Author of three collections published by Doire Press, 2011, 2013 & 2018, Susan reads a selection from all three books here, at University of Missouri-St.Louis (Feb, 2022) . Her poems have appeared, among elsewhere, in: The Cafe Review, Oregan, USA - Gather In, in a Special Irish Edition; Bosom Pals,Ed Marie Cadden (Doire Press, 2017) an anthology entirely in aid of Breast Cancer Research in the National UniversityHospital, Galway and When They've Grown Another Me in Poetry Ireland Review, Dec 2018. In January 2018 her poems were Commended in the Gregory O'Donoghue Poetry Competition.

She has been an invited reader of her poems at local readings in Galway, Cork and Dublin and at festivals, including the Belfast Book Festival, Cuirt International Festival of Literature and Clifden Arts Festival and her poems have been read on radio.

Susan completed her degree in social science and qualified as a professional social worker in Trinity College, Dublin 1975. She was a psychotherapist, trainer, facilitator and occasional consultant to organisations for over thirty years until her retirement in 2012. Drawing together her writing with her earlier skills she has written interviews and facilitated conversations mediated by poetry. She has also published creative non-fiction.

Her workshop Having a New Conversation: About Dreaming was listed on the The Cuirt International Festival of Literature Programme (2015) and she facilitates similar workshops on a variety of themes, discussed through the medium of poetry, regularly and occasionally in local community settings.

While a founding editor of Skylight 47 Susan interviewed: then Ireland Professor of Poetry, Harry Clifton; Kay Ryan, the Pullitzer prize-winning poet and former US Poet Laureate, invited to Ireland by Dromineer Literature Festival - and Dani Gill, who talks about curating The Cuirt International Literature Festival. Susan's interview of Maeve O'Sullivan, appeared in The Honest Ulsterman February, 2018.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

UMSL-GLOBAL Reading at University of Missouri - St.Louis alongside Patrick Kehoe. Host: Eamonn Wall

Even if we couldn't actually be in St. Louis, it was a privilege to read for the University last Thursday - 10th February, 2022. The link below gives you access to a video of the webinair and to the many other great videos on the site.

Friday, 12 November 2021


To what ought we attend when life changes 'in the blink of an eye?' How can we best make sense and take care - of ourselves, others and the planet in the chaos that is an implicit part of change? Inspired by an article by Jennifer O'Connell in the Irish Times, fuelled by Dan O'Brien's article in The Business Post, encouraged by a grand-parent of family therapy, the late Virginia Satir, and the words of Financial Times journalist Tim Harford in his book How the World Adds Up, this essay explores the question of when and where to best focus while keeping an essentail eye on the ball as we make the best we can of change. It is available here:

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Humanity in Public Faces Unmasked in Alice in Wonderland Politics

 Watching and listening to RTE presenters give heartfelt apologies for their lapse in attention to maintaining social distance at a small gathering we seemed to have moved from the tragic to the ridiculous. Alice in Wonderland came to mind as possibly the best read. It was bizarre to see some of them photographed in small groups, arms around their retiring colleague when, shortly before, attendees had been standing several steps apart and leaning against bannisters on curving stairs in a large vestibule with an apparently harmless drink in hand while listening to a colleague honour a departing colleague, 

How could they have forgotten or, as the daily faces of the international news, been so na├»ve as to believe someone wouldn’t try to make hay with the images?

That, even they, did let their guard down affirms the importance of what the Professor of Health Psychology and member of the UK Sage committer, Lucy Yardley, had to say about the importance of recognising how well people are doing at keeping the virus under control and the need to offer solutions to the problems they experience that have them lapse. To offer solutions to the difficulties that lead them to drop their guard instead of chastising the outriders breaking the rules. 

(see my blog of Oct, 18th

The RTE lapse beautifully demonstrates the difficulties inherent in meeting each other. I’d imagine the urge to let go, for a brief moment to be human again and respond as such to moments in a real and genuine way will become more and more prevalent. 

