Freedom in Constraint Poem #10

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems focusing on the themes of isolation and social distancing and the wider issues and challenges to community and family arising out of the current Covid 19 pandemic.

“Metaxu” is the tenth poem in the sequence and the form this time is rhyming couplets. I came across the notion of metaxu when I was reviewing a poetry collection late last year. The concept appears in a range of writings, some religious, but is probably most notably espoused by the philosopher, Simone Weil.

Considering man’s relationship with God, she writes:

” Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but it is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link. “

In the same way I was struck by the way we have been living at a distance this last year and yet there is a strong sense of community, mutual support and connection.

Once again, the film was made by my good friend Pete McCluskey and he also delivers the poem with perfect pacing. The space he allows around the words here is very well controlled I think. He imposes a break before the final four couplets which adds I think to the impact of closing lines of the poem.

I thought the end of 2020 might see the end of the sequence, but I think we might continue for a little longer. It seems only fitting that we should in the circumstances.

Until the next time, enjoy the poems and stay safe!

Brian Kirk

Dublin

22nd November 2020

Acknowledgements

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems responding to life during the Covid 19 crisis and is made with support from the Arts Council of Ireland / An Comhairle Éalíon’s Covid 19 Response Award.

Happy New Year

How 2020 panned out

Every year around this time I compile a roundup of what I’ve done from a writing point of view during the old year. In many ways this year has been like no other, but I’ve been lucky in that I’ve managed to continue to write and publish new work throughout the year. Thanks to the support of family and writer friends I’ve been able keep going in this time of worry and uncertainty.

One of the main things I did this year was enabled by a Covid 19 bursary from the Arts Council. To date I have written twelve formal poems as part of a sequence dealing with the effects on family, the individual and community in coping with the restrictions imposed as part of dealing with the pandemic. I’ve been lucky to have my daughter, Martha, and my good friend, Pete McCluskey, making films for these new poems throughout the year. So far there are nine poetry films which can be viewed on YouTube.

Here’s a rundown of everything writing-related that happened for me in 2020, a year in which I published three new short stories and fourteen poems.

Although actual readings were out of the question this year, I did a number of virtual readings including The Holding Cell in April, launch of Skylight 47 in July, North West Words in August, Fiction at The Friary in October, readings from The Music of What Happens in November, Ó Bhéal Winter Warmer in November and the launch of 14 Magazine in December.

Bray Literary Festival went ahead as a purely online festival and was a big success with high viewer numbers thanks to sterling work by founder and Director, Tanya Farrelly and the rest of the committee: David Butler, Nessa O’Mahony, Phil Lynch, Edward O’Dwyer and myself. Special mentioned needs to be given to Peter Salisbury whose technical skill and expertise gave life to a festival which would otherwise have died in this challenging year. The committee has decided to take a break in 2021 and Bray Literary Festival will return in 2022.

I read so much this year and enjoyed a good portion of it, but I’ve limited my choices of books of the year to just three, one in each category. My novel of the year was the wonderfully expansive story of a life and art Oona (Lilliput Press) by Alice Lyons. For short story collection I chose Almost the Same Blue (Doire Press) by John O’Donnell for the range and detail of the stories. For poetry I chose Some Lives (Dedalus Press) by Leeanne Quinn, for the control and sureness of voice and that wonderful long title poem.

Plans for 2021

In 2021 I hope to find a publisher for my short story collection What Do You Actually Want? I’m also working towards finalising my second poetry collection (title yet to be decided). Work is well underway on this now and I hope to publish more new poems during the coming year which will form part of the manuscript. I plan to bring my formal poetry film sequence Freedom In Constraint to a close in early 2021. Again, thanks to the Arts Council for funding this project. To date I have written twelve poems, nine of which have been filmed so far. I expect there will be fifteen when the sequence is complete.

My main area of work this year will be on my novel in progress, working title Riverrun. I received a Professional Development Award from the Arts Council in December to cover the cost of an online novel writing course with the Faber Academy. The course runs from January to September 2021 and I’m hoping it will give me the tools to make my novel as good as it can be. I see it as a long-term investment also as I’m sure the techniques and skills I learn will stand to me as I take on further writing projects in the future. A very exciting prospect!

