Tasty kukai!

E diplomaThanks to inspiration from my daughter, I’m flying the flag for Northern Ireland in the latest European Quarterly Kukai.

A kukai is a haiku event in which participants write to a theme provided by the organiser, often a kigo, or ‘season word’.

After the deadline, each participant receives an anonymous list of entries and invited to vote for their favourite poems. When the results have been tallied, everyone receives an email revealing the identity of all the participants and the number of votes received for each haiku.

It’s really just for fun, but I love reading all the different interpretations of the same topic from poets around the world. This quarter, the theme was ‘food’ and my entry was inspired by my daughter Taryn’s early baking skills. :)

European Kukai

Posted in European haiku, haiku, Kukai, My Poetry | 10 Comments

Travel writing – sometimes you don’t have to go too far…

bay blues 002

Carlingford Lough and the Mountains of Mourne (oil painting by me :) )

When I entered a travel writing competition a few months ago, I decided to write a short article about my hometown of Warrenpoint and the surrounding area.

Sometimes you have to spend time away from home makes you appreciate just how much you have on your doorstep. In my twenties and thirties I lived in France and England and when I came back to Warrenpoint, after our first child was born, I suddenly realised how much this area around the Mournes has offer. Everything I tend to look for when planning a holiday, such as interesting places to visit, great restaurants and bars, lovely scenery, activities for the family is here. In fact, the only thing that isn’t guaranteed is continuous sunshine but, hey, that’s not what everyone looks for in a holiday (although must admit, I’ve just returned from a holiday in Portugal! :) )

Although I didn’t win the overall prize, the judge said that the article would “really persuade website readers that Warrenpoint is somewhere they should visit – I certainly will next time I am in Ireland.” I think it was worth entering just for his feedback.

Anyway, here is the article that was published today.

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In the Financial Times on election day!

Click the link for the article FT, London  07/05/2015

Taken from an article in the Financial Times yesterday

Haiku at Work: ‘the man from IT’ and ‘the personal performance review’

Our haiku contest this week attracted entries ranging from clever character portraits to intimate poems exploring the emotional side of work.

The contrasting themes were “the personal performance review” and “the man from IT”.

The personal performance review winner is Marion Clarke:


missed targets

he suddenly regrets

Sunday night darts


The poem uses imagery to evoke a lot in a few words, says Jim Kacian, founder of The Haiku Foundation and one of our two judges.

“The pathos of the content – imagining that realising one’s career goals might only be possible through foregoing even the slightest of personal pleasures – is delivered in [its] starkest terms, without commentary, and so is all the more devastating.”


Posted in Financial Times Haiku Competition, haiku, Haiku at Work, Performance Review Haiku, senryu; | 13 Comments

Celtic Heartbeat – a video for International Haiku Poetry Day 2015

Today, 17th April 2015, is International Haiku Poetry Day.

To celebrate, The Haiku Foundation has organised a range of events with contributions from poets from all over the world. As well as face-to-face poetry gatherings in locations across the US, Hungary, Croatia and New Zealand, these include an online poetry collaboration that started just after midnight last night – EarthRise, and HaikuLife, a festival of short films. You can watch some of the resulting, very diverse films on this link, HaikuLife.

I decided to make a short video to submit to this project – my first ever – using haiku combined with my paintings and photographs. The result is Celtic Heartbeat, so named after the final haiku on the film . My daughter, Taryn, accompanied me on the bodhrán (Irish drum) on a couple of clips and we are delighted to see the video featured in HaikuLife today.

It is a little shaky in parts as it was taken holding an iPad, but I hope you enjoy it.  :)

Oh, and it’s just 4.48 seconds long!

Carlingford Lough photo

Carlingford Lough, Warrenpoint, County Down

Posted in artwork and poetry, haiku, Narrow Water Castle, Narrow Water Keep, Oil Painting, Original Irish Art | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Inaugural Seamus Heaney Awards for New Writing and Achievement

Mourne Writers Members of Mourne Writers: Anne Mullan, Kathleen Carville, our friend Mary Ellen Hayward of Jane Ross Writers, Limavady, poet Sue Morgan with her Seamus Heaney Award for Achievement and New Writing and me. UPDATE: Here is a link to a article published in CAW Weekly reporting my poetry facilitation experience with Grange PS, Kilkeel, winners of the Seamus Heaney Award for Achievement for schools. Each year, at least a couple of the members of my writing group, Mourne Writers, have been successful in having their submissions selected for the annual anthology published by Community Arts Partnership (CAP) Belfast as part of their ‘Poetry in Motion’ Programme. This year, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Seamus Heaney’s family, the submissions process was also a vehicle for the selection of recipients of two inaugural awards – the Seamus Heaney Award for Achievement and New Writing, which was open to writers across Northern Ireland and an equivalent award for schools, the Seamus Heaney Award for Achievement. Three of the Mourne Writers were delighted to have a total of six poems accepted, Anne Mullan from Kilkeel, Newry poet, Sue Morgan and myself. Last weekend, Sue and I were invited by the organisers to read one of our entries at the Duncairn Arts Centre, Belfast, at the launch of this year’s Poetry in Motion anthology entitled Making Memories, as well as to announce the winner of the Seamus Heaney Award. We discovered that those of us who had been invited to read had made it to the shortlist of twenty-two entrants selected by established poets Paul Maddern, Moyra Donaldson, Deirdre Cartmill and Paula Cunningham. After a tense series of ‘reverse order’ announcements of special recognition awards, we were delighted when Sue Morgan’s poem, Episkopi, was placed runner up and presented with an award by Damian Smyth of the Arts Council. In addition, last autumn, as part of the Poetry in Motion for Schools Programme schools from across the North were invited to apply for the services of a CAP poetry facilitator to help pupils put together a submission for the equivalent schools poetry anthology. As one of the CAP facilitators, I was allocated to Grange Primary School outside Kilkeel and completed three poetry workshops with the combined P6 & P7 class.  Last Monday was the launch of the resulting anthology, The Way with Words, held in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. At this event, poet Michael Longley and the Mayor of Belfast presented several special recognition awards to schools as part of the Seamus Heaney Award for Achievement.  We were totally overwhelmed when Grange PS was announced the overall winner of the Heaney award and the Principal was presented with a plaque from Michael Longley and the mayor. Then to my surprise and delight, I was also presented with an award for my poetry facilitation services to the winners. What an honour and a lovely surprise and I was very touched to read the principal’s comments about the school’s first experience of poetry facilitation. Michael Longley presenting Grange's award Heaney Award Dr Michael Longley and the Mayor of Belfast, Nichola Mallon, presenting the awards award My award with the schools’ anthology ‘The Way with Words’. Artwork and poetry by Grange pupils Mourne Writers is a small, creative writing group that meets every week at SweetPea Cafe, Warrenpoint courtesy of owner, Nuala King. Some of us have been meeting on a regular basis for many years, others are relative newcomers.

