Book Launch ‘Depositions’ by Anton Floyd (Doire Press)

I was honoured to be asked to launch Anton Floyd’s new poetry collection ‘Depositions’ on World Refugee Day 20th June 2022. Anton is a fine poet and good friend, and his new collection is an important and impressive achievement, concerned as it is with the traumatic experience of exile and displacement.

The core of the collection consists of 120 tercets borrowing something from the haiku/senryu format, a selection of which has been translated into 20 languages, many by people who have a direct experience of displacement. This short form section seeks to articulate the experiences of asylum seekers at each stage of the experience, the trauma, both in physical as well as psychological terms.  There are longer poems at the beginning and end of the collection that meditate on war and the aftermaths of conflict. The final section consists of a group of poems about the current tragic situation in Ukraine. 

Two songs also feature in the collection,  Love in a Time of War and Peace Will Come, the latter striking a hopeful note at the end of the collection. The music for both songs was composed by Bulgarian maestro, Alex Zografov. 

Anton’s wife Carole Anne and his son Aodhán, (both artists) designed Anton’s first collection Falling into Place (Revival Press) and have now, between them, designed  the cover for Depositions. Carole Anne made the painting and Aodhán the layout of the jacket. 

The Ukraine crisis has tragically given the collection an added relevance. The founder of The Pharos Arts Foundation in Nicosia, Garo Keheyan, (https://www.pharosartsfoundation.org) has agreed to a Cyprus launch in October 2022 in collaboration with the Irish ambassador there. There’ll be a launch in Limerick and one in Cork also. The launch in Dublin is supported by UNHCR – Ireland. The agency will place Depositions on its list of recommended books and all proceeds from sales will support the work of UNHCR – Ireland.

I hope to see you there.

Bring on 2022!

Every year around this time I compile a roundup of what I’ve done from a writing point of view during the old year. This year we’ve continued to try to learn to live with Covid 19 as best we can. Personally, I’ve been lucky up until now, but this Christmas Covid caught up with us and we couldn’t have the Christmas we planned. Fortunately, we are all vaccinated and boosted and we don’t appear to be suffering too much so far. However, being confined to the house, we miss the walks and interactions with nature that usually sustain us at this time of year. But we have each other and plenty of books and Netflix and food and drink so things could be a lot worse.

Having been granted a Professional Development Award by the Arts Council at the end of 2020, this year was all about the new novel. I had already done some work on Riverrun before I used my Arts Council Award to enrol in the online Novel Writing Course with Faber Academy in London. The course ran from January 2021 right up to September when I submitted my opening 15,000 words for assessment by my course tutor, novelist Peter Benson. Throughout the year we covered many aspects of the novel and read and critiqued each other’s work in what was an intense and intensive writing regime. The nine other writers I worked with were really supportive. Their honesty and incisive comments helped me come to grips with the fundamental issues of my novel. Peter’s assessment came back in October, and I was more than pleased with how positive he was about where I was going with the story.

In August I was granted a further Agility Award by the Arts Council to continue work on the novel and I kept working steadily throughout the autumn and winter. I entered Riverrun in the Novel Fair run by the Irish Writers Centre in September, more in hope than confidence, and I was delighted to get a phone call in early December to say I was a winner. I firmly believe that the Arts Council funding and the level of focussed engagement during the Faber Academy Course allowed me to apply myself to this novel in a way I never could before. I realise how lucky I am – having been commended twice before in this competition – to be given the opportunity to bring my work to the attention of agents and publishers in February at the Novel Fair.

The Novel Fair Winners 2022

Working on the novel so much meant that I didn’t write as many stories or new poems as I normally would. But all the same, I published three stories and twelve poems during the course of the year.

Here’s a quick rundown of everything writing-related that happened for me in 2021

  • My story The Creaseless Society was shortlisted for the Poetry on the Lake short story competition and was published in the anthology Off Centre.
  • My poem The Invisible House was runner up in the Trim Poetry Competition by judge Jean O’Brien.
  • Four poems from my formal sequence Freedom in Constraint was published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing in January.
  • My poetry film Staying Home as featured in The Honest Ulsterman in February.
  • My poem Loss was published in Skylight 47 Issue 14.
  • My sonnet Belturbet Under Frost was shortlisted in the formal category of the Poetry on the Lake Poetry Competition in April.
  • In May I was featured on the Poetry Programme on RTE Radio 1, reading my poem Houses which was published in the Climate Crisis Anthology Empty House (Doire Press).
  • My poem In The Old Days was published in The Honest Ulsterman in June.
  • My sonnet Belturbet Under Frost was published in 14 Magazine, Series 2, Issue 2 in July.
  • In August I was awarded an Agility Award from the Arts Council of Ireland to work on completing my novel work in progress.
  • In September I was featured on the poetry podcast Words Lightly Spoken reading my poem Small Things (for Catherine Corless).
  • My sonnets Night Brooding 1 & 2 were published in Shot Glass Journal in September.
  • My story The Green Man and The Fool was published at Fictive Dream in October.
  • My story Disenchantment was shortlisted for the Poetry on the Lake Short Story Competition and published in the anthology Haunted in November.
  • My poem A Purpose was published in Issue 92 of Cyphers in November.
  • My poem Planting was published in the anthology Local Wonders by Dedalus Press in November.
  • My long poem Remember was published at Live Encounters Poetry & Writing 12th Anniversary Edition in December.
  • In December my novel Riverrun was chosen as a winner (along with 11 other writers ) of the Novel Fair 2022. We will be invited to pitch our novels to agents and publishers at the Novel Fair on 11th and 12th February 2022.

I read even more than usual this year and can’t begin to name all the books I’ve enjoyed, but here goes. In terms of novels I have to mention White City by Kevin Power, The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart and Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding. Short story collections I really enjoyed include Intimacies by Lucy Caldwell, A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin and The End of the World is a Cul De Sac by Louise Kennedy. I read a huge amount of poetry and really loved Averno by Louise Gluck, The Readiness by Alan Gillis, Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón, Invisible Sun by Richard Skinner, Wasp on the Prayer Flag by Maeve O’Sullivan, The Limit of Light by Grace Wilentz, The Examined Life by James Harpur, Of Ochre and Ash by Eleanor Hooker, Glass Life by Ciarán O’Rourke, Liffey Sequence by David Butler and Riptide by Amanda Bell.

There were some excellent anthologies this year also including Days of Clear Light, a Festschrift for Jessie Lendennie, celebrating 40 years of Salmon Poetry, Empty House an anthology on the climate crisis from Doire Press and Local Wonders, a celebration of our immediate surroundings from Dedalus Press. I was delighted to have poems in each of these.

Plans for 2022

My main aims this year revolve around finding a publisher for my novel Riverrun at the Novel Fair in February. I’ve also done some more work recently on my short story collection What Do You Actually Want? and am keen to find a publisher during 2022. And I’ve been putting the finishing touches to my second poetry collection, Palimpsest, which I hope to submit to Salmon Poetry early in the new year.

I also have an idea for a new novel which I hope to start on very soon and I also plan to continue to write more poems and stories as the year unfolds.

This year has been very good for me I know. It goes without saying I’m sure that in this post I’m only mentioning the successes and publications. My 2021 diary is scarred with rejections and failure as every diary has been since I started writing and sending work out.

I know we’ve all said it before, but hopefully next year will see some sort of return to normality – live readings, events and book launches.

In the meantime, stay healthy and well and best wishes to all for a Happy New Year!

Brian Kirk

29th December 2021

Red Line Book Festival 2021

This year in October the Red Line Book Festival celebrates 10 years with a huge range of events, some in person, some virtual. You can view the full programme here.

I’m so happy to be hosting a real live event in the Civic Theatre (my first live event in a long time!) celebrating the short story with authors Deirdre Sullivan and Lucy Caldwell. We’ll hear short readings from both writers and then we’ll get down to the business of the short story, what it is and how it works. ‘The Beauty of Brevity’ takes place on Monday 11th October at 7pm and you can book your tickets here.

The festival is always a cracker and it will run up until 17th October. I intend to see as many events as I can during the week and there’s so much to choose from with events featuring the likes of Colm Tóibín, Kevin Power, Jane Robinson, Nell Regan, Lynn Buckle, Catherine Dunne, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Mary Dorcey, Moya Cannon, Victoria Kennefick, Jessica Traynor, Aoife Lyall, Amanda Bell, Eleanor Hooker, David Butler, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Eimear Ryan, Anrew McMillan, Seán Hewitt and many many more.

Words Lightly Spoken Podcast

I was delighted to be featured in Words Lightly Spoken, a podcast of poetry from Ireland, this week. I introduced and read my poem ‘Small Things’ which is dedicated to Catherine Corless and is published in the anthology, Days of Clear Light, celebrating 40 years of Salmon Poetry and its founder Jessie Lendennie.

You can access the podcast at the following links:

Libsyn

https://wordslightlyspoken.libsyn.com/

Apple Podcasts

https://podcasts.apple.com/ie/podcast/words-lightly-spoken/id1449844470

Spotify:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Words-Lightly-Spoken-754598431575512/

 Twitter

@LightlyWords

Poetry Ireland website

https://www.poetryireland.ie/news/words-lightly-spoken-a-new-podcast-from-ireland

My thanks to producer, Claire Cunningham, for this opportunity. I hope you enjoy it.

You can purchase a copy of the anthology Days of Clear Light at the Salmon Poetry website, here.

Poetry Day Ireland 29th April 2021

Thursday 29th April 2021 is Poetry Day Ireland and I’m delighted to be hosting an event on behalf of South Dublin Libraries. I’ll be reading alongside poets, Michael J. Whelan and Christine Broe and chatting about creativity and poetry in the current climate. Tickets are free but please book them in advance here: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/poetry-day-ireland-south-dublin-libraries-local-voices-tickets-148784401149?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

Michael J. Whelan

Michael J. Whelan is a historian and soldier-poet living in Tallaght, South Dublin, Ireland. His debut collection Peacekeeper was published in 2016 and his second collection Rules of Engagement in 2019 both Doire Press. For more information:

http://www.doirepress.com/writers/m_z/michael_whelan/ &  www.michaeljwhelan.wordpress.com

Christine Broe

Christine Broe has published two books of poetry Solas Sólás and Lifting Light. She is a member of Rathmines Writers Group. She won the Trócaire Poetry Prize in 2019 with her poem ‘The Kerchief’ and was nominated for the An Post Poem of the Year 2019 with the same poem. Her film, Bog Meditation, about her sculpture and poetry won an award in Hollywood independent film festival and is to be shown at Bali film festival later this year. 

Website www.christinebroe.com

Brian Kirk

Brian Kirk is a poet and writer from Dublin, Ireland. His first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017. His poem “Birthday” won the Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018. He was awarded a bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland in 2020 to write and film a sequence of formal poems on the Covid 19 pandemic. His short fiction chapbook It’s Not Me, It’s You won the Southword Fiction Chapbook competition and was published in 2019 by Southword Editions. He blogs at www.briankirkwriter.com.

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.