Jul 252014

Nuala reading Dub Writers' Fest

Interesting commentary today from Nuala Ní Chonchúir (Uimhir a Cúig, April 2014) on the need to anglicise her name to Nuala O’Connor for marketing reasons (her newest novel Miss Emily is to be published by Penguin USA and Penguin Canada).

Have a read here 

(and here if you need help in pronouncing the Irish version – SPOILER (from her own explanation): “the second part sounds like HOOR (as in ‘she’s a mad hoor’)”).

—Gerard Beirne

Jul 232014

cover image by Jerry Cassidy

cover image by Jerry Cassidy

“When reviewing, the composer’s invective was extreme. He is no less frank when writing about his own life, alcoholism and recovery.”

Uimhir a Cúig recently featured an interview with Irish composer Raymond Deane (by fellow Irish composer Siobhan Cleary) and an extract of his new memoir In My Own Light. Today’s Irish Times has an interesting review of his memoir by music critic Michael Dervan:

“When I was editing Soundpost magazine, I invited him to contribute reviews. From the start, his invective was extreme. He had a go at Shostakovich, who, he wrote, “richly deserves our critical spittle”; and Colman Pearce, who in Mahler’s Third Symphony “dashed through the piece as if he was hurrying home to watch Dallas”. The conductor big-heartedly bore no grudge, and even recorded a CD of Deane’s music in 1997.

There was such a ruckus that I gave him a back-page column, Tailpiece, as well as his reviewing work.”

You can read the entire review here: Raymond Deane, one-time writer of acidic reviews, turns his pen on himself

Jul 222014

dg & dog2DG (right) and Lucy (left) on the farm (art shot — yes, I know it’s annoying).

DG and Lucy were just on the farm in Ontario, you know, for a brief visit, a drug intervention with his mother, a fight with a young gun investment advisor trying to get his hands on his mother’s cash, a movie with Jonah (we went to see the latest Planet of the Apes extravaganza; very funny since he is moving to San Francisco in the fall and dg would keep saying, See, there’s your BART station and there’s your apartment without a roof), flea bombing the tenant house, and dinner with a dear old friend who had a heart attack a month ago and was put in an induced coma and quick frozen, apparently, with no ill effects. (The part about the drug intervention is a joke. Do I have to tell you everything?)

Jean w the girlsJean communing with her hens.

He found a treasure trove of old negatives and discovered that you can make pictures from old out-size negatives by using a laptop screen as a light box and taking a picture of the negative. Then he used photo software to invert the negative to a black and white photo. You should be impressed with his ingenuity.


Jean at beach from negativeJean somewhat earlier in life.

The nearest town is Waterford, where dg went to high school, about two miles from the farm.

DSCF8150Alice Street, Waterford, rush hour. DG’s bank since childhood on your immediate right.

Here’s one of the town appliance stores. What’s interesting is that this used to be a movie theater. You can tell by the shape of the building. DG saw his first ever movie here, a documentary about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. The fact that this was the first movie he ever saw and that it is burned into his memory tells you a lot about what is wrong with him.


After it was a movie theater, it was a pool hall, den of sin (according to Jean). Nothing but failed individuals and juvenile delinquents frequented pool halls. Then it was a lunch restaurant where farmers used to convene to drink coffee and talk about bad weather. DG can remember going there with his father and having hot turkey sandwiches with french fries and chocolate milkshakes. No better food has been invented since (he avers, nostalgically).

DSCF8133-002The old movie theater.

Another major landmark, sign of long gone industrial prosperity, is the old knitting mill (underwear factory), now given over to antiques.

Old Knitting Factory

Alice Street runs east-west. The movie theater was at the east end and the knitting mill was at the west end hard by the train station. The train from New York to Detroit used to run through Waterford parallel to Alice Street behind the bank and the theater. Now the former rail line is a hiking trail, and next to it is a rather peaceful series of ponds and lakes.

DSCF8156About 100 yards from the knitting mill.

While dg was taking pictures he ran into a nice, depleted young man in a black leather pants, a Harley t-shirt and a black leather vest who opened up the conversation by saying he had a brain tumor but that his life had turned around recently when he began seeing UFOs. Apparently, crowds have gathered to watch the fiery lights go up and down the Grand River in Paris, Ontario, a nearby town. But even Waterford has had its visitations. (DG has always had a suspicion that he is not of this world. They are sending ships back for him.)

Capture3A recent local sighting.

New word learned on this trip: earthing. It means to walk barefoot.

tomatoesField of tomatoes on the farm.

DSCF8284 cropped twice bwOne of the chickens, looking a bit like an alien.

