John James on how Fermanagh Writers Row the Erne

Digital Camera Digital CameraWe are all experts now…


On a day when the sun did not just go for a kiss, or a peck on the cheek, it went for the full-blanket, smothering us all in it’s yellowy, velvety goodness. We took another trip on the Lough Erne in the Curragh, manning the oars mightily as we could manage. The aforesaid sun created an old grandmother’s eiderdown patchwork quilt of light on the gently rippling waters, tickled by craft of all shapes and sizes, some with engines others without.

A dance-card of dabbling ducks and serene swans took to the waters after feasting on the stale bread provided by timid yet curious children, shephereded by their watchful parents. An armada of wildfowl thus accompanied the prompting in-out beat provided by Olivia, trying to wring out every drop of feeble co-ordination from her mulish team of rowers, who just could not follow her gently placatory heart-rate metronome.

After noodling the boat gently out of it’s halt,we headed for the open waters of the Lough, wary of the pleasure-boats who powered up and down, tooting their horns and giving us a wave.  Laughing at this foolhardy bunch of landlubbers,venturing out into the wide-blue younder on a vainglorious attempt of oarsmanship.

But we made our way swiftly through Friar’s Leap – a reed-garlanded passageway, I almost burst out into peals of Hosanna as it reminded me of Jesus on a donkey entering the gates of Jerusalem. We received great praise at our ability to get through the gap, I think though she was politely codding us on the level of our achievement.

We made our way to Devenish Island in the middle of the Lough, half of us disembarked for a wee dander, to take some photographs, some mementoes of the day. Other were nursing other reminders of the day, sore arms and shoulders and aching backs like geriatrics, took their ease in the bow of the boat.

Curragh photoAll too soon, it was time for the journey home, we dutifully picked up our heavy oars and made our return journey,which was enlivened by a boat attempting to navigate the weir-gate at the same time as us.  Much yells and our hands aloft in the air, in what I thought was surrender, but in actual fact was the maritime equivalent of flashing your headlights to ware the on-coming the traffic as to your presence. The boat, several-times over the size of our small craft, snorted and roared like a pissed-off bull, it cleaved the waters with it’s hooves and created a wake.  I felt I was in Pamplona and the adrenaline pumped through my veins, however the angry beast was lassooed, reined in  and shunted backwardsd to let our craft through, it still pawed the waters though in angry impatience. This provided a nice motivation to pull ourselves through the gate and dip our oars again, with much vim and vigour.

The feathered armada was their to to honk, quack and squawk us into our assigned lodgings on the jetty. We found our land-legs just where we left them and we wobbled about on the jetty, even thouigh we had not managed to find our requisite maritime sea-legs at all. Well, maybe next year perhaps. We made our way way agreeing that we were all expert oars-folk now; I just laughed and looked forward to my own blanket, to take me away on my personal voyage, the journey of dreams.

Our thanks to Olivia and her crew who made the day possible.  Tony Viney for the organisation and our other valiant ship-mates – Ken, Kate, Jenny who made up for my own woeful performance on the oars.

John J.

Seamus Heaney Tribute Booklet

Heaney coverFermanagh Writers have produced a booklet of tributes in poetry and prose in honour of the late poet.   John D. Kelly – one of the group’s prize winning poets and a contributor – will present it to the family to mark the first anniversary on 30th August of the poet’s passing.  John’s co-contributors are Dermot Maguire, Teresa Kane, John Llewellyn James, Angela McCabe, Rosemary Bland, Antoinette Rock, Catherine Vallely, Ken Ramsey, Tony Brady, Anthony Viney, Dianne Ascroft, Peter Byrne and Katharine May.

In the closing words of the Introduction to the book Fermanagh Writers say:  “They wish to offer a tribute to Mr Heaney by presenting his family with this modest collection of poetry and prose in memory of his life and work.  It is presented with our condolences, admiration, respect and affection.”

