Hibernian Writers: Annette Skade

Annette Skade

Annette Skade

 

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

From Ancient Volumes of the Children’s Encyclopaedia, with beautiful black and white illustrations. Mainly narrative poems, tales of derring-do, like the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I have a clear memory of sitting on the step of our house in Manchester and checking out the names of the Constellations from the same book. In Grammar school I was lucky to have great English teachers who encouraged us to read and write poetry, although I didn’t have the confidence to write much at school. The poets I was reading could do it so much better: Eliot, Shakespeare, Donne, Hughes, Plath. One poem that really sticks in my mind was the anti-hunting poem “Sport” by W.H. Davis and also the Lancashire dialect poem Welcome Bonny Brid by Samuel Laycock, which made me realise that poetry could speak with my accent. I studied Latin and Greek too and I loved Catullus, as well as the Greek Poets.

Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock n’ roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?

This answer is a bit skewed for me by the fact that I studied Ancient Greek at University so spent much of that time reading greek poets. I loved Homer and think I got my love of poetic rhythms there, and particularly Sappho for her seeming simplicity and depth. When I came to Ireland 25 years ago I read Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and loved her work. I was frustrated that I couldn’t read it in the original so began to learn Irish so I could. My favourite was Ní Féidir Liom Luí Anseo Níos Mó.

The rock n’ roll moment was when doing an MA in Poetry Studies at Mater Dei in Dublin  about four years ago. I was sent links for a lecture I missed. I clicked on one and heard Basil Bunting’s BriggFlatts for the first time, spoken by him. I was so excited by the simplicity and energy in the language and by encountering the poem for the first time by ear. I studied the poem in-depth and wrote a paper on Bunting, who I admire hugely. I love his belief that poetry is language at its most condensed and that every word must be weighed and considered repeatedly, and that poetry should be spoken aloud: “lines of sound written on the air.” I was already writing and had realised I preferred to use simple words with layers of meaning, so hearing and reading Briggflatts was like a homecoming.

What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?

I’d been published a few times when I sent in 10 poems to the Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition in 2012. I was amazed to be long-listed and was writing a lot as I was doing an MA in Poetry Studies and I was reading, eating and breathing poetry. I was gob-smacked to be short-listed and didn’t hear anything for ages so I presumed I hadn’t got any further. I got a phone call while I was in the office in work to say I’d won. It took them about ten minutes to convince me. I got off the phone and said to a colleague, “My God, I can’t believe it! Up to this moment I thought my poetry might well be rubbish!

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

When I was at University in Liverpool in the early eighties I saw John Cage at the Everyman, performing with Merce Cunningham. I was absolutely perplexed! And yet I still remember his voice and the rhythm he followed when he said ( I think) “What will you give me to tell you…” He sat at a desk with an old telephone on it. It rang intermittently and he picked up the receiver and then immediately hung up!

Most recently, and without much perplexity, I saw Mark Doty at the Newcastle Poetry Festival this year, reading from Deep Lane. The way he read was electrifying but didn’t get in the way of the wonderful words. I’ve read Deep Lane many times since. It makes me want to push my own work further.

Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own- which collections would they be and why?

Deep Lane for the fantastic images,  and for the honesty and love he brings to simple things, like his dog or the local barber or the sneakers a young man is wearing, but also for the way he spaces his work, the line breaks and stanzas which seems to add fresh air to the words. A heady mixture! I’d keep Briggflatts for its language and music, the weaving of past and present, and the feeling of belonging it gives me. I’m just reading Painting Rain by Paula Meehan. I love the rhythms and rhymes, the well-chosen words, her plain speaking and groundedness, her stories. I’ve heard her read a few times recently and her voice is with me as I read. What a companion! So I’ll take those three. I’d want poets from the past too. Shakespeare, Donne, George Herbert, Blake. It’s very hard to be limited to three!

Hibernian Writers: Maeve O’Sullivan

Maeve O'SullivanMAEVE O’SULLIVAN works as a media lecturer in the further education sector in Dublin. Her poems and haiku have been widely published and anthologised since the mid-1990s, and she is a former poetry winner at Listowel Writer’s Week. Initial Response, her debut collection of haiku poetry, also from Alba Publishing, was launched in 2011, and was well-received by readers and critics alike. Maeve is a founder member of Haiku Ireland and the Hibernian Poetry Workshop. She also performs at festivals and literary events with the spoken word group The Poetry Divas. Her poem Leaving Vigo was recently nominated for a Forward Prize for a Single Poem by the Limerick-based journal Revival.

What is your earliest memory of poetry at home or in school?

Nursery rhymes! Also the ditty: ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream’.

Is there a particular poet, poem or book of poems that was, for you, like discovering rock ‘n’ roll for the very first time? Can you describe what it was like?

I clearly remember, as a teenager, discovering a Sylvia Plath poem in an anthology belonging to one of my older sisters in the attic of our family home. The poem (not one of her ‘greatest hits’) was called Facelift. I transcribed it into a notebook. The first line reads: ‘You bring me good news from the clinic’ and the last two lines are:Mother to myself, I wake swaddled in gauze, / Pink and smooth as a baby.’

What was your first “Eureka!” moment in writing and publishing poetry; the moment when you realized “Hey, I’m actually on to something here!” in terms of your work coming together and first getting accepted and published in magazines and journals?

The first time I felt like a poet was when Medbh McGuckian was commenting on one of my early poems, Drumshanbo Man, and said it reminded her of DH Lawrence. It went on to be my first published poem, appearing in one of the legendary Women’s Work anthologies and I got to read it in the Wexford Arts Centre in March 1998.

What is the most memorable poetry reading that you have attended and why?

Tough question, there have been so many! Can’t do it, sorry.

Finally, if you could own and keep just three collections of poetry on your bookshelf- excluding, of course, your own- which collections would they be and why?

All of Us (Collected Poems) by Raymond Carver (Harvill Press), Collected Poems by Michael Hartnett (Gallery Press) and The White Page / An Bhileog Bhán, Twentieth-Century Irish Women Poets edited by Joan Breen (Salmon Publishing).

Mnemosyne Lay in Dust: A reading of Austin Clarke’s Mnemosyne Lay in Dust at St. Patrick’s Hospital, Wed 7th January 2015 @7pm

First Fortnight: Ireland’s Mental Health Arts Festival

Mnemosyne Lay in Dust

A reading of Austin Clarke’s Mnemosyne Lay in Dust at St. Patrick’s Hospital, Wed 7th January 2015 @7pm

First published in 1966, Austin Clarke’s Mnemosyne Lay in Dust is an intensely personal and haunting narrative poem about memory, detailing the fictional Maurice Devane’s “nervous breakdown” and subsequent recovery. Mnemosyne Lay in Dust is based strongly on Clarke’s own experiences as a patient in St. Patrick’s from March 1919-1920. In reading Clarke’s great poem in St. Patrick’s, the poem is, in a sense, brought back to its roots.

Poets Peter Sirr, Doireann Ní Ghríofa and Gerard Smyth will read Clarke’s Mnemosyne Lay in Dust, in full, in the Lecture Theatre of St. Patrick’s Swift Centre. The reading will be introduced by way of Stephen Bean’s short film Mnemosyne Lay in Dust: Memories of Austin Clarke and concluded with a post-reading discussion facilitated by John Saunders, director of Shine and author of two collections of poems.

Poets Peter Sirr, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, John Saunders and Gerard Smyth (clockwise from top left)

Poets Peter Sirr, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, John Saunders and Gerard Smyth (clockwise from top left)

Tickets priced €5 (ex. booking fee)

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Catching Up With…Rhob Cunningham

Ahead of his first gig in Dublin since taking on 20 shows in Berlin over the summer, I interviewed Berlin- based Dublin singer Rhob Cunningham. Rhob spoke to me of his internet ‘win’, how the Dublin and Berlin live scenes weigh up against each other and how he can’t wait to hear Jennifer Evans’ upcoming LP.

Rhob will launch his album The Window & Day on Thursday 18th September at The Button Factory in Dublin. You can stream The Window & Day here.

Originally published by Entertainment Ireland. To read the original, please click here.

Berlin- based Dubliner Rhob Cunningham launched The Window & Day, his new album, at The Button Factory.

Berlin- based Dubliner Rhob Cunningham launched The Window & Day, his new album, at The Button Factory.

 

What’s been the highlight of your year so far?

Singing a new song in a handmade Berlin canoe and the video getting on the front page of Reddit! I won The Internet that day.

 

When did you first realise you wanted a career in music?

I don’t like to think of music in those terms. If I did, I’d have to seriously consider another profession. I’d like to be a writer when I’m older.

 

In three words, describe the five minutes before you walk on stage.

On my way!

 

How do you wind down after a gig?

It differs from gig to gig. When a gig goes well, I’m already unwound.

 

In three words, describe the live scene in Ireland.

Still. Going. Strong.

 

In three words, describe the live scene in Berlin.

Twenty. Four. Seven.

 

Whose career do you envy and why?

I’m not driven enough to maintain envy for very long. I know too many talented feckers, if I dwelled on it, I’d never get out of bed.

 

Vinyl or digital downloads?

I’m a big fan of Digital Pre-Orders which facilitate the future printing of Vinyl. Let one medium pay for the other. Cough cough. Hint hint.

 

What is your favourite record shop anywhere in the world?

Anywhere that can still be found. Any record store that has found a way to keep it’s head above water.

 

Name one rare record you don’t own, but you want more than anything.

Jennifer Evans won’t let me hear her record because it’s not being released ‘til later this year. I want to own that, but we all have to wait, I guess. For now.

 

Name one piece of music memorabilia that you wish you owned.

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti driver’s licence. (Fela Kuti’s mam, the first woman to be granted a driver’s licence in Nigeria.)

