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The Parting by Patrick Stack

The Parting

Patrick Stack started writing at 12 after hearing a piece of verse on the black and white TV. Now he has written a full collection of poetry with Selfpublishbooks.ie - this week we asked him to share his experience.

“I’ve always had a love for the sound of language,” Patrick says. “As a child and teenager I would regularly take down one of the four volumes of The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language from the shelf in our living room and read it. This had belonged to my paternal grandfather who died when my father was 7 or 8 years old. I was enthralled by the little lithographs scattered throughout its pages to illustrate some obscure word, and fascinated by the etymological information in each entry. I was the only one who ever consulted it, and was given it to keep by my parents when I left home. My love of language has lead me speaking five languages with varying degrees of fluency. I intend learning a sixth – Korean – when time permits. It has also lead, albeit indirectly, to my working in the field of web and database programming, where I use computer languages such as html, css, php, JavaScript, and SQL.”

A poet has to take direction from other authors — we asked Patrick who he named as his idols.

“That’s a difficult one! My favourite poets during my formative period at Trinity were William Blake, Arthur Rimbaud, Gerard de Nerval, Guillaume Appolinaire, and Paul Eluard.
“Later on I developed a love for the Argentinian writer and poet, Jorge Luís Borges – I especially liked his short poems, but didn’t much like his longer more descriptive stuff.
“The minimalist poetry of Thomas McGreevey inspires me, as does Michael Hartnett’s Irish language poetry.”

How long was The Parting in the works? How did it begin?

“The Parting has been in the works for a long time. I have wanted to publish my own collection since I was an undergraduate in Trinity in the late 1970s, but back then there was no such thing as self-publishing (unless you count vanity publishing which was costly) and getting a poem published – never mind a collection – was a daunting prospect.
“Over the years I’ve produced several collections which, thankfully, never saw the light of day. The Parting is a compilation of the best poems that have survived from these, as well as my most recent work. The early surviving poems have undergone varying degrees of paring, pruning and gutting. One, ‘Tricolour’, has grown from a fragment (6 lines) written in 1989 shortly after I emigrated to Spain, to its final 57-line version completed in 2008 well after I had returned to Ireland.
“Coming up with an appropriate title for the collection proved a major stumbling block. With help from my daughter I eventually settled upon The Parting, given that the collection deals with many types of parting.”

Patrick is on the committee for the Three-Legged Stool Poets – we asked him how he got involved.

“The committee that runs the the Three-Legged Stool Poets has just decided to rename it 3-Legged Stool Poets, so I’ll refer to it as that from now on. It was started back in the early 2000s and came out of another group called ‘The Poetry Collective’ which was the brainchild of Arthur Watson. Arthur is still actively involved.
“Soon after I emigrated to Spain I stopped writing, and did not start again until early 2007 – a period of 16 years in the wilderness as it were! As I had not been writing or even reading poetry in all that time, I was unaware of the existence of any poetry groups in the Munster area. In 2007, I gave my first reading in 20 years in the Georgian House, Limerick as part of the Mozart and Wine fundraising night run by Summer Music on the Shannon. Although I was terrified, the reading proved to be a huge success. Barney Sheehan of the Whitehouse Poetry Revival was in the audience, and asked me to come and read at the Whitehouse, which I subsequently did. During that reading I happened to mention that I had been trying unsuccessfully to make contact with the 3-Legged Stool Poets, which I had been told about by somebody in Ennis. Unbeknownst to me, Brian Mooney happened to be there that night and came up and introduced himself. That’s how I came to join the group.
“Through my contacts in Summer Music on the Shannon, the group secured a regular monthly reading in Glór, Ennis in 2008 and that initiative is still going.”

Every poet has a favourite poem. We asked Patrick which poem he enjoyed writing most in The Parting and why?

“The first one that comes to mind is ‘Dog Burial’, followed closely by ‘Epithalamion.’ ‘Dog Burial’ has been around a long time, the first version dating back to 1979. It was written in memory of a greyhound, Millie, who was my mother’s favourite of all the greyhounds we kept, hence the dedication. Many re-writings later, it has achieved that terseness and minimalism which best expresses the grief of losing Millie and having to bury her in the orchard.
“In contrast, Epithalamion took only a few months to write, and has none of the terseness or minimalism of ‘Dog Burial.’ Instead it luxuriates in its richness of language. Writing it proved a major challenge. I was still frantically working on it in the car on the way to the wedding, and only completed it half an hour before the wedding reception at which I read it!”

Once a book is finished, the next step is to get it between two covers. But what caught Patrick’s interest in self-publishing?

“Getting a collection published by a ‘reputable’ publisher in Ireland is very difficult. And even if your work is accepted by one, the waiting time can be counted in years. An added complication for me is that my poetry is not mainstream and, I suspect, does not tick the necessary boxes to satisfy the status quo’s ideas of what constitutes acceptable poetry.
“Having acquired the skills necessary to do page layout through my years as a Desktop Publishing tutor for Clare VEC, I decided I would do just that. Some research on the web lead me to Lettertec’s website. I liked what I saw and made contact.”

We asked Patrick how he found the self-publishing process:

“The process of putting the book together was daunting, and proved to be a lot of work once I started,” Patrick says, “I used my web developer skills to help select from the 113 poems I have in an online database I set up for the purpose, and to put them in order. I adapted a jQuery re-order plugin which I attached to the database to help in getting them into the right order. This took about three weeks to do. I then used an open source Page layout program – Scribus – to put the collection together. This took about 2 months.
“The least daunting, most efficient part was the production of the finished book. All I had to do was deliver the pdfs to selfpublishbooks.ie and they did the rest. I was amazed to get delivery of the book a week ahead of schedule. That is great service!

“The finished product is excellent in every way. It is as I had imagined, only better. There is nothing to compare with the feeling of reading from your own book – it gives a feeling of confidence, of completion. It beats the hell out of reading from notebooks, loose sheets and the backs of envelopes!”

So what’s next for Patrick?

“As an active member of 3-Legged Stool Poets, I’m excited at our upcoming initiative to plunge into performance poetry for our Winter season which kicks off in October 2013.
“Besides promoting The Parting through readings and Social Media, and my website, my next project is to finish the long poem entitled ‘The Day the Revolution Came,’ which I’ve been working on for the last four years. Currently I’m about half-way through at 215 lines in 4 cantos. Once finished I will publish it as a standalone work, though the title may well change!”

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Interview: Olwyn Hughes, Sylvia Plath’s literary executor

Ted Hughes’s sister tells Sam Jordison how misrepresented she feels the story of her sister-in-law’s death has been


The following post is reblogged entirely from the Guardian online.

I spoke to a number of Plath biographers and friends after speaking to Elizabeth Sigmund (including Al Alvarez, Carl Rollyson and Ronald Hyme). They confirmed the substance of what she said – in particular, that Plath had not wanted The Bell Jar to go out under her own name while her mother was still alive. Elizabeth also produced a scan of the letter from Charles Monteith explaining that Faber was unaware that those were Sylvia’s wishes.

However, since it was almost 50 years after the event, and Faber were consequently unable to supply any further information, it became clear that the only person who really knew about the omission of the dedication to Elizabeth and her husband from the 1966 edition was Olwyn Hughes. Fortunately, she agreed to speak to me and set down her side of the story.

The following conversation comes verbatim, from my notes. I would just like to add that in spite of the force of many of her words, that Olwyn seemed good-humoured and peculiarly charming. It might help if you imagine the following spoken in a warm Yorkshire accent:

I want to ask about the name change on The Bell Jar?
She [Plath] was very worried about it because she thought it was going to upset her mother. It was a nightmare for her, actually. She got quite paranoid about it towards the end. And then she was disappointed when it came out and it didn’t have a very good press.

Sorry, I meant the decision to actually use her name?
The decision to use her name was taken after her death, when everybody really seemed to know it was by her. Her friends all knew. There seemed no point in not publishing under her own name.

I’ve been speaking to Elizabeth Sigmund …
Oh God, have you? I mean gabble, gabble, gabble, gabble … Has she some new stories for you?

She was telling me about the dedication.
She [Plath] dedicated it to Elizabeth and her husband, because she didn’t want the London lot to know – you know, her real friends. She didn’t know Elizabeth very well, you know. Although according to Elizabeth … Anyway, we’ve had enough of Elizabeth … [Goes on to suggest that Elizabeth Sigmund’s accounts of events were not always reliable.] What has she told you?

She was saying she was left off the 1966 edition …
Oh yes, that was a Faber error. She thought that was a terrible plot of Ted’s. I don’t know what that was about. It was just Faber left it off. These things happen in publishing.

She also said that she was sure that Sylvia Plath never wanted it published under her own name.
Well, yes. She didn’t want to upset her mother. What it tells, The Bell Jar, is a watered down version of her own breakdown. And that was also very painful to her – quite apart from the fact that there’s a passage in the book that’s rather unpleasant for her mother to read, about the mother’s snoring or something. Sylvia got very het up about the book because I think it was so self-revelatory. In a way she liked that – and in a way she didn’t.

That’s certainly what I think happened with Ariel – her whole trauma, her father’s death upsurged. I think writing The Bell Jar provoked that … And all that traumatic material that came up in Ariel. I think it caused her a lot of aggro. She was a very agonised lady. She had to battle to live every day – as you might glean from The Bell Jar. When I read it after she died, I just wept.

But people don’t realise. They didn’t then, even. She didn’t always show how troubled she was – but she had no inner calm at all. The Bell Jar deals with the beginnings of the trouble. Then she spent the rest of her life dreading its return.

Oh God.

The nonsense that has continued to be written about the story is shocking to me. Sylvia wasn’t the innocent victim, or half so helpless as she’s been made out to be. You just have to look at some of her poetry. She was just nasty in the last poem about her husband and father [“Daddy”]. She was vicious and I think a bit crazy. I watched her going through her torment and it was agony. But Ted was so taken with her. I don’t know why. I don’t know how she did it … Especially because I don’t think that she could control the negativity in herself. You’ve got to remember the venom that Sylvia dished out.

I don’t think anyone has taken into account how injurious the rubbish that’s been written about her has been. What the feminists don’t take into account was how much psychological trouble she was in. She was a very difficult woman with a very difficult personality. She was horribly unjust both to her mother and to Ted. And I’m sick of reading that he left her for Assia – that’s all you get whenever his name is mentioned. Assia. But Ted didn’t walk out.

It was actually a friend of Assia’s who told Sylvia. She rang her up and thought maybe she was helping her, or wanted to warn her, or something, I don’t know. But this person had no idea how on edge Sylvia was. That she wouldn’t be able to cope with this information. And so when Ted next went down [to their house in Devon] she was in a rage and threw him out.

I wish the newspapers would get it right. He didn’t even know that Sylvia would find out about Assia. He’d done everything he could to be very discreet. It was just one of those things … And of course Sylvia, when she did hear about it, it reminded her of all her terrors about abandonment and everything else. She wouldn’t listen to anything but separation and divorce. But he didn’t leave her for Assia. That’s just not true. He was actually staying on friends’ floors in London until he got a little place by himself. He certainly wasn’t living with Assia.

Oh and she took all the money out of their bank account. She was a monster actually.

So what about changing the byline. How was that decision taken?
What people want after they’re dead. That just goes. And nobody was going to be able to keep the secret about who wrote the book for decades. Besides it was a very good little novel.

She was disappointed when she was alive – she was worried about the Jennifer Dawson’s novel The Ha-Ha – which was similar and got a lot more attention at the time. She hadn’t the calm in her necessary to cope with it.

There was all that martyr talk, even after Ted’s death … in America there were a couple of biographies that were terribly bad. They didn’t take account of the fact that Ted had nursed the bloody woman for seven years. The patience that he had with her!

Of course, I didn’t quite understand or realise that she was quite sick. We didn’t know as much about psychology in those days. But let me tell you about one thing. Ted was meeting an old teacher once – and she just ran off. He had to run out onto the moors after her. She did that in front of his old teacher. Can you imagine? And he lived with it.

And when you read her journals – there were some very dark things in there … And there was a furore when they first came out that they were cut. And a few things were taken out – mainly at the request of her mother, but otherwise he did nothing. But there was this great furore and suggestion that there was an attempt to hide things. But what were the secrets?

Of course, nobody actually read the journals! They were too busy focusing on what they thought wasn’t there. And if they did read it properly they’d have found a very damaged girl. A very mixed-up girl. You just had to look at the dreams she described. Her dreams were bad enough to spoil your own.

I understood then how powerful a grouping the feminists can be. And how it still goes on. This crap. No matter what goes on, you can’t counter it. They just lie, and if they find themselves in the wrong, they just ignore it.

I’m collecting all the press I’ve got and giving it to Pembroke College. There was one thing, by someone from the Guardian that I found really upsetting … Katherine … I can’t remember her name. All that martyr stuff. It was just a few days after Ted died that it came out and I thought aren’t The Guardian ashamed of themselves? [We’re unable to pin down the piece to which she’s referring. There’s an article by Katharine Viner on the Plath diaries from 2000, but this was 18 months after Hughes’ death.]

I don’t have any time for them, really the press. I don’t normally talk to journalists.

I must be very fortunate …
Hmm. Well. I wish you’d print what I actually say. You know I would love to talk to some journalist and they could take me seriously – and actually put down what I say. That would be the first time.

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Lost Robert Burns Manuscripts Discovered


Robert Burns statue in Leith. Photograph: Jason Baxter/Alamy

The following article is reblogged in full from The Guardian website

 

Three long-lost manuscripts by Robert Burns – as well as correspondence between the beloved Scottish author and his friends – have been discovered by a researcher in what is being described as one of the most important Burns discoveries in years.

One of the texts is a letter from “Clarinda”, the pen name taken by the woman Burns loved, Agnes McLehose, following the poet’s death. Clarinda, who in life Burns had addressed variously in his poems as the“mistress of my soul” and “Queen of Poetesses”, was writing to Burns’s friend and doctor William Maxwell, three months after his death in 1796. Maxwell had been at Burns’s side when he died, and after asking for the return of the intimate letters she had written to Burns – whom she knew as “Sylvander” – she also wrote in a postscript that “an account of our late friend’s final scene, if it is not too bold to ask for, would be considered a singular favour”.

“It’s right at the end of a very businesslike letter, as though she couldn’t help herself,” said Chris Rollie, the researcher who discovered the manuscripts. Rollie was contacted by an old friend about the material, but originally dismissed her belief that she had stumbled across something important inside an Extra Illustrated W Scott Douglas edition of The Works of Robert Burns, dating from 1877-79, which belonged to Burns’s publisher, William Paterson.

“I get quite a few calls like this, and I tried to let her down gently,” he said. “But she said she still thought I should have a look. Within 15 minutes of looking at them I could see there was some very important and original material.”

Also unearthed were a handwritten manuscript by Burns himself of the song “Phillis the fair”, with minor textual variations, a pencil manuscript by Burns of an early draft of “Ode to a Woodlark”, lost since 1877-1879, and a handwritten letter from Burns “to Robert Muir, Kilmarnock”. The treasure trove also contained a letter from Clarinda to Burns, dated 2 August 1791 and containing for the first time her complete poetic response to Burns’s poem “On Sensibility”.

“‘The finding of the Clarinda letter in full is very timely as we move towards a new edition of Burns’s correspondence, and the other new manuscript findings of letters will also similarly help,” said Professor Gerry Carruthers, co-director of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies, which is hosting a Burns conference on 12 January where the findings will be presented in full. “It is very exciting that such lost manuscript material continues to emerge in the 21st century.”

The manuscripts have now been sold to a collector.

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Wayword Tuesdays with the Tuesday Knights

Wayword Tuesdays COVER

Over the last three years, novice and experienced poets have been meeting in creative writing classes in Galway under the guidance of poet Kevin Higgins either on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Fridays. Over the years, though classes have had different people come and go, there have been a few who regularly would be there on the Tuesday night, and got to know each other pretty well.

I caught up with Stephen Byrne, one of the contributors to Wayword Tuesdays, who told me that it was one of the aforementioned few regulars who came up with the concept of creating an anthology for the group, and so the Tuesday Knights were founded and consisted of 7 poets.

The Tuesday Knights printed their anthology with Selfpublishbooks.ie earlier this year. I asked Stephen how it all began. “We started it last June,” he says, “We would meet in the House Hotel (which became a regular occurrence) to decide on how we would do it, since none of us had ever had books published before. A lot of work and decisions have to go in to this project such as, to try get published or self–publish? Do we need/want an ISBN number? How many poems each? What would the design be like? Who will design it? What about the cover, art or graphic? We needed to meet regularly and come to agreement on everything, time consuming but fun.”

I asked Stephen what he enjoyed the most about the compliation. “We all contributed 7 poems each. Plus we had a professional photographer take portraits and added these into the book along with a short bio of each writer, was a lovely touch.”

Seven writers, one book had to be a challenge. I asked Stephen what the main obstacles were in putting together Wayword Tuesdays: “As with 7 different poets, the main challenge was to have variety. And luckily enough, since we are 7 completely different writers with different styles and voices, the book is awash with different types of poetry, catering for all tastes.”

This is the Tuesday Knights’ first publication. Why self-publish? Stephen is happy to tell me: “Having full control, of design, cost, timescale. Plus, we had the ability to come together, grow together as a group, each with an influence in its creation and the excitement of having and viewing the final draft before we give the go ahead to print, is daunting yet crazily exhilarating, the power of self-publishing.”

The process of self-publishing itself is sometimes daunting at first glance, but Stephen told me it was quite the opposite for him and the group. “Actually found it quite easy. Working with Frank and his team was gratifying, easy, enjoyable and extremely efficient. The hard and tiring part was getting everything together, working with 7 people, meeting together, agreeing, disagreeing, but the publishing part was a doddle, quick with outstanding results.”

What about the finished product? “It was way better than we imagined, stunning,” Stephen said, “We had outsourced the artwork for our cover with a local artist, so we did not know what way the cover would look until we had the books in our hands. We also chose a creamery paper rather than the white. When the books arrived, I was blown away by how professional they looked. The cover was outstanding and because of the paper we chose, the font looked amazing.”

I asked Stephen if there was an author/group of authors the group took as their inspiration. “Too many to name,” replied, “I myself would be highly influenced by Lorca and Neruda and more recently Nathalie Handal.”

What’s next for the Tuesday Knights?

“I think we will now do a bit of literature festival traveling to promote the book, sell a few copies and have fun with it. Whether we bring out another anthology down the line remains to be seen, but who knows, we now know what were doing and have had a taste of the simplicity of self-publishing.”

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Irish Poetry with Sean O’Muimhneachan

Screen Shot 2012-12-17 at 11.22.46

Sean O’Muimheachan, a primary teacher in Macroom, printed with Selfpublishbooks.ie a casebound book of his poetry. I had a quick chat with Sean and asked him where it all began.

“I was born and reared in a rural Gaeltacht area, Gaeltacht Mhúscraí,” said Sean, “and received my primary and secondary education in that area; I’ve
spent all my working life there. Very boring you might say! Not at all.
This is an area of natural beauty, steeped in history and culture and with
plenty of sporting and cultural activity throughout the year. We are within
easy reach of bus and train services and within an hour’s journey of two
international airports. But those things never bothered me growing up in
this area as there was always plenty to do.”

