Inaugural Seamus Heaney Awards for New Writing and Achievement

Mourne Writers

Members of Mourne Writers: Anne Mullan, Kathleen Carville, our friend Mary Ellen Hayward (Jane Ross Writers, Limavady) Sue Morgan with her Seamus Heaney Award for Achievement and New Writing and me.

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
Dr Michael Longley and the Mayor of Belfast, Nichola Mallon, presenting Grange PS with their 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 Restaurant, Warrenpoint. Some of us have been meeting on a regular basis for many years, others are relative newcomers.

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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.

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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


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Latest oil painting

I will be showing my latest oil painting of the keep at Narrow Water Castle during the Newcastle Arts Festival this week. It will be on display in a new exhibition space next to the Avoca Hotel. I will be around on Saturday as I’m attending a couple of poetry workshops during the day – looking forward to participating in this festival for the first time. :)   Here is is a photo of the painting, just back from the framer.   image

Posted in Narrow Water Castle, Narrow Water Keep, Oil Painting, Original Irish Art, Places, Warrenpoint | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Thanks to Libraries NI

I had a very enjoyable launch of my joint art exhibition, EXPO 2014, with Eirian McKay on Wednesday evening with family and invited guests in Warrenpoint Library.

I first met Eirian at an art group some years ago and, although we have shown our work together on previous occasions alongside other Warrenpoint artists, this was our first joint exhibition. We both had a range of mixed media paintings and prints on display.

My artwork is inspired by the local scenery in the area. I also write haiku poetry which is nature-based, so it’s no surprise that the sea and shore are major subjects for me when it comes to painting. I guess my work is a kind of celebration of the beauty of our local environment. However, I also quite like anything gothic and can also see beauty in the urban or unusual, and the subject of one of my pieces is a backstreet in Venice which is more of a deliciously dark and gloomy atmosphere, which is at odds with the more popular, tourist view of the city.

The pieces by Eirian, who is a creative arts outreach worker for Surestart South Armagh, are more conceptual. In other words, the concept or idea that has produced a particular painting is the most important aspect of her work. She is inspired by people, animals and places and uses a range of different mediums. She is also very interested in art as a therapeutic outlet and through her work she enjoys helping children to benefit from art as a form of self-expression.

I think our paintings really complement each other. At the launch, quite a few people commented on our poppies and sunflowers paintings working well together. I also imagine a solo exhibition might be a lonely experience, but we had a lovely time setting it all up together and chatting with lots of guests on the launch night.

Thanks to branch manager Rosemary Lavery and her library staff and our husbands who did the heavy lifting for us!

Any artists in the area seeking to exhibit their artwork should contact the library. It’s great that the library is now offering this free facility for local artists and exhibition spaces are extremely difficult to come by in Warrenpoint.

The exhibition runs until Friday 29th of August during library opening hours.

Everyone had great craic, conversation and glasses of wine on the evening  – I could definitely get used to this… :)

Here are some shots of our work.

2014-08-06 16.52.17

2014-08-06 16.56.21

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EXPO 2014

My artist friend Rian McKay and I will be exhibiting our paintings and prints in Warrenpoint library during the month of August. If you would like to attend the launch this Wednesday evening, please message me on Facebook, Twitter (MarionSClarke) or send an email to

Library-Expo-poster Library Expo poster

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History of the Book Cover For Find My Baby


This is an interesting blog post from Mitch Lavender, author of the newly-released crime thriller ‘Find My Baby’ on how he arrived at the final cover for his novel. I would also have gone with the one he selected.

More details at

Originally posted on - A Writer's Survival Blog:

Over the course of writing, editing, rewriting, revising, cursing, etc., I toyed with different covers for Find My Baby. These are several iterations of the covers I considered at one time or another.

Find my baby cover

This was the first cover, developed for my Nanowrimo author’s page way back in November of 2011. I liked this one at the time, but then an artist friend pointed out that the shadow on FIND and the shadows on my name were opposite of each other. My name was also a little too prominent on the cover. This works for known authors but does nothing for me. Eventually, I abandoned this one in favor of the next.

Find my baby cover-3

The font changed to give it a ransom note feel, and my name was reduced to a smaller font. It has a very dreary feel to it, and I abandoned this one pretty quickly.

cryptic FMB cover3

This was the second cover…

View original 343 more words

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