A Week in Words: Feb 23


I'm having a bit of a Goldilocks moment. My favourite kitchen / writing chair has collapsed, after many years service and much ominous groaning / creaking; I am bereft. Comfy for typing, reading and even occasional lounging - I fear I will not see its like again.

Look out for a pyre of wicker, floating on the North Dublin canal, en route to Chair Valhalla. Poems will be written, songs will be sung, in its honour.

This is a grave setback, as clearly no writing proper can be attempted without a suitably empathic chair. I've dragged various others from around the house and tried them out in its place but none will do - one is too tall, another too short, one too hard, another too narrow. A writing chair needs to be just right.

Maybe A Week in Words will distract me from the dilemma.


Poem of the Week:


I eat oatmeal for breakfast. I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it. I eat it alone. I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone. Its consistency is such that is better for your mental health if somebody eats it with you. That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have breakfast with. Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary companion. Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal porridge, as he called it with John Keats. Keats said I was absolutely right to invite him: due to its glutinous texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime, and unusual willingness to disintegrate, oatmeal should not be eaten alone. He said that in his opinion, however, it is perfectly OK to eat it with an imaginary companion, and that he himself had enjoyed memorable porridges with Edmund Spenser and John Milton. Even if eating oatmeal with an imaginary companion is not as wholesome as Keats claims, still, you can learn something from it. Yesterday morning, for instance, Keats told me about writing the "Ode to a Nightingale." He had a heck of a time finishing it those were his words "Oi 'ad a 'eck of a toime," he said, more or less, speaking through his porridge. He wrote it quickly, on scraps of paper, which he then stuck in his pocket, but when he got home he couldn't figure out the order of the stanzas, and he and a friend spread the papers on a table, and they made some sense of them, but he isn't sure to this day if they got it right. An entire stanza may have slipped into the lining of his jacket through a hole in his pocket. He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between stanzas, and the way here and there a line will go into the configuration of a Moslem at prayer, then raise itself up and peer about, and then lay \ itself down slightly off the mark, causing the poem to move forward with a reckless, shining wobble. He said someone told him that later in life Wordsworth heard about the scraps of paper on the table, and tried shuffling some stanzas of his own, but only made matters worse. I would not have known any of this but for my reluctance to eat oatmeal alone. When breakfast was over, John recited "To Autumn." He recited it slowly, with much feeling, and he articulated the words lovingly, and his odd accent sounded sweet. He didn't offer the story of writing "To Autumn," I doubt if there is much of one. But he did say the sight of a just-harvested oat field got him started on it, and two of the lines, "For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cells" and "Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours," came to him while eating oatmeal alone. I can see him drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into the glimmering furrows, muttering. Maybe there is no sublime; only the shining of the amnion's tatters. For supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left over from lunch. I am aware that a leftover baked potato is damp, slippery, and simultaneously gummy and crumbly, and therefore I'm going to invite Patrick Kavanagh to join me.

Galway Kinnell, former Poet Laureate of Vermont (with thanks to poet, Derek Coyle for sharing)

Featured Image: Chairs for Abu Dhabi by Tadashi Kawamata

A Darned Good Read:

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

Giant Suspended Net Installations by artist, Janet Echelman

Extracts from Mavis Gallant's diary as she travels around Europe in 1952

David Foster Wallace on Ambition

Physics of the Heart: On Grief, M-Theory & Skippy Dies

3 Poems by Jane Clarke - And Other Poems

Anais Nin on Writing, the Future of the Novel and Keeping a Diary

Umberto Eco on Maps of Imaginary Places & Their Appeal

Memories may be passed down through generations in our DNA

Submissions & Competitions:

Strokestown International Poetry Prize - Judges: Neil Astley & Paddy Bushe, Prize: €1000, Deadline - 28th Feb

York Literary Festival Poetry Competition - Judge: Carol Bromley, Prize: £200, Deadline - 28th Feb

Grace Dieu Writers’ Circle 2014 Poetry Competition - Judge: TBC, Prise: £500, Deadline - 28th Feb

Listowel Writers' Week - Literary Competitions - various awards for fiction, poetry, memoir and more - Deadline: Mar 1

Advice for Poets & Writers:

How to Speak Poetry: Dave Lordan Poem & Interview - The Ash Sessions

Poetry Magazine Editors on How they Select Poems for Print - Poetry Review, Poetry London & The Rialto.

How to Break Through Your Creative Block

Fantastic list of writing tips from Booktrust's Writers in Residence

Upcoming Literary Events in Ireland:

Wicked Women's Week - new open spoken word and music event in Dublin -  Weds, 26th Feb

List of Regular Music & Poetry Events in Dublin - compiled by The Monday Echo

Dublin Writers Forum - Every Thursday at The Workman's Club, Dublin - 7.30pm

Quote of the Week: Jonathan Lethem

“I learned to write fiction the way I learned to read fiction - by skipping the parts that bored me.”