thefirstcut #7 A Literary Journal
Success For Our Writers. John Saunders
An Astronaut Goes Walkabout
You Fall through the Sky
Eamon O Cleirigh
The Ballad of Yang Guang and Tian Tian
Mary Harwell Sayler
Who wins poetry contestsand why?
Taxing Times- the Legend of Lady Godive
Stick on Stone
Jessamine O Connor
Niall O Connor
Freedom Hour, Lille
The tsunami gloom
Calín an Mahir
We Can’t Convince Aunt Gwen
Look back in laughter
No Going Back
Things that you might do at 3am
Editorial Wendy Brosnahan
An Archaic Smell
When the worls disappeared
The Future of Publishing 2020
Shyam Sunder Sharma
Lifeâ€™s A Piece Of Shit, When You Look At It
Familiar With Insanity
Not a Sunflower
Earth Shakes Under Elva
Haiku - a guest post
Reading Tennyson on Reuben Street
These We Like
A WORDPLAYER'S MANIFESTO
ARTWORK Wendy Brosnahan
"MRS B" Photo artist & Graphic Designer
turf in gortnaminch bogland
Red and Pink Lady
Submission Guidelines http://issuu.com/thefirstcut/docs/about/3 Submission Deadline for thefirstcut #8 July 21st 2012
Editorial We publish a little later this month, but then it is the season of literary festivals, book launches, football tournaments and other digressions. Still, to help compensate and to reward our readers for their patience we have produced a bumper edition and our usual mix or prose, poetry and articles is further embellished by some wonderful art from a number of gifted exponents. We also continue with our policy of affording newcomers the opportunity to 'strut their stuff' in the company of many accomplished writers. All of us surely remember the thrill of seeing our first published piece hit the public page; for many of us it was the spur that helped us to keep going to keep improving. We ourselves at thefirstcut have been the recepients of some unexpected thrills and accolades. Quiet by accident, I happened on a splendid piece about us on Brian Kirks excellent blog (http://briankirkwriter.com/?p=449) Then, while thumbing through Kerrie O'Briens excellent, breath of fresh air collection "out of the blueness", there, right in the middle of some very exalted company, was an acknowledgement for thefirstcut! Again, while reading Paddy Bushe's absorbing "My Lord Buddha of Carraig Eanna", I flicked back to the frontpiece (as one does) and there we were again - up in lights in what, mention or no mention, is my poetry collection of the year. Oh the thrill of it all, nay, the thrills of it all! Thanks, folks. Thanks also to everyone who submitted to this edition and to those who promote and 'like' us on Facebook and who encourage us in our efforts to foster a friendly environment for all writers. Remember - we welcome your genius. Mike Gallagher, Editor. Editorial panel in this edition: John McGrath, Margaret Sheehan, Tom Moloney, Wendy Brosnahan.
Success for Our Writers. We congratulate the following contributors to thefirstcut who have recently had books launched, are about to launch new collections or who have achieved success in other ways. We hope that their accomplishments will encourage all our writers to keep trying and to believe in themselves. It is also a great source of pride that so many of our successful contributors continuet o support us in our efforts to bring examples of good writing to our readers, more especially those who are starting off. Please show your support by buying their books.
Maeve O'Sullivan's Initial Response - An A-Z of haiku Moments is now available on Amazon at: http://tinyurl.com/bsx8kkf. John Saunders has been chosen for the series Measuring: Dedalus New Writers 1.More details at: http://www.dedaluspress.com/ Kevin Graham has been chosen for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Tour. More details at Poetry Ireland website: http://www.poetryireland.ie Kerrie O'Brien's soulful collection 'out of the blueness can be obtained at: http://www.kerrieobrien.com/out-of-the-blueness.html Shauna Gilligan's composite novel, Happiness Comes from Nowhere published by Ward Wood. Details for pre-ordering can be found at: http://www.shaunaswriting.com/
Peadar O'Donoghue's first poetry collection, Jewel, is published by Salmon Press. For details see: http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=259&a=220 Susan Tepper is the author of From the Umberplatzen a really riveting read in an innotive format. Details at: http://www.susantepper.com/umberplatzen.html Linda Whittenberg's latest collection, SOMEWHERE IN IRELAND A Journey of Discovery has just been published. Details at:http://www.lindawhittenberg.com Paddy Bushe's wonderful collection, My Lord Buddha of Carraig Eanna , is available at: http://www.dedaluspress.com/poets/bushe.html
John Saunders An Astronaut Goes Walkabout Only the delicate light of earthshine to guide me as I bounce the dusty path, boots brushed in grey lunate talc, behind me the comforting click of the module. Fear is a stumble when you walk the Sea of Vapours, never before seen so close, touched, loved. I remember our walks back in the sixties, steps down familiar streets and lanes, rambles through the universe of our minds - ideas, sprinkled in the dust of small town talk. -Exploration is the door of the future, one day man will walk on the moon. I look back, in my vision the silver foiled ship, black horizon of stars, waning gibbous earth, the waxing wonder you left me with.
Ariel Dawn You Fall through the Sky
In the room of minor day operations done before the sky turns black. Hope he brings flowers, white roses I’ll hang before they die. My love’s an art dealer: he’d never buy you. He says I’m only good for black dresses and exhibitions. You would ask for meat, play-mates and earth. I’d give you the world if I believed it was real. Radio plays below my monitored heart. Plastic mask over my mouth. They count backwards. The dream of you -midnight eyes auburn curls-bounding up curved stairs into open window you fall through.
Eamon O Cleirigh Raspberry Moments The late afternoon sun warmed Danny’s bare knees as he watched several bumblers busy themselves in and around his fragrant Sweetpea and Passion flowers. He placed his notepad and pen on the glass table and leaned back in his deckchair, relishing the quality of sun and quietude, though his conservatory buzzed, alive with all kinds of nectar gatherer and insect, each endeavouring to meet its daily objective. Moments like this were precious, never to be taken for granted. No grandchildren or adults to disrupt the peaceful balance of a perfect afternoon. Clearing the house had proved expensive, and while he loved having his family around, it was worth it to ensure such tranquil solitude. He’d no doubt the surprise week-long holiday was being enjoyed by all. Most importantly, they were safe. The jingle from an ice-cream van brought a poignant smile, along with the memory of Millie running into the house, giggling like a child, holding two 99s smothered in raspberry sauce, a chocolate flake half buried in the whip. He hasn’t had ice-cream in such a long time. A bumbler landed on the blank page and turned a few circles in search of something. Danny knew how it felt, he’d spent the afternoon doing the same thing. He knew what he wanted to say, but writing it was the problem. There was only so much he could tell, and he wasn’t sure how it would be taken. Fiction was so much easier; it didn’t matter how honest the writing was once the story came across as realistic. A did something to C because B had something on A and needed C out of the equation in order to have a chance with D. A did what he had to do in order to keep C from revealing unsavoury facts about A’s earlier life, but when the pot threatened to boil over, A just went and did away with C, D, and B to ensure everything stayed the way it was.
Once it was conveyed as fiction, people had no problem accepting it as a possibility, yet if it was pointed out to be true, the same reader became sceptical, judgemental, and immediately took sides. Danny had deliberately kept his real life hidden from his loved ones specifically because it would not be easily accepted. Millie had known as much as was safe to know, but he’d remained steadfast in his decision to keep such details from the children, and their children. It was for their own good. He’d always ensured any job was thoroughly sanitised, that nothing led back to him or the family. It couldn’t, they were too important to allow something like that happen. And then Millie fell ill, and he’d lost his touch. Leukaemia, or Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia to be exact. CLL had to be the most insidious of cancers, loitering in the bone marrow, waiting for an opportunity, that moment of weakness when devastation could be released, a monster set free to destroy. She fought hard, went through the chemo and steroids, but not even the marrow transplant held it off. Danny knew there was little time, and he needed to spend as much of it with her as was possible. But there was always someone looking for him. He’d check his secure line each week and there’d be a coded message looking for him to make contact. Millie was dying and he couldn’t leave her, but they couldn’t know; the number one rule was never to reveal personal details. He’d been one of the best, but there was always someone better coming along the line, willing to go a little further to get to a higher rung on the ladder. She died and he lost all desire for his chosen career. He let it be known that he was out of the game, and there had been no contact for almost two years, though he was sure they were searching. Danny prided himself on being a realist, seeing things for what they were, making sure to get a multi-dimensional view of whatever came within his circle of attention.