Finally, this year has been a peculiar and challenging year in many ways. I know I’ve been lucky and I’m thankful for that. I hope for all our sakes that our lives can return to something like normality during 2021.

Best wishes to all for a Happy New Year!

Brian

29th December 2020

Freedom in Constraint Poem #9

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems focusing on the themes of isolation and social distancing and the wider issues and challenges to community and family arising out of the current Covid 19 pandemic.

“Letting Go” is the ninth poem in the sequence. The form this time is Ottava Rima, another Italian form, and one favoured by Dante. As we move towards winter, this poem considers the passing of the summer and the approach of autumn living with the restrictions we’ve been burdened with in this peculiar year. Autumn was always my favourite season, partly because of the colours of nature but also the sense of a settling down to winter which is peculiarly attractive for those of us who quite like staying home.

Again, the film was made by my good friend Pete McCluskey and he also delivers the poem with perfect pacing. The chosen sound track plays an important role here in its repetitive simplicity and also its insistence which brings a sense of lingering menace

We’re getting near the end of the year now and also the end of the sequence. Still a few more to do, so back to work soon. Until the next time, enjoy the poems and stay safe!

Brian Kirk

Dublin

22nd November 2020

Acknowledgements

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems responding to life during the Covid 19 crisis and is made with support from the Arts Council of Ireland / An Comhairle Éalíon’s Covid 19 Response Award.

Book Review – Flip Sides by Michael Durack

Flip Sides

by Michael Durack (Revival Press 2020, ISBN 978-1-9162593-8-6)

Reviewed by Brian Kirk

Flip Sides is Michael Durack’s second poetry collection, following 2017’s Where It Began. The first impression is made by the striking cover image which calls to mind the circular centre piece of old 45 rpm vinyl records. Music, and popular culture in general, is never far from Durack’s range of vision throughout this collection.

            In the poem ‘B-Sides’ he takes us back to the early sixties and the exotic potential of teenage years, “Watching the juke box’s impassive claw / sift through the racks of black vinyl”. This collection sifts through the poet’s back catalogue and chooses to play us the flip sides rather than the usual  standards, the general watersheds of passing time. These poems are mainly situated in the Tipperary / Clare area of his childhood and school days but also in the Dublin of his student years. These are memory poems in the main, but Durack always has one eye on the present also. In one of the earliest dated poems, ‘St. Patrick’s Day 1957’, a small poem which deftly conjures a time that is now gone but is still alive in our memory, he says:

“On a stream bank shy primroses

presaging Spring.

Radio: the Railway Cups –

Rackard, Stockwell, Ring.”

            After music, sport is the next greatest unifying factor. Even in poems which appear to have no obvious association, sport of one kind or another is employed as a metaphor. The election of Pope John XXIII is described in sporting terms in ‘White Smoke’. Boxing metaphors are used to good effect in the poem ‘Light Verse’. This poem is very strong and is also a good indicator of how seriously Durack takes his own work as a poet. ‘Double Fault’ employs an extended tennis metaphor in describing the ups and downs of a marriage.

            There can be no doubting the importance of humour in many of these poems. The poet is not afraid to use whatever means at his disposal to further the impact of a poem, whether that means quoting lines from songs or other poems or using word play and puns to make a point. His disregard for those who might warn against such things is taken to a joyous extreme in ‘Minor Victories’ wherein he employs a stream of cliches which culminates in “a poem accepted by a magazine, / a night of untroubled sleep.”

            There is another side to Durack also. ‘The Sun Still Rises’ is a thoughful poem which considers the advances man has made over centuries but also recognises the simple beauty and reassurance of the natural quotidian. ‘Handiwork’ is a poised and very moving memory of the poet working alongside his father. It ends with such power and grace: “Handiwork of long ago: my frail hands at his mercy, / his coarse hands in my care.” In ‘Branch Line’ he shows us how the actions of the past are still felt in the present, creating a living history:

“When they took up the rails and the sleepers in 1954

they unstitched the landscape between Birdhill and Ballina.

