Poetry Blast: Alan Gillis & Leontia Flynn

For our May Poetry Blast we are proud to present two poets from Northern Ireland.The Ulster Way by Alan Gillis and Airports by Leontia Flynn are read by D.C. actor Patrick Flannery.

Alan Gillis

 Alan Gillis was born in Belfast in 1973 and lives in Scotland where he is Lecturer in English at The University of Edinburgh and editor of Edinburgh Review.

His first collection, Somebody, Somewhere (2004) was short-listed for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award and won the Rupert and Eithne Strong Award for best first collection. Hawks and Doves (2007), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. His latest collection Here Comes the Night was published in 2010.


The Ulster Way


This is not about burns or hedges.

There will be no gorse. You will not

Notice the ceaseless photosynthesis

Or the dead tree’s thousand fingers,

the trunk’s inhumanity writhing with texture,

as you will not be passing into farmland.

Nor will you be set upon by cattle,


ingleberried, haunching and haunting

with their eyes, their shocking opals,

graving you, hoovering and scooping you,

full of a whatness that sieves you through

the abbatoir hillscape, the runnel’s slabber

through darkgrass, sweating for the night

that will purple to a love-bitten bruise.


All this is in your head. If you walk,

Don’t walk away, in silence, under the stars’

Ice-fires of violence, to the water’s darkened strand.

For this is not about horizons, or their curving

limitations. This is not about the rhythm

Of a songline. There are other paths to follow.

Everything is about you. Now listen.

Leontia Flynn


Leontia Flynn was born in County Down and now lives in Belfast. She is the author of several full-length collections of poetry, including Profit and Loss (2011), Drives (2008), and These Days (2004), which won the Forward Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year) and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Award. She has also been awarded the Eric Gregory Award and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

Fran Brearton, writing in The Guardian described the poet as : "One of the most strikingly original and exciting poetic voices to have emerged from Northern Ireland since the extraordinary debut by Paul Muldoon 35 years ago."

Find out more about Leontia on her website.




Airports are their own peculiar weather.

Their lucid hallways ring like swimming pools.

From each sealed lounge, a pale nostalgic sky

burns up its gases over far-flung zones,

and the planes, like a child’s mobile, hang at random.


Like hospitals, they are their own dominion.

We have tried their dishes with plastic knives.

We have packed our bags ourselves, no one has tampered with them,

and as we pass through the eye of the charged needle,

our keys and wallets drop from us like stones.


But now we are passing quicker, colder, clearer,

From East to West un-policed, a gate of light

which lengthens like some animal proboscis

Or a hoop bowled along at speed beside the sun.

And when we return, the airports remain in us,

We rock, dry-eyed, and we are not at home.


Poetry Blast: Siobhán Campbell

“Acerbic, cool, controlled, Siobhan Campbell gives us poetry with attitude.”

We are delighted to present the work of Siobhán Campbell for our first ever Poetry Blast. Siobhán is from Dublin and she currently lives in Washington D.C. She tells us that critics have complimented her work by calling it 'bitter and twisted'. What do you think?

Siobhán Campbell is the author of five books of poetry from Seren Books and Blackstaff Press in the UK and Dufour Editions in the US. Siobhan was born in Dublin and spent several years in New York and San Francisco. She has won awards in the National, Troubadour, Mslexia and Wigtown International competitions.  She has broadcast her work on RTE and BBC  radio.

She lives in Washington DC with her husband and she has three children.

If you'd like to read some of Siobhán's poetry her 2010 collection Cross Talk is available from retailers including Amazon. Her earlier collection "The Permanent Wave" is also available.


Don’t bring haw into the house at night

Or in any month with a red fruit in season

Or when starlings bank against the light,

Don’t bring haw in. Don’t give me reason

To think you have hidden haw about you.

Tucked in secret, may its thorn thwart you.

Plucked in blossom, powdered by your thumb,

I will smell it for the hum of haw is long,

Its hold is low and lilting. I will know

You want me buried in the deep green field

Where god knows what is rotting.

These Women

“These men are no dreamers”

-MacDiarmaid, “The Wreck of the Swan”

These women are no dreamers.

They make happen the full wake,

the kettle hopping,  the oven warm.


They take death in hand

And force him to be civil.

In their lighting, the spitting candle calms

And the rosary settles out of irony.


These women are not kind

If you did not iron the sheets you borrowed,

If you bring batch instead of sliced,

What good is that for sandwiches?


These women bar all holds in the

screamed stall of the birthroom.

Instead they ask for the gummed grit

They found for themselves in that

most alone of coupled moments.

These women know how to mash potatoes

so that they charge despair

out of a teenager.


They have followed a father

and a small child on a combine harvester,

not to pick up the pieces of the boy’s arm


and bring them to his mother,

but because they felt the call of the back field

like something rotting in the feed shed

before chief rat jumps out.


These women will not pass through

The horse meadow, even on a summer night,

For there they have felt that the world might  let us go.


They’ve seen the consequence of that.

Ironing keeps it at bay

and doing what is right.

Poetry (is a) Blast!

Solas Nua featured eight poets in What’s the Story?, the book we co-published with The Stinging Fly for Irish Book Day. We are delighted by the positive reception the book has received from the public and the press. Ron Charles, fiction editor of The Washington Post, called the book ‘a pot of literary gold.Solas Nua's Paddy Meskell is here to announce a new literary initiative, a monthly Poetry Blast to showcase.

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When I think about poems, I think of dry stone walls in the west of Ireland. The stones are the words of the poem and the finished wall is the intricate pattern of lines and curves, sounds and silences, rhymes and rhythms that make up a great poem. As stones are the stuff of walls, so words are the stuff of poetry. And finding the right word and putting it in the right place next to the right word is the stuff of fine poetry.

We often call poets ‘wordsmiths’. To me, it conjures up a picture of a skilled person transforming words through the intense heat of labor, creativity and imagination into the magic and mystery that is a poem. Just like the blacksmith in my village in Castleconnell transformed metal into tools.

I love reading poems. I especially love reading them out loud.  Often, I feel that I am only skimming the surface of the poet’s intended meaning, but the sound of reading a good poem out loud is something to hold in the ear and roll around and savor.

Each month, we’ll produce a video to introduce a talented Irish poet, give some content for one of their poems, and then read it aloud. Sometimes the reading will be performed by the poet, sometimes by actors, or friends of Solas Nua. We invite you to engage with the poem and the poet by sharing your reactions and thoughts about the poem in the comments.

If you are an Irish poet and you’d like us to consider your work for the Solas Nua Poetry Blast you can reach us at contact@solasnua.org