The Artane Band – New Poem in the Irish Times

‘So what did people know about what went on in Artane? What did people talk about?’

My dad tents his fingers at the kitchen table. It’s a Sunday morning and we’ve been talking about the recent discoveries at the site of the former Mother and Baby home at Tuam – 796 children buried in a cistern. For him, having grown up in Finglas in the 1950s and 60s, Artane was closer to home. I wanted to discover what was known – how people lived alongside places like these and normalised it.

‘Oh it was used as a threat,’ he said: “Behave yourself or I’ll send you to Artane.” If you mitched from school, or if you were bold, or anything like that.’

‘And did you know anyone there? Anyone who was sent there?’

‘You didn’t see them really. I think we may have played them at football at few times. But what I really remember of them was seeing the band play at Croke Park. When I was young enough, Noel used to swing me over the turnstile. And they’d play, and you know, they were brilliant. Really good. And there was something glamorous about them to me. Because we were told they were savages, criminals. And there they were making this beautiful music.’

So the normalisation was the usual kind – an othering, the casting of a glamour, the way we look at the high walls of direct provision centres and idly imagine what might go on behind them.

The poem I wrote in response to this conversation is published in today’s Irish Times. I’d like to dedicate it to my dad Anthony, and his dad Noel.

The Saturday poem: The Artane Band

A new work by Jessica Traynor

The Artane Boy’s Band  in action at Croke Park. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Artane Boy’s Band in action at Croke Park. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Da used to swing me over the turnstile,
to see the Dublin matches. I remember
the sight of my own legs, dangling.

I’d never see much of the game;
what’s left is the smell of men,
their coats steaming rain and beer,

being hoisted by my ribs above
the crowd, the pitch spread out
green and vast, the distance of it.

And every half-time the band
playing on the field, their music rising
and falling with the seaweed stink

that rushed in from the bay.
There’s the boys, Da would say
and he’d wag his finger in a warning

that told me these matchstick boys
made music because they were outlaws,
each cymbal clash a cry of mea culpa,

and I imagined myself out there with them
in this rainy coliseum with my Da as emperor
giving the thumbs down,

shaking his head for the loss of his son
to that criminal gang:
The bold boys of the Artane Band.

Jessica Traynor’s debut collection, The Liffey Swim (Dedalus Press) was published in 2014. A verse response to Swift’s A Modest Proposal has just been published by Salvage Press

The Uncategorisable 2016

To say 2016 was an eventful year would be an understatement. Personally, I’ve faced a lot of upheaval and faced a number of challenges of the ‘I’m not dead so must be stronger’ variety. However, the exercise of looking back at the year has made it abundantly clear that I’ve been incredibly lucky and have a huge amount to be thankful for.

Work at the Abbey Theatre

The past two years  as Literary Manager of the Abbey Theatre have been exciting and rewarding, but daunting at times. 2016 saw the premieres of six new plays and four short plays across the Abbey and Peacock stages and the publication of seven playscripts. I was immensely proud to be involved in a year which showcased so much new writing across both stages of the national theatre, with sell out runs of Cyprus Avenue by David Ireland (co-produced with the Royal Court and nominated for an Evening Standard Award for Best New Play), Tina’s Idea of Fun by Sean P. Summers, Town Is Dead by Phillip McMahon and Raymond Scannell and The Remains of Maisie Duggan by Carmel Winters. We also workshopped at least fifteen shows in development, spent a week doing intensive research into the women’s canon in the company of theatre practitioners, read and discussed 12 Shakespeare plays in the company of fantastic actors, ran a Scratch Night and the Future Tense short play readings to showcase work of the playwrights of the future, and I travelled to London, Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinbugh and New York. I estimate that I saw 120 new writing shows.

My final show as Literary Manager was Anna Karenina, in an adaptation by the amazing Marina Carr. Working with Marina and Wayne Jordan, a director who I loved working with on on his choral/poetic adaptation of Oedipus in 2015, was one of the highlights of my time as Literary Manager. The adaptation of a novel of Anna Karenina’s scope is a tremendous undertaking for any playwright, and the pleasure of working with Marina’s witty, dark, irreverent and ambitious interpretation of the text would be difficult to overstate. It’s a script full of deeply moving quotes which catch your breath and bring you up short. Stiva’s line to Levin about his tendency to view the world in black and white has a special resonance for me this year:

‘…there’s very few of us trying to get it wrong.’

Working on Anna Karenina was a brilliant way to finish up in the role of Literary Manager, and I’m looking forward to working with both Marina and Wayne on new projects in the future.

 

Poetry Business

I can hardly believe I’ve had time for anything other than the Abbey this year, and yet, poetic opportunities have presented themselves like seedlings pushing up through frozen ground (the snow in the above image could be influencing my simile choice here). Here’s a quick round up of what I got up to in 2016.

January

I kicked off the year with a reading at the brilliant Troubadour in London.

