Wednesday, December 26, 2012


[Copied from Wistorical, by Turtle Bunbury]


"The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen's day was caught in the furze."

For most people in Ireland, the day after Christmas is St. Stephen's
Day, named for the ill-fated deacon of Jerusalem who was stoned to
death a year or so after the crucifixion of Christ.

For those of a British persuasion, the 26th December is Boxing Day,
named for an old English tradition of gifting presents to one's staff
and servants known as a "Christmas box".

But for many who live in old-world Ireland, it is '"Wren Day", so named
for the ancient tradition where young boys clad in masks and straw
suits would set off on a musical march through the parishes,
collecting money for charity, ideally with a luckless wren bird pinned
to the Wren leader's musical pole.*

So if the weather looks ripe, why not gather together a posse of
likely youngsters and set off on the rounds.

Or you could just listen to this recording of The Wren Song by an
iconic union of The Clancy Brothers and The Furey Brothers -

*Beara is certainly old-world Ireland because a large contingent of costumed musicians and singers made up of children and adults came to the door. They were celebrating the day to raise money for the Urhan playground at the Travara strand, and they were terrific!

Thursday, December 20, 2012



The winter solstice sunrise event at Newgrange will be streamed live from 8.45am (GMT) on Friday 21st December 2012

Best Solstice Wishes,

Michael Fox ( the Boyne Valley
Sue at Anam Cara on the Beara Peninsula

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


From the Poetry Project:

Starting on January 1st 2013, a different combination of poetry and art from Ireland is brought to you each Monday, and delivered free to your inbox.

Happy Christmas and very best wishes for the New Year

The Poetry Project has a gift for you--

To celebrate Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union, this exciting digital post can be sent to you until July 2013. Twenty-six poems and twenty–six video shorts will offer you a unique insight into the creativity of contemporary Ireland.

Ireland’s poets are famed around the world, and our contemporary artists are renowned for their creativity and vision. Each poem is a taste of the best of Irish poetry now, while the short videos (none are longer than three minutes) offer a parallel way of looking at things. Brought together, the results will intrigue you, move you, and maybe make you look at the world in a different way.

The Poetry Project was set up by the Kinsale Arts Festival in partnership with Poetry Ireland and the Royal Hibernian Academy. The poems were selected by Gerard Smyth, Poetry Editor of The Irish Times and Joseph Woods, Director of Poetry Ireland; and the video works were selected and commissioned by Gemma Tipton, from the Kinsale Arts Festival and Patrick T Murphy, Director of the Royal Hibernian Academy.

The entire project will be shown together in an unique premiere event at the Kinsale Arts Festival July 5th to 14th 2013

The Poetry Project has been supported by Culture Ireland

Sign up to receive your free poems and videos at

And celebrate a sense of Irish art and culture in 2013.

Please forward this email to anyone you know who may also love to receive a poem and video each week during the first six months of 2013.

With many thanks to all the artists, poets, galleries and publishers involved...

Saturday, December 8, 2012


"I'll Live 'Til I Die"; A Celebration of the Life and Songs of Delia Murphy
On Friday, 30 November, we were treated to a three-person tribute to Delia Murphy who was known as The Queen of Connemara and who was a pioneering figure in Irish folk music. The programme highlighted the pivotal role Delia played in the development of Irish folk songs, in particular the Irish ballad. Carmen Cullen,* who is Delia's niece, Márín O'Donovan,** and Gerry Anderson*** have performed this tribute throughout Ireland since 2009, and as this year is the 41st anniversary of Delia's death, they are making a special effort to bring back memories of her to people who remember her, as well as attracting new interest in her as a unique woman and artiste who brought the traditional Irish ballad back to popularity.

Delia Murphy is still remembered as a household name. She was Ireland's premier popular singer between 1930 and 1960. Recently, Phil Coulter described her as one of Ireland's most important singers of the last century. Delia recorded and performed extensively in Ireland and abroad. Some of her best known songs, still remembered today, are "The Spinning Wheel" and "If I were a Blackbird."

Liam Clancy attributed the success of Irish ballads today to Delia’s concerts, recordings, and radio broadcasts as well as acknowledged her as the first lady of Irish popular song.

The evening was a great success, and funds were raised for this year's charity, Pieta House Cork in aid of suicide prevention.

*Carmen Cullen: Head of English in a large Dublin second-level school for more than twenty years Carmen is now a fulltime writer. She has published four collections of poetry and her book Class Acts, plays and workshop material for schools is currently on the Applied Leaving Cert’ course. She completed her MA in Creative Writing in Trinity College in 2008 Her novel Two Sisters Singing from which her reading for the show takes place was published by The Book Republic, Maverick House, was launched in The Mermaid Theatre Bray on 13th. June 2012.

**Márín O'Donovan: A professional actress and belonging to a famous theatrical family, Maureen trained with her father's company, the late Frank O'Donovan (Batty Brennan in The Riordan's. Márín has played in theatres al over Ireland and has sung professionally with many of the Big Bands such as The Niall Kearns Dance Orchestra. She has appeared in countless films, Becoming Jane and H for Jacinta, to mention two and many TV productions and is filming at the moment with TG4 on an Unsolved Murders series. Her latest role was opposite Sean Penn in his new film, This Must Be the Place.

***Gerry Anderson: Gerry is a music teacher, song writer and composer. He is also guitarist for the Irish Italian group, Oltre Mara. The band was born to play pieces of traditional music from southern Italy and keep in touch with and be sensitive to, Irish cultural elements. "Oltremara's" target is to make Mediterranean's musical and folk patrimony known abroad and create a cultural fusion
with both Irish and other's dance and musical traditions. The possibility of cultural
exchange is integral to Oltre Mara’s vision and is the back bone to every musical and
dance performance. The members have met in Ireland by chance and all of them come
from different musical and dance backgrounds.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Some of the prizewinners at Troubadour Prize Night are(l to r) Gillian Laker, Helen Overell, Gerrie Fellows, Caroline Smith, Richard Douglas Pennant (Cegin Productions), Anne-Marie Fyfe, Bernard O’Donoghue (judge, center back), Betty Thomson, Nicky Arscott, Jane Draycott (judge), Judy Sutherland, Vanessa Gebbie (third from right), Judy Brown and Paul Stephenson.

Vanessa, a writer-in-residence and a leader of short fiction workshops at Anam Cara, has been awarded the Troubadour International Poetry Prize for 2012, which is Sponsored by Cegin Productions in England.

The following prizewinning poems were chosen by judges Jane Draycott and Bernard O’Donoghue (who has given readings of his own poetry at Anam Cara) who read along with winning poets at the annual prizegiving event at the Troubadour on Monday 3rd December 2012:

First Prize, £2500: "Immensi Tremor Oceani", Vanessa Gebbie, East Sussex
Second Prize, £500: "The Teenage Existential", Paul Stephenson, London
Third Prize, £250: "Explaining the Plot of ‘Blade Runner’ to My Mother Who Has Alzheimer’s": C.J. Allen, Nottinghamshire

Vanessa wrote her winning poem in tribute and memory of John O'Leary, R.I.P. (see the video of John reading his poem at during one of her residency at Anam Cara. Vanessa and John had become great friends and often shared their work. He was to Vanessa, as he was to many, an inspiration and mentor of our creative gifts.

Immensi Tremor Oceani
(In memory of John O’Leary)

They say it takes a wave
three days, travelling east,
Newfoundland to Allihies.
They say a wave is the child
of the wind, a perturbation
of water’s equilibrium.
They say a wave marches
on its stomach.
They say a wave is home to
Mother Carey’s chickens — Mater
Cara — who shelter in the lee,
dancing on the water’s surface,
never to return to land once
they have mastered the art of flight.
Vanessa Gebbie

Sunday, August 19, 2012

R.I.P. -- Karen Blomain and John O'Leary

Sometimes the world seems to tilt the wrong way on it's axis; this past week was one of those times. The world and Anam Cara lost two of its brightest literary lights -- Karen Blomain and John O'Leary -- and I lost two of my most treasured friends.

Karen Blomain

Karen first retreated to Anam Cara with her husband and writing partner Michael Downend to work on their individual and joint writing projects. For several years, she returned to lead, with Michael, creative writing workshops and in doing so inspired and enhanced the work of many now successful published writers.

We had lots in common, and I looked forward to her often annual visits as a reunion with a sister, an anam cara. I learned much from her about her approach to inspiring others's writing and her own unique creative process.

The smile you see in her photo was always on that beautiful face of hers. She fairly glowed with joy and warmth and filled you with the same whenever she was around. It is so hard to accept that we can no longer in included in the radiant comfort of her presence. I will miss her in all the years to come.

I include here a tribute to Karen written by her publisher and friend:

August 18, 2012
In Memoriam: Karen Blomain

From Pearlsong publisher Peggy Elam, Ph.D.:

It is with deep sadness that I report the death of Karen Blomain, author of The Season of Lost Children (Pearlsong Press, June 2011) and other wonderful works. Karen passed away early Wednesday, August 15, 2012, at her daughter's home in Union Dale, PA.

Karen and her husband, Michael Downend, a photographer who took the beautiful photo of Karen above as well as the picture of autumn leaves on the cover of The Season of Lost Children, were spending time in Mexico, as they did regularly, in January 2012 when Karen became ill. They flew home to Pennsylvania for treatment.

"When faced with grave illness, Karen continued to say with a smile that she was 'lucky, lucky,'" the Times Leader reports. "Her greatest joys in life were her family, her travels, her innumerable best friends and teaching how to write from the heart."

I am honored to have known Karen for the time I did, and am privileged to have published her second novel. Although we never met face-to-face, I enjoyed our August 2011 Pearlsong Conversation (a recording of which you can listen to and/or download at I secretly fantasized about attending one of her writing workshops in Ireland.

She must never have experienced writer's block; the last time I talked with her about her third novel-in-progress she had written 1,000 pages and expected to do considerable trimming of the manuscript. (Alas, the Times-Leader reports the novel, I'm Still Me, remains unfinished.)

Karen was a retired Keystone College and Kutztown University professor, poet, novelist, and playwright. You can read more about her many accomplishments at her website,

John O'Leary

When my daughter and I came to Beara in November 1997 to look at the house that became Anam Cara, we met John walking up the street in Allihies. After welcoming us to his homeplace, he spent a good bit of the afternoon telling us stories about the peninsula, stories of its history, its mythology, its landscape, its creative people.

We were overwhelmed with the depth of his knowledge and his imagination and with his willingness to share it with us. Over the years, what began as a unique and much appreciated gift from John into the place that I would soon call home became a ever-increasing respect for John as a poet and as repository for all things Beara.

Three years ago, he, Paddy O'Conor, and I began working together to create Retreat to Deep Ireland, a residential workshop retreat that focused on Beara as inspiration for writing, particularly poetry. The third in the series was scheduled to begin on 29 September, and we had scheduled four for next year as part of Ireland's "the Gathering 2013." In losing John, we have lost a big chunk of the heart and soul of that work.

I loved the times we spent together – from the first time I heard his stories at that picnic table in Allihies, to being part of his poetry readings, to getting know about his beloved children, to learning more about his way of life and his horses, to our working together on our workshop retreats – planning and strategizing, laughing (a lot), his writing while I edited, talking with pride about our children, listening to his stories, his loving to drink my coffee and eat my chocolate chip cookies to help us through our meetings, to his many creative excuses for going outside for a smoke, to the teasing, challenging, witty conversations about ourselves, each other, and life.

John O’Leary is part of the heart of Beara for me, and I will hear his voice and his poetry in the echoes in Allihies that he first told me about. I will miss him in all the years to come.

The following appeared in The Southern Star:

Well-known scholar and poet drowns in Beara
By Jackie Keogh

Castletownbere RNLI was involved in the search and recovery of a man off West Cork in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

John O'Leary from Allihies, West Cork, whose body was recovered off Cod's Head by the Castletownbere RNLI Lifeboat after his boat overturned. (photo: Niall Duffy)The man, a father of three, has been named as John O’Leary. Although born in Boston, John has lived for most of his life on a small farm on the Beara Peninsula, overlooking the North Atlantic, where he farmed sheep and bred Irish Draught Horses.

He was educated at Trinity College Cambridge, where he took a first, and at Trinity College Dublin, he has been Visiting Professor of Creative Writing and Irish Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University and Seattle University and has taught at numerous universities in America and Europe. He was also ran workshops at the Anam Cara Writer's and Artist;s Retreat in the neighbouring village of Eyeries.

His beloved Allihies Parish is located on the western tip of the Beara Peninsula and stretches between Cod's Head, where his body was found, to the North West and Dursey Island to the South West.

John was one of a number of locals who put Allihies – which is the furthest village in Ireland from the capital, some 394 kilometres away – on the map by organising a coastal community conference in 1990. In fact, Mary Robinson chose the event for the launch of her successful campaign for election as President of Ireland.

It is understood that early on Monday evening that John and his teenage son went sailing in a small dingy near their home and shortly after that the boat capsized. Both hung on to the upturned craft for approximately four hours but then John's son made his way ashore to raise the alarm, but sadly John did not survive the ordeal.

Paul Stevens of the Castletownbere RNLI lifeboat service extended his sympathy on behalf of the RNLI crew to the family of the deceased and said: 'the Beara Peninsula is waking up this morning with a huge sense of shock.' Everyone knew John. He was gregarious, loquacious and likeable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Great Review of Anam Cara Alum Alex Barclay's Latest Novel!!!

Cleverly titling his review of Blood Loss (The Irish Times, 29 July 2012) "A Barclay to Count On," Declan Burke says:

"Where Thomas Enger inserts his character’s woes into the narrative with a heavy hand, Alex Barclay is much more deft in making the personal political in Blood Loss (Harper, £6.99), her fifth novel in all and the third to feature the Denver-based FBI agent Ren Bryce, who works with Colorado’s Safe Streets programme.

"The disappearance of two young girls from their hotel room in the skiing town of Breckenridge looks to be a straightforward case of abduction, but Ren, who suffers from bipolar disorder and is struggling with one of her manic phases, quickly finds the case opening up to involve the abuse of antipsychotic drugs and corruption in the pharmaceutical industry.

"By making Ren’s internal monologues an integral part of the character’s appeal, Barclay establishes her heroine as an empathic, self-questioning, no-nonsense woman who is deliciously self-lacerating when it comes to her faults, even if such hyperawareness tends to cause her to doubt her own judgment. Perversely, given the theme of the damage wrought on mental health by misdiagnosis and prescription for profit, this is arguably Barclay’s most balanced novel to date, as Ren’s personal and professional concerns dovetail for a persuasive finale."

Congratulations, Alex!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Novel Writing Tips from Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve, international best-selling author of 15 novels, was a keynote speaker at the West Cork Literary Festival earlier this month. Also a judge in Ireland's first "Writers Idol," she offered the following tips to those who had submitted the first page of a novel to the competition:

The Don’ts

Don’t give too much background detail. You need to move things on.

Don’t descend into cliché; never use, designer stubble, smooth skin, cold sweat, beating hearts.

NEVER start with a character waking up in the morning.

Don’t introduce too many characters; this caused confusion.

The Do’s

Always write for yourself; don’t write what you think will sell.

To shine you must have an original voice. You have to be different.

Be yourself. Be confident.

Rewrite. Read your work aloud. And read the first page of books you love.

You MUST hook the reader. Maybe use a prologue.

Monday, July 23, 2012

31 July Deadline for Short Story Competion

The Seán Ó Faoláin International Short Story Competition will be wrapping up soon—deadline for entries is 31 July. Interested writers can contact Jennifer Matthews at .

The Seán Ó Faoláin International Short Story Competition, a prize for a single short story (in English), is currently open for submissions to writers of any nationality. If the winner comes to Cork to collect their prize, we will lavish them with hotel accommodation, meals, drinks and VIP access to the literary stars at the Cork International Short Story Festival (September 2012). They will also be published in Southword Literary Journal, which has previously showcased Haruki Murakami, James Lasdun, Mary O'Donnell, Ethel Rohan, Colm Tóibín, Shannon Cain and D.W. Wilson amongst many other respected writers. First Prize: €2,000 (*approx $2690.82/ £1685.27), publication in the literary journal Southword, AND a week-long residency at Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat.

Second Prize: €500 and publication in Southword.

Four other shortlisted entries will be selected for publication in Southword and receive a publication fee of €120.

Submission deadline: 31 July, 2012. Judge: Ian Wild.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Anam Cara Winners at Launch of 2012 Fish Short Story Anthology

Selected as the second-place winner of the annual Fish Short Story Competition is Jonathan Carr (in the centre) for his story "Takeover" and, as joint third-place winner, Fionna O'Rourke (on the right) for her story "Wrong Whiskey." Both read from their stories at the launch of the 2012 Fish Anthology, held in Bantry on Wednesday, 11 July. As part of his prize, Jonathan spent the week before the launch as a writer-in-residence at Anam Cara, working on his latest novel. Fiona first came to Anam Cara as a participant in Vanessa Gebbie's Short Fiction workshop in 2011. She returned this year for a week with two other participants in that same workshop who are already planning another reunion retreat in 2013.

At the conclusion of their evening of readings in St. Brendan's Church, a group of the authors published in the Anthology gathered for a photo. Included here is Michael Ray (fourth from the left on the back row), the second-place winner of the Fish Poetry Competition, judged by Billy Collins, for his poem "Before Flight." This is the first year that Anam Cara has awarded second prize, a week's residency, in the poetry competition. Jonathan is fourth from the right on the back row, and Fiona is on the far right of the first row. Clem Cairns, the editor of the Anthology and one of the Fish publishers, is sitting in the centre of the first row.

For more information about Fish writing competitions and to purchase the Fish Anthology 2012, go to

Friday, June 29, 2012

Breaking News!


Eyeries Eyes Are Smiling
By Sean O’Riordan
The Irish Examiner

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Photo by Linda Hoffman Kimball

A picture postcard village of just 70 people has been declared the best kept place in Ireland.

Hugh O’Neill, chairman of the Eyeries Tidy Towns Committee in Co Cork said he was "flabbergasted" after Eyeries was named overall winner of Ireland’s Best Kept Towns at a ceremony in Belfast yesterday.

"We never thought in our wildest dreams that we’d get both the best kept village award and overall award.

"We just can’t believe it, even though we’ve put a lot of effort in over the last 30 years."

Locals have a rota system in place to keep the village spotless, and grass verges on the approaches to Eyeries are cut every week.

The village is also known as one of the most brightly-painted in the country and has been the setting for a number of films and dramas, including Falling for a Dancer.

Mr O’Neill said the €5,000 first prize would "come in very handy".

"It’s manna from heaven. We didn’t know where we were going to get the money to build a small footbridge over the river and a picnic area which we had planned. "

Local county councillor Jerry Sullivan said great credit was due to the small community.

"All ages are involved and they make sure they pick up litter every day. They have done well in Tidy Towns competitions before winning several medals, but this is a fantastic achievement.

"I hope it will attract more tourists to the village and even more film-makers. We are also hoping to get green flag recognition for our local strand, which would be another boost."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Many good wishes from Ireland and Anam Cara at the Summer Solstice!

The Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is on June 20th at 23:09 UT/GMT this year. In Ancient Ireland, many of the Megalithic Monuments were aligned to the rising or setting sun on key solar points in the year.  In the Boyne Valley, we have the famous Winter Solstice alignment at Newgrange. Townleyhall, a small passage tomb located just north of Newgrange, is aligned with the rising sun at the Summer Solstice

At Carrowkeel in the west of Ireland, Cairn G is aligned with the setting sun at the Summer Solstice (from Michael Fox --

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Watercolour Workshop -- A Fabulous Success!

After a week of instruction from Evelyn Dunphy and painting in situ and in the conservatory, the workshop watercolourists and Anam Cara hosted an exhibition of their work for some of the neighbours and the villagers of Eyeries. It was their way of giving back for all the warm greetings and friendly chats they had while painting away up and down the village.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I am more than thrilled to say that I have just been granted Irish citizenship! Now all that remains for me to do is to learn the national anthem "A Soldier's Song," (in Irish), to go to Dublin for the pledging-fidelity-to-the-Irish-State ceremony, and to celebrate with all my neighbours and friends at, what I hope, is a long-into-night ceili with lots of singing, dancing, and great craic!!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Writers -- Win a Retreat to Anam Cara!

