Posts Tagged ‘Karen Mooney’

Earlier this year I joined a mysterious organization known as the Cult of the Spiny Hog, an offshoot of The Hedgehog Poetry Press, a United Kingdom-based poetry publishing company. For over a year I had heard whispers of this mysterious group, with hints and rumors of its Illuminati-like status, so with a certain amount of trepidation I submitted my application and was accepted into the organization.

Last week I received a package with the “holy writings” of fellow members of the cult, the nine books of poetry that you see in the first photo. If you look carefully at each volume, you will spot the shadowy silhouette of a hedgehog, the mark of the cult. So far I have not been asked to have it tattooed on my body, but I do not exclude that being a future requirement. The second image shows the way the bundle was packaged, with a mysterious face looking out through the translucent paper and the seal of the cult. The final photo shows different versions of the cult’s signature mascot.

How did this happen? How did I fall under the sway of this poetry organization? It began quite modestly when I subscribed to the blog of Irish poet, Damien B. Donnelly. A few months later I had the pleasure of meeting Damien in person in Paris in November 2019—you can read all about our encounter in my blog posting entitled Paris Portraits: Damien. If you too want to be throughly enchanted, check out this YouTube video called An Evening of Eating The Storms in which Damien debuted his poetry collection—it is an amazing performance.

Damien is an incredible poet and over time he and his fellow cult members have helped to reawaken in me a part of myself that had been dormant for decades. When I was in college, I immersed myself in French literature, spent my junior year studying in Paris, and made the totally impractical decision to major in French. As I now look back at those years, I hardly recognize that romantic dreamer as me. I am now beginning to dream again.

If you read my blog regularly, you have seen growing indications of poetry’s growing grip on my heart. In October 2020, I did a posting called National Poetry Day 2020 that talked about new poetry collections by Damien B. Donnelly, Gaynor Kane, and Katie Proctor, poets whose works I had read and seen performed at the Zoom poetry readings that I had started to attend regularly.

I knew that I was hooked in late December 2020 when I felt prompted by the pandemic to write a poem myself. I included it in a posting called Pandemic Poetry that also looked at a powerful collection of pandemic poetry by Gaynor Kane and Karen Mooney. One of the benefits of joining the cult is that I can submit poetry for free into the various competitions run by the publish, a step that I do not envision myself taking now, but can envision such a possibility in the future.

Why am I so smitten with poetry? If I reduced my answer to a single statement, I would have to say that it is because poetry speaks to my heart in a way that no other written or spoken words do. Contemporary poets express themselves in so many different ways and across such a wide range of subjects, that there is bound to be one that speaks to your heart—Amanda Gorman’s moving reading at the US inauguration opened the eyes of many Americans to the power of poetry.

I am not recruiting for the cult and I think there is a strict numerical limit on the number of members. However, I do encourage you to consider adding some poetry to your life. One of the easiest ways to to that is to listen to the weekly Eat The Storms podcast, in which the aforementioned Damien B. Donnelly hosts an hour-long show with poets and musicians performing from around the world. (The podcast is named after Damien’s debut poetry collection, which you can order directly from Damien at his website.)The podcast is already in its second season and new episodes come out each Saturday and are available on Anchor, Spotify, Podbean, Google, Apple, and other podcast platforms.

Here is a comment I left on the podcast’s website that gives you a feel for the scope of the poetry presentations in a single podcast—”Each of your podcast episodes, Damien, is an emotional rollercoaster as your poet friends explore a wide variety of themes in an amazing range of voices, both figuratively as well as literally (with accents from around the world). Where else could I letters to letters to Sylvia Plath juxtaposed with contemplations on Chagall; memories of Paris alongside perceptions from the parallel world of Wolf Planet; humankind’s fight with nature followed by personal memories from a Kodachrome image; greying mists of colorful memories with some black-and-white consequences of British archaeological discoveries? Those topics only touch the surface of this mind-expanding episode of this wonderful podcast.”

Let me end this posting with Damien’s signature closing line, “Stay bloody poetic.”

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How are you coping with the pandemic? Most of us give a politely positive response to such a query. It is hard to admit to doubts and fears, so we generally mask our emotions just as tightly as we mask our noses and mouths.

I was in a contemplative, almost poetic mood yesterday as I was walking about in nature with my camera and played around with these words. If you had seen me, you would have noticed me mumbling to myself. (I decided to illustrate my thoughts with a masked bird, an immature Cedar Waxing (Bombycilla cedrorum) that I photographed in early November.) I’m not a poet, but here is where I ended up. (NOTE: The formatting may be messed up in the WordPress Reader, but is correct if you click through to the blog itself.)

A Masked Response

“I’m fine,” you reply
wearing a mask.
But are you really?

Have you been tending
to your mental well-being
or merely pretending?

Is your pretense
in the past tense
or are you still tense
in the present?

Take care, my friend,
I care.

Cedar Waxwing


Throughout this year I have been entertained, intrigued, and inspired by a whole group of real poets, primarily but not exclusively from the United Kingdom and Ireland, who have helped me to maintain my emotional well-being. Two of them, Karen Mooney and Gaynor Kane, recently published a short collection of poems, entitled Penned In, in which they responded to the impact of the pandemic on society and everyday life. It is an amazing work by two wonderful ladies. If you want to know more about the collection or would like to order your own copy, click on the title above.

Here is a link to a video version of one of Karen’s poems in the collection entitled “We’re All In This Together.”

Here is a link to a video version of one of Gaynor’s poems in the collection entitled “Learning BSL During Lockdown.”

Let me conclude with a stanza from one of the poems in their collection entitled “Stilling the World.”

“But think of the cost if you don’t stay home.
You’re not alone, we’re in this together,
won’t be forever, but some will never…”

Stay safe and healthy as we all prepare to begin a new year.

Michael Q. Powell.





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