Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland
Just back a week ago from a week at the inspirational, atmospheric  writers and artistes' retreat, the  Tyrone Guthrie Centre.  It is hard to get to, in the 'back of beyond', surrounded by the green fields,  drumlins (hillocks) and lakes of County Monaghan and I wouldn't have got there at all as I arrived on the first day of a 3-day bus strike, but for my dear friends who drove me all the way from Dublin.  It's Patrick Kavanagh country of course but the Big House of TGC is more redolent of Anglo-Irish country life.  All meals provided, no domestic duties for the duration - only two rules, silence in the day, (everyone working away in their rooms or studios) and a compulsory dinner at 7pm where the craic was great.

Not one but two bronze busts of Tyrone himself are to be found, one in the hall by the dinner gong (still rung) and the other on the mantelpiece of his mahogany-shelved library - not a shy retiring personality one guesses - but as you may know, a famous stage director, directing Alec Guinness and Sir Laurence Olivier, who both came to stay at Annaghmakerrig and perhaps better known for founding a Shakespeare Company in Canada and there's a Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, USA.  In his will, he left Annaghmakerrig to the people of Ireland to be an artistes' retreat.  It is owned by the Irish State and by both art councils North and South, a meeting place where shared artistic concerns can perhaps help understanding and peace.

The beauty of the house and grounds, the lake, the peace...perfect for generating ideas, notes, drafts or seeking inspiration from the great poetry library/corridor or solitary walks around the lake (avoiding the rather ferocious swans since it was nesting time). And great company in the evenings, chatting to writers and artistes of all stripes. My week there was a crime writer, a film director, a film script-writer, several poets, beautiful male dancers and a choreographer using the Dance Studio set back from the house, several painters, a print-maker, with their own studios in the former barns and stables,  a composer (using the Music Room with its fabulous grand piano), a singer/song writer, and given Tyrone's theatrical career, only fitting there should be a  playwright/actor  -  Irish, English, Americans, Australian and a German.  The variety changed as people came and went.  Pot luck whom you might get, but I was fortunate that everyone was lovely, so talented and interesting.

I felt I had died and gone to Heaven. Well back, home now, back to reality with a bump,  the laundry awaits, food shopping and cooking...but I'm determined to imagine I am back there,  the stillness of the lake and swans gliding by viewed from Lady Guthrie's sitting-room window-seat and get down to my project, this time on my side table/desk by my kitchen window.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Vote Yes for Equality (Ireland)

On a whistle-stop visit to Dublin recently, I was delighted to be invited to read at 'Books Upstairs'. Originally, I was just going to support my friend, Enda Coyle-Greene but when Nessa O'Mahony, the organizer of Thornfield Poets heard I was a poet too, I was welcomed in.  Delighted, since it was for a great cause - in support of the Yes vote for Equality to be held in Ireland on 22nd May and what a lovely reading it was - such a great bunch of talented poets.

 Front row: Enda Coyle-Greene, Louise C. Callaghan, Nessa O'Mahony,and Clairr O'Connor. Back row from L to R: Mairide Woods, Catherine Ann Cullen, Eileen Casey, Maggie O'Dwyer and self.

It's a grand bookshop if you're ever in Dublin, with a cafe upstairs, delicious cakes etc and charming stained glass bow window with seat below. Readings are held up in the cafe. It's easy to find - not far from Trinity College on the way to O'Connell Bridge.

D'Olier Street, Dublin.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Njuggle

So delighted to have my poem 'The Njuggle' chosen by Kim Moore on her Blog. Here's the extract:

I’ve chosen the poem The Njuggle  from Stephanie’s pamphlet.  A definition in the back of the book tells me that a Njuggle is a ‘demon water horse or pony found in Shetland and Orkney folklore’.  I love the story in this poem.  The language that Stephanie uses, like the word ‘scry’ in the second line, seems to fit with that folklore feel and that man’s face rising in the mirror in the third line reminds me of Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Mirror’ when her face ‘rises towards her like a terrible fish’.  One of the things I love about this poem are the many wonderful words used to describe movement in it.  The piebald pony ‘ambled up’.  His muscles ‘shivered like water in the wind’.  When the Njuggle turns into water he ‘poured through my arms’.
I also love the idea of it – I’ve not heard of an Njuggle before, but the use of transformation in poetry is one I’m interested in at the minute and the story of an animal carrying off a human woman is an old and time-tested story.  The other thing to point out, which I’m sure you will have noticed is the wonderfully tight structure that holds this poem together.  It is very carefully put together.  The first and the third line of each three line stanza rhyme and many of the second lines of each stanza rhyme as well.
I’ve been reading so much Ovid recently, I can’t help thinking of it when I read this poem.  Stanza 4 reminds me of Europa when she is carried off by Jove in the form of a bull, and in the last complete stanza, when the Njuggle turns into water, it reminds me of the women in Ovid’s Metamorphoses who were turned into water to escape the unwanted attentions of one of the gods.
Thank you to Stephanie for letting me use this poem and do feel free to comment underneath, if you feel so moved.
The Njuggle – Stephanie Green
At midnight on Hallowe’en, my back to the moon,
I looked in the mirror to scry my lover-to-be.
His face rose like a drowned man’s.
At twilight I walked by the lochan in the hills
where the whaap’s cry wavers from the reeds.
A piebald pony ambled up.  His nostrils
pulsed as he blew into my hand.
Clicking my tongue, I patted his flanks
and his muscles shivered like water in the wind.
When he lowered his head, I knew I must mount.
I rode him through the night, gripping his back
between my thighs till I slid on our sweat
and he rolled me into cold, green fire.
I clung to his mane blooming with algae,
his shoulders encrusted with mussels and mire.
His hooves softened and opened into a fan
of fingers and toes.  Belly flattening, spine
whip-lashing, he bucked and shrank into a man.
As the dark fled, he turned to plunge me under
but dawn broke and he poured through my arms.
I was alone, calling, calling with no answer,
only the widening circles on the loch.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Butcher's Dog, Newcastle

Flying back to Edinburgh from Ireland, via Newcastle stop-over, for the launch of Butcher's Dog launch,edition 5, a feisty wee magazine edited by co-editors, Amy Mackelden and Andrew Sclater with guest editor, Carolyn Jess-Cooke.  Delighted to have two poems selected: 'Love Song to Pelagic Fish' (a strange love object and why not?) and more seriously 'Tetanus Infantum or the Eight Day Death' about the tragic infant deaths on St Kilda which was one of the main reasons that forced the islanders to ask to be evacuated.

The launch was held in the Live Theatre, formerly a coopers, which retains much of the original brickwork and  timbers inside. (See Live Theatre ). It's  alongside the river with a view of the 'armadillo' the silver concert hall -I love the contrast of new and old in Newcastle.

The fabulous 'armadillo' Newcastle concert hall.

Kittiwakes on the bridge.

And not least, catching a glimpse from the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art of the kittiwakes nesting on the bridge, a bird I usually associate with the Northern Isles, not a city centre (though northern.)  The kittiwakes are fast disappearing from Shetland and Orkney - global warming killing off their food, sand-eels and also the predator, the Giant Skua ('bonxie').

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