L'Absolu, revue littéraire Fred Johnston poetry



a room above a river:

trees in the window,

veins stripped of skin –

everything coldly obvious

odour of old incense:

as if a ceremony

or consecration

had taken place.

in this room I’d wait,

still hungry for words:

sometimes the ‘phone

would ring on the bare desk.


- - -



when she leaves the room there remains

a moment of her going,

a sheer instant

hanging in the air – you may imagine,

if you will, mosquito-netting –

a draft of split air leans it back,

small sounds of three girls at desks

against a wall,

the tick a paperclip makes falling on wood:

this ordinary girl comes back,

not ordinary as a pane of glass is, or a chair,

wearing herself well,

bruising through unclimactic hours

from one routine thing to the next,

more as a bird or a flower is ordinary,

physical and powerful, rooted, or in flight:

there is a clock on the wall too big

for such a small room -

the room has begun to shrink

like a garment finding the map of the body,

it fits us now, we are no closer

but it seems as if we are,

one knee over the other, she resumes

a litany of immaculate prosaic facts:

this is her business, her being here, her beauty.


- - -



in my dream you had died


between waking and sleeping,

when light came into the room,

you would not answer my touch:

in the brittle February afternoon,

light on the garden so fragile

it was like water drying up on a green rock,

you said: You were shaking me.

in my dream you had died, I answered.

still half asleep, I thought you were dead.


- - -


FRED JOHNSTON (sylfredcar@iolfree.ie)

Born 1951 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Educated there and Toronto, Canada. Lived for a time in Spain and Algeria. Attended St. Malachy's College, Belfast and Cregagh Technical College, Belfast. Moved to Dublin in 1968 and Galway in 1976. Has read frequently here and in France, including the universities of Toulouse and Poitiers; at Poitiers, he delivered a paper on contemporary Irish literature North and South, 1969 – Present. Has delivered papers elsewhere, including to the John Hewitt School, Armagh, Northern Ireland, on the relationship between Irish writers and politics in our time (July 2003).


Worked for some years as a fulltime journalist, writer and sub-editor: Irish Press, This Week magazine, (1970), Woman's Choice (Creation Grp, Dublin), and Belfast Telegraph (sub-ed.) Two and a half years in public relations in Dublin (Arrow Advertising/Public Relations Practitioners LTD., Merrion Sq.) Worked as Public Relations Officer for Punchbag Theatre Ltd., Galway. Has edited Galway’s Westword Magazine and has edited BookView and Markings literary pages for The Galway Advertiser newspaper.


Received Hennessy Literary Award for prose in 1972, judges V.S. Pritchett and James Plunkett. Received Sunday Independent Short Story and Poem of the Month awards in 1981 and 1982 respectively. Co-founded, with Neil Jordan and Peter Sheridan, The Irish Writers' Co-operative in the mid-Seventies. Has published two novels, six collections of poetry (True North, Salmon Poetry, published April 1997), had three plays performed. A collection of short stories, Keeping The Night Watch, was published Summer (1998). Has written a novel set in North Africa (with literary agents Lora Fountain & Associates, Paris) and compiling new short story collection. A novel, Atalanta, was published last year (2000). Being Anywhere - New & Selected Poems (Lagan Press) launched February, 2002. Bursaries in Literature from Northern Ireland Arts Council (2000) and Arts Council (Republic) 1988/2001. Founder of Galway's annual international poetry (now literature) festival, CÚIRT, (Cúirt Fhilíochta Idirnáisiúnta na Gaillimhe) in 1986.

Writer-in-Residence, Galway City library, 1988/89. Founder and Director of a writers' centre for the West, Ionad Scríbhneoirí Chaitlín Maud, Gallimh. Commissioned recently to write a series of stories based on Celtic myth for the O’Brien Press (due July 2003). Winner of Prix de l’Ambassade 2000, to work on poems by Michel Martin. ‘Paris Without Maps,’ a sequence, published 2002. Has published translations of work by Martin and Babacar Sall (Translation Ireland magazine).

Poetry and short stories have been published widely, in this country, the US, Australia, Canada, broadcast by BBC radio, RTE, and BBC World Service. Poems have appeared, for example, in the TLS (Times Literary Supplement), The Spectator, The Independent (London), The Sunday Times, The Irish Times, Irish University Review, Poetry Ireland Review; prose in, among others, The London Magazine, Stand, anthologised by Pan Books, and in The Literary Review, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review and Southern Humanities Review (USA). Story in Phoenix Irish Short Stories 2000, ed. David Marcus. Further information on published work can be supplied on request. (Books can be viewed on amazon.com). ‘Paris Songs,’ a sequence, published October 2002. ‘Mapping God – Le Trace de Dieu’, a novel, in English and French, published October 2003 and launched in Galway and Paris. Irish Contributing Editor for New York-based ‘Rattappallax’ magazine. Has been invited (2004) to be editor of Cork Literary Review.


Long-time poetry reviewer with Books Ireland; has reviewed poetry also for The Irish Times, The Sunday Times, and The Sunday Tribune; books for The Examiner, Cork, and visual arts for them also, as well as arts features; a visual arts reviewer for The Sunday Times for a time. Has reviewed also: Irish University Review, Harpers & Queen, Poetry Ireland Review. Interview pieces for Irish Music magazine and The Irish Post (theatre in Ireland). Also written for some time for RTE's 'Sunday Miscellany' and various arts programmes. Hosted Lyric FM's Christmas Day programme (1999) and broadcast five travel pieces on two series on Lyric FM radio: producer both times was Eoin Brady.

OTHER (Teaching, etc.):

Facilitates Creative Writing at NUIG (Adult Education): began partial residency at Louisburg, Co Mayo, February 2002. Has given workshops on creative writing widely at a variety of literary and arts festivals. Teaches Creative Writing as part of the Galway university Adult Education programme for some years. Has given series of classes (VEC) on Modern Irish Literature. Has taught English as a foreign language. Founded and organises Kinvara Writers' Group; published their pamphlet, Four Poets, (1999), followed by The Kinvara Anthology (2000). Has produced three albums of traditional Irish/Scottish/American music and song.


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