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April 2017

Where's Katie?

Elaine Feeney

ISBN: 978-1-907056-43-7

Page Count: 114

Publication Date: Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cover Artwork: Ray Glasheen. Cover Photograph: Constance Markievicz (1868-1927)

About this Book

Where's Katie? seeks out Cathleen Ní Houlihan to come and dust herself down and be reborn full of spirited vigour and life. This collection is a powerful contrast between brief glimpses of the beauty in the world and the stark reality of how life really is. The music stays in our consciousness and leaves a haunting remembrance for the reader. 

We see old Katie begging for an Irish revival but certain of her own end;

I walk the shutdown railway lines
and pile up sleepers.
Sniff lines of crystal up my septum sides.
Indignant runts splashed from my loins
lie incapable of understanding.

This debut collection journeys the angst of a child, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a lover, to questioning what Our Very Own Republic really brought us. Sometimes the poems wryly observe the happenings around them, from a tongue and cheek look at Galway life in Urban Myths and the Galway Girl to rural events where the poet feels isolated and unaccepted for drinking "whiskey with ice only", to the deeply personal poems where we are invited into a dark murky world of hurt, shame and fear. As things rapidly change in the personal life of this young poet, heroes from the past are longed for to cultivate a renaissance and to allow escapism from the hurt caused by the state and the lack of passion she sees around her. A brave and honest collection of love, empathy and searching for Katie!

Author Biography

Elaine Feeney was born in Galway in 1979. She studied English and History at University College Galway and completed post graduate study in University College Cork and University of Limerick. She has been writing since her early teens. In 2006 she won the North Beach Nights Grand Slam and in 2008 won the Cuirt Festival's Poetry Grand Slam. She is a keen page and performance writer. Elaine has performed at many venues including The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Electric Picnic, The Vilenica Festival and The Cúirt International Literature Festival. She was the chosen writer on a One Sheet collaboration in 2010 with an artist and a graphic designer and this work is currently on exhibit across Dublin. Her work has been translated into Slovene. Elaine lives in Athenry with her partner Ray, and sons, Jack and Finn.

Read a sample from this book

Where's Katie?

        for Mum

    Some woman's yellow hair has maddened every mother's son
                        WB Yeats

I have, have I?
We've revved and motored past a second coming,
all the talk of war and comings
speaks of threes and thirds now.

With six thousand percent peroxide
blistering my scalp
not Matthew, Mark, Luke or John
would have me now.

Since I have withered.

I am damaged.
I am interrupted.
I am dying.

It's all over.
Ye feckless stupid fools that did
me, that I watched,
helpless on a stone on the prom,
I should've jumped into it years ago,
the black unknown,
where even my clothes would have come undone.

For greed, for greed, for greed.

I'm so sorry boys
they say the Stone Breakers
is busy with wailing
spirits, screaming in agony.
I'd visit, but toothless and bleached-
I'm too ashamed.

I am waist deep,
is there an end to this futile preening?

Like a swan blacked out in an oil slick
I'll poison myself with my own tongue.

This awful thirst,
the more I drink.

This awful thirst,
the more I drink.

I will drink this well dry;
then scale the cathedral spire
fire off tarry hawkers
at holy sisters and archbishops

but there are no churches left for climbing,

only cakes to stick these captured spires through.

So I spread my arms and stand aloft on rain tins
and jig, screeching.

No one understands.

I walk the shut down railway lines
and pile up sleepers.
Sniff lines of crystal up
my septum sides.
Indignant runts splashed from my loins
lie incapable of understanding.
Universally decayed as infants,
babies born
from pathetic poisons are
positioned in comforts away from
root cries of needs.

Haunting hunger!

Oh hunger!
Oh hunger!

My yellowed hands
are cupping nothing.

Ask for this land again,
go on, dare ye, ye cowardly fucks,
for a heaving great giant to lie on me
and let me go,
breed something magical,
and let me come.

He could hook each of these limestones
from the insufferable stonewalls,
he could hurl each one from a tight rod line
into the water.

Each morning the giant could take them,
fished and hooked from the four cornered bed
we lie on, with wrapped limbs and soaking skin,
he could chip at the piece of broken mirror,
that reflects an empty mouth of
broken canines,
and punch the lot endlessly out!
One coarse stone after another,
into the black Atlantic,
the mirror edges chipped away to nothing.
Beat away our stone dead babies,
the useless divided corners that sink the middle
of our four-pieced cause.

