Sunday, 24 February 2013

Highly Recommended 24th March, 2003.

Robert Archambeau has been called 'our smartest poetic sociologist' by the Journal of Contemporary LiteratureA poet and literary critic whose works include the  just published The Poet Resigns: Poetry in a Difficult World (2013), Laureates and Heretics (2010), Home and Variations (2004) and, Citation Suite (1997). He has also edited a number of works, including Word Play Place: Essays on the Poetry of John Matthias, The &NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing, and Letters of Blood: English Writings of Göran Printz-PåhlsonHe teaches English  at Lake Forest College near Chicago.

Published February, 2013. 

Earlier this week he  shared this paper which he delivered at the The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900 called 'The Open Word: A letter to Peter O'Leary' on the Samizdat blog, which is one I highly recommend subscribing to:

Robert's author page at Amazon will provide links to the various books still in print:


Galway's Western Writers' Centre - Ionad Scríbhneoirí Chaitlín Maude - was established approximately ten years ago by writer and founder of Galway's Cúirt literature festival, Fred Johnston. 

In that time it has organised festivals, creative writing courses in Irish and English, book launchings, as well as innovative events, such as a writers' residency (the very first) at a Galway hospital, a 'Poetry on the Buses' project, a 'Poetry Day' event, a Dylan Thomas weekend at Ennistymon, Co. Clare and the annual Forge at Gort Literature festival in Gort, Co. Galway. 

The Western Writers' Centre also organised, in co-operation with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, a weekend celebration of Northern Irish literature, which included work in Ulster Scots. For some time the Centre published a full-colour literary news sheet which was sent to arts' groups and centres throughout the West of Ireland. The Centre has also worked on projects with Aosdána. 

The Centre is a drop-in resource for information on writing, publishing, editing and general literary advice, is the only writers' centre West of the Shannon, and is ably administrated by Barbara Quinn, a native of Inishmore, Aran Islands.

Future plans for the development of the Centre include finding suitable premises which will also house a museum to commemorate the literary heritage of the West of Ireland, and a larger working and reading space. 

The Centre's most recent project is a successful on-line Creative Writing course covering poetry and prose. The course, which extends over eight sessions, engages participants with various styles in poetry and prose as well as providing interactive follow-up and discussion and reading suggestions. To date, the course has attracted participants from Australia and the UK and United States, as well as closer to home. Fees are modest ( €150 and €80 concession) and full details can be obtained from or (091) 564822 ext 312. 

The Western Writers' Centre relies on sponsorship, individual and corporate  and is interested to hear from anyone who might consider such support. Sponsorship participation receives free admission to courses and events in any given year. Sponsorship is acknowledged on all press and publicity material and ranges from €50 (limited access) to full access at €250. The Centre has a Facebook page and is particularly interested to work with or for arts' groups, community groups and festivals.


Mick Timony sent this link to an online arts and letters paper which promises a mix of literature, aesthetics, ideas, criticism, culture, trends and breakthroughs.  If your Sunday paper isn't big enough, look through the Arts & Letters Daily here:


University Presidents—Speak Out!

In May 1943, James B. Conant, the president of Harvard University, published an essay in The Atlantic Monthlytitled “Wanted: American Radicals.” Conant was on the lookout for “a group of modern radicals in the American tradition,” whose ideas would encompass Thoreau and Whitman, Emerson and Marx, and who would be “lusty in wielding the axe against the root of inherited privilege” so as to prevent the growth of “a caste system.” His proposal? The imposition of “really effective inheritance and gift taxes and the breaking up of trust funds and estates.” Conant, whose essay infuriated Harvard’s well-heeled trustees, was hardly a radical himself; he was, and would always remain, a man of the establishment. But in those days, college and university presidents did not limit their activities to fundraising, shmoozing, paper-pushing and administration. They had access to bully pulpits, and they occupied them. 
Full article is here:


Yahia Lababidi is one of the most eclectic and stimulating writers and it was a pleasure to read one of his essays on Oscar Wilde. Lababidi has been a fan and advocate for Wilde for most of his writing life and here looks at the lasting appeal which Wilde has with the public.

