Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Open Mic Night!

Following a rather hectic month of book-launches, readings and festivals (the literary kind!) I took a well-deserved self-awarded break yesterday and sauntered over to Enniscoe house with my good wife, Eileen, and spent a few hours partaking in age-old genteel customs like afternoon tea and scones (and they were scrummy-licious - fresh baked, still hot so that the butter melted and the jam...I digress!) and strolls in the beech woods; including a diversion to follow a sign enticingly pointing the way to the 'Pleasure Grounds' which we never found and retired exhausted to sit in the shade while appreciating the delphinium spires. Not, however, before having a nose at the 'Big House' though; well, you have to don't you - to try and catch a glimpse of how they live; they were out, I think!
Oh, yes! The 1st Open Mic Night on Achill island at Gielty's pub (the most westerly pub in the whole of Ireland) went fabulously with poets coming from as far away as Swinford and Westport. We heard some great poetry and some very fine songs were provided by Alan Gielty.
On the night we also raffled an Irish folk melodeon which everyone wanted to win. The lady who won it has already signed up for lessons with this year's Scoil Acla Summerschool. The traditional music that followed, by the regular trad. musicians, really went down a storm. Oh, and I seem to recall a lot of Guinness was consumed.
The next night is to be held on Saturday, 11th July at 8.30pm through to ....
Hoping to see you there - if you plan to perform you need to register by 9pm. All Free and All are Welcome. As many singer/songwriters and poets as possible and if you want to just listen or have a favourite poem or two you'd like to read to an appreciative and supportive audience...there's no finer place! Catch Achill's latest cultural Nightlife - Open Mic Poetry & Music Night!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Force 12 Report & 'Ordinary Miracle Roadshow Tour'

I am back in Achill after a fabulous weekend at The Force 12 Writers festival in Belmullet. The weekend seems to go from strength to strength. It was very smoothly and professionally directed by Pat Cotter. I enjoyed all the readings of participating writers which were of a very high standard and are a credit to the country. I attended two excellent workshops; the first a poetry workshop with poet, Paula Meehan - excellent! And a Short Story workshop with Clare Wigfall which was very inspirational. Both ran excellent sessions and made us work to produce material that we can now work on further.
I was very impressed by Billy Ramsell's reading - a performance poet to watch! Also, it was fabulous to meet, and hear, the reading of Theo Dorgan - such a friendly, approachable writer who is a credit to his profession; he is also a good sailor: I snapped up his collection of poetry 'What this Earth Cost Us' which compiles the poems of his first two out of print collections at a bargain price of 12 euros. His inscription for me was - 'For Mark, in anticipation of the new work, with all good wishes, Theo.' What a lovely guy.
Mayo poet, John Corless, launched his first poetry collection at teach John Joe's on the Mullet peninsula. His reading was hilarious, full of wit and satire with a practised delivery that was faultless. I wish him every success. he has certainly earned it. John is a very friendly and approachable guy, as well.
In addition, I met a very nice, very creative, man who is currently exhibiting paintings at Aras Inis Gluaire Arts Centre in Belmullet. I suppose 'multi-talented artist', or 'creative genius', might be the most accurate way of describing Michael (Mike) Absalom. As well as the fabulous exhibition of his current abstract paintings, I was impressed when he read his poetry - Mike has had a long and varied career as an artist including Performance Poetry, and the best I can do is to direct you to his website www.mikeabsalom.com so that you can appreciate his enormous multi-medium talents for yourself. I hope to see him in Achill, shortly.
I stayed at The Sea Rod Inn at Doohoma; somewhere I had not visited before but was recommended to me. It is owned and run by Mick and Bernie. I was very well looked after and would recommend a stay for anyone travelling in that area of County Mayo. It's a nice quiet spot overlooking the beautiful waters of Blacksod Bay with views to the mountains of Achill island. What more could you want. I could almost see my house across the water. Ahhh...
There was a rake of friends there at the Festival and we all caught up on each others news and views, and a good time was had by all; especially with all the fabulous food we were plied with for free, courtesy of Mayo County Council. How do they do it? Wild salmon; crabs claws; prawns; strawberry pavlova; apple pie; curry and chips, ... as much as you can eat - tables overflowing with fine cuisine. Fair play to them; if they ever need to make a small charge I shan't complain.
And so it is that I am now preparing for my next venue reading on 'The Ordinary Miracle Roadshow Tour' which, through this Summer, will take me to most of the libraries in County Mayo. I intend to thoroughly enjoy myself, and look forward to meeting some of you. My next reading will take place at 8pm this Friday, 19th June, at Ballina library, here in County Mayo.
Next week I am reading closer to home, at Achill Sound library on Achill island, at 8pm on Wednesday, 24th June. Hoping to see some of you on the tour.
The Italian Lonely Planet On-Line guide to Achill Island, and www.ireland.com, kindly requested to use some of my images. I was very pleased to be asked. I shall do everything I can to go on promoting this beautiful part of Ireland in both images and verse.
So, all in all, it has been a great week, and I look forward to a nice drive on Friday up through that lovely country by Pontoon,Lough Conn and Lough Cullin; and on up to Killala to call on a good friend of mine before my reading at Ballina library.
A huge thanks again to all the staff at the Arts Office at Mayo County Council, Castlebar, for organising an excellent festival.
Oh, I almost forgot - the photo is called 'Bronze'.
Have a good week.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Force 12 Writers' Festival is here!