Two years was a long time in his game. After a while he’d become worried that nothing had happened. Though he was a pensioner, he still knew what to look for, and there hadn’t even been a ripple. Not that it mattered in the long run. They didn’t like loose ends, and he knew there could only be one resolution. It’s what convinced him to sell the house and set his plan in train. He’d pinged the system and now all he had to do was wait. The kids and their families had been catered for. The only thing that bothered him was leaving his conservatory behind. He loved it; the light, the colours and rich scents from so many plants and flowers, along with the constant drone of those hard-working bumblers; music to his ears. It was his only real salvation from the pain and darkness of life without Millie. Life without Millie. The thought crushed his heart like the flimsiest tissue paper, squeezing until there was nothing left but the desire to…stop. He’d miss his terracotta pots, though; his shelves and containers, all built up over the years, all adding to the unique personality of his little bit of horticultural heaven. Would he find that again if there was an afterlife? He didn’t believe it, but you never knew, at least not until that first step. He’d miss the smells, the noises, the memories; the dappled shade created by his looming sycamore, the nuts from his nurtured hazel trees, lifted as seedlings from woodland in Sligo twenty years before. He’d been on a job close-by and had taken a bit of an enforced crosscountry detour. Pausing in a copse to check his trail, he’d noticed crowds of tiny seedlings, their primary leaves reaching to the sky. It was one of the rare moments he’d taken his eye off the ball, taking the time to pick ten of them, focusing hard to ensure none were damaged during lifting and transition to a small paper bag. He’d heard the pffft of the silenced gunshot, the wisht as the round passed so close to his head he was sure his hair singed. He didn’t wait for the second shot to hit, because he knew it would. Opening his jacket, he rolled into the underbrush, beneath thick laurel and rhododendron, pulled his Browning semi-automatic pistol out while making sure the hazel seedlings were safe inside his coat pocket. 10
Experience matters. Precious knowledge honed from years of active service stands a man well in times of need. Danny had waited his hunter out, picked his moment, and dealt with the problem at hand, as he’d always done, and as was expected. He wasn’t happy, though, that they’d got so close, and he put it down to personal pride in his job that it didn’t happen again. That was twenty years before, and now many of his hazel trees bordered his garden, tall and proud. What would happen them when he was gone? It shouldn’t even be an issue. When he was gone, life would go on, one way or the other. He’d be missed by some, forgotten by many more. But it didn’t matter now. He’d lived his life and it was only right that his space be filled. That’s what space was about – containing something with a purpose; no point occupying it if there was no longer a discernible purpose to exist. Even with the garden, Danny’s purpose was no longer sufficient to generate any kind of dynamic, passion, or will to move forward. It’s true that life is too short, but sometimes it felt way too long, especially now. He looked at the blank page and knew in his heart that he didn’t need to write anything. They were looked after, and strong enough to carry on without him. The slanted evening sun caressed his bare knees, his toes relishing the fresh breeze wafting through his wildflower patch outside the conservatory. He heard the latch lift on the side entrance door and knew. It was easy to lie back, close his eyes, and smile into Millie’s gleaming blue eyes, a tantalising drop of raspberry sauce on the corner of her mouth
Denise Corrigan You He wears himself easy Weightless and true As he pins me Holding me steady His eye flashes and melds us Replicas, mirror twins As his kiss scorches me Fierce as brands I swim untethered Possessing my layers As he coils around me And he wears me easy
Colin Dardis The Ballad of Yang Guang and Tian Tian The couple were introduced on Tuesday and despite meeting five times during the day, failed to mate. Five times. Pandas donâ€™t move as fast as humans, and are teetotal, which probably doesnâ€™t help. I would take them down to a nightclub and introduce them five times to the world of Bacardi Breezers and whiskey shots, and hope the boom-boom music and rocksteady beats gets their love-muscles pumping. Edinburgh Zoo has turned off their webcam for the sake of privacy and basic panda decency, I guess; but Yang Guang and Tian Tian are not turned on. I guess captivity is a lousy aphrodiasac.
Mary Harwell Sayler Who wins poetry contests and why? Before you enter a writing contest, you need to judge its quality before it judges yours. Last month poets, writers, and poetry judges talked about writing contestsand what you should look for before entering one. In addition to that very helpful discussion, the article “The Perfectly Imperfect Poem” posted here a couple of years ago should help you to judge your poems for yourself before deciding which ones to enter in an upcoming competition. That article listed a number of negatives to avoid, too, based on mistakes I kept seeing in the poems entered in the annual writing contest sponsored by Writers-Editors.com. To give you full disclosure, I’ve been one of the judges for that long-run competition for over ten years, and I recommend it to you for the same reasons I like being part of it: The contest is well-run, fair, and encouraging to poets and writers who write well. It’s also “blind,” so I do not know who entered what until winners have been decided prior to public announcements about six weeks after the March 15 deadline. If, however, I have critiqued a poem or seen an entry for any reason whatsoever, it will be totally disqualified. But enough about negatives! Why does one poem place high in a judge’s eye? What positive qualities make one poem stand out over another? If you watch American Idol every year as I do, you have most likely seen for yourself how a few performers inevitably stand out in a huge crowd of very, very talented people. Poetry writing is similar in that most poets have some measure of talent or they probably would not be drawn to writing poems in the first place. And, like the well-practiced voices of highly prized singers on American Idol, poets who stand out have typically read lots of poetry, written lots of poetry, found their unique voice, and remained open to suggestions about improving their work. Often, the poems of such poets show these outstanding traits: • Honesty from the inside out – nothing fake • Sense of something! humor, wisdom, or sensory data gathered from the senses • Freshness – fresh language, crisp comparison, unusual perspective or insight • Refrain – used as needed to add drama or accentuate an important thought • Rhythm – not a monotonous beat but a rhythmic flow with musicality • True to form – whether paragraphs to denote a prose poem or lines free of regularity in free verse or the consistent pattern of a traditional form from haiku to sonnet to villanelle • Strong ending – that, like a good joke, saves the best “punch” for last © 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you want to share these tips with your writing group, fine – if you promise to tell your writer-friends and poet-peers about this blog and The Poetry Editor website. Thanks. he Poetry Editor website - http://www.thepoetryeditor.com The Poetry Editor blog - http://thepoetryeditor.blogspot.com/
Phillip Larrea Taxing Times- the Legend of Lady Godive Godiva Wearing naught but hirsute. After-tax Net assets. Now, it's worse. God, I've a Mind to ride! Took my horse.
Mike Gallagher Stick on Stone We knew each other only as men Emigration saw to that: Him in London, me in Achill Me in London, him in Luton. Even living together, we remained Strangers in a rented room, Speaking, not talking, Robbed of our relative roles. Sure, there were memories One golden Dukinella day When Mick, the Yank, called; We straddled a low stone wall, Talked of Wimpy and McAlpine, Roads and bridges, Digs and pubs; The boy was man! A lunchtime booze in Wandsworth; Three of us now living in London, Yet chatting only the once. Inheritance was split, spoils divided, Unequally, but with good humour, Padraig was always his favourite – and mine. Nights in Castlebar hospital After the emigrant’s dreaded summons: “Come now, while he still knows you” Between the awkward silences, Came words of stuttered support; And he survived - again and again. I almost made it, that last time, Got to Westport before news Of our final silence. Now, as I walk in Dromawda, His gnarled stick, a stolen spoil, Taps the unsaid On the tarstone road.
Susan Tepper Each Sky Don’t break down my door the wood is soft, will turn to crumbs you’ll want to eat that’s how much sweetness But— wait! what’s the hurry another storm moving across each sky is a belt growing tighter and you try breathing the stories in—
Jessamine O Connor Effluvium His onion breath Lurks around the bed A damp mist Like wet crisps I hold my breath Turn and turn my face away Bite his arm Scrunch his hips Dig in my nails Inhale the pillow Forget the effluvium Start the sound Until his mouth Tries to find me A smell so strong It would knock me down If I wasn’t already On my back I don’t say – you should have brushed your teeth – he knows
Cíara Gaughan Ivy’s Eyes I saw her eyes, As mine might be in time, Red rimmed and clotted With dense sheets of rime The bone she strung across her walk She gained another sense, But her ears could hear the talk, Diminished was her confidence. I watched her, grateful that I could. As she shuffled in her shroud And didn’t speak, though I knew I should If only the whispers were not so loud
Mark Haughton The Hill There are moments when the wind catches her hair and you’d swear she was burning, and when it grows stronger still it seems she’s taken off and flown towards me, over the hill. I can see the fire reflected in her eyes – she is staring straight into it. I have tried to catch hold of her gaze but she is resolute. Her features flicker in the haze. Sometimes I see parts of every girl I’ve ever followed around in her. I am a child. I mean, not on the outside. But I still feel a child. They say you have to face your fears to become a man, to cross this fire and tell her I look for her first when I enter the room. But, no, that is not it I think. And what does it even mean? As the firelight catches her skin it truly glows. There is no point in trapping a girl if you can’t keep hold of her. So, we are on this hill. The night dies around us. She has this smile she flashes from time to time. I honestly have no idea what to do. She reminds me of overheard telephone conversations – the other side of the story is so muffled and faint, how could anyone guess what she’s thinking? I sometimes imagine a world without me and it’s no fucking Christmas Carol or whatever that movie was; would anyone really notice if any of us weren’t born? I don’t think so, there’s always someone waiting to take your place – a boy with a perfect smile and sculpted arms ready to push in front of you. There ain’t no queues in life. So, we are on this hill. Just the two of us. And that’s something. And we’ve smoked a couple of joints so everything shimmers. And if there’s anything more beautiful than the girl I’m looking at I don’t think I’ve seen it. Or maybe I have – have you ever noticed how what you know about a person changes how they look? Like when the ugly girl sits down at the piano and spits out her life in four minutes and when she stands up she’s the image of fucking perfection. I think that’s what I’m feeling now. So that’s why I don’t say anything. If I can just ride out the storm things’ll go back to how they were, an’ she’ll look at me again. Maybe you don’t need anything more than friends anyway. But her skin looks so soft I can feel this sadness building in my chest. It’s like a pressure, a sadness 20
but an anger too. Things are easy if you hide – if you just remove yourself from everything – a casual observer. It’s easy but it’s numb – like you’re looking through a window, you can see the movements but they don’t make sense, and the words are all muddled and an effort to decipher. I mumble something about the birdsong. The sun is waking the world. She smiles and talks, all she needs is a prod. She could talk forever, and I’d probably listen. It’s easier when I can just nod. Come on, let’s go for a walk, she says, standing up. I’m staring at her knees. Her jeans are muddied and stained. All of this seems important for some reason. I guess I’m clinging to some fucking hope. Of what? You’ve got me there. It’s impossible to know what I want. I follow her up the slope, making some stupid joke. She laughs anyway. At the top we’re looking out over the valley – everything is milky in the early sun. She leans against my shoulder, so close I can smell the make-up, and sighs. Not one of those ‘what am I going to do with you’ sighs that parents or teachers give, nor one of those ‘this is hopeless’ sighs I had been dreading. She sighs words. Well, she sighs so clearly I swear I can fucking hear her words: this is perfect, she says. And I put my arm round her – not all controlling on the small of her back but right round her, so my hand’s on her shoulder. It fucking is, I’m saying.
