Friday, 27 December 2013

Poetry Workshop Laws

Workshop Laws

Your poems must be devoid
of cacophony, hope,
shards, love and anything
that could be described as
mellifluous. You will wage war on
‘and’. Participles will be rarer
than dry Irish Augusts;
it will almost always be ‘go’,
hardly ever ‘going’. ‘But’
and its best friend ‘then’
will be interrogated
severely at every checkpoint,
only allowed through
if they don’t give
the game away. Excessive
use of the hyphen must be
ruthlessly rooted out. Whatever  
you compare her to, 
let it not be a summer’s day.  However
bad the crisis gets,
never go in search of a word
that rhymes with
bankers. Now
it’s been discovered,
the God particle
is the new tsunami,
and like every daytime
radio commonplace,
no longer acceptable.

Never say: “I’m sad.”
Show us the wallpaper
in the room where
you thought about
ending it. 

Here I am with some of the participants in one of my poetry workshops this year.

One of my students, Nicki Griffin, at the launch of her first collection of poetry in November. For more about Nicki's book see the Salmon Poetry website.

Above is a poem in which I poke a bit of fun at the sort of advice I typically give participants as to how they might (hopefully) make their poems better. I love working with new poets on their poems. If you're interested in trying your hand at a few poems yourself, you might perhaps be interested in joining us for one of the January workshops. Full details below. 

"Starting in January, Galway Arts Centre is offering aspiring poets a choice of three poetry workshops, all facilitated by poet Kevin Higgins, whose best-selling first collection, The Boy With No Face, published by Salmon Poetry, was short-listed for the 2006 Strong Award for Best First Collection by an Irish poet. Kevin’s second collection of poems, Time Gentlemen, Please, was published in 2008 by Salmon Poetry and his poetry is discussed in The Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry. His third collection Frightening New Furniture was published in 2010 by Salmon and his work also appears in the generation defining anthology Identity Parade –New British and Irish Poets (Ed. Roddy Lumsden, Bloodaxe, 2010). A collection of Kevin’s essays and book reviews, Mentioning The War, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2012. Kevin’s poetry has been translated into Greek, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Japanese & Portuguese. His next collection of poetry, The Ghost in The Lobby, will be published in February 2014, also by Salmon.

Kevin is an experienced workshop facilitator and several of his students have gone on to achieve publication success. One of his workshop participants at Galway Arts Centre won the prestigious Hennessy Award for New Irish Poetry, two have won the Cúirt New Writing Prize, and yet another the Cúirt Poetry Grand Slam, while several have published collections of their poems. Kevin is also co-organiser of the successful Over The Edge reading series which specialises in promoting new writers. 

Each workshop will run for ten weeks, commencing the week of January 20th. They will take place on Tuesday evenings, 7-8.30pm (first class January 21st); on Thursday afternoons, 2-4pm (first class January 23rd) and on Friday afternoons, 2-3.30pm (first class January 24th).

The Tuesday evening and Friday afternoon workshops are open to both complete beginners as well as those who’ve been writing for some time. The Thursday afternoon workshop is an Advanced Poetry Workshop, suitable for those who’ve participated in poetry workshops before or had poems published in magazines. The cost to participants is €110, with an €100 concession rate.

Places must be paid for in advance. To reserve a place contact reception at Galway Arts Centre, 47 Dominick Street, phone 091 565886 or email"

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Little Mark Bought By Rupert Murdoch: A Happy Seasonal Story

Dublin-based social news agency Storyful has been acquired by global media giant News Corp for €18 million.

Storyful was set up by former RTÉ journalist Mark Little who made the announcement today on the company’s website blog.

We join News Corp at a moment of transformation. Together, we will combine the authority of premier original content with the authenticity of user-generated content,” he said.’

This story in today's Irish Times filled me with seasonal good cheer. Former RTE journalist Mark Little has been bought by Rupert Murdoch. It was written in the book of Genesis that it would be thus. Little Mark, as I prefer to call him, was always going to end up being bought by someone. And how delicious that it's Rupert. 
I last spoke to Little Mark in March, 1988. We were both trying to get the barman's attention at a social during that year's Labour Youth National Conference. Little Mark, then a member of Trinity College Labour Youth, was wearing a memorable t-shirt with a large picture of Mikhail Gorbachev on it. 
Gorbachev is the one on the right. 

Between 1981 and 1988 Labour Youth was run by the Militant Tendency, of which I was a member. Militant were Trotskyists. Little Mark was part of a faction called 'New Direction', whom I always preferred to call New Erection, though that makes them sound far more exciting than they actually were. 

Other members of said faction included Joanna Tuffy, Labour T.D. for Dublin Mid West and former Deputy Mayor of Kilkenny, Sean Ó'Hargáin. It was a group designed to turn Labour Youth into a place where former Deputy Mayors could be born, without being scared away by Trotskyists. The group was in part bankrolled by Emmett Stagg, now assistant Government Chief Whip and, even his friends agree, a monumental political failure. 
Emmett liked a bit of Stalinism. You'd never hear him condemning the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, or the suppression of trade unions in Poland, or any Trot crap liked that. It is rumoured that, in his youth, Emmett wore a pair of Leonid Brezhnev y-fronts, though there has never been any independent verification of this.

To pleasure the pro-Soviet Stagg, and thank him for part funding their campaign to rid Labour Youth of the Trotskyist menace, several members of the New Erection faction wore white t-shirts with big stupid pictures of Mikhail Gorbachev on them. That would show those Trot bastards.

On that long lost Friday night, as we jostled for the barman's attention, Little Mark said to me words to the effect that "we need to keep the slate broad and inclusive." As he said these words I glanced down at his Gorbachev t-shirt. Little Mark thought I was on his side. Which I was only in the sense that Margaret Thatcher was on the side of the miners, or Himmler on the side of the Jews. 

Little Mark wore that same Mikhail Gorbachev t-shirt all weekend long. It's rumoured he doesn't sweat, so hygeine would not have been a worry in the way that it would for most people. 

These days, Little Mark doesn't wear Gorbachev t-shirts - at least not in public - and his accent no longer has that hint of Fair City, which he used to put on to stiffen the Dublin South.

He was always going to be bought by someone. That it should be Rupert Murdoch is just, well delicious. Little Mark will make a cool €5 million personally from the deal.

Below is a picture of murdered British school girl Milly Dowler who shares one thing in common with Little Mark: the people at News Corporation also had her phone number.

My poem 'The Political Divide', which appeared in issue 2 of Skylight 47 poetry newspaper, is about the divide between the Little Marks of this world and gurriers like me.

Here are a few lines: "the coming out

                                   into the open of the war 
                                   between those who, exam day, 
                                   remembered and wrote down 
                                   what the teacher told them 
                                   and those who escaped 
                                   to smoke cigarettes,  
                                   (or at least stood there 
                                   seriously considering it) around 
                                   the back of the bike shed. 
                                   Those who sang beautifully at Mass 
                                   and those who got diarrhoea 
                                   so they didn’t have to go..." 

The full poem is available in Skylight 47 magazine which can can be purchased here.