Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Anne Marie Kennedy Review of Salmon Book, Session.

Pete Mullineaux's insightful look at traditional Irish music.  A Poet Prepared. 


The Bristol born, Galway based poet, author and playwright Pete Mullineaux knows his way confidently around traditional Irish music. His poetry collection, Session, (Salmon Poetry), dedicated to his mother, with artwork by Fran McCann, is guaranteed to leave his readers wanting more.

The poetry, like the regional variations in the music, varies in style and tone, the common link being the poet’s voice as a silent observer. Mullineaux uses evocative images, insightful observation, humour, playfulness and nostalgia. He is a scrutiniser of intricacies, a watchful eye, someone who listens to the tunes and observes the people who play them. The reader sees the players’ eyes, fingers, their bodies, the body language and the resulting inter-personal and inter-musical relationships being formed. Mullineaux also explores the emotions and psychologies of his subjects with curiosity and admiration.   

One of this writer’s favourites is A Piper Prepares, where the speaker intimately describes the uileann piper’s preamble. It is a tantalisingly visual poem with so much anticipation in the opening lines that the reader hopes the preamble goes on: It’s almost like shooting up; a captivating ritual / as the belt is looped around the forearm; the buckle/ notched, blowpipe joined to leather bag; a shard/ of cloth, folded between elbow and rib for comfort.

Mullineaux has the speaker in this poem watch the piper assemble the instrument and describe it in slow motion detail. ‘Drones are attached like pistol silencers, regulators poised,’ and while acknowledging the tune of the same name, ‘the piper’s apron,’ he remarks on the leather patch across the lap which provides ‘protection from the crazed jabs of the chanter, / its manic hypodermic dance.’ As the tune begins, ‘a primal hum vibrates,’ and ‘a gasp/ for air as the bellows fill and suddenly there’s life/ in the lungs and wind in the reeds...’

‘The Five Mile Chase,’ is a tribute to Patrick Street. Traditional musicians Andy Irvine, John Carty, Kevin Burke and Jed Foley have their individual stage movements noted and matched to rhythm, playing styles and character nuances. ‘A tilt of the chin for the pigeon on the gate/ a bend in the waist for the stack of wheat/ a wink in the eye for the blue eyed rascal/ a slip in the hip for a trip up the stairs.’ It’s a twelve line piece that could be sung in jig time. Hup! 

Mullineaux uses a coupling motif throughout the collection. In ‘The Lads of Leitrim,’ an accordion and a flute player meet up regularly to play a session in a snug in Manorhamilton. The poet compares their ease and joy in the music to a long standing marriage. ‘Could there be a love closer to their hearts/ than this – something to cherish for a lifetime -/ never to part, for better or worse/ in sickness and in health.’ As they launch into the Fermoy Lasses, he declares ‘these fellas are wedded to the music.’

Another couple, Paddy Canny and Frankie Gavin, have their musical communion told with slow lyrical ease in ‘Cave Music II.’ Canny, ‘the elder statesman has eyelids drawn / tight like a mole,’ while the younger Frankie, ‘allows the older man the lead, follows the set tone/ finding his own empathetic touch.’ 

Mullineaux provides the snapshot, watching the young Gavin who could have closed his eyes, but chose not to. Gavin, who was ‘a generation apart’ at the time, kept watch of the older man, ‘aware how much this moment must be fixed, / treasured deep in his own vaults.’ 

Watching Dermot Byrne and Floriane Blancke’s playing compelled the poet to write ‘Tabhair Dom Do Lámh.’ Byrne’s accordion sits ‘like a sleeping child in his lap,’ and Blancke ‘leans forward, the harp/against her cheek, listening/ for a heartbeat...’ The poem moves swiftly from the womb analogy, to a child one, when Byrne ‘tickles and squeezes’ the accordion, and like an infant, growing with the pace and momentum of the tune, together, the duo, ‘fast forward, to courtship, / dancing, making crazy love / through music.’ 

