White House Poets - online :The Open Poet

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Bernard 'Barney' Sheehan




Bernard 'Barney' Luttrell O'Callaghan Sheehan, poet, amateur jockey, leather craftsman, founder/MC and long-time driving force behind the popular weekly (Wednesday) poetry revival sessions in Limerick City at the White House bar on O'Connell Street, died on Saturday April 9, 2018. Following his repose at Thompson's Funeral Home, his funeral took place on Wednesday, April 11. Following mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Ennis Road. He was laid to rest in Nenagh at Kenyon Street cemetary watched by an intimate gathering of family and friends. Fittingly, Barney was laid to rest to the sound of friends voices reading poetry (Sheila Sugrue) and Sheila Fitzpatrick-O'Donnell saying 'Goodbye Barney' as she gathered a fist of earth to follow the coffin to its final resting place. Known locally, nationally, internationally and perhaps further, (Barney would have argued 'universally known'), for his promotion of poetry and poetry readings, tributes have been pouring in giving due recognition for his untiring efforts, over many years, promoting poetry and poetry readings in Limerick City and, by example, inspiring it elsewhere.

Photo shows Barney with a celebratory cake designed to mark the claimed 500th week of readings at the White House Bar. Beginning the '501st' evening of the poetry sessions, poet Tom McCarthy took over the roll as MC. The guest poet on this evening was Brian Blaney.


 Barney Sheehan, in classic pose, with a poster and a vision. 

Inset, the book cover of Desmond O'Grady's My Limerick Town  with the portrait painted by Jack Donovan. 


My Limerick Town, edited, and published by Barney Sheehan (White House Press, 2009), (ISBN: 978-0-9550559-1-1),  first appeared in a preparatory soft back draft version prior to the excellently produced hardback copy.


They said:-


With his portrait on the cover, painted by Limerick artist Jack Donovan, whom he had 'known longest in the Arts', Desmond O'Grady signed copies of his book 'My Limerick Town' at its launch on August 28, 2009 ... foremost in the short list of dedications was his school friend Bernard 'Barney' Sheehan who edited, and published, the book and who has done more than most to keep the memory, and work, of poet Dr. Desmond O'Grady foremost in the public mind.

- Brian Blaney


See also:

Desmond O'Grady  Tom McCarthy Brian Blaney


Dr. Bridget Wallace

Dr. Bridget wallace is a regular reader at the White House Poetry Revival sessions.

A native of Limerick city, whe has previously published in Incognito, The Stony Thursday Book and Revival. Holding a PhD from Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, (English Language Dept.), Bridget's special area of interest is Postcolonial theory and modern Middle Eastern literature, with particular focus on poetry. She has been an English Literature tutor with Oscail, the Irish Open University and has facilitated creative writing workshops. Her work can be found in SEXTET, (Revival Press, 2010), an anthology of six poets, and in Revival, the poetry journal. In 2012 she was guest poet at Crawley Wordfest, UK and, in 2015, won the Viva Voce poetry competition at Éigse Michael Hartnett.

February 2016


Sunday, 21st February, saw the launch of Bridget Wallace's much awaited first collection. Entitled Shadow Horses and launched at the Hunt Museum, the introduction by fellow poet Teri Murray ('a wide range of subjects, contexts ... set in various locations'), saw the opening poem Rifleman, (in memory of the poet's uncle, Patrick O Halloran, killed in 1918 while a soldier with the Royal Irish Rifles), set a war theme that ricochets throughout the book. However, in a manner exemplified by the poet's own reading of her work, the ravages and consequences of war are quietly and firmly stated under titles like Sarajevo, A Postcard from the Front, The Irish Brigade, Brothers in Arms and, among the lines of other less obvious titles. For all this seeming restraint, nothing of the poet's intended message is lost - mankind's inhumanity to mankind. There are other journeys too. At first like walks in familiar boreens of the mind, but suddenly lit by news-flash feelings you'd forgotten you had, should have had, envied, or feared you may now experience. You will feel love, tenderness and loss in unexpected places among these lines. Read them all - slowly. You will be awakened.

Shadow Horses, is published by Revival Press with book and cover design by Lotte Bender, features a striking watercolour painting of horses by the poet herself.


JULY 2014

With the aim of promoting creativity among the public, Bridget teemed up with Sheila Fitzpatrick-O'Donnell (see link) to form the 'Reading at Random' project. This saw them enlist the help of a chair (yes... chair) which they bring everywhere with them and encourage the public to sit and tell their stories. They have so far visited Sligo, Tulla and Sixmilebridge and hope to raise funds towards a poetry bus and run a Poetry Tour of Ireland. It's rumoured they're on FaceBook, check it out.

