Two Reviews Reviewed in the Irish Arts Review!

irish-arts-cover-insertYes, it sounds like a mouthful, but it was a pleasure to actually do this. That is, write a review of two literary reviews, in an Irish art world review:  the sumptuous and ever interesting Irish Arts Review.

The reviews in question were the Spring/Summer editions of The Dublin Review and Irish Pages, which, if you haven’t caught up with yet, you should. Both the Irish Pages editions are dedicated to Seamus Heaney, and feature an astounding seventy-something contributors: crucial for all Heaney fans.

Issues 62 and 63 of The Dublin Review feature writers as diverse as Rob Doyle, Eimear Ryan and Ian Sansom.  A great double read for any short fiction or essay fans.

But either way – also pick up Irish Arts Review’s Autumn edition, with its eye-catching cover depicting Maser’s important and much maligned mural. Packed full of art!


From the X-case in 1992 to O’Connell Street 2016

Today Irish women march in Dublin to demand repeal of the 8th Amendment – in 1992, I reported from New York for Hot Press Magazine about the “X” case protests there – not much has changed.  Full text available later today.


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 and pick one up there!


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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“Memory and Desire” launched in Dublin

Val Mulkerns reads from her new book, "Memory and Desire".

Val Mulkerns reads from her new book, “Memory and Desire”.

Hard to believe that Val Mulkerns published her first novel in 1951. For this writer, in any case, as the niece in the background struggling with a first tome, she is an inspiration:  this is her tenth, sixty-five years later.

In between came two more novels, three short story collections, two children’s books and many thousands of words of journalistic work, as she became a columnist for a national newspaper in the seventies.

Standing at the podium in The Irish Writers’ Centre on Thursday night, she read an extract from the first story in the collection, “Special Category”, inspired by her father, Jimmy Mulkerns, who had been imprisoned in Frongoch prison camp (via Knutsford Jail) in 1916 following his participation in the Battle of the Four Courts.

As the kick-start to Memory and Desire” it certainly pulls the reader in.  Stories then follow in chronological fashion, actually drawing a rough line through most of Ireland in the twentieth century – from the birth of the nation through its massive changes in the sixties and seventies and then into the late eighties: an Ireland struggling between the disillusion of recession and emergence into a post-colonial identity.  The final, also the title story, has been described by Colm Tóibín as, “one of the finest short stories to have been published in Ireland for many years.”

Mem-Des-end-email imageWhile Val Mulkerns already has another book on the way – a memoir – it’s a great treat to see this new selection of her short stories available this year ahead of it:  for me, it was a wonderful re-introduction to her work, especially the short stories for which she is so renowned, and as it turns out, in my own case, put them between new covers with 451 Editions so that they can be read by others.  With its beautiful cover painting by Louise Newman, the book strikes a pose in bookshops, and presents a recurring theme in the collection: the sea.

The launch of “Memory and Desire”, which included fellow authors, literary friends and family as well as others drawn by the new title, was a splendid success.  Professor Ronan Conroy gave the best of introductions:  smart, witty and full of warmth, and the reading was delivered by the author herself with perfect pitch and timing, drawing in the audience until they hung on every word.

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A Palm Tree Christmas – Sinead O’Connor in LA, 1990

Sinead Cover-bord-blog

Pic: John Francis Bourke

An interview with Sinéad O’Connor
by Helena Mulkerns,
first published in
Hot Press magazine, Dec. 1990:

* * * * * * * * * *

Due to overcrowding in JFK and strong headwinds, the plane is late touching down in LAX. Although the inevitable tinselly Christmas decorations are in evidence all over, it hardly feels like Yuletide to photographer John Francis Bourke and me. In New York we shivered in the icy winds belting down Broadway as we waited for a cab, here we roll down the car windows and laugh at the palm trees. Bikers zoom along in open jackets, helmetless. At the “Cat and Fiddle” on Sunset, people are eating at tables outside on the patio. In December.

The splendid, glittering tackiness of the West Coast boulevards at night is countered the following day by a pristine, cloudless sky and unusually hot sunshine, which scalds into the hotel bedroom where we’ve scheduled an interview with America’s favourite diva, Sinead O’Connor. Or just “Sinead”, as they’ve taken to calling her. Americans have even finally succeeded in pronouncing it properly, a sure sign of acceptance. LA Weekly has a centerfold spread advertizing “RED, HOT AND BLUE” that lists the performers on the album: “U2, Sinead O’Connor, David Byrne” etc. Sinead is at the very top of the list, as she has been on most lists in the U.S. for most of this year. Until the January release of “Nothing Compares 2U”, she was respected high-cult Princess, the prized choice of the connoisseur. With the subsequent smash hit of the single, video and album “I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got” she went straight up there alongside Madonna and Whitney, outclassing and outselling both.

Having decided against something brashly rock’n’roll like the Sunset Marquis, the small Ermitage Hotel tucked in behind Sunset Boulevard is perfectly anonymous and very friendly. Maria at the reception desk smiles without fuss as Sinead comes in, and apart from one man who nearly drops on the spot when he runs almost straight into Sinead in the elevator, all is comfortably low key. By 9:00 am, we’re camped out on the bed, Sinead, Ciara and Hot Press – fuelled with Cappuccinos and toast. We chat a bit, an amusing starting point being the discussion of the fact that it’s still very much taboo for women to curse in America – a habit Irish and particularly Dublin women are addicted to. Sinead seems in fine form, having passed her driving test the day before and in the process of buying a car so she’ll be able, finally to drive around her newly adopted city. (more…)

HOT PRESS Profile by Anne Sexton


A piece in Hot Press magazine by Anne Sexton, with photo by Paula Nolan and review by Olaf Tyaransen. Below see an extract from the interview – the rest in Hot Press magazine, available in all Irish newsagents right now!


An arts journalist and performer, Helena Mulkerns lived and worked in Paris and New York before joining the UN as a press officer. 

It was her ten years with UN peacekeeping missions that inspired her collection, Ferenji and other stories. Ferenji means ‘foreigner’ in old Arabic and Persian.  As the name suggests, Mulkerns’ stories centre on the lives of foreign aid workers in various conflict and post-conflict zones. (more…)

Leonard Cohen: He’s our man

This is my contribution to a piece by Martin Doyle with tributes from John Kelly, Sara Baume, Peter Murphy, Evelyn Conlon and more.  For all writers’ contributions, please click this link.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-15-44-29It wasn’t until the mid-nineties, a decade into the study of Tibetan Buddhism, that I began to listen to the music of Leonard Cohen. A beautiful Chinese artist friend would have no other soundtrack as she painted.  She said he transported her to a richer place than the blank, cold studio she was working in.  I only began to hear Cohen with her, then after she moved away I heard him more clearly by myself on a Buddhist retreat in Vermont.  Along pathways between pinewood trees and incensed shrine rooms, I played him constantly – in defiance of the strict rules of the monastery (no “entertainment”).  The experience was intensified by my fascination at Cohen himself having just retreated from the craziness of the music business to a Zen monastery in California.

Such respite from the turbulence and uncertainty of daily living in today’s world is always ephemeral.  Even Cohen came back into the spotlight when he began to tour again in recent years.  But his music is, in a way, is like a retreat.  It takes you out of the fray and into aural balm and wit and darkness that even while dark, is calming and sensual. (more…)

The Irish Book Awards 2017

While a full blog entry about the Bórd Gais Energy Irish Book Awards is pending – here are some photos for now: