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Creative Corona: Day 6

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Claire Zwaartman considers the supermarket, a site of last resort in our viral times. Claire is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing.  Her story “Ashes” won the 2018 RTE/Francis McManus Short Story Award.

FEARS, DREAMS AND TROLLEYS  

I’ve always found supermarkets fascinating.  For me they are intimate spaces where I can get a glimpse of what goes on behind closed doors, which is, of course, where the real interest lies. I like to spy at the contents of people’s trolleys and imagine what their homes are like, what they’re going to have for dinner later. What they might watch on television after their sweet-and-sour chicken with ready-cooked rice. In this act of imagining, all my prejudices and assumptions are at work, based mostly on food choices.

Put that back, we’re having dinner soon a woman hisses to her son who’s trying to slip a jewel-coloured bag of sweets into a trolley filled with fresh fruit and vegetables. Poor kid, I think to myself. At the checkout I wait behind a thin woman hefting three boxes of wine and several large bottles of tonic water onto the conveyor belt. She also has a loaf of bread and a litre of milk, and in my imagination, I see her back at her empty house pouring a large glass of something in relief.

My husband likes to quote the statistic that we are only ever three days away from empty supermarket shelves. He picked up this alarming piece of trivia during a recent storm and has taken to intoning it ominously at the first sign of threat to the supply chain. He suggested we start a vegetable garden to prepare for disaster. Being too lazy and fatalistic, I dismissed the idea saying we would have new problems should we find ourselves in a post-supermarket world – protecting our patch from marauding neighbours.

If the apocalypse is coming some stunted kale isn’t going to save us. Crisis, like the contents of our baskets and trolleys, reveals our true natures; his with an innate aptitude for self-preservation, mine a laissez-faire approach fueled by absurdism.

Last week, I rang my aunt to see how she was coping with the new restrictions and general panic. Discussing possible food shortages she said, “Well, I think we could be in trouble. Sure, don’t all the pizzas come from Italy?” There was such a richness of confused thinking on display here that, for a moment, I was speechless. Yet, when we hung up I was left thinking. . . all these years and that’s what she’s been surviving on?

Supermarkets are where we betray our deepest fears, but then I think, didn’t they always? Food, that most urgent and primal of needs, must be got and in quantities. Cans of chickpeas and squat packages of conch-shaped pasta are the order of the day for pragmatic shoppers, yet there are still dreamers among us buying houseplants and dog beds and ingredients for elaborate cakes we will never make.

Someone passed me in the car park with a boxed lava lamp under his arm and I nearly cheered. Meanwhile, in the frozen section you’ll find my aunt loading up on Hawaiian pizza, and my husband in the centre aisle examining the garden tools.

Claire Zwaartman

TOMORROW: “A Question” – a poem by Graham Allen

Creative Corona: Day 5

Kathy D’Arcy is a published poet, performer and activist.  She is a qualified medical doctor as well as holding a PhD in Creative Writing from UCC.  This poem comes from Encounter (Lapwing 2010), her first poetry collection. The collection is available to browse in virtual form at her website –  http://www.kathydarcy.com/encounter.html#

 

Measles

His watch sits on the table

rash-itchy.

My pillowcase and sheets are inside out,

the sour-milk smell of our union

folded away.

 

I will wrap myself in them

as if I had the measles

and school off tomorrow.

 

Kathy D’Arcy

TOMORROW: “Fears, Dreams and Trolleys” – by Claire Zwaartman

Creative Corona: Day 4

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

On Day 4 of “Creative Corona”, Betty O’Mahony and Darren Hall, both current students on the MA in Creative Writing, travel into the dark night of the writer’s soul, where strange things can happen when everyone else is asleep. Although there is no direct connection with COVID-19 in these stories, there are subliminal echoes in the presence of bats and sleeplessness.