Meve Heneghan Bewley Days Our student days were spent here, Searching for answers at the bottom of a mug, We wanted to be actors, Every one of us, to be the next big thing. Sat in huddled groups around a roaring fire, We discussed our motivations. Occasionally, we broke for refills and a sticky bun, Starving thespians needed succour, now and then. Through the din of plates and cups And steam rising from strong coffee, We might, on a good day, Spot someone "in the biz," As evening drew in, We would tear ourselves away From an endlessly stoked flame, Smell of turf lingering. Collars upturned, we ambled out To the crisp night air of Grafton Street,
Leaving the ghost of Joyce To his clattery cafĂŠ.
Red and Pink Lady
Joan McNerney Night Slides under door jambs pouring through windows painting my room black. This evening was spent watching old movies. Song and dance actors looping through gay, improbable plots. All my plates are put away, cups hanging on hooks. The towel is still moist. I blow out cinnamon candles wafting the air with spice. Listening now to heat sputtering and dogs barking at winds. Winter pummels skeletal trees as the moonâ€™s big yellow eye haunts shadows.
Kevin Griffin Him He’s always around when I need him. Let me say he’s the best, he’s obliging, useful, glad to be of use. You need someone, to tell a story, to fill an awkward space, to get the strings together, he’s right there, in your corner, fighting for you, with you. When I am too embarrassed to say I, he will step in . When I have finished with him, he just puts on his hat, takes his briefcase, and is off cheerfully, down the path, to the garden gate, swinging his umbrella, as if it were just another workday.
Helen Broderick Tom's Passing My sister told me Tom was dead One evening As I was going for a shower. She had met his brother Crying on the road Outside his house. We went to the funeral home To say how sorry we were For their loss. I almost laughed out loud because I had to repeat it so much. I ran to my car. I turn in the cross Near his house, Looking in the rear-view mirror to glimpse his ghost. But no half shadow waves back. His donkey wanders through fields of over-ripe grass now. They are going to sell his house I hear.
Sharon Frye Lackadaisy I don't want the mudless path, no dirt on my shiny shoes. Give me fossilized rocks, Devonian epoch charms: inscribed anemone shells, tiny clumps jammed and stuck on my lackadaisical sole. Give me bumpy ruts and jaggedy juts. Jar my sensibly hued horizon. Paint heaven cornsilk blue with feathers of rye grass. Punctuate lanes with baby turtles, dressed up daisies, Aztec goldenrods gathered at my feet. Dot my path with puddle mirrored clouds, one-god-white tufts, sweeping sparrow butted in. When thistledown seeds dance in golden fizzed sun rays, I'll feel their tickle... sneeze and smile.
Niall O Connor First Time In a grubby city centre flat, on sheets impregnated with lives that would never be, she came on condition that it would not mean anything; so I being selfish, to this agreed. Years later, I discovered she took part of me away, surreptitiously, and I search for what I did not know in that small body, I still remember without curves, that insinuates itself into each and every dream. She stole, what I had not yet to give but wanted all the same.
Mike Corrigan Kite I never apologised never explained take me or leave me I said my head thrown back arms outstretched spotlight haze haloing me in cigarette smoke and bawdy lecherous laughter many of them took me of course they did I was a beautiful sexual charismatic free human animal and I liberated them momentarily from their shit joyless lives. I sang 28
on the stage of the Kit Kat Club Koepenicker Strasse gave blowjobs for cash in the alley behind it don’t judge me times were hard men were hard I did what I had to do until you’re starving you don’t know what you’ll eat I watched small betrayals become big betrayals fear and hatred coalesced in to those dark siblings concensus and well known fact It’s the jews they said it’s the reds they said the foreigners they said the trade unionists they said the handicapped 29
they said the gypsies they said the queers they said and I knew I was fucked They came for me the morning after Kristallnacht pasty pale aryans grinning like hyenas hunting through the glittering glass beat me bloody pinned a pink star to my breast sent me to the camp planned by architects designed by engineers built by tradesmen staffed by ordinary decent people I saw all that men are capable of I watched horror become A mundane Daily thing Coated grey In human ash Organised Institutionalised Condoned Official I am a survivor 30
I survived The Americans freed me my spirit barely attached to what was left of my body but I was still human and I did not die I.Did.Not.Die I went to live in the land of the well fed and nearly free I never sang again the music left me and did not return but one evening I wandered into seedy Soho and watched a beautiful young man sing arms outstretched head thrown back haloed in cigarette smoke and spotlight haze the basement room thick with beery lecherous laughter 31
I sat in the darkness at my solitary table and sobbed quietly for life and loss Life Goes On I lived until the day I died stretched flat on the spring grass my heart dark blossoming in my chest as the light dimmed I saw silhouetted against the evening sky a kite ragged beautiful solitary free.
Chris Jackson Freedom Hour, Lille The minute hand completes its circuit: midday clicks, and the plaza pauses. Now, the actuary unfolds his unicycle, and describes his arabesques according to dice thrown by the daredevil (whose hair is side-parted in suit and tie). The banker spends three million pounds on a mango yoghurt and screams out "Guilt!" The lawyer scrubs the clown-paint on his face, and feeds regulations through the portable shredder, whispering contractual imprecisions. And oh, the politician – how he stands naked atop his soapbox, wearing only an askew tie, saying: “You don’t deserve me: I am so much better than all of you.” I am looking at you, love, watching your reaction, but calm as a clear sky forming. Whatever you get up to in life is fine with me, so long as there's a you. - for M
Amy Barry The tsunami gloom Here and there on the stripped land, where once the flowers smiled, far and wide, green dark algaes and ripped up corals stood together. The dank odours, black earthy wet mud, wafted across the thick dull night, faces wore mournful masks, like characters in a tragic opera, desperate to rekindle hope. I journeyed in the dark, wet cold air embraced my body, my ears burned, my blood rushed to the anguished cries of slow death, I felt trapped and almost dead.
Featured Writer Donal Mahoney When I began writing in 1965, my poems appeared in print journals published in the United States and a few in Ireland. Back then, writers used typewriters and “snail mail.” I'd spend the weekend writing and revising. Revising took more time than writing. On Monday morning, I'd sometimes mail 14 envelopes to print publications. It would take months to hear back from them. One submission out of 14 might get accepted. Then I'd revise all the rejections and send them out again. I did this for 7 years. I thought my work looked okay next to the "competition" at that time but youth can cloud one’s ear, and I write largely by words I “hear” and not what I see. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, I started to see poems in Irish journals by someone named Seamus Heaney, a literary stripling at that time. I immediately thought he was the best of all of us in those publications. He kept writing, of course, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1972 I quit writing after having a hundred or so poems accepted by some 80 publications. I quit writing then because I accepted incrementally more difficult jobs as an editor to feed five children. I returned to writing in 2008 after retirement and after my wife bought me a computer and showed me where I had stored, 35 years earlier, cardboard boxes full of unfinished poems. I immediately entered those poems into my new computer, revised them and sent out “finished” poems by email to online and print publications. I have enjoyed a nice reception since 2008 from various editors in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. My poems are the product of a writer born to Irish immigrants from Kerry and Cork who emigrated to Chicago in the 1920s. Prior to his emigration, my father was arrested by the British at age 16 for running guns for the IRA. Eventually he was released from prison on Spike Island off the coast of Ireland. As a child, I found his brogue more complex than my mother’s. She came from Cork. Listening to my parents’ brogue enabled me, I believe, to hear the cadence of Seamus Heaney more clearly. Sometimes I’m asked what advice I’d give young writers. It would be a paraphrase of something I believe Dylan Thomas once said—namely, that no poem is ever finished; it is only abandoned. On the following pages you will find poems that have meaning for me.