Anam Cara is currently sponsoring two writing competitions. For submission details and deadlines about the one for poetry, go to: For more information about the short fiction competition, go to: Good luck!

Thursday, April 26, 2012 Launches Anam Cara Poetry Competition

From "Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat and are once again joining forces to sponsor a writing competition, this time for poets. The winning poet will receive a place in the one-week residential retreat Speaking in Pictures: A Poetry Writing Workshop Concerning Visual Art, conducted by Susan Rich. !For a description of the workshop, go to Anam Cara's website; to learn more about Susan Rich, go to: or read her article right here on revealing exactly how your poetry can benefit from revision in 'It's Not What You Write, It's How You Re-write.' "This competition is for previously unpublished poems, no longer than 14 lines, inspired by I and the Village a 1911 painting by the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall, currently exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
"To submit, email you poem, including your name, postal address, and telephone number to Sue Booth Forbes: The deadline is Midnight in Ireland, 29 May 2012 "The winner will be announced for Bloomsday, 16 June 2012. An all-poet panel of judges will select the short list, from which Susan Rich will select the winning poem. The short list and the winning poem will be posted right here on and Anam Cara's website at"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Winner of Anam Cara Short Fiction Contest Revealed

The following announcement recently appeared in

Judge, award winning writer Vanessa Gebbie, told
I read thirteen pieces of work. All were great, and I am so impressed with the creativity, the writing, the skills out there... thank you to everyone who entered, and special congratulations if your story reached this last stage - I enjoyed them all, without exception, and picking a winner was very hard. I narrowed it down to three who interpreted the theme of A Garden of Eden really well, read them many times, then slept on it. They were both very different...but in the end, I had to choose a winner:

My winner is ‘The Well’ by Rumjhum Biswas, Tamil Nadu. India

.For me, this piece does many things. Firstly, it contains some lovely writing:

"The leaves lay like anchored boats on the water’s surface, until they had soaked up enough liquid to drown.

Secondly, in so few words, a complete world is created, centred on this well -- something that is dark, darkly beautiful, attracts and repels in equal measure. And, as you get to the end, begins to horrify, as we wonder, suspect, begin to question ... and for this reader, that sense continued after every read.

I thought the interpretation of the theme was great -- slightly off-centre, unexpected and original. So many congratulations to the writer."

Rumjhum is thrilled with her win and is booking flights now to take part in Vanessa's workshop in June!

But what of 2nd and 3rd?

Winning a 10% discount on a future workshop, we can reveal that in 2nd Place was "In the Beginning" by Danielle McLoughlin from Donoughmore, Co Cork, Ireland, and in 3rd Place Anne Booth from Canterbury in England, with "Hen Party."

As you know, first prize in this fabulous competition is a place on Vanessa Gebbie's short fiction workshop retreat 'So Much More Than it Seems' 9th-15th June which will be “a chance to explore in depth the craft of short fiction in all its challenging guises, in one of Ireland's most creatively exciting venues. A chance to focus on acquiring skills that will maximise the chances of your work rising to the top and standing out for the right reasons not only in publication slush piles but also in competitions.

In the company of a well-published, multi-prize-winning short storyist, who is also an experienced tutor, this will be a focused, collaborative workshop retreat during which you will create not only complete new work and the seeds of many new stories, but you will also discover tried and tested strategies for editing and revising your existing work to make it as good as it can be. We will make full use of the local resources to find fresh inspiration. Although biased towards the art and craft of short fictions, we will also be able to explore the relevance of the craft issues to prose poetry and longer works.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Anam Cara and Competition Short List

The number and quality of the entries, all written to the theme "A Garden of Eden,"was impressive! As a result, it took a bit longer for the judges to winnow the list down, eventually coming up with 13 rather than 10 stories from which Vanessa Gebbie was to choose the winner. The winner of a place in her workshop will be announced on the site the week of the 16th of April and will be included here as well. Thank you to all the writers who entered the 250-word Short Fiction Competition, congratulations to those on the short list, and good luck to each of them as we move toward announcing the winner..

So here, in no particular order, are the top 13 entries:

Fiona Stevenson
Kilcullen, Co. Kildare, Ireland


My hand was cold and purple when I withdrew it from between the bars of the cot. For six hours I had opened and closed my eyes, reluctantly falling into a restless, jumpy sleep while my fingertips rested on her, noting the rise and fall of her ribcage. During the night, when nothing moved except the flickering lights on the monitors, or the nurse doing her hourly checks, I did not move my hand once from the warm body. I believed nothing could possibly stop that rhythm of breaths once my hand was across her heart, instilling calm, reminding her I was here. I had gone beyond exhausted at this stage, my body struggling to cope with the fact it had been rushed from pregnancy seven weeks too early just five days ago.
Outside the Special Care Baby Unit, life was going on as normal for other people. Nurses arrived, there was a shift change, the cleaners came and went. Other parents arrived; we nodded at each other, each face looking as haunted and hollow as mine. There was a special language we used and we had learnt it very quickly. ‘Day by day’, ‘Doing well,’ ‘Stable- thank God.’
Placing our trust in technology, the equipment our babies were connected to, the collective knowledge of medical learning. It was only in a quieter moment, when I readjusted the cotton bandage that protected her transparent eyelids, that terror gripped me. If science failed, all that remained was hope.

Ruth Lacey
Kibbutz Kadarim, Israel

“La Deux Chevaux”

Michael lets his hand caress the bonnet. In the café window opposite, he watches its reflection. A Citroën 2CV, Deux Chevaux, ’63 model he reckons from the features: smooth bonnet, round lights, wheels only a little wider than a bicycle.
The first time he saw a 2CV he was a kid. It was a Matchbox car he’d picked out for his fifth birthday with Grandpa Saul in a windy shop next to St. Kilda beach. Everything was covered with a layer of salt, and grandpa wiped the boxes with his sleeve so Michael could see through the plastic.
The first car Michael picked up was a Volkswagen, and Grandpa took it from his hand and put it back. "Morrie, what you got these for?" he called out to the shopkeeper, who shrugged his shoulders. "Feshtunkener German car," he spat, "Hitler’s design."
Michael walked along the edge of shelves and took another one, it looked like it was moving through the plastic. "This one?" he asked, and grandpa took it from him gently, turned it over in his hand. "Andre Citroën, Jewish boy," he said and put it on the counter for Morrie to wrap in a brown paper bag.
He takes a last look at the 2CV, then feels in his pocket for a business card and leans it on the roll-back canvas roof, stretched tight enough to write on. "If you ever want to sell this car, call me," and leaves it under the windscreen wiper.

