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Hi all, please see the poster and link below for an Excellent line up of poets who I will be reading with at The Winding Stair bookstore (on the quays near the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin city) on Tuesday next 19th July at 6.30pm.

It promises to be a very worthy event if you come along, which will make it even more spectacular.

So why not come along, looking forward to seeing you,

Michael

 

Folks! TUESDAY 19th of July @ 6.30pm we promise a diverse offering of THREE of Ireland’s award winning poets.
Featuring Michael J. Whelan’s debut collection PEACEKEEPER; Peter O’Neill’s sixth collection SKER, and Rob Buchanan’s THE COST OF LIVING.
In order of inspiration: inspired by Michael’s tours of duty on peace support missions, Peter’s background in philosophy and comparative literature and Rob’s human experience using the macrocosm of Irish history, literature and religion.


See you then.

Winding Stair Bookshop

https://www.facebook.com/Winding-Stair-Bookshop-287404113181/?fref=nf&pnref=story

 

The Winding Stair - three poets  one evening

The Winding Stair – three poets one evening

Massive thank you to Kevin Higgins for this fantastic review and to Kernan Andrews and team at the Galway Advertiser, where it was published on Thursday, Jun 23, 2016

‘IT IS fashionable for reviewers, of the perpetually disappointed variety, to lodge Basil Fawlty style complaints against a poet’s first published collection.

The poet in question, we are typically told, has the occasional nice turn of phrase, but does not have anything to write about because s/he has little of experience of life, a subject on which the disappointed reviewer is unfortunately something of an expert.

There are over indulged newbie poets who, as of yet, amount to not much more than a stunning haircut and professionally taken publicity photo. Generally, though, such complaints tend to be grapes of the vinegary variety. It will be interesting to see what reaction Michael J Whelan’s debut book of poems, Peacekeeper, published by Doire Press, gets from said literary gatekeepers.

Whelan may be a new poet but, having joined the Irish Defence Forces in 1990 and served as a peacekeeper in Lebanon and Kosovo, he is not exactly young. He has had life experiences from which most poetry reviewers would run screaming. Crucially these experiences are the often bloody meat of this quite exceptional debut. Whelan is no dabbler, but a war poet in the tradition of Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, and Keith Douglas.

The poems here are products of direct experience – part one covering his time in South Lebanon, part two his stint with the Peace-Enforcement mission in Kosovo. There are some breathtaking lines, as in ‘The Rain Has Come’: “The rain has come/to wash away the footprints of the killers.” The poem finishes with the image of “a rusting bullet casing/exposed like a white bone on the deepening red mud.”

The blood which has reddened the mud is, as is hardly ever the case in poems these days, more real than metaphorical. From the first poem ‘Blue Helmets’, Whelan approaches his subject in the unromantic way soldier poets nearly always do: “We were issued our blue helmets/and flak-jackets there, mine were/in really bad shape, like they had been/through the wars.”

His tribute to his fellow Irish soldiers who died on service in Lebanon – “where the cedar grows forever/and remembers everything” – is a poem of stunning beauty. A number of his poems bring home the way that, even when the war is over, and the papers of record around the world trumpet the advent of peace, it is often not really over at all. One poem opens: “The war is long over but it is not ended.” Another, ‘Inshalla’, tells us “The war is over in the South, again.”

Whelan is a poet of experience rather than innocence. Many have experiences. Very few have the talent he does for finding exactly the words to force the reader to imagine him/herself struggling across those bloodstained landscapes in Whelan’s own war-weary boots.’

Michael J. Whelan  - Kosovo 2001

Michael J. Whelan – Kosovo 2001

 

Michael Whelan will read at the Over The Edge Writers’ Gathering at The Kitchen, Galway City Museum, on Thursday June 30 at 8pm. The other readers are Niamh Boyce, Paul Duffy, Susan Millar DuMars, and William Wall. Admission is free.

 

over the edge - june 2016

 

Hi all, coming right on the tail of my reading at the Belfast Book Festival, I have been invited and I am really pleased to be taking part in The June Over The Edge Writers’ Gathering in Galway on June 30thwhich will present fiction writers and poets, Niamh Boyce, Paul Duffy, William Wall, Michael J. Whelan, & Susan Millar DuMars.

Paul Duffy is 2015 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year and will read his winning story.

Niamh Boyce is the judge for 2016 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year. The event will take place at The Kitchen @ The Museum, Spanish Arch, Galway on Thursday, June 30th, 8pm. All are welcome. There is no cover charge. If your are in the vicinity and free then you might consider coming along to what promises to be a wonderful literary event.

Thank you and hopefully see you there,

Michael

Niamh Boyce won the overall Hennessy XO New Irish Writer of the Year and the Emerging Poet Category for her poem ‘Kitty’. Her poetry has also been highly commended in The Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2013. Her first novel, The Herbalist (Penguin Ireland) won Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2013, and was long listed for the IMPAC Award. Her stories have been adapted for stage, broadcast, published in literary magazines and anthologized, most recently in ‘The Long Gaze Back – Irish Women Writers’ and ‘The Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction.’ Niamh was shortlisted for the Francis McManus Short Story Competition 2011, the Hennessy Literary Awards 2010, the Molly Keane Award 2010 and the WOW Award 2010, her stories can be found in magazines such as The Moth, Crannóg, Revival, Boyne Berries, Poetry Bus, The Stony Thursday Book and New Irish Writing Magazine. Originally from Athy, Co Kildare Niamh now lives with her family in Ballylinan, Co Laois. Niamh is the judge for 2016 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year, the deadline for which is August 3rd http://overtheedgeliteraryevents.blogspot.ie/ .

Paul Duffy is a former Galway City resident now living in Wicklow. Paul is currently working on a collection of short stories. He is 2015 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year and will be reading his winning story ‘Redolence’.

Salmon Poetry recently published Susan Millar DuMars’ fourth collection of poems Bone Fire.

William Wall is the author of four novels, including This is the Country (Sceptre), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; three collections of poetry; and one volume of short stories. He has won the Virginia Faulkner Award, The Sean O’Faoláin Prize, several Writer’s Week prizes and The Patrick Kavanagh Award. He was shortlisted for the Young Minds Book Award, the Irish Book Awards, the Raymond Carver Award, the Hennessy Award and numerous others. His work has been translated into many languages, including Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Latvian, Serbian and Catalan. In 2014 William was part of the Italo-Irish Literature Exchange, organised through The Irish Writers’ Centre, which toured Italy with readings in Italian and English. In March 2010 he was Writer in Residence at The Princess Grace Irish Library, Monaco. He was a 2009 Fellow of The Liguria Centre for the Arts & Humanities. He lives in Cork. His short story collection Hearing Voices, Seeing Things was published this year by Doire Press.

Michael J. Whelan joined the Irish Defence Forces in 1990, serving on tours of duty as a United Nations Peacekeeper. He has received the General Officer Commanding Irish Air Corps Award, the Paul Tissandier Diploma and the Tallaght Person of the Year Award (Arts & Culture section). Michael’s poetry has been widely published, including in The Hundred Years’ War: Anthology of Modern War Poems (Bloodaxe) and his work was the subject of a centenary of the Great War exhibition entitled Landscapes Of War & Peace 1914-2014: War Poetry & Peacekeeping. He won 2nd Place in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Awards, 3rd Place in the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards and a commendation in the Carousel Creates Creative Writing Awards, as well as having received an Arts Bursary from South Dublin Arts Office. In 2012 he was selected to read at the Poetry Ireland Introductions series. Michael’s debut poetry collection Peacekeeper is recently published by Doire Press.