We have a profound need to demonstrate that our current strange behaviour is temporary and aberrant and that, despite all the horror of the apparent cold-shouldering in socially-distanced attempts to avert the spread of a potentially killing virus, we do actually care and want to be close again and demonstrate affection and appreciation in a real way. We want to keep ourselves human, remind each other of how difficult this is, that we desperately need human contact and to overcome the inhumanity in withholding it – if only for the brief moment it appears possible and is relatively safe. In that moment the virus is something to be briefly ignored. Of course health professionals will rightly remind us that that is the moment the virus would be waiting for, if it was actually of a waiting-for kind of species which it isn’t, but it is the moment it can cross from one to another. They’re right and we need to hold firm.

Arguably it is also essential though, perhaps even more essential for the long term, that we don’t become so adapted to distancing that we forget what it is to be human and to care and to reach out to touch each other in ways that have been demonstrated in the past to be as necessary, and possibly more necessary, than food and drink for our survival

If we don’t recognise this and find solutions for the medium term, psychology and mental health and wellbeing  may have its own way of demonstrating that far from being the poor relation of medicine it can take centre stage when ignored too long.

It’s been a bizarre week.

Debates continued about the need to further enforce lockdown in this horribly serious international game with so much to play for or, as the DCU Professor reminded us is more important, on how to keep each other onside, given that all the research has shown that it is only the onside public who will win the war in the long-term. Debate which culminated in this cameo moment in RTE.

This with a back-drop of intense media support for opposition ‘scrutiny’ of the appointment of a supreme court judge who dropped his guard and then stupidly tried to blag it out instead of immediately offering his resignation (at that stage a few months or a year’s deferral of taking up his appointment would have been fine) suggesting he is indeed not the judge we’d wish him to be but who nevertheless has not done anything worthy of the initiating of impeachment procedures that opposition self-promotion has brought to be considered.

Brexit deadlines appear to come and go like streams that emerge from the mountains when there’s heavy rainfall.

Where once they would have had us glued to our screens they get minimum ‘scrutiny’ now. Further evidence too, of the determination of Fianna Fail members of the Dail to do everything possible to undermine their leader, finally Taoiseach, in their attempts to appease their lobbying constituents or further their own end games.

I’ve never felt as much wish that someone would get behind Michael Martin and give him a chance

Same goes for the rest of the government. The Greens were probably right. This is a time we’d have been better to have a National Government but we are where we are as we horribly say as in ‘if it was there I was going it wouldn’t be here I’d be starting from’. This is the place we have to travel on from.

If even his own team won’t back Martin in the face of world pandemic and Brexit as the country faces the worst financial and social challenge of a lifetime when would anyone?

Everyone in government are doing a great job, as in probably the best they can, with the dogs baying at their heels and so are the rest of us – most of the time. It would be just great if the begrudgers – albeit desperate in their own particular circumstances – would catch on and start playing for the home team to the greater good of not only everyone else but, ultimately, themselves too.

The public have never yearned more for – or appreciated more when it is seen - inspiring, coherent leaders who keep them informed, whether the news is palatable or not.

As my daughter said, even on public transport when the announcements started telling you why you were delayed or how long the delay is expected to last and promise regular updates, everyone relaxes and gets on with doing what they can. Why can’t utility companies, businesses, the government, back-benchers and the media learn this lesson too? Thank-you to every one of you who are doing exactly that and trying to do it better.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Language is power.

The importance of language is particularly striking me this morning as votes are counted in the US election. Trump's language. His tone, simplicity and evangelical delivery - if only in the way he delivers promises he seems to imagine are reassuring, and maybe they are, for his fans. Have we heard as regularly about other White House incumbents, those who actually deliver on their promises - if/when they do? 

A master at managing the media story and speaking the language of his could-be and actual followers. Now, when he has ‘promised’ to fight in the courts if results don’t go his way, it seems we'll spend today speculating as much on whether/when he'll go to the Supreme Court as on the likely outcome of the US election. What will we talk about in the months to come if Bidon wins? 

One thing you can say about Trump, hate him or love him, a lot of people have voted, even if they haven't for a good while. Sexism, racism, hell-raising, content...? Yes, but if he speaks your language....

Monday, 19 October 2020

Could Lives Be Saved by Asking and Answering A Simple Question in Relation to Covid 19?


