Reading at the Carleton Festival

I was delighted and honoured to read at the William Carleton Festival (it seems at bit of a misnomer to call it a summer school in mid-Sept;  but the calendar change seems to have worked well in terms of attendance and interest) in Corick House, near Augher, in the beautiful Clogher Valley in Co Tyrone. I was made very welcome, despite the faintly intimidating invitation in the light of my late uncle John Montague having been a patron, frequent attender and reader over so many years.

Indeed, the Carleton has a lot of family history for me. I remember my late parents attending when I was young – it was always an opportunity for my father and his younger brother to get together. Later I attended in my own right, and later again I read there in 2007, a year John himself could not be there. The twists and turns of my own life diverted me from poetry from some years, so it is only lately that the Carleton, and other literary festivals, have come back into my annual rhythm again.



With all that background, and in the year following the death of my prestigious uncle, it was a great honour to be invited to read, which I did on the opening day of the festival. I was delighted to meet so many familiar faces again, including the poet Noel Monahan, and Kay Muhr and Brian Lambkin, as well as fellow Ederney native, Philomena O’Neill (née Cassidy), with her husband Cathal. I was particularly pleased that Philomena was there to hear ‘Homelands of Glendarragh’, as I was sure she’d get every nuance of the litany of townland names that thread through that particular poem.

The poems I read were:

  • Cabot Trail (Black Wolf on a White Plain, Summer Palace, 2001)
  • Anatomy of a Horse (Tribe, Dedalus, 2008)
  • The Taking of Christ (Washing Windows? Arlen Press, 2017)
  • The Opposite Birds (Poetry Ireland Review, 122, 2017)
  • Homelands of Glendarragh (The Townlands of the Glendarragh Valley, Ederney Festival Committe 2010)
  • 3 Letterboy Road (The Interpreter’s House, 63, 2016)
  • Sehnsucht (forthcoming in Skylight 47, 9, 2017)
  • Apparition (Poetry Ireland Review, 120. 2016)
  • The Silent Pianist (Black Wolf on a White Plain, Summer Palace, 2001)
  • Feral (The Spark, 30, 2017)

The audience was particularly receptive and warm and I am grateful for their attentiveness and appreciation. I mentioned that I was sorry that the painting of Lustre by George Stubbs, whose work inspired ‘Anatomy of the Horse’, was no longer hanging at reception in Corick House (I had inquired but the staff on duty did not know what had come of it). The final poem, ‘Feral’, was in memory of my late uncle, John, who partly inspired me to write it.

I am indebted to Pat Montague for his fulsome introduction and insight into my work. We also had a good conversation about our common ancestry.

I would also like to thank Alison Humphreys of the Carlisle Bookshop in Omagh who very kindly took my books to sell (with some success!).

I would like to again express my thanks to the William Carleton Festival Committee for their kind invitation to read. I am delighted that the Carleton has survived into its second quartile as Aughnacloy historian Malcolm Duffey put it. I would also like thank Jack Johnston, President, and Michael Fisher, Chair and current Director, of the William Carleton Society, for their hospitality, and to Eileen McKenna who arranged the invitation. It was a lovely experience and I hope to return in the future.

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