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thefirstcut #6

A Literary Journal 1


CONTENTS Editorial

3

Grace Wells

Telescope

4

Aine MacAodha

The English Ones; Haiku

5,6

Brian Kirk

Still

7

Rachel Sutcliffe

Flying Free

8

Kevin Griffin

The Red Pen

9

Maeve Heneghan

New Beginnings

10

Michael Corrigan

After the Fall

11

Janice Harayda

British Publishing Euphemisms Decoded by Industry Experts

12

Pamela Clarke Vandall

A Bird in the Hand

13

Niall O’Connor

Child of Mine

14

Susan Tepper

Featured Writer

15-20

Matt Mooney

New Grain

21

Linda Whittenberg

Indignities

22

John Pinschmidt

It Happened August 9, 2011

23

Jon Plunkett

No place like home

24

Shauna Gilligan

Bindis

25-29

Sharon Frye

Small Pieces

30

Donal Mahoney

3 poems

31-33

TimJ Brennan

Gong fu

34

Mary Lavery Carrig

A Vanity Villanelle

35

Eamon O Cleirigh

An Observation On The Day Of A Christening

36

G.B. Ryan

Warrior, Age Thirteen

37

Ingrid Andrew

Whilst I was sleeping

38

John Reed

The best writing mistakes and how to make them.

39,40

Mark F Chaddock

The Theme is Conflict

41

Rachael Stanley

The Wedding

42

John McGrath

Time (Connolly’s Bar)

43

Amy Barry

The Silent Storm

44

Mary O'Gorman

Featured Poet

45-52

Alan McMonagle

Encore

53

Richard O' Toole

Sea Legs For “Valkyrie” (M.F.V)

54,55

Margaret Sheehan

Performers

56

Maurice Devitt

Candle

57

Clodagh O'Brien

After the Rain

58

Mike Gallagher

Bypass

59

Tatjana Debeljacki

Too Late for the South

60

Colin Dardis

A Steady Progression

61

Catherine Ryan Howard

Could Your Self-Published Book Pass THIS Test

62-66

Christopher Barnes

Dev Patel

67

George Harding

The Dark

68

Mossie Moriarity

Moss the Hog's quick-fix puncture repair shop

69

Kerrie O'Brien

Old men

70

John Saunders

Ash Wednesday

71

2


Editorial Welcome to edition 6 of thefirstcut. There is a sense in which this is a closing of the circle because our next issue will see in the beginning of our second year. We have come a long way in this first year. We started with a blank sheet at an impromptu meeting of our local writers group in Listowel and, to date, have had an astounding eighty five thousand views of our pages. We have moved quietly, holding steadfast to our ethos, founded, as it is, on a writers group of mixed ability with the emphasis on mutual support and constructive criticism. Our journal has tried to follow a parallel path. Our contributors and readers have remained loyal. Genius, in the form of both established and up and emerging writers has often graced our pages , and continues to do so. For this we are most grateful because it has enabled our group, and, by extension, our worldwide readership, to gain access to some of the best contemporary writing. We are a broad church, eschewing prescriptive directions on how poetry should be written or which poetry should be enjoyed. Poetry's box is brimful of tools and we feel that it is up to each craftsman or woman to use them as they will. Used with imagination, these tools will expand the writer's scope, not restrict it. George Martin did not dictate the Beatles lyrics or themes; no one restricted Jackson Pollock in the number of colours or what brushes he could use; the referee does not yellow-card Lionel Messi each time he sets off on one of his mesmeric dribbles, insisting that he can only move in straight lines; so why should it be any different for the writer? Here at thefirstcut we encourage a plurality of voices and themes; we say: flow free, sweet Muse. For this edition, we have decided that there is so much talent out there that we are doubling up on our featured writers. We have also dipped our toes in the Atlantic to bring you the much-published, multi-talented Susan Tepper. From Killarney via Clonmel, we bring you the lovely and understated Mary O'Gorman. Once again we would like to thank all our contributors, our readers and our 'Likers' on Facebook. (If we have any fans on Twitter, thank you to those as well I would not know, the FB scourge is enough to be getting on with for the moment. And don't forget,as the door to this edition closes, so the door to the next edition opens. So get those pencils sharpened and tell your friends to do the same. We would also like to have some pictures, and illustrations, also some mp3s if you have recorded your poetry. Thanks for your loyalty and don'tforget, we welcome your genius. Mike Gallagher,Editor. I would like to thank Mary Lavery Carrig, Margaret Sheehan and John McGrath for their invaluble help with this edition and Mike McHugh for loaning us his formatting skills.

Front Cover: Carmen Casta単o Mendez Submission Guidelines: 3

http://issuu.com/thefirstcut/docs/about/3


Grace Wells Telescope

For Clio Chafee 5.4.1971-3.1.2009 There were humming-birds on the feeder and every morning we gathered wild strawberries to spread on toast with cinnamon sugar. It was summer and the ocean shimmered beneath the meadow. We were girls dreaming of the boys at the drama group in the library where we played kiss-chase between the books. We knew nothing of how the years would make us and mark us. There was a telescope trained on white sails far out in the Bay. Let me pull you back through its silver tunnel. We will watch the hummingbirds melt into the dusk, sing, Oh, my darling Clementine, over and over till we are dizzy with repetition, we will swim in the creek with the leeches, anything, anything, to stop time.

4


Aine MacAodha The English Ones I always sensed as a child stirrings about the home when the English ones were about to land. You’d start seeing the need for new mats, lino or curtains your excuse to show off. Dad would have to paint the scullery first, then the stairs and shure the bathroom, give it a lick of paint too. All for snobby aunt Breda who Mother said was the brains of her family. And don’t start me about cousin Claire always she took what wasn’t hers my ball baring roller skates my boyfriend Michael!

5


Aine MacAodha Haiku perfect snowflake gathering tempoending samhain Songs I’d left long ago come back ~ like ghosts on parade After the rains slugs take over ~ skating heavily Through the pitch of war my northern land ~ has peace all over it

6


Brian Kirk Still Still in my dreams I search for him. I lower a knotted rope, secured by blood, into the pit where I was raised, climb down, inch by inch, until I reach the bottom, plunder the remains of half-written histories, the skeletons of childhood pets, the shadowed photographs of summers in warm clothes. That day in the pub in Canning Town, after he died, still trying to play the hard chaw among real villains. We sat on in silence after they left. All my bragging was done, I was tired and hungover. I wished I could cry, but I couldn’t, not then. Not ‘til much later when we were alone in my room, on the bed, worn out, with the lights off, no sound, a single thread of cum connecting us to the world. I waited for a ripple to stir the surface of a pond, a tiny sign of life as it is lived by others, but I gave you only tears, the inarticulate sobs of the habitually scared.

7


Rachel Sutcliffe Flying Free Seagulls Swoop and soar Through white clouds Calling shrilly From above Blue sky Soaks seamlessly Into a sea Of gently Lapping waves Moored boats Bob steadily Up and down Sails creaking In the breeze The air Tastes damp And salty On my tongue In my mind That’s where I am Not here Laid under glaring lights Listening to machines Whirr and beep Not here In this hospital bed Chained still By tubes and drips In my mind I fly free

8


Kevin Griffin The Red Pen

It was a red pen that wrote blue, imagine that! Red to blue, not the blue of the sky, not the blue of the sea, certainly not eye-blue, just the blue of ink. The pen itself, as I said, was red, red as fire, red as anger, red that flamed like lava. It screamed while I used it, it stopped only with the cover on. That’s right, to stop it screaming, to stop it talking, you put the cover on and stopped the frenzy. This also stopped the thought.

9


Maeve Heneghan New Beginnings Almost blinded by words, her eyes still sting from your acid tongue. Hooded to what others could clearly see. Goodness, chewed, spat out, lying on the floor like a bone sucked brittle. Open hearts and generous hands, tossed and trampled as a redundant toy. Thrown into darkened corners of your narrow mind. A time for new beginnings has come to an end.

10


Michael Corrigan After The Fall

After the fall We became children of the frost mantled in dusk as winter ate the light our lives austere lived out in forty shades of grey apple polishing to the end.

11


British Publishing Euphemisms Decoded by Industry Experts Janice Harayda A tongue-in-cheek glossary from U.K. editors, publishers, authors and agents By Janice Harayda “ahead of its time”: “It bombed” Julie Bertagna, author of Exodus and other young-adult novels “’I'm under such pressure for space”: “It didn’t deserve a review on my page” MaryB (@marysbookstuff on Twitter), “many hats.” “Just a couple of tiny changes needed”: “I’m about to send you 27 pages of edits.” Jill Mansell, author of A Walk in the Park and other novels “No woman has nipples like strawberries: “I don’t get out much” Martin Pilcher (Igor Zap), writer “The novel never quite reached the huge potential of its promise”: “Your pitch letter was better than the book” Jonny Geller, literary agent “Sorry but our list is currently closed”: “We are too busy chasing celebrity deals to bother with hoi-polloi” Carole Matthews, author of Wrapped Up in You and other books “There is such excitement in-house”: “My assistant loved it” Jonny Geller “This novel really challenges convention”: “including spelling and basic grammar” Phoenix Yard Books, an independent children’s publisher For the complete list of euphemisms and and otherarticles by Janice Harayda, check out the following links: http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/ http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/ www.janiceharayda.com

12


Pamela Clarke Vandall A Bird in the Hand I put your hand to my crotch and held it there. Not to control, but to arouse you, into crest of air. I felt caged, wilted, too tired-to preen or call. Forgive me. I did not mean to take you away. I thought your hand on my crotch might bring you back. I wanted to be a sparrow in your hand. To unfold wings, and beat against you.

13


Niall O’Connor Child of mine

You are the hard pressed slippery bundle Heterotrophic That forced tears of happiness Equally hard borne from my eyes. You were the teacher of love With your first breath And the eyes of trust and belief With all your growing. And now You are the tabernacle of my existence Diminished only by me Custodian of both our dreams Keeper of the secret That has already passed, And lies within you. Peace and Love. You are the child I trust To always be yourself. With each thought and breath you grow, -Strange intimacy of life, That this makes us strangers. You were in my first breath, And I will be in your last.

14


Susan Tepper

Susan Tepper is a former actress turned writer. Working steadily at her craft for the past 18 years, she has published hundreds of poems, stories, essays and interviews in journals and online publications world wide. Tepper is also the author of four published books. Her most recent title “From the Umberplatzen” (Wilderness House Press, 2012) is a collection of linked-flash-fiction that has also been listed as a novella and a short novel by some reviewers. Tepper has been nominated 9 times for the Pushcart Prize. The title story from her first story collection “Deer” was nominated for National Public Radio’s ‘Selected Shorts’ series, and that same story was performed as a theatre piece at Inter/Act Theatre in Philadelphia. Tepper hosts FIZZ a reading series at KGB Bar in NYC. She also has a column at Fictionaut (The Monday Chat), and is a contributing writer for The Nervous Breakdown. Personally inscribed copies of “From the Umberplatzen” are available through the author’s website at www.susantepper.com

15


My Writing Susan Tepper I have been called an intuitive writer by some former teachers and some writers that I admire. Essentially what that means is that I don't plan my writing. For instance, I don't do outlines for novels or stories, or use my brain in the traditional sense of "scoping out" a scene or lines of poetry to make it "sound better." The moment I even attempt that, the whole thing falls apart. So I just let myself kind of drift when I begin to write, and drift throughout the writing. I "see" scenes in my mind and write them as they present. Often I begin a story or poem by seeing the place first. I might, for instance, see a stand of pine trees along a riverbank and begin there, but then my mind might see a wash line of clothes blowing, and a naked man standing in tall grass. And all of those elements will enter the poem or story as they appear to me. I don't push things away as they appear. I figure they have come to me for a reason, and I will work them in. So I do. Now story writing isn't that much different from writing a poem. You still have to get some sort of point or emotion across to the reader, some bit of plot, even the most subtle. And if you trust your unconscious mind to connect the dots, instead of your conscious mind going at it like it is a task, or work, or difficult (which it isn't), if you can trust your intuitive mind to do it for you, then you will have the joy. The joy of artful pursuit. Art should never be work, in my opinion. It should be play. It should feel weightless coming out of you, not heavy or deadening. Even when you are dealing with the darkest subject matter, it should always fill you with a sense of spirit and purpose. I have written some very dark poems and stories, but never feel depressed during the writing or after. It's just a story or poem, after all, and I feel honored that it presented itself to me, and not to some other writer. I suppose that's what is called the Muse. I say: call it what you will. But the important thing is to find joy in the writing. Life offers us all kinds of other less joyous events. So make your writing out of great spirit and pleasure. Make it the pleasure center of your day. It will stun you with what it has to offer. It will change your life in ways you can't begin to imagine. --Susan Tepper

16


Susan Tepper “From the Umberplatzen” Plot Synopsis: Kitty is in her late thirties when she leaves her unhappy marriage and American homeland behind to settle abroad in Germany where she stays for a period of two years. Here she meets the brilliantly eccentric German physicist she refers to as M. He is passionate about many things, including the making and flying of beautiful silk kites. The two begin a love affair. Told in flashback, after Kitty’s return to the states, each of these interlocking flash-fiction stories weaves an element of their love relationship into a gift or item he sends her almost daily through the mail. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler has called From the Umberplatzen “a brilliant mosaic of a novel.”

Shamrock (“From the Umberplatzen” excerpt) M has strong feelings for Ireland and the Irish people. I don’t know how it began. But I think he believes he was once Dylan Thomas. Books by Irish poets line an entire bookshelf in his bedroom. Some nights he read them aloud while we lounged on his couch drinking wine. Occasionally he would play guitar. Sing me Irish ballads. He played poorly. Those times he relented about candles. He lit the one fat stubby candle he owned. A candle I had bought him. At my place he was candle crazy but not at his. It is part of the mystery of M. Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. He sends me a drink coaster that is a green velvety shamrock. He sends only one. Does he think I drink alone. What does he think these days. Time splits my own thoughts and splinters what I remember of his. I shiver putting the coaster away in a drawer. We used to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Naturally M’s idea We dressed in something green and ate green food. Salad pea soup avocados green beans green tea. Once we flew a green kite. And once we draped an Umberplatzen trunk in green crepe paper. Like a barber pole. M said probably we are the only ones. That we will probably get arrested for defacing the park. Loudly he recited: Do not go gentle into that good night… Well I finally said. Despite what you want to believe it is still Germany.

17


Susan Tepper Knit, Purl Past its time the acceleration is over and wasted things— I wanted pretty rooms sunlight splashing butter pattern on floors trees heavy silken boughs of membrane— That one house had lilac drifts along its edge but that was the wrong man. Each had some one thing to accompany the dream knit, purl the man worked over into scarf / gloves / hat Then finally some coat that dragged along the floor.