This aptly titled collection, Session, by Pete Mullineaux is a gem. Encore, si’l vous plait? It is available from, bookshops and music stores.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Andrew Scott #1

Brave New Man

Brave New Man just sits in his chair
Thoughts of starting again taking over
Off to space, he will stare
Finishing one chapter and starting another
Making peace with what has been done
Knowing that hurtful things will be said
As another walks out to the setting sun
And he starts a new book that has not been read

Brave New Man knows that there will be whispers
The people will want to know why hearts had to separate
A reason has to be given to the others
Yes, they have to investigate
Movements will only lead to rumour
The smallest item bringing assumption
Making up other answers
Without answering the question

Brave New Man is trying to deal with all the emotion
Happiness, sadness and anger all mixed into one
Shoulders dripped with tension
Expressionless face a bigger weapon than a gun
The wrong person will feel the rage
Of the Brave New Man’s new outlook
The bite of an animal out of a cage
Looking to take back what was took

Brave New Man has to look to tomorrow
While embracing yesterday
Letting go of the sorrow
That fills his everyday
Look forward to the new adventure
Finding hidden joys of life
Take every positive as a treasure
Ridding himself of strife

Brave New Man must face each new day
Know that it will be different from before
That he really does not have a say
On what is in store
Just embrace the new life and spirit
Make it what he can
New challenges making the soul lit
Showing the world a Brave New Man


Andrew Scott is a native of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. He was raised in a rural farming community, and started writing in his mid-twenties as a way to bring order to things he was dealing with in life. 

Many of his poems are based on people he has met, passed on the street, seen on a bus, encountered in everyday life. Others are created from photographs he has seen, or people he made up as he tried to envision someone coping with different situations in life. Andy was quoted saying , there is a little of himself hiding in all his poems, but it is up to the reader to figure out which part.

His book of Poetry and Prose Snake With A Flower is available now.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hugh Cooney's Edinburgh Fringe Adventure

Ballymore Eustace's Hugh Cooney was in Edinburgh last weekend, after enacting something creatively mad in a positive sense; and a brilliantly executed piece of living performance art and storytelling - whilst having an ace time doing it.

A former festival virgin on his inaugural Edinburgh Fringe or Bust performance storytelling art tour. 

He hitchhiked from London to Edinburgh, over two days, with the live tracking of him by an online app; a diary of tweets, pics of the random folk that picked him up, and fb update-selfies by the side of the road with his thumb and a sign held out. Keeping his family, fans, followers and s/m friends abreast, engaged and emotionally involved in his (pron. kookullanary) Cuchualainary (copyright John Cummins Poetician) Cooney baloonae adventure hitchhiking from home in inner city Hackney, to the good crazee cultural stuff that is Edinburgh in the middle of August.

All with the goal of reaching his 5pm Saturday slot at the Forest Cafe. He was slow getting out of London, and having lived there I know this was potentially the most difficult bit. Escaping the rat race. He had several short lifts up the M1, and had to turn back and go a different route the first night. On which he stayed in a country house retreat someplace in the midlands. He then went NW and made it to Manchester, then fairly swiftly the rest of the way once in the friendlier North of England. 

Conducting national live radio conversations with the cream of professional Irish broadcast journalists and DJs manning the decks in Ireland, keen to give what the Irish call a dig out, for such a great and positive creative idea reliant solely on wishes and a prayer. Faith in the better and best human side of the sixty million people living in Britain. 

Like the comedian Tony Hawks was reliant on when he hitchhiked lumping a fridge round Ireland after losing out on a drunken bet, that turned into the basis of an experience from which came a best selling book and film.

A beautifully kind-hearted motorist adopted Hugh for a final big stretch of driving, only too happy to buy into his ever increasingly more real, and manifesting before our very eyes, mad Irish dream coming true on the road between London and the global Scottish thespian festival.