There is no entrance fee.
For further information contact 087-6431748.
Over The Edge acknowledges the ongoing generous financial support of the Arts Council, Poetry Ireland, and Galway City Council. http://overtheedgeliteraryevents.blogspot.com/

 

Information & poster above – via the Over The Edge Writers’ website/ facebook page

Hi everyone, this is Peter O’Neill’s fantastic introduction to my debut collection ‘Peacekeeper‘ (Doire Press) at the launch in the County Library Tallaght on the 13th of April 2016 .

It was recently published in this current issue (June) of Ireland’s Military Story & Reveille Magazine for which I would like to say a massive thanks to Wesley Bourke and his team and also to Peter O’ Neill.

 

 

 

Arma virumque cano!

Peacekeeper by Michael Whelan,

Doire Press, 2016.

 

 

War is the father and king of all (Heraclitus).

 

Every age has its wars.

Since the first existing literary text, believed to date from Babylon in 1300-1000

BC, The Epic of Gilgamesh and onto Homer in 750 BC, till the arrival of Virgil,

whose opening line to The Aenied forms the title of this text, in and around 40

BC, to our own Táin , or Cattle Raid of Cooley,  in the first century AD; war

and war poetry have been with us.

Look around at events going on in the world today… Syria, Georgia, Iraq,

Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine these are just some of the areas currently

Embroiled in Conflict.

Not very long ago, you only had to pick up a newspaper to read about the latest

victims  to terror of one kind or another up in Northern Ireland. We read the

headlines year after year, down in the south, and simply thought to ourselves

there, but for the grace of god go ‘WE’.

The poet whose work we are gathered to hear reading to us today was

involved in two major conflicts, those in the Lebanon and in Kosovo. Michael

served as a Peacekeeper with the United Nations Interim Force in the Lebanon (UNIFL ) and with the Peace Enforcement mission in Kosovo (K.FOR), and it

from his experiences of both these conflicts that the majority of Michael’s

poems in his debut collection of poetry Peacekeeper come.

It is a very great honour for me to be here, at Michael’s request, to help launch

the book with him today. I first became aware of Michael’s poetry while editing

an anthology of contemporary Irish poetry called And Agamemnon Dead for the

French writer and publisher Walter Ruhlmann for mgv2>publishing. Walter and

I were attempting to put together an anthology of Irish poets and writers who we

both felt were not getting a chance to present their work on a suitable platform,

and which we hoped to be able to offer them with the anthology.

When we hear the term ‘war poetry’, most of us would immediately think of

WW1, the names of poets like Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke,

Siegfried Sassoon and our own Francis Ledwidge. Why is this?

There are, I am sure, many reasons. One, surely, is as it was the first fully

mechanised and so modern war, in which millions of men were so

systematically massacred, and on an industrial scale. We are all familiar with

the horror of life for soldiers in the trenches, and it is mainly due to some of

the poets listed above. WWII is less associated with poets, perhaps, than the

‘Great War’, but from it also came a formidable body of work. Poets such a

Dylan Thomas, for example, described life during the Blitz, for war had a new

side to it now, as civilians as well as soldiers were also among the casualties.

There was Rene Char in France,  a voice from the resistance. Aresny

Tarkovsky, father of the famous film maker, who reported back from the

Russian front, and Karl Krolow writing from the German side. But the majority

of writing which came from WWII was written in prose; one thinks

immediately of the American writers Joseph Heller ( Catch 22 ), Norman

Mailer (The Naked and the Dead) and Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse 5 ),

which all recount the horrors and the absurdities that the soldiers had to endure.

Again, the impact of civilian literature is also considerable, considering the

apocalyptic and all encompassing nature of the war; Primo Levi’s Is This Is A

Man, and the Diaries of Anne Frank being two of the most known books to

come out of the war.

Yet, when I spoke to Michael about his influences, he spoke to me of the

American soldiers who had just returned from tours of Iraq and Afghanistan,

such as Brian Turner (Here, Bullet).

And this is the thing which struck me immediately about Michael, as an Irish

soldier- ‘poet’ he was alone. I couldn’t think of any other contemporary Irish

poet, at least, who were writing in the country with a similar kind of

background or experience, as Michael’s. To the best of my knowledge there are

none. So, in this, Michael is truly an original and authentic voice in

contemporary  Irish poetry, reaching back to a tradition that is as long as

memory itself. And Michael is very much part of that tradition, that poets like

Brian Turner too belong too. For Michael is writing as both a survivor, and as a

witness.

The first thing which strikes you, when reading the poems of Michael Whelan,

is the very natural poetic ability Michael has, particularly when treating highly

sensitive material, such as the impact of warfare upon children.

His poem Chocolate in which he describes an encounter with a couple of

children, sheltering in a bombed out house perfectly illustrates Michael’s

capacity, in the space of three short sentences, to completely encompass a

particular microcosm of the atrocious events which happened in Kosovo, in the

last decade of the previous century. Events, which we said in Europe, which

were “‘never to happen again!’”

Michael’s style of writing is unencumbered with artifice. It is minimal,

essential…. And yes, it is brutal.

In the Poetics, Aristotle famously speaks of the cathartic element when

he is attempting to analyse and define the nature of tragedy, which tragic

writing has; ‘ …effecting through pity and fear (what we call) the catharsis

of such emotions.[1]

Listening to the poet reading his own work, about his experiences in Lebanon

and Kosovo, makes us dearly realise the price that one pays for freedom.

 

Peter O’ Neill

22nd February, 2016.

 

Michael J. Whelan- Poet Peacekeeping South Lebanon 1994

Michael J. Whelan – Poet, Peacekeeping South Lebanon

 

Peter O’Neill is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Divertimento The Muse is a Dominatrix ( mgv2>publishing, France, 2016 ) and Sker ( Lapwing, Belfast, 2016 ). He edited And Agamemnon Dead, An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century with Walter Ruhlmann also for mgv2>publishing (2015). He is the founder of Donkey Shots, an avant garde poetry fest which takes place in his hometown of Skerries where he also hosts The Gladstone Readings.

A translator of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, he was awarded a first class honour in his final exams answering on Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. On completing his BA (2007), he went on to do a Masters in Comparative Literature (2013), also at Dublin City University.

 

 

 

    

 

[1]              Aristotle: Poetics, Translated with an Introduction and Notes by James Hutton, W.W. Norton, New York, 1982, p.50.

Ladies and Gents,

Just a quick update on my reading of poems from the PEACEKEEPER collection in the Crescent Arts Centre on Tuesday evening 14th June during the Belfast Book Festival 2016. I really have to say that I totally enjoyed the event, everybody involved in the festival from the staff of the of the Crescent Arts Centre, the Europa Hotel and the festival director Keith Acheson and staff themselves looked after the three Doire Press poets and our families so well. Stephen Connolly introduced us before we read and made us feel very welcome.

Doire Press Poets Michael J. Whelan, Stephanie Conn, Simon Lewis with Stephen Connolly in the Crescent Arts Centre during the Belfast Book Festival 2016 Photo: Niamh Power Whelan

Doire Press Poets Michael J. Whelan, Stephanie Conn, Simon Lewis with Stephen Connolly in the Crescent Arts Centre during the Belfast Book Festival 2016 Photo: Niamh Power Whelan

 

Belfast is a beautiful, busy city and I’m so glad that my poems have taken me there.  The only other time I visited Belfast was about ten or fifteen years ago when I landed by helicopter in Belfast Airport/Aldergrove, for  short while for the Air Cadets Open Day, so never got to see the city itself.

