Friday, May 28, 2010

Poets Do it Better.........

I had the privilege last night to tune into RTE radio One's Arts slot. It was a great show, featuring a piece on Pat McCabe and some book club. It was a 'weekend' book club, where you stay in a nice house in the country, eat lovely food, drink wine and chat about books. Sounds like my kind of weekend. Anyway the book the group were reading was 'The Seige of Krishnapur' by JG Farell, and I smiled.

I felt I had come full circle with this book because it was the novel I was reading on the first writing workshop weekend I ever attended. It was in Dingle and I finished JG Farrell's magical book that weekend and started writing my own novel(no comparison!) Eoin McNamee facilitated the workshops and I'm happy to say that I kept both the opening paragraph and the last paragraph of the novel much as I wrote them then. I still think they're rather good. Now if only I can get a publisher to agree!

Then came serendipity#2. Colm Keegan (who blogs here) was reviewing two new books of poetry and he read Grace Well's visceral poem which details some horrific domestic abuse. My novel 'The Heron's Flood' -(my title, the agents call it something else) deals with, among other things, domestic violence so I considered myself relatively aware of the nuances and horror of the whole subject.

But Grace's poem shows the violence in such an immediate light and the language used punches out the horror so well that I think it should be made compulsory reading for everyone. I could not help but be both moved and maddened by it, I felt my blood boil and my heart weep for the abused.When will it stop, people? When will the abusers stop mentally and physically torturing people they purport to love?

Listen to it here. - thurs May 27th Colm makes a great job of reading it, he is a very fine poet and writer himself and it was interesting to hear the poem in a male voice. It added a new dimension, for of course it is not only women and children who are victims.

After all that I was very glad to sit out my back garden as dusk settled and contemplate the Hawthorn tree in full bloom. Thank God for Nature, its capabilities to soothe our souls. Wish I could do it justice in a poem...........

Off to York for the weekend, mebbe I'll be inspired

Monday, May 24, 2010


Someone whom I love very deeply suffered a bit of a wobbly over the last week. This prompted me to contemplate yet again how powerful and delicate an organ the brain is, how easily the balance of it can be disturbed and how distressing such disturbances are for both the person who is suffering and that person’s friends and family.

I suppose I understand it a little myself because I have sunk into some terrifying pits over a twenty year period. I get the very odd high-very, very, odd and not enough to warrant either medication or psychotherapy. I quite like the highs, I always write my best work when I’m in that head, the big ideas come and I try to hold them, write them down, record them for use in some piece at a future date. The worst I do is stay awake too long and talk too much. After the last episode I mentioned these warning signs to the beloved other, he is in general able to spot the dark clouds glowering before I do, but he’s not so tuned to the slight highs and his reaction was

‘But you talk so much anyway, how am I to know you’re going high?’

It’s hard on him and on my family but they’re great. They never ever condemn me, tell me to pull up my socks or to get on with it and stop feeling sorry for myself. I wouldn’t blame them if they did, living with mental illness is haard on everyone in the family. Sometimes I feel self-indulgent, letting the high or low get the better of me – particularly a bad low day, a day I cannot, physically cannot get out of bed, a day I want to die, count the paracetamol or contemplate the branches of trees pondering would they take my weight in a noose. I hope I never get to that space again where I actually do something with the thoughts that lurk in the recesses of my mind. But sometimes these very thoughts are the only things that calm me. Planning my death, my funeral – incredibly morbid, dark dark thoughts.

But then the doorbell might go and a freckle-faced boy comes home, and how could I leave him yet? How could I abandon him when he still needs me. He and his brother, my step daughters, my husband, family and friends. They are my ‘will-to-meaning’ (Viktor Frankyl). I draw breath for them. I be. For them. And as long as they are I too will be.

Why am I blogging about it? Why pour my soul, the fireflies in my brain onto the page? Because I have to. We have to. As a society we have to drag mental health centre stage, it is an area of medicine where prevention pays off. With the slow decline of religion in the Western World something must replace that spirituality, the comfort the contemplation of the divine gave to generations. Whatever the Divine might be. For we all need a ‘will-to-meaning’, something to make sense of it all, make living worthwhile. For some it is Art – painting, music, reading, writing – all the disciplines. For others sport or yoga or something non-chemical for which one has a passion. That, and one good teacher, is all any human being needs after all basic physical needs are met to live a contented life. Live, love and be safe in the moment.

Amn’t I horrid deep?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Help! I've lost my mojo.....

Except I don’t actually know what a mojo is and the urban dictionary definition is dodgy. But if I have or had a mojo, a literary mojo, it has gone walkabout without me.

Since I finished the ghost-writing project I was working on I have hit a brick wall. Maybe it’s like the marathon runners ‘wall’ and I just have to grit my teeth through mile 22 and keep on moving. But lads, it’s scary. Sometimes I sit and stare at the blank laptop screen or page of doodles and - nothing - absolutely flippin’ nothing.