Lucy2 w curvesLucy.


more dg among the chickensDG with the chickens (photo by Jean; this is her first photo credit, a milestone at 93).


Jul 222014

Cunningham-Heimlichs-manoeuvre (1)

Congratulations are due to Paula Cunningham (who featured in this month’s Uimhir a Cúig). Her poetry collection Heimlich’s Manoeuvrepublished by Smith|Doorstop in 2013, has just been shortlisted for The Shine/Strong Award 2014. The collection was already shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh Best First Collection Prize 2013 and the 2014 Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for First Full Collection.

The Shine/Strong Award is presented annually for the best first collection of poems published by an Irish poet.  The Award will be presented at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival on Sunday 14th September 2014.

Jul 152014


As a child, my father lived at a curve in the road and often woke to the grinding of automobiles against maples. He says the death of James Dean had inspired everyone to race. Most of the smashups resulted in bloody noses, bruised ribs: minor injuries. But one bastard hit the trees so hard he sheared his One-Fifty in half. When the police arrived, they discovered his right arm twenty yards from the wreckage, lodged in a wayward passenger’s seat. His hair had shocked itself a faint alabaster.

— Read the rest at Cheap Pop

Jul 142014

Young Skins Front Cover - web

Colin Barrett became the second Irish writer, after Edna O’Brien, to win The Frank O’Connor Short Story Award (€25,000) for his debut collection Young Skins. The shortlist also included Lorrie Moore and A L Kennedy (the longlist, of course, included Numéro Cinq’s own “mad genius of Can Lit”, Douglas Glover, for his collection Savage Love). Set mainly in the fictional County Mayo town of Glanbeigh, the stories “explore the wayward lives and loves of young men and women in contemporary post-boom Ireland”.   The judges described Barrett’s collection as having “all the hallmarks of an instant classic”. Alison MacLeod, one of the judges, stated, “His stories are a thump to the heart, a mainline surge to the core. His vision is sharp, his wit is sly, and the stories in this collection come alive with that ineffable thing – soul. How dare a debut writer be this good?”

Why not judge for yourselves – read his story Diamonds here in The Guardian.

—Gerard Beirne

Jul 142014

Captured by slave hunters in her youth, the nameless protagonist in Wilma Stockenström’s The Expedition to the Baobab Tree (Archipelago Books, 2014) details her erstwhile life in slavery, as a possession: a position that stripped her of identity, history, and native language. It is a darkly imagined narrative, with occasional hopeful turns as the narrator strives to hold onto her sense of self, but is ultimately doomed.

Set during the time when the world was thought to be flat, the novel opens with the narrator already taking refuge in the trunk of a baobab tree, a genus of the great Adasonia trees of South Africa. Her existence is defined by that which surrounds her: the eponymous tree, the veld, its other inhabitants—“I found too that I was plucking, digging, picking [food] in competition with animals.” Freed from bondage after her owner mysteriously abandoned her and her fellow slaves on a failed trading expedition, the narrator is now isolated and malnourished, and the present tense action of the novel never ventures far form the baobab tree. She leaves for water and food, returns, and does little else aside from ponder her situation. Her only contact with other humans is through the “little people” (perhaps a group similar to the Pygmy) she sees, who worship her as a tree spirit but will not communicate with her.

Read the rest at A Review of The Expedition to the Baobab Tree — The Austin Review.

Jul 132014

Nuala Ní Chonchúir author photo

I recently had the pleasure of publishing a new short story, Tinnycross, by Nuala Ní Chonchúir in April’s Uimhir a Cúig. Since then her second novel, The Closet of Savage Mementos, has been published by New Island Press.


Read an interview with Nuala here from The Dublin Writers’ Festival about  the novel and her next, Miss Emily, already signed with Penguin in the US and Canada. 

—Gerard Beirne

Jul 122014


One of the best readings I’ve recently had the pleasure to witness came from Jamaal May during the summer MFA residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts. May’s poems pinballed through the room with an electric energy, an energy that’s often nonexistent at author readings. The audience reacted with enthusiasm, erupting in applause at the end of each piece. It was a dynamic event.

So it’s no surprise that, when Leah Falk decided to write an essay on performance anxiety in poetry for The Millions, she used May as one of her examples of how to shine. Here’s a snippet from the piece, which you can read in full here.

Jamaal May, a Detroit poet with deep roots in the slam scene there, is among those who have started the campaign to make “page” poets better performers. Before the publication of his first book, Hum, he wrote a blog post for Poets & Writers called “On Giving a Not Terrible Reading.” “Writers tell me they don’t want to perform or be seen as performative,” he writes, but “I would argue that an overly dry, disengaged reading is in fact a performance. No one speaks that way.” With this criticism, May hit on the irony that underlies so many tepid readings by “page” poets: poets may fear that an engaged, even dramatic performance may come off as inauthentic; but as with wooden acting, not allowing the poem’s elements to guide a reading of it can seem far more false than reading with passion.

