Writing can be immensely healing…

On Writing I’ve been digging out my old school reports in the vain hope that they might not have been as condemning as I remembered. Sad to say, it was wishful thinking and the proof could not be ignored: ‘Lynda finds it hard to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time’, or ‘she is rather ebullient (I had to look that up) in class at times’, and the very worst one in the eyes of my poor …

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As the pace of modern life gets quicker all the time, poetry provides a much needed pause…

“My favourite poem is the one that starts ‘Thirty days hath September’ because it actually tells you something.” (Groucho Marx 1895 -1977) I know I’m treading on precarious territory here with that one word – poetry. There. Many of you will have zoned out already but I hope you’ll stay with me for a little longer as I try to untangle my thoughts on a subject that seems to divide so many folks, in so many different ways. But before …

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Seamus Heaney and the dullness of “Grey Cement”…

seamus heaney

One wintery evening in the early 1970s, a RTE film crew arrived at my boarding school, St Columb’s College on Bishop Street in Derry, to make a TV documentary. It was rare excitement in the boredom and routine that defined the boarders’ lives. The subject of the documentary was an ex-boarder, the poet Seamus Heaney. One scene involved an actor – or perhaps it was the poet himself –sneaking down the wrought-iron fire-escape attached to the grey-stoned gable of Senior …

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Ode to Mr Lehrer

Good morning! This is a new departure for me, as it’s the first time I’ve ever contributed a poem to these pages. I don’t know how often poetry appears in Slugger, but if it’s not very often I guess this probably won’t be damaging to anyone or anything – except possibly my own reputation…. Anyway, today is the 90th Birthday of one of America’s finest satirists – a musician who began his life as a lecturer of mathematics at Harvard …

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Video: Poet Michael Longley Keynote at Launch of 50th Anniversary of the NI Civil Rights Committee

Last night Poet Michael Longley gave the keynote address at the launch of the 50th Anniversary of the NI Civil Rights Committee at the historic 1st Presbyterian Church, Rosemary St, Belfast. The title of his talk was ‘Songs For Dead Children’, it is a variation of the talk he gave on receiving The PEN Pinter Prize in 2017. Slugger is the media partner for the Anniversary so we were happy to be there to record the occasion. Watch the videos of …

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“…poetry, the opposite of propaganda, should encourage people to think and feel for themselves”

Pete mentions Michael Longley in one of his holiday period posts and that powerful thesis of his about what peace is and what it isn’t. For my money, Longley’s attempts at poetic legislation are among the most lasting and resonant. The New Statesman has published his PEN Pinter Prize Lecture 2017 in which he makes important observations on the degree to which actual process of peacemaking compares to the more pliable and politically tractable Peace Process™️… He notes… …from the …

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John Montague dies…

At the sad news of the death of Brooklyn born Tyrone raised poet John Montague, one of his most famous poems: The Rough Field I saw the pope breaking stones on Friday A blind parson sewing a patchwork quilt, Two bishops cutting rushes with their croziers, Roaring Meg firing rosary beads for cannonballs, Corks in boats afloat on the summit of the Sperrins, A severed head speaking with a grafted tongue, A snail paring Royal Avenue with a hatchet, British …

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Time cannot silence the Voices of the Somme

At the start of July I posted on Slugger O’Toole to introduce Somme Voices, a month-long series of daily tweets in remembrance of that dreadful World War One battle. I’m returning to Slugger to bring the Somme Voices project to a close with a final poem. The reason is that I’d like to quote this one in its entirety and Twitter is a less-than-perfect medium for something of considerable length. It does, however, give me the chance to make a …

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Listening to the quiet voices of The Somme

As a child I was forever fascinated by a random collection of oul ‘things’ in a rarely-approached cupboard at home. It was the sort of place where unflattering school reports and old medical cards lay alongside broken spectacles and stringless yoyos, the theory being that they might some day be read, repaired or resurrected. There were a few medals – the full relevance of which I never discovered – but what especially caught my imagination was a bloodstained Nazi armband, …

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“I have met them at close of day coming with vivid faces from counter or desk…”

Not a comment on today so much as in point of deference to one Ireland’s (and Sligo’s) greatest ever poets, WB Yeats: I have met them at close of day Coming with vivid faces From counter or desk among grey Eighteenth-century houses. I have passed with a nod of the head Or polite meaningless words, Or have lingered awhile and said Polite meaningless words, And thought before I had done Of a mocking tale or a gibe To please a …

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David McNarry MLA and his poetic approach to the Minister for Culture…

David McNarry and poetry. Two things I never thought I’d put in one sentence. He pulls it off quite well, and she was clearly charmed… [Yes, but did it work? – Ed] Ah be quiet, and just live in the moment for once… Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. …

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Tony Bailie’s ‘A Verse to Murder’: Book Review

Maurice Burns’ cover merits study–it’s well chosen and ties into this mystery within, as elaborated by an informant. The title, a play off of the ‘murder of crows’, echoes in the name of Barry Crowe, a Belfast journalist (or is it ‘sleazy tabloid hack’?) pursuing the backstory behind the sudden demise, apparently by auto-asphyxiation, of Northern Ireland’s leading poet. The compromising circumstances unfold neatly in this e-book novella. Bailie, whose Lagan Press novels The Lost Chord and Ecopunks delved into …

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‘To the winds our sails: Irish writers translate Galician poetry’: Book Review

This 2010 anthology collects five poems each from ten Galician women. Irish poets translate four per poet from an English-language crib, with the remaining one rendered into Irish itself. The results reveal some of the revived enthusiasm and energy emanating from this northwestern corner of Iberia, with its alleged ancient ties to the Celtic lands, as the legendary homeland of the Irish themselves. How such expression cross over linguistic expanses, co-editor Mary O’Donnell observes, raise questions. ‘It remains one of …

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Seamus Heaney: “But what about the river in the trees, boy?”

Seamus Heaney has died at the age of 74.  The Slugger archive has a number of Heaney-related posts, although some links may be defunct.  Among them one of my earliest posts noting Heaney writing on his fellow poet Czeslaw Milosz.  More here, here, here, here, and here.  And here’s a great montage of BBC archive clips from 2009 of “Digging”. [Photo credit: Felix Clay] [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIzJgbNANzk?hl=en_GB&version=3&w=560&h=420] And a quote noted back in 2006. Sitting comfortably at last in the country-like kitchen of …

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Poetry Time: Threads…

Most regulars will know we don’t do a lot of poetry here. Paradox, irony, humour are all things we’re in deficit of. But I’m make an exception for this concise piece from Fermanagh ex pat Ian Acheson, who’s been putting up his output on his blog from the last twenty years… This piece is called threads, and predates the flag crisis. But there’s some resonances in it for what’s been coming apart over the last few months: Threads We took …

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“If elected president, does Mr Higgins plan to expand the review section?”

In his Irish Times’ Irishman’s Diary Frank McNally pre-empted John’s complaint with some questions about Irish Presidential candidate Michael D Higgins’ dubious past.  From the Irish Times As the presidential campaign grew dirtier, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, somebody would raise the poetry issue. No surprise that the somebody was Gay Mitchell. The Fine Gael man is politically descended from a long line of philistines, including Kevin O’Higgins, who established an early precedent for this kind of thing …

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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 …

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