Poets Meet Painters Winner: John D. Kelly

Congratulations to John D. Kelly who won first prize in the Poets Meet Kelly Hungry anthologyPainters contest run by Hungry Hill Writing. The contest was adjudicated by Cherry Smyth. His poem, Brush With A Past, is included in the Poets Meet Painters anthology.

For more information about the contest and the anthology visit Hungry Hill Writers website.

Our Chair, Tony Brady offers his thoughts on the poem:

Celebrating a Fermanagh Writer’s poetry success. 
An Appreciation.

There are many examples of poets looking at and being inspired by a painting and composing a complimentary and revelatory poem: W.H Auden for example. His poem – Musée des Beaux Arts –  begins:  “About suffering they were never wrong the old masters….” and conveys the indifference of the various watching characters in a Pieter Breugel painting. A masterpiece: it depicts the Fall of Icarus in fateful plunge to earth when his man-made waxen wings melt as  he soars towards the sun.
John D. Kelly’s winning poem  – Brush With A Past – which appears in Poets Meet Painters – a recent Anthology published by Hungry Hill Writing, is inspired by perceptions of looking at a tondo* – one in a series by Etain Hickey. Copies of the Anthology are obtainable at 4 euro each including postage from

Reactions such as: “I see my pointed reflection….” and “…a loss that happened in the warp of the timeline between the past and present of your face.” – are contained in his poem – free form verses in five four line stanzas..

He conveys sensations: “….. tasting of linseed; being tongued; your eyes – stare” and the completing line “..the water welling in the corner of your innocent eye.” The engagement between the painter, her medium and the observing poet, all visualised in a circular close up
appreciation of a woman’s face. There is not a trace of indifference rather an intensity of compelling communication.

From the Anthology we also learn that Etain Hickey specializes in highly decorated and lustred ceramics and has exhibited both nationally and internationally, with recent exhibitions in London and Brussels. Her work is included in private and public collections including the Crafts Council of Ireland, The Ulster Museum and Fujita Museum Japan. She lives, works and has her gallery in Clonakilty, West Cork. Etain explores her love of colour and pattern in her ceramic wall dishes using rich glazes and lavish decoration techniques incorporating gold.For this exhibition she will be making a new collection of both her abstract wall dishes
and Tondos’ portraying women with decorative hair styles or head dresses which are often symbols of prestige and status in both modern and ancient times.

Her work can be seen at:
Etain Hickey Collections
40 Ashe Street,
West Cork

* A tondo is a Renaissance term for a circular work of art, either a painting or a sculpture. The word derives from the Italian rotondo – “round.”

She’ll Do Rightly

Tony Brady tells us about Fermanagh Writers contribution to the Heaney tribute at the William Carleton Summer School:

Tuesday 5th August 2014, William Carleton Summer School,  Public Open Session, to  receive Personal  Appreciations of Seamus Heaney, Corick House Hotel, Augher, Tyrone.

Fermanagh Writers were asked to participate at the planning stage in January. The organisers were aware of our proposed booklet and invited readings from it.  In the event, it was not ready but I had a contingency specimen.  By the day, our small team of planned readers was reduced to just Teresa Kane and me. I was not prepared for what became an (initially) quite nerve rendering time…

Teresa, her mother and Tony

Teresa, her mother and Tony

We were due to read in the session running from 4pm to 5pm. I got there at 2.00pm having arranged to link up with Teresa at 3.45pm. However, a serious hitch in the techno side of the presenter due on at 3.00pm meant the sessions were switched.  The first 20 minutes passed as the well known quartet of poets/writers on the panel gave their memorial impressions. When the public contributions began, I was pitched up on stage to perform first off, without Teresa who of course being en route, was unaware of the programme change.

I laid down a marker for Teresa – telling the audience about her – while hoping the session would not be over by the time she arrived: for it started 15 minutes late. About 50 people looked up at me, slightly puzzled, as they were there principally to hear a presentation from a distinguished architect about renovating classical buildings in Ireland. I read The Forward, JDK’s poem – Looking Upstream – and Seamus Heaney’s poem  – From The Republic of Conscience.