The Honey Room Brother Al, in his hood, is out in his field making love to his bees. From my room I can see him move through his hives the way people should move among people. The bees give him gold and the gold turns orange in the jars that he sells in a room near the door of the abbey. The Honey Room, everyone calls it. Besides Brother Al, only I go into that room full of honey. I go in there and bend and look through the jars on the shelves and the sills till there in the orange I see Sue standing straight in a field of her own with a smile for our garland of children. Donal Mahoney
In Break Formation The indications used to come like movie fighter planes in break formation, one by one, the perfect plummet, down and out. This time theyâ€™re slower. But after supper, when I hear her in the kitchen hum again, hum higher, higher, till my ears are numb, I remember how it was the last time: how she hummed to Aramaic peaks, flung supper plates across the kitchen till I brought her by the shoulders humming to the chair. I remember how the final days her eyelids, operating on their own, rose and fell, how she strolled among the children, winding tractors, hugging dolls, how finally I phoned and had them come again, how I walked behind them as they took her by the shoulders, house dress in the breeze, slowly down the walk and to the curbing, how I watched them bend her in the back seat of the squad again, how I watched them pull away and heard again the parliament of neighbors talking. Donal Mahoney
Lines for a Female Psychiatrist Perhaps when I’m better I’ll discover you aren’t married, after all, and I should be better by Spring. On that day I’ll walk down Michigan Avenue and up again along the Lake, my back to the wind, facing you, my black raincoat buttoned to the neck, my collar a castle wall around my crew cut growing in. Do you remember the first hour? I sat there unshaven, a Martian drummed from his planet, ordered never to return. With your legs crossed, you smoked the longest cigarette and blinked like a child when I said, “I’m distracted by your knee.” The first six months you smoked four cigarettes a session as I prayed out my litany of escapades, each detail etched perfectly in place. The day we finally changed chairs and I became the patient and you the doctor, you knew that I didn’t know where I had been, where I was then, and even though my hair had begun to grow in how far I'd have to go before I could begin. Donal Mahoney
Whole and Steaming Dingle, Ireland The bathroom carpet, wall to wall, is blue, the lightest blue, to complement the bowl and ceiling. Apropos the moment: I bend the waist and heave the gristle from last evening's steak. Tomorrow I shall row again to see those ancient men in caps and coveralls stand like statues while they talk and tap gold embers from clay pipes forever glowing. I'll go there at the dinner hour and see them once again fork potatoes, whole and steaming, from big kettles filled at dawn by crones forever kerchiefed and forever bent. At dawn you hear these women sing their hymns like seraphim a cappella as they genuflect and dip big black kettles in the sometimes still sometimes foaming sea. Donal Mahoney
Richard O'Toole CalĂn an Mahir (girl of the sandy meadow) Wind horses galloped past my dreams last night Painting gold along the enchanted strand A fisherman hauled in the morning Took a turn on some rope When your dark hair fell and rolled Danced in the wind with crab boats Brandons breast overlooked the bay The Atlantic roared As you placed roots in golden sands Silver marrim grass turned its head Meadows gave flowers in full bloom Fragrant as the breeze The darkest cloud raged on the sea Waves of painful burden Standing in the silence Gcurrach Island Unashamed I saw you cry in the rocky sheen of Inis tuisceart and Illinamil Flowing and rolling ever deep As you caught your breath alongside the wailing of sea birds Passing storms in the evening TimeFor Scraggane bay to embrace her children While Salmon glisten in silver phospherence Baring the light of the moon Firmly i kissed Your lips that night Never leave me Maharees.
Francesca Casta単o Turning They lay idle in bed sunny Sunday sleepy; lazy like flowers in a vase. Intimately holding on; hands upright. Letting everything be all right just for a moment, abolish the clock; the future is for a little bit later; moving forward, though nothing apparently happens; like a drumbeat the heart says: turn inward now. And they do.
Kenneth Pobo We Can’t Convince Aunt Gwen to get a computer. She says modern things break her heart. When we bought her a washing machine, she feigned interest, then treated it as a table and kept using her roller washer, which, she insists, cleans clothes better. And a dishwasher? Forget it. Her hands know her plates and glasses better. Why take a chance? A concession: she has a color TV, mostly because she can’t find a decent black and white anymore, to her unyielding anger. Color makes the people look like refugees from a bad trip, she pouts. She’d go to movies if they were silent except for the piano. She’s only in her mid-60s, not that conservative. She usually votes Democrat. But she mistrusts most of what’s gone down in the past hundred years, bemoans what she calls the ever-sharpened pencils of darkness. Sometimes I think she’s right. I’ve seen what those pencils write--it isn’t pretty.
Clodagh O'Brien Mission Improbable Alan, Carl and John are positioned at the starting line. The trio have been friends for as long as they can remember. Now they face the ultimate test. The difficult terrain and dangerous obstacles mean that the chance of success is slim. Despite the high risks involved a mass of bodies pour out and around the ticker tape. Anticipation pulses through the crowd and determination masks the face of each competitor. This is what they have all been waiting for. In fact it is what they were born to do. The trinity have agreed that friendship will not get in the way. The race is wide open and each plan to play to their strengths. The largest and oldest, Alan is broad and strong, a formidable opponent. Tall and muscular, Carl is built like an Olympic athlete both in agility and stamina. The smallest of the group, John is lean but speedy making him difficult to overtake. The tension is palpable as starting time approaches. Each contender casts their line of vision from left to right, sizing up the myriad of opponents. “Welcome to the race of your lives gentleman.” A melodic voice booms from deep within the cavern ahead. Consonants and vowels rebound off thick walls. “As you know, only one of you can win. Rules do not exist, and it can be ugly and brutal. The only piece of advice I can give you is to use every advantage available.” The voice pauses for effect. “The majority of you will not make it. Get ready and good luck.” The stark pep talk seems to unnerve the crowd, and disgruntlement spreads like a virus. Not to be distracted, the three friends use the opportunity to weave through the throng and position themselves in the front row. From beneath a rumble sounds. In unison they turn to each other and incline their heads in a nod. It is a gesture filled with so much; camaraderie, hope and determination. Tickling waves make the ground quake. The floor becomes unsteady and starts to shake violently. Mayhem ensues as half of the rows are catapulted forward into the darkness and the others are pelted backwards.
Amidst the confusion a gun shot roars. The fortuitous three use the forward inertia and race into the darkness. The light is dim leaving them to rely on a combination of instinct and luck to steer them. The air is damp, pungent and sweet. Carl takes the lead, ducking and diving to avoid the strong and erratic currents. In front of him an opponent fails to swerve in time, and is hit straight on by an errant ripple. He is pummelled to the ground and goes rigid. Carl flinches, but keeps moving to retain the steady pace he has mastered. From behind he catches sight of Alan low to the ground like a hovercraft on steroids. With care, Carl manoeuvres around a sharp corner. Light floods the tunnel making an exit visible. Intuition tells him to stop and he floats uncertainly peering into the neck of the opening. Attached to every surface of the void ahead are thousands of gelatinous sacs in the shape of torpedoes. Unwilling to be the first through he moves aside and lets those behind him pass to see what will happen. A large swarm approaches led by John. He notices the stationary Carl and braces himself. Flattening and extending his wiry torso John soars through the air like a dart. The brave tactic pays off as he avoids the speeding missiles and disappears out of sight. Thousands follow and are shot down one by one, desperate screams and burning flesh hang in the air. The massacre over and walls bare Carl creeps into the awaiting ravine. A misjudged move sends him crashing into the wall. Expecting the worst he shrinks and curls inwards. To his surprise he finds himself flung backwards through the air. Using the discovery he angles his body and bounces upwards at lightning speed. Within minutes he catches up to John and the pair climb aggressively. The incline becomes steeper and muscles start to ache. Out of nowhere Alan appears and forges ahead. His slow and steady pace has helped him through, and the extra muscle he possesses is perfect for this leg of the race. The exhausted duo follow behind. Up ahead the opening widens and a small crowd is gathered in front of two spiral tubes. One leads to the right, the other the left. Only a handful have made it to this point, and deep discussions are taking place. But time is ticking by. A quick decision steers John into the left passage, and surreptitiously the other two follow.
It soon becomes clear why nobody else is going through. The entrance is littered with desiccated and shrunken bodies. Undeterred, they pass over the fallen corpses. Wet heat slaps their faces and breathing becomes difficult. To share the burden they move in a triangular shape with Alan leading. Purple feathered tentacles line both sides of the tunnel, which waft menacingly as they pass. Lethargic and distracted they veer off course. In an instant a furry frond reaches out and grabs Alan. He gasps and splutters in the tightening coil as the pair look on helplessly. Convulsions rack his heavy frame and he croaks “keep going” before disappearing into the furling appendage. Moisture gathers in John and Carl’s eyes as they mourn their lost comrade. Like conjoined twins they slowly negotiate the downward path, making sure to stay in the centre to avoid Alan’s fate. Both are flailing and unsure how much longer they can last. Beneath them something is glowing. Invigorated they rush forwards. A gasp escapes John as they look upon their prize; a large shimmering sphere surrounded by a golden halo. The sight is mesmerising. A low hum causes the surroundings to vibrate. As they move closer it becomes obvious they are not alone. A dozen rivals are charging into the thick outer layer trying to break through. Fuelled by urgency and desire, the two circle to seek out a weak spot. Locked onto a target, they harness the last of their energy and fling themselves at the sphere. John struggles to gain momentum as the journey has taken its toll. Despite a burning ache, Carl refuses to give in. With one final surge a crack appears. Spurred on, Carl head butts the weakened surface and it shatters. Exalted he squirms through the narrow opening and makes his way inside. Immediately the sphere shudders and forms a cocoon around him. Wisps of red, orange and purple dance around him, each hue taking turns to stroke his tired body. Through the tinted haze John is visible and Carl curls his mouth into a consolatory half smile. Graceful in defeat, John grins back and turns away to live out his final hours. The air around Carl becomes dense and turbulent. Seized by a sudden paralyzing force, he is sucked into the incandescent swirling centre and goes limp as his skin tingles and contracts. Fingers of light grab and tear at his suspended body. Piece by piece Carl disintegrates as his precious DNA is absorbed into the egg’s greedy core. His life as a sperm is now over and with great pride he succumbs to his reproductive fate.