Sean was happy to relate how he first became interested in writing: “This locality has long been famous for its writers, poets and singers and
it was only natural that I would become acquainted with their work as I
grew up. Songs and poems were composed about many local happenings,
these being mostly humorous songs, but many more serious poets were
also at work, producing works that were to earn for them national fame.

“Seán Ó Ríordáin and Séamas Ó Céileachair are two who immediately
come to mind. Then there were the writers like An tÁth, Peadar Ó
Laoghaire and Dónall Bán Ó Céileachair, who preserved the richness of
the local dialect in their writings. Perhaps it was only natural that I would
begin to dabble in such pursuits as I grew to understand the importance of
such things in our society.”

How does work fit into all this? “Being a Primary Teacher, I often composed poems to fit in with topics in
the curriculum when suitable poems were not available or for use in stage
shows or drama competitions. Dámhscoil Mhúscraí provided the impetus
to practise my poetry skills and I have for many years participated in
this annual poetry session.

“I’ve been a regular attendant at Oireachtas na
Gaeilge and Fleadhanna Ceoil also, both of which hold competitions for
newly composed songs. This provided the incentive to write and compete,
which I have done for many years with limited success. Having heard
suggestions from many that I should publish some of my works, I decided
the time was right when I retired from teaching and so Gleanntán an
Aoibhnis began to take shape.”

I was curious to know what a reader can expect from Sean’s book. “The reader will find that the songs are predominantly humorous songs
and I must admit to enjoying writing such songs,” he admits with a smile, “When a good line comes
together it gives me a giggle of satisfaction and I hope it also brings a
smile to the face of the reader.

“Having said this, I am well aware that a
serious song or poem is usually of a far better quality than a frivolous
one. I have also written a few of those, both in Irish and in English. It’s
easy to draw a laugh but the song that draws a tear strikes closer to the
heart.”

So once he put all the words together, it was only a matter of finding where to put them between a book cover. Sean has already given a wonderful testimonial, but I was curious as to how he found self-publishing: “This was my first experience of publishing and, having approached Bard
na nGleann in Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, I was put in touch with Lettertec
in Carrigtwohill. I was facing the unknown.

“However, I was given every
assistance and advice and Elaine Barry, who was in charge of design, was
most efficient, helpful and patient. Anything that needed to be changed or
corrected was attended to without fuss and her advice on layout, font, etc.,
was invaluable. The finished product more than I could have wished for,
a most professional package, and deadlines were met promptly.”

What’s in store for Mr O’Muimhneachan now? “At the moment I don’t have any other plans for publishing,” he says, “but who
knows what the future may hold!”

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New Digital Poetry Prize: The Attys



On Thursday, the Guardian announced a new digital poetry prize, the Attys, to be launched from the Canadian-based social reading site Wattpad.

The prize is named after Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood, who joined Wattpad’s community of nine million writers and readers in June. Atwood will be judging the prize, for which competitors must enter a single entry, or 10 poems as a collection, each demonstrating a different poetic form.

“Poems can be submitted from anywhere, and we anticipate that some entries will be written on mobile devices,” said Allen Lau, co-founder of Wattpad. “We want to create a digital-first opportunity for poets to share their work and for audiences to discover the genre [and we] are excited to see how the world connects over poetry.”

Prizes will range from $1,000 (£640), to Nexus 7 Android tablets,  to feedback sessions from the Booker-winning author Margaret Atwood herself. Every entrant will be entered into a random draw for a chance to be immortalized as a character name in Margaret Atwood’s upcoming novel, MADDADDAM – the third in her Maddaddam series: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood. The winner can use his or her own name — or someone else’s, as a gift. They can be: A God’s Gardener Saint; the name of a pub; the name of a pet snake; the name of a Maddaddam team member!

“I’m very honored to have [The Attys] named after me. Poetry is at the core of each language, and language itself is at the core of our humanity,” said Atwood. “May you enjoy composing your own poems, and enjoy reading the poems of others! These are very ancient pleasures; by sharing in them, you are sharing in our own deep history.”

Submissions close October 31st, and all entries can be submitted here.

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