It's here again! One of my favourite weekends in the calendar year - the excellent annual writing festival up at Aras Inis Gluaire, Belmullet, Co. Mayo.
The director of the weekend this year is Patrick Cotter, who I'm looking forward to meeting - he directs the Munster Literature Centre. Some great writers are lined up as guest readers including John Corless, Liz O'Donaghue, Clare Wigfall, Theo Dorgan and Writer in Residence, √Čils Ni Dhuibhne. I'm looking forward to reading from my own poetry collection and doing a couple of workshops on Saturday.
Oh - did I mention loads of fabulous writers from all over the country attend, many of them good friends of mine.
So, we all hope to be entertained, inspired, and our ears assailed with great writing and readings. I'm staying at the Sea Rod Inn at Doohoma so I'm not complaining. And I'm looking forward to the heatwave we ususallly have over this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes.
Thank you to Mayo Arts Council who provide this free each year to anyone who wishes to attend. Long may it continue.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Finding the Colour!

Okay. So here are the colour versions after a tweak in Flickr's 'lightroom' (left-click on images to see them individually and better quality). I like them, and so do other people going by initial reactions - especially the one with the pebbles in the foreground.
These were shot on 9MB fine files on a Fuji Finepix S9600 camera at 100ASA, hand-held for those of you that are tech/gadget buffs. I can barely press the button!
One useful thing this camera does have is a great feature which will show you if your exposure is capturing all that lovely detail or not so you can make adjustments before you even shoot. This allows you to capture both highlight and shadow detail - or else to sacrifice one or the other if the latitude of light is so great that the in-camera processor cannot capture it all. The point being that you are the one in control - making decisions based on info; an informed choice. Not the camera's idea of what picture IT wants!
Happy shooting - by the way you can get this camera for about £200 on Amazon.com. It is packed with features and is very similar to the old SLRs except; it has a fixed soom lens covering 28 - 300mm in old money.
I still like the black and whites :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chasing the Light!

Last evening was a lovely evening. So I hopped in the car and got myself down to Keel where I knew the light would be pretty good, and not only that - I would be rewarded with great seascapes/cloudscapes/beachscapes.
And I wasn't wrong. Over the course of an hour or two the sea went out, the clouds constantly changed, and I ran about like a mad thing - lying on the beach, looking backwards through my legs, balancing on one arm. But it was well worth it because I shot about 150 images. Many good images, some great images, and some even better!
Though they were all shot in colour I wanted to show you some I converted to good old black and white. I reckon you can't beat a b&W well-printed image with a full range of tones from black through to white, with a white board over-mat and with a simple black frame. Instant art! It looks so cool it's timeless. So, I hope you like them - because I do :) Oh, all right, I'll post the colour versions next time.
ps. - left-click to see images on white background individually.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Father Mountain Island Poem

The sun moves its hand
over the blue waves
up onto the land
huddled on the green hillside
white cottages smile

the blue mountain looks on
it knows everything about the island
the mountain knows the blue sky
the white clouds the ocean
the track through the moor;
they are brothers and sisters.

the mountain is the island's guardian
everything comes and goes but the big mountain
it blesses the island
it protects its people
it sustains and nourishes

the mountain is the centre
round which everything moves
all spin about it
making stories out of time -
it is the island's axis

the mountain watches but does not respond
the mountain is the island's memory
the mountain is the island's Father
it stands outside time
it absorbs all without judgement
the mountain's love is all-embracing

sunlight plays on its wisdom lines
wind plays about its head
rain replenishes its skin.

