WHAT ANNOYS – DELIGHTS – AND IS OFTEN UNEXPLAINED.
What is ANNOYING me this week?
Not feeling well
What is DELIGHTING me this week?
SOME OF MY DOINGS:
CORK and Limerick were my destination last week, as I was the guest of O’Bheal (pronounced O’vale) in Cork City for a three day visit of readings as part of the Cork-Coventry Literature exchange.
This blog post is part poets journey and part tourist guide of my trip to this fantastic treasure of south west Ireland. Cork is a place to be explored, savoured and then to sit quietly and breathe.
My flight out of Birmingham was early on Monday morning, so I arrived at just after ten to meet with Paul Casey, the poet who runs O’Bheal. O’Bheal which mean “by mouth” is an organisation that develops and promotes poetry in Cork, through readings, films, workshops and co-ordinating the Cork side of the Coventry-Cork Literature exchange.
LOOKING FOR RORY GALLAGHER.
My first afternoon gave me the opportunity to explore Cork City for myself and as readers of this blog will know I like to track down my musical heroes and Cork gave me the opportunity to seek out Rory Gallagher, who grew up in Cork and formed his band Taste there in the late 1960’s.
My first port of call on my hunt for Rory was Gallagher’s pub on the corner of MacCurtain and Bridge St’s, the pub named in his honour. MacCurtain St was where he lived with his Mother and Brothers when he was growing up. The pub painted in Black and Orange and adorned with adverts for a famous Stout; the name GALLAGHERS emblazoned in Gold letters on the upper wall, with a hand painted sign above a doorway that declared homage to the great Irish blues man. The pub was unfortunately closed and had a for sale sign above the main door, which suggested to me that it was no longer a going concern.
The next place on the trail was Rory Gallagher Place, a square in the St Peter and Paul area of the city, outside the front of the Tesco store. On the left hand side of the square was a tribute sculpture, made up of word strands from his album Jinx on one side and mis-formed guitar on the other, cast in bronze, the sculpture sits at the side of the square as the sound of a busking blues guitarist drifts in from down the street, surely there could be no better tribute.
The library on the Grand Parade also has a music section called the Rory Gallagher Music Library, where there are a few artefacts such as guitars and a belt with his name on it along with some photographs from his time in Cork and the band Taste.
The English Market.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the shops and the fantastic English Market, where fresh local produce is sold. Everything from meat to fish, to vegetables to artisan bread and fancy cakes. It is a foodies delight and if I lived in Cork I would shop there everyday to seek out the freshest ingredients for delightful dinners. When the Queen visited Cork back in May, it was the English Market that hosted her visit and there were some delightful photographs of her spending time with the stall holders, especially Patrick O’Connell who runs the Kay O’Connell’s fish stall, which was started by his mother.
The Evening reading at O’Bheal will be covered in a separate blog post.
Tuesday saw an easy morning, breakfast at 9:00 followed by a slow gradual wake up. Paul and his partner, the actress Rosie O’Regan collected me late in the morning for a visit to the Lord Mayor’s Chambers. The Lord Mayor –Cllr Terry Shannon was on fine form, explaining some of Cork’s history, his dealings with the other Mayors, in county Cork, Dublin, Belfast and Coventry with the eloquence of a great raconteur. His chambers are full of historic pieces, all of which show the importance and heritage of Cork;
The framed portraits of the Martyr Mayors, Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence MacSwiney who gave their lives for the Irish struggle for independence during the 1919/20.
The Republican Silver salver, one of a very few pieces that could not be sent to the Assay office in Dublin between 1921 and 1922 owing to the struggles between the Republicans and the British.
The bust of John F Kennedy, presented to commemorate his visit to Cork in 1961.
The Silver model of the Steam Packet Sirrus, built as a trade ship between London and Cork, which found itself racing to New York, holding the Blue Ribbon for the fastest Atlantic Crossing for a few hours until it was taken by the Great Western, which arrived later on the same day, but had set out some four days later than the Sirrus.
And the Key that the long serving President of Ireland, Eamon De Valera, used to unlock Cork City hall.
Each piece had some major part in the story of Cork, not just artefacts collected for the sake of collecting, each had its own significant place in defining the identity of this place, pieces touched by great men; Presidents, revolutionaries, navigators, poets, writers, artists and craftsmen.
This was followed by a short tour of the City, to see the Shandon Steeple, which has a clock on each side and is known as the four faced liar, as the clocks are known for telling different times. This was followed by the wonderful Triskel arts centre at the old Christ Church, now converted for exhibitions, theatre, film, music and spoken word it is a fantastic resource for the arts.
Lunch was in the Farmgate Café in the English Market, a wonderful light airy space on a mezzanine floor overlooking the market, where diners can sit at the long shelf along the railing that lines the edge of the café. The dishes are all local, and produced using the market produce. The Corned beef with Cabbage and Mashed potato is a delight not to be missed. It gets busy around lunchtime, but the staff are really helpful in finding and saving you a seat.
It was over lunch that we met with the Cork Poet, Gerry Murphy, whose t-shirt slogan raised eyebrows but had clear reference to his terse, harsh, philosophical poem, Oedipus in Harlem, it was really quite funny. (I will leave you to Google “Oedipus in Harlem” by Gerry Murphy, to get the idea).
Cork is full of poets, really good poets or if not poets, people who are interested and will talk about poetry and their love of words, Gaelic or English. It was really refreshing not to be seen as if I was some sort of oddity for being a poet, not to have twee verse quoted to me, but to have meaningful discussions about my work, their work, places to read and poets to look for in the bookshops.
The afternoon was spent in Cobh (pronounced Cove) this is the main Harbour in Cork and was once known as Queenstown. It is from here that the Titanic sailed on her final voyage, and where the bodies of the dead from the Lusitania were brought.
The Cobh skyline is dominated by St Colman’s Cathedral, a Neo-Gothic building in grey granite. St Colman was a 7th century poet who was ordained into the church at the age of 50, having been baptised by Brendon the Navigator, later St Brendon.
Out in the harbour is Spike Island a former prison, known as Irelands Alcatraz, the prison is now closed but there are regular boat tours to the island.
The day finished quietly as I said goodbye to my hosts at around 6:00pm, I went to the local pub for a beer and sandwich and retired to my room to reflect on the day. This was the day that most of my poetic ideas will stem. So much to think about!
Wednesday was for the 70 mile trip to Limerick for the reading at the Whitehouse. The morning was free so I took the opportunity to do some shopping in the city, buying some gifts of Cork Silver and some books of the poets who I had met or had been recommended, Gerry Murphy and Derick Mahon to name but two.
The afternoon saw Paul and I head to Limerick stopping off at the ancient sites at Lough Gur.
Lough Gur is a horseshoe lake that has been the home of civilisations since early times, unkempt island Cranog’s nestle against the shoreline, overlooked by Knockfennal and Knockadoon. Ring Hill forts, bleak defences with visions and the trail of the breeze. The Neolithic villages and tombs, wind and time robbed of bone and pot and flint, cracked tablet rocks pivot on age.
The Grange stone circle, the largest in all Ireland, where an ash tree smothers a stone, the stone on which the solstice sun would reach, the ash tree breaks the magic, lets the circle lie without its voice.
But there are whispers here, old Gaelic poetry that lives on earth pages, tell of a mysterious, enchanting, wonderful place.
The evening reading at the Whitehouse will be discussed in a further blog post.
I was told before I went, that Cork would grab me, hold me and capture my attention. It lived up to all of this and far more. Cork is a clean, safe, friendly city, where the pedestrian lights beat and tell you how long you have to cross, where the buskers all deserve recording contracts, where they close the streets to traffic during the day, it is busy in a comfortable way, where even the unkempt buildings are attractive and entice you in. Cork knows its history, remembers the journey, but does not labour the point as it welcomes visitors to breathe and be part of its glorious future and despite the recession there is a really optimistic approach to life and most of all for me there is Poetry.
I have not discussed, Hurling, Christy Ring, Branding of Cider, the Crawford Art Gallery – and there is so much more that I did not explore, Kinsale, rest of County Cork, the ring of Berra.
It was a pleasure and an honour to be invited as their guest and I am sure that like Gallagher’s Bad Penny, I will turn up again.
MY LOST POETS THIS WEEK is Colmán mac Léníne (530 – 606).
There are supposedly two existing poems of Colmán mac Léníne, one dedicated to the life of St Sennen and the other to the life of St Brendan, both were written in Latin. Despite much searching of the internet I have not been able to find either of them.
Very little is known about his early life, what is known about him seems to suggest he was born and raised in Munster and studied poetry for 12 years to become a Filé or poet, he was considered by his contemporaries as the royal poet of Munster. Following his conversion to Christianity, at the age of 50 he became a monk and was giving land in Cloyne by Coirpre mac Crimthainn the King of Munster, where he was to found a monastery and is said to have left a school of Poetry. He was later venerified to be St Colman of Cloyne. As I previously stated above the Cathedral at Cobh is dedicated to him.
He is to a large extent still a lost poet and I would appreciate seeing copies of the two poems, should you come across them.
Le gach mo chairde i gCorcaigh agus i Luimneach, Go raibh maith agat an méid sin do do fáilteachais agus ádh mór don todhchaí.
SOME OF MY COMING SOON DOINGS
Readings in August.
19th August – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.