Spoiler alert – this isn’t another creative writing prompt, they’re only posted on Wednesdays and today is Sunday. No, this is one of my rambles about coincidences, serendipity, circuitous events, and rain…
I’ll start by saying it was a very surreal experience to unexpectedly hear myself on national (Irish) radio again yesterday! The second poem I recorded for Lyric FM – for Poetry File on Evelyn Grant’s Weekend Drive programme – was broadcast last night (April 30th). You can listen back here.
I wrote ‘Watermarked’ about how grey herons remind me of my late father. The poem was long-listed in the Rialto/RSPB Nature and Place Poetry Competition 2018, and then published in the Strokestown Poetry Festival Anthology of that year.
And by coincidence, I was at this year’s streamlined one-day Strokestown Poetry Festival yesterday, meeting old friends and making new ones, flogging books and having a high old time! The new director of the Festival is Joseph Woods, my Dedalus Press mentor last year, who did a fine job at the Strokestown helm making everyone very happy there was a packed poetry programme for us to enjoy in person after a Covid-induced two-year break.
I have a soft spot for Strokestown Poetry Festival, of course. It is almost on my doorstep here in County Roscommon, and I was on the organising committee for a couple of years. Plus, I won the Strokestown Poetry Festival Roscommon Poets’ Prize in 2017 and 2020 (before and after being a committee member!). It is always a wonderful celebration of poetry, very friendly and welcoming for all, and has been running, coincidentally, for as long as Lyric FM – 23 years. We heard it is now the last independently-run poetry festival in Ireland.
This year, Strokestown hosted the launch of Arlen House’s anthology Washing Windows Too (in which I have a poem). Led by publisher Alan Hayes, there were readings from the book by many of the poets there, including me, and Alan gleefully informed us the book had made Irish publishing history recently by beating sales of the new poetry books launched by Imelda May and Colm Tóibín!
Earlier, I’d been reading at the Poetry in the Park event, which was supposed to be a poetic walk through the woods but ended up as poetry readings in the shelter of Strokestown Park House Gazebo because it was, well, LASHING (Irish for raining heavily!). No matter, a good time was had by all – and we’ll do it all again, led by local poet Gerry Boland, in Lough Key Forest Park at the end of May.
Earlier still, I’d met up with Enniskillen poet Trish Bennett and we’d found our way to that Gazebo for readings by Eithne Hand and Joseph Woods. You see how circular all this is? My connection to Joe is his mentorship of me last year through Dedalus Press. And my connection to Eithne? She was the radio producer who invited me to record two poems for Poetry File on Lyric FM. And they are both fine poets and gave very entertaining (and well-received) readings of their work – while outside, everything was… well, watermarked, really.
And yet more connections – Trish was one of the Roscommon-connected writers I shortlisted for the New Roscomon Writing Prize I judged last year.
It was kind of satisfying how lots of ever-increasing circles manifested themselves yesterday.
And just in case you haven’t noticed yet, my latest book, ‘Under the Influence’ (which was commended in the Munster Literature Centre’s Fool for Poetry Competition last year) is now available to buy, signed by the author, here.
Call back here next Wednesday for a new creative writing prompt/exercise. More about the point of all that is here.