The currently high esteem Oscar Wilde is held in by the French and Germans may seem odd to an Englishman. But the enduring fascination Wilde exerts on the modern mind is certainly reciprocated in contemporary England — the stained glass window in Westminister Abbey (1995) — alongside luminaries like Pope, Housman, Marlowe; the monument near Trafalgar Square(1998) as well as the more recent Oliver Park film adaptations ofDorian Gray (2009), The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) andThe Ideal Husband (1999). In fact, in the last decade, there have been at least seven film adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Gray alone; and needless to say, the effervescent plays themselves (which established Wilde’s reputation as ubiquitous wit) are never quite offstage.
In 2004, at a Sotheby’s auction of a trove of Wilde material almost everything was sold to private buyers or British dealers, with the notable exception of a vitriolic attack (Wilde Myth, an unpublished book) by his tempestuous lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, as well as a photograph of Wilde on his deathbed. Which is to say that, over a hundred years after his death, Oscar Wilde still lives in the public imagination and that love for him unabashedly dares to declare its name.
Read the essay here:

YAHIA LABABIDI‘s latest book is Trial by Ink: From Nietzsche to Belly Dancing (Common Ground Publishing, 2010). His Signposts to Elsewhere (Jane Street Press, 2008) was selected for “Books of the Year, 2008″ by The Independent (UK). His essays and poems appear in such publications as Harper’s, AGNI, World Literature Today, Hotel Amerika, Philosophy Now as well as several anthologies. To date, Lababidi’s writing has been translated into Arabic, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish and Italian.

How and more importantly why, do some books seem to come from nowhere onto a best-sellers list only to disappear the following week? This article from The Wall Street Journal gives some idea of the value of such a listing:

Last August, a book titled "Leapfrogging" hit The Wall Street Journal's list of best-selling business titles upon its debut. The following week, sales of the book, written by first-time author Soren Kaplan, plunged 99% and it fell off the list.
Soren Kaplan
Something similar happened when the hardcover edition of "Networking is Dead," was published in mid-December. A week after selling enough copies to make it onto the Journal's business best-seller list, more hardcover copies of the book were returned than sold, says book-sales tracker Nielsen BookScan.
It isn't uncommon for a business book to land on best-seller lists only to quickly drop off. But even a brief appearance adds permanent luster to an author's reputation, greasing the skids for speaking and consulting engagements.
Mr. Kaplan says the best-seller status of "Leapfrogging" has "become part of my position as a speaker and consultant."  
Full article here:


With the publication of Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, John Berryman finally broke into the public consciousness as a boldly original and innovative poet. Nevertheless, no one was prepared for the innovation that would follow, a collection that would seal Berryman's reputation as an essential American original: 77 Dream Songs, which was published in 1964 and awarded a Pulitzer Prize, unveiled the unforgettable and irreppressible alter egos "Henry" and "Mr. Bones" in a sequence of sonnet-like poems whose wrenched syntax, scrambled diction, extraordinary leaps of language and tone, and wild mixture of high lyricism and low comedy plumbed the extreme reaches of a human soul and psyche. Djelloul Marbrook shared:
John Berryman reading 'Life, Friends, is Boring'.

In succeeding years Berryman added to the sequence, until there were nearly four hundred collected as The Dream Songs.

Berryman reading from The Dream Songs 1968, only four years before his suicide.

You can find transcripts of his poetry, and further information at the Academy of American Poets:


Éigse Michael Hartnett have announced 
dates for their 2013 Festival. 

This festival is an exciting weave of Irish and international poets and writers, singers, dancers, actors and storytellers with the weekend comprised of readings, lectures, concerts, dance and theatre performances. Irish culture, exciting, warm, participative, is on show, what poet Michael Hartnett would have described as the ‘harp side of the Irish coin’. Irish poets and writers collide with international literary guests creating a festive weekend that lends itself to lively gatherings, easy conversations and spirited debates. Events sprawl over the town of Newcastle West, a medieval town described as the heart of Desmond country.  Bustling and energetic, the town’s library, court house, medieval castle, shops, pubs and streets become ad hoc performances spaces. The festival’s outreach programme extends into all the towns primary schools, a wide number of the county’s post primary schools, the community hospital for the elderly, day care centres and the local Cheshire Home.