Doire Press Poets at the Belfast Book Festival 14th June 2016. Photo: Niamh Power Whelan

Doire Press Poets at the Belfast Book Festival 14th June 2016. Photo: Niamh Power Whelan

Anyway it was really great to finally meet Stephanie Conn in person and to hear her read from her collection The Woman on the Other Side and Simon Lewis, who I have read with before in Dublin, also read from his collection Jewtown.  Both of their collections are powerful and interesting a I highly recommend them.

 

Michael J. Whelan in the busy Belfast City. Photo: Niamh Power Whelan

Michael J. Whelan in the busy Belfast City. Photo: Niamh Power Whelan

 

So again I want say a massive THANK YOU to everybody in Belfast and who were involved with the festival for making us feel very welcome,

Michael

BELFAST BOOK FESTIVAL – 14th June 2016 (Michael J. Whelan – Peacekeeper)

 

Ladies and Gents,

I’m very excited and looking forward my reading of poems from the PEACEKEEPER collection in the Crescent Arts Centre next Tuesday evening 14th June at 6.30pm during the Belfast Book Festival 2016.

It’s a free event and I will be taking part with fellow Doire Press poets Stephanie Conn & Simon Lewis. Hopefully see some of you there if in the locality, it promises to be an excellent event.

Thank you,

Michael

 

Thanks to Stephanie Conn for the poster.

Michael J. Whelan  - Kosovo 2001

Michael J. Whelan – Kosovo 2001

 

Belfast Book Festival - poster designed by Stephanie Conn

Belfast Book Festival – poster designed by Stephanie Conn

Hi all, I’m delighted to post the most recent review of my collection PEACEKEEPER, which was written by Peter O’Neill and published by Amos Greig in ‘A New Ulster’ Magazine, June 2016, issue 45.

A link to the issue and review is available at the bottom of this post with permission to reproduce both from Peter and Amos. Thanks guys!

 

 

Peacekeeper ( Doire Press, 2016 )

By Michael J. Whelan

 

in a slow verse of history,

into the familiar well-rehearsed ambush,

this arsenal of new rubble, (from The Cinder Bus)

 

One doesn’t know where to begin among the kaleidoscope of phenomena which comes pouring out of Peacekeeper, Michael J. Whelan’s debut collection published only last month by Doire Press.

So, let us start at the beginning.

 

Blue Helmets

 

The journey from Beirut

to the hills of South Lebanon

was long and hot. The convoy

stopped at Tyre and we debussed

for a piss against the rusted tracks

of an old knocked-out tank.

We were issued our blue helmets

and flak-jackets there, mine were

in really bad shape, like they had been

through the wars. 

 

This is the opening poem to Michael’s historic debut collection, I say historic in the purest sense as this is the first time that a collection of poetry has been published by an Irish soldier who has seen service with the United Nations in the Lebanon and Kosovo.

This poem is a foretaste of all that is to come. It is a beautiful opener as it immediately sets the scene, the reader being all too familiar with the cinematic hook in the very opening poem in the all of the narrative to follow. The poet situating us spatially and temporally with him back in the that very first transport which is going to take him to his new home. So we, the readers, enter just as innocently as him.

In these three short sentences, using the very barest of language ( Spartan like, almost prose ), the poet constructs a piece of perfect clarity. We are see-ing now as only he sees – Let me show you the world with my eyes . Indeed revelation is a recurring theme throughout the collection, as is only fitting for a book which bears also the signature of Khalil Gibran; the collection opens with a quote from the Lebanese author of The Prophet. It is this historic framing which sets the poet, and historian, Michael J. Whelan apart from the majority of writers writing today, as he is writing with what T. S. Eliot described as ‘the historic sense’. But he wears it lightly, he nods to it deftly in the plural form of the noun which ends the poem above. This is why he is such a wonderful guide, and witness. As readers we trust such signs implicitly.

Another thing to note is the very common use of language, which I have already made reference to, but what needs to be perhaps further underlined is the register, or tone. This is the voice of a Dubliner, in a very unfamiliar home.

