"Seven bums and fourteen legs,
a brazen ecstasy which begs
the question some of us are asking -
is Peter Goulding multi-tasking?"

Martin Parker, Editor, Lighten Up Online

Monday, December 8, 2014

Patrick O'Connell, the Irishman who saved Barcelona


Back in May 2004, Mick O'Keeffe wrote an article in the Irish Independent about a guy called Patrick O'Connell, whom I had never previously heard of.
A Dubliner by birth, he played football for a host of clubs including Belfast Celtic, Ashington FC, Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester United, also captaining Ireland. But it was as a manager that he really made his mark, managing Real Betis, Santander and Barcelona to great success. In fact he is still glorified in Cataluna for saving Barca from extinction during the early Franco years.
Despite this success, he died penniless and was buried in a paupers grave in London. I found the story so fascinating that I wrote a poem about it - probably more song lyrics than actual poetry - posted it on the football poets website and forgot about it.
Evidently, other people have been struck by the story down through the years for occasionally I get requests to reprint the poem, which I'm happy to say yes to.
I got an email yesterday from a guy called Colm Farry in Seville. He is a fundraiser for a new body called the Patrick O'Connell memorial fund which is trying to raise funds for a proper memorial to a great but forgotten Irishman. He asked me was it okay if they put music to the poem and sung it at one of their fundraisers!
Naturally I'm thrilled and delighted. Can't wait to hear it.
Most of my poems die a death. It's so very nice to have one that seems to have a bit of legs in it!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

We ain't gonna pay for our water


Inspired by Kevin Higgins' highly satirical piece (but is it a poem, Kevin? I think it works as well without the artificial line breaks) on Clare Daly's website, I had to have a go

We ain’t gonna pay for our water

They’ve tried to impose this but we’re gonna fight ‘em.
These taxes keep cropping up ad infinitum.
The long hand of history’s gonna indict ‘em.
We’ll soon have no money for porter.
And they tell us Sky Sports is a luxury item?
No, we ain’t gonna pay for our water.

They bring out each new mobile phone far too fast.
If you cannot keep up, you’ll be left in the past.
My wife has an S3, the family’s aghast,
but thankfully Christmas will sort ‘er.
But it’s all costing money – how long will it last?
Oh, we ain’t gonna pay for our water.

They tell us not to spend all our time in the shower,
ensuring the dial’s not switched to full power.
But our kids can’t get clean in a mere half an hour –
it’s more like an hour and a quarter.
They give you that look that would make grown men cower.
Oh, we ain’t gonna pay for our water.

We shout at the telly when the CEO speaks
about giving the contract another few tweaks.
I don’t think we’ve flushed the damned toilet for weeks –
the smell permeates each aorta.
And they’ll charge us a fortune to come fix our leaks?
Oh, we ain’t gonna pay for our water.

We’re angry as hell, yeah, we’re going berserk.
We’re not Miley Cyrus, we ain’t gonna twerk
while they roger us roughly with a wink and a smirk,
each mother, each son and each daughter.
It’s hard only going to the toilet in work.
No, we ain’t gonna pay for our water.

We’ve torn up the forms that this Bord Uisce sent.
The PPS numbers have garnered dissent.
Our pockets are empty, the money’s all spent –
it’s tied up in bricks and in mortar
(and in sunshine resorts that we like to frequent.)
Oh, we ain’t gonna pay for our water.

They said of oul’ Ireland our rivers run free
but we’re taxed every time that we go for a wee.
It’s a stream of expense that flows down to the sea,
with no sign that it’s gonna get shorter.
St. Brigid, St. Bernadette, please pray for me,
for we ain’t gonna pay for our water.

So remember the heroes of nineteen sixteen.
Did they have to fork out to keep themselves clean?
Or pay when they sat on the outside latrine
to be butchered like lambs to the slaughter?
So Ireland abú, let the masses convene!
Oh, we ain’t gonna pay for our water.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Abilene


Resurrecting this long-defunct blog to post up the poem that won me the title of Baffle Bard 2014 at Loughrea this weekend past. Poem should be read slowly and with a definite southern drawl! (I should point out also that poems had to be on the theme 'When the whistle blew')

Abilene

When that railroad whistle blew,
I knew just what I had to do –
a rooftop leap to carriage seventeen.
With my dynamite packed tight,
ancient wrongs would be put right,
as I robbed that doggone train to Abilene.

Sitting there above the track,
my memory meandered back
to times when I would work hard for a bean.
And I pondered fate’s dark plot,
which had brought me to this spot,
about to rob the train to Abilene.