The wound has healed with time, leaving the scar.”

            This is a thoroughly enjoyable collection in which the poet takes pleasure in bringing a smile to readers’ faces. But concealed among the playful word games and extended metaphors are subtle but powerful moments of philosophical clarity and guileless beauty.

Flip Sides is available to order from Revival Press.

Brian Kirk

Dublin

November 2020

Freedom in Constraint Poem #8

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems focusing on the themes of isolation and social distancing and the wider issues and challenges to community and family arising out of the current Covid 19 pandemic.

“Dog Days” is the eighth poem in the sequence. This time we have a Sestina which is a formal poem which uses repeated end of line words over thirty nine lines. These poems can be challenging to write, but are also good for building tension around the subject matter of a poem. The poem was written when we had that brief Indian summer when the kids went back to school, but is reflective of the unseasonably hot weather we had back in April in the early days of adjusting to our new situation.

Once again, the film was made by my good friend Pete McCluskey and he also delivers the poem with perfect pacing. It’s a longer and more wordy piece than some of the recent poems and Pete has added to the rising tension with a soundtrack that hovers and builds behind his voice and by the judicious us of blacked-out screen at intervals which helps the poem as it moves through its narrative.

The aim is to complete the sequence by the end of the year, in the hope I suppose that the new year might bring a move away from these troubles which have assailed us throughout 2020. Until the next time, enjoy the poems and stay safe!

Brian Kirk

Dublin

31st October 2020

Acknowledgements

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems responding to life during the Covid 19 crisis and is made with support from the Arts Council of Ireland / An Comhairle Éalíon’s Covid 19 Response Award.

Freedom in Constraint Poem #7

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems focusing on the themes of isolation and social distancing and the wider issues and challenges to community and family arising out of the current Covid 19 pandemic.

“Heaven and Earth” is the seventh poem in the sequence. The form this time is Terza Rima and the poem was written very recently when temperatures began to drop and the season’s change became apparent. The cyclical nature of the passing year can often be reassuring, but in this strange year I’ve begun to feel a little unmoored from my usual comfortable havens. Once again, the film was made by my good friend Peter McCluskey and he also reads the poem. Over the course of the sequence you can get a sense of Pete’s ability to approach each new poem with ever more variety in his use of sound and visual image. Also, people are always at the heart of his films, which is as it should be.

We’re well on the way to completing the sequence now, which should run to around fifteen poems. I’m trying to use as many formal types of poetry as possible with the proviso that the form adds something to the theme in each case. I hope I’ve succeeded to some degree so far. Until the next time, enjoy the poems and stay safe!

Brian Kirk,

Dublin

16th October 2020

Acknowledgements

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems responding to life during the Covid 19 crisis and is made with support from the Arts Council of Ireland / An Comhairle Éalíon’s Covid 19 Response Award.

Bray Literary Festival 2020

This year Bray Literary Festival, now in its fourth year, will be mainly an online festival. The exception will be our headline event which will be held on Thursday 17th September 2020 in the Mermaid Arts Centre in association with One City, One Book. We are delighted to present an evening of readings and discussion hosted by Dermot Bolger, featuring Christine Dwyer Hickey, author of eleven novels including Dublin’s One City, One Book 2020 choice Tatty and The Narrow Land, winner of the Walter Scott Award 2020, and Billy O’Callaghan, author of novels The Dead House and My Coney Island Baby and four short story collections, most recently The Boatman.

Tickets are limited because of social distancing guidelines so book your ticket now at the Mermaid.

Friday 18th September is Culture Night and we have a lovely event planned called “Four Poets Walk into a Bar” featuring Anne Tannam, Mark Ward, Grace Wilentz and Fiona Bolger. This event will be livestreamed on Culture Night at 7pm. Following this event there will be the announcement of the winners of this year’s poetry and fiction competitions and readings of their work.