Anne Booth
Canterbury, England

“Hen Party'”

The first feather was a surprise. She got her tweezers and it came out easily. Her glasses were new- varivocal - and she squinted at this delicate intruder on her finger.
Maybe it had just transferred to her chin when she had collected the eggs that morning. She laughed at herself, yet the little sting in her skin remained. Something had been extracted, and there was no hair to be seen.
Each morning, more feathers. Finding them began to replace her previous obsessive fingertip probing for the hard shaft of any rogue hair. She had been so upset when the first dark line had interrupted the soft smooth profile of her face, memories of childhood and the bristly chins of elderly female relatives filling her with dread.
The feathers coming were different. It was somehow soothing to discover tiny brown ones under the brow line, longer glossy ones under her arms and on her thighs. She covered them with clothes, but there was no one to notice anyway. Her waist expanded, yet she found herself clucking contentedly to herself as she pottered around the garden. The hens ran across the yard to greet her, always pleased to see her, always interested in her news. They snoozed under bushes, gave themselves dust baths, stretched out their wings in the sun. Called to her.

Post came:

‘I’m marrying again. Come and meet the old gang. Hen party this Sunday.’

She mailed a card. ‘Sorry. Can’t come. Going to one already this weekend.’

Rumjhum Biswas
Tamil Nadu. India

“The Well”

The well in our back garden was still. Not a ripple on its dark waters. No frogs. No blind white turtles. No snakes. The boughs of an ancient Margossa tree kept the sun out and the dead leaves in. The leaves lay like anchored boats on the water’s surface, until they had soaked up enough liquid to drown.

We never threw stones into the well. Nobody drew water from it. Even bats avoided it. Only during the monsoon, when the rain fell so thickly that it seemed the whole sky had turned into one massive waterfall, did it show any signs of life. It opened up its maw and drank up all that water. But its thirst was never quenched. The water never reached out for the rims of its old brick walls. Worse, the water remained dark like before. Never glassy white like the fresh rain it consumed.

The elders said the well was an endless tube running straight into the Earth’s bowels. Of course we were forbidden to play there. We didn’t feel tempted either. The well annoyed us. It took up good garden space that we could use. It ought to have been bricked up long ago. But the elders would have none of it. They shared something with that old well; and someone.

We would just have to wait until the elders died and we were able to take their place.

Mary Healy
Freshford, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland


At the seaside beach balls, shovels and buckets were stacked in colourful bundles under a flapping canvas; wind whipped windmill toys into a frenzy of spinning brilliance. Then I saw the kite, straining and tugging in the breeze.
My brother and sisters had buckets and spades; they wanted to dig to Australia. I didn’t want to see any more dark holes in the ground.
Ted, my brother, was born a week after my father was buried. Aunt May said he arrived early because of the shock and that’s why he hadn’t walked yet.
The last time we saw the sea my father was with us and he taught me how to fly a kite.
“Hold on tight now,” he said “or it will fly out to sea.”
“Where does the sea end Da?”
“I think that’s where heaven might be.” he said.
I released the kite like my father had shown me. It arched up overhead, graceful and calm, its long tail swirling and sweeping the wide blue sky. For a long time I watched it play, I watched it buck and dip and all the time I held on until I was tired holding on and my arms ached. Then slowly I opened my fist and felt the string slip through my fingers, the kite soared wide and high, out towards that blue line where the sea ends.
Turning back I saw Ted in the distance; he stood up slowly, balanced himself, and took his first step.

Elizabeth Rose Murray
Schull, West Cork, Ireland


His dad had always said that a home wasn’t a home without a few ducks. Now, Declan wished he’d never opened his mouth about that. Amazing how foolish a few whiskies at a wake could make you.

Victor Sullivan hadn’t been an hour in the ground before his doting son had shared the anecdote with friends and well wishers. Within a week, there was an army of ducks in Declan’s care and yet another red face to contend with.

“Erm, here you go, lad,” murmurs Old Pat as he hands over a Khaki Campbell. A good layer. Over 300 a year. Better than the Saxony that Mrs O’Regan presented earlier; friendlier too, according to the booklet he’d been forced to buy.

“As if the funeral costs weren’t enough,” his wife had grumbled.

“Thanks, Pat,” Declan calls from behind the wriggling neck, before carrying the duck to the back garden and introducing it to the mob.

Wings flapping, the duck runs clumsily over young lettuce shoots and hides in the prized herb bed. Declan hopes it’s feeding on a juicy slug, rather than his basil. Marcy would like that as much as she liked his old man.

As the gate swings open, Declan crouches on his heels, sinking into the grass.

“Not another bloody useless duck,” tuts Marcy, eyes lifted to the heavens. “I swear, Declan, I won’t be back out here until they’re all gone.”

Following his wife’s gaze, Declan smiles. Maybe the old man was right.

Rachael Heap
Norfolk, England

“Time Warp”

Ally ducked under the honeysuckle arch and the wooden gate closed with a decisive click. The rumble of lorries in the street vanished like magic, and a collective humming took its place. Bees. Honeybees flying loops in the lavender, bumblebees rolling themselves fat and yellow in the buddleia, cross bees fighting amongst Love-in-a-Mist under the almond tree.

The sharp, white sunlight moved the garden like a mirage as if Ally was seeing through the gauze of a cataract. She screwed up her eyes but the flowers stayed cloudy, the colours indistinct; and the bees droned on.
Paper and paints sat waiting at the garden table. She decided quickly; just graded washes and modified hues: thin, raw umber and zinc white with a dash of purple for an old blousey rose; diluted cadmium red with a hint of black for a graceful hollyhock.

Working fast with a sponge, a rag and a voluptuous sable brush dripping with wash, she let the paint dribble and granulate, allowing the colours to mingle. She tilted the paper from side to side. She mopped and wiped. There was no need for a fine brush. Ally was making shapes and traces - an intimation of what could be.
A bumblebee covered in pollen crash-landed on the paper and left a golden sun. It righted itself indignantly and flew off.

Ally blinked twice and time shifted once more. She heard the sound of lorries rumbling past, sighed, and lifted the latch.

Megan Wynne
Skerries, Co. Dublin, Ireland

“The Secret”

As her husband moved deeper inside her, Rose wondered whether to cook carrots or sweet corn for tomorrow night’s dinner. Carrots were cheaper, of course, but sweet corn was more usual with tuna.
It wasn’t that he was a bad lover; it was just that she had already had her pleasure and her mind, being of the efficient sort, had turned to the next thing. She had already bought the tuna, onion, tomatoes and garlic; it was just the vegetable she needed to consider.
Her husband’s movements slowed. She panicked. Would he want to move positions? She didn’t think she had the energy for that. ‘You’re wonderful,’ she murmured. ‘ I adore you.’ His movements became more enthusiastic.
The problem was money: they barely had any. She had lost her job and was trying to keep it a secret. Jonathon did not take much notice of bank accounts. Rose did. She knew how much was in each and could give a startlingly accurate estimation of the amount of brown coins sitting in the change jar in the hall.
Jonathon slid off her onto his side; they sighed together and Rose switched off the lamp. It was immediate; the switch from dynamic-love-machine to comatose- wipe out. She kicked the duvet around and fluffed up the pillow. Her last thought, before she drifted off, was that she would choose the carrots over sweet corn.

Martina Hennessy
Dublin, Ireland

“The Visit”

The carriage clock ticked on the mantle, marking the passing of a long Sunday afternoon. The monopoly set lay untouched on the coffee table. He glanced through the window from time to time, checking to see the car approaching through the overgrown hedges, despite knowing he’d hear the crunching of tyres on the gravel in advance. He noticed in passing the tired and dejected garden, long ago referred to as their Eden in this the garden county.

The clock ticked as evening drew in, embracing the shadows cast by the watery sun. He decided to stock up on turf for the night ahead, better now than later, as he zipped up his fleece before stepping out into the cool blast. Back inside the fire crackled as he lit a candle to ward off the gloom and eased himself into the depths of the armchair. He glanced at the serpentine amber liquid resting on the sideboard. Instead he picked up the newspaper in an attempt at distraction.

The memory of their last visit flitted repeatedly into his mind. The angry words exchanged, the bitter tone, the grandchildren’s chatter abruptly halted as they were bundled into the back of the car before they sped off towards Dublin. Two longs weeks had since passed, time spent hoping it would all blow over, that they’d arrive as usual for their fortnightly visit.
A car swung by on the road, a light thrown onto the living room wall. He stood to look out the window.

Danielle McLoughlin
Donoughmore, Co. Cork, Ireland

“In the Beginning”

In the beginning, she didn’t even slow down, just drove on past.
After a few weeks, she grew brave. She would roll down the car window when passing the house and inhale the scent of honeysuckle from their garden.
Then she began to stop. An apple tree overhung the pavement and she would park in its shadows and watch another woman peg his shirts to the line.
One Friday – after dinner but before sex - Adam took a call on his mobile. He paced the floor of Evie’s flat, frowning.
‘Trouble in Paradise?’ Evie said, when he hung up.
‘Lucy thinks she’s being watched.’
‘That’s crazy.’
‘I know.’ He rolled his eyes.
At night, tiny snake-like thoughts slithered through her head. They flicked little forked tongues and shaped themselves into words like
love and babies. She began to leave things behind. A breath at first. Then a hair. Slivers of skin. A drop of blood. Once she threw a book he had given her over the wall, watched the wind turn the pages.
‘We have a good time, Evie. What more do you want?’
The bark was cool against her skin. She was almost asleep when Adam rang.
‘Mind if we cancel tonight?’ he said.
‘Lucy’s having a breakdown. She thinks there’s a naked woman in our apple tree.’
Evie waved down at Lucy. Then she reached for an apple and bit it, let the juice drip down her chin and breasts onto the grass below.

Emma Cooper
Doolin, Co. Clare, Ireland

“A Garden of Eden”

“Your mint looks as withered as the skin a snake sheds.”
I smile and continue tending my turmeric. Ameera is trying to rile me; my mint is the best in the district.
I look up from my devotions to survey the rooftop scene. My garden is a haven amidst so much concrete. A young couple promised to each other snatch a quick word among the vines. I pretend not to see them although I know my Imam would complain that I have created a new Garden of Eden. Ahmed receives excellent internet reception here so he sits and reaches out to the world from beside the coriander. Ameera and her friends come after their household labours to gossip and escape the busy streets. My daughter makes mint tea and generally maintains order.
That was two months ago but it could be two lifetimes. Today I brush the dust off my mint. My tears cut rivulets through the grey coated leaves for Ahmed whose shattered body was pulled from his crushed home. I weep for the women and their children who sit shaking with fear in basements.
My daughter begged me to leave with her but I said I was too old to be afraid. My home and garden lay at the edge of the destruction but now feel as if they are being pulled into the middle of the hell around me. I am not fearless; I just won’t leave my garden. Normality is my defiance.

Francis Hayes
Ormesby, Middleborough, UK

“Man of Straw”

It is Sunday morning. As usual he is walking the dog.
As he approaches the barbed wire fence his attention is caught by something that flutters as the breeze gusts.
He stops. He calls the dog to heel. As it runs back to him he stares at the fence, focused on the thing.
It is a piece of string, teased out to no more than a bundle of sisal, the shape of a man, caught on a barb.
“Sweet suffering Christ.” The blasphemy, once so common because it was so exact, springs unbidden to his lips after twenty-four years.
Unbidden too, summoned by this man of straw, come the images he tried forget. Fabrics caught and hanging on barbed wire. In the rain and the wind, the fibres rot, fray, separate.
At the edges the warp and woof part company. Clinging to the whole cloth they flutter in the slightest breeze, like Tibetan prayer flags. One day, all unravelled, the strands are blown away, souls wafted from limbo. But there is always more material, draped, decaying, caught on the wire.
The dog whines for his attention. He pulls his watch from his pocket; time to go. At noon the Prime Minister is to broadcast to the nation. It is September 3rd. 

Clare Simpson
Belfast, Northern Ireland

“Her Room”

The children had gone. She walked down the corridor, breathing in the smell of bleach and old gym shoes. The caretaker's store was open and she could see the red bucket of sand, brought out whenever one of the girls vomited in a classroom, sitting on its hook.
Her room was still there behind the mural of Prince Pondicherry's chocolate palace on the green door. She had wanted to put this off, hoping she would be the last person to see the room before the desks and chairs were sold. All 30 copies of Fair Stood the Wind for France were still stacked by the back wall. The whiteboard had been taken away, revealing the old blackboard where she had written: “What role does fate have to play in The Woodlanders?”
She had not wanted to leave but the school was 'no longer viable'; the spreadsheets said so. Soon weeds would push up through the paving stones in the playground and people would break in to tear out the copper wiring and sell it for scrap.
She unlocked her storeroom and picked up the last cardboard box of old exam papers. A book fell from a high shelf she thought she had cleared. Some of the pages came free and lay in paper curls on the floor. She picked up a page and read, seeing the words she had taught for twenty years as if for the first time:"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Watercolour Workshop Retreat Coming in May!


This week begins our workshop retreat season with Retreat to Deep Ireland. As part of the immersion into the history and beauty of Beara as inspiration to our writing, we will be taking part in the 100th anniversary commemoration of the Titanic passing by Dursey Island, the last land that the passengers would see, on their fateful voyage.

In addition to year-round individual retreats during which residents come to work on their own projects, we are offering five more week-long workshop retreats in 2012.

Next in the schedule is another Beara-inspired workshop retreat, Evelyn Dunphy's week working with watercolours. Please contact Evelyn directly to book your place. Below is an example of her work and details of her workshop at Anam Cara.