 

The higher into the hills you go, the narrower

the roads become and tighter the villages.

The journey slows to a sequence of photographic

scenes in mystical life where you remind yourself

that you are a soldier, peacekeeper,

the alien in this country.  (from First Blood)

 

The poet is talking to you, bringing you right in. Again, the references are cinematic, highly visual. After all, he, like you and I, was brought up on the couch. In this poem, he lets you see how unused to the sight of blood he was, as he is now looking back, with you. He like you, the reader – mon semblabe,- mon frere! – is re-witnessing the scene anew. Re-historicising his now near to mythical past. We feel privileged, he takes us right in…

 

Your body is alive capturing everything in its senses,

the flowing colours you’re experiencing dance upon

your eyes and skin as the crowd surrounds you-

 

your existence is lost in this market-place dream.

The sea parts: hind legs strung up by an old stained cord,

first blood is drawn. A convulsing goat’s warm froth pours

down from the gaping throat, pools out onto the gutter-ground.

The wound reminds you that you are not the invader.

 

This is exquisitely balanced tension, between the poet’s arrival in the Lebanon, in the opening poem, and this, the fourth. And it is this careful attention to the  sequencing of the poems which makes Peacekeeper a proper collection, as opposed to say just a bunch of poems which have been gathered together. For there is a very fine narrative at work, building up ‘a horizon of expectation’. This is beautifully reached in the poem Revelation, in which the poet sees himself, and his own very specific place, in history. I am going to quote the poem in full, as it is, I believe, pivotal in the books creation.

 

Revelation

Lebanon

 

This is the land of giants, where Gilgamesh

raped the mountains of cedars,

the place where the peacekeeper reads the landscape

like he reads the skin of the people, their faces,

their telling eyes.

 

The trees are almost gone, the remnants bleached

by the sun and carrying deformities of a thousand years

like the skin of the old ones

who don’t remember how to be happy,

to be free, to be young.

 

This is the place of death and the living,

the conflict of ideologies,

the world and all its misery.

It is the place of broken hearts.

 

I want to push my bloody hands into sand,

see my fingers cleansed by an ocean of grains.

I want to dig up the Templar tombs,

find the place of Saladin and show them

all that they have sown.

 

And if I am to die here then let this landscape take me

for now at last I know

the reason why I have come.

 

There are poems of loss, where the poet witnesses children abandoned in front of their dead parents in morgues (Deliverance )

 

She wants to climb back into

her dead mother’s womb

and hide inside its warm, soft,

un-edged safety,

 

The grotesque sight of a fresh corpse rotting. (Mosaic)

 

The exit is painted on the ground like a mosaic of blood

and bone and gristle as metal smashes through his body,

wrenching the sternum that protects his heart and vertebrae

that held the soldier moments before while he thought of home.

He lies there peering at a foreign sky, blood spilling from

his mouth, a gaping hole in his back.

 

This is the stuff of war.

 

Peter O’ Neill

United Nations Position - Lebanon, 1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

United Nations Position – Lebanon, 1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

Peter O’Neill is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Divertimento The Muse is a Dominatrix ( mgv2>publishing, France, 2016 ) and Sker ( Lapwing, Belfast, 2016 ). He edited And Agamemnon Dead, An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century with Walter Ruhlmann also for mgv2>publishing (2015). He is the founder of Donkey Shots, an avant garde poetry fest which takes place in his hometown of Skerries where he also hosts The Gladstone Readings.

A translator of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, he was awarded a first class honour in his final exams answering on Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. On completing his BA (2007), he went on to do a Masters in Comparative Literature (2013), also at Dublin City University.

 

A New Ulster Magazine, issue 45 – Edited by Amos Greig  https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu_issue_45

'Peacekeeper' by Michael J. Whelan. Poetry collection published by Doire Press - April 2016

‘Peacekeeper’ by Michael J. Whelan. Poetry collection published by Doire Press – April 2016

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