INSOMNIA

I was lying in bed. I had just turned off the lights. It was pitch black. I heard a fluttering suddenly close to me and I sat up and turned on the light. There was a bat coming straight for me, vampire wings fully extended.

I bolted out of the bed and out the door.

Then I realised I had left my cigarettes and matches on the bed. When I needed them most. I eventually opened the door a fraction and I could see them on the bed, but the bat was wrapped around the lamp immediately overhead.

Courage!

I wrapped a scarf around my head and shot in, reached for the ciggies and matches and raced out the door again.

How would the bat get out of the room? I had to open the windows for him.

I only had five cigarettes left. I lit up and inhaled feverishly. Then I wrapped the scarf around my head again, shot into the bedroom and opened the three windows. On the way back out I spotted one of the limbs of the vampire bat unfolding from behind a picture.  It had an elbow!

Exit!

The following morning, I searched through the bedroom, thoroughly, still wearing the scarf, but my night visitor had gone.

For Sale!

Detached house, genuine reason for selling!

Betty O’Mahony 

 

INTO THE ABYSS

I know don’t know how I got here. Or where I was. The memories glimmer then fade. Like wisps of vapour from a steaming cup, they dissipate before they’re formed. And like my memories, my perception of time itself has become vague. Intangible. A dizzying ebb and flow of noise and colour sporadically colliding with my consciousness.

What started as a fleeting momentary distraction has become an all-encompassing, all-consuming freefall.

To dip a toe is to drown. To become immersed.

The sense of self that was so solid, so concrete mere hours, or days or minutes ago has dissolved, like the spoons of sugar I put into that fifth or sixth cup of coffee I probably shouldn’t have drunk.

My consciousness is becoming unshackled, assimilated into something larger. Something immense. But not in a “that time I was tripping balls and felt connected to everyone” sort of way.  This is more like I’m one screaming face amidst innumerable screaming faces all writhing and screaming and melting into an incognisant, incohesive fleshy mess.  Like that weird fucking monstrosity in that horror movie clip I think I watched at some point of the night or morning or day or night or…

Morning…

I’m surrounded by morning light…

Fuck, I should probably get some sleep…

Cool video by the way. I love your cat. Wish mine was that smart.

Posted at 5:08am. 4 likes. 2 comments.

Darren Hall 

TOMORROW: “Measles” – a poem by Kathy D’Arcy.

Creative Corona: Day 3

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Christina Hession, who graduated from the MA in Creating Writing this year, contemplates  life after the virus in this future-looking poem on the third day of “Creative Corona”. 

Cocoon

When I emerge

from this cocoon,

I will wave off kummerspeck

at the departure gate for Cologne.

 

I will paint tangerine sunsets

over The Long Walk,

in an acquamarine kimono

accompanied by Por una Cabeza.

 

I will learn how to say

‘you’re a big ride’ in Italian,

and practise it in Lisdoonvarna

on an unsuspecting hill farmer.

 

I will silence that niggling character

who wants his own short story,

I will scale my ‘to be read’ book towers,

like a griseous Rapunzel.

 

Christina Hession

TOMORROW: “Insomnia” by Betty O’Mahony and “Into the Abyss” by Darren Hall

Creative Corona: Day 2

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

On the second day of “Creative Corona” – highlighting  the work of the virtual community of writers  associated with the MA in Creative Writing – Eileen O’Donoghue, MA alumna, explores what now seems like an old-fashioned definition of the word that is on all of our lips.  

VIRAL

On the evening of his 18th birthday, Brian Keane, shades on, was driving his polished silver Peugeot 208 with the driver’s window down, on his way to collect Kyle and Jack to go for a not-very-social-distancing spin, when his father rang to tell him to drive the new hearse out to the nursing home, that some poor old woman was dead up there and would he do that job for him.  He couldn’t go himself because he was on his way to the hospital where some other poor bastard was dead.  

            The hearse was in the yard with the coffin and the keys in it. All he had to do was take up the coffin and bring the hearse back down to the yard and since he had his licence now, and there was no school, he could make himself useful.

            Brian indicated and pulled in by a farm gate a few hundred yards up from Kyle’s house, as agreed, so they wouldn’t be spotted.

            ‘Happy birthday, funeral boy,’ said Kyle hopping into the passenger seat, landing two six packs of beer on the floor. ‘Tara and the girls are on. We’ll meet them at the top car park.’

            ‘I’ve to drive the hearse up to the nursing home first.’

            ‘Fuck off. With a dead person and shit?’

            ‘No, you spanner, just dropping of a coffin.’

*

The hearse was parked facing the gate of the funeral home, gleaming black, ready for business. The lads parked up transferring themselves and the drink into the front of the it, Kyle whistling and admiring the leather interior and the size of the dash.

            ‘You know what would be fuckin’ hilarious?’ said Kyle, twisting the top off a beer.

            ‘Don’t even think about it.’ said Brian.

            ‘Ah, just for Jack. Go on – like, we have to.  I’ll do it – you film it from here and I’ll get him close up on mine.’

            Brian rolled his eyes and that was enough for Kyle who crawled into the back and got into the coffin.

           ‘Put the top on,’ he said and Brian complied, leaving the top just a fraction off-line so it was not completely shut.

            While the hearse slowed to a noiseless stop up the road a bit from Jack’s house, Kyle was playing some song called Dead as Fuck on his phone at top volume and banging on the coffin lid for head banging.

           ‘He’s here, shut it!’ Brian shouted behind him.

           Jack got into the passenger seat, putting his rucksack on the floor. ‘I’ve got vodka and cider. We can get some Red Bull in the Centra.’

          While Jack was rooting around in the bag, Brian mounted his phone on the dash and pressed record. He pulled the hearse back onto the road. ‘Shit, this is weird,’ said Jack, ‘What’s the story with that?’ pointing his head at the coffin. 

‘        ‘I’ve to drop it up to the nursing home, then we’ll get Kyle and go down to the lake in my car, with the beers.’

        From behind them a sound like scratching became more insistent. Jack jumped ‘What the fuck is that? Brian!’ Hearing it again he said, ‘What is that?’

       ‘Shit, maybe I didn’t close the lid properly and it’s squeaking a bit. Happens sometimes.’ Brian slowed the hearse and indicated to pull into a lay-by on the roadside. ‘You’ll have to help me to get it on straight.’

       ‘No fucking way,’ said Jack.

       ‘We have to fix it. Otherwise the top might fall off.’

       Brian climbed into the back of the hearse, pointing to Jack to get in on the other side while examining the lid.

     ‘Looks okay here,’ said Brian. ‘Can you scootch in a bit, have a closer look on that side?’ Just as Jack leaned in over the wood, Brian yanked the top of the coffin over to his side and Kyle sat bolt upright in the coffin, his phone in his hand, filming Jack screaming his head off.

      ‘Brilliant, man,’ said Kyle, ‘This will go fuckin’ viral.’

Eileen O’Donoghue

TOMORROW:  “Cocoon”- a poem by Christina Hession 

Creative Corona: Day 1

Welcome to the first day of “Creative Corona”, an initiative to highlight the work of the virtual community of writers  associated with the MA in Creative Writing at UCC.  Our first writer up, with two poems,  is the Cork novelist, short story writer and poet, William Wall, who was conferred with a PhD in Creative Writing by UCC in 2019. 