 

What is the one thing in your life that you couldn’t go without?

GPS technology.

 

Name one record, one book and one film that everyone should hear / read / see.

-Shel Silverstein’s A Light In The Attic,
-The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman
-Baraka

 

Pick the director and lead actor for a biopic about your life.

David Lynch. Tilda Swinton.

 

Describe the perfect night in.

Owning a place. Owning a front door key and a door. Maybe a room. Being “In” somewhere that you didn’t have to pay someone for, in some regard. That would be perfect.

 

Where did you grow up and what are the best and worst things about that place?

Donaghmede and then Dun Laoghaire. The worst thing is trying to spell those words. The best thing is being from anywhere at all.

 

What is your biggest fear?

That fear leads to anger.

 

Who is the person in your life without whom your life wouldn’t be the same?

Una Molloy of Turning Pirate, we’ve been friends since college and she’s always had my back. Her whole family are rather inspiring.

 

What is the most important lesson life has taught you, so far?

T.S. Elliot – “You are the music while the music lasts.”

 

If you could give one piece of life advice it would be…

You’ll know more tomorrow if you ask today.

 

Rhob Cunningham’s The Window & Day is streaming here.

Theatre review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dublin Castle Summer Seasons, Dublin, 23 July, 2014

In Dublin theatre company Mouth On Fire’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of The Bard’s most popular works is given a glam rock twist. It works, writes Philip Cummins

Left to Right: Fionn Foley (Puck) and Colm O'Brien (Demetrius)

Left to Right: Fionn Foley (Puck) and Colm O’Brien (Demetrius)

Originally published by Entertainment Ireland. To read the original, please click here.

IN THE 450 YEARS since William Shakespeare’s birthday, it’s only really in the last 100 years that practitioner have  fused Shakespeare’s work with the contemporary culture of the day to give added context to the longevity of the themes and concerns of The Bard’s best work. The most popular example is, of course, Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film version of Romeo & Juliet, though this reviewer has seen a version of Macbeth featuring a cast clad in military uniforms and firing AK- 47’s rather than wielding swords, as well as a version of Hamlet far removed from 16th century Denmark and, instead, set in 1950’s American suburbia.

It’s no surprise, then, that Irish theatre company Mouth On Fire have sound-tracked one of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays, a comedy featuring five interconnecting stories of love, decadence and identity, and fused Shakespeare’s work with the soundtrack of 1970’s glam rock; a genre of rock music characteristic of many of the play’s themes and, indeed, characters.

Dublin Castle’s Castle Gardens is an excellent space for the performance. On unusually balmy summer night in Dublin, the play’s surroundings are nothing short of majestic. Of course, the play’s surroundings also contrast starkly with the costumes and props of the cast, of which much emphasis is given: the costume designer seems to have raided Freddie Mercury’s wardrobe for leotards for the character of Lysander; Hermia is a 70’s era San Francisco folkie; Demetrius, the man whose feelings Hermia doesn’t return in favor of Lysander, is a 1950’s- era nerd that is the antithesis to Lysander; the chorus of the play is found strumming a Fender Stratocaster rather than a flute.

Left to Right: Colm O'Brien (Demetrius), Melanie Phillips (Helena) and Matthew O'Brien (Lysander)

Left to Right: Colm O’Brien (Demetrius), Melanie Phillips (Helena) and Matthew O’Brien (Lysander)

What makes the costumes work is the knowledge that basing the production on 70’s, glam rock- era costumes is no more and no less nostalgic than dressing the cast in Shakespearean-era clobber, which has its own nostalgia. While it’s true that nostalgia, or ‘Retromania’ as Simon Reynolds terms it, has the power to drown out everything, the production sets out its tone in the opening moments of the act one, scene one: T-Rex’s ‘20th Century Boy’ blares from the PA’s, the cast dancing together to establish the cultural tone of Mouth On Fire’s production. From then on, the play progresses at a steady, even pace, seamlessly seguing into the “play within the play” that the mechanicals rehearse and stage for the wedding of the Duke (Theseus) and the Queen (Hippolyta).

With all nine actors in the production juggling up to three characters each over 90 minutes, the play could seem too busy, at times, thought the cast pull it off with, seemingly, little effort:Matthew O’Brien’s Lysander has all the charisma necessary for the part, Sharon Mannionplays Hermia to her character’s naive and dilemma-stricken nature, Fionn Foley’s Puck is as jaunty and playful as expected, while Neill Fleming’s Egeus, Hermia’s disapproving father, is as shrewd and determined as expected and a lynchpin in terms of the play’s action.

Closing the performance with cast introductions performed against the soundtrack of Mud’s ‘Tiger Feet’ and in a manner that can only be likened to hit TV series Glee, it becomes more apparent that Mouth On Fire’s production will either delight those who seek fresh productions of Shakespeare or disappoint purists who might find the coupling of Shakespeare and glam rock is nothing more than a gimmick. With a strong cast and an imaginative creative team, however, it’s hard to fault.

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