Dates for the 2013 Festival 
Thursday April 25th – Saturday April 27th

Fred Johnston

Fred Johnston's commitment to the Western Writer's Centre often overshadows his own ongoing career as a writer. Following on from his success in publishing his work at home and abroad we took a look at a selection of his poetry and were hugely impressed. 

Johnston's poetry expresses a keen sensibilty to the fragile nature of the human psyche immersed as we are in the brutality of the world around us.  The poem L'Abbatoir expresses this very Beckettian awareness of the indignity which life often meets out. Like Beckett too, all three of the poems quoted below were originally written in French and subsequently translated. 

 (Nantes, le août, 2008)

La petite femme qui écrit dans son cahier au bord de la rivière
Me dit que des guerres, des meurtres et des catastrophes soient
Les sujets des cahiers de ce genre; et dans la poche d'une joile femme
Au bord d'une rivière, on peut trouver toutes les horreurs du monde,
Les promesses délabrées et les peines qui n'existent que dans l'abattoir.

The Abbatoir

The young woman writing in her note-book beside the river
Tells me that wars, murders and appalling tragedy are
The things one finds in that type of jotter: and in
A pretty girl’s pocket, at the river, we can find all the horrors
Of this world; broken promises and the kind of distress that exists
only in an abbatoir.

Any dealing with Johnston will quickly convince you that he is a very active, political and insightful commentator, often making life difficult for those who choose complacency over practical solutions. This has resulted in his gradual marginalisation by those in authority and in his sense of being a voice calling in the wilderness. In his poetry too there is a sense of his being an outsider, of being caught between two worlds and this is very clearly expressed in Le Rêve de mon Enfance.

Le Rêve De Mon Enfance

Mon enfance circulait
entre les deux pays

comme une rêve
qui s’interpose entre

les deux cauchemars, ou
une liaison qui éclate pendant la guerre –

De cette façon,
on nait hors de sa géographie,

sans regarder aux circonstances –
on vit comme un môme

qui est perdu dans
l’hypermarché, entre le kawa

et les cadavres, qui gerbe,
qui pousse un cri, sans réconfort –

et un flic, comme la mort, le suave.

Child’s Dream

My childhood ran
between two countries

like a dream
intruding between

Two nightmares, or
A love affair that breaks out in wartime –

Thus was I born
outside geography

regardless of circumstances;
like a kid

lost in a supermarket
between the coffee

and empty bottles, throwing up
screaming, inconsolable –

and a cop, like death, delivers him. 

Archetypal images such as the lost child cut through the hint of biography here, exposing the  experience of the wider race, lost and abandoned in an unnatural and price tagged existence. The only sense of redemption comes from the slight possibility of communication, perhaps in relationships with the people encountered throughout the poems but more importantly with the reader.   Johnston is a keen observer however, and even that relationship with the reader he realises can often be a one-way street for a poet. In an Orphic image in 'Aux Yeux Bandés' he shows the blindfolded musician, singing 'the world's apologies'.

Aux Yeux Bandés

Personne ne voit

L’aveugle qui joue de l’accordéon –

Personne n’écoute

Sa musique dans la rue.

Mais il écoute
La foule qui passé sous silence,
Et it voit
Les notes derrière ses yeux,

Et dans sa bouche
Il chant les excuse du monde.


No one notices
The blind accordion player
No one hears
His street music.

But he hears
The crowd passing in silence
And he sees
The music behind his eyes

And in his mouth
He sings the world’s apologies.

It is important to remember that many voices such as Fred Johnston's were forced into exile in the past. If we have learned anything from such mistakes we should recognise in Johnston's poetry and in his commentaries, an honesty and poetic value which are vital to the ongoing success of our cultural standing. 

Further selections from his French and English work may be found in the forthcoming:
Weyfarer Poetry Journal

Review: Ann Fallon. Ann is currently completing a Ph.D in English Literature at St. Patrick's College, DCU.