It’s been a good few weeks with launch events for my new poetry collection. In November, I was asked to read at the Allingham Festival in Ballyshannon, County Donegal with noted Irish poets Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Denise Blake and English poet Chris Sparks.
The next event was at the Scottish Writers’ Centre in Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts with Donal McLaughlin and Finola Scott. Donal is an award-winning Derry-born short story writer and translator; Finola, launching her first pamphlet with Red Squirrel Press, is a widely-regarded poet who share an Irish heritage.
Following this, I read with the wonderful writer, publisher and singer Linda Jackson in my publisher, Sally Evans’s bookshop in Callander. Never was poetry read on a more dreadful night, with the wind and the rain nearly battering the door down to get in. Linda was reading from her beautifully written memoir The Siren Awakes.
And so now, in 2020, I’m heading to HighlandLIT in January and plan other launch events, again with Finola Scott, in Baillieston Library, Stirling Central Library and Edinburgh over the next few weeks.
It’s a tough thing to get a poetry book out and about, but a pleasure to share the words with fellow writers and the people who come to hear you and buy your books. I’m looking forward to it.
Charlie Gracie’s poetry set in Ireland takes you directly into the history of his family and the history of their land. The intimacy with this land now lost in those who had to leave. It’s never directly said but those who had to leave are now out of sorts and out of place in a land that just doesn’t quite fit them. The poem where his mother rides a chopper bike to work describes this out of placeness perfectly. There is a constant drone of grief for what an immigrant loses; never again to be Irish and never quite Scottish. And too far removed in time now anyway to ever go back and find what is lost. The political oblique-ness and visceral descriptions are what makes these poems work, no lectures, no diatribes and more philosophical insight than anger.
The second part of the collection deals mostly with Scotland (with a few trips elsewhere) and there are some crackers in here too. It seems to me that the melancholy of the emigrant from the Darty Mountains must bleed into whatever Gracie writes about in the here and now. The trace of melancholy and the longing for something we shall never receive resonates through the whole work. Take For betterfor instance; a tremendously truthful look at old age and tucked away, like a genius in Easterhouse, is a breathtakingly exact line that could be a whole poem itself (read it and see it). Or the T shirt for those whose loved ones have disappeared into dementia.
A masterly, honest and melancholy collection.
Des Dillon is an internationally acclaimed award winning writer, born in Coatbridge: poet, short story writer, novelist, dramatist, scriptwriter for radio and screen.
My poem ‘Jackdaws’ is part of a larger sequence I am writing based around the Dartry Mountains in Ireland. The poem was shortlised for the Fish Poetry Prize 2016, run by Fish Publishing who operate from Bantry in Cork. Well done to the winners.
The Dartry Mountains includes Benbulben in Sligo (Yeats’s mountain) and travel north to Arroo, overlooking Lough Melvin, a lough that is part in the Republic and part in the UK. It is an area full of natural beauty, geological wonder, political and social history and, for me, family history, with my mother being born in Glenade.
I’m off to Ireland again this month to spend more time among the hills and to write, write, write. I’ll do what Liz Lochhead suggests: tie myself to a chair and tie the chair to the desk. There might be time for a night or two out in Bundoran for a pint or two of the black stuff in Brennan’s Bar or a bite to eat at Madden’s Bridge Bar. That and a hallo to my family there.
So, with all that, my Irish poems will be more and more formed. Perhaps I’ll have others for the Fish Poetry Prize next year.
I’ve been particularly focussed recently on developing my sequence of Donegal and Leitrim poems (currently known as “Tales from the Dartry Mountains” in my head). They have been bubbling away for years as family stories, myths, beautiful landscape and the politics of an area full of ferment.
For 2016, to help my focus, I am also resolved to go more often to the Scottish Writers’ Centre. First up is Jane Archer on short story writing on Tuesday night, 5th January. Should be a blast, so get yourself along.