18


Susan Tepper Exposure Someone has died from exposure over the long hot summer Your arms my breasts or was it so many trees falling, suddenly that caused the last gasp of breath— like smoke working its way backwards You drowning in fluids— that was your own doing and the porch felt dry. Plants got watered taking moisture out of the air, too.

19


Susan Tepper

Mercy Each part of the body gets Sanctified into the next We are at war With swollen apparatus, teeth Fingers that claw the pine box Willing escape To what— A land of bloat Refuses to swallow seed So the farm goes blind The farmer starves and his wife And children and their children: All at once it’s a mercy killing.

20


Matt Mooney New Grain Bend down and gather up neat swathes of corn, Follow on the man with the scythe in the morn, Binding each sheaf tight with a band of its own; Recall to your mind the spring day it was sown: Seed as a blessing shook on fresh fertilised soil; In front of our eyes greeness of hope in a while. Haymaking as the corn ripened in summertime, Now it’s ripe and ready to be mown in its prime. In the cornfield that would shimmer and shiver; In each sheaf the ears are now bound together. Can you hear the thresher with its rise and fall? Farmers from around know it’s a call to them all. With their pikes held aloft having plenty of craic; That strong man hoists a bag of oats on his back And carries it up the stairs to the loft in the barn As he looks forward to tea and swopping a yarn; There the man of the house by a bagful he lingers And he lets the new grain run through his fingers.

21


Linda Whittenberg Indignities Too much to handle, they said of the sleek, dun-colored horse. Fine Irish stock but too high-strung to trust. Even the paradise pasture with grass enough to founder, even blue serenity of Galway Bay couldn’t calm his agitated psyche or give him manners; so, last week they snipped off his bloodline for good. Surely, Epona, must weep for lost fertility of this wounded son. Today, when he comes running to the fence, beautiful as ever, his gray-brown hide glistening in spite of clouds, I feel he wants me to undo the humiliation, the injustice, but all I can offer is a carrot, empathetic sounds and sweet talk. To wake from anesthesia numb and neutered, I cannot imagine. None-the-less, a more gradual taming that comes red mark by red mark through the years, wearing down what is most god-like and proud, that kind of gelding is all too familiar. Living is merciless that way, too soon turning moist fertility to dust. My hand tingles with the urge to stroke his exquisite neck, but I have been warned, he bites.

22


John Pinschmidt It Happened August 9, 2011 The morning I was wide awake by five So much to do, then to Locke Quay by ten Not for poetry but Barrington’s X-ray for an arthritic hip, harbinger of age The morning, lying in bed, I suddenly knew It was the 15th anniversary of my mother’s death at 79 The morning so, I reread and sent To my brothers and sister two short memoirs About my parents, one titled “Heartbeats and Wheels” The morning I submitted two poems to Stony Thursday, One beginning “How the sweat poured” The morning I readied six poems for the Whitehouse Including a comic take on my hectic gardening/poetry life The morning of another Revival launch, Where I’d read out my new poem dedicated to “Young or old, who set out on life-changing journeys” And I set out, late, metal coffee mug on the dashboard Pedal to the metal too, main road past Boher, when It happened. Suddenly all four tyres seemed to collapse Just able to steer left, stop, set flashers, sweat streaming, Hunched at the wheel, pulse low, exhausted beyond words But somehow enough to phone for help. To three nights, St. John’s Square Not for life-blood rhythms of music, dance, poetry But prone, rhythms monitored, test-to-test, Bloods drawn, thinned, battered betas blocked, And the bottom line: heart flutter, shock-fixable-Yet life-changing, wide awake now to the primal Need to slow down, smell the damn roses, Or lie under them.

23


Jon Plunkett No place like home This splintered place, slantways with rage, protestors on the streets. New law hanging rife in the ether: silent protest only. Not a word, just the tune of batons breaking the law they enforce. A split-flesh melody on crowdless streets dictate of another hanging law: no crowds permitted. Silent figures, two up on street corners. An occasional three but we all know what that can be. One falls to the rip and shred of lead, entrance and exit holes for a head. Reduced to a pair they stare. Not a scream. Not a sound. Lacking freedom, not resolve.

24


Shauna Gilligan Bindis People don’t have children for all sorts of reasons. A nosebleed was the warning sign that my body was changing. It wasn’t dramatic, just a feeling of light-headedness with an itch in my nose and a wetness over my lip. The last time I’d had a nosebleed I’d been in a city that was a mile-high above sea level. I’d ignored the warnings to keep hydrated, to watch for dizziness. I’d laughed before rushing to the toilet to vomit and instead, leaning over the pristine sink of the five star hotel, bright red drops fell. I’d left a trail of red dots, like bindis, across the marble as I reached for a white tissue from the silver box. This time, though, I’d just done the shopping at the new hyper-sized Tescos. I’d only put the bags on the kitchen floor when I felt the wetness. “Des!” My husband of six months didn’t come. I knew he was upstairs in the study, headphones on, music blaring, playing chess with the computer. “Des!” If I called enough times he’d surely come, I began to reason. I saw him in my mind, his gangly limbs, hazel eyes, and floppy (once brown) grey hair. I remembered the hope in his eyes when we were pronounced man and wife. Then I felt myself fainting, oddly, in slow motion. “Jesus Christ, why didn’t you call me?” His face was an exact mix of anger and concern. That was my husband. Half of his mother and half of his father. He oscillated between the two, like he didn’t know which one he wanted to be, like he hadn’t ever thought he could just be himself, a new entity, almost unrelated to the angry mother and concerned father. But no, Des, at forty-nine, still felt obliged. I hadn’t quite worked out to whom he felt so obliged (it certainly wasn’t to me) but when pressed – usually after a few bottles I’d start at him – he’d say it was something to do with the house, like he was always drawn back there. He was, he said, drawn back to a tiny room, a cupboard where his mother put him when he was bold as a child. He grew to like it, the darkness, the silence. Once she’d hung him by the hood of his duffle coat on a brass hook on the back of the hall door. He was annoying, was her explanation. She’d left him for what was an eternity, for what she said was twenty minutes. He’d promised he wouldn’t annoy her again, holding back the tears because he didn’t know what the word annoy meant.

25


Des just couldn’t see the funniness of the connection. Despite the digital dawning of photography, he still insisted on working in a dark room, the skin on his hands peeling with the chemicals. So there I was, sprawled – it’s the only way to explain my position on the brown kitchen lino – and there Des was furious at me for supposedly not having called him and concerned at my obviously appalling skin colour. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a grainy photograph of a close up of my lips, halfprofile. I could see I hadn’t fully depilated the upper lip hair. He liked this photo, though. “It’s art,” he’d explained, “and art is never perfect.” “I’m pregnant,” I said. People don’t have children for all sorts of reasons. “No.” That was what he said. He wasn’t even looking at me. He was looking up, out the kitchen window, I guessed. He was looking back into that dark room, I knew. It was more an incredulous no than anything. He was vowing to hold this child close. And then he pulled himself together and offered me water. He unpacked the shopping, dictating to himself where everything went as he put it away. Jam in the last cupboard to the left alongside the peanut butter. Milk in the door of the fridge. I smiled at the monologues; proof that he paid attention to his meticulous lawyer of a wife who always put the messages where they belonged. And we sat, then, an hour or so later, side by side in silence, on the window ledge of our drawing room where that very morning I’d only plumped the cushions upon which we sat. Beside him, I seemed to shrink into myself even further. He took my hand. “I’ll be a father before I’m fifty, so,” he said. “If all goes well.” I was surprised at the bitter tone to my voice. It was like I knew or willed that it wouldn’t or couldn’t continue. He petted my knee. “Of course it will go well, what are you saying that for?” he said. I shook my head. “We’re lucky to get this far.” “That’s better,” he said, flicking my long thumb nail up and down. “That’s the spirit.” He kissed my cheek. “July is a lucky month,” I said for no reason at all. I didn’t tell him that I hadn’t been to the doctor or taken a test. I didn’t tell him that long before I knew him, I’d become an expert at loss. I can vouch for the saying that bad things happen in threes.

26


I didn’t tell Des, my new husband, that when I’d had the last nose bleed, in Denver, in a hotel on my own, that the drops of blood from my nose looked so perfect on the marble, that I’d actually smiled. I didn’t tell him that I wasn’t allowed to fly home because I’d miscarried. I’d been used to miscarriages of justice – being a lawyer after all – and now, it was my time to get used to miscarriages of flesh. I hadn’t carried the baby right, that’s what caused it to be lost. Again. And again and again. The hospital was not unlike the hotel; crisp white sheets, everyone calling me ma’am. They scanned me every day to make sure what was to be lost was lost. They showed me the grainy picture in which I could see nothing. “Your body knows what it’s doing,” they said, “it hasn’t left any matter behind.” They loved to hear me speak. There’d be moments in the day when I’d have a crowd around the bed, cleaners, visitors, nurses, all listening to my lilt. “It’s the real thing,” they’d say, smiling. And then they’d grow sorry and quiet when they realised what I was in for. I’d devised my answer in the ambulance. People don’t have children for all sorts of reasons. And they’d accepted that with silent nods of understanding, nods of approval. I was let out after a week. The airline upgraded me to first class. They fussed over me as they would have, had my belly been full. I can still feel the softness of the green blanket I’d wrapped my fingers around. I’d already told my fiancé George that I’d had enough. My one phone call from the hospital. “Enough of what?” he’d asked. “Everything.” And it was true. Sometimes everything just is too much. I’d asked myself if he was part of the memories that I wanted for my baby. Not even his shadow was in the picture. There was something not right about us, how we combined, how together we created loss, time and time again. And these moments, as I lay in the hospital that was like a hotel, as I reclined in the cushioned seat in first class, had grown, grown from the last sex we’d had. After a stupid drunken row over whether we should compost or not, if it would help. Or not. He didn’t say much over the phone; didn’t argue. It was, he said quietly, a good job we hadn’t paid the deposit on the house yet. It was, I agreed, a good job I hadn’t found a wedding dress yet. I suppose it’s hard to get too mad on a long distance call. * As we lay in bed that night Des stroked my belly. There was no bump. There was no evidence of anything at all.

27


“Are you okay?” he asked. I looked at the shape of his eyes, how widely set apart they were. So different to George’s almond eyes. His eyebrows were arched in surprise, their bushiness somehow neat. “Hmm,” I muttered. He nuzzled into my neck. “No sickness?” “No. It’s great.” “You’re great.” I could hear the smile in his voice. “I think you should get a Tilak,” I said. “A what?” “It’s like grounding, balancing. You can put a dot or a line or two. There are millions of them, depending on your caste. It sits on the key chakra right between your eyes.” He rubbed his forehead quickly and frowned, looking at me. “You’ve such a pretty belly. One that will make a pretty child.” “Don’t you want a Tilak? I’ll wear a bindi. It will be lucky for us.” I could sense the irritation in him; feel the pleading pouring out of me. “No. No, I don’t. I just want to photograph you. I’m thinking of your belly black and white high contrast.” He rested his palm on my belly again. “No.” “It’ll be the first photo. I’ll do a series of them.” “No, no dark room. Not for this one.” I could hear one of those jazzed up engines the teenagers drive on the road outside. A flicker of headlight shot through the curtains. And suddenly we both laughed. I closed my eyes, momentarily living in the laughter and when I placed my hand over his with a precision that was painful, I knew. * It was a glorious 4th July day when I bumped into one of the secretaries from the office down by the lake. I was on holidays; Yvonne was on maternity leave. Her first baby and it wouldn’t be her last. It was a way of life for her now. I threw my arms around her – rather dramatically, I must say – oh, look! She managed to smile, her face dull with exhaustion. “Isn’t she just gorgeous,” I exclaimed, thinking that babies, like all mammals are aesthetically pleasing. “She’s so good,” Yvonne told me, “sleeps through the night now.”

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She pulled a white gauze net down over the hood of the new pistachio old-style pram as a dragonfly, electric blue, hovered, and then buzzed away. “Amazing,” I agreed, “you’re so lucky.” We looked from the baby to each other. “What did you call her?” “Emily. It’s actually in the top ten names in the country.” I shook my head. “Imagine that.” I sighed. “But,” I heard myself saying, a nutshell edge to my voice, “it might be a strange thing to admit but I just know that children aren’t for me. I always knew. Funny, isn’t it?” “Wow,” she said, placing her hand over the cover of the pram, making sure I couldn’t steal her baby, “that’s…some depth of self-knowledge.” “Like Goethe said,” I kept my concern, “know thyself.” “Goethe?” She cleared her throat. I nodded. “With the baby,” she started, her face red. She nodded in its direction, “I just don’t have time to be reading.” “Of course, of course,” I cocked my head to one side, “it must be a difficult transition for you. Time isn’t your own with a newborn.” I could feel the waves of cramps beginning and steadied myself on the pram handle. “I’d best be off,” she said, carefully removing my hand, “Emily is due a feed.” She held my gaze, anger hovering on the edge of her carefully lined eyelids. And then her face changed. If I reached out, I could touch the pity in the crease of her mouth. And I started the long walk home, preparing myself to knock on the door of the dark room and ask Des to bring me to hospital.

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Sharon Frye Small Pieces Twelve silent years encrypted on her walls, not one “Atta-girl” from father, mother or anybody else. Too many freckles sprawl across her face, if you connect the dots with purple, red or green pens, her oval face would be a disc, vivid color. Maybe those twilight colors would have been beautiful compared to hand-me-downs that drown her small body. Skirts too long, hide knobby knees, shoes too big, hold crooked toes, no patent leather for this girl wears brown, dark earthy, humus brown. Sweat leaves dark wet rings, saucers in armpits. Can’t raise her hand, alien abducted. paralyzed still, frozen. Teachers got her scowl on: Raise your hand! Have you done your work? Answer! She starts to hum a song only she can hear. Notes of safe passage float past black clouds swirl that crush, blow you to bits. Teachers got her scowl on: heat rises, settles on the dark brown dress the hundred freckles the big scuffed shoes. Fury rants and raves, descends like morning fog on her hands silence, encrypted on her walls, she can’t find her voice, she can’t remember how.

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Donal Mahoney Window at the Abbey

Through the window I see the sun fire up for the last time today. There are jays in the trees near the meadow, crows in the grass I cut with a scythe early this morning. Still on my platter corn from the fields, scallions, tomatoes, bell pepper and cheese. I'll remain at my table with lemon and tea and look out on the land that surrounds me. The psalms a monk gave me this morning I'll read for an hour before sleeping.