Watercolour Workshop Retreat
Facilitator: Evelyn Dunphy (
Arrival: 12 May 2012
Departure: 19 May 2012
For more information and bookings, contact Evelyn at

"Come and experience the haunting beauty of the landscape that surrounds Anam Cara. Explore ways to find just the right mixtures of pigments to paint all of those wonderful greens, the brightly-colored houses winding their way down the lane and the misty mountains off in the distance - it's an artists' paradise!

"You'll learn to simplify shapes, exaggerate, crop, compose, and build a composition that enables you to enjoy seeing pigments mix and dance on your paper. Be a poet rather than a reporter, paint light and color and shadow, and develop your ability to really "see". There will a demonstration each day, and lots of individual attention. There is nothing like uninterrupted hours of painting time to see a great leap in the quality of your work. No matter what your level of painting ability, there is always so much more to learn and experience.

"My goal is always to enlarge each student's vocabulary of painting 'tools' so that each person has the necessary skills to express their own personal aesthetic. It is necessary to be able to execute the fundamental techniques of using watercolor, and I also believe that passion drives technique; if you really want to paint something you will figure out how to do it. Experienced painters will be challenged and encouraged to move out of their "comfort zone" to realize their goals, and beginners will be guided through the process of using watercolor.
"I also think it's very important to 'name the thing you are trying to do' - whether it's the pigment with its temperature and value, or the concept for your painting. Naming it makes it possible to actually do it."


"I am just beginning to realize how much I learned from you in the workshop. Things that I thought I knew but did not really understand have come to life for me, and my work shows it" - a student from a recent workshop in Canada.

If you want a workshop with a dedicated, talented teacher who is also a beautiful painter, go with Evelyn Dunphy" - a student from a workshop at Frederic Church's camp

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Orion Magazine

"Thirty Poems in Thirty Days

"Read, share, and inspire: Poetry has the ability to touch the deepest nerves of human compassion and understanding.

"Join Orion's celebration of National Poetry Month throughout April. We've got a special curated selection of poems, updated daily at, beginning with Pattiann Rogers's poem 'Rolling Naked in the Morning Dew'."

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Wild Camping" Video Now on Anam Cara Home Page

Last November, I blogged (what a verb!) that Anam Cara and Beara were featured in the first episode of a seven-part series that had just begun running on the European Travel Channel. If you weren't able to see the whole series, you can now see Anam Cara's part on the home page ( The episode focuses on Beara as inspiration to writers with writer-in-residence Bernard O'Donoghue and Beara poet John O'Leary reading their own poems. The céilidh that the presenter goes to was held at Evie's hall in Eyeries Village and was last of the 2011 Friday Nights in Eyeries fundraisers (that usually take place at Anam Cara.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Irish Writers' Centre Authors Read at Anam Cara

We had a great night last Wednesday, 21 March. As part of the Irish Writers' Centre Peregrine Readings series, Ita Daly (in the middle), Frank Ronan (on the right), and Peter Cunningham (on the left) read excerpts from their work -- Ita from a memoir in progress, Frank from a short story, and Peter from one of the novels of his Momument series. A lively question-and-answer conversation followed the readings, giving the enthusiastic audience a chance to learn m0re about the writers and their creative processes, some of which is included below.

We are extremely grateful to the Irish Writers' Centre and the Irish Arts Council for including Anam Cara, now for the fourth time, in this incredible reading series.

Ita Daly:
Ita Daly was born in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim and later moved to Dublin. She has published five novels, one collection of short stories and two books for children. Her latest work is a re-telling of Irish Myths and Legends commissioned by Oxford University Press. She has won two Hennessy Literary Awards and an Irish Times Short Story Award. Her last novel, Unholy Ghosts, was long listed for the Impact Award.Her work has been translated into Swedish, Danish, Japanese, Italian and German and her short stories have appeared in magazines in Ireland, England and America. Ita is a member of Aosdána.

Frank Ronan:
Born 1963 in New Ross, County Wexford, Frank Ronan is a novelist. He also writes a monthly column for Gardens Illustrated magazine. His novels have won numerous prizes including the 1989 Irish Times/Aer Lingus prize. His works include the novels The Men Who loved Evelyn Cotton (1989), Picnic in Eden (1991), The Better Angel (1993), Dixie Chicken (1994), Lovely (1995), Home (2002) and a collection of short stories Handsome Men Are Slightly Sunburnt (1996).

Peter Cunningham:
Peter Cunningham grew up in Waterford and was educated at Waterpark School, Glenstal Abbey School and University College Dublin. He worked as an accountant and a trader of commodities until 1986 when his first novel was published. Titled Noble Lord, it was a thriller, written under the pseudonym Peter Lauder. A further four thrillers followed. In 1993, a novel, Who Trespass Against Us dealt with the unexpected death of a child. Four subsequent novels, known as the Monument novels, are set in Monument, a fictionalized version of Cunningham's hometown Waterford. They are: Tapes of the River Delta, Consequences of the Heart, Love in One Edition and The Sea and the Silence. Peter is a member of Aosdána.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ireland's Writers Return Home for Inspiration

The following was sent to us by Michael Downend (, a former writer-in-residence and workshop leader:

(CNN) -- As you drink a pint of Guinness or eat your corned beef and cabbage at the local Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day, consider the far-flung corners of Ireland where inspiration flourishes.

"The Irish landscape isn't always straightforward; its many layers of stone walls and hedgerows and its constantly changing light mean that it unfolds slowly as you walk, cycle or drive by," says Etain O'Carroll, co-author of Lonely Planet's 2012 Ireland guidebook.

"Our mercurial weather also gives it an ethereal quality," says O'Carroll. "The dappled light and scurrying clouds, mists and rain showers mean you often catch no more than a tantalizing glimpse of a view. You've got to be patient and let the landscape reveal itself in its own time, and when it does you feel like you might be the only one to have ever seen it in quite the same way."

CNN asked a handful of Irish poets, novelists and playwrights about the spots that inspire them in their mother country. Here are a few of our writers' favorite places.

Ancient ruins amid a magnificent landscape

Although she was born and raised in County Monaghan, Mary O'Donnell's poetry and prose is inspired by the rough and wild landscape of the Burren, a region in County Clare where Ireland's ancient people managed to survive for centuries. O'Donnell is also fascinated by megalithic tombs, which is why she wrote a poem about Burren's Poulnabrone Dolmen, one of Ireland's most famous ancient monuments. Built more than 5000 years ago, the Neolithic/Bronze Age tomb housed remains and burial items such as pottery, jewelry and an ax.

"The world of nature is vitally important to me, and in the Burren in County Clare one finds a wild majesty and magnificent landscape that is still unspoiled, despite the many visitors the area attracts," says O'Donnell, author of "Storm over Belfast," "The Ark Builders " and "The Place of Miracles." "I am (also) enormously interested in megalithic tombs so this dolmen at Poulnabrone really grabbed me. The fact that my then 15-year-old daughter couldn't give a hoot about it made the visit all the more interesting, in a way. It set me thinking about how there are times in our lives when we need prescribed culture and there are times when we absolutely don't."

