“When birds do sing … “ – Mongoose live

MongooseTripping in like troubadours from some far Faerie galaxy, Mongoose hit the stage amid a barrage of rapid-fire ripostes, disarming any of the audience not yet acquainted with them, and charming those who are: glorious.

Firstly, there was that promising stage … not everyday does one see instruments such as a cello and a double bass nestling cheekily among the requisite guitars and keyboard. There’s even a mysterious blue casket thing that I later interpret as some kind of post-modern glockenspiel.   (more…)

In Paris for WexFour eLaunch!

It was wonderful to be able to travel to Paris last week for the WexFour event at Le Centre Culturel Irlandais, where, following a special staged reading of the four one-act plays, the WexFour eBook from 451 Editions was officially launched.

The crew from The Wexford Arts Centre did an amazing job to a full house, and for a full account of the event, please click here for the article in The Irish Times, or click on the image above.  Below, you can see some photos from the trip. Click on the first pic to set the gallery rolling.

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“Make Them Visible” – an Oxfam project

Make-Them-Visible-cover-webThe current crisis of refugees in the Mediterranean has crowded our screens over the last few weeks with heartbreaking press images of refugee families, children sodden with seawater, clamouring aboard rescue vessels, sitting in holding camps and worse.

Oxfam’s DONATE page gives an opportunity for Irish people to help out, but its outreach efforts recently took an new and innovative turn when they produced a handsome pamphlet featuring work by fifteen Irish writers, who were asked to each write a short piece inspired by an individual photograph depicting a refugee or refugees, taken by international field photographers.

Colum McCann, Ella Griffin, Eoin Macnamee, Kate Kerrigan, Belinda McKeon, Gerald Dawe, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Theo Dorgan, Rita Ann Higgins, Helen Falconer, Jan Carsen, Michael Harding, Bethany DawsonGavin Corbett and myself all contributed.

This project will be presented at a very special event on Culture Night, in Dublin’s Oxfam Bookshop on Parliament Street,  with an exhibition of image by contributing photographers Kieran Doherty,  Gabrielle Piquot, Pablo Tosco, Sam Tarling, Vincent Tremeau,  MacKenzie Knowles and Oriol Gallard.

Please join us on Culture Night in Oxfam, Parliament Street for this event – and if you can’t go, be sure to check on as many of the links above as you can, to see the work of contributing writers and photographers.  For those in Belfast, an exhibition of work by Kieran Doherty on the theme, “Make Them Visible” will take place on 12 November, at the Linen Hall in Belfast, for full details see here

And of course – don’t forget to donate to Oxfam’s crucial work  HERE.


From the Archives: The San Francisco Book Fair, 1996

THE SAN FRANCISCO BOOK FESTIVAL turns out to be exactly what it’s billed as: a “celebration of books”.  Leave your cares, your TV, your Internet (although it does rear its ugly head) and your sense of time behind you,and head into an arguably dying realm. After all, the Japanese have already invented the slim, compact, CD ROM book-reading device which you hold in your hand and press a tiny panel to turn the “pages”.

San Fran Book Fair-Web

For all that, books, their creators and their enthusiasts appear strangely healthy this weekend, by the end of which strong backs are necessary to cart away compulsive print purchases, many signed by the gang of authors who have descended on the town for the event. Over the weekend, you could attend readings by American book heroes as diverse as Amy Tan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tobias Wolff, Joy Harjo or Alice Walker, with visits by writers from China, India and Peru.

The Pads, of course, are no exception. Not to be completely out­ done by the mucho-sexy Frankfurt extravaganza, San Francisco this year featured a strong Irish – Indeed Celtic – presence, with writers travelling from the auld sod and around the US to participate in a special panel entitled “The Wild Colonials: The Writing Irish Abroad”. (more…)

Ferenji Cover and Launch Date

ferenji-thumbnailHere it is, my debut short fiction collection: Ferenji and other stories, published by Doire Press of Galway. Official publication date: 1st November, 2016.  But don’t miss the launch a little ahead of that on Thursday evening, 27 October at the Irish Writers’ Centre.

Ferenji is a themed collection of short stories set in Africa and Afghanistan, with six main characters mainly based in conflict or post-conflict zones.  It’s the fruit of meeting John Walsh and Lisa Frank of Doire Press, whose literary publishing house has been building up a rich reputation for publishing excellent new work from writers and poets for almost a decade now.