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Donal Mahoney Three Girls of Spring In this college town three girls of Spring are fresh bread brown before the noon of May. In pink and yellow frocks, with hair unfurling in the breeze, they laugh and glisten in the sun and like good daughters wave to the old professor on a bench who’s waiting for the end of day. He waves back and smiles his best, knowing girls like these, once close, now wander many miles away.

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Donal Mahoney The Next One Like You I’ve found no new woman, as you’d like to surmise. But the next one who braids my mind with my heart won’t get away, not even if she’s a nun. The next one like you I’ll lock in a room near the sky and there will I kiss her until she is certain a thousand butterflies one by one are lighting all over her body.

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Tim J Brennan Gong fu

Under foreign tea leaves, wrapped in Dragon pearls, Jade spring, Phoenix eyes We wither, sigh less brittle And sometimes, during the night, while children sleep, we rouse each other and brew tea

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Mary Lavery Carrig A Vanity Villanelle

Please do allow my locks turn dirty grey Let celluloid build canyons on my skin I pledge my flesh to natural decay. Some ladies lie with faces daubed in clay Inject Botox and quietly pour their gin Please do allow my hair turn dirty grey. I will not use cosmetics to convey How both my lips may lift to raise a grin I pledge my flesh to natural decay. It may not be perverse that every day I hug and rub this tubby abdomen Please do allow my hair turn dirty grey. Each night these thoughtful fingers twirl and play With one black hair that sits here on my chin I pledge my flesh to natural decay. So lay me out that I might hear you say She did without wax oil or lanolin Please do allow my hair turn dirty grey I pledge my flesh to natural decay.

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Eamon O Cleirigh An Observation On The Day Of A Christening Crow, on your bough, cast your knowing eye through my morning window. White smoke rising in the valley merges with the hungry cries of babies with no choice. Will sacred oils ease the pain of life, or has the crow’s shadow already decided where Sligo’s early mist will carry your message to the world?

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G.B. Ryan Warrior, Age Thirteen Before you throw someone over your shoulder or disarm a knife-wielding attacker, you have to learn how to fall. I think they must have meant some kind of futon or at most a low to the floor modern bed, not a wheeled Victorian cast iron bed like mine, higher than a dining room table, but I did not know this and stood on its edge, focused my mind, relaxed my muscles and fell backward full length floorward. The sudden crashes and subsequent whimpers unnerved my aunt a floor beneath. I explained about Japanese martial arts, a concept new to her and one she could not understand. She thought a priest might know, and I think he said the Japanese were pagans, what could you do. Look at all the fights I might have won if I had earned a black belt, and to this day I have yet to learn how to fall.

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Ingrid Andrew Whilst I was sleeping Whilst I was sleeping Spring took hold; unfurled a rug of daisies, and placed a crown of blossom on the world. And through the trees she spun a gauze of green, and scattered petals, whilst I slept; unseeing. She sighed and sighed and sighed her self to being. And made each tree a shimmering, leafy dress, whilst I was sleeping; at her own behest. And fashioned each delicate blue and white and yellow flower, and breathed into the skies to make this very hour. Whilst I was sleeping, and bent my head in sorrow; Spring opened her enchanting wings, with no thought for tomorrow. On such an evening, just like this; she whispers whispers, ‘I am BLISS’ 38


The best writing mistakes and how to make them. By John Reed

By John | Published: September 18, 2009 Make mistakes. Make a lot of them. And make them often. It’s the only way to get your thoughts on paper, and you’ll enjoy the writing process more. I actually damaged some muscles in my hands several years ago, because I was so excited about something I was writing that I spent too many hours pounding the keyboard too hard. Fortunately, my hands recovered after an extended writing break (as in months, not days), but I’m still convinced that the best way to write is with enthusiastic, mistake-laden abandon. Here’s why. Uptight writers are the worst kind. I know. I’ve been one. Uptight writers don’t make mistakes. They censor and filter every thought long before it gets out of their head and onto the page. They’re too careful, too cautious. In sports, this is called “playing not to lose.” And it rarely breeds champions. I almost got fired from my job as a junior advertising copywriter because I was such an uptight writer. I was working overseas, writing in a language I barely understood (British English). It was my first real job. I wanted to do well. And I got yelled at a lot. Fortunately, the story had a very happy ending. Along the way, I learned how to get more mistakes into my copywriting, and it made me a better writer. So how can you learn to make more mistakes? Simple. Save the editing for after the writing. If you edit your thoughts before you get them down on paper – or onto your computer – you’ll squeeze the life out of your message. You may even choke it off completely. Don’t just sit there, staring at your blank page, struggling to come up with 39


the perfect opening. If you do, nothing will seem good enough. Instead, start writing. Write anything. Write something that you don’t even like that much. Write something full of half-baked ideas, awkward wording, and other mistakes. In other words, write the way you clean out a closet. How do you clean out a closet? You fling open the door, dump everything on the floor, and start sorting stuff into piles. Writing is the same. You start the process by dumping all your thoughts and ideas onto the page – then you begin to sort through them. You organize the ideas worth keeping and throw away the trash. You box and label your thoughts: grouping similar ideas together in paragraphs and sections, then labeling them with headings and subheads. If you write something you like, but don’t know where to put it, save it in your pile of scraps (to see Helpful advice on saving your scraps, click here). For a short email, this whole closet-cleaning process only takes a few minutes. For a major presentation, it can take hours. No matter what you’re working on, this is a much faster, more productive way to write and write well. What to do with your mistakes after you’ve made them. Once you’ve made your mistakes, get rid of them. The best mistakes are the ones you made early in the writing process. Making them helped get your writing going. Now that you’ve got all your ideas down and your document is taking shape, you can afford to be a perfectionist. Proofread carefully. Do it again. Then get someone else to proofread your document. After all, the good mistakes are the ones you make while trying to get your thoughts on paper – not the ones that slip through to your final draft. Catch up on further John Reed articles at: http://3000messagesblog.com/author/john/ 40


Mark F Chaddock The Theme is Conflict I entered a competition today It was for poetry The theme was conflict No more than forty lines I’m not boring you I hope? It was about my Grandad He came from Staffordshire mined coal till he volunteered Fought at Dunkirk I’m not boring you am I? Suffered ear damage from shelling On discharge was an air raid warden I have a walking stick of his A miners head atop a blackthorn shaft I’m not boring you I hope? He left the army but never left the war Never stopped fighting all his life I remember the black eye at seventy A chap he tripped up dancing I’m not boring you am I? They taught him that you see How to kill and injure, belittle people, But they never de-programmed him So it cost him his marriage And his children I’m not boring you I hope? Between you and me His life was more than forty lines And none of it was poetry So feck your competition as I’ve some of him in me I hope I didn’t bore you did I?

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Rachael Stanley The Wedding Like bride and groom apple-blossom and evergreen flirt under a blue canopy. Softly they sway to the music of the north east wind, And leaning on the saddle of a stationary bike, an onlooker at the wedding.

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John McGrath Time (Connolly’s Bar) An orange glow like candlelight within and in the window-well some Avery scales, a barrel and a last. A past concealed amongst the brash and bistro/wine-bar chic of now. We push the dark-wood door and step inside a sepia-tinted scene of old brown timber, brass-work dim with age, gloomy booths for secret assignations and a snug! We grin like children, order Guinness in a local accent, pay the dark-haired barman with a smile ‘Go raibh míle…’ when he gives us change. The bar has drawers that once held tea and flour, a scoop to fill your order while you drank, a Toucan lamp!* We raise our perfect pints, try not to stare like blow-ins, wet our lips and drink to Ireland long ago when pubs were pubs and men were men; and then the Polish barman rings the tarnished bell – “Last orders, please!” he yells. “Time, gentlemen!”