It may seem beyond belief
but I wasn’t born a thief.
I worked damned hard and kept my nose real clean.
Way back east, in Philadelph,
I’d built a life up for myself
and had never even heard of Abilene.

I took a wife when I was young,
sharp of wits and sharp of tongue,
built a house and lived a life serene.
I amassed a pretty penny,
had some kids (not sure how many,
but one was Jack and one was Rosaline.)

Then one day, upon my land,
waving papers in his hand,
came a railroad man, rumbustious and keen.
And he said they’d bought the deeds
of my house and fields and seeds
to build a track right through to Abilene.




He had lawmen pointing guns
at my daughters and my sons,
mouthing words distasteful and obscene.
So, instead of getting stroppy,
I just loaded the jalopy,
piled up the highest you have ever seen.

With the other dispossessed,
we tipped the horse and headed west,
hurtin’ bad that folks could be so mean.
And my wife just sat and cried
on that long and dusty ride,
till I was sorry she was coming to Abilene.

It’s somewhat hazy in my mind –
I think we left some kids behind.
Neither of us checked the damned latrine.
But we still had plenty left,
so we didn’t feel too bereft
on our westward journey down to Abilene.

We lost another kid or two
when our horse dang lost a shoe,
tripped and stumbled into a ravine.
And I lost one of the girls,
the one with all the golden curls,
in a game of cards ten miles from Abilene.

Then the Injuns swooped one day,
snatched my wife and rode away.
I didn’t have the will to intervene.
She’d been getting on my nerves
that Injun got what he deserves,
and I jes’ shrugged and plodded on to Abilene.

There was me and one small kid,
and I ain’t proud of what I did,
but I got scared when she started turning green.
So I left her by a fence,
because there didn’t seem much sense
in the two of us not making Abilene.

I walked into that there town,
tongue bone dry and bare head brown,
begging to be brought to a shebeen.
I was thirsty, I was broke,
with two lips too cracked to smoke
and I knew right then I hated Abilene.

 

Well, I stole myself a gun
to right the wrongs that had been done
and sat up on the mountainside unseen,
to gain what info that I could
as that train passed through the wood
on its way, stuffed full of cash, to Abilene.

I had to lay to rest that ghost,
hit them where it hurted most,
and so I closely studied its routine.
And I took a little ride
with my eyes full open wide
aboard that rich old train to Abilene.

So the time had come at last,
the time to even up the past.
I took a final slug from my canteen.
The railroad had destroyed me.
Now the prospect overjoyed me
of robbing that there train to Abilene.

Through the tunnel burst the train,
like a rat out of a drain.
I counted every wagon to sixteen.
Then, as that railroad whistle blew,
shrill and welcome, right on cue,
I leapt aboard that train for Abilene.


I woke up in Oklahoma
after three weeks in a coma,
busted legs and busted arm and spleen.
I’d been found there on the track,
lying groaning on my back –
there hadn’t been a carriage seventeen.

Now I take my bowl and wait
just outside the station gate,
darned grateful for each nickel I can glean.
But I shudder and I bristle
when I hear that Goddam whistle
of the train, as it heads off to Abilene.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Percy French Prize for Serious Poetry?

For the first time in around nine years, I didn't attend the Percy French Prize for Comic Verse at the Strokestown Poetry Festival. The winner was Samantha Strachen, pictured above, with judge Eleanor Tiernan. Congratulations to Samantha.
The reasons I didn't attend were manifold. I didn't much like the way that the competition was advertised - it seemed to be looking for slammers and rappers, rather than people who can craft a comic verse. I didn't like the way that the number of shortlistees has been cut from ten down to eight and now down to six. I didn't like the way that the competition was pushed back to 10pm, as the highlight of the evening is always the craic in Anthony's afterwards and this would seriously eat into that time. And I have also taken a strong turn against serious poetry mainly due to the politics within it. All in all,  despite the fact that I have tremendous admiration for the people on the ground running the festival - Melissa, Pat, Kay, Shane et al - the weekend didn't inspire me to attend.
Now, I've been speaking to a couple of former shortlistees about the competition and, like me, they're not enamoured about the way things have gone. One of them, in England, added the fact that the nominations were announced so late that, had she been successful, she would have had to have declined, as Ryanair flights would have been too expensive.
But the main reason that all three of us felt disheartened by this year's "inaugural" comic verse competition was that none of us got through. Is that arrogant? Well, possibly. But, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to the winner, none of us failed to see anything remotely comic in the winning entry. You can read it here and then tell me it had you rolling around in the aisles.
I, like the others, hark back to Declan O'Brien and The Corinthians Letter to St Pauls; Josh Ekroy and his Vicrossloo (a non-rhyming poem); Sean Lyons and his trips to Fungerola and Shopping for Trousers; Martin Parker's subtle wit; John McDonagh's superbly crafted poems; Ian McDonald's ribald humour, Dee Gaynor's wry take on life, Margaret Hickey's subtle, yet perfectly metred observations (well done Margaret for making the shortlist by the way). The list goes on and on. Memorable poems. All crafted their works to maximise the humour but still retain the poetical authenticity. Sadly, I don't get this from 'Ideal.'
Of course, its not Samantha's fault. The judge picked it. But the disappointment for me is that there are so very few outlets for humorous verse in the world today. Nobody wants it; there are precious few competitions for it. Yet it is an art form that takes every bit as much skill to perfect as serious poetry. And Strokestown was the one competition every year we looked forward to because it seemed to appreciate the art form. Okay, it never printed up the winning poems (one step in the right direction for this year's organisers) but at least you knew the winning poem would have to be something special - both comic and well-crafted a la Percy French - to beat off the competition.
Now, sadly, there seems little point in entering again.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thwarting Father Time...