The Festival continues on Friday 25th September at 7.30pm with the launch of The Music of What Happens, an anthology of new writing in support of Purple House edited by Festival Director, Tanya Farrelly.

The Festival continues throughout Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th September with an amazing range of writers and poets reading and talking about their work. Please review the full programme for details. All of these events can be accessed through the Bray Literary Festival YouTube Channel so please subscribe to be sure you don’t miss anything.

I’m personally looking forward to hosting two events. The first, Singing in the Wild Dark, sees me chatting with poets Eleanor Hooker, Jess Traynor and Leeanne Quinn on Saturday 26th September at 2.30pm. These three poets should not be missed.

My second event is Brave New Words featuring Alice Lyons, Pat O’Connor and Marianne Lee on Sunday 27th September at 11.30am. We’ll be discussing new novels and short stories and the route to publication and much more besides.

All of these events are free to view, but we are more than happy to receive any donations you might want to make towards the future of the festival. I hope you’ll set some time aside to catch some of these extraordinary writers read and discuss their work.

BLF Committee, l to r: Phil Lynch, Ed O’Dwyer, David Butler, Tanya Farrelly (Director), Brian Kirk, Nessa O’Mahony

Freedom in Constraint Poem #6

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems focusing on the themes of isolation and social distancing and the wider issues and challenges to community and family arising out of the current Covid 19 pandemic.

“The Mask I Wear” is the sixth poem in the sequence. This poem is a Rondeau and was written about a month ago when the discussion around the wearing of masks began to get very heated with some governments being slower than others in making them compulsory in enclosed public spaces. Once more, the film was made by my good friend Peter McCluskey and he also reads the poem. This time he’s taken a more upbeat approach approach in terms of soundtrack and delivery of the poem. We discussed it and he was very keen to highlight the repetition of rhyme and sounds so that it might meld with the soundtrack to best deliver the circularity of discussion around the ongoing crisis and mask wearing in particular.

The full sequence should run to around fifteen poems, so we are well on the way at this stage. I’m trying to use as many formal types of poetry as possible with the proviso that the form adds something to the theme in each case. I hope I’ve succeeded to some degree so far. Until the next time, enjoy the poems and stay safe!

Brian Kirk,

Dublin

10th August 2020

Acknowledgements

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems responding to life during the Covid 19 crisis and is made with support from the Arts Council of Ireland / An Comhairle Éalíon’s Covid 19 Response Award.

Freedom in Constraint Poem #5

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems focusing on the themes of isolation and social distancing and the wider issues and challenges to community and family arising out of the current Covid 19 pandemic.

“Cocooned” is the fifth poem in the sequence. This poem is a pantoum and was written during the height of lockdown when older people and those with underlying conditions were cocooning. Once again, the film was made by my good friend Peter McCluskey and he also reads the poem. It’s interesting for me to hear the poem read by a voice different from the inner voice I hear when I read the poem.

I hope to try some different poetic forms as we move through the sequence. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy. Stay safe!

Brian Kirk,

Dublin

29th July 2020

Acknowledgements

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems responding to life during the Covid 19 crisis and is made with support from the Arts Council of Ireland / An Comhairle Éalíon’s Covid 19 Response Award.

Freedom in Constraint Poem #4

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems focusing on the themes of isolation and social distancing and the wider issues and challenges to community and family arising out of the current Covid 19 pandemic.

“Staying Home” is the fourth poem in the sequence. This villanelle was written in the first month of lockdown and was published online at pendemic.ie. The film was made by my friend Peter McCluskey and he also reads the poem in this case, bringing his vocal skills to bear with remarkable effect I think.

Next week I hope to try another poetic form as we move through the sequence. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy. Stay safe!

Brian Kirk,

Dublin

23rd July 2020

Acknowledgements

Freedom in Constraint is a sequence of formal poems responding to life during the Covid 19 crisis and is made with support from the Arts Council of Ireland / An Comhairle Éalíon’s Covid 19 Response Award.