And there was lots of love and good vibes by the time he reached his destination (Hugh pictured above doing the gig), with a few hours to spare to get ready and experience one of the four human joys, of what Amergin calls in his 120 line 7C Old Irish ars poetica, first translated by Galway University academic P.L. Henry in 1979 - and over twice as long as his other three poems (numbered seven, eight and nine at the link) far less interesting, imo, or understandable, rosc, druidic ogham-derived battle magic spells that Paul Muldoon can spend an hour or two cock a doodle doing about: 'the Joy of fitting poetic completion'.

That comes with a 'turning or after turning' of one's three inner artistic cauldrons and interlocking spiral gyres, so that they spin upward with momentum of imbas, poetic fizz, literary energy, and facilitation of the open channel to Creation and one's ineffable
gender-neutral mind's voice, mapping the individual voice closest to the contours of thought, as Newcastle West Limerick poet, Michael Hartnett, put it. 

Cooney on his Blog puts it:
'Like one of the Seanchaí/Storytellers of old, equipped with only my stories (and of course some clothing, cash, sandwiches, voice recorder, shillelagh, go pro, wine skin and a phone). i’m approaching it very much as a pilgrimage to see what the buzz is. Should anyone want to hear my stories, perhaps I can tell them down an appropriate lane or in the bushes in the park. Or perhaps you know a suitable situation that would welcome such a vagabond?'

He made it, had a great debut gig in Edinburgh, and is now in the woods with a man he has just met. Dogging, by the looks of it. Hugh has a very satisfied quietly joyful inner glow to his fresh and kewlest of all the NCAD hipster-faces in Dublin during the time we made art together over the years. Firstly when I met Hugh, and his Dublin based art-partner, fine artist Tom Lynn. 

Lynn, created, with fellow Irish artist, Al Kennington; the Monster Truck Art Gallery on Francis Street in the Liberties, Dublin 8. The oldest most working-class part of South Dublin. 

And it was the Monster Truck Art gallery where i encountered these two who created the poet in residence position i held there for several months. Both recent graduates, who'd graduated the same or a year before i had from Edge Hill.

Hugh is one of the made-members of the island's most successful and highly secretive Irish art mafia. Hugh makes contemporary Art in numerous forms. Including food, music, and, what he is best known for, the crazee comedic performance art youtube comedies he scripts, performs, records, uploads, and then come, fall, show sit, sues reads the evidence, prosecutes, and often in drag, with a cast of characters drawn from the entertaining and artistically rendered phantasmagoria of his mind.

Desmond Swords

Monday, August 17, 2015

Shame A Sidhe Nee Note

'I credit poetry for making this space-walk possible. I credit it immediately because of a line I wrote fairly recently recently instructing myself (and whoever else might be listening) to walk on air against your better judgement.'
 Seamus Heaney, Nobel lecture, 1995, Stockholm.

What's the story? The message? What are we being encouraged to do by Seamus Heaney as people who might be listening?

From the response of the local and global Heaney audiences, an emerging consensus is affirming that it means what Heaney hinted it meant in his Nobel acceptance speech, Crediting Poetry, shortly after he'd first written the poem, The Gravel Walks, that appears half-way thru his first post-Nobel collection, The Spirit Level, in which the line's earliest poetic context appears.

Enact the line above as a living person. 

Or as Heaney said himself in an October 2008 Harvard Crimson interview: 'I began to look up rather than keep down. I think it had to do with a sense that the marvellous was as permissible as the matter-of-fact in poetry.'

Certainly Historian Eugene Kielt who runs Heaney tours, gets it right, in my opinion, when he opines that it is 'very inspirational. It is about going for it. We are naturally cautious and sometimes someone should throw caution to the wind.'

Kielt continues, that though some charge of this advice is about 'keeping your feet on the ground', it's  about 'looking up as well. It is (primarily) about risk taking and not being inhibited, losing your inhibitions.'

If Heaney chose this epitaph himself, as Yeats did his own, the Heaney family can rest assured that there's at least one from the vigorous throng of filidh/poets on Britain and Ireland following in the wake of this Ard Ollamh - with a forty year presence at the very top of world poetry - practising what Heaney calls, the 'professional love' a wordsmith has for their Muse.

