Good News and a Great Book

I had an email this morning from the Wild Atlantic Words Poetry Competition letting me know that a poem has been long-listed for the prize! I’m absolutely thrilled – especially since the judge is Bernard O’Donoghue whom I admire very much. I submitted two poems and I’m not sure which one has been chosen. The theme was ‘at sea’ which I found inspiring and very apt for the times.

I’ve been reading They All Love Jack – a new and very differently framed look at the Whitechapel muders by the brilliant Bruce Robinson (director of Withnail and I). I’m only part-way through and so enthralled I can’t even skip pages as I usually would. It’s a highly political book and begins with a quote by Shelley, perfectly chosen. By far the best thing written on the subject – I’ve already decided.

I’ve subscribed to Tears in the Fence poetry magazine this week which I’m looking forward to reading. I’ve worked on a couple of poems after work – mainly in bed at night – but can’t get anywhere near the amount of time I need to write. I would love a week away at a retreat doing nothing but writing. With a full-time job, childcare and the usual money worries that wish will have to be put on hold for now. It’s a goal for the future though.

I attended a Suicide Prevention Conference this week as part of my job. 55 people a year in Cumbria alone end their life by suicide currently. An appalling statistic. There were some interesting speakers, including the journalist Keith Cooper who linked recession, austerity and cuts to benefits (including the bedroom tax) with the increasing suicide rate. This applies to the area of the county I work in and its impact on mental health has been evident over the last few years. It was the personal account, from a mother who had lost her son to suicide in 2014, that had the biggest emotional impact. Her message was simple and very effective: Talk about it. Ask questions. Find out how people around you are feeling. One of the workshops showed a slide of Virginia Woolf’s suicide note and, while I’ve read this before, I found myself unable to do this yesterday. It’s World Suicide Prevention Day today – 10th September.

To finish on a different note, The Pogues have brought out a Pogues Whiskey brand. I found this ridiculously exciting – even though I don’t like whiskey – and have bought a bottle for the bottle (plus I know a certain person who will have no problem disposing of the contents).

To Dublin and Back

This is the post excerpt.

Got back last night from a few nights in Dublin and awoke this morning to Cumbrian rain. What an inspiring city Dublin is. We stayed on the north side this time which felt much more like the city I remember – lots of derelict buildings, decaying warehouses, cobbled streets and dark old bars. All solid wood, stained glass, history and ghosts everywhere: traces of names on buildings, crumbling architecture, a Gin Palace, photographs of 1916 before and after the uprising. There was the Trump urinal too. Which I stumbled upon by accident of course.

The writer’s museum was worth seeing and it got me thinking about how what is implied is so much more powerful that what’s said explicitly. I was thinking particularly of Yeat’s The Second Coming and the Easter Rising. I remember my dad reading it to me as a child – “the centre cannot hold”. The hairs rise on my arms. I also discovered the writer Mary Lavin and enjoyed seeing the draft of one of her poems on her typewriter.

I was very excited to find a living elm tree after months of spotting dead ones everywhere (there were many fine examples of dead elms in Phoenix Park zoo, even used as monkey climbing frames). I took a leaf and am hoping it will inspire me to finish my elm poem.

All in all, I tried not to get quite as drunk as Behan and fell in love with the Liffey at night – especially from O’Connell Bridge and lit with green lights from beneath as though giving a glimpse of Poseidon’s cave. I also tried very hard to find the ‘prank plaque’ erected on the bridge for Father Pat Noise around 1996 but couldn’t. Hoping it hasn’t been removed.

Staying in the hotel airport on the way back, I was amazed at how dismal, lonely and old fashioned they all look and feel. I couldn’t sleep so started to write something to that effect around 2am. Whether is becomes a poem or not I don’t know. I gave up shortly after that and had a strong Irish coffee with brandy to end the holiday.