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Showing posts from 2005

Urgent invitations

Reading a review in the TLS of a book of essays by WS Merwin in which reviewer talks about the different Merwins, the different poets that live in the neighbourhood , as it were, and I liked that idea of different kinds of poets, different impulses, co-exisiting. I find that a much more congenial notion than a poet of one aspect, one kind, recognisable and predictable. But the reviewer also made another point about Merwin that I think is important. He talked about the Merwin who writes out of impulsion, and the Merwin who writes out of invitation. The first referred to a need to write something, the second to a kind of professional writing, where the writer sits down at his desk, because this is what he does, and produces language in the hope or expectation that this invitation might lead to a discovery. This seems to me to go to the heart of the poet’s relationship with his writing, particularly in an age that favours and expects productivity. The point was that a good deal of Mer…

Playwright attacked

The literary world has been rightly exercised recently at the outrageous treatment by the Turkish government of writer Ohran Pamuk, but we don’t always have to stray too far from home to see bizarre treatment of writers. Incredible reports in today’s paper about loyalist attacks on Belfast playwright Gary Mitchell and his family. Mitchell is well known in this part of the world for plays like In a Little World of Our Own centred on a family of three brothers living in the Rathcoole District of North Belfast, produced in the Peacock. Many others were produced in the Lyric and the Royal Court. According to the report , the playwright is now in hiding ‘after a campaign of death threats and bomb attacks by loyalist paramilitaries’. Mitchell’s plays, including As the Beast Sleeps and the Force of Change, which dealt explicitly with loyalist violence, have been controversial in his own community, but this seems astonishing:
Mitchell's home was attacked by paramilitaries carrying baseb…

Blogs and more blogs

Article in today’s Guardian about the growing popularity of blogs. According to Technorati there are now 23 million of the things, with 1.8 billion links. And here are some more figgers: The Pew Internet study estimates that about 11%, or about 50 million, of Internet users are regular blog readers. According to Technorati data, there are about 70,000 new blogs a day. Bloggers update their weblogs regularly; there are about 700,000 posts daily, or about 29,100 blog updates an hour. The Cat Flap is going to have his work cut out out to cut it in the blogosphere. The specific angle of the Guardian piece , is the arrival of a blog by the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee :
In 1989 one of the main objectives of the WWW was to be a space for sharing information. It seemed evident that it should be a space in which anyone could be creative, to which anyone could contribute. The first browser was actually a browser/editor, which allowed one to edit any page, and save it back to the w…

Not a child in the house washed yet

A new poem. Not sure if I like it yet. Another mushy parent piece, of which there are getting to be too many. Thinking of dedicating the next Poetry Ireland Review to parenthood, smiling babies on the cover, mushy poems inside. Actually this thought was prompted by sitting in O’Neill’s pub the other day after James McAuley’s Out to Lunch reading in Foster Place. I could see James looking around bemusedly at one point at the encumbered poets: The Cat Flap, EW and baby; MG spooning food from a jar into his son; PB with child asleep on his knee. The place awash with buggies.A pint of Guinness and a jar of organic cottage pie. ‘What’s happened to poetry?’ he said.

But enough idle gossip, time for an idle poem.


The Danger Zone

The stairs are gated, the play cage is assembled,
the electricity is hidden
and the maps have all been erased.
You can barely sit, yet still we’re afraid.

We know you by the mad
frolic of your eyes and the wild explorations
of your hands. Do you not, every morning,
with q…

Out and about

out and about
Originally uploaded by greenville17.
Freya in the Peruvian hat....

The Milkwoman Will Cut Our Throats

One of those brilliant sharp clear cold winter’s days. Off to Dún Laoghaire for a meeting. Brisk walk to Tara street, so long since I’ve been on a Dart I can’t find the ticket office. What’s that line of Durcan’s about the apex of happiness being ‘on a Dart to Dún Laoghaire’? That’s what it feels like today. The first glimpse of sea and something lifts. Even the canal basin gladdens, flat stretch of urban water surrounded by old stone buildings, warehouses now turned into offices and apartments. Water should be compulsory in cities. The soul is hard-wired to respond to water and stone. Two tiny kids opposite me, staring at me. Hey mister, what’s your name? Ma, where’s me dooough----nu’? My nan’s friend has that name. Are you going to the beach? Only in spirit, alas. For company I’ve brought along Continued, a selection of poems by the Polish poet Piotr Sommer, translated by various hands. I’ve coveted this book since I read Mark Ford’s review of it in The Guardian last September. In…

Eddie's Own Aquarius

Eddies’ Own Aquarius is a special issue of the legendary poetry magazine put together by Constance Short and Tony Carroll for Eddie Linden’s 70th birthday. It features contributions from a host of English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Americanpoets including Dannie Abse, Sebastian Barker, Seamus Heaney, Leland Bardwell, Dermot Healy, Alan Brownjohn, Robert Creeley, Anthony Cronin, the late Michael Donaghy ( who threw a party for Linden’s 60th birthday and whose idea this tribute was), Paul Durcan, Elaine Feinstein, Pearse Hutchinson, Joy Hendry, Alan Jenkins and John Montague. Handsomely produced, it also contains photographs and paintings, essays about Eddie Linden, and some of his own poetry, including his well known ‘City of Razors’ :

Cobbled streets, littered with broken milk bottles,
reeking chimneys and dirty tenement buildings,
walls scrawled with FUCK THE POPE and blue-lettered
words GOD BLESS THE RANGERS.
Old woman at the corner, arms folded, babe in pram,
a drunk man’s voice from th…

