O’Bheal Twin City review

What a treat and a tonic to read this over breakfast this morning!

Cork poet Conor McManus spins a fine yarn.  His Leitrim-Man-in-Peace-City take on this year’s Twin City Poetry Exchange is well worth a read.  It’ll keep me smiling as I make a start on my planning for next week.

Click here to read.

Cork poets in Tamworth
photo: Conor McManus/O’Bheal


2012: year-to-view

According to WordPress, since moving here on 15th January, my blog has received 6,300 views over 49 posts, with visitors from 46 countries.  That’s the number stuff dealt with.  Here’s a more interesting take (I hope) on my poetry year:

This year I’ve ventured beyond Leicester to discover the delights of open mic nights across the Midlands: Poetry Alight in Lichfield, Nightblue Fruits in Coventry, The Fizz in Polesworth and Spoken Worlds in Burton-on-Trent.  Each has its own formula for success, its unique character, thanks to Gary Longden, Antony Owen, Mal Dewhirst and Gary Carr respectively.  I’ve enjoyed meeting up with friends, making new ones and hearing readings by a wide range of featured poets.  Word! at the ‘Y’ and Ping…K! Poetry continue to nurture and surprise.  Leicester Shindig remains a diary ‘must’ – four featured poets, high quality of open mic readings.

Poetry Alight July 2012

Yours truly, reading in front of the auspicious fireplace

Spoken Worlds July 2012

My poetry diet has been enriched by attending readings from Ian McMillan, Michael Horovitz, Marianne Boruch, Jackie Kay and Jo Shapcott, amongst others.

Favourite nights out: the Crystal Clear Creators pamphlet launch, my tiny exhibit launch with Galleri Gestur and guest reading at Ping…K! Poetry, Carol Ann Duffy’s reading at Leicester University as part of Literary Leicester week.

My exhibit

Great days: States of Independence at De Monfort University, the Lichfield Festival, Dig the Poetry at Polesworth Abbey and a guided tour of Polesworth’s Poetry Trail.


An impromptu half term getaway: the Hay Festival (even the wet Welsh weather couldn’t put a dampener on readings by Gillian Clarke, Phillip Gross and Ben Okri et al).


Best workshop: Cathy Grindrod’s Creative Development Workshop for shortlisted candidates of Writing East Midlands’ mentorship programme really helped me identify and refine my writing goals for the next twelve months.

Social support network: I’m continually grateful for the support and friendship of fellow poets at Soundswrite, Leicester and South Leics stanzas.  Workshopping my poems remains an essential part of the writing process.  (And friends on Facebook, Twitter and blogs for links, laughs and so much more).

Behind the scenes: writing, writing, writing, submissions, the odd published poem in journals and online.

The highlight of my poetry year: the five inspirational days spent in Cork as part of the Twin City Poetry Exchange: Paul Casey’s welcome and tireless hosting, our O’Bheal guest readings in Cork and Limerick, visits to Grange Stone Circle and Cobh, and the company of fellow poet Janet Smith.


2013: looking forward: my featured poet reading at Leicester Shindig on 14th January (am thrilled) and a half term getaway: a two-day poetry course on the north-west coast (can’t wait).

Wishing you all the very best in health and happiness for 2013.

Twin City Poetry Exchange: 15th -17th August

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.

Right to left: yours truly, Rt Hon John Buttimer, Janet Smith, Paul Casey

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.

Annie Moore and her brothers, the first Irish immigrants admitted through Ellis Island on 1st Jan 1982.

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.

Twin City Poetry Exchange: Mon 13th August

It has been a delight and an honour to visit Cork this week as part of the annual Twin City Poetry Exchange, with fellow poet, Janet Smith.

Cork poet, Paul Casey, gave us a warm welcome at the airport, transported us to our home-away-from-home B & B with the very lovely Finbarr and Marion, arranged our guest poet readings and gave generously of his time during the week to show us some of the local sights of interest.

Paul is the founder and organiser of Ó Bhéal (meaning from the mouth or by word of mouth) which provides weekly guest poet readings and open mic, and co-hosts annual exchange visits between Cork and Coventry poets, the forging and fostering of poetry links and friendships which constitute the Twin City project.

As honorary Coventrians for 2012, Janet and I were guest readers at Monday’s event.  The venue: upstairs in The Hayloft Bar of The Long Valley, Winthrop Street.  Lord Mayor of Cork, The Right Honourable John Buttimer was present for the early part of the evening which included the Five Word Challenge: a level playing field in which all present are given 10 minutes to write a poem incorporating five words provided at random by those gathered.  These are then read out at the mic, the winner being the poet who receives the loudest applause.

I began my guest reading with my self-penned effort (‘nough said) followed by my planned repertoire. The response: genuine, I think; I could sense which poems went down best.  In this city of poets, applause doesn’t seem to be given gratuitously.  I liked that.

Janet’s reading followed; I could now relax and enjoy her fine words and delivery, including some of my favourites of hers.

Then followed the open mic; poets from Spain, Italy and France as well as regulars, with poems in a range of styles.  Antonella Zagaroli, a poet from Rome, read from her Selected Poems, Mindskin, with Jennifer Matthews translating.  We were also treated to the wit of Conor McManus, one of the two Cork poets who will be on the exchange visit to Coventry in November.

O Bheal reading: MC, Paul Casey and audience

Midnight.  The end of the event, but not the evening, as we went on to a late night wine bar with several of the local poets: we chatted, drank, eventually left by taxi around 2.30 AM…