Aine MacAodha Omagh Freezes It was early November I remember because of how cold it was a mini ice age it was said. 15 below zero; small towns in the north stood still phone lines came down from the weight of frost and snow burst pipes in the hundreds and the drains unable to cope backed up. I slid on the ice; tore ligaments in my arm when I was helped up. I feel the aches again as winter loiters like a threat. Bones shudder under skin a warning of another ice age to come. It was the talk of the town all winter season from the post office in market street to the butchers in campsite it was something different to talk about I suppose.
Eleanor Bennett 46
Rachel Sutcliffe Look back in laughter I remember The only time We went camping The wettest Summer on record
The first night Our tent sprung 3 leaks By morning We were ankle deep In mud As the raindrops Dripped off your nose You said ‘One day we’ll look back on this, and laugh.’
One day I did look back But I didn’t laugh Because You’re no longer 47
Jasper Jasper is a ginger cat, hoop-tailed, like a lemur, A cat with attitude, unimpressed by praise or platitude. Jasper doesnâ€™t purr much and only feigns affection in pursuit of food. He likes to watch me shower, a kind of feline fetish, I suspect. Sometimes he disappears to god-knows-where, stays out all night and comes home wrecked. Who knows where Jasper goes when heâ€™s not here, or how he gets the dried blood on his ear?
Matt Mooney Archways That old workshop in The Market Yard Once belonged to Eamon, local man, Coming by laneways under archways Leisurely by bicycle up the busy town; And since he died we sorely miss himHe was both smith and harness maker, Heart and soul in his daily labour there; And callers made for daily conversation While he was doing urgent jobs for usMaybe a new handle on a garden spade Or fitting a blade on the tree of a scythe That swathes of hay might fall before you. In Auschwitz I thought of Eamon’s motto As I read the words in wrought iron metal Of its awful archway –to a hell on earth: A lie from the tyrants of the Third Reich: Arbeit Macht Frei (Work will set you free)Three hollow words hiding horrible deception. I’m reminded of that Market Yard, Of a workshop where there is a metal sign: Bheith ag obair bheith ag Paidreoireacht(To be at work is to be at prayer) it says; An emblem of the late Eamon’s life and creed;
In Auschwitz their word was not their deed.
Ingrid Andrew Macaroon I am in paradise; I am in heaven in a little patisserie called ‘Macaroon’ near Clapham Common. The floor is parquet wooden, the high blue ceiling is afloat with clouds, two flat cherubs and a cluster of lamps made from frosted ice; and Bing is singing ‘When you’re young at heart,’ and suddenly I am transported, after all the petty disappointments and grievances of work; I feel young at heart. One waitress is as pretty as you’d expect, (she wears a girlish, blue and white, gingham dress) so is the other; from Laos. (When the rhythm starts to play; hold me close …) I’m sitting at a broad wooden veined table; a huge glass oval bowl of white, scarlet and pink veined orchids just near me. Come in, come into heaven; taste one of these little mango and orange cakes as sweet as they need to be;
like a jewelled eatable that Monet might have munched before he went out to paint the trees, heavy with their summer leaves. 50
Outside there are people sitting on the grass, they could be made from Seurat’s painted dots; this could be Paris before the wars, before the weather became permanently unstable; before we knew the history of sugar. Go on, come in, pretend with me, that this is a sweet eternity, without cholesterol or stiffening limbs, or loss or sorrow; where it’s always mid afternoon and time for tea, and no tomorrow. Just sweet sensuousness and innocence and peace, in paradise, in Macaroon, in heaven; where ‘everybody loves somebody sometime.’
Sean Smith No Going Back Side by side they went down the road, the hedgerows crowding in as if eavesdropping on a private conversation. Clouds the colour of curdled milk sat threateningly over the heads of the man and the boy, the rain within contained by a thin membrane like the skin on cold porridge. When do we get there? Soon, soon. We’ll get there soon. And what do we do there? We’ll see, we’ll see. The road went on. And, having no choice, so did the man and the boy. The road contoured round the rising hills like a hand gliding over a lover’s breast. In the far distance, a sunbeam broke out as if on day release and plucked out diamonds sparkling in the sand banks. The gleam couldn’t last and soon the gloom crowded in on the land again, the once lush fields brown and ragged like a sepia photo of tenement streets. I’m getting tired now. Don’t worry, its not so far. I think I can see the turnoff. The road dipped, a polite bow before rising toward the horizon where further down a turning showed itself, shyly peeping from behind tall granite gateposts guarded by griffins prepared to shriek at unwary interlopers. I don’t think I want to go there now. I want to go home. Please. Take me home. We can’t, remember? I told you that. We talked about this only last week, don’t you remember? Two magpies launched themselves from the trees, laughing in unison while the hooded crows looked on muttering oaths at having their silence disturbed. The trees swayed in the wind, holding up their branches as if to shield themselves from a punishing blow. I’m scared. I want to go back. Take me home. Mammy will be missing us. 52
Ssshhh, ssshhh, don’t get upset. Wipe your eyes and blow your nose. It will be alright, don’t worry. Everything will be fine. Besides, Mammy isn’t there so we can’t go back. Why not? We could always go back before, couldn’t we? Not this time. This time there can be no going back. But don’t be scared, I won’t let anything bad happen to you. The sound of gentle crying accompanied them as the road turned off onto the gravel driveway. The large house looked on in disapproval as the car drew up to the granite steps leading to the dark canyon beyond the oak door. Two starched-white nurses helped the old man up the steps. Bye dad, I’ll see you next week. The boy jumped back in the car and drove away.
Peadar O'Donoghue Things that you might do at 3am that you wouldnâ€™t ordinarily do anytime else Like write this poem, or declare your love for the next door neighbourâ€™s wife by carving her initials in freshly fallen snow. Eat a bologna sandwich. Watch TV programmes about embarrassing illnesses. Cut your toenails with a penknife. Tidy up your CD collection, alphabetically. Watch the clock tick, wait a second for tock. Stare at the moon till it glows and grows. Pick your nose. Press the on/ off button of the microwave over and over to see the little red light come and go, and come and go hang yourself.
Wendy Brosnahan Beginnings I breathe fresh air, Smell the spring. Its good to get out From dark winters grip. Yellow about, Plenty of green. Drink in the sun, Dancing the breeze. Heâ€™s silent in passing, Graceful and free. Cuts through my thoughts, Grabbing attention. Like the touch of his wing Wakes up creation itself And the world turns around For life to begin
Siddartha Pierce An Archaic Smell Antiques Ancient artifacts Shellaced And dusty. A clothed hand Wounds around Wipes them Cleaned. Cared. Endeared. Engendered Male Female He is a grand grandfather clock. She is a lovely glove box. Musty. Books Molded Tattered, torn at the edges the spine releasing its grip the bind pages turning fluttering frail with use worn a dusky brown from fingertips the perusal cherished opened once again by the next generation.
When the world disappeared no one was there to write poems or tell stories, and words fell away into sands that flow from a thousand sea shores.
THE INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING MAGAZINE
The Future of Publishing 2020: The Push And The Pull This is the first of a series of articles on The Future of Publishing 2020. I've been preparing this article for a while on the future of self-publishing 2020. One thing I have learned is that predicting the future based on current practices and trends is a precarious business. The publishing industry – as a community and business – is undergoing an utter sea change in methodology and ideology not seen since Gutenberg’s first print press. When I speak of the publishing industry as a community – I include publishers, agents, authors, printers, guilds and associations, as well as readers in this community. I’ve heard so many people in the industry, mainstream media and publishing analysts try to explain and define the explosion and impact of self-publishing, together with the entirely separate dimension of digitalization and democratization of the industry. Too often I see these two dimensions of change dreadfully confused.
publishing has now moved into mainstream online channels through the growth of ebooks and the surge of independent digital publishing platforms developed and supported by retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble (Kindle and Nook), and the entry into publishing by Apple and Google (iPad/iBookstore and Google Books). The jury is still out on whether self-publishing will hold its own within the greater publishing industry in any significant way, and, more likely, high street bookstores will continue to decline with the shift from print to digital formats. By 2020, e-sales will dwarf what is generated from foot traffic sales. The real spark that led to the rejuvenation and explosion in self-publishing began around 2000/1 with the emergence of POD (print on demand) as a new print technology to address the increased costs in print production and distribution logistics. Fundamentally, it allowed early adopters like academic presses to publish new texts and republish older texts which otherwise may never have seen the light of day. I suspect, even in 2020, history may somewhat muddle what happened in retrospect during the first decade of the 21st century because of the acute speed of change and volatility in the publishing industry and the pressure of high street discounting among booksellers.
Authors have been ‘publishing’ their work online as long as they have had access to the Internet, but the real game changer came with the emergence of social networking (quickly utilized as a marketing tool by individuals) and the ability for authors to monetize their written content
through a user-friendly retail platform.