Heaney's writing is held in such high regard because he had learned as authentically as any filidh taught on the curriculum that turned out forty generations of Irish rhymers from the fifth to the seventeenth century.

I was never introduced to Ireland's last ard ollamh during this past decade in which I've been living in Dublin.

And incertus oneself. Indeed, it was noted by one wit when I first arrived with an A4 notebook, live-writing in what Heaney in one of his essays calls the golden circle - that, prematurely silver-haired, I looked like a younger version of the national bard. However, I was far too timid and shy to approach and introduce myself to him.

This is because Heaney was the only poet I knew, or was consciously aware of, that - in my own mind at least - had the power to personally make or break my belief in the veracity of what I was up to, at that stage starting out on the road of literary learning and letters; at bardic grades one or two, a foclo or macfirmid, 'word-weaving beginner', or 'son of composition' - barely four years in, and not far from the beginning of a fourteen year journey through the (seven) bard and filidh/poets grades.

I was happy and feel blessed to have just been in the same room as him, observing and learning from the best poet in the world, on their home turf, just another of the many filidh in the ultra-competitive  throng at Tara seeking affirmation, validation and favour from a high poet-king and linguistic leader of himself alone, first; then his family, and people that flocked from all over the globe to watch and learn from this then living container of pure poetic spirit that had earned the right to walk rhyming on air, and talk with ultimate authority on the poetic act and art, not because of who he stood next to, or who was socially drawn to him, but by being the best at what he did. Poetry/Filíocht.


I was blessed by poetry, fate and dán - that in its most antique and authentic context means 'fate' as well as 'poem', 'poetry' and 'art' -  to witness Heaney speaking, both poetry and prose, on five or six occasions. One one occasion, four months after I'd first arrived, in the thick of the Kavanagh 2004 centenary; during a St Patricks College, Drumcondra, Seamus Heaney Series, of six lectures, on child cognitive abilities, the week following his own on Kavanagh, that I also attended - I looked up from the note-taking I'd been writing and there was Heaney's back, directly in front of me, sitting down watching and listening to the same lecture.

I only realised it was him close to the end of the lecture. Note-taking thru most of it, it had gradually, over the final minute or two, dawned on me, as I intermittently looked up and caught glimpses of this senior person's head turning occasionally slightly to the right and left; that the best poet in the world had chosen to sit right in front of me. He'd sat down after me, and, no doubt, had observed before he did, me writing in my own private circle of studious concentration, oblivious to his presence. Unlike most other scribes and would-be poets of Ireland in the room that night, I suspect.

As I already mentioned, when I arrived in 2004 it was Kavanagh's birth centenary, and everyone in Dublin was on the bandwagon. Somewhat ironically he had become an establishment icon, long after his life was over, when the official Irish literary establishment didn't give him the time of day.

During that summer, a new pal I'd just made from Write and Recite, a weekly poetry open-mic (no special guests, just an open mic) that ran in Dublin from 2004-8, PJ Brady, was in a one-man play in which he plays the role of Patrick Kavanagh, and I had volunteered to put a couple of posters from his ten or so full-size glossy-poster stash, up in as prominent and relevant places as I could find.

There were two events, one was a Kavanagh manuscript exhibition at the National Library and the other was the Royal College of Surgeons launch of Peter Fallon's translation of Virgil's Georgics, published by his own imprint, The Gallery Press; with fellow Gallery Press poet Seamus Heaney introducing his publisher's translation of the Latin bard.

These, I thought, were two of the most perfect places to catch Dublin's poetry buffs. The Kavanagh manuscript launch was on Kildare Street at six-thirty and Fallon at seven pm, five minutes away in the College of Surgeons, Stephens Green.

I arrived at the library and asked if it was OK to put a poster up, and the security man said fine, no problem. After I had put one up I thought it would be an idea to ask whoever was doing the introductory spiel of the main speaker, if they could mention PJ's show. I ended up talking to the third in charge person, who came out with a classic reason, after being asked if she could ask the main honcho to mention the show -

"I don't think it would be appropriate in the circumstances."

I couldn't help but inwardly laugh, thinking "what circumstances are they? This is a Kavanagh event, Ireland's premier Kavanagh actor is having a limited run of a world-class Kavanagh show, performing his own prose and poems on stage; surely the circumstances couldn't be more apt and appropriate?"

However, being new to Dublin and still enthralled with the place, I moved on unbeaten by this, what I thought, petty refusal; to Peter Fallon's launch, and thought I would just play it by ear. Operate on poetic instinct.

When I got there I decided to forget asking for a mention and just put the poster up in the wine and cheese area of the ballroom where all the important faces and the great and good of Irish poetry (that I did not recognise) were to mingle post book launch - that happened in the main raked, six or seven tiered, college of surgeons lecture theatre .

The ballroom was an imposing high-vaulted space with an intricately decorated ceiling adorned with expensive oak and plaster friezes, and fading oil portraits of various Augustine personages hung staring out on the walls; but the sash windows had been faced with interior double glazing, making an excellent flat surface for the poster.

After the library vibe I thought it best to completely cover all bases, and so got permission from the security man to put it up. So, after the launch, as the crowd mingled, I went to put it up, but half way through a man who was clearly involved in the launch - I had watched him introduce Heaney at the start of the event in the main lecture hall - came over in a very agitated and disgruntled state, and we had the following exchange -

"You can't put that up here."

"It's OK, I got permission to put it up."

"What, from security?" (somewhat disbelievingly)


"Well, erm they probably think you're with us. You'll have to take it down."

By this time I was inwardly laughing more than I had been at the library, as he was obviously very highly charged, probably because of the high profile nature of the event, so I said "no problem" and started to slowly un-sellotape the two thirds affixed poster, which is when the funniest thing happened. He physically interjected and said:

"Here, let me help you."

And just at this point about to tear it away like an angry executive snatching a latte from a facetious office boy, he realised his behaviour was drawing attention away from the main focus and centre of poetic gravity in the space and onto us. And he blushed brightly before turning on his heels and then shuffled off to fulfill his role of chief smiler, hand-shaker and chit chatter of poetry related pleasantries with those present.

He had inadvertently given me more free publicity than I could have hoped for, as the eyes in the room noted from their corners the then Director of Poetry Ireland / Éigse Éireann (i later learned), the Louth poet, Joe Woods, had been having the frisson of socially combative exchange with.

As you will be aware, at the wine and cheese do's any news is big news, no matter how slight, so I felt somewhat pleased with my efforts. I had not gone out to create a fuss, but still the fuss came and could not have been better scripted.

I had been to my first Dublin literary establishment splashes, back to back, and all in all a good evening's voluntary work had come of it. I ended up spotting a mobile notice-board just outside the sumptuous ballroom and decided to put the poster on there.

When I had slowly and methodically done so I turned round and was immediately met, ten feet away, by the eyes of Fallon and Heaney; who were having a one on one time out from the bustle of the ballroom, alone sitting on two chairs to the side at the top of the sweeping marble staircase, saying nothing and staring directly at me.

And with no sign of acknowledgement from them of me beyond the stare, caught unawares, not realising they were there, I sheepishly raised my eyes and walked off with a fixed lip-clamped face-pull of one spotted by the ollúna at their most authentic and natural in their own golden circle of imaginative and playful child-like artistic concentration.

I was filled with emotional and intellectual positivity at the success of my creative mission, smiling in joyful surprise as I vacated the building, welling with imbhas and feeling I had made a perfect first impression in the golden poetry circle at the height of this collective delusional spell of Celtic Tiger madness; that I believe (tho it's very unpopular and unpatriotic to utter any disagreement with the magical doctrine that the bubble is going to expand and last forever) - will spectacularly crash. I am certain of it."

contd@ Jan Manzwotz Blog, created four years after starting to write, at the start of one person's journey thru the thickets of the English language in Dublin. Created as an unconscious and instinctual part of the Finn McCool find ye name process taught to forty generations of Irish rhymers.
A metaphorical bardic poetry lesson from one that learned to love letters a long route - from the curriculum's core reading material found hitting ye head over and over again with it, until the contents of what a fíli poet had to learn, sunk in. From the pages of the unimprovable original druidic poet-training manual ye still have at the educational centre of ye poetic practice in contemporary Ireland: Auraicept na n-Éces.