See also:

Louis Mulcahy Joe Healy Evelyn Casey John Pinschmidt

Sheila Fitzpatrick-O'Donnell


Mike Durack

I grew up on a farm near Birdhill, Co. Tipperary and I was educated at Nenagh CBS and U.C.D. I worked as a teacher for 36 years in my old secondary school and am now enjoying a life of retired leisure in Ballina/Killaloe. I was a founder member of Killaloe Writers Group which was a dynamic force in my community for about 15 years after its inception in 1991. My poems have appeared in many literary publications including Limerick Poetry Broadsheet, Flaming Arrows, InCognito, The Burning Bush, The Cafe Review (Portland, Maine), The Stony Thursday Book and Poetry Ireland Review. They have also aired on local and national radio. A chapbook, Nothing to Write Home About, was published in 1988 and A Hairy Tale of Clare, a comic narrative in verse, was issued in 1994.

In recent years I have been collaborating with my brother, Austin, on a programme of poetry and guitar music and we have produced two albums, The Secret Chord (2013) and, Going Gone (2015). We have been performing our programme at arts centres and festivals throughout the Mid-West.






When I was knee-high to Brenda Lee,

I fell hopelessly in love with Farah Diba.

It was love against all the odds,

she being much older and a non-catholic,

not to mention her engagement to the Shah of Persia.

Nothing ever came of it, of course.

Subsequently I lost my heart to others -

Connie Stevens, Sandra, Dee, oh yes, and

Jean Shrimpton, Julie Christie, Tuesday Weld.

Invariably, my love was unrequited.

Then, sensing that I was just a plain, ordinary sod,

I resolved to settle for local goddesses

with names like Maureen, Sheila, Mary, Anne,

from places like Birdhill and Dromineer,

and it was fun. I inclined to shed my dreams

of London, Beverly Hills and Teheran,

took up the guitar, grew a beard, and became

captain of the local rugby club.


Sods make their own importance.






Ceaseless sweep of big muddy water,

carry the soul of Magnolia State,

spirit of forest and cotton field,

soul of Caucasian, Negro, Choctaw;

spirit of Jackson, Natchez, Starkville,

borne by dugout and paddle-steamer

past bluff and levee and delta silt

down to the Gulf of Mexico.


And, spirit of Shannon, wend and surge

by long meadow and royal fort;

glide underneath the white bird's hill,

and carry a tale of Sí and Árd Rí,

of Norse and Norman, of Gael and Gall

with barge and cruiser and sailing skiff

past Diarmuid and Gráinne's silken bed

to the yawning sea by Lovers' Leap.


Beneath white horses of boundless ocean

currents course, eddy and mingle -

waters of Clare and cool Tipperary

caressing the tide of warm Mississippi

ferried by Gulf Stream and Atlantic Drift.






My head once filled with clean, electric sounds

from Hank B Marvin's red Fender guitar.

The Beatles poured in raucous harmonies

and far-out, echo-chamber-voice refrains.

Then came the Byrds with Dylan rhymes alighting,

all jangling  twelve-strings, cymbals cascading;

the Beach Boys' sleek West Coast falsettos;

Simon and Garfunkel's cloister-euphonies.


Now it's the subtle, unplugged Muse who plucks

the big bass notes and sets the words at large

to swell and wail and chime and echo,

and images to float on purple waves.

Printed poems strum rhythms in my ear

insistent as the racy Mersey beat.


Teri Murray


Sadly Teri Murray passed away in early 2017 (R.I.P.)

TERI MURRAY's  collection - 'UNDER A LINNET'S WING' (Eliza Press) -  was launched May 14th, (7.30pm) in Gerry Flannery's public house on Catherine Street, Limerick.

Teri Murray was born in Lewisham, in Kent (UK) but grew up in Dublin and her poetry is full of the characters and places she knew as a child. In 1987, she won the Wicklow Community Award for a children's play and lived in Limerick for some years until her passing in early 2017. She has published four collections of poetry, the first, Coddle and Tripe (1998, Stonebridge), was a collaborative work with her partner, the late Liam Mulligan (R.I.P.). This was followed by Poems from the Exclusion Zone (2001, Stonebridge), The Authority of Winter (2007, Stonebridge) and Where The Dagda Dances - New and Selected Poems (2010, Revival Press). From her earliest work, Teri maintained a timeless sense of history and place, as captured in her early poem, Greenhills. A regular reader at the White House Bar poetry readings in Limerick, Ireland until that venue's closure, renovation and re-opening when poetry readings were discontinued.