Troubadour 1

I had a fantastic time reading with Kate Bingham, Tamar Yoseloff, Carole Bromley, Lesley Saunders, Owen Lewis, Greg Freeman and Maura Dooley with Henry Fajemirokun. Huge thanks as always to the dynamic Anne-Marie Fyfe!

March

March was a busy month, with readings at Tanya Farrelly and David Butler’s Staccato, which I’d highly recommend you look up. They get really excellent readers on board.

I also had a new poem featured on Sunday Miscellany – I was asked at the last minute to contribute something film-themed, which proved really serendipitous as it helped me focus on a poem I’d been trying to whip into shape for years. You can hear the poem, ‘Silent Movie’, here.

April

poets-rising-pic

April was something of a personal highlight, as I got to take part in A Poet’s Rising, a wonderful initiative by the Irish Writer’s Centre and the Arts Council. Myself, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Thomas McCarthy, Theo Dorgan and Paul Muldoon were commissioned to write poems in response to figures who fought in the Easter Rising. I had the pleasure of writing about the inimitable Dr. Kathleen Lynn. The poems featured in the Irish Times, in a documentary on RTE One, and are even available on an app walking tour of Dublin. Big thanks to all at the Irish Writer’s Centre for the opportunity! Here’s the video of my sestina for Kathleen Lynn.

I was also really happy to be featured in Poetry Ireland Review’s The Rising Generation, an issue which showed a selection of work from poets who have published first collections in the past five years. Vona Groarke challenged us all to answer an intriguing series of questions to accompany the poems. It was a really interesting approach that really served to illuminate the poets’ personal approaches.

 

I was also delighted to have poems featured in Agenda’s New Generation Poets issue in April. It might sound like a funny thing to say, but the poems chosen were ones I was quite happy with, which isn’t always the case!

agenda-cover

June

June brought with it a nice U.S. publication in the form of The Café Review, and a great launch reading in Books Upstairs with editor Steve Luttrell, a man clearly passionate about new work.

July

July found me thinking about WWI (probably something to do with our Abbey/Headlong tour of Frank McGuinness’s wonderful Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme) and I was delighted to have a poem on the subject broadcast on Arena. You can listen back here

I also taught a very enjoyable one-day poetry course for the Irish Writers Centre

What Happened To August and September?

Other than From the Isle, a great reading at Kildare Village sponsored by Poetry Ireland in the company of excellent poet Victoria Kennefick, not that much. Here’s why:

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival happened.

The Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival happened.

The Dublin Theatre Festival happened.

And in the middle of it all, I escaped to California for two weeks:

 

yosemite

#Sorrynotsorry

October

In October I got another lovely invite from Sunday Miscellany, this time to contribute to their Culture Night live recording, alongside Conor Mulvagh, Deirdre Mulrooney and Paul Howard.

I also kicked off a six week Poetry Course at the Irish Writers Centre, with a really insightful, funny and talented group of emerging poets. I didn’t want it to end!

November

I think one of my favourite poetry events of this year was Ó Bhéal’s Winter Warmer Festival. What a friendly and well-run festival. Hugh thanks to Paul Casey and co. I had such a fantastic time and I’m so glad to have had the chance to catch up with Anne-Marie Ni Chuirrean, Elaine Feeney, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Emily Cullen, Paula Cunningham, Kerrie O’Brien, Afric McGlinchey, Leanne O’Sullivan and many more. This couple of days really recharged my batteries.

ww-fest

Rapt in the front row

December

December brought with it two great publications, one from U.S. Magazine Prelude and another in the form of inclusion in the excellent Arlen House’s 40th Anniversary publication in honour of Eavan Boland, Washing Windows?: Irish Women Write Poetry.

One More Very Important Thing

One of the reasons I’ve managed to keep writing in spite of the onslaught of a busy life is my monthly poetry group, composed of very close friends who have done more for me than I can say. This September, we lost Shirley McClure, a warm, generous, insightful, and honest friend. I’m still in shock, I think. Here is one of the last poems that Shirley brought to us, just weeks before she passed away. I’d like to give her the final word.

 

May God

I am searching
for a kind of god:
like ours
but feminine,

a rock,
root,
river
pan-deity

a hey girl! Pachamama

who’d be as easy
standing guard for me
within a vessel

on the dresser of our kitchen,
as in a field of sunflowers
cradling like a hammock
wrought of moss & silken twine
my battered body –

she is on her way to me, I trust
she’s on her way.

(c) 2016 Shirley McClure

Poem in One

Here’s my poem The Writer’s House, which was recently featured in issue seven of One  from Jacar Press. This is an excellent, eclectic online journal which features great poetry from all over the world. I’d recommend reading and submitting.

The Writer’s House

I’m there again, the basement room,
this catacomb disturbed
by passing ghosts, by the turn

of pages on an unseen breeze.
His family peer from photos –
faces like ossuary skulls.