Much is made of POD technology within the self-publishing community, but, in reality, it simply removed the gatekeepers from the established path to publication and brought self-publishing within the pockets of hundreds of thousands more authors. Examine carefully the authors who have become runaway successes by self-publishing and you will discover a very different landscape and reality than the one often painted by companies offering publishing services and analysts professing less than objective views of the terrain. As whole, self-published books solely utilising POD may provide a gentle entry for new authors into the stark commercial world of publishing, but this print-to-logistic technology is entirely flawed as a business strategy to sustain an author brand and book, attain widespread distribution to retailers and compete on pricing. During the early part of the last decade, the self-published authors who gained the most success achieved it by using traditional print methods (digital short run/lithographic) and crucially made the breakthrough into brick and mortar stores. Frankly, any publishing service in existence now and offering only POD as a viable method of publication to its authors is on an ever decreasing path to doom. At their worst, they are treading dangerously close to offering nothing more than an ‘old style’ vanity arrangement for authors with shallow promises and a combination of either greed or sheer ignorance. In today’s new world of publishing order, I’m not sure which sin is more reprehensible. One thing I am sure of – so-called POD publishers alone have less than three years left to run their course, and, ironically, have benefited somewhat from the perceived confusing between the rise of self-publishing and the greater development of digitalization and democratization within the publishing industry. With the advent of social networking, self-published authors embraced the idea of the ‘book’ as a project of content management and brand awareness long before the sacred gatekeepers of publishing thought beyond the next best seller list. It’s only now that self-publishing as a community and the independent authors who believe in its basic ideology appreciate what they have, and, for the time being, still choose to hold on to. That’s quickly changing, and the general publishing industry is right and quick to point out that the self-publishing fraternity remain – for the most part – disorganised, unaware of their creative wealth and the importance on holding rights,
but still dogged by poor editing, product controls, and distribution and marketing reach with core physical booksellers. It’s no surprise that we are witnessing theAmanda Hocking era – authors who build their brand independently, but ultimately succumb to the lure of a big house looking after the business end of publishing while authors revert back to what they passionately do best – write. Before we even start to understand where publishing will be in 2020, we have to consider where publishing is and where it has been. I’m not going to spend too much time on the consideration of where the industry is as a whole at the moment – The Independent Publishing Magazine does this day in, day out, here and there. I will say that publishers over the past 30 years have slowly given up control of ‘their’ industry to retailers, and in more recent times we have seen the big six publishers try to wrestle back some of that control using the Agency Model with retailers and the development of digital partnerships and an extension of their online presence from dull static pages to places of reader engagement and resource. It’s working, but not without a great deal of headache, and I remain unconvinced the big six publishers – as designated by the slowly decreasing hold of New York publishing offices allied to media conglomerates – will survive beyond Penguin, MacMillan and HarperCollins. I’m less convinced that Hachette and Random House will remain operating as large publishers before being picked off by Google, Amazon, Apple or some new or existing conglomerate. If anything, we may be approaching a period where large publishers, or their brand parts, will be slowly picked off by established media companies more adept at content integration and have the ability to deliver that content through integration with film, written word and the rising online game communities established by Sony and Microsoft. The rise and strength of independent publishers like Canongate and Faber should not be discounted in 2020. I’m convinced strong independent publishers will still be around in eight years time, and both the above houses will become part of an alternative ‘big six’ globally. That’s the difference – this new independent six will be global and not an extension of what happens in one big commercial city. Sure, the current big six will mutate – it could be Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Kobo, and A N Other. Time will tell. I said earlier that the past often tells us more about where we will be in the future once we put it in perspective. There is nothing newabout self-publishing. It’s as old as the Gutenberg press. In fact, self-publishing – in a way – is the very origin of
publishing itself. Long before printed presses we had ‘publishing houses’ in the guise of the first learning academies, monasteries and communities hand writing books for record and preservation. Once mankind grasped how to record the written word, the value of patronage, support and championing a work became the first true social network. With the new landscape of publishing – via the Internet – we are seeing some of the old values of a long forgotten tradition re-emerge. Literature is full of champions and supporters like Gertrude Stein. The latest movement in self-publishing is crowdsource or crowdfund publishing. The practice is becoming more widespread with independent authors. An author rallies either the funds or resources of an already inbuilt small community to financially support and aid the promotion of the book before it is produced and published rather than promote the book after it has been published. Around 1993 I stopped wearing a wrist watch. I didn’t have to. I didn’t need it. A wrist watch became a piece of jewellery – something I wore when I went to a party. By the end of the 1990’s I didn’t have a calculator in my house either. Today, the mobile phone, also has resulted in people not having a walkman while they jog, even an iPod, a calculator, camcorder, a TV, a satnav…whatever you can think of now that is a necessity for a trip may not be needed in 2020. One thing I am certain of is when I attend the London Book Fair 2020; I won’t have to bring a mobile phone, laptop or any other device. More likely, I won’t have to bring any form of electronic device, and the immediate content I need to access will be with me through a pair of sunglasses! Whatever the case, I know access will be simpler, and in spite of the changes, the world will be a lot less complicated. One of the clients I work with as a publishing consultant is TAUS, an innovation think tank and interoperability watchdog for the translation industry based in the Netherlands. This is a quote from one of the recent articles the company founder Jaap van der Meer posted after a conference in Japan. He was speaking about the growth in automated translation in Asia. “It is driven by what we refer to as the democratization of globalization. (traditional
consumption. This means that everyone everywhere in the world has in principle access to the necessary information and pulls it when needed.”
Publishing – Push or Pull? For me, this encapsulates everything about the publishing industry and where selfpublishers – and more importantly, readers – find themselves in today’s world. Publishing in 2020 will be about discovery before profit and disruption before integration. Profit will only follow discovery because the retail landscape will be about access, identification, and maintaining longevity there. In reality, ‘publishing’ will be for the vast majority of authors – as a way of expression and not profit. For most, the challenges of disruption and democratisation will prove too much. In 2020, most authors will never consider self-publishing as a path to profit. Profit will be an exception rather than a rule and ‘publishing’ like ‘self-publishing’ will simply become an accessible and universal form of communication, rather than a prescribed career path through publishing. Indeed, I suspect the reality, speed and immediacy of a network like Twitter, or whatever succeeds it, will become the medium we first hear news of a global nature. How we interpret, valuate and disseminate that material will say a lot about who we are. The whole concept of traditional publishing was built on ‘PUSH’ to retailers/readers. Publishers got used to celebrating authors and pushing the books they published out to sales reps and retailers, and eventually on to the end reader. It’s been like this too long. Publishers now don’t sell books to readers – they sell books to buyers in bookstores. As long as publishers hold that ground – they’re fucked – awash in an industry universe a million miles away from both author and reader. And in a strange way, publishers implementation of strategies and buzz words like ‘disruption’, ‘disintermediation’ and an imposed ‘democratisation’ brought on by circumnavigation of the industry by authors is only emphasising the clear ‘PUSH’ of authors to reach their
discoverability and ‘PULL’ as hard as they can with the technology at their disposal. The centre is being squeezed as authors try to reach readers, and readers try to reach authors. Agents and publishers are at the centre of this new digitally enabled maelstrom, and something has to give. Publishers in 2020 may inherit what they deserve – a liaison with a select few large agents delivering sure-fire manuscripts based on the latest trends, guaranteed to deliver profit over risk. No midlist authors or debut authors who may not have a brand that can deliver over several years. I’m less convinced about agents in 2020. With the move of self-published authors to ebook publication with platforms like Amazon and
Apple, I see less of a place for agents in this less complicated world of publishing. Sure, Picoult, Patterson and the large legion of successful New York Times authors will never have the time the self-published authors have to sacrifice to these matters, but there will be a place for large agencies. The rest will submerge into the media and conglomerate entertainment edifices, and the sole agents will exercise an existence as scrappy as the authors they once represented. Of course, just as in the past year or two, we will see crossovers and reinventions. I predicted five years ago that major publishers would develop self-publishing imprints, and that has happened. Agents will try their hand at setting up digital imprints for out of print and new titles – that’s happening. Established authors will crossover and take control of their empire – whether in print or ebook – hi, Paulo and JK, hope is all well with you both. Agents will even throw in the towel and dive into the waters themselves – hi, Nathan, hope all is well with you too! In 2020, there won’t be a ‘self’ in publishing. It’s meaningless. Come to think of it, in 2020, there probably won’t be a ‘publishing’ in publishing anymore! It’s all becoming meaningless.
But one thing is certain. Writers will be writing in 2020. Whatever you do, whatever you write, do what you have to do and believe and enjoy it. Just maybe, someone
The second article in this series of articles on The Future of Publishing 2020 will look at Control, Disruption and Discoverability.
Louis Mulcahey Distant Bond Oskar b.2005
Icy dread, unvoiced, seeps through phoneline fog. Blood, listless, drip: words, at twenty hours, too fraught. The drive is weak, on hold. A troubled life, short, un-sweet. How quick the joy is quelled. Fear for the mother: hope construed as no hope. Dark night descends. Black moon obscures the sun. The light that briefly blazed now murk. Mother, grandmother, husband wait. Stark anguish for the women. Men, as ever, will rationalise the ache. But wives are wired to carry grief throughout the years to come. Her mind: nothing further matters. Better gone? Conscience shoos the iniquitous goad. Prayers of the faithless, helpless. Cold white druids of harsh, enlightened medicine await eclipseâ€™s wane. Panic ebbs. The sun escapes the moon.
