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Nobel Prize-winning poet W.B.Yeats is County Sligo’s most-famous son. When you visit the town you can’t miss this visually striking statue of the poet.

The statue of W.B. Yeats in from of the Ulster Bank building, in Sligo town.

The statue of W.B. Yeats in front of the Ulster Bank building in Sligo town.

Created in 1989 by sculptor Ronan Gillespie, this statue was erected outside the Ulster Bank at the corner of Stephen Street and Markievicz Road (across the Garavogue River from the equally striking Glasshouse Hotel) on the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death. Among other reasons for this location was Yeats’ remark on receiving his Noble Prize that the Royal Palace in Stockholm resembled the Ulster Bank in Sligo. The statue also looks across the river at the Yeats Memorial Building, home to The Yeats Society and exhibitions about the poet.  Read the rest of this entry »

When I joined Twitter over a year ago, one of the first things I learned about was Salt Publishing‘s Just One Book campaign. Evidently Salt, like many small publishers, was in trouble, and this was their approach to try to raise awareness and sales. The meme went around the literary community quickly, and drew a lot of attention to Salt’s books. I’d never read any of Salt’s authors, so I went and checked out their website, read some of the poems and decided to support them by purchasing my one book: Siân Hughes’ The Missing.

Hughes’ poems are excellent. They mine the regret and sadness of loss: loss of love, loss of dignity, loss of a job, and most poignantly, the loss of a child. I have no idea if Hughes’ life has taken any of these turns, but the poems feel devastatingly real, the book having an air of confession and intimacy–often relieved by a dark humor. If this is the caliber of Salt’s publications, I thought, I wanted more.

Read “The Send Off” by Siân Hughes, which won the Arvon International Poetry Competition 2006.

Watch Siân Hughes read several excellent poems from The Missing:

After reading an article in The Times about several young British poets  (“The Facebook Poets”) I became interested in reading more of Olivia Cole’s   poetry. Her debut collection, Restricted View, received some generous praise from Clive James and Cole was instantly being compared to Sylvia Plath (for her sake, I hope that doesn’t turn out to be entirely accurate). Thankfully, the poems themselves do live up to the hype, and fully deserve praise and readers.

Olivia Cole writes intoxicatingly about young love, first love, the excitement of discovery, and the general thrill of being young. (She writes about the end of relationships, about regret and failure, too, but it’s the celebratory poems that really stir the imagination and linger in memory.) The subject matter of the most-memorable poems almost makes Restricted View the thematic yin to The Missing’s yang. Cole’s work proves she’s not the party girl that the day-job as a literary and “party scene” columnist for a British paper might suggest.

Read “Matinee Idol” by Olivia Cole,  one of my favorite poems in Restricted View.

I’m often disappointed to find that new books of poetry from established poets only contain one or two truly memorable (to me, anyway) new poems. That’s not a problem with the work of Siân Hughes and Olivia Cole, both are curious, creative poets who write about a range of events and emotions. I don’t know anything about the biography of either beyond that on the dust jackets, so I can’t know if the poetry comes from great feats of imaginative empathy or from bitter experience, but the work convinces, the poems have the feel of truth, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

Watch Olivia Cole read two poems from Restricted View:

I’m contemplating which Salt poetry collection I want to read next, and I’d welcome any suggestions.

Seamus Heaney at 70

This week is Seamus Heaney’s 70th birthday. The Irish national television station, RTE, has made a new documentary about the poet that airs tonight. It should be available for webstreaming for a week after broadcast at RTE’s Heaney at 70 website. I have no idea if it will be downloadable outside Ireland, but it’s worth a shot. [Update: Nope, not downloadable outside Ireland. Sorry to get your hopes up.]

stepping-stonesI’ve been reading Dennis O’Driscoll’s wonderful and massive book of interviews with Heaney, Stepping Stones over the past couple of months, and while it wouldn’t be right to review it without finishing it first, I must say it’s a marvelous consideration of the poet’s life, his memories and ruminations on the significant events that shaped him, and contains some fascinating insights into some of his best-known poems. Its strength is the digressive nature of the recorded conversations — obviously between two old friends who know Irish poetry inside out — which brings out both an air of candor and also creates an atmosphere of after-dinner conversation that sets the book apart from a typical dry, academic biography.

If you’ve never read Seamus Heaney, I’d recommend running out to your local bookstore and picking up Opened Ground, which collects the best poems from his career up to 1996. If you’re already a fan of his poetry, I recommend Stepping Stones highly.


Seamus Heaney’s biography at nobelprize.org

Watch a video of various Irish television & arts personalities talking about why they love the poetry of Seamus Heaney: