We spent Tuesday exploring Cork city sights under our own steam and ended the day by taking in a trad music session at a local pub. Warm weather, walked miles.
On Wednesday morning we met the Lord Mayor again, this time at his city chambers. We had our photograph taken by the city’s crest and learnt a little of the commercial, political and cultural history of Cork. We then stayed for the launch of Culture Night (Fri 21st Sept), a national initiative to promote Irish culture.
On the way to our reading in Limerick we visited the Neolithic Grange Stone Circle at Lough Gur, the largest stone circle in Ireland. The area, unaffected by the last Ice Age, has been inhabited for at least 5,500 years. Atmospheric.
After an Italian meal in Limerick, we arrived at The White House for our second reading of the week. Tom McCarthy is the new MC of this weekly event comprising open mic and guest poets.
Amongst the open mics:
Paul Casey’s love poem, Blue Roses (click here and scroll down to read. Or why not read the complete interview and the poems that follow, including my favourite, Marsh, about his native Cork).
Ed O’Dwyer read three poems. I was particularly taken with The Chip Shop (love/lust) and Conversation with a Daisy. A talented young wordsmith, O’Dwyer has a forthcoming collection from Salmon Poetry in 2013.
Marion O’Rourke’s Visa Photo, inspired by a visit to Iran, was my favourite poem of the evening. She begins, ‘This face is not mine,’ with its ‘red-peppered lips,’ ‘green scarf to cover old roots’ and its ‘anger-thick angles.’ In War’s Daughter, she writes, ‘[the bomb] stole her toes and swapped her legs for flaming sticks.’
My guest reading followed. The atmosphere: intimate. The response: warm. I left the mic with the feeling that my poems were well received.
Janet Smith’s reading included: The Hooded Children, ‘cheap cotton shrugged around rain-soaked shoulders’; Flares, a journey of reminiscence from split cords to punk drainpipes, Reclaim the Night and Greenham Common, wearing ‘cruise missiles in our hair,’ ‘stamping on toys for the boys…embroidering our breath with our friends.’ Crafted poems, strong delivery.
There was ample time at the end of the evening to meet and talk to most of the audience/open mic poets before the drive back to Cork.
On Thursday we enjoyed locally-sourced food and copious amounts of Earl Grey tea at the English Market – a meeting place for city poets, great for people watching. We then visited Cobh/Queenstown. From here, ‘coffin ships’ transported convicts to the New World, Irish emmigrants left for Ellis Island, the Titanic made her last port of call on her ill-fated maiden voyage and the Lucitania was torpedoed just off the harbour. Excellent walk-through exhibition.
We then went on to the tiny beach at Myrtleville: the wet and wild weather added to its allure.
Ravenous after all that fresh sea air, we polished off a second main meal, this time at the Quay Co-op vegetarian restaurant. My food mountain: onion tart, spiced roast potatoes and mixed vegetables in turmeric. Delicious.
Back to the B & B (before midnight, this time) to pack, to bed, warm and cosy, to read,write, dream.
Friday saw us at Cork airport by 10 AM, saying our goodbyes to Paul. His Irish hospitality and tireless efforts as host made for a wonderful and inspiring visit. We left, looking forward to November, when Paul and the other Cork poets visit Coventry.