Setting the weathercock free

Reading a book of poems by the German poet Johann P. Tammen, recently published by Coiscéim.(Und Himmelwärts Meere/And Skyward the Seas/Farraigí i dTreo na Spéire . It's an unusual book in that it's trilingual, with translations into English by Hans-Christian Oeser (whose normal direction is English into German) and into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock, whose own selected poems, Rogha Dánta, was published recently. It's rare enough these days to see poetry published bilingually, so seeing three languages side by side is a treat in itself, even if difficult to accomplish in a relatively small format book. Tammen was born in Hohenkirchen, Friesland and works as an editor and organiser of literary events. Since 1994 he's been editor-in-chief of the literary journal die horen, and has edited it since 1968. Since 1968? How is this possible? A literary journal with a print run of 5500, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this year. How many Irish journals get to celebrate …

After the event

A horrible rainy wind tossed night. Surely no-one would come...IADT is the kind of place where most people have gone home by 5pm, and the place was ominously deserted. In the event a few brave souls fought the elements and clambered into the theatre. Both Julie and Hugo gave excellent readings. Julie read new poems from her chapbook Problems, itself designed as a problem to be solved by the reader, with the front cover on the reverse.

Take weeds for example.
Like how they will overrun
your garden and your life
if you don't obliterate them.
But forget about weeds
-- what about leaves?
Snails use them as handy
bridges to your flowers
and hordes of thuggish leaves
will invade -- ever thought of that?

'Problems', from Problems , Pressed Wafer, 9 Columbus Square, Boston, MA 02116.

Hugo began with a passage from The Speckled People where the father attempts, disastrously, to bake a Christmas cake. And then he read a long extract from his forthcoming The Sailor in the Wardrobe, a further i…

Hugo Hamilton and Julie O'Callaghan

This blog has so far failed the crunch test of blogness: regularity. The true blogger refuses to sleep until the daily task has been completed, the brain properly flushed and the web page filled with a satisfying clump of print. So, I'm emerging from silence now to urge everyone who can to cancel their early Christmas shopping and come out to the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology next Wednesday's (7 December) for a reading with Hugo Hamilton and Julie O'Callaghan.
You can find details of the reading here

The student writing workshop has just one more session to run, and the workshop for people outside the college, in the borough of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown will start in the new year. I'll post the details here soon. You can also get them from the Dun Laoghaire Arts Office by mailing arts at dlrcoco dot ie.

ADM 105 Photography and text project

Here are the texts for the ADM105 Photography Narrative project. They're available here for a week or so and then the post will be taken down.

Charles Simic won the Griffin Poetry Prize for Poetry in 2005. Of his work the judges said


“Simic is something of a magician, a conjuror. Out of nothing it seems, out of thin air, the poems appear before our eyes. One apparently casual observation leads to another, and suddenly, exponentially, we are spellbound. It is a trick many have tried to imitate but few have achieved. At the centre of Simic’s art is a disarming, deadpan precision, which should never be mistaken for simplicity. Everything appears pared back to the solid and the essential, and it is this economy of vocabulary and clarity of diction which have made his poetry so portable and so influential wherever it is published. Simic is one of the few poets of our time to achieve both critical and popular acclaim; he is genuinely quotable, and it is entirely possible that some of hi…

Poet in Residence

This blog is by way of introduction to me and is also intended as a channel of communication during my term of residency in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown/IADT. Think of it as the virtual office of the residency, feel free to drop in, post an idea, a response, or conduct relevant business. Check this blog first to find out what’s going on, when the next workshop is, or join in the discussion and/or the other literary excitements that may blossom on this little patch of the cyber planet.

Some information about me: I’ve published seven collections of poems with The Gallery Press. These are: Marginal Zones (1984); Talk, Talk (1987); Ways of Falling (1991); The Ledger of Fruitful Exchange (1995); Bring Everything (2000); Selected Poems (2004); Nonetheless (2004). I've lived most of my life in Dublin, with longish spells in Holland and Italy. Am married to another poet (!), Enda Wyley, and we live in the city centre with daughter Freya (born May 2005) and a mad West Highland terrier who is bark…

Readings in IADT

One of my residency tasks is to run a series of readings in IADT. This will kick off on Wednesday 16 November with my own inaugural reading, and this will be followed by four subsequent readings, each of which will involve a poet and a prose writer.The readings are presented by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council, IADT and Poetry Ireland. The full schedule will be posted here in due course. In the meantime, here are a couple of pre-Christmas dates:


Wednesday, 16 November: Inaugural Reading with Writer in Residence Peter Sirr.

Wednesday, 7 December: Readings with Hugo Hamilton and Julie O'Callaghan.

Hugo Hamilton was born in Dublin of Irish-German parentage. He has brought elements of his dual identity to his novels Surrogate City (London, Faber & Faber,1990); The Last Shot (Faber & Faber, 1991); and The Love Test (Faber & Faber, 1995) His stories were collected as Dublin Where the Palm Trees Grow (Faber & Faber, 1996. His later novels are Headbanger (London, Secker & W…

Creative Writing Workshop

The Dun Laoghaire Rathdown/IADT Poet in Residence for 2005/2006 is Peter Sirr. As part of the residency Peter Sirr will be offering a workshop in creative writing this semester to students of IADT. The workshop will cover poetry but will also explore other genres of writing. It will be practical in focus, featuring discussion of examples of good and bad writing, taking notes, using memory, keeping a diary, avoiding clichés, cultivating surprise,being your own best critic, as well looking at work produced by participants.
Prospective participants are invited to submit a sample of work (six poems, and/or a maximum of six pages of any kind of prose) to
petersirr at gmail dot com in the week of 26-30 September. Workshops will start on Thursday, 13 October at 5.00 pm. Subsequent dates as follows:
20 October, 27 October, 10 November,17 November, 24 November, 1 December, 8 December.
The workshops wil take place in Room C013 in the Carriglea building.
Peter Sirr