Our way now is a cause far down from giants,
to the little people.

I see little people with no eyes.
I see little people with no eyes.

But only mirrors
miming the maddening
curse of this froth,
this fierce froth.

Interrupt me

I am dying

Take me

Bathe me

Take me

Lubricate my line

My life

Unleash me

Unchain me

Unleash the

hidden side

of my



        For Finn

You wear a prickly rash all over your furry back.
I'm not even allowed discover what you smell like,
because I have not yet become your mother.
Doctors and cleaners and candlestick makers flitter in and out.
A priest stands next to the girl with the tumor.
She's no bigger that a baby chicken.
He throws water.
Banishing these blind tiny birds from sin!

He asks me would I like a baptism,
he's a fine big boy to look so sick.
I run out screaming.

A bird next to you squeaks in a transparent incubator.

It is to be her only home.

This is the shortest ward,
here you do not walk,
there are no beds.

I'm put out again,
it's better not to see the tubes
and drips and sharp things at feeding time.
So I chat to the weeping clown on the
olive wall of the parenting room.
The TV doesn't work.
The coffee machine has been fucked against the wall.

You are naked.
The little bird speaks from inside a fabric elastoplast mask,
she stabs a twenty-four week matchstick leg to the air.
You pant to the rhythm
of an old Austrian waltz,
Ray drums, one, two, three
one, two, three,
on the rim of his paper mug.
My black roots drip over,
even now I think of my appearance.

In the lactation room my new breast friend sobs,
only a teaspoon.
Nurses reassure us it'll come sometime.
And all my thoughts of sex and
beauty and love and your eyes and looks
and flashes of stubble
and hand holding and Led Z and
The Beatles
and every missed acid trip

Of being
Of eating
Of laughing

Are distant and stained

My back is aching and my breasts
hum to the lonely bird.


but I must feed my own boy
down through a nose tube.
Little bottles in the fridge,
lined to attention like white petrol bombs
to try keep them all fired up.

This is what the world is really like-
I lie!
I lie!
Welcome to the world!


Profile: Elaine Feeney: one of Ireland’s growing band of young political poets
Galway Advertiser, April 07, 2011. By Kevin Higgins.

CÚIRT’S NEW programme director Dani Gill was determined this year’s festival should not be dominated by recycled names from previous years.

The inclusion of Elaine Feeney, whose first collection of poems Where’s Katie? was published by Salmon last year, is proof that this is indeed Cúirt made new.

Elaine was born in Galway in 1979 and is one of a group of young political poets – others would include Dave Lordan and Sarah Clancy – who have sprung to prominence recently and who share a declamatory style of reading their poems.

Elaine’s dramatic, witty, and very appealing reading style won the Cúirt Poetry Grand Slam in 2008 and her winning poem, ‘Urban Myths and the Galway Girl’, is a favourite in the justifiably acclaimed Where’s Katie?

“Everywhere in Galway waters down her vodka./She’ll tell Pauline that Christine is a wench/she’ll tell Christine that Pauline is loose./She tells me about all the pills the husband is taking/for the cough and the limp dick and all/nothing is working/loveeeen.”

The main inspiration which brought about this poem appears to have been real people talking rubbish. In this, Elaine is an example other poets might like to consider following. So often, the poetry is all around you, in the form of the truly incredible things people actually say, and all you need to do is write it down.

Elaine, along with Lordan and Clancy, also share radical leftist politics of slightly varying shades. All three have signed up to support a cultural boycott of Israel by Irish artists.
This is a stance I would not be at all convinced of myself - not because I’m any fan of how the Israeli state has abused and continues to abuse Palestinians - but rather because it puts the well meaning in dodgy political company, inevitably including one or two who think of Colonel Ghaddafi as some kind of anti-imperialist.

However, Elaine’s poem ‘Gaza’, in which she makes imaginative reference to William Carlos Williams’ ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’, is a powerful statement on a subject fraught with cliché. Its end is stark: “Snap.//The little girl drops like//the plastic bullets all around her,/slumps on her wheelbarrow,/upon which so much depended.”

Elaine cut her teeth as a poet at events such as North Beach Poetry Nights during those couple of really crazy years before the crash; her poetry is ideally suited to the angrier, more politically engaged, country we have woken up in to find not just the party over, but all future parties cancelled.