You could possibly save yourself from becoming ill and from the embarrassment of inadvertently spreading the virus to your team-mates, family, friends by asking and answering a simple question.

As well as paradoxically finding that 

‘most people believe [that] people should follow the rules yet when it comes to their own behaviour they don’t follow the rules’, ‘ 

‘surveys also show that people have very high levels of intending to do everything necessary and report trying to do it most of the time. And where people fail to do it, it’s not really that they’re deliberately trying not to do it it’s that, often for personal reasons, it’s quite difficult for them to do it’. 

This was Lucy Yardley’s answer to the paradox put to her, above, by Andrew Marr yesterday morning  (Sunday morning 18th October, 2020) on his weekly show on BBC television.

Professor of Health Psychology at Southampton  University, Lucy Yardley OBE is a member of the Sage committee that advises the UK government in relation to the pandemic. She continued by saying,

 ‘Sometimes people can’t do it because they can’t afford to and people have all sorts of other  personal reasons where they might have to feel they bend the rules a little and where people are not following the rules. It’s not necessarily [that] they’re doing it in a really blatant … risky way. A lot of people are, for example - when they’re asked to self-isolate, nipping out to do “one last shop”, because they don’t want to bother people with having to do it for them and they don’t really think they can get online and do it. It’s not really the kind of deliberate non-adherence that you might think.’

Lucy Yardley thinks that success in keeping the virus sufficiently under control so that our hospital systems have not been overwhelmed is down to how well people have being doing - a success she thinks we might be better focussing on than on our failure to keep to the rules.

She says, 

‘… it might be a question of helping identify where people are finding it difficult to do  infection control and coming up with positive solutions.’

The distance between us narrowed in the collegiality of our grief

I know that, with hindsight, I didn’t keep the social distance I rigidly adhere to – even outside – on the one occasion I was outside with neighbours and intent on having a moment to honour, and then wave good-bye to, the remains of a lively neighbour who had suddenly passed away as result of an accident abroad. The distance between us narrowed in the collegiality of our grief. In family, too, I lose sight of my good intention. In the moment it seems so much more important to connect.

Happiness is most experienced in moments of forgetfulness. 

Flow experiences researched by author Csikszentmihalyi and described in his book of the same name make us happy. We may experience them when writing -  maybe that’s the reason for this piece, it makes me happy to write it – making music, in sport, being creative and the other myriad ways we momentarily experience forgetfulness. No wonder we want to jubilantly hug the fellow supporters of our favourite team or groan together in despair and leave all thought of the pandemic behind for a moment of respite. Unfortunately they’re also the moments when the opportunity arises for the virus to jump the now non-existent gap. Flea-like it can hope merrily from person to person.

Here’s the question that could save a life, or keep you from the ignominy of discovering you’ve inadvertently become a super spreader. 

What is your personal let out from following the guidelines? When do you feel your personal circumstances require you to be a little more flexible? When do you find you forget to follow your good intention?

 Of course the follow-on question it would be good to find an answer to is: what could you do differently to both remind yourself of your good intention in the moment and find a way to stick with it?

I don’t know how not to forget it all sometimes.

I think a lot of us are embarrassed to appear to be following rules too rigidly. I certainly know I feel embarrassed when I think people are looking at me a little pityingly. I assume they think I’m afraid, see my behaviour as an understandable lack of courage in the face of the fear of being a certain age with a possibly compromised immune system. I can face the look down. We’re in this together. But I don’t know how not to forget it all sometimes. Surely it’s not beyond the IT world to add a tone of reminder when we get too close to others? I'wondering what other remedies we might collectively be creative enough to put in place so that we can support each other to remember, and act in accord with, our best intentions.



Friday, 17 April 2020

Never Miss the Opportunity a Good Crisis Affords

Diary. 20th March, 2020
Never Miss the Opportunity a Good Crisis Affords

The title phrase dropped into my mind as I sipped my morning cuppa and mulled the ideas  clearly audible in the river’s flood. It has a fast pace this morning. I can see choppy waves with white caps. The water is brown, presumably the bed churned up from activity upstream. There are branches and twigs in the mill.

In the context of a global pandemic my small crisis was only the unfortunate experience of finding my car clamped in a Greystones car park when I wanted to get home after a Dart journey. I had paid the parking fee but inadvertently one of the coins inserted into the meter had been one, instead of two, euro. Or so I assume, as the ticket indicated my payment was a euro short of that needed to park there for the whole day.

The clamping was less shocking to me than the difficulties incurred in making contact with APCOA Parking, their implacable response - and fee of over a hundred euro immediately demanded before the clamp could be removed. Perhaps it was the absolute unwillingness to engage in any question of justice or the fact they apparently still held out-of-date details of my credit card and the nature of an officialdom augmented by the simple digital alternative options of ‘this’ or ‘that’ that led me to feel so assaulted.

Being able to make use of such an experience, as I have found before, by feeding it into a creative endeavour at least ensures no good crisis is wasted and leaves one feeling less helpless. So this week I followed a link* to renew my learning on haibun – a poem that involves a combination of prose and seventeen syllable haiku - and drew on the experience to have a go.

It was tempting this morning to stay observing the flood in my quiet meditation. I managed it at the earlier thought of the stick I picked up on the path while in Beddinge, southern Sweden, when there  for a week at a design workshop some years ago, but the opportunity afforded by a good crisis thrust me to my feet. 

In addition to my personal small crisis, this is a week of global crisis. The onslaught of the Corona Covine 19 Virus that is now hitting Ireland, too, has led the government to shut schools and ask those whose immune system might be compromised, by virtue of age and/or former illness or ongoing medical condition, to socially isolate themselves and stay mostly at home. The entire population is also asked to practice distancing themselves from others by a meter or two. Age and radiotherapy treatment ten years ago technically put me in the ‘compromised’ frame although I’m in pretty good shape overall right now. Still, never miss the opportunity…. So it is easier to write and consider new projects whilst virtually ‘self-isolating’.

The Beddinge stick lying on the side of a pathway through trees alongside the sea spoke to me strongly at the time and resides now on the hearth of my home. The idea of talking-sticks – now often used in business meetings and other gatherings and not confined to sticks, favoured objects may be instituted instead – came, as I understand it, from First World People, Native American tribes. 

In a group meeting the person holding the stick holds sway. It would be impolite, to say the least, to interrupt. When they have spoken, or held the attention of the group in silence, the stick is passed on. We passed a communal talking stick around the circle at our gatherings of people interested deep imagery and later in my Dancing the Spiral workshops. Other times it was put down in the centre of the group for whosoever was inspired, or had something they wanted to say, to pick up.

The stick is shouting to me, My former  experience of facilitating workshops, particularly more recent conversations drawing on poetry as a stimulating resource, has me wondering about doing something similar on wellbeing and resilience, or developing a network of support for people in later life. Considering what they’d like to do for what might be the next thirty or forty years could help counteract the idea that they, and I'm one of them, should simply retreat into silence. I am in thrall to the stick. Totems are powerful.

It may be, that when the virus is long gone, or is dormant with only occasional outbursts, this time may come to be remembered the tipping point for a fuller move online. My parking experience does not endear this thought to me. I have a dread of ‘Surveillance Capitalism’. I’ve resisted the demand of a large firm of Financial Advisors to fill my financial details into a form provided by another company with its own Terms and Conditions. I am convinced they must be selling the composite data gathered to those developing Artificial Intelligence fields of data. This enables the developers tune their products to appear ‘empathically’ sympathetic to consumer interests, gain trust and ‘nudge’ them in directions they desire to have their consumers go. I hate this process and its, literally, mesmerising effects. I’m familiar with the expertise from early studies in hypnosis - see Bandler and Grinder on Neuro Linguistic Programme or Milton Erickson’s book, My Voice Will Go With You. But for the first time I find myself putting all that aside. I’m making more contactless payments, I’ve given up on the financial advice as the markets crash (no doubt they’ll recover to some degree at least temporarily). And now I’m considering facilitating workshops online!

I am not a conspiracy theory devotee. I believe the evidence that events, for the most part, arise and are often used to further various nefarious and also other, good, purposes so I am not even considering the possibility the virus is anything other than the effect of careless inattention to the inevitable disasters that face the planet. Overwhelmed, for the most part, we just do not line up the dots and face up to the dangers inherent in the possible consequences of our developing knowledge.

When the virus is no longer newsworthy historians may point to this moment in time as the time when the internet truly took off with the primed bed of artificial intelligence warmed by the sun of disaster and the seeds sprouted. It wouldn’t be likely that the digital business world would miss the opportunity afforded by a crisis either. In fact it is gifted to them on a plate. But neither need we refuse the possibilities - not least the opportunity to get creative and transform fears and challenges faced into whatever kind of art appeals. Such endeavours may even be the counter catalyst that ensures 'the human factor' remains sufficiently unpredicable that it remains impossible to predict and ensures our behaviour cannot be too extensively controlled.

Related Links - haibun; Surveillance Capitalism; Beddinge retreat 2020.

This website, indirectly brought to my attention by Maeve O'Sullivan, has haibun and haiku details.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff review – we are the pawns | Books | The Guardian

2020 Retreat at Beddinge combining yoga and creativity

Related and Relevant previous blogs:

Having the Conversation - About...   Poetry related converstions see 2017 post:

Dancing the Spiral see 2014 post

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Superstition and The Galway Advertiser: Seven Years on – in Galway Library

     It was a Hallow’een night in my daughter’s home in Sutton. For a moment I didn’t know where I was as I followed the camera up winding stairs to the top floor of a New York apartment block.

     As Tony Curtis launched my third book from Doire Press at Poetry Ireland headquarters in Dublin last week I thought of Samuel Menashe, who lived at the top of those stairs. Curtis spoke of his liking for superstition and went on to explore the linkages that his research and the pop-ups in his memory had evoked as he read the poems in Milling the Air.

     Seven years ago my Hallow’een poem, Francis Bacon and Samuel Menashe by Strange Coincidence, was mentioned in a review in The Galway Advertiser. Nothing To Lose In Getting Dressed , a review of my first book of poetry  Whispering the Secrets, was written by Kevin Higgins. Subsequent events confirmed that local newspapers and radio can have powerful reach.

     In 2011 the American poet Samuel Menashe was living what were to be his final months in a nursing home in New York. His friend, the author and critic, Nicholas Birns saw the review on-line and sought a copy of my book to give him. The photo of Menashe reading my book, his encouraging words relayed to me by Birns and the sad news received, one early morning in August, that Samuel Menashe had passed away during the night having ‘truly enjoyed’ my poems and had had my book by his bedside in his final weeks and days remain with me when I write.

     We all need encouragement and I love the poems of Menashe – a winner of the 2004 Most Neglected Master Award from the US Poetry Foundation. It was watching Menashe reading those poems on the DVD film Life is IMMENSE by Pamela Robertson-Pearce that, alongside a visit to the Francis Bacon Studio in the Hugh Lane Gallery - around the corner from Poetry Ireland - had led to the poem. The film accompanies his New and Selected Poems Edited by Christopher Ricks (Bloodaxe Books, 2009). Nicholas Birns later wrote a further review of my first book Whispering the Secrets – something that is hard to get for a first, or any, collections coming from a small poetry press. I’m still grateful for it and to Kevin Higgins and The Galway Advertiser for that first review allowing significant connections to be made.

     Strangely, I discovered a further coincidence while interviewing the US Poet Laureate, poet Kay Ryan, for Skylight 47 – that has just launched its Galway 2020 project. She and Menashe were friends. He had discovered the first poem of hers published in an issue of a prestigious New York newspaper that was left on a park bench in Central Park where he liked to walk. He rang her to tell her how  much he liked it and invited her to visit him should she visit the city in future. It was several years later, she told me, before she could visit but they kept in touch thereafter. ‘Superstition’, or synchronicity – as the psychologist Carl Jung might call it – ‘strange coincidence[s]’ abound.

     I’ll be reading alongside poets Louis Mulcahy & Maurice Devitt at Galway City Library on Tuesday 30th Octber, at 18.00 (N.B. 6pm). Before that, we'll be reading in Cork City Library 6.30 Tues 23rd Oct and Dublin's Pearse Street library at 6.30pm on Thurs 25th Oct. More on posts below & Come Along!