Sunday, October 6, 2013

Per Petterson on death

Difficult to write about, as a reader I find I am usually left feeling bereft after I read about it.  Not because of the inherent fear of it but because someone else's interpretation of it is so far off the mark of my own.  Until I read this from "I Curse the River of Time" by Per Petterson. Heart-breaking.

"But when it came to dying, I was scared. Not of being dead, that I could not comprehend, to be nothing was impossible to grasp and therefore really nothing to be scared of, but dying itself I could not comprehend, the very instant when you know that now comes what you have always feared, and you suddenly realise that every chance of being the person you really wanted to be, is gone forever, and the one you were, is the one those around you remember. Then that must feel like someone's strong hands slowly tightening their grip around your neck until you can breath no more, and not at all as when a door is slowly pushed open and bright light comes streaming out from the inside and a woman or a man you have always known and always liked, maybe always loved, leans out and gently takes your hand and leads you in to a place of rest, so mild and so fine, from eternity to eternity."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

All Ireland Poetry Day at the Irish Writers' Centre

I'll be reading at the All Ireland Poetry Day at the Irish Writers' Centre at 2.30 tomorrow.  You can catch the live stream here (from 10am to 5pm on Thursday 3rd October) a day-long live streaming of poetry by Ireland's finest poets.
Poetry Ireland will host a six hour live stream from the Irish Writers' Centre in Parnell Square, Dublin, which will feature readings by Dermot Bolger, Peter Sirr, Theo Dorgan and Enda Wyley, among many others, as well as a panel discussion involving the new Ireland Chair of Poetry, Paula Meehan.
Other organisations and groups around the country will be part of the live transmission as they upload their own films of events in their own areas. The live stream will also feature a special tribute to Seamus Heaney by Dublin school childen, as well as film of Brendan Kennelly reading his poetry. .
Venue: Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Square, D1
Time: Thursday @ 10.00am - 4.00pm

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Black, Strong and Sweet Poetry Series at Ranelagh Arts Festival

“Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love. And so should poems”.

The Black, Strong, and Sweet Poetry Series is a public arts display which ran May-July 2013 at Nick’s Coffee Company. The 12 poems selected for the series were showcased in full on the chalkboard at Nick’s, and selected lines from the poems will be displayed on the sides of coffee cups. Interviews with each of the poets can be accessed here:

On Tuesday September... 24th, as part of The Ranelagh Arts Festival, The Ash Sessions will present an evening of poetry and music, with readings by some of the poets featured in the Black, Strong and Sweet Poetry series, including:

Mark Granier

Maurice Devitt

Daniel Ryan

Fiona Bolger

Kit Fryatt

Jessica Traynor

Niamh MacAlister

Erin Fornoff

Phil Lynch

Afric McGlinchey

Music on the night will be provided by J.C Creasy.

The event will take place 8-10pm at the Ranelagh Farmers Market. Poet Dimitra Xidous (curator of the series) will host the evening, which promises to be equal parts black, strong and sweet (Admission: 5 euros).

Culture Night 2013

This year I had the opportunity to read a poem for Culture Night at the Poetry Ireland open mic night in the beautiful surroundings of The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. I read my shortlisted poem for the Poetry Ireland Trocaire Poetry Competition as well as a short listed poem from a Nigerian entrant who couldn't be there on the evening. The theme for the competition was Today's Children, Tomorrow's World. The booklet with all of the winners and shortlistees (!) is due out shortly so keep an eye out for it. The competition is just about to roll around again so check back here for submission details.
In spite of my cold I managed to (just about ... ) get through it! You'll find me at about 40 mins in   but all the poets who partook in the evening are worth a listen.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mark Cooper Pamphlet "The Inner Sea"

The multi-talented Mark Cooper has some great poems in this beautiful little pamphlet alongside Joe Franklin and Hugh Greasley. I am biased because its theme is the sea, my most favourite thing of all. Have a read of it here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Black, Strong and Sweet Poetry Series

My poem up on the board in Nick's coffee house in Ranelagh for one week 08/07-14/07 !