And here’s a brief video of Jamaal May performing live:

— Benjamin Woodard

Jul 122014

Bill Drummond. Photograph by David Rose

From British art provocateur Bill Drummond, we have the Ten (actually Eleven) Commandments of Art, forged during his “forty years in the wilderness,” as compared to Moses’ forty days and nights on Mt. Sinai. Drummond says, “Not that I can remember climbing a mountain and coming down with two tablets of stone. Mind you, I do recall a golden calf that had to be smashed, or slaughtered, or something. Or was it a dead sheep?”

Read Drummond’s Commandments, including “Don’t make punk rock,” “Let your lone ranger ride,” and “Burn the bridge” at The Guardian.

Along with writing and painting, Drummond founded a chart-topping band in the 1980s called the KLF, then publicly destroyed the band’s entire cash profit (one million pounds) in a bonfire. After declaring “recorded music has run its course,” he created a choir called The17, then deleted all its recordings. He is currently on a twelve-year world tour until 2025, or until “the Reaper sinks [his] raft.” Drummond will visit a different city each year, where he will display his “25 Paintings” and perform “direct actions,” like making beds (constructing them from wood), sweeping streets, and baking cakes.


The 25 Paintings—works on canvas, also advertisements for Drummond’s direct actions. Photograph by thecornpoppy.

A head painting, Black, White & Black. Photograph by The Guardian.

Before leaving Birmingham, England, where he has begun his tour, Drummond will chisel his Commandments into two tablets of stone. After watching the K Foundation burning one million pounds (that’s cash money), I think he might just as well take a sledgehammer to them and start over.

YouTube Preview Image


—Martha Petersen

Jul 112014

In a time when Amazon discounting has become so steep, hardly anyone is buying a book for the cover price, should the U.S. consider combating Amazon with fixed book prices?

These prices give independent booksellers a chance in a competitive marketplace, and would give publishers the opportunity to count on net numbers that are closer to, you know, the price it costs to publish a book, rather than a number an online retailer has made up.

Read the rest @ Are the French right? Should we fix book prices in America? » MobyLives.

Jul 102014

France, meanwhile, has just unanimously passed a so-called anti-Amazon law, which says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books. (“It will be either cheese or dessert, not both at once,” a French commentator explained.) The new measure is part of France’s effort to promote “biblio-diversity” and help independent bookstores compete. Here, there’s no big bookseller with the power to suddenly turn off the spigot. People in the industry estimate that Amazon has a 10 or 12 percent share of new book sales in France. Amazon reportedly handles 70 percent of the country’s online book sales, but just 18 percent of books are sold online.

The French secret is deeply un-American: fixed book prices. Its 1981 “Lang law,” named after former Culture Minister Jack Lang, says that no seller can offer more than 5 percent off the cover price of new books. That means a book costs more or less the same wherever you buy it in France, even online. The Lang law was designed to make sure France continues to have lots of different books, publishers and booksellers.

Read the rest @ The French Do Buy Books. Real Books. – NYTimes.com.

Jul 082014

Sobering stats. Makes one feel like an Endangered Species.


A typical full-time writer earns £11,000 a year, according to research commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society (ALCS).

The number of those working as full-time writers has also dropped from 40% of all writers in 2005 to 11.5% now.

Chief executive of the ALCS, Owen Atkinson, said the research by Queen Mary University of London, suggested these are “concerning times”.

The typical income of a professional writer in 2005 was £12,330.

Read the rest BBC News – Typical writer ‘earns £11,000 a year’, research reveals.

Jul 042014

Patrick OReilly

It’s a pleasure to announce that Patrick O’Reilly, whose poems were featured in NC’s May issue, is joining the masthead as a Contributor. His first poetry review is coming out in the current issue.

Patrick O’Reilly was raised in Renews, Newfoundland and Labrador, the son of a mechanic and a shop’s clerk. He just graduated from St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, and will begin work on an MFA at the University of Saskatchewan this coming fall. Twice he has won the Robert Clayton Casto Prize for Poetry, the judges describing his poetry as “appealingly direct and unadorned.”



Jul 042014

NC Logo

Ben Woodard, not all that long a member of the NC Masthead, but in light of his mighty and varied contributions to the magazine, has taken a step up the Celestial Ladder and assumed the new position of Associate Editor. Click on his name and take a look at his NC Archive Page to see what he’s brought to the magazine. Notably and recently, that interview with Lydia Davis, but also review of the new translation of Ondjaki’s Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret in the current issue.