*From Guinness advertising campaigns in the 1950s.

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Amy Barry The Silent Storm Feral hearts speak without words encumbrance, the same tenderness, the same yearnings. A mystifying power fills, huge, engulfing, a male presence, spine-tremors, vibrate her nerves, senses swell, senses explode. Clouds condense as stormy showers, frenzy dance, overlapping waves, echoes of joyous rainbow linger in her blood.

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Mary O'Gorman

Mary O’Gorman grew up in Killarney but now lives in Clonmel. She works in a part-time capacity in Loreto Secondary School, Clonmel as a counsellor for girls with troubles. Mary has a husband, two daughters, three dogs, three horses and a pheasant named William who visits occasionally. She was particularly delighted to win first prize at Listowel in 2011 as the poem in question was a tribute to her only sibling, Judy, who had Downs Syndrome and died in 2009. She loves reading, theatre, films, walking, her job and of course, writing! Her poems have been published widely including twice in Poetry Ireland Review, Books Ireland, Oxford Magazine, Sunday Tribune, Poets for the Millennium, Listowel Writers Week Winners Anthology, a Junior Cert. English Revision Aid and elsewhere. Mary has been a finalist in the Strokestown Poetry Prize and twice shortlisted for the Hennessy Award for Poetry. She won the Cork Literary Review Competition and was runner-up in the Fish Poetry Competition twice. Her collection Barking at Blackbirds was published by Bradshaw Books in 2001. She read her poetry on The Arts Show, Rattlebag, The Enchanted Way and Playback on Radio One. Mary’s short story One Hundred Strokes was broadcast on Radio One in 2008 as part of the Francis McManus Short Story competition and a radio play she wrote was a finalist in the 2004 P.J. O’Connor Radio Play Awards.

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MY POETRY MARY O’GORMAN

My poems focus mainly on people (sometimes their idiosyncrasies ), everyday events , relationships and memories. Some are rooted in Killarney (where I grew up) like We Stared At Stars and Waiting For Judy. Others like Last Rites come from the area in Co.Tipperary where I live now. Some poems are ironic, many have dramatic endings, others are humorous (I hope!) I tend to challenge stereotypes by overturning what are usually reverend subjects. Once the bones of a poem have arrived, there is re-writing and re-writing. Then I place it in a drawer for weeks and sometimes I bring it to a particular workshop where poets I know converge occasionally. While it is simmering in that drawer, I try to read as much poetry as I can!

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Mary O'Gorman A DAY IN THE DEATH Today my death was announced on local radio. The telephone rang and rang. I’m so sorry,voices gushed. So was I. My husband was delayed due to a meeting. But had booked the best funeral parlour. My daughters refused to read at the Mass. I’m too fat, even in black. My spots are awful. The choir asked me which hymns I would like. They refused to sing We’re all going to the zoo tomorrow. The hearse drew up while I was baking Queen Cakes and Sausage Rolls for the afters. I followed them into the oven. Cremation is less stressful.

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Mary O'Gorman LAST RITES (at the Liam Lynch Monument, Knockmealdown Mountains)

Here’s what he heard while dying: sheep and feral goats on scutch grass water struggling through furze ravens and peregrine falcons battling for crags winds rising from the coums. No stone podium then, no bronze wolfhounds only a young man ordering comrades to leave him in reddening heather.

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Mary O'Gorman PRAYER Each day at twelve she recites the Angelus in her tiny bedsit. During the Hail Mary she pours her first glass. Raises it at Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Feel’s it’s the least she can do Mary has been through a lot. It takes two more glasses to say the Rosary, the trimmings and the prayer for a happy death. Blessing herself and rinsing the glass, she feels at one with Mary. They’ll be together again at six.

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Mary O'Gorman THEFT In Cell Three of Gozo’s Old Prison, I touch where you carved Guiseppe 1809 and wonder how long you were entombed. Records tell you were a fisherman who stole wheat and fruit for your family when the catch failed. On other cell walls there are pictures of galleys, a mast added for each year served. Here, near your name, you carved a sun. I hope its rays sometimes blazed in the darkness and you basked under olive trees near yellow-throated crocus or fished from your boat in Ramla Bay, watched only by blue-rock thrushes and children collecting shells.

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Mary O'Gorman A POEM WELLS

In this heart of mine a poem wells. Where you were stolen by the sea I listen at the lips of shells. Lulled by their lies and sighs and smells, I dream your shape near the cedar tree. In this heart of mine a poem wells. Wild fuchsia droop with crimson bells where brown eyes blazed with devilry. I listen at the lips of shells. A voice from the empty boathouse yells. Your ghost still swaggers down the quay. In this heart of mine a poem wells. Gulls moan. Winds sigh like fading knells which should have tolled for you and me. I listen at the lips of shells. No warning for us, no last farewells just nets and shoals and that thieving sea. In this heart of mine a poem wells. I listen at the lips of shells.

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Mary O'Gorman WAITING FOR JUDY

They are waiting for you on the banks of the Deenagh near that sycamore tree with the dodgy branch. Our father is in his Sunday suit, cream shirt from Hilliard’s sale. He spins stones across the water. Watches a heron flap towards Ross Castle. Mother is in her green costume, marcasite heart-shaped brooch She spreads out the rug. Puts on it your lemonade and honeycrisp. They beckon, and you, my sister, rise from your respite bed to reach across sixty years and sit beside them, again.

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Alan McMonagle Encore We’re having her over again Saturday night. She’ll drink all our wine, talk up a storm about Barry, replay over and over a CD she has clearly decided no longer belongs to us. My good lady will drop all manner of hints. Should I call a taxi, or will you walk? I do hope the neighbours enjoy loud music. Oh darling, pass me the fast-acting poison. She’ll kick off her shoes, remove her stockings, and, unaware of our devil glares, start to sashay across our recently laid rosewood floor. She’ll spill her drink, allow the tumbler slide through her unheeding fingers, and, upon a cusp of shattered glass, she will rip open the ball of her pirouetting foot. Blood will mix with wine. She’ll collapse in a theatrical heap. My good lady and I will yawn and call it a night.

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Richard O' Toole Sea Legs For “Valkyrie� (M.F.V) And wasn't it a fine day you set to sea My sailer boy Sun screen sun tan Sun fish Hard work Happy thoughts Dolphins diving In and out Of love Pleasures and deception The squawking gull Circling serenity Heaven is close by now Ocean breathing Undertow Pull Tear Scrape my brain Push my mind Through Psychotic grey clouds Hide navy ships and straight rain drops Cursed rumblings in my stomach This is my marine cross To bare My salty hell For every sea sick Sailor Every Broken heart Broken water Relentless Is the sea lonely mother Daughter father Son of loneliness Tears for the Drowning Raw wounds Left not spoken I curse the roll of the sea

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From Lerwick to Killshannig And drums that beat Blindly in the heart of Bad man Policeman Politician Priest School teacher Traffic warden Racist Informers And allround bigots In the back of my head I curse the great famine And those who took my Irish tongue Bribed with soup Death is near But I will not go Till the boat rolls And my stomach spews in unnatural colours Again and again Mixing with the sea Freezing hard Inside canals of the Caledonia Deeper than Loch Ness Guarded by friendly loch keepers Farewell to Scotland Dehydration Spins my head past Belfast Moonlight calmed me for a time The sea challenged my being Nill by mouth Past Wexford Blue water in the windows of a buried bow Saw the smooth skin of mermaids Swim to Crosshaven. My legs Were Sea legs Legs For “Valkyrie�..