Niamh MacAlister – That Night


That night
I felt your breathing stomach in my back.
Balloons of breath rose up to the ceiling,
with only strings of street light shining in
to pull them back down to me.
Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word you’d like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).
Less is more. My preference is for using words without subterfuge. The simplest things are always the best; the favourite pair of jeans that fit perfectly, delicious food, a great glass of wine, words that are said when they are truly meant. I always endeavour to remove what isn’t essential. Why make life difficult?

What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?
I’m not sure that a poem is every really finished in the more traditional sense of the word. Although I know I’ve reached the end of the road with it when there is nothing left to change. In that way it tells me when it’s ready. It’s in the shape it will always be in, for better or worse.

A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce.  What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. – is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing?  Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work – are you out to seduce poetry readers?  Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)
Tough question. I will admit that I sometimes have to seduce myself into writing by using the old fashioned charm offensive of a glass of red vino. Chocolate can work just as well. Because sometimes it’s scary to go to the place you are meant to be; on the edge of things in the quietness. Small comforts help. But always trying to step up to the mark with honesty is seductive.


At this moment in poems and writing, who’s writing the poems you like to read? 
A good poem, like a good poet, is a rare and subjective thing.  No point in listing all the writers that rock my creative world so instead I’ll just name Denise Levertov. One of the poets that started me off on this mad journey.

Where do you do your writing?  How important is ‘place’ and a sense of ‘space’ for a writer
Writing, for me, is a private affair.  When I was doing my post-grad I had a room in halls. My entire life, my bed and my desk were in the same room. It set a precedent. Where I live now is the same. So I guess I tend to feel more comfortable writing in a ‘cell’ like situation.


Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all”.  How true do you think this is?
Never thought about it before. Sometimes truth is less kind than fiction that’s for sure. But isn’t the act of sharing a poem a generous one? Likewise the act of submitting to its vision?

When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad?  (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a ‘good’ poem?)
In true poet form shouldn’t I say that the key word here is suffer not memory?! A poem is only a version of events and more often than not an embellished one.  And really, does it even matter? Because whose version of the truth is the truth?

Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).
The best is yet to come.

Black, Strong, or Sweet?
Black and Strong. Always.

Niamh MacAlister completed a Masters Degree in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews, Scotland with the assistance of The Arts Council of Ireland.  She has been selected as a ‘New and Emerging Poet’ for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and also for the Lonely Voice Short Story Introductions.  She was recently shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award in the First Fiction category.  She has published poetry in The Stinging Fly, Raft, The Moth and Washington Square Review. She completed a residency at the Cill Rialaig Project in 2012.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Catherine Dunne wins the International Prize of the Giovanni Boccaccio Literary Awards

Catherine Dunne's  'THE THINGS WE KNOW NOW' has won the International Prize of the Giovanni Boccaccio Literary Awards, just announced yesterday.

The Press Release stated:
... "Catherine Dunne’s novel ‘The Things We Know Now’, Macmillan (‘Quel che ora sappiamo’, Guanda) is the winner of the International Literature Prize of the 32nd Giovanni Boccaccio Literary Awards.
This year’s prize celebrates the 700th anniversary of the great Italian novelist’s birthday: Giovanni Boccaccio was born in Certaldo, Florence, in 1313. In her imaginative exploration of the most painful grief that anyone can endure – the loss of a child through suicide – Dunne excavates the subtleties of both the inexplicable and the unspeakable. She illuminates that lack of understanding and awareness that can inhabit even the strongest and closest of our human relationships."

Follow her on twitter

Buy 'the things we know now'

her debut novel 'in the beginning' has just become available as a kindle download here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spring in Orvieto

 view from the bell tower (just before the bell rang and I lost five years off my life)

performances for the Festa Della Palombella after the dove zip-lined into the square to a roar of clapping and fireworks. you have to see it to believe it.

cathedral ...

deserted by night

en route to sample the organic and biodynamic very delicious Classico of Barberani

day trippin' to Civita di Bagnoreggio


Monday, April 29, 2013

still good

heard this on the radio the other day and was reminded of its brilliance. i'm a sucker for bass heavy, tight harmony, swelling chorus choooons. every. single. time.
warpaint - undertow.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The daily grind pays off

You get up and go to work, you get up and go to work, you get up and go to work. There is no escaping the daily grind no matter what the job.
But then a letter like this lands on the desk and there is no doubt that what we do is important. That showing up everyday counts. That what is on the to-do list actually matters.
Life is good.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Winners of the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award