Doire’s first title was a debut poetry collection from Miceál Kearney titled Inheritance which won the North Beach Poetry Nights’ Grand Slam Prize. Their second was a short story collection by Susan Millar duMars, Lights in the Distance.  With the metamorphosis of the world of publishing from the category of innovative Arts champion to often corporate multi-national, Doire returns to the essential, the classic prototype of a quality literary pubishing house.

From years of being put off because all publishers wanted to know about was “my novel,” which I simply never wrote, Doire didn’t pester me for a novel.  They accepted that I write and love to write short stories. Currently, more than ever, it is a format that is favoured as a result of post-modern distraction and endless busy-ness. People like short stories because they are stories with characters and meaning and they are short.

My stories, in fairness, have been published fairly steadily down the years in anthologies, newspapers and magazines in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia and even Croatia.  My first, published by Cíarán Carty, was shortlisted for an Irish Hennessy Award and my debut in an anthology (Ireland in Exile by Dermot Bolger, New Island) was praised at the time and followed by about two dozen more published in other anthologies, magazines and newspapers. Another was nominated for the American Pushcart Prize, and a Manhattan dancer even created a contemporary dance piece inspired by it.

But the great novel eluded me.  Mostly, when I’d get through six chapters, I’d suddenly see a fantastic short story in the middle and open a new document to write that instead of knuckling down and starting Chapter 7.   But that’s the way, and I am so very happy to have met John Walsh and Lisa Frank, who also like short stories, and who liked mine enough to publish them.

Please join me on 27 October for the launch of my book at the Irish Writers’ Centre, and if you can’t – check out DoirePress.com and pick one up there!


Books of the Year: Ferenji mentioned

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-10-04-24It was such a wonderful surprise to open the Irish Times today, and find my book mentioned by one of my favourite short story writers, Nuala O’Connor, as one of her “Favourite Books of 2016”.  The full article is filled with great recommendations for Christmas presents, 2016 – check it out at this link:

Nuala says:  “Ferenji is the debut short story collection of Helena Mulkerns, a former press officer with the United Nations. The stories concern both aid workers’ and locals’ stories and are humane and graphic.  Beautifully written and topical, this book is a heartbreaking look at the realities of post-war lives.”  




From the archives: The David Bowie Interview

Bowie Cover-blog-docSo, at the request of friends, I’m uploading my one and only David Bowie interview for posterity, published in Hot Press – hard to believe – 20 years ago. (Click on the image to the left for immediate access).  In 1995, I’d long been a Bowie freak and back again, having first seen him as a vision in white satin hot-pants screaming “Jean Jeanie”, but not catching him live for the first time in Paris during the Serious Moonlight tour. 

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was the first album I ever bought, followed by every Bowie album ever after that until a certain dodgy period from the early eighties to mid-nineties, but say no more.

There was a heat wave in New York when Hot Press Editor, Niall Stokes phoned me and said, “I’m calling you because I know you’d come home and shoot me if I didn’t … ”

It had been a strange year, kicking off with twelve people dead in a weird chemical warfare attack in the Tokyo subway;  Timothy MacVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 Americans in Oklahoma City.  While an historic peace accord was signed between Israel and the PLO, in Srebrenica, Bosnian Serbs massacred an estimated 7,000 Muslim men, raping thousands of women, in probably the worst European war crime since World War II.

In the art world, a sort of misguided, pre-millennial rococo was everywhere. Body modification through self mutilation and even plastic surgery was at its height. The previous year’s Nine Inch Nails’ album, The Downward Spiral, with its themes of self-harm, addiction and despair had spawned a follow-up album in June.  Damien Hirst was suspending dead sheep and cows in formaldehyde and French performance artist Orlan was rearranging her face to resemble iconic works of Art.

It’s hard to believe that just two years previously, Bowie had produced the unspeakably bland Black Tie White Noise.  As a massive contrast, Outside was dark in the extreme, offering a musical reflection that sought to capture the prevailing fin de siecle angst.  Bowie had been graduating more towards fine art, and had begun to work with Brian Eno.  They even visited the Psychiatric unit of a hospital in Vienna to interview artists who had gone to the extreme end of Outsider art. Based on a short story written by Bowie, which is in the sleeve notes, it was filled with deeply disturbing imagery.  (more…)