It is not often you get to listen to verse in both Dutch and Gaelic, and the Fannings poetry night in The Tin Jug gallery in Birr as part of Vintage Week was priceless, to an intimate, captive, and participative audience.
From ghost stories of incubi in Leap Castle – I really muist go there! – the the wild roses growing around Fanad in Donegal, to the melancholic poetry of rural Holland, the themes and the conversation drifted forth and back until we lost track of time, all washed down with wines, some of the nicest cheese I have eaten, and the introductory Bloody Marys.
It was not all plain sailing of course. Sure we got there, David Mallaghan, Richard Brennan, David Duncan and I of the Tullamore Rhymers Club, as invited by the Fannings. On getting in the door, as our hosts made us the Bloody Marys, our Carty got entrusted with their lovely dogs – don’t ask me the breed, they are strong and look purebred, but also docile, bar one which is very strong willed.
Yes, I got entrusted to bring them both for a walk.
Through the park.
Past other dogs.
What could possibly go wrong?
I’m not a great one for prayers or a brave face, but I managed both and returned said canines to their hosts, and was quite happy to do justice to the drink after what I had envisaged going wrong had the dogs got away from me!
We set in to the studio itself for the reading, in which Derek treated us to a number of verse he had written of late in the Aran Islands, as well as a recital of “The Star of the County Down”. Derek has a number of poetry books out (extracts of which are on the old website) including The Northern Lights, The Tunnell and a collection of short stories too.
The gallery shows a selection of his carvings in bog oak, and he told of of the process of working with it and polishing it to get the desired effect.
His wife Rosalind Fanning is also a writer, and she read an evocative and short verse dedicated to the late Mrs Deely who used to have The Bookmark shop in Birr, before she succumbed to illness a good ten years back if not more I think.
We had the lady from Leap Castle, also the writer Eileen Casey and a friend of hers – Eileens stand out verse for me was the one of wanting any colour bar magnolia – and a few Dutch people, who treated us to verse by the poet Bleom… pronounced Bloom it was apt given we were in the foothills of the Sliabh Bloom I though to myself. They finished their contribution with a beautiful song of weaver girls in the factories singing of meeting their menfolk after and enjoying their bit of loving!
The other highlight for me was Michael McAteer… married to the late Dilly Hough (of Haughs in Banagher) he regaled us with tales and poetry of the Gaeltacht in Fanad in Donegal… it was beautiful to listen to the music of the language as psoken by a native as opposed to being presented sterilised on TV or in schools.
I contributed with “Elegy, Sweet Afton” among other verses, which I read out of the chapbook.
Contributions came from a girl Emma (Haslam?) and there were a few listeners too which make the nights so much more interesting as they pass comment and draw the conversation though different angles.
I will be forever known as the Google Poet, as for every line someone could not remember, quicker than Billy the Kid, our Carty had drawn the phone from the pocket and found it on Google. Which was brilliant, as verses folk had remembered from childhood the beauty of, but had lost the words of, found them once more, and we got to hear the details of what they had been telling us of before this…
Warts and All – Carty gets his portrait drawn!
On getting back to Galway, while walking shop street I found a street artist drawing portraits, and for a mere 15€ I said, why not, and got one done… it was great to see it come together, what seemed for ages a series of shapes without meaning, with a swift join up of lines formed into a likeness of myself.
He always starts with the yes, he said, the character of the person is in the eyes. Mine say Axe Murderer I joked, however on looking at it I thought I looked both old and world weary, which inspired the verse “Portrait of the Poet as a Not So Young Man”
Id thought of the play Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when I saw it and posndered Im not getting much younger, and how much every time at the barbers the hair cut off gets whiter and whiter, and the verse flowed from there. A bit melancholic the verse is, but there is that side to life too.
While shaving for work tonight, the razor slipped on ths smig, and out of shape, it had to come off. I think it takes a few years off of myself, but does not make the hair any blacker.
Id one done by a Flemish artist some years back in Faro in Portugal, whose life story was a kin to Picasso. He was a talented artist and draughtsman, who suffered a nervous breakdown, and threw everything away and now wanders Europe as a street artist. The chap who done mine is from Melbourne, and has a page “Colours on the Pavements“ and folk stopped and looked as it was been drawn…
The Thomas Kinsella poem that was used in our chapbook title “Mirror in February” came to mind, and while we used for the chapbook title the words “Under the fading lamp”, I used the last few as the introductory lines to the verse I had written.
It has been quite a year, and quite a few eventful years, and its good sometimes to take stock from where we have come, and acknowledge that it has taken quite a bit out of us, but we coped reasonably well. Such is the trials of life, and I hope the years to come will be a bit calmer!