Frida Kahlo’s Flowers


You have to supply your own choice of music……. but, in other news, here is a slide show movie of many of the Frida Kahlo photos. She really doesn’t like Sweet William, but apart from that, she looks good with so many of the other flowers.


Let me know what music you suggest.

Poetry Jukebox – Request Time! – Nessa O’Mahony – The Dreaming Octopus @nessao

Poetry Jukebox puts poetry into Public space. This jukebox is at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. Next up – This beautiful poem – The Dreaming Octopus by Nessa O’Mahony.  This poem has featured in our Once Barefoot curation, which is about climate change and is at Belfast Tropical Ravine and Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris

Letters to The Healing Place of the Soul #FillingTheVoid – Write to Us

Public Art Participation Project – WRITE TO US NOW!

We live in extraordinary times.  We will gladly receive your (emailed) letters to We will miss the immediacy of your handwriting and your envelopes, the physicality of the letter, but we will gain the immediacy of your lived experience of these times. We are extending and re-opening our project, but as an online experience, given the implications of Covid-19 – so email us instead.

Tell us what is happening day to day. How have things changed? What is different but good about the changes? What is it that is making you anxious? What and whom do you miss? To paraphrase the French avant grade artist Georges Perec, what is happening, when nothing is happening? 

The motto over the door of the historic Robinson Library in Armagh translates from the Greek, as The Healing Place of the Soul.  We are looking beyond these times. In March 2021, when we celebrate 250 years of the existence of the library, we will mark with a new site-specific dance theatre piece, AT THE MARGINS, based on the letters project and the participation of those who sent us their words. Join in – this is a place to tell us all of human experience in these challenging and unusual circumstances. Let the words talk, and let the words travel the distance, from you, to us.


In our last iteration of this project, we had hundreds of beautiful, intimate and heartfelt letters in response to our call-out for #FillingTheVoid Our writers wrote to the future and to the past, to people they love and about things that matter most. They made us laugh, they touched our hearts and they made us think. They also made us realise that through writing their letters, the opportunity to reflect, record the everyday, and connect with each other, is responding to a deeply held need to communicate.

The letters came from Australia, Spain, the UK and all over Ireland. During Georgian Festival we had many  visitors to the library on the day, and those that came also wrote letters – some were posted there and then, to friends and family from the beautiful Georgian letterbox on the street outside the Robinson Library, and others were left with us for the archive.

This is a time for reflection and a time when we need to connect. We are navigating  new uncertainties about the state of our world and where it is we find ourselves now, individually and with each other. 

This project is creating a contemporary epistolary archive written by citizens – especially the citizens of Armagh, but also from all over Northern Ireland, the border area, the island of Ireland, Britain, Europe and the whole world. Everything in a letter tells something –  the handwriting, post marks, the subject matter, the demographic and concerns of the writer: the letter is a  point in time pen-portrait.  We are also interested in receiving correspondence which for some reason has personal significance to the donor.

Letters are welcome from people of all ages and ethnicities, from anywhere in the world, on any topic they may wish to record. Then we will include it in our archive in the beautiful Armagh RobinsonLibrary for posterity and consider all letters received when were are devising our site specific dance theatre piece – AT THE MARGINS, in March 2021.   

  • If you wrote the letter you wanted to write, to whom would you write it?
  • What would you write about? A letter to your childhood home, the parent you’ve lost, your old lover, those pesky politicians, your heroine/ hero, the generations yet to come, the child in your arms, or in your womb, your idol, the lost, the prodigal, the fictional, the historical?
  • Who would be the object of your letter? We live in such uncertain and turbulent times. What do you have to say …what is the ‘thing’ you can write about in a letter, but just can’t say any other way?
  • Is yours letter to the masses, or to just one person?  To your older self? Your younger self? Your braver self – something for the record.

Letters from anyone, about anything are welcome. 

  Email us :

Maria McManus (Poet) is the author of Available Light (Arlen House, 2018), We are Bone (2013)The Cello Suites(2009) and Reading the Dog (2006) (Lagan Press). She has collaborated extensively with others producing performance pieces for choir (18, with composer Keith Acheson) dance (TURF and DUST with Eileen McClory) and multi-art form collaborations. She is Artistic Director and curator of Poetry Jukebox, an on-street audio installation of contemporary poetry.