That said, there is more to her than anger. In ‘Love’ she says: “If Love were served as a mojito with ice,/I would shove its leaves/to the recess of my throat/and beg for mercy.”
Something about this image of Elaine throwing back a Mojito humanises her anger and makes the reader listen all the more intently.

Elaine Feeney will be reading alongside young Slovenian novelist Goran Vojnovic at the Druid Lane Theatre on Wednesday at 1pm. Admission is free.

Review: After the Revolution by Kevin Higgins, The Galway Advertiser, August 05, 2010.

If Rita Ann Higgins is to have a successor, it has to be Elaine Feeney. I first got to know Feeney's poetry back in 2006 in the lead up to her being a featured reader at the January 2007 Over The Edge: Open Reading.

Her poems are full of dissatisfied idealism which refuses to accept that things have to be as bad as they are. In poem after poem her wit makes her anger palatable for the reader. My own personal favourite is 'Urban Myths and the Galway Girl', a performance poetry masterpiece. 'War March' is a fine anti-war poem, which transcend the clichés. From its great pop art cover, on which Constance Markievicz brandishes a gun, to its last line, Where's Katie? is a joy.

Review: 'Where's Katie?' reviewed by Alan Garvey for the Gloom Cupboard website/journal
November 14, 2010

I'm not going to take the easy way out and liken Elaine Feeney to Rita Ann Higgins, they're both from Galway with an affinity for those who don’t often make the front pages, and that's almost it as far as likenesses go. I'm not going to trumpet one over the other, for that does an injustice to both. I'm not going to say that Feeney's work has a cosmopolitanism that's lacking in Higgins's early work, just because Feeney went to Slovenia as a result of winning the National Slam Championships - that sort of opportunity wasn't there for poets in the 80s. But what I will say is that there's no room for self-congratulation in either poet's work, regardless of their concerns. What really binds the two is that they are primarily interested in others.

'Where's Katie?' is a substantive first collection, which gives a poet an excellent opportunity to 'out' all of their early work and leave a clean slate for their second and subsequent collections. It also gives a reader a lot of poetry to read and, being a simple creature, I like to see groupings of themes or subjects within a collection (not necessarily individual sections). 'Where's Katie?' doesn’t have such clear parameters or narratives within a clearly defined over-arching meta-narrative that is clear yet to this reader - there may be one apparent to the poet. I have to admit to being not quite convinced by some of her shorter poems, a poem like 'Marietta' makes me feel like a bear of very little brain - I don't have a clue what it's about, aside from the words in front of me all I can think of are biscuits. Not to dismiss the lyric pieces, a number of which are extremely powerful like 'Juxtaposition', quite startling in its brevity and cleverness, or 'Reflections in January' which is a welcome slap in the face to our complacent lifestyles and inability to assuage or assist in the burdens that others face (similar to poems by Gerry Murphy and Billy Ramsell), specifically, the poet's correspondence with a woman living in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide.

It's in her long poems where I think Feeney does greatest justice to her talent, where she gives herself the space necessary to encompass the wide scope of relationships and complexities that she witnesses. And there are very few poets of whom I would say this. 'War March' is a fine example, where the poet is confronted by those to whom she "chat[s], but they're still suspicious. / I'd never been to Dachau / or Palestine." This is despite the efforts made "Earlier on our history timeline" where she shows the first-years she teaches "panic-fuelled / diamonds swallowed whole in unleavened bread". This internal conflict is preceded in the first stanza by lines such as, "I'm not into hurtling rocks / I march in line with the others", a painful consciousness for the poet as she undoubtedly knows that most people who are not into hurtling rocks but begin marching in line end up throwing rocks. Binary choices don't seem to sit well with Feeney, greyscales are predominant in her palette as lines blur in space and time, "Children skip brightly through coloured anoraks, / trip to the pavement. / Watch the landmines. / Oh no wrong country. Skip away." This willingness to project herself and those closest to her into harm's way may well be one of Feeney's strongest attributes, that of empathy. It's here, where Feeney is more concerned with the ethical rather than the overtly political agit-prop of 'Laying Hens', that she displays a far more interesting facet of poetry.

Review: 'Where's Katie?' reviewed by Colm Keegan on RTE Radio 1's 'Arena' programme, Wed 25th August 

Visit the Arena website to listen back to the review by clicking here>> (select 25th August from the Show Archive in the right hand column)

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