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Margaret Sheehan Performers Ancient dance Whirling round No sound But stamp of feet Generations taught No rhythm But blood in veins That pains to cease Its endless flow Through centuries Onto a stage. Ancient voice Rising high Carries weight Of time In scale and tone Hid behind A camera-smile Recording For posterity.

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Maurice Devitt Candle Whisks of French lavender fill the silence, smoke out memories spotless days of bees and tiny flowers like pinches on skin and push us to the rim of honesty. Blameless I mould the wax in the chords of my hands as your unblushing fingers smother the flame.

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Clodagh O'Brien After the Rain Ferocious and lean beneath silver cloak, coiled to silky threads by dripping spinnerets. Secreted in depths at garden’s end, tethered across a verdant carpet to the foot of a rusty swing set. In jeweled throne it lurks, for a shard to blind, to dazzle entrap the curious, the greedy. Plunge of fangs a spin, a weave, sculpting a diamantÊ sarcophagus, a tomb of beads.

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Mike Gallagher Bypass Well done, boys, you got your bypass, now the cars will simply fly past; hospitals, though, will have to close, education,God only knows! Bankers ill-gotten gains convert, the poor, the ill are further hurt, but we will spend your Euro notes on empty roads; ah, that buys votes! Praise politicians of all persuasions, forget their lies and aberrations, preserve them now from all dissension, protect for them their perks and pension, for each of them will surely claim this famous bypass for his name. Still, time will come when truth will out, then we will see without a doubt: that he who had the biggest shout had in the trough, the longest snout.

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Tatjana Debeljacki Too Late for the South

It seems that we're late. There was no need to hurry. The branch was thin and it shook all down to the trunk. The cars rushed down under. The snow covered everything. All of a sudden, a turtle-dove moved as if about to fly, and then it fell down under the wheels of a limo. The frozen male swayed on the branch

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Colin Dardis A Steady Progression These vagabond streets have been dried out: bloodless, silent; a sorrowful vacuum without alignment of mourners to allow dignity in passing. All business: each brick laid with the acumen of progress; life more privy to reallocation than happily abandonment. The telephone wires sprawl across charted dead tarmac, cut in the astute knowledge that no mouth moves in prayer here.

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Could Your Self-Published Book Pass THIS Test? CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

Once upon a time, Mousetrapped was 400 sheets of double-spaced text resting in a Muji kraft box under my bed and its destiny was to remain there forever. I had no intention of self-publishing it, not least of all because I figured self-publishing was for delusional losers who despite being rejected by one literary agent and five publishing houses just couldn’t take a hint.* But then a friend sent me a link to Lulu, which led me to CreateSpace, which started the wheels in my rejectionfilled head turning…

The book that started it all... Soon, the decision was made. I’d self-publish using the cheapest and easiest form of Print on Demand, or POD. I’d already checked the manuscript a few times during my agent/publisher hunt, so I was pretty confident it was mistake-free. All I had to do was re-format it and convert the Word document into a PDF. I could throw together some kind of cover using the software provided by CreateSpace and then point people in the direction of its Amazon listing. The whole thing might take a Saturday, a weekend at the most.

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Right? Um, no. Not even close. In fact, the process took three more months. During this time, I worked with an editor on the manuscript itself. She pointed out spelling mistakes, grammar abuse, confused thoughts, contradictions and a vast collection of inconsistencies. (Like e-mail and email, for example.) We even re-wrote some parts. Each time a round of corrections was finished, she’d give me the manuscript to check again, and then she’d check my checking. We passed it back and forth maybe four or five times. Meanwhile I was also working with a designer on my cover. I’d made a mock-up of what I wanted, and he made it happen with some vast improvements. I emailed a few writerly friends for their advice on the blurb and we went back and forth over the many versions and when that was settled, there were a few more rounds on the cover design as things like text, placement of text and the exact amount of blue sky above the palm trees was decided. Even when all this work was done, the proof copy itself had to be worked through—another three full days of work before I could click ‘Publish’ and release Mousetrapped into the world. So what changed in between? How did I go from thinking it would take a weekend to taking this self-publishing thing somewhat seriously? The answer is I happened upon Jane Smith’s site, The Self-Publishing Review, and started reading. The idea of the SPR is simple. As Jane explains: “Here are the rules. You send me a copy of your self-published book, and I’ll read it. If I like it I’ll review it here, and will be generous with my praise. What’s the catch? I’m an editor, and expect published books to be polished. I’m going to count all the errors I find in spelling, punctuation and grammar and when I reach fifteen I’m going to stop reading. I’ll work my way through up to five pages of boring prose

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or bad writing before I give up. And I’ll list on this blog every single book I’m sent, including the books I’ve not completed, along with how far I got through each one.” This is not your best friend who thinks anything you do is amazing. It’s not that relative of yours who doesn’t read anything but magazines, and therefore thinks the application of any words to paper is nothing short of magical. It isn’t your loyal blog subscribers or Twitter followers supporting you with five star Amazon reviews. It’s not the opinion of one of your fellow self-published authors who hopes you’ll return the favor (and if not you, karma), and it’s certainly not a group of self-publishing evangelists who feed into their own delusion with suspiciously glowing reviews on such a scale that their site should really be called AdventuresinBack-Scratching.com. This is a brutally honest, unbiased review— maybe your only chance of one. Better yet, Jane doesn’t compare your book to other self-published books. She compares them to all books. It seems crazy now, but initially I wasn’t too fussed about Mousetrapped‘s perfection. I said things like, So what if the cover’s a bit blurry? What do they expect? and, People probably won’t even notice spelling mistakes and even if they do, then so what? Then I started to read through the reviews on SPR and realized that I was digging my own self-published grave with that attitude. Instead, I went through each review and made notes. What mistakes were being made over and over again? What could I look out for in my own text? Where’s the nearest copyeditor? When I thought about sending my finished book to Jane for review, I began to feel a bit sick. But Jane was representative of all my potential readers. Shouldn’t my goal be to deliver as close to a perfect book as I could? And so I worked at it, with it and on it until I felt confident it was pass Jane’s test, or at the very least do so without too much ego-blasting criticism. My ultimate goal was to get her to read it all and to recommend it, two things I had rarely seen her do on the site. If she had some bad things to say about it, so be it. Chances are she would—it was my belief back then and I believe it even more so today that it is almost impossible for a self-publisher to fully recreate the rounds and rounds of preparation that a 64