The road severs the barren plains of the flocks of Eider,

no marker for the grave of the tribe;

Parhalonians, last of a great race

driven to the perimeters to live and die,

like me.

/...(Stanza one of two)





I never could gauge the tension

between blocks and spaces

when my mother's fingers

unravelled the yarn

in the long silences

/...(Stanza one of three)





The mother of God moved to Fatima Mansions

when she was just past child-bearing age

and the plaster skin that had moulded her

started to peel and fade

/...(Stana one of seven)



What they said:-


It is in the recollections from childhood that friendship, loyalty and admiration for companions and times past really shines through...

- Mike Byrne (on The Authority of Winter)


Murray inscribes a much-needed voice for inhabitgants of all exclusion zones, whether they are of personal construction or sociologically determined.

                            - Bridget Wallace (on Poems from the Exclusion Zone)


It is in the recollections from childhood that friendship, loyalty and admiration for companions and times past really shines through...

                              - Mike Byrne (on The Authority of Winter)


... a poet at ease with the blending of mythology and everyday observation, heightening our perceptions... themes of loss, grief and remembering recur... an accomplished seamstress of poetry.

                               - Ciaran O'Driscoll (on Where The Dagda Dances)


Only the most gifted and able of poets can write in a way that conveys a sense of almost unbearable loss and yet somehow manages to ease her own inevitable losses.

                                - Pauline Fayne


See Also:-

Liam Mulligan


Christy O'Donnell


A regular reader at the White House. Christy O'Donnell's  first collection, 'From Gloves to Pen', (launched Sept. 2013) is published by Cló Duanaire/Irish and Celtic Publications. (isbn no. 978-0-9569092-8-2).

' I grew up in the sixties and seventies on the north side of limerick in a family of ten girls and two brothers . I went to school in Saint Munchins C.B.S. at Hassetts Cross. Moved to Moyross and then joined the army to see what life, and conflict,  was really all about, if only to find out if it was the life for me. It took some time but I left that life behind to live and work in London only to find that life was a war zone at the best of times. My first poem published was given second place in the Poetry America magazine in the early eighties. Since then, I've had the good fortune to be published in the Mater Hospital (Dublin) quarterly magazine. I am also fortunate to be able to say that, with John Carew and with the help of all the Whitehouse poets, we raised over €2000 for charity through their publication of Poetic Humour (Cube Printing Ltd., 2012), which sold out in 4 weeks. I've also been published in:- Anthology For A River as well as various editions of the poetry journal, Revival (Revival Press), The Blue Hour magazine (first edition, as well as their online magazine) and other magazines and booklets over the years. I have a blog and YouTube presence where you can find my poetry. To find me, type    christyodonnell1963(either blog or YouTube) to view what’s there.'

Writing poetry is fun and serious but having fun is serious and at times poetic. As for my reading in front of an audience, well, it has to be said, if it weren’t for Barney Sheehan and Dominic Taylor and what they provide to us wannabe writers we may never be heard.






I always thought you were right, when I was a child, After all, your word was law, it was final, Sat in your chair, watching the sports, on T.V. as you did, As I sat on the floor watching you, beguiled, For years I gazed trying to figure out your denial, Lost in the sports channel, in a world where you hid, It was you and you’re chair and the sports, dare anyone intrude, Silently taking in scores and positions, Who played well, who was a disaster on the day, Just a glare to see who it was being noisey and rude, You disagreeing with some referee’s decision, Yet a shout when something seemed to go your way, I grew up watching you take part from your chair, As if you were on the field of play, Watched you decide, how to turn your team into winners, Heard you tell anyone who’d listen, “it has to be fair”, When you lost that there would be another better day, And here I was just a watcher a beginner, You’re gone now; there is no sports channel on my T.V. No one to shout who or why some play was wrong or right, I sit and watch my son, as he watches me, lost in thought, I recall it was I watched you as you decided to teach me, When something was wrong, if I could, I should stand and fight, There were no rules for being an adult, my chair new bought, I wonder if he will look as much at his son, While he studies the way things will turn out, Like my father before me sorting his little team, As I look back I recall that it was for me so much fun, I jumped each time my father let go with a shout, With delight and sadness, I sit back in his chair and dream.