With about 15 minutes to go Teresa arrived (on her scheduled time) and without waiting for the Chair of the panel, I introduced her from the floor and to my relief,  he invited her up to the mike  and she read her Tribute superbly: best of the lot as it turned out. The audience were very warm and appreciative.

A bonus was that Teresa brought her mother along, so we went for coffee in most splendid surroundings. There was a wedding on, and as I stood at the bar to make our order, I commented to the groom that he has a lovely bride and conveyed my best wishes. He was pleased and said to me: “She’ll do rightly!”

Later, we went out onto the terrace and one of the organisers took  pictures of Teresa, her mother and me.  Behind us and out of sight, four foot high letters spelling out L O V E were framed by beautiful shrubbery and admirable view.

All was well and ended well.


Tony Brady attended the launch of Natasha Crudden’s poetry collection, Barbed-Wire Cage, last Friday and has jotted down some of his thoughts about the collection:

BARBED – WIRE CAGE by Natasha Helen Crudden

McCrudden book



An Appreciation.

My title is deliberate: the critiques, the criticism and searching for allusions, poetry references and “…putting the texts under pressure..” Paula Meehan – can wait. Now is the time for due respect and admiration for Natasha’s debut published achievement for: “On me your voice falls as they say love should – with an enormous YES!” Philip Larkin.

Attachment, Separation, Loss, Rejection, Acceptance, Freedom and Reconciliation are realities that inspire most of the 40 poems contained in this Collection.  Angst, which, more often than not connects those experiences and emotions is the energy, the thread that fuels and guides the poet via “… the labyrinthine journey over the fence to life on the other side of the barbed-wire confines of society, a battle against the spiked constraints of convention…”

Attachment: “On mission uncharted, I am with you… anywhere but here.” Disappear

Separation: “….I lost my way, and you lost yours in an ending so infinite.” Ford’s Grave

Loss: “For a love more ordinary, we paid the price.” Zero Hour

Acceptance: “And you owe me nothing but to never forget yourself.  Or me”  Splinter

Rejection: “As I steel to tear the world apart the door slams.”  Over and Out

Freedom: “The barriers dissolve and from here we can go anywhere.” Explorers

Reconciliation: “ Shifting gears – No turning back now – Shake off the doubt – Permit no surrender – The game has begun.”  Mountain Pass

I am in love in with you Natasha because of your punk poems and their music idioms, here explored and appreciated. Love inspiring admiration and respect.  Barbed-Wire Cage contains it.  A Consummation.


John Monaghan tells us about Fermanagh Writers’ evening at the launch of Barbed-Wire Cage:

On Friday 4th July at 8pm a group of ten writers left Enniskillen on a support mission for the launch of Natasha Crudden’s “Barbed Wire Cage” in Blessing’s Pub in Cavan. We met up with some other members of FW who made their own way to the venue and we all tried to hide our nerves at the prospect of performing in front of a new audience in the second half of the event.

Natasha recited some of her exciting and edgy “punk” poetry after a very thoughtful opening speech and introduction by Clones poet Ted McCarthy. It is fair to say that we will hear more of Natasha in the coming years. Certainly what we heard on Friday night was inspiring. In my opinion she has something to say that people will want to hear.

The early part of the Launch was filmed by a TV crew from Irish We met the presenter, Jasmyn (from Manchester) and the sound man, Glep (from outside Moscow). Pete Byrne and a couple of us spoke to them to find out if there could be any benefit to FW from following up on the contact. I think it’s an avenue we can explore further.

In the “slam” part of the evening the Fermanagh Writers performers did the group proud. We were represented by Pete Byrne, Kate O’Shea, Tony Brady (who gave a powerful reading of one of Natasha’s poems), John James, Jennie Brien, Teresa Kane, Mary McElroy, John D Kelly and John Monaghan.

All the performances were good and were well received by an appreciative audience. I don’t really want to pick out any in particular, but it would be a great injustice not to mention the “tour de force” by “The Women in Black” Teresa Kane and Mary McElroy.