Was that a week ago already?! I had a fantastic evening in the French Ambassadors Residence last Tuesday for the announcement of the winners of the Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards. The sun actually shone and there was a wonderful feel of Spring in the air. The place was abuzz with glamour, cocktails and canapes.
Ruth Quinlan triumphed in the First Fiction category with her story The Healing. Love that it mentions Braille!
John O'Donnell won the category of Emerging Fiction with his short story Shelley.
Poetry and overall winner was Jessica Traynor  for her two poems Aubade and Ebay Auction.
Big congratulations to them all!
Looking to submit your own work to be in with a chance for next year? All necessary information here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Love this ....
(taken from Washington Post)

'Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics' at Freer

By Blake Gopnik

It's not often that an exhibition makes you want to run home and smash your best china. But that could be the result of a visit to "Golden Seams: The Japanese Art of Mending Ceramics," a tiny gem of a show at the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery. Of course, before you start smashing, you'll want to make sure you have access to a master of kintsugi.
That means "golden joinery" in Japanese, and it refers to the art of fixing broken ceramics with a lacquer resin made to look like solid gold. Chances are, a vessel fixed by kintsugi will look more gorgeous, and more precious, than before it was fractured.
All the broken pots in "Golden Seams" are lovely and impressive as could be. Thirteen ceramics from China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan, which have been mended and enhanced with this distinctive Japanese technique, are included in this small exhibition.
The story of kintsugi may have begun in the late 15th century, when the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China to be fixed. It returned held together with ugly metal staples, launching Japanese craftsmen on a quest for a new form of repair that could make a broken piece look as good as new, or better. Japanese collectors developed such a taste for kintsugi that some were accused of deliberately breaking prized ceramics, just to have them mended in gold.
Kintsugi adds a whole new level of aesthetic complexity to the vessels that it mends. A beautiful 14th-century vase from Longquan, China, glazed in translucent celadon with fronds and leaves in delicate relief -- just the kind of porcelain that shogun Yoshimasa is supposed to have sent out for repair -- started life as an example of pristine symmetry. Once it was broken and mended, however, that order was disrupted by bold zigs and zags of gold, along with a golden crescent where a piece of the original rim was replaced. Because the repairs are done with such immaculate craft, and in precious metal, it's hard to read them as a record of violence and damage. Instead, they take on the look of a deliberate incursion of radically free abstraction into an object that was made according to an utterly different system. It's like a tiny moment of free jazz played during a fugue by Bach.
Or the same kintsugi can have an almost opposite effect, as when it's used to fix a much coarser tea bowl, in Japanese Yatsushiro ware. There, the repair becomes a controlled thread of treble in a composition that is otherwise all careening tubas and double basses. It's even possible that the Freer's 18th-century Yatsushiro piece was carefully chosen for the deformities it had acquired in a badly heated kiln, then deliberately broken and repaired. A pot that would normally have been trashed was recognized as the perfect background for work in precious kintsugi.
Kintsugi can also be read as an explicit sign of culture clash. A 15th-century bowl is decorated with the loose, abstract patterns of Korean punch'ong wares, in pale greens, beiges and white. The large piece broken from its rim, however, is filled with a gilt patch that anyone would recognize as Japanese: It is done in the insanely detailed gold-on-gold technique known as maki-e, and shows tiny leaves and cherry blossoms floating on a ground of gold. Thanks to kintsugi work, a Japanese collector doesn't merely own fine old objects from China and Korea. He marks them forever as distinctly Japanese.
That hints at one of the most impressive things about this little exhibition. Where the huge range of precious Asian objects at the Freer can leave the nonspecialist at sea, the lines of gold that run through all the varied objects in this show bring them together into a single, comprehensible experience. The cracks shown off in "Golden Seams" become a unifying aesthetic thread. That must always have been part of their appeal.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Black, Strong and Sweet Poetry Series

Am chuffed that a poem of mine has been selected for the 'Black, Strong and Sweet' poetry series run by The Ash Sessions at Nick's Coffee Company.
My little poem will be showcased on the chalkboard at Nick’s for the week of July 1st and lines from my poem will be featured on the coffee cups. There will also be a blog accompanying the project featuring an interview with each poet selected and their poem.
The series runs from May-July.
Is there anything better than coffee and poetry .... at the same time? An inspired idea, am delighted to be a part of it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards

slick invite: check,
promise of free alcohol in fancy surroundings: check,
opportunity to meet other writing type people: check,
take the day-after off work: check,
last minute dress shopping: impending ....