Desmond Swords

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Comment on Nessa O'Mahony's Facebook

Originally a comment on Dublin poet Nessa O'Mahony's facebook. Who wrote 11 August at 14:33:

Delighted to be part of the Open University's Dublin Culture Night again this year on Friday 18th September, and this year I'm joined by fellow OU teacher Siobhan Campbell and a host of talented OU alumni including Margaret O'Brien, Evan Costigan and Serena Lawless, all in the delightful surroundings of The Winding Stair bookshop. We'll even have an open mic - what more could you ask for.

Desmond Swords: If you need an MC for the open-mic, i don't mind helping out by voluntarily organising and co-hosting it with some of the sustainable community team here at the Iveagh flats. Or get just the right person to do it, if i'm unavailable on the night. Hosting an open-mic is not for the inexperienced or fainthearted. The first open mic i attended in Dublin, Write and Recite, was a psychological four year WaR that left some with intense emotional shell-shock and intellectual meltdowns resulting in clincial interventions and enforced health-care at the Central Mental Hospital in Clonskeagh.

There is a fine art to it, that i learned over the four years i attended open mics and regularly created and hosted events. My first creation was with the closest you can get to witnessing the real Patrick Kavanagh in the flesh onstage; the long-time poet-actor who has played Kavanagh in his own prose and poetry on the stage for three decades, PJ Brady. I came up with the idea, filled in the arts council forms, got the grant, and now the Patrick Kavanagh Celebration every September above in the Palace bar on Fleet Street, is part of the cultural fabric of this city.

I was the original poet-in-residence hosting an open mic in the Monster Truck Art Gallery, after shamefully and drunkenly blowing it at WaR by getting the event banned from the Duke pub after five weeks there, in what the MC Gerry MacNamara hoped would be a permanent residency, and having to find a new place to practise, found an art gallery full of recent NCAD graduates.

Before Kit Fryatt and her partner in rhyme, the English avant-garde pioneer of contemporary verbal experimentalism, Dylan Dyldo Harris, took over the role some months after the original NCAD hippies and useless accountant artists that created Monster Truck, dissolved the admin and went their separate paths as artists.

I am no longer a new addition to Ireland's poetry family and Dublin community of wonderfully talented verbal ranters and rhymers representing all class, manner, type, and degree of filidh education in the wordsmiths carrying on in the wake of Famous.

The Ballaghy bard, Mossbawn magus, He that needs no name because, when alive, i always thought, watching him from the sidelines as he silently noted me with the perfect poetic eye he had, that was like no other in what it did - it was obvious to any outsider that there was just Him and a lot of people i still fail to recognise, orbiting around him in such a way that one thought, this is cultural magic, proper faery stuff.

Heaney a living container of that s/he sidhe energy of faery force that, i think, all luvvies are after imitating, lake tha bug mawn, sho a wuz, bak in the day. Wen i was a new alcoholic on the alcoholic block, that Dublin poetry can be when you go to all the right pubs and know all the right intellectual Dublin thinkers that drink. Is alsm sayin, yeh. peace owt be by the power invested in me from a lot of potentially very emotional, angry and upset people that an open-mic can turn into behind the smiley facades and upside-down smiles we can all grimace at times wen sat there, thinking, 'look at that tossa up there hosting the open mic. Ooh de dee fink thee aw loik', sho a shed. speekin tha bog mawn paddyeez-esque slangwij that's peroppa woppa popular in Bubbalin Dubalin tewn these days, wen yiiza fram tha Leburtaze, loik oi ahm sho oi awm. Like s/m fb friend, the very talented Florida poet-singer, Dublin resident, Canci Song, CanciOfficially beautifully there as good as any. I just heard it earlier and thought, wow, great stuff.