Thursday, 28 April 2016

'The Old Fence' - Poem for Poetry Day Ireland

Thursday 28th April sees the event of Poetry Day Ireland. So appropriately enough, here's a new poem...

This was inspired partially by the cover to 'Echo's Bones' by Samuel Beckett (I don't have a copy to hand so I can't check who did the illustration, alas); and partially by a train journey through the North Coast of Ireland and some secluded countryside.

The Old Fence

The old fence looks
to be leaning,
out of the ground.
The grass holding
up each post like
an unlit torch
waiting for fire.

The wire, twisted
across the track,
bent out of line
from the dead-weight
of angled posts
in suspension,
bowed in old age,
caught in a wind.

The animals
lean against it,
trying to hide
from the weather.
No fence, no wall
or hedgerow could
take the teeth out
from this winter.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


Belfast City centre has seen the death of four homeless people in a little over a month now. Official figures of the number of people sleeping rough varies between the Housing Executive and volunteers from local homeless charities.

Tomorrow, a petition by Amethyst Outreach will be handed in to Belfast City Council asking them to open up empty building for the homeless in Belfast. It requires 2000. As the moment, it has just over 1500. Please sign and share the petition: no more death on our streets.


I used to live in seventy-three:  it’s bricked up now though
in the way of anonymity that these terraces succumb to.

When a house becomes a home, it’s cause to celebrate
with the smiling new residents resplendent in their snug,
regardless of responsibility, mortgage, well-being, risk.

But when a home becomes a house, there’s no ceremony,
only the handymen busy with their mortar and chipboard
plugging tell-tale holes of dead doors and powerless sockets,
concreting futures in, the bank felt through each window,
everyone peeking through your letterbox, the locks a reminder
that there really is nowhere left to run.

Nothing left to hold these families, now redundant shells,
just the neglect that weeds enjoy and graffitied thresholds
bearing down on streets populised by the unwanted nomadic
that know of no place to rest from their downfall.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016

I'm one of fifty poets featured in the forthcoming anthology, The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016, from Eyewear Publishing,

The first annual Best New British and Irish Poets competition was open to any poet of British or Irish citizenship and/or U.K. or Irish residency who has not yet published or will not publish a full-length collection prior to 1 June 2016. Poems submitted for consideration could have appeared in print before, or in a pamphlet, but not online.

I'm honoured to be included beside some very fine poets indeed. Praise and thanks to Kelly Davio and Todd Swift at Eyewear for their commitment to poetry! The anthology is available to pre-order now from Eyewear's online store.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016

Each year, Community Arts Partnership, through their Poetry in Motion Community project, publishes an anthology of poetry by writers from across Northern Ireland. Last year was 'Making Memories', in which my poems 'What's Left is Not Right' and 'Report' appeared. 2015 saw the inaugural Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing, endorsed by the Heaney Family. and won by Stephanie Conn.

This year, the award is back, and CAP announced the shortlist of 21 poems, from 72 being published in this year's anthology, 'Connection'. I'm delighted that my poem 'Missed Flight' has been selected for the longlist.

The poem is for a friend who took her own life a few years ago, and the first tentative draft was born out of one of the CAP writing workshops with Chelley McLear a few years ago, so it means a lot to have it published with CAP, although it has changed considerably since then. This year’s winning poem will be announced at the anthology launch on Sunday 13th March at the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts. Good luck to all.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Writers' Corner, Derry Post

Here my poem, 'An Ideal' (a sonnet in the loosest sense) in the Writers' Corner feature of the Derry Post. Thanks to Patrick McNicholl for recommending to send something in. It's a pleasure to be published alongside Olive Broderick, Moya Donaldson and Martelle McParland, and a poet new to myself, Denis McAlinden.

The paper is currently looking for submissions to this monthly feature: email with your poems.
An Ideal

Give me elbow room with no one to elbow,
flushed of brickwork, where the hedgerows
come down like a knife, and life is defined
by shade and by rainfall.

Where a lungful means sweetness
and each song has a space to be heard;
where the earth is the colour of
and gives no fickle reply to spade or foot.

Let me kneel down in this street
to greet the dewdrops, stand and salute
your glorious zeroes; tally up
the storefront and profit margins,
red lights and penthouses,
then throw them on the compost heap.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Commissioned poem for Sky 1

Many thanks to What's Up TV for broadcasting my commissioned poem, "I have looked for inspiration" on their Saturday afternoon show on Sky 1.

My brief from the producer was for a poem "capturing the history of the past 30 years of N.I. and then speaking about how the atmosphere and emotions of Northern Ireland have developed." I hope I've achieved this.

Extra credit to Sean McInerney on doing a great job reciting the poem for the feature, and Ruth Campbell for helping set the whole thing up. You can read the poem here.

Monday, 1 February 2016

'Vagued Up' Poetry

Back in 2007, The Onion ran a spoof article about a poet taking an extra five minutes to "vague up" a poem, giving "the piece a level of vagueness more suitable for publication."

It's as true today as it was then. I did exactly that to one of my poems, deciding to feck about with the form a bit, and got it into Riverbabble 28, published by Pandemonium Press.

What was published is on the left; the original version is on the right. I will be applying this technique to all of my poems from now on in order to obscure meaning completely. I call this 'The Muldoon Method'.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

"The Human Touch" exhibition

Back in October / November last year, I facilitated some creative writing sessions with two older people groups in Ballymote, Downpatrick, organised by Down Community Arts. The visuals were directed by photographer and journalist Mervyn Smyth, with myself handling the poetry, being bought together for a planned exhibition. The images were taken from trips by each group to Inch Abbey and Ardglass.

The Glass Gallery in Newcastle will be displaying “The Human Touch” from Tuesday 23rd February through to Saturday 5th March. The opening reception is on Tues 23rd, 3 – 5pm. I haven't seen the finished results yet, so I'm looking forward to seeing the fruits of our workshops.