Posted in Anthology, artwork and poetry | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Photo Haiga in February Issue of A New Ulster


Haiga published in ANU Issue 29

Haiku placed joint third in the Irish Haiku Society’s International Competition 2014

Photo of the moon taken in my back yard :)

Posted in A New Ulster, artwork and poetry, haiga, haiku, haiku | Tagged | 11 Comments

Happy New Book Review

My review of Jane and Werner Reichold’s latest book, ‘Symbiotic Poetry’, has been published in the latest issue of Frogpond, Journal of the American Haiku Society. In this hefty volume, the Reichholds, who are both writers and artists, present the case for adopting the term ‘symbiotic poetry’ to categorize work which has been inspired by different cultures and poetry forms—in other words, of mixed literary parentage. The writers have sifted through their creative output of work to produce this rich and unusual collection. For anyone interested in reading the review, you can find it here. To purchase the book, have a look here.

I must say, I really like the cover design of this issue of Frogpond. frogpond cover

With all good wishes for 2015. May it be healthy, peaceful and productive.

Posted in Frogpond Journal, haibun, haiku, Symbiotic Poetry, tanka | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Twilight at Narrow Water – Merry Christmas!


Posted in Art, Narrow Water Castle, Narrow Water Keep, Oil Painting, Original Irish Art, Warrenpoint | 2 Comments

Hermit crab haiku in the Financial Times

Well, I knew I’d never make it into the Financial Times for my business acumen, but I’m happy enough to have had one of my haiku published in the London broadsheet. :)

It was selected as runner up in the FT weekly haiku competition based on the workplace. That particular week’s theme was ‘promotion’ and I drew upon my experience of working in a Surrey-based Research and Technology Organisation for inspiration and, of all things, marine life. I wanted to highlight how such a lot of importance was placed on the size of one’s office.

Haiku often uses the technique of juxtaposition, where you place two seemingly unrelated items together to suggest a relationship between them. In this case, I combined my office environment experience with my knowledge of marine life gleaned during a childhood spent pottering in rock pools.

If you know anything about hermit crabs, you will be aware that they live in a shell that belonged another aquatic creature – usually a sea snail. When they outgrow this, they have to seek a larger one. Some hermit crab species take part in what is called a ‘vacancy chain’ (such a cool concept!) when a bigger shell becomes available. Several crabs will gather around the empty shell and form a kind of queue from largest to smallest. When the largest crab moves into the new shell, the second-biggest moves into its newly-vacated shell, thereby making its previous shell available to the third crab, and so on. I thought it was a bit like people shifting to a larger office when promoted. :)

Even better was the fact that my haiku was selected by one of the world’s most respected haiku poets and founder of The Haiku Foundation, Jim Kacian. The link to the haiku is here with a comment from him. It is between David Dayson’s ‘little snail’ contemplation and Alan Summer’s amusing ‘wage bonus’ haiku.

Posted in haiku, My Poetry, writing competitions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Launch of Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing

I was very honoured to read at the recent launch of the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast.

Bob Collins, Chair of the Arts Council, Connor Shields, CEO of Community Arts Partnership (CAP) and Chelley McLear, CAP Project Coordinator addressed the audience at the event and local poets Deirdre Cartmill, Paula Cunningham and Chris Morrow read their work from several CAP anthologies.

I read a selection of my haiku and senryu that had been published in the last three anthologies, The Poet’s Place, Moment and Still and explained how delighted I’d been to discover, several years ago, that Seamus Heaney was a great haiku enthusiast and he had penned several over the course of his writing career. The final haiku I read at the award launch was one I had written last September just after learning of his death.

The event was also a good opportunity to catch up with some local writers, including Colin Dardis, Geraldine O’Kane and Patricia Devlin-Hill and to chat about haiku with Damian Smyth, Arts Council Head of Literature and Drama.

The award is part of the most recent CAP Poetry in Motion Community’s project, ‘Making Memories’. It is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Heaney family to encourage and recognise new writing from our wee corner of the world. So if you are a budding or newly established poet from the North – check it out here!


Back: Chris Morrow, Connor Sheilds
Front L-R: Marion Clarke, Deirdre Cartmill, Chelley McLear


Posted in Anthology, haiku, My Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments