From Criticism

Dreams and Realities / Angela Graham

Angela Graham introduces her trio of poems The Magi Remember by reflecting on the link between dreams, imagination and action. In the Christmas Nativity story, the Three Kings, far from being wise men, display astonishing political naivety. They congratulate Herod, the local supremo, on the arrival of a superpower and expect him to be thrilled…

Books of the Year 2022 / Part Four

Contributors to The Lonely Crowd choose the books they have most enjoyed this year. Jo Mazelis It seems I am always catching up with myself, so the books I read are often lagging behind the times.  For example, in 2022 I finally read The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark  perhaps it was, by then, too late…

Books of the Year 2022 / Part Three

Contributors to The Lonely Crowd choose the books they have most enjoyed this year. Part Four follows tomorrow. John Lavin In Ruth, the central character in Loved and Missed, Susie Boyt has created a multi-faceted portrait to rival the work of one of her literary heroes, Henry James. If the novel’s early pages are notable…

Books of the Year 2022 / Part Two

Contributors to The Lonely Crowd choose the books they have most enjoyed this year. Part Three follows later this week.   Livi Michael Manchester Uncanny is the fifth collection of short stories from master craftsman Nicholas Royle. As suggested by the title, all the stories are set in Manchester, although it is a Manchester made…

On writing ‘Exquisite Prisons’ & other poems – Edward O’Dwyer

I look every day at Irish behaviour, listen to Irish talk, and as predictable as it is most of the time, when I examine a lot of it, and I do, it seems so ludicrous to me a lot of the time. Predictable behaviour shouldn’t seem so frequently bizarre, and yet it does, and that was the seed the poem germinated from. The idea of leaving is questioned. The belief that this is freedom is questioned. The idea that the best prisons are the ones we don’t ever know we’re in is there in the poem. I could go on and on here but won’t. It’s in the poems. Have you read them yet?

Setting out my stall / Jane Fraser

After reading each story once from beginning to end, I collated a list of sixty ‘maybes’. These were stories that would be read time and time again, though even at the early stages, there were some works that lingered long in the mind. Stories that would not go away. Even now, I have one particular story that rises to the fore, when I think of the whole batch I received. Whether readers would agree, I don’t know. That again, is the nature of this role, and the luxury of subjectivity. At this point, I had to become ruthless in terms of a writer’s control of the form, and also address how the fourteen stories would sit together as an anthology. I had to reject some stories, that although were good and would have otherwise made the cut, were too similar in theme with others that I deemed ‘better’.

Read by the Author: Eleanor Hooker

Eleanor Hooker reads from Issue Thirteen of The Lonely Crowd. The Lonely Crowd · Eleanor Hooker reads ‘The Girl With Bees In Her Eye’ Eleanor Hooker’s third poetry collection Of Ochre and Ash (Dedalus Press) and her chapbook Legion (Bonnefant Press, Holland) were published in 2021. A recipient of the Markievicz Award in 2021, her poetry book Where Memory Lies…

‘Dancing As Fast As I Can’ / Eleanor Hooker

Legion is a sequence of origin poems using the honeybee as a metaphor for the poet and a sting in childhood as the impetus to write. Michael Hartnett’s poem ‘A Necklace of Wrens’ is perhaps one of the best know origin poems by an Irish poet. The wrens settle on the young child in a feather necklet, marking him as a poet.  This anointment caused the wrens to injure the young poet – Their talons left on me/scars not healed yet. Without subscribing to the notion of the tortured artist in this poem, Hartnett acknowledges, unsentimentally, that his craft arrived from an early wound. In his elegy to Yeats, ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’, Auden wrote Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry/ Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still. The idea of writing from a wound or a place of sorrow is not new and although disparaged as cliché, it resonates as a reality for many poets and writers, and to deny this fact is a form of silencing.‘Dancing as Fast as I Can’ is a poem that looks at the symbiotic relationship between the artist, their advocates and the ‘establishment’. It questions what these associations might entail for an artist and their artistic independence.  The poem acknowledges that while most artists would like their work to be selected and advanced, not all are chosen, and perhaps a negative consequence of being absorbed into the hive is that the artist becomes managed, and looses their ability to produce beyond the constraints of that environment.

Strangeness Came Along in Spades / Katherine Duffy

But what galvanized me most, I think, was the sheer strangeness of that time. I know I’m not alone in feeling I had stepped through a portal into a different world. A surreal, science-fictiony, movie-set world of deserted roads and official, yellow sigils, with a soundtrack of repeating, robotic health and safety announcements. It’s hardly surprising that an experience such as standing outside a window in freezing winter air, attempting a phone conversation with my mother trapped on the other side, would make my mind shift gears enough to craft a poem at cruising speed for a change.

On Writing ‘Mushroom’ / Lisa Kelly

During Lockdown in 2020 I became obsessed with fungi. My regular walk around a nature reserve became a daily ritual, during which time I looked out for fungi, took pictures of them on my phone and tried to identify them. At a time of collective trauma, my fascination with fungi and learning about their life…

On writing ‘Death & Love on the Prairie’ / Yannick Pas

In Death & Love on the Prairie, I wanted to encapsulate the vastness and unpredictability of nature by echoing the distinct feeling of expansiveness in my prose. With long, meandering sentences, I wanted the writing to mirror the ceaseless undulation of the story’s environment: the mighty plains and rolling valleys of the American West.

Overstaying My Welcome: Writing ‘A Conversation with Oma, 1968’ / Emma Venables

I don’t tend to make copious notes when writing short stories, and the notes I do have are often abstract. For example, one of the few points I’ve written about this story in my notebook is: ‘Granddaughter questions grandmother re: actions under Nazism.’ I prefer to meet and question the characters, the story, the setting, on the page. Often I’m surprised by what I learn – the granddaughter’s binge eating of potatoes, the grandmother storing photographs of her son beneath a cushion, the steps it takes to navigate from living room to apartment door – and enjoy the texture they add to the world of the story and the dynamics between characters. These details take the reader on detours, but I’m always conscious of bringing the focus back to the present moment of the story: a granddaughter and grandmother, a difficult conversation, in an apartment in West Berlin. I look for the lapses – the needless journeys – when editing.