A poem for the day – The Last Poem

Sooo… August is over, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness (well, rain) is upon us, and it’s time for this guest blogger to bid you all a fond farewell. Thanks to all who read the poems and took the time to engage with them: it was good to be challenged, interrogated, confirmed, parodied; good to spark debate and set others off on their own trains of thought; and good to have the poems take a place alongside the more … Read more

A poem for the day – Banning Frankenstein

At the height of the Great Depression, with tens of thousands on the broo and the ODR strike on the horizon, Belfast’s city fathers took action – and banned the film ‘Frankenstein’ from picture houses in the town. Banning Frankenstein Belfast, 1932  1. The Wee Yard in the ice age. The slips are concrete glaciers plunged in the Lough. You expect   the oily water to flash-freeze, or boil and rage, but nothing happens. Cranes like laboratory   clamps or … Read more

A poem for the day – guest poem by Howard Wright

This weekend’s guest poem is by Howard Wright, a Portadown poet and artist who has published in journals the wordl over for the past twenty years or so, but whose first full-length collection (the brilliant King of Country) only appeared a year or two back. Howard’s stuff isn’t often as explicit or ‘public-facing’ as this one, but it felt right for Slugger. The Election Party For T M Plausibility’s the thing. Appearance and reality. Something they like to think they’re … Read more

A poem for the day – The Lost Apprentice

I spent a lot of time as a child in east Belfast, during what was, in hindsight, the last gasp of its life as an industrial culture. I remember horns and sirens at lunchtimes, an architecture of high red brick walls around factories that even then were probably scaling down production, my grandfather’s pride in the Skyvan wobbling into the air above Ravenscroft Avenue. This poem was written after a train journey to Bangor many years later, when the smell … Read more

A (prose) poem for the day – At a Boat Burning

The tribulations of the local fishing industry have been in the media recently (anyone have a useful link?) and I was reminded of this prose poem, included in the same sequence as ‘Affshore‘ earlier in the month. In that context, it was simply titled ‘Portavogie, October 1993’ but it sometimes goes under the title I give it here. At a Boat Burning Families have come from miles around, and teeter on the very brink of the harbour. They remind me … Read more

A poem for the day – Auld Licht

This hasn’t been published before, so – a Slugger exclusive! Not often I use Scots but it seemed appropriate… Auld Licht For Nelson McCausland   So tha warl’s nae auld— ony a matter o a few thoosan year, an nae accident ither?   It didni jist poap intil existence, ye tell me there wiz a boady whit made it a?   Ack, weans micht credit thon, an yins saft in the heid or oot ti tak the haun, but no … Read more

A poem for the day – The Self-published

One of the recurrent themes of my last book is a attempt to come to terms with – even celebrate – some of the autodidact oddities and doomed eccentrics you come across if you read poetry or look at art for any length of time. And I’ve ‘facilitated’ enough writers’ groups and workshops in my time to know whereof I speak. The Self-published Our mistake was writing too much for people like ourselves, when people like ourselves were thin on … Read more

A poem for the day – A Protestant School

This one appears – in my second collection, Rasputin and his Children – introduced by an epigraph quoting from a standard equal opportunities monitoring form, gathering info for what they call ‘the residual method’ of determining an a person’s religion. The question is ‘Did you attend primary/preparatory school in Northern Ireland? If so, please give the name… etc.’ A Protestant School My mother lies to get me into school. ‘What shall we put him down as?”Presbyterian.’ We’re kept in when … Read more

A poem for the day – Launching the Whaler Juan Peron

A Belfast epic, and one of my oldest poems, the opener of my first collection, Grub. The gist of the story was found in Moss & Hume’s Shipbuilders to the World: 125 Years of Harland and Wolff, Belfast, 1861-1986, which tells how Eva Peron was due to launch a huge whaling vessel in Belfast, built for and named after her husband. Unfortunately, her ill-health and political and economic turmoil in Argentina forced her to cancel, though the story goes that … Read more

A poem for the day – Rendition

The personal isn’t always the political, but often they intersect, and images from one sometimes help us come to terms with the other. Rendition The thought of you kissing your lover’s chest I consign to the frigid airspace between the vapour trails of the plane that brings George Best’s coffin to Belfast and a CIA ghost-flight, where I will it to fade like life leaving a body, organ by failing organ, or the scream of a detainee thrown from the … Read more

A poem for the day – Moscow Road

I came across Moscow Road on the Belfast harbour estate on a wintry March day some years ago, and it felt among the down-at-heel industrial landscape as if the ghosts of the 1930s and 40s still haunted the place – as in some sense they do. Moscow Road In the cold light of spring it’s a photograph from Picture Post: factories, gasometers. Moscow Road is cutting a swathe through wetlands towards a horizon of cranes and windsocks, of cargo ships. … Read more

A poem for the day – Radio Ulster News

On the persistence of bad news… Radio Ulster News I was leaving no stone unturned in my granny’s bedroom, in search of the savings the old cow had salted away against the expense of her Co-op pauper’s funeral, when the radio said that the body dragged from the dam and decayed almost beyond identification was that of my brother, unheard-from these past three years, since his card had been marked and he’d had his marching orders from my father-in-law, his … Read more

Sunday Supplement – guest poem

I thought I’d scheduled this to appear yesterday, and it may well show up tomorrow instead. But I didn’t want to let the weekend go by without it, so… Matt Matt Kirkham was born in Luton in 1966, lives in the Ards peninsula, and works as a teacher. he was featured in Blackstaff’s New Soundings anthology of writing from the QUB writers’ group, and in Lagan Press’s Poetry Introductions 1. His collection The Lost Museums won the 2007 Rupert and … Read more

A poem for the day – Recorder Music

A companion piece to yesterday’s ‘Singing Together’, I guess. About personal humilation, but also a sense that in the eyes of our teachers (or if not all of our teachers, then certainly some of them, and certainly the wider community around us) we were doomed to… well, who knew and who cared. Recorder Music Nineteen-seventy-mumble. They are arming the clans. Rigged out in trousers edged with tartan each of us gets a cardboard box to open. Recorders: dismantled and assembled … Read more

A poem for the day – Singing Together

Those of you of a certain age may remember the BBC schools radio programme Singing Together (nostalgists among you might enjoy this.) I’m utterly tone-deaf, and the weekly half-hour in class was my introduction to humiliation and social exclusion, and it later seemed like a potent way to talk about the feeling, as a child, of being neither flesh nor fowl, one thing or t’other… Singing Together Crows in the playground, gulls on the grass. A crate of dwarf milk … Read more

A poem for the day – Connolly Window

Some years ago there was a proposal to (what – insert, erect, unveil?) a tribute to James Connolly in the form of a stained glass window in Belfast City Hall. Now, as an ageing Trot, Connolly is a hero of mine, but I don’t do heroes well and I was uneasy with the motives behind the proposal. It wasn’t just the element of gesture (not to mention wind-up) politics that seemed to be involved: the notion that a revolutionary should … Read more

A poem for the day – The Humours of Ballycran

So far I’ve been posting older poems, mostly from the 90s. This one’s the opener from my most recent book, The Resurrection of the Body at Killysuggen. The Humours of Ballycran ‘It would bring tears to the eyes of a turnip,’ said a man in his cups holding on for dear life to the bar in The Saltwater Brig, ‘to see the state of the roads at Six Road Ends, and the grass that grows through the cracks in the … Read more

A poem for (yester) day – Affshore

In the early 90s I was living in Portmuck, Co Antrim, with a small child who thought the beach was where you lived, rain or shine, day or night. A gas pipeline was being laid between the Ayrshire and Antrim coasts, and the ‘supergun‘ scandal was in the news. Then the same news told us that all up the coast old phosporous bombs were washing ashore, and igniting in contact with the air. It turned out they were the refuse … Read more

Sunday Supplement

It being Sunday, we’ve all got time to consider and ponder things at greater length than during the working week, yes? If it’s good enough for the Sunday papers, it’s good enough for this guest blogger. So here’s the review section… Actually, it’s my introduction to a book published last year, Goin’ Down Slow: selected poems of Brendan Cleary. But the book has received no attention here in the north of Ireland and little enough in the poetry press in … Read more

A poem for the day – Dave says it must have been a Humming Bird Hawk Moth

It’s the weekend, and I’ve caused enough aggravation. Time to let someone else speak… I’ve known Moyra Donaldson since the mid/late 90s, and from my first encounter with her work admired the gentleness and under-the-surface steel of her short lyrics. They read and sound low-key, almost casual asides, throwaway observations Far from it: there’s always a bite somewhere. This one, from her most recent collection Miracle Fruit, throws its last line so strongly that you’re tempted to think – where … Read more