Beneath the Clock

By Kathrin Kobus

“Beneath the Clock” is the title of the latest book from Swan Press and is a compilation of mainly poems but also some flash fiction and short prose from writers of the Rathmines Writers Workshop (RWW).

It is a collection dealing in telling detail: snapshots and memories from family life, nature, rather than poetic reworkings of threshold decisions or life-changing perspectives.

Ger Reidy, the well-known poet, happily agreed when asked by James Conway to edit and shape the current anthology. It took two years working with the writers.

The RWW is a workshop where seasoned writers and newcomers alike discuss their respective works. “At our meets, we read each other’s pieces and discuss them, but starting with the positives first. And not just putting someone else’s writing down. That is something that came with time, we developed our way of how to criticise works but in a helpful way,” says Reidy. 

The group has been around nearly as long as NewsFour.  Our paper started out in 1988, the first writers in Rathmines met in 1990. One of them was James Conway together with Eithne Kavanagh, Mary Guckian and the late Warren O’Connell. “He was very knowledgeable and helped a lot of us.” James Conway told NewsFour. 

It is a fluid group. A core of people come regularly over the years, others might drop out, come back later or find another way to publish their writing.

There is something the RWW is rightly proud of. “When someone comes new to Dublin and is interested in poetry, writing, looking for a group and rings Poetry Ireland, they will recommend us.”

This is partly due their longevity. Other writing groups came and went but their workshop persisted, only the location for meetings changed.  Currently, their home is Christ Church Community Centre in Rathgar Village. There, the poets meet in the committee room every two weeks, the prose writers come together in the Highfield room once a month. The admission fee is less than the average price of a pint.  

It is a rare occasion that a few lines that sprang to mind remain unchanged between being scribbled down onto a pad to finding its way onto the printed page. However, one such poem Waterman is included, in the Beneath The Clock collection,  which you can read in this issue. Written by Philomena Conway, James’s late wife.  “She actually wasn’t a writer, but she was the backbone of the group, organising behind the scenes. But one day we went to the beach at Curracloe and for once she stepped into the water, she wasn’t a swimmer at all. But this day, she waded in just a little bit and she came out and said to me I have these words in my head. And we jotted them down and there it was, poetry.” 

If only it was always that easy. Even so, James Conway has two books, one in prose Vertebrae of Journey in 2010 and a poetry collection published by Lapwing Press, last year, Purple Coat. He has always been realistic about (not) making a living from writing and still keeping up with it because: “Poetry is the most versatile, ambidextrous and omnipotent of all time of speech and writing. Yet paradoxically it is unified by a single exclusive reader which enables us to identify it and which separates it from every other kind of linguistic expression.”

The now-retired public servant is happy having sold a number of copies of his books here and in Britain, something he was surprised to find out on a follow-up visit. Three of his recent poems are included in Beneath the Clock, but there are other treasures waiting to be discovered, both poems and prose.

The short biographies at the end of the book offer a valuable insight into what some of the authors have achieved, but also how they manage the balance between varying different professions and one unifying hobby: writing words for the joy of it and to reach out.

“Beneath the Clock” is available from Swan Press €10 and in Hannah’s in Rathmines, Books Upstairs in D’Olier Street and others. 

Contact the Rathmines Writers’ Workshop: James Conway 086 – 40255 78.

General information:

Participants read from their own work, either a poem, short story or extract from a novel or play and then receive feedback from the group.  The emphasis in the workshop is on constructive feedback. 

Participants are welcome to attend without reading themselves, but you’ll have much more fun if you read yourself. We ask participants to bring copies of the work they plan on reading.

A fee of €5 per person (€3 concessions) is charged to cover costs. The fee for the prose meetings is €6 (€4

Where do we meet? 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm at Christ Church’s committee room (via back entrance to the church) in the centre of Rathgar Village for the general meeting.

Prose meetings are held in the Christ Church community centre’s Highfield room, Rathgar Village from 7.30 p.m. to 10 p.m.