Looking back (and forward)

As 2013 comes to an end, I realise that a lot of my year was spent studying and writing haiku, something that seems to have become more a way of life for me than a poetry form. It’s as if I have started to see the world through a ‘haiku lens’, allowing me to focus more on little things, like dew on a spider’s web, a perfectly striped pebble on the beach or a rainbow reflected in a puddle. This may sound strange, but it’s good.

I have also been more involved with French haiku this year and have recently enjoyed helping a online haiku poet based in France to translate her poems into English. This was largely conducted via private messaging on Facebook, which was a very immediate way to exchange ideas. Having also read a lot of wonderful French poems on the site ‘Un Haiku par Jour’ (A haiku a day) I have come to the conclusion that French haiku is more poetic that English haiku – but then it’s a beautiful language.

In July I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to attend the full week of the John Hewitt International Summer Scheme at the Marketplace Theatre in Armagh. I enrolled on Stewart Neville’s three day crime writing course and by drawing upon his experiences and giving us one-to-one feedback on an exercise, Stewart provided participants with a great insight into this genre.

In September, my writing pal, Sue Morgan, helped me to organise a weekend writing break for our online writing group Splinter4all in Banbridge, County Down. We hired two beautiful stone cottages and the members of the group spent the time attending and presenting a variety of poetry and prose workshops. I facilitated a session on emotive poetry which was inspired by an event I attended in Belfast earlier in the year led by the great performance poet, Tony Walsh and he kindly allowed me to read some of his work at the event, which I think went down well. Meeting the Splinter gang ‘for real’ for the first time (they are scattered all over Ireland so I had never any of the others in person) was a bit daunting, but when they all started to arrive, it really did feel like meeting up with old friends again.


In October, I attended a very useful workshop in Banbridge library on editing poetry, run by the excellent poet Moyra Donaldson. By encouraging me to be ruthless and lop off the beginning of an old poem I’d brought along, she showed me that less is often more. Kill those darlings!

In November I had my first job as a ‘real’ poet when I conducted a series of six workshops in a school in Newcastle as part of the Belfast-based Community Arts Partnership Poetry in Schools Programme as Poetry Facilitator. It was great fun and I cried when reading the letters of thanks I received from the pupils – all twenty of them!

Just before Christmas I was pleasantly surprised to hear I’d made the longlist in the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Competition and my kids recorded me reading my entry to send off, as there was no way I was going to get to Limerick on a Wednesday evening to read. Sadly, I didn’t make the shortlist, but it was a bit of a boost to get longlisted, as I hadn’t written any longer work for a while.

So, hopefully this year will bring more poetry facilitation in schools and although I intend to continue writing haiku in both languages, I will work on some of my longer pieces and might even concentrate on flash fiction as well, as I’ve been more involved with that in the recent past, particularly over at Postcard Poems and Prose. Starting to write a novel is something I can only dream of, as I tend to agonise over every sentence before moving on to the next which means that it would probably take me a few years to complete the first chapter!

So those were some of the writing highlights of my year. I hope that whatever you do in 2014 is a great success and that it is your most productive, healthy and happy year to date.

Black & White New Year

Thanks to Dave Morehouse at Postcard Poems and Prose for helping me with the text for my cards on Redbubble

Posted in haiku, My Poetry, Writing, writing competitions, Writing Events | 8 Comments


I’ve decided to put my artwork onto Redbubble, a site that sells cards, prints, etc using an artist’s original design. I’m not really sure how it all works, but it’s good to have my pieces all in one place instead of having to sift through lots of folders on my laptop.

I discovered this site when I was admiring a card that someone gave my mother of one of their paintings – in fact, she ended up buying me the original painting as a present because I loved it so much.

I guess now it’s a case of waiting to see what (if anything!) happens. :)


Giants Causeway

Update – by the time I’d come back from work I’d sold fourteen cards – not a bad result, but I won’t give up my day job yet! :)

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Haiga from the woods

As I haven’t painted (or posted on this blog for that matter!) since the summer, when I spotted a post this week from An Mayou, an artist and haiku poet from Colorado, requesting some words to accompany her excellent piece of artwork, I decided to have a go.


The objective of a haiga is not to produce a haiku that simply describes what’s in the image, because the viewer/reader absorbs this information visually, but to combine it with one that is either in direct contrast with or complements the image. The resulting artistic collaboration should create a completely new narrative in the reader’s mind according to his/her own experience.

In An’s painting, the bareness of the dark trees with their stark branches suggested loneliness or grief to me, so I decided to write about a memory, in this case, the memory of spring and of someone who has departed. I hinted at the season through the use of a kigo (a season word) in this case ‘bluebells’, as they are abundant then. ‘Winter’ is itself a season that suggests death, so from the outset it is a sad path travelled in this haiga.

I am honoured that An loves the resulting haiga and has invited me to share it!

Posted in Art, artwork and poetry, haiga, haiku, My Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Kiran’s Portrait

Kiran the bride 011I have been trying to paint a nose ring on an Indian bride all afternoon and it has proved to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to complete. I started this painting about eighteen months ago and was too afraid to attempt the nose ring at the time, so I put it away and forgot about it.

However, when I learned that I would be participating in an art exhibition next week, I thought it would be the perfect incentive to finish the painting. The photograph was taken at a Hindu wedding I attended in Delhi in 2006 and, although I’m pleased enough with the result, it doesn’t look anything like the bride, Kiran – but at least I finished it! :)

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Burning Bush 2

online literary magazineburning bush

Inspiration comes in many forms and I have just had a piece of work published that started life when I stuck a pin in a map of the world. :)

Earlier in the year, our writing group tried an exercise where each member researched the location they arrived at and used this to produce a piece of work for the next meeting.

My pin landed in Cardigan Bay, Wales, and I ended up immersed in mythology and folklore based on a Welsh version of Atlantis, from which I wrote a haibun (a combination of prose and haiku)

I recommend this exercise if you are stuck for a topic to write about or are experiencing a bout of writers’ block.

Anyway, here is the link if you want to have a look. It’s on page 32. Burning Bush 2, Issue 5.

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Purple Etheree

My poem, ‘Purple Etheree’, is published today on Postcard Poems & Prose. This unusual poetry form (well I’d never heard of it until a couple of years ago :) ) uses syllable count rather than meter and is named after its creator, Etheree Taylor Armstrong.

The basic etheree is a poem of ten lines, the first consisting of just one syllable, the second of two syllables and so on, ending with a ten-syllable final line. There is also a reversed etheree, which begins with ten syllables and ends with one.

To arrive at my postcard, I combined my poem with a painting I produced last summer of an iris – hence the ‘Purple’ Etheree! Why not have a look here

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Haiku hot off the press

a hundred gourds

Two of my haiku have just been published in the June issue of A Hundred Gourds, a Japanese-style, short form journal.

recurring headache
remembering to side-step
where I slipped last year

battle preparation
the combined whoosh
of both grans’ umbrellas

Haiku poet Kala Ramesh has produced an article on Haiku in India, which looks really interesting.


The following haiku was published in Frogpond, the journal of the American Haiku Society and I heard recently that another has been accepted, but I can’t put that up here until it has been published there!

grandma’s kitchen . . .
a star-covered teacup
for the gypsy lady


Finally, I heard today that the following three were published in Shamrock, Journal of the Irish Haiku Society.

salt air
my footprints
also disappearing

cold snap –
a sparrow flicks its tail
of snowflakes

first rays
buds and mist

Posted in A Hundred Gourds, Frogpond Journal, haiku, My Poetry, Shamrock Journal | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments