Tag: #poetry

2023 Review and thoughts on 2024

Hare’s Breath cover image artwork by Rosaleen Fleming

2023 was an important year for me, primarily because I published my second poetry collection Hare’s Breath (Salmon Poetry). It’s been six years since my first collection After The Fall was published and I’m very proud of the poems that make up this new collection. I was delighted to launch the collection to a full house at Books Upstairs (a very important independent bookshop) in November and also very happy to have John Murphy introduce the book to the world. John has been a huge part of my writing life as first reader and mentor for almost a decade.

That aside, the year has mainly been about working on the new novel. (I am still actively seeking a publisher for Riverrun which was a winner of the the Novel Fair at the Irish Writers Centre 2022). The new novel which currently has a working title of A Fork in the Road, has been taking up most of my time and will continue to do so in 2024. During the year I received support from Listowel Writers Week by way of a week long stay at the Cill Rialaig writers retreat in Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry. I also was granted an Agility Award bursary from the Arts Council and was accepted for the National Mentoring Programme which is run by the Irish Writers Centre. My mentor is novelist and short story writer Sean O’Reilly and it’s been very interesting working with him as I write the novel. I have a further two sessions with Sean planned for early in 2024 and my aim is to complete the novel by the end of the year.

Here’s a brief list of how 2023 went for me from a writing perspective:

I was disappointed not to publish any new short stories in 2023, but I’m happy to say that my story Call Me Cathy will be published at Fictive Dream in January 2024.

Next year my main priorities will be to finish the new novel, write and publish some more short stories and do as many poetry readings as possible, bringing Hare’s Breath to as many people as possible around the country.

From a poetry point of view, the highlights of 2023 for me included Maurice Devitt’s Some of these Stories are True, Paul Bregazzi’s Hex, Breda Wall Ryan’s These are my People, A.E. Stalling’s verse translation of Hesiod: Works and Days, Maeve McKenna’s A Dedication to Drowning, Breda Spaight’s Watching for the Hawk, Jane Robinson’s Island and Atoll, Mark Ward’s Nightlight, Eamonn Lynskey’s Material Support, Rachel Coventry’s The Detachable Heart and Eamon McGuiness’ The Wrong Heroes.

Some the best short story collections I read this year included How to Gut a Fish by Sheila Armstrong, Evelyn Conlon’s Moving About the Place, Sean O’Reilly’s Levitation and Ann Beattie’s Park City: New and Selected stories.

Among the best novels I’ve read during the year I have to include The Singularities by John Banville (it has something of the old Banville in terms of character and concerns), Fludd by the late Hilary Mantel, Nothing Special by Nicole Flattery, Though the Bodies Fall by Noel O’Regan, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and Jabberwock by Dara Kavanagh (David Butler).

My ‘to be read’ pile grows bigger every week, but I’m looking forward to Booker winner Prophet Song by Paul Lynch and the current Winter Papers among many others in early 2024.

I hope 2023 was good to you and, whatever you’re reading or writing in 2024, I wish you only the very best!


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:



Apple Podcasts







Poetry Ireland website


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.

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


November 2020

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,


29th July 2020


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.