The Virus: Fiumicino Airport, Rome

in the almost empty airport

masked ones wait for doom

they gaze at their phones

like heroes to the oracle

the numbers rising hour by hour

inexorable as a spring tide

some have seen roadblocks

the army waving them down

some have come by train

every traveller masked

how did we get this far

we wash our hands

and wash them again

we have not seen hands so clean

since Pontius Pilate

we touch nothing

friends and acquaintances

greet with polite nods

no hugging no kissing

no holding hands

this is our future

soon we will gaze at the world

through hazmat eyeglass

listen only to our earbuds

the sweet sound of fear

at eighty decibels

(February 26th 2020)

 

The Ides of March

today is your birthday

and the day dawns bright 

and bird-filled

bullfinches stripping 

early flowers from the plum

a goldfinch’s garish flash

when the rain comes

it falls as soft as ash and is gone

a clearing is coming they say

already the west is lighter

 

the news continues bad

we message the children

strangers send love

we remake old contacts

and avoid old friends and relatives

on the beach we all wave

but avoid salutation

we turn our face away

in case the spring breeze

carries contagion

(March 15th 2020)

William Wall

TOMORROW:  A short story, “Viral”, by  Eileen O’Donoghue 

Watch out for “Creative Corona”!

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Creative Corona” is an initiative of the MA in Creative Writing, which like many courses at UCC, has been disrupted because of the COVID-19 virus. As have many literary events. However, creative work goes on, regardless. 

From Wednesday April 1, we’re going to showcase a miscellany of fiction, poetry and non-fiction from current and past students of the MA, alongside established writers with UCC associations.  We’ll feature a new piece of writing every day by students, faculty and alumni, to highlight the virtual community of writers that has emerged around the MA in Creative Writing.   

Some of these pieces reference the current situation, some don’t. The brief to participants was left entirely open.  We hope you’ll enjoy their work, which was freely and willingly donated.

Mary Morrissy, Associate Director of Creative Writing

 

Novelists in noir

In the mood for noir? Then our next Department of English reading event is for you.  Our Visiting Professor in Creative Writing, John Banville, wearing his Benjamin Black hat, and Cork’s newest crime writer, Catherine Kirwan, whose debut novel, Darkest Truth, was nominated as Cork’s One City One Book last year, will be reading together.

John Banville’s latest Black title (under a slightly altered pseudonym, B.W.Black), The Secret Guests, is a speculative historical novel set in 1940, featuring the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret who are evacuated secretly out of Blitz-time London to Clonmillis Hall in rural Tipperary. All goes well until a dead body turns up in the big house, threatening to expose the identity of the secret “guests of the nation”.

Kirwan’s Darkest Truth, is set in the “cut-throughs and cobbles” of Cork and features fiery, flawed solicitor Finn Fitzpatrick on the trail of a murderer.  The book has a resonant  #MeToo theme, features the Cork Film Festival, and namechecks many of the city’s landmark haunts. Described as a “fabulous sleep thief”, Darkest Truth is the first of a series, so expect to hear more from Finn in Catherine’s second novel.

We’re going to town for this next event at a new venue: –  The Banking Hall, UCC Centre for Executive Education (formerly Cork Savings Bank), 1 Lapps Quay. 

Tuesday, March 24 @ 6pm. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Graduation Day for Creative Writing

Congratulations to our MA class of 2019 who graduated today, February 21. Pictured below are a number of the graduates, Ian Manning, Niamh Twomey, Molly Twomey and Christine Kannapel,  with left, Mary Morrissy, Associate Director of Creative Writing and, far right, Director of Creative Writing, Dr Eibhear Walshe.  In the front of the photograph is  Maeve Bancroft, who was also conferred today with a Phd in Creative Writing.

Well done to all!

Dr Eibhear Walshe, Director of Creative Writing, with newly conferred PhD graduate Maeve Bancroft and Mary Morrissy, Associate Director of Creative Writing.

Eibhear Walshe at OUTing the Past Festival

On Saturday, February 22, Director of Creative Writing, Dr Eibhear Walshe will be interviewed about his memoir Cissie’s Abattoir and his novel, The Trumpet Shall Sound, at the 2020 OUTing the Past: LGBTQ+ History Festival at Cork City Hall.  He will be part of a panel discussing   “Activism, Imagination and Protest: Creativity through Necessity”.