Shyam Sunder Sharma Minus Evening The dream, Open blue skies embracing horizons, Thousands of un-stringed balloons drifting high, Flocks of birds etching the skies Flying home in formations, Ah! My heart aches to hear the bulbul sing. The reality, Crawling forward in the smog From somewhere to nowhere In endless traffic jams, Frustrated faces, sagging hearts, wearied feet! Struggling to shut out the blaring horns, The cacophony of hawkers & eunuchs Peddling wares, seeking alms On red light signals The light turns green! The skies just a darker grey from the day, No evening embers, As if the sun Just got snuffed into a dusty ashtray
John Pinschmidt Life’s A Piece Of Shit, When You Look At It (To Robert Hanks
June 8, 1935 -- April 13, 2002)
Well before dawn, just up, half awake, rekindling the woodstove When from the radio: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life…” Awriiight. But wait…something strange... heavy orchestration… Not Monty Python. It’s the deballed cover by Art Garfunkel, With the replaced line, “Life’s a counterfeit, when you look at it.” My ass. Hey, Art: Paul and you have left your mark--Solitary despair on the Greyhound bus, the fighter still remains, The haunting pipes from the Andes, “Sail on, Silver Girl, sail on by…” That I wish I had cited on our blond Sue’s wedding day--But, Art, you shouldn’t have messed with this song. “The Bright Side of Life” is sacred ground. It triggers Friday-afternoon beers with Bob, And later, Teasie and Maureen too Down in my classroom, unwinding after the week’s teaching Both in our elements, Bob biology, me literature Merrily swapping tales from the trenches, playing with words… We’d hoist bottles of cheap Stuttgarter beer, “Urtyp” becoming “your tip”, Me: “Up Yours, Mate!” He: “Up Yours, Mate!” Loud CLICK. We: “WITH A WIRE BRUSH!” And during those sessions sometimes We played Python’s irreverent masterpiece, which obliterated Any attempt to view life as serious or meaningful And I laughed deeply with that brilliant teacher, The funniest man I have ever known. Until it ended, Spring Break 2002, while I was in Russia. On a bird-song, warming, April evening Bob reached the end of his rope, literally, In the stairwell down from his classroom. A week later I had to deliver his eulogy To our still-devastated community. Art Garfunkel, at times life is indeed a piece of shit, Not a counterfeit, especially when it suddenly erupts Splintering everything into before and after. And here in the dark on this bitter morning, Without that greatest line, I’m badly needing A laugh, and not finding it.
Peter Harris Footprints As Baatarsaikhan crossed the Yalu’s field of ice on pontoons like whale’s ribs, and sorcerers roamed the countryside carrying peach rods to chase away bad luck, Shihong, Baatarsaikhan’s wife, hid from fear by painting women gathering a harvest of peach blossom from the trees’ lilac chandeliers. She called the painting Women Harvesting. When he did not return and the orchard of peach trees were now in flower, she covered her household deities with red paper, removed all the mirrors, hung white cloth over the doorway, and placed a gong to the left of her door. The painting she mounted on silver brocade and bartered it in the market for joss paper and prayer money. Shihong’s brother-in-law, Bolin, fashioned a coffin from scented cypress wood and carried it on his shoulders to Shihong’s courtyard where he laid it on a pine table unclosed. The first night of her mourning, as the fifth watch bell sounded, a monk began chanting Taoist scripture over the empty coffin shrouded with incense smoke. On the seventh night, her body weak from fasting and perfumed with sweet osmanthus, Shihong sprinkled her floors with talcum powder and left her bedroom door ajar, certain she had seen Baartasaikhan’s ghost at first light that morning gazing at her through the window. And as the moon slanted behind the bell tower and Shihong’s breaths were slow and deep, Huian, her sister, came and took a pair of Baartasaikhan’s boots from beneath the unmoved handcart in the courtyard, slipped her tiny feet into them and slopped them along the hall, into the kitchen, back through the hall and out to the yard where she left them at the door and cycled home.
Tatjana Debeljacki Familiar With Insanity â€“ am I gifted person? Is it important, since I no longer exist?! I was sailing through the endless space, still angry at the death that came in malevolent time. The success was feasible. The space is so cold, and my physicus, which I imagined, transformed into the powerful energy that has no use. I did not have a plan. â€“ Probably I do not need the plan here, â€“ as if the thought was spotted. From some star constellation, a man in white floated towards me. He was tampering something about my bodiless being, and then suddenly disappeared. People around me were freely walking in their pajamas, it was only me bound to bed
Christopher Willard Not a Sunflower
Across the street ex-college students are moving out of an apartment where the slats of a futon are hauled over a porch railing and a large chair in flowered fabric is carried toward a dumpster they can no longer ignore. At one past point there would have been swordplay resulting in a nicked nose or lopped lobe as with Gauguin and Van Gogh, as one historian suggests. What is it with poets and sunflowers? Why do we struggle to release our works from the past? Scientists now say there are large areas of no-matter .Van Gogh painted broken sunflowers because sunflowers were too tall and he lacked vertical canvases. We are thankful he didnâ€™t think to turn a horizontal canvas. How many dark things can you name not counting sin or eyes of octopi? Ai Wei Wei filled a room with hand painted sunflower seeds before he was arrested. Pessoa envisaged the world as a daisy. That portable hole in cartoons is exactly like the Kapoor hole in Tilburg, which I found to be about an inch deep.
Meg Tuite Earth Shakes Under Elva
Elva had been working on her plan for sometime. It took a few days to earmark the title alone. She’d tried it out on the Sunday dinner family-E contest and had actually won. Eleanor had kneed her under the table, but she was ecstatic. Elva had finally beat Eleanor and Ermine and sat eating her extra helping of cherry pie and Cool Whip slowly, savoring her just dessert. Mom had said okay, now Elva’s turn. Elva usually came up with something lame. She didn’t have the competitive edge like her sisters, but she’d studied the dictionary this time until she’d come up with the heading for her scheme: Espionage Efflorescence. Once she won the acclaim from her mother, she knew she was going to win the big prize. Terrence Box. She’d sucked him up with her eyes ever since the day he walked into her fourth grade class. He was tall and thin with white bangs mastered into a dutch-boy haircut. The kind like the boy on the paint can. He only wore turtlenecks and his whole face turned purple when the teacher introduced him to the class. He was from California. Elva could tell that he was exotic and eccentric right away. He bit his nails, kept his head down. Whenever he was asked a question and was forced to raise his head he had this exceptional tic. He scrunched up his pointy nose, rotated it around and sniffed. His nose was always red and puffy. He was everything. The most important day of the school year had finally arrived. Valentine’s Day. Elva had let her mom buy the usual bag of store-bought valentines for the class, but certainly not for Terrence. She’d pulled out her mom’s wrapping paper box filled with ribbons and stickers and lace a month before the affair and went to it. She had never been an artist, but then she’d never had a muse before either. She 70
got out her markers after she’d produced her rendition of a heart. She’d found it in her mom’s anatomy book and thought it was way more important to send him the real message, rather than these Hallmark reproductions. It was hard to work in the aorta, valves, arteries and superior and inferior vena cavas. When she was finished it looked somewhat like bagpipes, but the red and blue markers helped. And she surrounded it with a flourish of ribbons, lace and whale stickers that her mom had from sending some money to save the whales. She plastered those all over the edge of the lace and then got out her black marker. This is where the espionage came in. She wrote in large block letters: TERRENCE BOX LOVES ELVA EDWARDS and put an arrow at the end like cupid did. She carefully placed it between two sheets of wax paper from the kitchen and taped it up. She told her mom she had to get to school early for Valentine’s Day to help with decorations. Big lie. She could use that at her next confession. Then, she ate her Lucky Charms and toast as quickly as possible and gathered up her valentines. She got out before her sisters could examine her wax paper deal. They were still upstairs yelling at each other about somebody’s socks. Elva grabbed her lunch bag and headed out the door. When Elva got to school, it was quiet. There were some teachers milling around, but not many students. Of course, when she entered her classroom, Timothy Blackwell was already there. He was THE brown-noser. The one who was always studying and had his hand raised high in the air, groaning like he was about to pee in his pants whenever Miss Truscan asked a question. The good thing was that he never noticed anyone around him, so he didn’t see Elva slip into the classroom. He sat in the front row, center. His head was bent as close to the book as possible on his desk. Elva rushed to the last row and pulled out her wax sculpture. She left it on Mary Patterson’s desk and then flew back out the door. She raced down the hallway and hid in the girl’s bathroom. Elva sat in one of the stalls for what seemed like forever. Her heart was pounding. Her palms were sweaty and she could feel the blood drain from her face. Espionage Efflorescence 71
might already be in motion. When the bell sounded for their first class, Elva took a deep breath and hurried back down the hallway. She opened the door to her classroom and the room was filled. She eyed Terrence briefly to see if there was any strange expression on his face, but his head was down as usual. Elva’s seat was in the third row–two rows in front of Terrence. She heard giggling coming from the back of the room, but ignored it. She pulled out her store-bought valentine’s and waited. Miss Truscan was talking to the class about the history of this important day and St. Valentine. Elva thought she was going to pass out. She heard her name and whispering behind her. She turned and looked back. She gave Mary Patterson a quizzical look. Mary put her hand up to her mouth, pointed at Elva with her other hand and snickered. She studied the other faces in the back row and then she saw it. The valentine was making its way around the room. It was already past the last row and on to the next. Elva turned her face back to the front of the class and waited for the bomb to drop. Soon a slip of paper was passed up to her from the back. Mary Patterson had scrawled in loopy letters: Terrence Box Loves Elva Edwards!! K-I-S-S-I-N-G in a tree!!! Now, Elva was forced to move into the second part of Espionage Efflorescence. She was going to have to act completely shocked and horrified. She’d practiced all month and had even watched a few horror movies with Ermine and dad to work up some real panicked hide-your-face moments. She felt she was ready. She turned with her eyebrows raised and stared at Mary Patterson. She opened her mouth and eyes wide and mouthed “WHAT,” in Mary’s direction. This was the exact moment that the huge anatomically correct heart was thrust into Terrence’s hands. Elva was now mesmerized. She was waiting for his reaction. It had all come down to this. Elva had never talked to the boy in her life, didn’t even think he knew she existed. She’d waited for him to walk out of the classroom each day and followed 72
him, but he’d never noticed. He didn’t talk to anyone unless someone talked to him first. Elva had thought up opening lines before like, “Did you ever find any gold?” or “Did you ever feel an earthquake?” or “There are more people in California than any other state, except your family left, so that makes one less family, but I don’t know how big your family is and if that made an impact?” But she never said a word. Only studied up on California and stalked him for a few blocks before she had to get home to do homework. Elva watched as Terrence slowly lifted his head and the platinum bangs slid away from his face as though it were all in slow motion. He looked up at Elva and stared directly into her face. He did know who she was. His face scrunched up like he was going to start maneuvering his nose tic, but instead his face, as red as the heart on his desk, turned maniacal and he stuck his tongue out at her. He lifted up the pumping heart as though it was hers and started to tear it in to pieces. She saw lace, ribbons and paper float to the floor. Elva swung her head back to the front of the class. Her whole body went numb. Miss Truscan said it was time to hand out valentines and she had made cupcakes for everyone. Elva got up when the rest of the class was meandering around handing out their envelopes and slunk to the front of the room. “Miss Truscan. I have a stomach-ache. Can you give me a pass to go to the nurse, now?” Espionage Efflorescence had not only fizzed out, but exploded in poor Elva’s face. There was no peak or fulfillment as efflorescence had stated in the dictionary. Elva changed the title to: Espionage Ectoparasite. It proved to be more appropriate.
