Community Ownership: Readings and Writings

Here is where we (Noel Duffy, Sue Guiney, Mike Horwood and I) finished our weekend: the wonderful restaurant at 101 Talbot Street – just up the road from Guineys department store.

We went for the early bird menu with a superb fresh house white. Over our meals  – which included Warm Pan-seared Breast of Wicklow Wood Pigeon, Silverhill Duck Terrine and Slow Roast Lough Erne Lamb Shoulder – we talked endlessly about what it means to be a writer.

Of course it’s not only the writing itself, that solitary task, or even the imaginings of places and characters. It’s also the social aspect. The readings which allow you to bring your work to an audience that might not have heard of your or the work and better still, to talk openly about the creation of those works. Those invisible bonds between writer and reader; the connecting threads amongst writers.

Where these events take place is also important. And hosting a “Literary Hour” on a Saturday afternoon in the Twisted Pepper is what the Seven Towers Agency does brilliantly.

Over fantastic coffee and deliciously scented tea, we read to an intimate audience – some who came to hear us read for the second time – and afterwards discussed our writing and the importance of these type of events.

What matters first is the writing and the appreciation of it, not the sales pitch or the image. It is a gathering of like-minded people enjoying literature for the sake of writing itself. In a world where bigger is often seen as better, venues like the tavern downstairs encourage a community-based approach to both the accessibility of literature (anyone can just pop by and browse the independent ever changing bookstore and stay for a reading) but also the ownership of writing itself.

Write it, own it, share it and read it!

Sue Guiney reading at The Twisted Pepper

The Wonderful Unpredictablity of Readings

The unpredictability of writing is echoed in the unpredictability of readings, or should I say both readerships and audience at a reading. Friday 16th was predicted to be a wet and windy day, off-putting, in anyone’s books to venture out up to The Irish Writers’ Centre in Parnell Square for an evening of prose and poetry.

But people did venture and with Noel Duffy as the compare for the evening, in just over two hours we were transported into many worlds. Noel, reading from In The Library of Lost Objects,  brought into the world of bees and of family history.

In my story “Cakes on The Piano”, from my forthcoming publication Happiness Comes From Nowhere with Ward Wood Publishing, we went into the world of Sheila, who is obsessed with baking and Andy, the painter who still, at sixty-something, lives with his mother who soaks his paint-stained dungarees.

Mike Horwood took us on a journey of memories of a Finnish childhood, makeshift tents of plastic sheets as he read from The Finn’s Tale. Other memories were triggered – and giggles fluttered around the room – when he introduced the reading of his poem “Nature Study, 1962” by saying it was about sex from a seven year old’s point of view.

And Sue Guiney, with her wonderful personal introductions to her novel The Clash of Innocents brought us right into the heart of colourful Cambodia with its vibrancy of life, despite its recent horrific history. Her poems from Her Life Collected  brought a strong sense of the life of a woman to the room, and with a lot of women present, was really enjoyed.

The audience was appreciative and warm and after the readings it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience chatting with them. What struck me, though, and almost surprised me, was the extent to which both the writing styles and reading styles differed amongst these four writers.

We also read at another wonderful event hosted by The Seven Towers Agency at The Twisted Pepper which I will blog about shortly!Like my character Sheila, I’ve been baking after this wonderful literary weekend. You can find the recipe on my Food For Thought Page.

Relaxing scones after a literary weekend!

Poetry: the magic of its making

I’d love to be able to write poetry. It’s a magical thing for me. But that doesn’t stop me enjoying it, of course, and yesterday’s poetry evening, part of Phizzfest in Phibsborough was just marvelous. It was a great venue (the Brian Boru), a well organised event and a really atmospheric evening.

It started with some readings from the Mater Dei Institute introduced by Kitt Fryatt who read or should I say, performed wonderfully a number of her own poems. Kitt was followed by three other readers, the highlights for me were Cliona O’Connell’s “Romance” and Maurice Devlin’s selection from his – as he termed it – knitting period.

Next up was the Prufrock Poetry Group introduced by Nuala Ní Chonchúir.  I could so identify with Barbara Smith’s about physiotherapy “The Angel with Wings” while Jaki McCarrick’s “Chamomile” was really moving. Maureen Gallagher’s prose poem “Once I was a child” was brilliantly read and she carried the audience with her through the twists and turns of what really was both a story of childhood and womanhood and Ireland itself. Nuala read a number of New York poems which she dedicated to the memory of 9/11 and in particular I was touched by a line in “Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale” where her son asks if airplanes can fall from the sky. Her “Dancing with Paul Durcan” was just wonderful as I am an admirer of both Nuala’s and Paul’s poems and the shop where the dancing takes place – The Winding Stair.

The entertainment ended with a selection of shortlistees including a superb reading by Clodagh O’Brien and the wonderful winner of the Phizzfest Poetry Award Ann Dempsey with her poem “The Baby and The Moon.” I’ll definitely be attending more events at Phizzfest next year!

And then I made my way home by way of a strange sight: a woman pulling up to a bus stop, opening the boot of the car and hundreds, literally, hundreds of fifty-euro notes flying out, like birds, scattering along Westmorland Street. The most amazing thing was that she wasn’t too bothered. At all.

And it sort of put me in mind of the simple pleasure shared in Phibsborough: enjoyment and appreciation of the seamless effort of beautiful poetry. Magic in how it can mark, and heal. (And you can see some of that magic in the form of photographs here.)

Dublin, lovely Dublin