|My cousin Caroline in Rossnowlagh Oct 28th by my Aunty Marie|
I love October, I love autumn air, its colour and autumn clothes, back to school routine is established, I know the names and a fair bit about the students sitting in front of me and they have got their heads around their English teacher’s penchant for turning rainy day classes and days when half the class is at a match into impromptu creative writing lessons. It’s a busy month but I always feel I’m making progress in October after the go slow of August and the disorientation of back to school.
This October I've had the added satisfaction of seeing my name on the shortlist and then my Shelter placed third in the Bailieborough Poetry Festival Competition as well as seeing another poem and a flash fiction make it on to the longlists of the Allingham Festival competitions.
I wrote Shelter a few years ago on the occasion of Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. I read the first draft at North West Words, made a few tweaks, and let it sit. It’s a nice poem to read aloud and I almost always read it at readings but didn’t send it out to magazines. Poems about poems aren’t likely to catch an editor’s eye and it’s a soft poem, a safe poem. I’m fond of it though. It’s about delight in poetry really and its resonance. I like a few wee touches in it. I like how it takes you out of it to Glencomcille and St Kilda, I like the image of my ideas landing like crows and in readings it gets a warm reaction, a poem people ask about. They ask about the poems I mention in it. The first is Ed Madden ’s poem The Language of Flowers that I read in Crannog magazine years ago, the second is a fabulous Robin Robertson poem called Leaving St Kilda from ‘ The Wrecking Light’ .
When I hear “Shelter from the Storm”
I wish I’d written it,
It’s one of those songs you sing too loud in the car
that you feel in your stomach.
Or that poem I read about learning the names
of flowers in Irish in Glencolmcille,
or the one about the whirling exit of a boat leaving St Kilda.
A beautiful poem gathers you into it,
takes you out of yourself, makes you better.
You enter it by back doors and windows,
through key holes and down chimneys
with the draughts and rattles.
Stepping over screeching floorboards,
and stair treads, you hold your breath.
You know its perfect lines are taut enough
to bear the weight of your own thoughts
landing like crows,
fit enough to offer them canvas, stave.
You wander the poet’s shadow house,
make yourself a cup of tea,
get to know your host better.
You recognise in his face
a cousin, brother, angel, teacher
and you give yourself over to the teaching.
You are slow to leave but
wary of out-staying your welcome
you gather yourself off the bare boards,
hoping there is some dust in your pocket
and that down the line you’ll find it in the lint,
the memory of your soul being touched.
“Come in,” it’ll say “I’ll give you, shelter from the storm.”
The poem chosen by Monica Corish for the Allingham Longlist was The Bee, which has been liked by editors a few times, just not enough. I consider it finished though; I like it a lot and am always disappointed when it is met with rejection so Monica liking it enough to include on the list is great. Donal Ryan chose You make your bed and lie in it for the flash fiction longlist in the Allingham. That competition allowed writers to submit previously published writing which is odd. Elizabeth Reapy published You make your bed… in wordlegs in 2010. You can read it here
My students have had more success in the Allingham Competition than I have, winning first and second in the under 19 section so those rainy days didn't go to waste!
My To do list was dominated by North West Words work in October. We ran the Schools Poetry Competition, launched the Donegal Creameries North West Words Prize 2014, planned our October event for tomorrow evening, and put Issue 2 of North West Words Magazine online. You can check it out here
So my November To do list starts with finish Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.