Maeve O'Sullivan Triolet (i.m. Maurice Oâ€™Sullivan) One of the songs he'd sing was 'The Darlin' Girl from Clare'. All the listeners would cling to each of the songs he'd sing. But now I find them haunting like a mantra or a prayer. One of the songs he'd sing was 'The Darlin' Girl from Clare'.
B-List Blessing (for JR & JG) My shopping list is short today, so I don’t bother to write it down; besides, it’s easy to remember: Bread, Butter, Bran Flakes. B is for baby boy; snug in his buggy while we sip lattés and banter. Now we’re food-shopping; and suddenly I’m selecting bananas and blueberries. I see Brazil nuts and Boudoir biscuits and am compelled to grab them like some crazed resident of Sesame Street. His body is cosy from the bobble of his woolly hat to his brown booties. His eyes are blue and bright. I pass on the broccoli, and there are no bird nuts to be found. I balance this by buying some beans: butter beans, broad beans, black-eyed beans. He was born before his birthday. Our baskets are full to the brim.
Haiku - a guest post from Maeve O'Sullivan Haiku. This small two-syllable word conjures up a multitude of others: Japan. Nature. Short. Funny? I have had the haiku bug for about fifteen years now, and it shows no sign of leaving my system. I am very enthusiastic about the form (some would say evangelical, though I’m not sure how that works if one is a Buddhist). In this guest post, I am going to try and communicate how they work, or how they work for me, more specifically because, like any other form of poetry or writing, views on ‘how to’ will differ from person to person. You probably know that haiku originated as a stand-alone form in seventeenth century Japan. It was largely nature-based and often written by practitioners of Zen Buddhism, of whom Matsao Basho, ‘The Shakespeare of Haiku’, is the best-known. It remains hugely popular in Japan today, and that has been spreading worldwide since around a century ago when Ezra Pound and other Imagists were exploring eastern forms. Pound’s poem, ‘In a Station of the Metro’, published in 1913 in the journ al Poetry, is regarded as something of a precursor of haiku in English: ‘ The apparition of these faces in the crowd: Petals on a wet, black bough. Basho himself has a famous haiku about a crow on a tree, one with which Pound may well have been familiar: a crow has settled on a bare branch autumn evening. But how do you go about writing haiku? Is it easier to write shorter poems than longer ones? The answer to the second question is: not necessarily, though it does depend on the writer as well. Let’s get the syllable thing out of the way first, as it’s usually the first question that arises. In Japanese, haiku are generally arranged in a pattern of 5-7-5, i.e. 5 syllables (or word sections, to be more precise) in line one, seven in li ne two and five in line three. Easy, right? I’m afraid not! Since a syllable in English packs more in than a Japanese word-section, or so I’m told - I don’t speak Japanese – many writers of haiku in English prefer to use fewer than a total of seventeen syllables in their verses. Somewhere between 10-14 is often considered to be the equivalent of the Japanese 5-7-5 system, although one is free to stick to the conventional 5-7-5 in English if one so chooses. In my experience of teaching haiku, I am very wary of anyone being slavish to the 5-7-5, especially when it results in a haiku that has been contrived for the sake of adding in extra syllables. haiku anorak hung up on syllable count catching the moment. Of course all haiku from the Japanese masters are read by us in English translation, so that can make the insistence on 5-7-5 even more forced. Some of these work okay, such as this translation of one by Issa: in early spring rain the ducks that were not eaten are quacking happily.
Others work better without the constraint of the 5-7-5 in translation, such as this one by fellow haiku master Buson: coolness separating from the bell, the bell’s voice. That’s the syllables out of the way. What else do we need to know? We need to know that haiku (haiku and not haikus is the plural of haiku) are not ditties, jokes or aphorisms. Haiku do not spring from ideas or concepts, they should ideally come through the senses. This is the part that many regular poets struggle with. Some writers feel that their witty ideas and fertile imaginations need to be poured into this short form, but they’re the talents that actually need to be set aside. However, once the first draft has been written down, the editing skills that are applied to all forms of poetry come into play in a similar way, albeit to a much reduced number of lines. To give an example of my own, the following haiku went from this first draft: day of his death soft autumn rain after several phone calls to this final one: father’s death day after hours of phone calls soft November rain. The approach to writing haiku, therefore, is very different to that when writing poetry. I think I can say this because I have written and published both for fifteen years now, so it’s certainly true for me. It’s more important to be aware and mindful of your surroundings, be they urban or rural, indoor or outdoor, than to have clever concepts. Basho advised that one should become the pine while observing the pine, and so we as poets need to put our egos aside and take our cues from nature – both bucolic and human, by being in the moment and allowing sensations from all five senses in. Traditional season words can be used, but are not de rigeur. Simple language should be used. James W. Hackett said ‘Remember that haiku is a finger pointing at the moon, and if the hand is bejewelled, we no longer see that to which it points,’ which is as good a guideline as any other.
Generally speaking, there are no similes, few metaphors, no rhymes, no titles and little punctuation. That’s a lot of ‘nos’, you might say, but do give it a try. You never know, you m ight also get the bug. Be warned, it’s very hard to shake off!
Maeve O’Sullivan is a media lecturer and a writer of haiku and poetry, and a member of Haiku Ireland (www.haiku-ireland.com), The Poetry Divas Collective (@PoetryDivas) and the Hibernian Poetry Workshop. Her first solo collection of haiku, Initial Response, was launched in April (www.albapublishing.com). You can find her on Twitter @maeveos (All content copyright © writing.ie 2011 - republished by permission)
Maurice Devitt Reading Tennyson on Reuben Street In a Sunday parlour of silverfish and Navy Cut he cups his pipe, charred fingers flatten the page as he reads. Words hang waiting for sound then fade like shrill names across a clipped schoolyard. In the silent echo you snatch every sparkle of tone, lips pursed to sneak each shape into the sleeve of your dreams and, for seventy years, to recite them through the tangled chain of shopping-lists and skipping rhymes.
THESE WE LIKE http://3000messagesblog.com/ : Good for Writing Tips. http://sidekickbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/poetry-andtribalism.html A Jon Stone' article. Essential reading for anyone who fancies getting into an argument about poetic forms. Fergus Costello winning the viva voce contest at Eigse Michael Hartnett. Get over it lads, if James Harpur and Paddy Bushe say he is a poet, then he is a poet. http://writing.ie/ A wonderful resource for writers, driven by the dynamic Vanessa Oâ€™Loughlin http://www.bachelorsdegreeonline.com/blog/2012/40-famousmanuscripts-that-were-rejected-at-first/#.T-R1ohfOxgg Feeling rejected? All is not lost! Eigse Michael Hartnett: The Stephen Rae poetry reading; just hope they are not straying down the 'celebrity' road. There was no dearth of great poets available toread and this festival has, to date, accomodated and nourished the ordinary poet. http://www.saltpublishing.com/info/author-photos.htm So you have finally got a publisher. Don't mess up the snap. Listowel Writer's Week: Poets Corner in the Kingdom Bar. The beating heart of the festival. These are the people who actually buy the books, attend the lectures and fill the workshops. http://fortnightlyreview.co.uk/2012/04/poetry-angus/ Poetry Prize Culture and the Aberdeen Angus. By Peter Riley. Interesting slant. http://howtowriteabookandgetitpublished.net/ Get going!
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/01/03/25-things-writersshould-stop-doing/ Stop! Paul Durcan at Listowel. A brilliant reading. Still not convinced about his poetry, though. What is good is great, what is not seems, well... prosaic. And that one about coming home from the wake - I'm sure I heard it back in my antediluviaan childhood, then as a rather lame joke; how strange to see it now elevated to poetic form by 'the great poet of contemporary Ireland'.
We give you our welcome, we welcome your genius. 79
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