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

keeping busy #7

dropping little literary love bombs in the no name bar over the weekend #niamhbelieves

Monday, April 1, 2013

easter time = cake time

not that I need much of an excuse to make a cake ... its still nice to go all out for the occasions. at least there was one of our five a day nestled in there between the chocolate ganache and double cream.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

keeping busy #6

@wicklow street on a friday that is good

and then 2 hours later ....   #niamhbelieves

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Saturday, March 9, 2013

In the mix

Winners to be announced April 16th!

The genius of Paul Muldoon

Extracts taken from an interview with Paul Muldoon in the latest issue of The Moth

"Most of the things I do, including writing poetry, I would say, are sort of hobbyistic. It's not that they're not important. I mean, if you are a trainspotter or a stamp collector it's not that these things aren't important to you. There's this theory that if you're not consumed by the idea of being an artist you're probably not a very good one.  I just don't know about that. I know lots of people who are consumed by the idea of being an artist who are useless. They're really dreadful."

"I don't run around thinking about myself as a poet. It's like meeting people at dinner parties and, you know, somebody says 'Well I'm just a housewife.' You sort of think, well, really, I don't know about that ... I would never introduce myself to anybody as a poet. I'd just never do it. I mean, if someone comes up to me and says, 'Hello, I'm a poet,' I sort of think, my God, where's the door?"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Next Big Thing ... (blog tagging thingy)

How the Next Big Thing blog hop works
An author answers ten questions and then tags authors to do the same thing the following week on the same day, which in this case is a Thursday.

The force of nature June Caldwell tagged me in her post and so here is my attempt ...

1) What is the working title of your next book?
"A Body Apart" is the title of the book I'm not yet finished. So technically speaking it is my 'next' book. If I knew the title, let alone the content, of my actual next book I'd be laughing. Anyway back to the book. A journey, in the mythic sense, of a girl/woman/lady (this is no time to be politically correct) as she attempts to discard the skin of her current life to make way for something that does not yet have a shape, and how scary that is.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
How easy it is for a life to close in around you when your mind and your body are at odds. How easy it is for a person to disappear into the chasm that that conflict creates in a life.
I also went on one of those terribly cliched around the world trips. And it was fantastic in every way.  The journey itself wasn't so much the influence as the cahones it took to leave what I had to leave and head off by myself to do it.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
Whats that now?

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Am currently fostering a girl crush on Emily Blunt so I'm sure she'd be delighted to do it.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Fear is the maker of us all.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I can only hope that one day my work and I might have the opportunity to be represented by an agency.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Two years.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I know what I want to say but I don't think I can bring myself to say it out loud.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Everybody writes from a place of their own experience. How else could you do it?

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is a very awkward and ungainly sex scene about three quarters in.

Phew .....
I here by tag my fellow St. Andrews Alumni. Kristin Livingston and Mark Cooper.
Kristin writes Young Adult fiction and puts me to shame by having already written loads more books that I will ever write in my lifetime.
Multi-talented Mark is in the bands Distant Signal and Uffmoor Woods Music Club. He is also a fine poet, short listed for, too many to count competitions, including the very prestigious Eric Gregory and Bridport.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Books 2013

Waterstones has released its Debut Authors to watch in 2013. Nice to see Irish author Donal Ryan and Dublin born Kevin Maher in the mix.

Pig's Foot by Carlos Acosta (Bloomsbury, 30 October)

Idiopathy by Sam Byers (Fourth Estate, 25 April)

Y by Marjorie Celona (Faber and Faber, 17 January)

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence (Hodder & Stoughton, 31 January)

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Picador, 29 August)

The Fields by Kevin Maher (Little, Brown, 7 March)

The Son by Michel Rostain (Tinder Press, 23 May)

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (Doubleday Ireland, 27 June)

Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera (William Heinemann, 26 September)

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi (Viking, 4 April)

Ballistics by DW Wilson (Bloomsbury, 1 August)

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