The thing that puzzled me most when I started writing was where all the words had been all the years I didn’t write. I felt they were pouring out of me in a torrent, flowing out onto page after page after page. It made me feel invincible; for a little while.

I was in for a wake-up call. Step one was getting over assuming everything I wrote was brilliant and funny and wise and warm and new. Step two was stopping obsessively checking my e-mail for word of competitions I had entered or submissions I had made to publishers who were just waiting for me to grace their establishments with my genius. I still felt invincible, just realistically so. There are thousands of people out there writing, just walk into any bookshop anywhere in the world and see the wide variety of books available. Each one of those books is by an author as committed to their work as I am to mine, most of them suffering the same pangs of doubt as I do.

I look at friends I’ve made over the last five years who have been writing for decades and will probably never see publication at this stage. But they never, ever stopped and never will – because they can’t. They may dry-up as I have for a while but this writing bug seems to be like a virus. Once it’s living in your system it can survive despite being starved on occasions. So all I have to do is wait, doodle, write snippets, journals, blogs anything - just keep giving myself the chance to write.

I’ll let yiz know if when I get my mojo back………

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bono and the baby blue hot-pants........

I was wondering what part of my boring life I should blog about. I already blogged about window washing and gardening and kids and stuff and I will never,ever, ever blog about the paying day job because that is INCREDIBLY boring. Then I read 'A Novice Novelists' blog - here's a link

about a lady wearing a pair of purple satin hotpants and it reminded me of my Andy Warhol moment- even thoughI didn't know it was my Andy Warhol moment at the time.

I was a somewhat rotund child, svelte in comparison to what is called chubby today, but I liked my grub and I took no exercise, I was too busy reading. Of course I still wanted to wear fashionable clothes,and in the early Seventies hot-pants were the bee all and end all of fashion. My mother made most of our clothes and she made me a pair of baby-blue hot-pants. I was eleven years of age. I thought I was divine in those bloody hot-pants. Actually when I look at the photos now, I did look cute in them.

Anyway, one day my father asked me to go to the shop to buy him 20 Major. Great, an excuse to walk up the road showing off my hot hot-pants. There were a crowd of boys on the green space opposite our house, some kicking a football about, othere lying on the grass watching 'the match'. Before I got to the shop ( it was no more than 200 yards from the house) a shout went up from the boys.

'Hey Walshie, you've got a fat arse!'

I was horrified, I wanted to be noticed but not like that. I turned on my heel and ran, crying, back to the house. I went to my Dad and told him what had happened.

'Did ye get the fags?' he asked

'No, and I'm not going out again until they're all gone?'

'Which one was it called ye names?'

'I think it was that Paul Hewson from Cedarwood.'

'Little shite.'

And my big brave Daddy went out and defended my honour, he chased Paul Hewson (now known as Bono) around the green aiming kicks at his behind and saying ' Now, fat arse, let's see who'll have a fat arse after this.'

I watched from behind the net curtains in the sitting room of out house, still crying but laughing at the sight. I never wore the hotpants again, which was a shame because they really were lovely. I never confirmed who had actually called me names and I think poor old Paul Hewson got a raw deal, he was hung drawn and quartered without a trial but after he became Bono we decided to leave him as the culprit, why ruin a good story?

I do have a fat arse now, but Bono - I didn't then. Are you sorry? Me Da says 'sorry' for trying to kick you around the green on a hot summers day in 1972.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

MayDay, MayDay..........

Spent a good few hours yesterday puh-hull-ing(for those of you without Hiberno-English that's messin' about) away in my suburban garden. There were lots of weeds to pull, lots of frost damaged plants to coax back to life or to sadly inter in the composter. Jesus, I love getting my hands mucky. I also love seeing my reliable old perennials coming back year after year. The hardiest of them never give in to frost, live long and only die when removed from their little spot.

All of which made me think of the Irish diaspora and what the emigration from our tiny island has done for the world. There are very few places on this planet you can go where you won't find a Paddy has been at some stage. We do seem to be able to adapt to most ways of life, or die trying. Our contribution in the Arts worldwide is enormous and we certainly punch way above our weight in terms of literature and music. I'm not to au fait with painting or other more cerebral pursuits but I think for an island of so few we have given the world a lot. Perhaps our very displacement all over the world is that which makes us so creative. If you haven't got the raw materials to make some kind of a living for yourself you have to make it up as you go along! Does that make sense?

All of which terrifies me - when will I be caught out? When will someone snort a derisive laugh toss my carefully numbered pages of writing back in my lap and tell me 'it's shite - get on with your real life' If this happens I think I might just quite simply die. When I discovered I could write (and I can-I know I can)I realised that I had finally found my my spot. Hurray! I am rooting myself deeper and deeper into the world of words, surfacing only sometimes to share in more worldly pursuits ( like eating!). So, no matter if that -'it's shite' day happens, I can still do it for me, make sense of my world with my words

Now if I could earn a living at it it would be even better!