I got a warm welcome from Paul Casey and company at Ó Bhéal last night which is, it turns out, a very relaxed, well organised poetry event. The night began with a poetry challenge. Members of the audience were invited to throw out five words which then had to be included in a poem written on the spot.
Last night's five words were: light, heart, goat, food and snotty. Yes, 'snotty'. Everybody got to scribbling and several bravehearts got up and read their finished poems, including the wonderful Matthew Sweeney. A young woman called Julie Field was pronounced winner after her poem received the warmest audience response.
Then it was my turn and I read from my two collections, my pamphlet and from my forthcoming book The Juno Charm. I wasn't nervous for once and the audience were responsive, so it was a good reading (for me, anyway.)
Nuala with Matthew
Matthew Sweeney, with poet Billy Ramsell, listening intently
An open mic followed and it was the usual blend of stunning work, drama (one young poet had brought an umbrella as a prop) and performance. There were some lovely poems read and recited, including a moving elegy from a poet called Tadge or Tadhg, depending on who said his name; and also new work from Matthew Sweeney.
Magdalena - poet
Stand outs for me were a poem about his sister from young American writer Grant Burgess, who hails from Portland, Oregon, where, he assures me, 'it rains even more than Galway'. A love poem from the lovely Tina Pisco. And a rollicking, bold short story set in New York which involved a cement truck and a belligerent Irish man, read by Conor M. (Sorry, Conor, your surname won't come back to me.)
A German doctor, who had never been to a literary reading before, sat at at my table; he was bowled over by what he heard, really amazed, and came to the conclusion that writing is great therapy. All in all it was a very enjoyable evening of poetry and chat. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in the Republic of Cork on a Monday evening and are looking for free, quality entertainment.