1935 -2014

You shone a light on poetry in a city that had none,
As you set out across the globe to share your word,
From a boarding school in Roscrea learning was fun,
Across the world your poetry was heard,

Always with a wry smile knowing all who listened,
Would Basque in all you had to say,
Never forgetting your home where poetry you christened,
And a place where your heart would always stay,

Having done with traveling and teaching, to a poet’s life,
Retiring to a cottage near all you held dear,
Writing of past lives of love happiness and strife,
Places lived where skies were so clear,

Gathering years, age followed as youth faded,
Collections of poetry sitting on libraries, shelved,
Your poetry shouts read me unaided,
Thought provoking from your mind where you delved,

Your last journey finally taken this day,
No suitcase packed just pen in hand,
Desmond o Grady never afraid to have his say,
No finer poet or teacher will hereafter stand.

*Christy added: "Just my way of saying R.I.P.
I had the pleasure of reading this to his family in the Spaniard Inn, Kinsale at the wake."







I opened the door and you almost hit me as you flew by,

 Flapping your wings like it was too hard to keep a straight line,

 Having passed me you landed on my front room chair,

 As you rested a tear dropped from my left eye,

 Yet somehow my mind said don’t worry all would be fine,

 Then the phone rang and my thoughts were clear,


He’s gone the caller said have you heard?

 And I looked and answered no he is still here at rest,

 A bewildered voice asked “are you alright”

Fine I said staring at you there as you rested unnerved,

 As you opened your wings and looked your very best,

 As if to fly again using all of your might,


I did it many times set you free and on your own path,

 Held your wings gently and set you free,

 Watched you as you moved awkwardly finding your way,

 Saddened yet delighted mourned your aftermath,

 Knowing once you left never again would I see?

 Your beautiful wings shared and on display,


“Did you hear me he’s gone he died?”

The caller wept from the other end of the line,

 The silence was deafening right then on the phone,

 With no effort you flapped your wings as I tried,

 To hold back the tears praying all would be fine,

 Without help freedom was yours as you flew off alone.


 The door is still open on sunny days,

 I hope you will call again as you did that morning,

 The second you landed I knew you were free,

 I needed no phone to shock me into a daze,

 Your life forever more transforming,

 Like the butterfly short lived beautiful to me.








He sits quietly in his single armchair, 

Watching his world evolve in real time, 

It’s playing like a movie, no script, yet clear, 

He sits quietly but still he is there, 

Mother’s day is coming and there’s lots of hype, 

Flowers chocolates and all things nice,

Kids away but there’s always Skype,

He sits quietly counts the price,

There is a day for fathers, less advertised,

Comments of every day is father’s day,

He worked hard never compromised,

He sits quietly has very little to say,

He has been there for all a shoulder for many,

They feed him and let him watch his T.V.

All things considered, it seems so uncanny,

He sits and watches all he can see,

No one recalls when he was so ill,

At no time did he ask for their aid,

In a home full of people he sat so still,

He sits here a father with very little said,

They come now to visit and watch his chair,

His world stopped no more time,

No movie no script everything unclear,

So quiet now he no longer sits fine,

Memories of why didn’t someone ask,

Is there something you might like to do?

Perhaps get involved in some or other task,

An empty chair time stopped missing you.










You were there before I could recall,

If memory serves me right, you were always there,

Like a single thought or pride going before a fall,

You just seemed to always be near,


I never heard you say that you cared,

Yet you were like thought in the back of my mind,

There were times when trouble neared,

You were always easy to find,


I never heard you say you loved me,

No, I never heard you say that,

You didn’t show it for anyone to see,

Nor did I hear it in our little chat,


Still you were always forever there,

Lending a hand every now and then,

It was your way of saying you cared,

No words spoken since first we began,


You were there when I woke each new day,

And also, when I slept in my bed,

You never had much to say,

Other than use your head,


I watched you shave and get ready,

To go meet your friends for a drink,

Saw you return feet unsteady,

Yet you were there teetering on the brink,


Later when I was older not yet too old,

You were there pointing to show me the way,

Whether inside or outside the fold,

Our journey crossed paths almost every day,


I can’t recall a time when you weren’t near,

And I’m still trying to use my head,

To me you are a father dear,

Fondly, recalled each day as I rise from bed.











Tough it is making ends meet,

Especially when you are on the dole,

You have to suffer with the aches in your feet,

If you need to go and achieve some goal,

Still not so easy when there are kids to rear,


Always wanting one thing or another,

So much pain and so much to fear,

Left alone to become both father and mother,

You hope and pray things will not be so bad,

As you scrimp an' scrape to just get by,


Late when night falls your world seems so sad,

You ask yourself if you’re still willing to try,

But you rise each morning with good intent,

The kids dressed and heading for school,

A few moments peace is heaven sent,


How you ask could you have been such a fool,

All in all as time passes by,

You give you’re all and try your best,

Most things yourself you are willing to deny,

This life you now live has become your test,


In this tunnel there is very little light,

But you stumble on through things unclear,

Then one morning in the mirror a fright,

A reflection old a face without cheer,

Children left now adults grown,


Busy lives all hustle and bustle,

Like migrating birds all have flown,

No one left here your feathers to rustle,

But clearer now in the tunnel more light,

A new chapter about to begin,


You may be older but your spark is still bright,

As once more you venture to love someone again.








On winter nights the cold from the Shannon makes you shiver

Thomond Bridge beckons some not to cross that River,

There are ghostly things here that to some call out,

Some people see moon beams others hear distant shouts,

Wars have been fought from it to conquer men have tried,

And throughout the years in battle many have died,

A witch was once rumored to have jumped from this place,

Into the bridge her handprint burned its trace,

Kings have looked down on it from their castle on high,

This bridge to the afterlife watches those dead float by,

Many have fell or jumped choosing suicide,

And the bridge watches only for the coming of the tide,

Some have fought on it from one side to the other,

All souls remain here comforting each other,

So often boats search for what the river will hide,

And the bridge watches on it will not be denied,

On one side the church on the other the castle,

In the middle Thomand bridge offering a way out of hassle,

And from its wall’s many have jumped,

Some were saved as their chest was pumped,

Lost souls gather here on most winter nights,

Waiting for new arrivals to lose life’s fight,

No mercy from this bridge as the tide goes out,

From the ebbing water a lonely shout,

I stood and watched from where so many fell,

Some jumped freely thinking this life was hell,

Mixed up feelings swirling in their head,

Lost to the river they become the floating dead,

Memories remain within those bereft,

All were loved before here they left,

On moonlight beams you can hear their song,

In death there is neither right nor wrong.

Crossing Thomand Bridge on any night will give you a shiver,

You can hear the souls floating beneath it down the Shannon River.







Eight out of ten men will admit to being a cheat,

Simply because most of them are slow on their feet,

In a survey someone decided to cast for information,

I would like to see those who gave confirmation.

  Where are all the men who are having these affairs?

Is this why we name them all as being players,

And if they’re players taking part in this game,

Keeping it secret and not seeking notoriety or fame.

  But 8 out of 10 men say they’re getting a bit on the side,

Talking about it in pubs with chests full of pride,

Having a drink and boasting in front of their mates,

Partners sat at home in all kinds of states.

  So if all of these men are out there and cheating,

Relationships and marriage steadily depleting,

It appears it’s the men, who are berated for their sin,

But who are they cheating with? where does it begin?

Let us recall that its 80% of those cheating men,

When the only data from women is that it’s 2 out of 10,

So its either 8 men bragging or 8 lying women,

But somewhere in there is still someone sinning.

  This still leaves 2 men out there trying their best,

With 2 women trying to get under their vest,

So out of 10 men there are 8 that are bad,

And out of 10 women only 2 that is sad.

  Are men on the whole just too honest to lie?

Are women just lying quoting pies in the sky,

But it’s all a bit dark and too shady for me,

Having listened and learned here’s what I see,

  Somewhere in all this could be eight lying men,

Or to put it another way 2 extremely busy women.




What they said:- 

Christopher ‘Punchy’ O Donnell, expresses a myriad of themes and situations, with which one can readily identify, right from the opening poem, the child’s imagination compensates for the material shortcomings in life, and the moral of doing good and life rewarding you, is exemplified in the acquiring of a bike through helping a lady with her shopping.   We share in, and identify with his world, from childhood to school, to falling in love, feeling rejected suffering pain physically and emotionally, gems of wisdom gleaned from life experience. All these moments, especially the difficult ones, are made more bearable, because humour is the shield that holds these observations and emotions in check.   In life, we are confronted with many options, but in any given situation the resolution boils down to, either we getting the better of a situation or it getting the better of us. In this poetry, through all the humour as well as moments of joy and despair, a great determination not to be overwhelmed by life, but to confront it pulses beneath the surface.   This collection also exemplifies the sensitivity of its creator toward mankind and the human condition, although this is often wrapped in a ‘macho’ cloak of humour and jest, although it is not so saintly that there are not moments where it delights in someone getting their just deserts, revenge is sometimes sweet.   ‘Punchy’ himself, through his poetry, tells us that he does not take himself too seriously, he simply enjoys the impulse to write about life as he sees it. Often it is an unrestrained outpouring of expression, there are also moments of refined thought and poetic harmony that create thought provoking resonances.   This collection constitutes a solid foundation. The future? That is for ‘Punchy’ to build upon. All creative voices have something valid and pertinent to impart that in some way enrich the manner in which we perceive life. 

 - Máirtin o Briain


See also:

John Carew