A Week in Words

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.”

A Week in Words: Feb 16


You probably didn't notice, 'cos it's quite a low-key, marginal, cult-ish affair, but Valentine's Day took place last week, so there may be one or two allusions to it in this week's A Week in Words. If poetry be the food of love, read on.


Poem of the Week:

After Love

Afterward, the compromise. Bodies resume their boundaries. These legs, for instance, mine. Your arms take you back in. Spoons of our fingers, lips admit their ownership. The bedding yawns, a door blows aimlessly ajar and overhead, a plane singsongs coming down. Nothing is changed, except there was a moment when the wolf, the mongering wolf who stands outside the self lay lightly down, and slept.

Maxine Kumin, Pulitzer Prize winning US poet.

Featured Image: Grey Wolf via National Geographic

A Darned Good Read:

50 Sexy Books to get you in the mood for Valentine's Day (no, 50 Shades of Grey did not make the cut)

'Last Winter' - A Poem by Sinead Morrissey in The New Statesman

Love: Lost and Found on Craiglist - Illustrations by Sophie Blackall

Letters of Love: Richard Feynman's Letter to his Wife

Armistead Maupin on how he wrote Tales of the City - The Guardian

'A Hummingbird, Your Heart' Chapbook by Doireann Ni Ghroifa - beautiful collection of poems.

Tiny Beautiful Things - Dear Sugar Advice Column (The Rumpus) - the best advice you never had.

Submissions & Competitions:

Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Competition - Judge: Alice Ostriker, Prize: $1000, Deadline - 19th Feb

Sentinel Literary Quarterly - Poetry Competition - Judge: Bob Beagrie, Prize: £200, Deadline - 20th 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: Billy Ramsell Poem & Interview - The Ash Sessions

Can Bad Writing be Good for Writers?

Upcoming Literary Events in Ireland:

Lingo Spoken Word Festival - new literary event taking place in Dublin - Oct 2014

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: Susan Sontag

“To be an artist or a writer is to be this weird thing — a hand worker in an era of mass production”


A Week in Words: Feb 9

Grand Central Station - crop

I was off a-reading at The Ash Sessions: Cover of Love yesterday (more of that, coming soon) so the Sunday round-up comes to you Monday instead. Surely, the declamation of love poetry on the streets of Ranelagh, warming the hearts and minds of the populace is a thoroughly acceptable excuse? Here's what caught my eye, ear and funny bone this week.


Poem of the Week:

O Me! O Life - Walt Whitman

A Darned Good Read:

10 Authors on James Joyce

Irish Authors on Longlist for Richest Short Story Award

Famous Creative People on the Fear of Failure

Style Sheet: A Conversation with my Copy Editor

21 Amazing Last Lines from Literature

Burning Bush 2: Issue 6 - New poems from John W. Sexton, Kevin Higgins, Nessa O'Mahony and more.

The Bohemyth: February Issue - New Writing by Claire Hennessey, Doireann Ni Ghriofa and more.

Excerpt from Writers on Writing - Mary Gordan discusses her writing tools and routines.

Submissions & Competitions:

Headstuff - Alan Bennett's collaborative web-site covering literary work, history, science, music, film and more.

Bare Fiction - seeking features and reviews

BBC National Short Story Award - deadline Feb 28.

Inspiration for Writers:

Jo Bell's Write a Poem a Week blog, '52' - great ideas and writing prompts.

Advice for Poets:

How to Speak Poetry: Sarah Clancy - The Ash Sessions

How to Win a Poetry Competition - 10 Tips from Poet, Carole Bromley

How to be a Writer - Advice from writer, Jeannine Ouelette

Upcoming Literary Events in Ireland:

Burning Love 3 - A night of noir, music and tall tales - Dublin - 14th Feb

Cork Spring Poetry Festival - 12th - 15th Feb - with Billy Collins, Paul Muldoon, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin & more.

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

Literary Fun:

I Write Like - pop in a couple of paragraphs of text to discover which famous writer you write like

Quote of the Week: W. H. Auden

“Auden said something disparaging about Samuel Beckett getting the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nikos said: ‘Who else is there?’ Auden shook his head so all the sagging wrinkles shook and said: ‘There’s me.’” (via)

A Week in Words: Feb 2


I come across a lot of great articles on-line about poetry, writing, creativity and the Arts and usually share them on my Facebook page / Twitter. Of course, if you're not on Facebook or Twitter (seriously?), and even if you are, it's all to easy to miss out on a gem. So, I'm going to do a round-up post once a week of my favourite reads to enjoy over Sunday brunch or relaxing, with your feet up in the evening.

Yes, I do realise it's Tuesday! I got a bit distracted by current events in Ireland, last Sunday, so here's last week's round-up and keep an eye out for a Week in Words in its regular slot from next Sunday onward.


Poem of the Week:

The Compromise - Matthew Sweeney on Poetry International

Image of ISS transiting the Moon by Thierry Legault.

A Darned Good Read:

Poetry Pairing - The New York Times

American Life in Poetry - Weekly US Poetry Column

Bare Hands - Poetry & Photography: Issue 19

9 Best Books on Reading & Writing

Judging Books by their Covers: US vs UK

Book The Writer: Authors Attending Book Clubs

Why is Modern Poetry So Bad? - The Washington Post

Submissions & Competitions:

The Short Story Challenge 2014 - 6th Feb

Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust Poetry Competition - 7th March

Silver Apples E-Zine - 31st March

Advice for Poets:

"I will be waiting quietly for your poems to speak to me" - Alison Brackenbury for Poetry Space Competition

What Editors Want: A Must Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines - The Review Review

Upcoming Literary Events in Ireland:

Carcanet's Irish Launch Tour with Caoilinn Hughes, Tara Bergin & Rory Waterman - Galway (5th), Dublin (6th), Belfast (7th)

The Ash Sessions: Cover of Love - Dublin - 9th Feb

Cork Spring Poetry Festival - 12th - 15th Feb - with Billy Collins, Paul Muldoon, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin & more.

Quote of the Week: Nick Hornby:

.“All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. ... But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”