WB Yeats And His Family Have Lunch

WB Yeats
WB Yeats
Maud Gonne
Maud Gonne

Here's a sneak peek at the novel I'm working on now, The Pilgrim Soul. It's the first in a trilogy about love and  loss, based around the lives of the poet, WB Yeats, and the mother and daughter he loved, Maud and Iseult Gonne.

The time is Christmas Day, 1893 and WB, or Willie as his family like to call him, is at Christmas lunch with them. In his late twenties, he is still living at home but beginning to make a name for himself as a poet of Ireland, a mystic whose childhood days in his mother's home county of Sligo inspire lyrical celebrations of  mountain and cloud, lake and moon, wind and stars.

Below the extract is one of my favourites of his poems from those early years, for its dreamy imagery and what it tells us about his attachment to sorrow. Were alienation and separation ever more lyrically expressed?

It began harmless enough, with Papa starting a Christmas speech on the state of the family, of how Jack was soon to marry and become a substantial man, with a cheerful kind-hearted wife and an open-handed welcome for his friends. This was a less-than-subtle hint towards what they all know, that Jack’s fiancée is tying up her money so Papa won’t be able to get his hands on any of it.

Papa's self-serving cheerfulness was already wilting Willie’s spirits, even before he turned his glass on him.  “And Willie will be famous and shed a bright light on us all, with sometimes a little money and sometimes not.” Papa drank, deeply and with significance, then sat, signifying the end of the toast. Lolly’s face reddened and his other sister, Lily, reached over to pat her hand, a gesture that only doubled Lolly’s fury. Papa noticed then and hastily stood back up.  “And Lolly will have a prosperous school and give away as prizes her eminent brother’s volumes of poetry.” This, naturally, only enraged her the more.  At that moment, Maria arrived in and plunked the plate of potatoes on the table.When he reached for one with his fork, his belligerent sister turned her wrath upon him: “You might wait for grace, Willie.  You might

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Mother's Day or Mothering Day?

Mothering SundayIt's Mothering Sunday in the UK, the fourth Sunday in Lent. On this side of the Atlantic, the celebration arises out of a Christian tradition. This is the day each year, Laetare Sunday, when people used to  return to their “mother church”, the main church or cathedral in their area, for a special service.

To do this was to go “a-mothering” and in those days, servants would be given a day off for the occasion.

Mother's Day, the celebration honoring

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Hilary Mantel & Kate Middleton

Hilary Mantel Attack kate Middleton?
HIlary Mantel: “We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them.”

I broke my arm on holiday — and lots of other personals have taken over time during the past weeks — including a burglar who made off with my computer and work I hadn't backed up.

So I'm just tuning in today to explain that I'm on an enforced go slow, which is why you haven't received an update in a while.

I can type only with one hand which, after a short time, creates pain in the broken arm. As recovery is likely to take a while – the break is in an awkward place and can't be plaster-cast – this piece is being written with voice recognition software.

And I'm looking into making more podcasts for the blog, something I've intended to do for ages anyway.

Such transformed work practices, I'm hoping, might be the silver lining of the pain and inconvenience.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you Hilary Mantel's controversial article in the

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Goodbye to Blue Mercy

St Kevin and The Blackbird at Laragh Hermitage, an inspiration for BLUE MERCY
Sculpture of the hand of Kevin and The Blackbird, an inspiration for BLUE MERCY: Meditation room, Laragh Hermitage

I've been doing my last ever read through of  BLUE MERCY as I finalise it for the print-on-demand (POD) edition of the book.

While doing so, I've been enjoying the reconnection with two of its major inspirations. One was a place —  Laragh in County Wicklow, Ireland — and the other a poem: “St Kevin and The Blackbird” by Seamus Heaney.

Whenever I write a novel, I take a writing retreat or two, preferably in one of the book's settings. While working on BLUE MERCY, I stayed a number of times in

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Happy Holidays!

I hope you’re enjoying a special and happy time over these days.

Here is a seasonal poem for you, based on an old Irish mid-winter blessing, that sends you all good wishes.

Thank you, as always, for reading — and wishing you and yours the very best for 2013.

Read A Poem A Day

Christmas Poetry
Available now on Amazon.com

A poem a day is my prescription for a good life.  Everyday language is, as Flaubert once said, “a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to — while we long to make music that will melt the stars”.  Poetry makes of language that melting kind of music.

This is why reading a poem a day has a transforming effect on our lives.  It’s not just that artfully arranged words elevate our existence, fulfilling our neglected need for depth and beauty and grace and meaning. Just as more important is the act of making poetry a priority.

Taking the time to open the head, and heart, and soul space that needs to open if this serious pleasure is to be indulged, giving ourselves that gift.

This act, as much as the words ingested, is vital to how poetry melts, melds and moulds us.

The Christmas season provides the

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A Week In Words: "Are You?" A New Poem.

poetry mother and child



again. Are you not mother? That

is the question that must be posed

and not just to those who

work the world with their pants

less stuffed, with their arms

held aloft when not wrapped

round the chores and the children

and, yes, round the big boys too, who sooner

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Finally Succumbed to NaNoWriMo

50,000 words or more in a month. That's the challenge set by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Leave the editing to December, they say. For November, just concentrate on getting out the words. So many per day. Every day.

Sound advice. The sort of advice I give people myself.

Why would a writer bother with this initiative if they've already managed to complete many a book without it? If I fail to get a – te dah! – NaNoWriMo Winner!'s badge at by the end of the month by not meeting my target, nobody is going to

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Remembering How To Create

It’s easy to forget the principles of going creative. And even easier to forget to practice.

Here’s a ditty to help us remember:

Connect to all I touch. Hear. Smell. Taste. Look, see.
Return to now.

The Multitasking Myth

The discovery in 2007 of a “bottleneck in the brain” showed that multitasking is not productive.

Doing even just two tasks, both very simple, involves negotiating three bottlenecks in the brain.

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Fill Up To Flow – The Key to Creative Success

The key to creative success is excess, suggests Anais Nin, because creation comes from overflow.

“You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings.

“… Creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness.

Overcoming Self-Sabotage

Shadow Self- Overcoming self-sabotage

When you set out to create something, the conventional, conditioned part of you sets off fear alarms, in the form of resistance and self-sabotage.

Stephen Pressfield's book Turning Pro, talks a lot about this tendency, which he calls resistance, in terms of the “shadow self” of Jewish Kabbalism.

“The [conventional] self doesn't care about you. It doesn't love you. It has its own agenda and it will kill you,” says Pressfield, quoting rabbi Mordecai Finley. “It will kill you like

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