Pat D'Amico lives in Washington State and is a staunch supporter of the light verse scene. She has been plying her trade for thirty years - in fact, 184 of her poems appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
She writes a regular column for local paper North West Primetime and is frequently to be found among the contributors to Martin Parker's brilliant Lighten Up Online quarterly magazine, where I first came across her work.
Pat is a master of the short, wry, poignant, humorous, clever poem. She writes of things we see all around us but take for granted. "When I woke up one morning / and was trying to clear my head,/ I stretched a bit and nothing hurt - / I thought that I was dead." Her poems are tremendously popular with ordinary people, which is what good poems should be. Many of today's poets appear to write for their fellow poets - Pat writes for people like herself.
Anyhow, she's finally getting around to assembling some of her thousands of poems. "Thwarting Father Time"  is a compilation of the verses that have appeared in "Northwest Prime Time" over the last 8 years. To order, please send $5.95, postpaid in the USA, to Pilot Publications, 5203 111th Ave. NE, Kirkland, WA 98033 or contact pat@lightversepoetry.com.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chapbook printing

Smithereens Press
was recently set up with the intention of producing high-quality poetic texts of chapbook-length to be made available online. The decision to start the press was founded on the understanding that opportunities to release shorter texts, particularly those that may not meet the criteria of standard full-length collections, are restricted by financial realities and limited interest on the part of the more-established publishers. The ambition is to provide a venue for poets so that their work may be made widely available to a community of readers and poets here in Ireland and abroad.
The press recently released their first three publications (and have others forthcoming);

'The Server Room' - Conor O'Callaghan
'Rain' - Maurice Scully
'Zero at the Bone' - David Wheatley

As evident in their first publications, the press welcomes work from diverse poetic backgrounds and its editorial policy hopes to blur any reductive divisions between 'traditional' or 'experimental' poetry. Submission Guidelines can be found here
All enquiries and submissions may be made to the editor, Kenneth Keating, at smithereens.press@gmail.com.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Glencush Boreen

The sun was awake and shone bright his light for us
and the dew on the hills had a shimmering sheen.
The alarm had been raised by the chaffinches’ chorus
as I strolled with my love along Glencush Boreen.

The circling linnet sang love songs above us,
far up o’er the larch and the spruce so serene.
The morning itself had been crafted for lovers
on that long, lonely stretch called the Glencush Boreen.

She was pale as a statue and nearly as pious,
as fragile as porcelain, cool as a queen.
The sparrows chirped homage as they flittered by us
as we strolled arm in arm down the Glencush Boreen.

We sat by a stile when the heat bore down on us
in the shade of an oak, branches leafy and green.
And she snuggled up to me, did young Kathleen Connors
and we kissed long and soft by the Glencush Boreen.

But I was a lad of impetuous genus
and my hand sought out places it shouldn't have been.
“Stop you!” cried a voice like a hatchet between us,
though we were alone by the Glencush Boreen.

Startled we jumped and searched wildly around us
for the voice had the tone of a callous machine.
But no-one stood near, which served more to confound us,
all alone by the side of the Glencush Boreen.

“Stop you!” came the voice once again and it filled us
with terror, for still no-one there could be seen.
Then high on a branch, a cold, black shadow chilled us,
its beady eye trained on the Glencush Boreen.

The raven was large and its voice cut right through us.
“Stop you!” it squawked loud as if venting its spleen.
Kathleen leapt up high as if pricked by hot skewers
and ran like the wind up the Glencush Boreen.

