Every year you set out with a set of partially defined goals and some years you achieve more and some years less. This year I was lucky, winning the Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards. It was a great evening and somewhat surreal, but also a great boost for my poetry in general and my first collection After The Fall (Salmon Poetry) in particular. This time last year the collection had just been published and I was bringing it around the country to readings at Ó Bhéal in Cork, At The Edge in Cavan and the Dublin Book Festival. The book now has a new lease of life thanks to receiving this award and I’m looking forward to doing more readings in 2019 at On The Nail in Limerick in February and Spokes in Waterford later in the year and more besides.
Last year I had the pleasure of reading alongside Mark Roper and Caoilinn Hughes at the Michael Hartnett poetry event at Listowel Writers’ Week. The event was chaired by the ever excellent John O’Donnell. I owe a lot to the lovely people at Listowel: Catherine Moylan (pictured above, presenting me with my award), Máire Logue and Liz Dunn.
This year I read a lot of novels, stories and poetry. The highlights were Caoilinn Hughes’ Orchid & the Wasp, Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13, and Milkman by Anna Burns. I also finally got around to Solar Bones (Mike McCormack) and A Girl is a Half Formed Thing (Eimear McBride), both of which I enjoyed for many reasons. These are books that feed the writer in me. I was pleased to publish review essays of two books that very much impressed me, Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett and Room Little Darker by June Caldwell. It was a joy to spend some extra time poring over the work of these two important writers. In poetry I was delighted to read new collections by Breda Wall Ryan, Ailbhe Darcy, Ron Carey, James Martyn Joyce, John O’Donnell and Amanda Bell. I thoroughly enjoyed first collections from Maurice Devitt, Rachel Coventry and Jane Robinson.
I’ve been telling people I haven’t been writing much poetry in 2018, but on reviewing the year I find I have written and published a number of poems during the year. For most of the year I have been concentrating on preparing a collection of short stories for publication, under the working title It’s Perfect Here. I was delighted to be awarded a place on the Words Ireland Mentoring scheme in August and I’ve already had two engaged meetings with my mentor, Dermot Bolger. Our next meeting should happen in late January and we’ll meet again in the first half of 2019. My plan is to have the MS ready to approach publishers by summer 2019. So far so good.
I’m sure 2019 will bring other surprises and disappointments, as does every year, but I plan to plough ahead as best I can. That’s all you can do as a writer, as a person; try your best. I set out below a list of all the things that went well, poems and stories published etc during 2018, but be assured there were lots of failures and rejections too ( I just choose not to list them here). I leave you with my poem New Year taken from After The Fall – wishing everyone only good things in 2019!
Unlock the doors and let the east wind sing
between the table legs and upturned chairs.
Let dust unsettle on a belt of air
that binds the living to the rising spring
and stirs the sheets that cover everything.
The books you haven’t read are all still there,
the clothes you left behind unworn are where
you left them – let them be, you’ll never bring
the past to life again. Ignore the sting
of memory or the urge to say a prayer;
what you are doing should not prompt despair.
Take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and swing
the hammer at the past and have no fear,
level the ground, make straight, this is New Year.
Summary of 2018
- My short story Festival was longlisted in the Galley Beggar Short Story Prize 2017/18 in January.
- My short story The Creaseless Society was published in online journal Cold Coffee Stand in January.
- My poem Worrywart was published in Issue 47 of Crannóg Magazine in March.
- My poems Mornings and Busker were published in Issue 24 of Shot Glass Journal in January.
- My poem Gulliver In The Glass House was published in Issue 6 of Flare in January.
- My sequence Animal Life was published in Live Encounters Poetry March 2018.
- My short story The Visitor was published at Fictive Dream in March 2018.My
- My poetry collection After The Fall was reviewed by Eamonn Lynskey in Live Encounters Poetry in March 2018.
- My poem Lessons was included in the Poetry Jukebox at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. The theme was “What Else” to mark the 2oth anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement.
- My poem Forgetting was published in Issue 10 of Skylight 47 in May 2018. This issue also includes my review of Emma McKervey’s first poetry collection The Rag Tree Speaks.
- My poem The Sower’s Joy was published in the Kavanagh anthology “The Lea-Green Down“(Fiery Arrow Press), edited by Eileen Casey.
- My poem Two Foxes was included in the Poetry Day Ireland Poetry Mixtape Vol. 2 by Lagan Online.
- In June my essay Not Not I – A Brief Survey of Claire-Louise Bennett’s ‘Pond’ was published in the Honest Ulsterman.
- In June I was featured poet at The Blue Nib - five new poems published.
- I was shortlisted for the Write by the Sea Short Story Competition in September 2018.
- My sequence Winter Songs was published in Live Encounters Poetry September 2018.
- My poem Threshold was published in Boyne Berries Issue 23.
- My short story Grand National Day at the Bull and Drum was shortlisted for the Over The Edge Short Story Competition 2018 in October.
- My poem Birthday was chosen as Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018.
- My short story That New Girl was chosen as story of the month for November at Willesden Herald New Short Stories.
- My review of June Caldwell’s Room Little Darker was published in the Blue Nib Issue 36 in December.
- My long poem Different Trains was published in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Vol 2 December 2018.
- My poem Christmas Work was published at Poetry 24 on 20th December 2018.
- My poem When We Were Small was featured on the Christmas Day edition of The Poetry Programme on RTÉ Radio One.