I hear him and his woman above me,
and though the stairs have vanished,
know they might at any minute

come tumbling through a cupboard door,
or appear crouched in the cold hearth.
I hear their noises in the air. I trespass.

Outside, if I were to look, I would see him,
hands black from the earth of a grave,
holding, root-side-up, a stripling tree.

You can read the whole issue here

If ever You Go: A Northside Dublin Perspective

Here’s some info on a great initiative by Near FM to have a number of poets discuss their poems in If Ever You Go – specially focusing on the north side poems in the book. I was delighted to go out to Near FM to talk to them late last year.

Nearfm launch brand new poetry radio series Northside Dublin radio station reinterpret Dublin: One City One Book choice for 2014 

‘I have long admired NEAR FM’s commitment to its community of listeners, and in particular its longstanding practice of turning listeners into broadcasters — our own stories, told by ourselves to ourselves, with a welcome for anyone happening to listen in. Paddy Kavanagh would have approved, there was a man who knew that all universal truths have their roots in a particular place at a particular time.’ – Theo Dorgan

Nearfm have produced a ten part radio series reinterpreting the Dublin: One City One Book ‘If Ever You Go: a Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song’ edited by Pat Boran and Gerard Smyth. This series takes a unique look at the book from a northside Dublin perspective by focusing on the poems, poets and songs associated with Northside Dublin.

The series features many well known poets reciting and being interviewed about the poems they have featured in the book including Paula Meehan, Theo Dorgan and Dermot Bolger as well as up and coming poets such as Colm Keegan, Jessica Traynor and Alan Jude Moore .

Contributions also come from Poetry Ireland, Dedalus Press, Dublin City of Literature, Trinity College Dublin and St David’s Boys National School in north Dublin. There are also well known ballads performed by Gerry Cooley, Vincent Smith and Stephen Heffernan.

The series will be broadcast on Nearfm over 5 weeks in March, with two episodes a week broadcasting back to back on Mondays from 6-7pm from Monday March 2nd – Monday March 30th 2015.

This series is made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Sound and Vision Scheme.

You can listen to the podcasts of the first two episodes here

Strong/ Shine Award 2015

I’m really excited to be nominated for this year’s Strong/ Shine Award for a first collection. It’s an incredibly strong shortlist, and I’m delighted to have my work considered in such good company. The winner isn’t announced until the 22nd March at the Mountains to Sea Festival, so it’ll be a tense wait until then!

Each of the shortlisted poets will read on the day, so mark it down in your calendar as one of your festival must-sees.

Here’s the shortlist and a link to the Mountains to Sea website

Graham Allen The one that got awayGraham Allen Graham Allen was born in Barking, Essex, and studied at St Davids University, Lampeter, Wales. He completed his M.A. and his Ph.D at theUniversity of Sheffield. His first academic post was at the University of Dundee, Scotland. Graham moved to Cork in 1995 and is currently Professor in the School of English, University College Cork. He is the author of a number of critical works, including Intertextuality (first published in 2000) and Mary Shelley (2008). His first poetry collection, The One That Got Away, was shortlisted for The Crashaw Prize in 2013 and its title poem was winner of the Listowel Single Poem Prize in 2010. The One That Got Away was published by New Binary Press in 2014. Graham Allen’s on-going epoem HolesbyGrahamAllen.org is also published by New Binary Press.

caoilinnHughes Gathering Evidence final coverCaoilinn Hughes‘ first collection, Gathering Evidence, was published by Carcanet Press and Victoria University Press in 2014. Poems from the collection won the 2012 Patrick Kavanagh Award, the 2013 Cúirt New Writing Prize and Trócaire / Poetry Ireland Competition. Born in Galway, she studied at Queen’s University of Belfast and moved to New Zealand in 2007, where she worked for Google, ran a small business, and finally wrote a Ph.D. at Victoria University of Wellington (50% of which was a novel). She recently moved to The Netherlands, where she holds a position as “Distinguished Visiting Writer” at Maastricht University. She is writing her second poetry collection and a new novel.

Jean Kavanagh 1Jean Kavanagh Other PlacesJean Kavanagh is an Irish poet living in Oslo, Norway. She studied Irish Folklore and English Literature in UCD, Dublin. She has been shortlisted twice, in2010 and 2011, for Galway’s Over The Edge New Writer of the Year, and in 2012 was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. Her work has been published in journals, showcase anthologies for the Galway Arts Centre, and in Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology (Salmon Poetry, 2011).  Other Places is her debut collection.

Jessica TraynorJessica Traynor Liffey SwimJessica Traynor was born in Dublin in 1984.  Literary Reader at the Abbey Theatre and a creative writing teacher, she has published poems in a variety of magazines and journals and her work is included in a number of anthologies including If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song (Dublin’s One City One Book, 2014) and The New Planet Cabaret Anthology. She won the 2011 Listowel Poetry Prize and the Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year Award in 2013. She was awarded the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary in 2014 . Liffey Swim is her debut collection of poems.