Poetry Day IRL 2018 – RTE Radio Interview



This piece features information about this year’s LabeLLit project involving more than 70 poets in Ireland, Wales, England, Spain, Portugal and Australia. You can catch up with it at @LabeLLit on Twitter or

This interview also includes an excerpt from  my new work commissioned by Poetry Ireland – The Coping Stone. The poem is set on the Fermanagh/ Cavan border, between Belcoo and Blacklion, or ‘the Blaic’ as we always called it.


Thanks to Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Lottery Good Causes and Poetry Ireland for their support

The case for flourishing now


Today it is still warm in Belfast. I am sitting at my desk looking out onto the street below. People come and go constantly from the Asian supermarket opposite. Here is a vivid, culturally diverse, gritty and exciting quarter of the city.

I love it that one of the up-sides of more peaceable times here is that we are more culturally diverse, that there are more immigrants. It is a richer, healthier place for that, though I know too it isn’t necessarily easy for people to be here. It’s also a racist place; one full of contradictions; welcoming and hostile, relaxed and uneasy, progressive and deeply entrenched.

In the past, during the Troubles, and I know it is a generalisation, so spare me the corrections and bear with me while I explain what I mean – when people came here, who were from other cultures, for example from some of the countries of Asia and Africa, they were, most often, professionals – academics and medics for example.

This isn’t the case now. The majority of those who come here are working class people seeking employment, economic migrants, those seeking asylum. It means we have to ‘budge over in the bed’ and make room; adjust to learning new things; shift. In the round we are getting on with it, but I can’t help thinking……. let’s just say, we have some way to go. My own belief is that here is better for the diversity new people bring and for the challenges that come with it.

I liked Manhattan for that – another place full of contradictions. A place where people live cheek by jowl with their differences, difficult and all as that can be, whether what causes people to run up against each other is gender, politics, economics, race, sexuality, faith and religion.

Some things are unexpected. When I visited some years ago, I was struck by the fact that however far away I was, here, my own context had travelled with me. The pre-occupations I had at home were with me. The things that bothered me here, showed up and bothered me there too, though somehow, distance also gave a new perspective, and a chance to notice what was the same and what was different, and how the themes of our lives thread together, simply because we are human. I like to think about such things even when I haven’t gotten as far as a thorough analysis; even when all I can do, is continue to notice, to absorb what it is I see and experience – even if fully understanding remains an elusive thing.

There are things to be curious about and a value in being unimpressed too much by grandeur. Grit is interesting – the ways in which we run up against what is difficult and what we do when we get there.

The following is a poem I wrote while in Manhattan some years ago – from the privileged position of tourist and interloper. Unexpectedly, things came full circle for me and I inadvertently stumbled upon old painful memories of home, through old film in the archives of the Museum of Radio and Television. It is a small world. Suddenly I was remembering the death of a schoolboy peer, Paul Maxwell,  in the bombing in which Lord Louis Mountbatten died when his boat was bombed off the west coast of Ireland. Today the sunny day reminds me of the weather that day. I look out my window and the diversity I see around me reminds me of Manhattan.  Our news is full of Parades Commission rulings and ‘the marching season’. Overall, the atmosphere around doesnt feel too bad, and here, a place which was once an old flashpoint of it’s own, in the Lower Ormeau Road – things feel not too bad. In the round, things are so much better more of the time. Change is hard. It’s not always easy and it’s not always good, but it happens anyway, sooner or later. For now, we are on the better side of that. Oh, and here’s that poem…………..

Stepping out of Hotel Thirty Thirty.

for publication in ‘We are Bone’ Lagan Press 2013.

In the hotel

I check the phone book for emigres

and lie there flick-flicking the television from The Simpsons to evangelists

and back again.

wed rink hot apple cider for one dollar a cup

and pass the time in the street market;

organic Vermont cheese, handmade candles,

soap, bread from Connecticut, incense, Camolile tea

and lavender pot-pourri –

anti-abortion campaigners’ placard;

a solitary woman in red shorts

roller-skates upstream

into traffic at ten below zero.

You can get anything you want in this city; any time, night or day. Anything

you want.

Boston Clam Chowder, Lobster Bisque,

Chicken Noodle Soup, boardies, a Kink’s T-shirt,

a Jet’s hoodie, whisky, Thai,

Stiff Little Fingers.

