might meet.  On this Monday night I met Mo Harte from Dublin who had earlier participated in a 'walking backwards with mirrors' event in Cork.

We are fortunate to have this wonderful event open for free or voluntary donation and for those who cannot make it there are recordings available on the Ó Bhéal website of all of the guest poets and the Open Mics.  In addition TG4 spent an evening at Ó Bhéal in 2016, the video of which is available on the Ó Bhéal YouTube channel.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Irish Writers Centre - Mindshift: The Connected Writer at Listowel

On Saturday 17th June 2017 as the hot weather emerged I wondered had I made a mistake.  A few weeks beforehand I had booked a day indoors to attend Mindshift, an event organised by the Irish Writers Centre in association with Listowel Writers Week to be held in Listowel.

I decided to proceed, heading off on the almost two hour journey.  I hit a slippery patch of loose gravel above Taur and my car went for a dance terrifying me in the process.  I knew not to hit the brakes but to hold the steering wheel with fingers, lightly.  I arrived in Listowel to sunshine and smiles and in one piece.

We kicked off on time by having a group photo taken on the steps outside The Seanachaí Centre.  Out of the sun Elizabeth Dunn, Chairperson of Listowel Writers Week introduced the event and welcomed everyone.  Eilish Wren from Listowel Writers Week and staff from The Seanachaí Centre were also in attendance and ever helpful.

The initial part was titled 'Event & festival curators in conversation'.  The panel consisted of Máire Logue [working with Listowel Writers Week for more than 10 years], Dani Gill [Poet and Director of Cúirt 2010-2016], Patrick Cotter [Poet and Director of the Munster Literature Centre] with the conversations ably facilitated by Kate Cunningham of The Irish Writers Centre.

The focus of this section was to present an insight into how events and festivals are curated and writers selected.  Festival organisers are frequently inundated with requests from writers who wish to read.  Some festivals such as the Cork International Poetry Festival do not accept unsolicited submissions.  The key message from the panel is for writers to develop their writing first, to submit and have their work published in well established and respected journals then to build a writing profile and gain experience at reading by attending Open Mic events.

If writers decide to approach a festival with a request to read they should provide a clear outline of: 'what they have done so far', 'what they are doing now', and 'what they want to do at the festival'. They should indicate if their work has a theme and provide details on workshops/retreats they have attended. At the Cork International Poetry Festival a selection of publishers present writers who have featured in their journals - another reason for writers to submit and support journals.  Having a self- published book without having a track record of journal publications is of limited value.  It is preferable to have a collection published by a reputable publisher.   Most of the larger festivals do provide opportunities for emerging writers through Open Mic or introduction and similar events.

The term 'good literary citizen' was referenced by Patrick Cotter - and reiterated by the panel. Relationships do matter, writers need to support other writers by attending events, buying their books and supporting them online.

The panel mentioned that when reading at an event do not exceed the time allotted, stay until everyone has read - whether you are a guest poet or reading at an open mic event.  This advice would also be applicable to musicians participating in jamming sessions.

As we broke for lunch it was good to catch up with some people I met a few weeks earlier at the Listowel Writers Week.  These included Mike Gallagher, John McGrath [who is frequently mistaken for Gabriel Fitzmaurice] and Matt Mooney.  I met with other new faces including Joe Healy [Co. Limerick], Bernadette Ní Riada [Killorglin], Fiona Pilkington [Tipperary] and Brigid Sunderland [Shannon].

After lunch Louise Phillips  [Author of four psychological crime thrillers] gave a most informative talk along with handouts about the modern writer and promoting one's work, social media etiquette and other nuggets of information.  She didn't however divulge the best place to hide a body.  I think we need to read her books to find the answer to that question.

After tea, coffee and a chat Gene Rooney [Professional Actor], took us in hand and had us leaping around like children.  Everyone got stuck in and a reading about radiators proved more interesting than one would imagine.  Gene said that sitting is no gift for readers so we were on our feet for the final hour.  This was an extremely useful and practical session where we came away with tips to help with public speaking - the basic one being to open one's mouth - try putting two fingers one on top of the other between your teeth and you get the idea.  Other tips included:  using eye contact, breathing exercises, asking oneself in preparing for a reading 'what do I want to convey?'  The listener gets one chance to hear and hopefully understand so the reader needs to speak clearly, slowly [unless you are a rapper] and with sufficient volume that they are heard.  A microphone will not help with any of these things except perhaps volume.

After a rewarding and enjoyable day indoors I had not made a mistake as I headed to the sea and Ballybunion for a refreshing dip before the journey home.

Information on Writers Groups, Open Mic events, open submission and other opportunities for writers available at The Irish Writers Centre, Poetry Ireland and Words Ireland.

Open Mic events in Munster include:
Cork City:  ÓBhéalLive Words; Fiction at the Friary - monthly; Spotlight;
County Cork: Hungry Hill Poetry Friday - Castletownbere; Psoken Word, Clonakilty;
Limerick: Stanzas;  On the Nail Literary Gatherings;
Co. Kerry: Bank Holiday Poets' Corner - Tralee; Literary Listowel Readings - Listowel and Poetry in the Park, Listowel - on the second Sunday of each month at 2:30 pm.

Blog (c) Bernadette Gallagher

Monday, 12 June 2017

Poets Abroad - annual poetry reading

Poets Abroad is a group of poets who first met online in 2015 via a poetry workshop facilitated by Kevin Higgins.  Towards the end of the course a number of us said that we would be interested in staying in touch.

The initial group included Eimear Connolly, Leslie Thomas, Dick Edelstein, Julie Gilligan, Audrey Molloy, Frances Browner, Bobbie Sparrow and Bernadette Gallagher.  The name Poets Abroad was suggested by Bernadette and it was adopted.   The idea behind the name was more towards poets walking about in the world.  As it happens a number of the group live in US, Australia, mainland Europe, UK and Ireland.  The group now exceeds 20 writers and we communicate via a private Facebook group set up by Frances Browner, sharing poems, feedback and other material related to poetry.

The first poetry reading was held in Books Upstairs, Dublin in 2016 organised by Bernadette.  The idea grew out of an initial plan to meet Audrey Molloy for coffee on a visit home but after a number of months of planning this turned into a formal poetry reading with Alvy Carragher as the guest poet followed by seven poets from Poets Abroad. Maurice and staff at Books Upstairs were incredibly supportive and the reading was a success and a joyous occasion.  So much so that we have turned it into a yearly event with plans in place up to 2025.

Poets Abroad, Books Upstairs, Dublin 2016 organised by Bernadette Gallagher
[From L to R] Special guest Alvy Carragher, and Poets Abroad poets Leslie Thomas, Bobbie Sparrow,  Iseult Healy, Frances Browner, Audrey Molloy, Dick Edelstein and Bernadette Gallagher.

Poets Abroad, The Model,  Sligo, 2017 organised by Iseult Healy.
Special guest Kevin Higgins [centre] and [From L to R] Poets Abroad poets Leslie Thomas, Iseult Healy, Julie Gilligan, Bobbie Sparrow, Shelley Tracey, Roisín Browne, Frances Browner and Bernadette Gallagher.

Other member of Poets Abroad not mentioned above include:  Giles Turnbull, Deirdre Daly, Barbara DeCoursey Roy, Jo Burns [Jo Erbacher], Mary Heneghan, Karin Molde, Louise Viera, Rosie Barrett, Finn Monahan, Gobnait Kearney, Ellen Davis, Pete O'Neill and Deepa Mardolkar.