Benjamin Woodard lives in Connecticut. His recent fiction has appeared in decomP magazinE, Cleaver Magazine, and Numéro Cinq. His reviews have been featured in Numéro Cinq, Drunken Boat, Rain Taxi Review of Books, and other fine publications. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can find him at benjaminjwoodard.com.

Jul 012014

Julie Larios

In the slider at the top of the page for July we’re displaying  a wonderful selection of poems and essays by our esteemed and beloved Contributing Editor Julie Larios, who, when you look back, has been appearing in the magazine since March, 2010, when she broke into the magazine by entering our the First Ever Numéro Cinq Aphorism Contest (oh yes, oh yes, those were the salad days, the days of wine and roses when we ran contests for aphorisms, villanelles, novels-in-a-box and any number of eccentric genres and forms). We published a poem by Julie in May, 2010; we had more contests (please check out her entry for the first ever translations contest, “A Cow’s Life“), poems, essays; now she contributes a regular essay under the series title Undersung in which she explores the mysteries of great but lesser known poets, poets in translation unsufficiently noticed, and, actually in the current issue, a piece about poet novelists (Robert Graves and James Dickey). Julie is a former colleague of mine at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she taught for years in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program. She’s a dear friend, a trusted ally and a major force for good in the magazine.


Jun 262014



This year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of John Clare, son of an English farm labourer and widely considered to be one of the most important poets of the natural world and of the 19th century. To mark the occasion New Island Press have reissued John MacKenna’s Clare (the novel, interestingly, was first published in 1993 marking the 200th anniversary of Clare’s birth). Uimhir a Cúig was delighted to feature a new story by John in the January issue of Numéro Cinq.

First published in 1993 by Blackstaff Press and winner of The Irish Times Award for Best First Novel, Clare is now being republished in New Island’s Modern Irish Classics series: “Clare was regarded as a daring and intelligent novel that used multiple perspectives and first person narratives to reveal the mind of John Clare, famed 18th-century poet and naturalist. Clare descended into madness in his middle age and the novel deals with the man before and after the beginning of his illness. Hailed as ‘subtle’ and ‘delicate, sensuous and lyrical’, the novel delivers on an emotional intellectual level.”

From the original review in The Independent: “The novel’s language echoes the lyrical astuteness, freshness and honesty of Clare’s verse…it coins a language of intimate knowledge and bears forthright witness to the poet’s life. The narrative is woven from a quartet of voices – the women who stood or stumbled in Clare’s wake, who shared his dooms and aspirations, his flights of longing and frustration. Was the seed of Clare’s melancholy planted by the death of his twin sister in infancy? Or by his yearning for Mary Joyce, the never requited love of his youth, or by the burden of expectation imposed by his parents, which lay ‘like two crosses across John’s shoulders’?”

You can read a recent interview here with John talking about John Clare, the novel and its reissue.

—Gerard Beirne

Jun 252014

DoreBeatrice and Dante by Gustave Doré

Superlatives fail. We are at the threshold, about to enter the Kingdom. You can almost hear the harps and trumpets and the heavenly choirs. But maybe after that there is another Kingdom, and another. Or I’ll get a better thesaurus and find new superlatives. Or perhaps I should try the understated approach: here we have another issue of Numéro Cinq, the usual outrageously varied, scintillating, profound, subversive, cheeky thing we produce here every month.

JonesTom Jones & Sophia Western from the movie

I am particularly proud of two anchor essays this month. Classicist Wayne J. Hankey has written us a fascinating and scholarly essay on conversion in philosophy and literature, “Conversion: Ontological and Secular from Plato to Tom Jones”. You know how Plato had this idea that in life beauty (love, eros) tutors the soul and leads the way to the love of God, ie conversion. Hankey takes this idea and follows it through the ages (Aquinas, Dante) to the invention of the modern novel (the British greats like Richardson, Fielding and Austen) and shows how a secular version of Plato’s conversion becomes the central figure in the structure of the novel itself. Brilliant, entertaining, and surprising.

CaptureEmil Nolde, Masks (still life III), 1911. Nolde was a member of Die Brücke, a group of German “wild” Expressionists.

Then we have Genese Grill’s amazing essay “Primitivisms: (Paradoxically) on Modernism” about the multiform Modernist movement that influenced everyone from Picasso to Chagall and spawned offshoots in folk art, the Bloomsbury craft arts, outsider art, insane art, grotesque art and any number of other beautiful, strange things.

pre and beach 7 11 092d m spitzer

In the same high art vein we have perhaps the most ambitious poetry yet published on NC, an excerpt from D. M. Spitzer’s magnificent, monumental “Ishmaël: from The Genealogy of the First Person,” a poem that compasses everything from Genesis to Moby Dick and the phenomenology of the self.