I would also like to thank those of our members who came along to support Natasha and FW, namely, Thomas, Elizabeth, Bob, Dermot, Antoinette, Trish and John Owen. Next time we would to see you guys under the spotlights with us.

All in all it was a great night and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I think we all learned something from the night (my lesson learned is that FW members are great cheerleaders). I think that as a group we learned that we are more talented than we allow ourselves to believe.

Thank you all for the experience.

A Night In Arney

John James tells us about an event he and Pete Byrne attended in Arney on Wednesday evening:

A Night in Arney

‘Battles, Bridges and Bricks.’ Project

Where the heck is Arney, I thought.  Before I was enlightened.  Thus Pete and I made our way on a Wednesday night down the back lanes to the back of beyond.  He was driving and I navigating, so when I saw a left-turn for Arney, I pointed this out to Pete.

‘Naw.  There’s a quicker route further down the road,’ he assured me.

The journey continued and continued and continued.

‘Pete.  That yon sign said Arney was ¾ of a mile.’

‘Jaysus! Will you give me a break!’

Brake we did and turned it into Creamery Close.  Pete is too vain to spoil his saturnine good looks with a pair of goggles, so he thought it said Cemetery Close. I said it was still a dead end.

He turned the car around but we had gone so far South that we were now wearing sombrero’s and the car had a bull-bar smiling like a desert-mouthed gaucho in a bar.

We paused at every cow-lane, dirt-track and tractor-path and even an entrance to a Care Home before we found that aforementioned turn-off for Arney and we turned in silence and eventually found the Hall via a hurricane-drenched GAA match – just don’t ask me which one.

Pete calmed his nerves with a cigarette before going in and once in we found ourselves punctual and on time for a change – but the event started 15 minutes late – Arney time. The keynote speaker, Henry Glassie, arrived with a fanfare; accompanied by an entourage of straw-suited Mummers, one playing the pipes.

He was interviewed by our own Seamas MacAnnaidh and he spoke with love, reverence and unapologetic nostalgia for the time he spent in the ancient townland of Ballymenone.  He took us back in his time machine on a wonderful journey to meet wonderful people who became his friends, in so doing they became our friends, so vividly were his descriptions of their humanity.

At the end he was asked if it was not true that other places had their times and their people just like Arney.  He replied that was certainly the case, indeed he had spent time in Turkey and found similar places with similar people; however, he just happened to be in Arney at that time and with those people.  It was down to other people to set down the experiences of other places and other times, he was now too old, he said.

Why is it important?  That each place is special to those who are its denizens?  Would it not be easier if every place were the same?  Of course life would be simpler, if we all had the McDonalds-on-the-corner homogeneity throughout the world, but I would argue that it is our very differences that teach us about ourselves.  If we were all the same, we would have no contrast, it would be a place of eternal night with not even a humming-bird’s breath of a day.

We had a break for tea and sandwiches; Pete had to go back for an extra sandwich, shaming us all.  Then we were further entertained by an accordionist and thence two local storytellers, telling tales of humour and sadness, but always remembering and not forgetting. A young boy of a dozen years played the fiddle like a maestro, with jigs and reels that had us tapping our feet – mostly in tune.  Then he played a melancholy air and I was hard-pressed not to keep the tears stinging the backs of my eyes from gushing forth.

We finished the night with an acoustic family group who sang about Hard Times and we all joined in and they sang another ditty about Ellis Island that misted the eye, before finishing with a rocking little tune and the night was over.

We drove back, Pete mulishly accepting my navigation.  At home, I found that I could not sleep, my head was still in Arney, along with my heart that I had carelessly left behind.

Ballinamallard Festival Photos

Getting ready for the performance:

FW Ballinamallard 11 TB, Simon, Natasha

Tony Brady, Simon Campbell & Natasha Martin

FW Ballinamallard 12 May and Trish

May Morris and Trish Bennett


A few members beside the river:

John D Kelly and Anthony Viney

John D Kelly and Anthony Viney

John D. Kelly

John D. Kelly

Peter Byrne

Peter Byrne