book would go through at a major publishing house. But as long as she read the whole thing and thought it was useful for something other than being a coaster under a hot coffee cup, then I’d be happy. Last week Jane published her review of my book. She had some criticisms, some I didn’t agree with (for instance, my actions while in Orlando—the fact that I didn’t prepare is what the book is about) and some I did (um, all the other ones…!) She also really got my wheels turning on her point about the back cover blurb, which since it practically lifts lines from the first chapter, feels repetitive to the reader. I think I’m going to write me a new one. Now, some of you may think I’m ten shades of crazy to be drawing your attention to a review by an expert that says my book has problems**, but I’m doing it because I want all you “I can’t afford an editor” types to consider this: Mousetrapped was professionally copyedited. And before that, it had more than a year’s worth of feedback from an agent. And before that, I rewrote it I think at least three times. But I “couldn’t afford” a structural edit, which would have caught many of the problems Jane flagged, the problems I see now when I read over it two years later. And I “couldn’t afford” a proofread, which would have ensured that any changes made during the copyedit hadn’t left inconsistencies or other mistakes. So what state would the book be in if I hadn’t done anything at all? What state will your book be in if you don’t do anything at all? If you are thinking of self-publishing or in the midst of it, I implore you to go read through all the reviews on SPR. Make a list of the criticisms that keep popping up again and again. Write them on a piece of paper in block capitals, laminate it and stick it behind your desk. Commit to not making any of them. Click here to visit the Self-Publishing Review. *I don’t want to encourage the self-publication of bad books, so I feel I should add this: yes, Mousetrapped was rejected by those people, but all their responses were the same. They thought the book was enjoyable and well-written, but they felt its potential readership was too small to warrant publication which, after all, is a 65


business at the end of the day. While this sucked, it made Mousetrapped an ideal candidate for self-publication. If any or all of them had said, ‘This just isn’t good enough,’ I wouldn’t have done it. **I think my book has problems too. As I said on a comment on Jane’s review, if I were reviewing it myself, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars, maybe 3.5 or even 4 if the topics covered in it were things I was fascinated by AND I really clicked with the author’s voice. Mousetrapped has 42 reviews on Amazon.com and an overall average of 4 out of 5 stars, which I think is great, but I think it only gets 5 stars whenever a reader really “clicks” with the book and not because it’s perfect or exceptional. And these people have read it—I know potential readers have been turned off by the overly long first chapter (I’ve seen comments about it on Twitter, etc.) But the beauty of self-publishing is that if I want to do something about that, I can. Sidenote: in this post I’ve touched on two things that I’m going to be blogging about in the near future: how a self-publisher can re-create what happens at a publishing house and the difference between a book being a well-crafted piece of Booker-esque literature and it having appeal. So, stand by for more on that. Check Catherine out at: http://catherineryanhoward.com/

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Christopher Barnes Dev Patel

Such fledgling magnetism. My nub jiggled Touring you Clinging on double-decker. On transmission you’re each time telling, Prepossessing, itsy-witsy la-di-da. Tweaking identities Is but a booty waggle; You wrap up nifty What suggests itself off-set? Go on – flashlight the wall with a smile.

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George Harding The Dark

Should I go out in the mist to-day should I go out in the mist? There will be nothing to see but grey they say that’s what the people insist nobody else will venture out but I can not resist. Should I go out in the storm to-day should I go out in the storm? Where the clouds swirl about in angry mood and the rude sea growls against the rocks that are haggard and torn and weary worn a deaf ear to the mocker’s mocks. Yes, I will go out in the dark to-night I will go out in the dark. There’ll be nothing there in the night no light no nightingale or no lark no one here will see me go but I’ll hear the fox’s bark.

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Mick the Hog's Quick-Fix Punctures Repair Shop Mossy Moriarty Well not quite. But it nearly happened. It was getting late on a Friday night, all the action was taking place in the pub around the corner. It had been a long day. The usual suspects propping up the bar. A certain man was well and truly on a different planet, having got a good price for a few bags of winkles. He started the celebrations early that day. The poor man was listing badly to the port side. The Cockhill Tenors had just finished their performance. The crowd were calling for more, but Dan decided enough was enough and called on Maudie O'Connor for a song. Maudie took the mic and cleared her throat. 'There are nine million bicycles in Beijing'. well the Hog grabbed the counter and straightened himself. He took off his cap and cocked his ear to the song. It wasn't Maudie's sweet voice that caught his attention but the words of the song. There are nine million bicycles in Beijing and that's a fact. Nukie, Nukie, quick, fill a pint - I want to talk to you. I had a great idea. Nukie grabbed a clean glass and put on a pint. Nukie hears a couple of these great ideas every night. Niukie was looking sideways at the Hog as he poured the pint. Now Mikeen, what's this great idea you have? He could have put a bit more enthusiasm into the query. Is it true, Nukie, about all those bicycles in that place? What bikes are you talking about now, Mikeen? Listen to Maudie's song, will you, before I forget what's in my head. Maudie was into the last verse, there are nine million bicycles in Beijing and that's a fact. Did you hear that, Nukie, nine million bikes in the one place and I am handy at fixing them? You'd want an awful lot of puncture repair kits to start up there. Oh, Jaysus, says Nulkie, getting into the spirit of things. I know a fellow over in Fermoy, a Ralph Regal; he has great contacts, he could get a forty-foot container of them for half nothing. Will you come in partners with me, Nukie? Of course I will, why wouldn't I - there's a fortune to be made there? Listen, Nukie, says the Hog, if every bike only got one puncture in the year, and there are nine million, I'd need help. I could never do it on my own. And how would you get that load of puncture repair kits to this Beijing place? Hasn't P J Mulvihill a lorry parked above at the Doctor's Cross, says Nukie, or we could give Curley a call, he might be able to borrow a van from Asdee dot com. Right you are, Nukie, and I could go with him and get to know the road. By the way, where is this Beijing, anyway? Its about two hundred miles north of Donegal town as the crow flies. And do they talk English there, Nukie? No; no, Mikeen, they talk their own giberish there. 'Twould take you twelve months to pick it up. Another thing, too, Mikeen, there is no winkles, no porter, no dole. No winkles, no porter and no dole, says Mikeen, wide-eyed. Fuck 'em, let them fix their own punctures.

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Kerrie O'Brien Old men

Old men Are beautiful here Slightly broken He sits near me Orders un cafÊ Crumbles sugar in silence All those years in him Fill the room I can’t speak his language But I see How freshly The old heart beats

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John Saunders Ash Wednesday Today I did not hear Heaney read, his popularity filling the room and the Caravaggio let me down; an annual overhaul -as if anything so old would benefit. No church, instead I searched without result for Doty and Gunn, my day empty of religious ritual. What I also missed was you, sipping tea, laughing, remembering as we sat on our garden bench listening to mating calls, watching the green shoots on this warm spring evening.

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THESE WE LIKE Kerrie O'Briens excellent volume of gems 'out of the blueness'. Steal it, this will become a collectors item http://upayahouse.com/music/Poets/poets.php ten immortal poets in song

http://writing.ie/ A wonderful resource for writers, driven by the dynamic Vanessa O’Loughlin http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/feb/23/newworld-william-carlos-williams/ Interesting Adam Kirsch article on William Carlos Williams http://anopenfield.blogspot.com/2012/02/going-organic-line-breakin-free-form.html Going organic: line break in free form haiku by Lynne Rees http://www.simplyhaiku.com/SHv3n2/tracks/tracks1.html Wonderful http://www.bigbridge.org/100thousandpoetsforchange/?p=452 Our poems and photos for the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Listowel event.

http://rereadinglives.blogspot.com/2012/03/illusion-of-freedom-byshauna-gilligan.html A review of Shauna Gilligan's 'Illusion of Freedom'. http://publishingperspectives.com/2012/03/dont-hate-me-becausei-self-publish/?fb_ref=.T1iE1lFSr08.like&fb_source=home_oneline Chris Faraone's perspective on self publishing

We give you our welcome, we welcome your genius. 72


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