James Dickey 1James Dickey on the set of Deliverance

In Undersung, this month Julie Larios revisits the great poets — James Dickey and Robert Graves — who also wrote novels. I find this particularly interesting because, of course, I have just been teaching Graves’ great World War One memoir Goodbye to All That and also had my brain forever scarred by watching the film version of Dickey’s amazing canoe trip novel Deliverance.

gal_cudlín_1Róbert Gál

Brilliant, witty, wise aphorisms in translation from the Slovak writer Róbert Gál. “Borne down by the weight of wings.” Think about it

RichardRichard Grant


Newcomer Dan Holmes interviews the  British travel writer Richard Grant and introduces an excerpt from Grant’s delightfully titled book God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre.


Our indefatigable Ben Woodard reviews Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret by the exciting young Angolan writer Ondjaki (writes in Portuguese).


We also have a unique hybrid piece this time, cartoons and poetry, by two Vermont laureates Sydney Lea (the poet) and James Kochalka (the cartoonist).

Paula author photoPaula Cunningham

And poems on a medical theme from the remarkable Irish poet/dentist Paula Cunningham featured in this month Uimhir a Cúig, the little part of Numéro Cinq that will always be green (curated by the wondrous Gerard Beirne).

photo(7)Michael Bryson and familiar

Toronto short story writer, essayist, memoirist, blogger, magazine editor returns to these pages with a brilliant short story, brilliant and devastating (at the end) “The Matter of the Orgasm.” Don’t you love work with the word “orgasm” in the title? Always some promise there.

CaptureSakutarō Hagiwara

And we have a terrific review of the Japanese poet Sakutarō Hagiwara’s collection in translation The Iceland by our first-time reviewer Patrick O’Reilly.


And art work from Victoria Palermo, curated and introduced by Mary Kathryn Jablonski.

Sue with an Israeli paratrooperSue William Silverman with her paratrooper

And more, much more, as always, relentless, endless — you need a hard hat and a brain on amphetamines to keep up with NC, let me tell you — including also new fiction from Dawn Promislow, a story called “Horse in the  Afternoon”, excerpts and photographs from Sue William Silverman’s new memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, and a review of Korean novelist Kyung-sook Shin’s novel I’ll Be Right There by our own Laura K. Warrell.

Call it a billet doux to our readers, not an issue, but a little love note.


Jun 242014

Gordon Lish photo by Bill HaywardGordon Lish photographed by bill hayward

After decades of playing target for envious pseudo-critics and literateurs, Gordon Lish is on the rebound, is rising from the ashes, as it were, being reclaimed and simultaneously, joyfully laying about like Samson with an ass’s jawbone, cutting down the inflated names of recent generations. Here’s a teaser and link to Alexander Nazaryan’s journalistic resurrection piece in Newsweek, complete with photos from bill hayward. You can see more bill hayward photographs of Lish here on Numéro Cinq. Also you can listen to my interview with Gordon here. You can read Jason Lucarelli’s great essay on Lish’s concept of consecution here. And you can read Lish’s cover copy for my story collection Savage Love here. We have it all on NC.


Gordon Lish is a traveler from a country no longer extant, a country where editors were princes and writers kings. A country where the publishing fiefdoms of Manhattan were proud castles in the sky, where the desperate flailings of The Real Housewives of Pittsburgh never made the gossip pages, but the seating arrangements at Elaine’s always did.

In the 1970s, at Esquire, Lish was “Captain Fiction.” He then spent almost two decades at Knopf, publishing the likes of Don DeLillo, Cynthia Ozick and Barry Hannah. With his risen cheekbones, flowing hair and linear mouth, Lish resembled one of the patrician squires he encountered at Andover, not a Jewish milliner’s son from Long Island. He drank with the best of them and, when drunk, said things that were often cruel and sometimes true. Today, his refrigerator is full of Beck’s.

“I live in the dark,” Lish says by way of welcome. This is less a metaphor about senescence (Lish is 80) than a statement of fact. A chronic skin condition, psoriasis, keeps him indoors and out of sunlight; nearby Central Park is verboten. His apartment is a crepuscular chamber, largely unchanged since his wife died more than a decade ago. With his heavy knit sweater and wild white hair, which culminates in a braid, he wanders these rooms looking like some cross between an old fisherman and King Lear.

Read the rest of Alexander Nazaryan’s article at Newsweek.