(c) Mark F Chaddock 2009

The Island's Big Mountain

Yesterday afternoon I was out shooting landscapes on the island. I am always drawn to our largest mountain, 'Sliabh mhor', or, 'big mountain'. I suppose it is because it lends itself so well to be used as a backdrop to scenic images. In addition, it is a 'good mountain', in the sense that it is big, rocky, and more or less the shape, from many angles, that a child might draw for a mountain. Also, mountain-walking used to be my main passion so I'm biased.
Slievemore is excellent to photograph almost any time of day, and from any direction and distance. These images above show what can be achieved by placing something interesting in the foreground like the small lochan I used here. The white bog-cotton is also helping the foreground to be interesting, and of course the water is a lovely blue. Slievemore mountain is in the background and, though it is quite small in this image in comparison with the image size, its effect is significant. It draws our eye and gives us that sense of 'from here to there' which makes for a successful landscape image. Having been carefully composed so that the mountain is on the skyline and centre our eye is led to it - and it is a natural resting point, we keep being led back to it when we look at the image - everything leads us there.
The other image, again of Slievemore mountain, works in a slightly different way - it uses the Rule of Thirds and Leading Lines.
If you imagine the image frame divided into thirds in both horizontal and vertical lines, anything you place on the intersection of those lines will draw your viewer's eye. It is an aesthetic position, very close to the 'Golden Mean' used by painters.
In addition if you can find some lines like a path or telegraph poles, or even the ridge of a hill that leads towards your subject, it can greatly enhance your image and lead your viewer to your subject. And this is what the track does here in this instance. The converging lines of the track also help give a feeling of distance.
Have a good one.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Blessing The Statue

This is my friend John enjoying the sun.
Following my trip up Minaun mountain here on Achill last Monday I sat down and drafted a poem. Then re-drafted. Then re-drafted. It still isn't finished and might not be for months. But it's born and taking it's first tentative steps towards maturity. It's beginning to 'feel' how I want it to. See the initial draft and the current 3rd draft below.

Blessing Ceremony of Our Lady Star of The Sea, Minaun mountain, Achill island, 1st June 2009.
~ for Paddy and John

Blue on blue - sky, ocean, air,
soft springy turf and scattered stones
white rock summit cairn, beckoning, inviting;

we thronged expectantly, hushed.

We had come up slowly
like ants on Minaun mountain
to find the island's still centre
to witness the blessing
of 'Our Lady Star of the Sea.

Each of us, humbled in our journey,
gained entry, it seemed,
to a realm above man's;
looking about him a man remarked
'If I were a billionaire
I couldn't buy this.'

We sang 'Amazing Grace'
strains drifting among us
like perfumed incense
were caught and held briefly,
then, on a slight breeze
were carried to Clare island,
to Croagh Patrick over Clew Bay
until they came back again
as a quiet refrain - a thanksgiving.

Making our peace,
we shook hands with neighbours -
friends and strangers -
and turned our gaze to the sky
where Our Lady Star of The Sea
gazed on lovingly, arms outstretched.
And we knew this day
that people, islands, earth, sky,
were All Truly Blessed.

So that's where i got to with the 1st draft. Here is the 3rd, a couple of hours later:

pilgrims and priests
above the island
we climb the mountain
to witness a blessing

blue on blue
and scattered stones
white summit cairn
white marble figure
we throng expectantly
then hush

people islands earth sky
boats fishermen sailors
circle about us
until All are Blessed

strains of Amazing Grace
drift like incense
are held momentarily
then carried to Clare island
Achillbeg, Inishbiggle, Inishturk,
Caher, the Inishkeas until,
a quiet refrain
returns over the calm Ocean

we shake hands
offer peace
turn eyes skywards
to where
Our Lady Star of The Sea
gazes lovingly arms outstretched

we come down again
stepping lighter
among heather and stones
having been to the mountain top
having seen from the mountain's Summit.

(c) Mark F Chaddock 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009


It's a Bank holiday here in Ireland today - the island is heaving with visitors, motorhomes, motorbikes and cabriolet sports cars - it's an invasion! Mind you with the weather as fabulous as it has been I'm not surprised everyone headed for sea and beaches. And we do have five of the best beaches in these isles.
I decided to avoid the crowds and head up high - you can drive up Minaun Heights in the centre of the island and have grandstand views of the island and half the mainland (or so it seems!) to boot!. It just happens that today, on the summit, at 2pm there was a blessing Ceremony being held for a newly-erected Italian marble statue - Our Lady, Star of the Sea. So i tootled up there to witness it and catch a cooling breeze.
And I was very glad I did because not only is the scenery breathtaking but the ceremony was uplifting as more than a hundred of us that climbed to the summit to witness the blessings by the Parish priests. All around us the Atlantic ocean sparkled, and other islands floated lazily in the heat-haze. Across Clew bay, Ireland's Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick's pyramidal peak loomed large. Some people stood, a few sat a little distance away, others a little apart, lost in their own thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Next, I headed down to Keel beach, Tramore Strand, down the island, which was thronging with people. There must have been two hundred cars, children playing, surfers surfing, and some people just chilling out. I ate a 99 ice cream cone, dropped in at 'The Beehive' for a cappucino and to pin up a poster to promote my poetry book, and drove back home for a celebratory meal of salmon, summer pudding, and plenty of sparkling stuff with Eileen. I do love my life.
Have a good one!