Dog owners stoop

to scoop the poop

and pop pooches

into pouches,

but I’m sure dogs

would rather walk anyway.

The Homeless

sleep on vents from the subway all night and ride any train all day.

A gallery on Madison exhibits them in a window display of phot-portraits –

the subjects hold frames, salvaged from skips, to their faces.

Snaps od someone asleep on a sofa with a Labrador scatter down 5th Avenue,

past a cement mixer painted in pastel polka dots.

I drop a note into the empty carton

below a baseball hat tilted at hand height to me;

he is a child who lifts his face.

In the Museum of Radio and Television I punch in ‘CASTRO’ –

the same episode of 60 Minutes from 1979

turns up Crossmaglen,

Narrow Water Castle


the Pope


and the British Army on red-brick streets in Belfast

with stoops in the manner of Brownstones;

all the things I had forgotten;

my father

stopping the car in disbelief

on the Queen Elizabeth Road

on a blistering hot August day.


Check point.

Dylan Thomas ghosts himself into ‘lamb-white days’

‘the streets suck the stars out of sight

                                      out of the sky……….’

‘Do not go gentle…….’ He belonged to his youth.*

A Veronese hangs in the Frick, outside the Enamel Room

‘The Choice of Hercules’,



Honour and virtue flourish after death.

Flourish after death. Flourish after death, but I am screaming, No. No. Now.

A bag lady washes in the ladies’ room of Central Park Zoo

and she cleans the bathroom every day to give something back to the city.

The street choir sings, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus,’ and the frame cuts to the man who drinks from the bottle of ketchup he found in the bin. He says,

I am Jesus. I am Jesus.

and I believe him.

*  denotes a  quote from poet Derek Mahon, speaking of Dylan Thomas.

Clare……….. a place apart


The Cliffs of Moher

? Aill na Searrach in the background…..

I was in Clare for the weekend; in Doolin to be exact about it. The sudden blast of warmer weather and sunshine had a paradoxical effect on this part of the coast, so the day was was smudged in a sea fog for much of Saturday into Sunday, while, apparently most of the rest of the country experienced uncharacteristically hot, warm sunny weather. I’d be lying if I said I minded. I didn’t. I love this part of the world in any case.

On Saturday, I hung out among the wildflowers growing in the cracks of the spectacular limestone pavement of the quay for a few hours just  watching the ocean and spotting the local dolphin mosey about. Dingle started that oul lark with ‘Fungi’…… now they’re all at it. Tory has a dolphin, Fanore has a dolphin and,  Doolin also has a dolphin…….. that’d be Dusty the dolphin to you by the way. I don’t know if Dusty is on the payroll of the tourist board, but maybe she ought to be. Maybe they all are. Dolphins make the people happy and are just a bit thrilling, smiling and altogether captivating.

I took the boat trip out to the Cliffs of Moher.  There was a bit of a swell and, perversely enough, I like that too, though I felt sorry for the people who  were ill. I did  not feel sorry  for those who turned up in stilettos and high wedged shoes. I was grateful for the entertainment value and the incongruence; a high heel on the functional stainless steel of a ferry is asking for trouble at the best of times, let alone out at sea….. on a roll, as it were. Don’t be too  proud to take a seat, or go barefoot.

The scale and  presence of the cliffs are impressive. To view them from the sea creates a whole different sensation of perspective and how I respond to them. I noticed I was in reverie thinking of how they were formed and how the acoustic changes the closer you get.  I noticed the sea is amplified. The sound of sea birds is urgent, rowdy and competitive. Look up by all means, but don’t be too carried away with awe – there’s a lot of guano in the air.

Sea fog........ a different experience..

Sea fog…….. a different experience..

On Sunday, the sea fog persisted until noon or later.  Trotting to the cliff edge in fog turned out to be an interesting experience and was worth it to take the time to sit a while. The experience was one of really being in a liminal space. 30 meters back the acoustic was of larks and bird song.  A few people were there – a photographer, a surfie, an occasional hill walker. The sounds of surfers drifted up from the surface of the sea. The mist and fog changed constantly in density, sometimes revealing glimpses of the sea, and wave patterns, points of resistance where the water met the rocks. It was treacherous and mesmerising. The horizon also appeared, merged, smudged, and defined itself, like a work in progress. The Aran Islands looked like cloud formations sometimes. At other times they disappeared entirely. The visual trickery was compelling.