I snarled at the bird that had managed to thwart us,
still watching me blindly, eyes callous and lean.
Then it bowed and flew off to its sons and its daughters
and left me alone on the Glencush Boreen.

I ran up the lane straining veins and aortas,
on up to the far distant lake of Diheen
and there found my love floating in the dark waters
that lie near the end of the Glencush Boreen.

Was she spooked by the fact that a raven addressed us?
Or was it the words pricked a conscience pristine?
Not knowing the reason both rankles and festers
whenever I think of the Glencush Boreen.

I told my strange tale to the judge and the jurors.
No guilt do I bear for the death of Kathleen
but it seems like a raven was able to skewer us
hook, line and sinker on the Glencush Boreen.

And sometimes I gaze out these iron-barred shutters,
whenever the clouds o’er the mountains convene
and I spy the dark shapes that alight on the gutters,
far, far from their nests on the Glencush Boreen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Upon the Samuel Beckett Bridge


Upon the Samuel Beckett Bridge,
I waited and I waited.
I waited till the day’s grey light
had all but dissipated.
I waited till the sun was gone
and hope was sacrilege.
I waited all my life upon
the Samuel Beckett Bridge.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Banks banks banks - Rant alert!


The photo above is of the Bank of Ireland branch in Dunboyne. Don't know when Google took this photo as the 6 parking spaces are always jammed. I only go to this branch once every six weeks or so and I invariably leave it in a suicidal state of mind. Everything they do is designed to thwart the personal customer and get you to do all your banking online, at a charge naturally. It's not the staff's fault - they're actually doing themselves out of a job and there's nothing they can do about it.
What bugs me the most is the way they try to dress up their new anti-customer initiatives as being greatly beneficial to the customer. They used to have a Quick Lodge box. Pop your envelope with money and lodgement slip into it and that was that. Now you have a touch screen machine and you have to have a card and a PIN. How does this benefit the older person? Or the person short of sight?
Last month I was in the above branch and there were 20 people in the queue for the cashier. And the one girl behind the desk was doing other work! There was actually nobody serving.
Now I hear you can't get a bank draft for less than 500 euro. And, unsurprisingly, this is a positive step. How?
The banks no longer take coin, even if you have bagged it up yourself, without imposing a hefty charge on putting it through a counting machine. Isn't it a part of the banking system that they accept cash?
They closed our local branch down in Stoneybatter years ago. Stoneybatter is an area mainly comprising older people. They transferred all the business to Phibsboro, over a mile away, or a walk and a bus ride away. Efficiencies. Not for the customer, its not.
Oh and bank charges are back with a vengeance. God help those people trying to renegotiate mortgages,


All part of the customer service

We’re closing the branch that you always frequent
for we do not believe it is money well-spent.
It’s better for you if we cut down on rent.
Yes, I know you don’t really deserve us.
There’s no need to thank us,
that’s why we are bankers –
it’s part of the customer service.

The ‘Quick Lodge’ is gone; you now need a card.
Just follow the screen, boy, it isn’t too hard.
Remember your PIN or you’ll find yourself barred.
There’s really no need to be nervous.
Efficiency means
you must deal with machines –
it’s all part of the customer service.

Bank drafts are gone, they’re a thing of the past.
Use banking online, it’s so easy and fast.
Computers are cheap and they’re all built to last –
ask any independent observers!
If you’re seventy nine,
you can still bank online –
it’s all part of the customer service.

We’re pleased to announce that bank charges are back
to help get our balance sheet back up on track.
Some critics have claimed it’s a retrograde tack –
oh, the saints in heaven preserve us!
As our profits accrue,
you will benefit too –
it’s all part of the customer service.

Don’t bother the teller, he’s too much to do
to spend half the morning a-listening to you.
In time he’ll be gone and the manager too.
The unions will never outswerve us!
It’s us, the bank’s bosses
who’ll help to cut losses.
This board of directors
is here to protect us.
At present the onus is
on paying our bonuses –
it’s all part of the customer service.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

All is quiet

All is quiet on New Year’s Day,

so Bono and his cohorts say.
But noise enough to wake the dead
is pounding all around my head
and cannot, will not go away.

Our deeds are reckoned; now we pay
for gulping down that sweet rosé
and it can, with no truth, be said
that all is quiet.

Somewhere near, the children play
on biscuit tin and metal tray.
The dog is howling to be fed;
the telly’s blaring Mister Ed.
Beneath the eiderdown, I pray
all may be quiet.