For the visitor: There are many ancient ruins to explore in the Burren through guided walks and tours.

Returning to a literary hometown

Although he now lives in England, poet John McAuliffe often returns to his childhood home in Listowel to visit family and to recharge his writing. On the surface a typical North Kerry market town, Listowel has a literary tradition inspired by the playwright John B. Keane and fiction writer Bryan MacMahon. Keane ran a pub where writer Michael Hartnett and other writers and townspeople would gather, now operated by his widow and son.

To a young boy, Keane and MacMahon both seemed of the town and outside it. "They were after something penetrating, subtle and comprehending when they wrote, unsentimentally, about the town's hinterland of farming villages and about the positive impact of modernity on old hierarchies: wised-up insiders with a natural sympathy for the outsider," says McAuliffe, co-director of the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester, editor of "The Manchester Review" and author of "Of All Places."

For the visitor: "When I'm at home I walk Market Street, past John B's (pub) and into the redesigned town square where the terrific converted church, St. John's, hosts theater and music every week," says McAuliffe. "I walk past the Listowel Arms Hotel -- where Charles Stuart Parnell made his last public address -- under Listowel Castle, whose ruin is now attached to an interactive museum, which documents and celebrates the work of John B. (Keane), (Bryan) MacMahon and other writers from the area."

A historic horse fair

Dublin-born and bred writer Nessa O'Mahony [one of Anam Cara's first writers-in-residence] has always been inspired by Western Ireland, where her mother's family comes from. Her mother shared stories about her life growing up in Ballinasloe, in East Galway, with nine brothers and sisters. Those stories have crept into O'Mahoney's work.

"It seemed a form of rural Eden very distant to my own upbringing in a concrete and pebble-dash Dublin suburb in the 1960s," says O'Mahony, whose books include a novel, "In Sight of Home," " and two books of poetry, Bar Talk" and "Trapping a Ghost." "She had such freedom, and such fun and 'divilment,' as people used to say. We've returned to Ballinasloe frequently, though these days it's usually for a family funeral. But I'm still absorbed by how alive she [my mother] comes there, and how incredibly detailed her memories of a very happy past are. And I'm still inspired by her to write poems."

For the visitor: The Ballinasloe Horse Fair and Festival in October, one of the oldest in Europe, dates back at least to the 1700s and attracts thousands of visitors, traders and Irish Travellers (members of Ireland's nomadic community). Elsewhere in East Galway, William Butler Yeats spent time in the 1920s at Thoor Ballyle, a 16th century Norman tower that served as a summer home and inspiration for his poem "The Tower."

An inspiration to Jane Austen

Novelist and playwright Belinda McKeon grew up on a farm in County Longford, a region that barely merits a mention in some of Ireland's tour books. Yet amidst the ordinary midland landscape dotted with nondescript schools, restaurants and gas stations is a literary tourist's dream.

In Edgeworthstown, the local nursing home seemed like nothing special. But for a time, it had been the house of celebrated novelist Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849). It's where she lived almost all her life, where she wrote "Castle Rackrent," received Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth as visitors, wrote criticisms of the absentee landlord system and where Jane Austen sent Edgeworth a first edition of her novel "Emma." Thomas LeFroy, believed to be the inspiration for Austen's Mr. Darcy character in "Pride & Prejudice," lived in nearby Carriglas Manor.

Growing up in Longford, with its ordinary life on top of extraordinary history, "made me look sideways at everything," says McKeon, whose debut novel, "Solace," was published last year. "That's the way people look at things where I'm from: sideways. Never believing the first version of anything. Always wondering, always doubting, always looking forward to dissecting it afterwards."

For the visitor: Longford is known for Edgeworth, Carriglas, its fishing and the Corlea Trackway, a bog road that was built in 148 B.C.

Inspiration at the ocean's edge

Born and raised in the town that inspired William Butler Yeats, short story writer Elaine Garvey heads to Sligo and the beach north of town to think and inspire her writing. "There's one in North Sligo called Streedagh that's usually almost empty and you can walk on the strand almost every day, no matter if the tide is in or out," says Garvey, whose work has appeared in the The Dublin Review and a collection called "Scéalta."

"I take my shoes off, leave them at the rocks and walk with my feet at the edge of the water -- unless it's snowing. I get my feet into the sand and have the sound and smell of the Atlantic all around me. It will always, always feel like home. If you walk the full length of the beach and back, you have clean feet and a very clear head by the end."

For the visitor: Sligo Town celebrates Yeats with the Yeats Memorial Building and the Yeats International Festival starting in late July with three weeks of poetry, music and other events.

Saturday, March 17, 2012



And another blessing, in the Irish tradition of conferring hopes on the one being blessed with the word may, this from John O'Donohue:


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

The Youtube link is of John O'Donohue reading "Beannacht" during his last interview, which was with Krista Tippett, an Anam Cara writer-in-residence, on her NPR programme "Speaking of Faith."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book about Beara -- Free Upload on Kindle

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, John Dwyer's lastest book Klondike House - Memories of an Irish Country Childhood is FREE to upload on Kindle on March 15, 16 and 17. The paperback will follow in another four weeks.

Klondike House on
Klondike House on

For those who have retreated to Anam Cara, John's homeplace is about 500 yards down the road to Castletownbere from here, and he has a section and pictures on the cascades. description:

"The eldest of six children, John Dwyer recounts his memories of a rural childhood on the remote but beautiful Beara Peninsula in West Cork, Ireland. Complemented by a series of childhood photographs, his stories are told in vivid and colourful prose.
He describes the hard but happy work of saving the hay, cutting the turf, shearing the sheep, and digging the potatoes. His humour comes to the fore in the stories of a rampaging sheep and an innocent hobby that nearly caused a local outcry. His account of his own family connections with America and especially Butte, Montana are a microcosm of all Irish-American stories of immigration.

"Sprinkled with a selection of fitting works by some of Ireland's best-known poets such as Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh and Paul Muldoon, this gem of a book is a chronicle of the simple but happy life of an Irish farmer boy."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Poetry Manuscript Competition 2012

Bradshaw Books is pleased to announce the return of the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition 2012.

The aim of this competition is to give emerging writers the opportunity to publish their first collection of poetry.

For more information, go to:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Short Fiction Competition

Win a Fabulous Break at Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat!

"If you write short stories or you've always wanted to learn how, this is the competition for you!

"For the second year running, Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat have teamed up with to offer a fabulous prize to one lucky - and talented - writer.

"Write us a 250-word short fiction piece, and you could win a place in the Anam Cara "Short Fiction: So Much More Than It Seems..." workshop retreat led by Vanessa Gebbie, award-winning short story writer, scheduled for the week of 9-15 June 2012.

"Anam Cara is set in beautiful countryside on the Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork, so our theme is A Garden of Eden."

(For more details, see or