Monday, 24 August 2015

The Spirit Glass

Another blast from the past... The Spirit Glass was a poster of poems, compiled by Mark Madden​ from the legendary open mic nights at Arcadia Coffeehouse in North Street Arcade. It was launched at the very first Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival​ way back in 2000 (which kind of makes me feel old).

Arcadia was at the time the only real public platform for poets to get together and share their work. It existed before the Cathedral Quarter had any real night-life: all the bars would be shut at 11pm, no buses home, and you might have to walk a half-mile before you even found a chippy that was open.

I had only read there once or twice before when Mark asked me to contribute to the poster and invited me to read at the launch, which I was incredibly grateful for. Mark, Brian Bailey​, Royce Harper​, Stephen Gharbaoui​, Colin Hamilton and others were featured on the poster. Looking back, my own poem was embarrassingly woeful, but it was the start of a love affair with live poetry, and Arcadia will always be an important part of my poetry roots.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Speech Therapy Poetry Zine: a blast from the past

A blast from the past... Originally established in November 2005 as a print zine, Speech Therapy's aim was to publish poetry that will promote the talents of new and established writers from the North of Ireland and beyond. It was envisioned that the magazine be used as a platform for writers to allow their work to reach the wider audience that it merits.

A number of the poets featured were published for the very first time. Back then, I had little idea of who these people were that were submitting. All I knew is that I liked their work. It's amazing to me the number of great names such a little zine attracted. Thank you to all of them who supported the enterprise.

Poets in the first four print issues included: Darran Anderson, Mel Bradley, David Braziel, Stephanie Conn, Mark Cooper, Aisling Doherty, Emer O'Neill, Jenni Doherty, Lynne Edgar, Faux MoS├ęs, Colin Hassard, Marcus Keeley, Mark Madden, Gerry McCullough, Gerard McKeown, Jim Meredith, Chris Murray, Geraldine O'Kane, Olive Groove, Alex Pryce, Heather Richardson, David Smylie, Michael Wilson and many more.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Poetry NI Summer Reading preview

This piece was originally published in BAM Magazine.

I was going to start this piece saying something like it is ‘an honour and a privilege’ to be working with the eight poets we have in our Summer Reading. But poetry isn’t just for the honoured or the privileged, it is open and accessible to all, especially to those willing to hunt it out. That’s what Poetry NI is all about: creating platforms for poets to showcase their work, and bringing people who love poetry together into a community, rather than an audience. In that way, we hope to make the hunt a little easier for people.

In presenting our Summer Reading, we’re bringing together eight fantastic readers to present their work: Chris Agee, Ruth Carr, Deirdre Cartmill, Kelly Creighton, Matt Kirkham, Maria McManus, Geraldine O’Kane and Lynda Tavakoli. Within lies a great range of established names and exciting new voices from across the North.

As a lover of poetry first, and an event organiser second, it’s a thrill for me to have so many poets from my bookshelf within one room for the night, presenting presses that will be very familiar to Northern Irish poetry readers: Lagan Press, Salt, Lapwing, Summer Palace Press, Templar and elsewhere.

All our eight poets are recognised not only for the quality of their verse, but also for their contribution to the arts in other roles as well, whether as editors, publishers, creative writing tutors, teachers and/or mentors. In writing poetry, one should also support poetry, as has been exemplified by our readers. It’s therefore fitting that the reading takes place in the Crescent Arts Centre, a long-time friend of Poetry NI and of Northern Irish poetry in general.

So come join us for an evening of powerful words, dazzling verse and stimulating insight from eight of the best voices the North has to offer.

[Full details and tickets at]