Leonard Cohen Dies. Donald Trump Ascends.


Last week was a week that will stick in the memory like a speed-bump that didn’t just rattle the frame and bang your head on the roof, but banjaxed the suspension and threw the car off the road. Leonard Cohen, the most authentic man on the planet, died and Donald Trump, cartoon figure, swept to power. The events left many raging and shouting, others raging and speechless. Myself, I said plenty but none of it coherent. If there is a crack somewhere there is no light getting in. Looking for perspective, I gave my (weekly) writing group the task of writing from the year 2116, looking back the 100 years to last week. The piece below is one of the offerings.
Clem Cairns

Last Week

by Indi

The discovery of the final pages of a journal kept by the Underground Writer who worked in secrecy and willed obscurity has shed much-needed light on the dawn of a time that has come to define our own.

This fragment of prose, which experts – who wish to remain anonymous – suggest may have been a suicide note[i], offers no information we do not already possess but is of passing interest all the same. The language is archaic, if not antique, and the writer’s typically eccentric choice of vocabulary may challenge today’s reader, but we persist in our belief that the works of the past are messages to the future. We leave the reader to judge its relevance and present it in full here for the novelty, for the sorrow, for the times to come.


11th November 2016

“Of course, it had to be today. What better time for the angels to fold in their wings and turn their faces to the wall, for the gods to be quietly exiting the skies? Leonard is gone. He didn’t wait to see how the dice would roll. He knew, and he knew it was time and we, the left-behind, are not so much damned as condemned.

I will confess. I am glad for him. How would he have lived, how would he have met us honestly on this? What could he have said when the words fell away as they fell from us, when words are missiles aimed straight at where they can do most harm? He would have been silent and that – that I could not have borne.

I feel it so near, a bereavement that touches me more closely than the loves I have lost, the friends I have seen die, and I find that grief is a strange visitant. I didn’t know that it releases you, that it gives its own permissions, that it allows you to find yourself in the desolation, bend into the despair, your elbows up around your ears while you crouch in a corner and howl.

So hear this, from the age of the charlatan, the liar, the gimmick-wide maw of the professional hater, hear this from the age in which we are asked not to think but only to feel, hear this as we pick our barefoot way across the shards of broken ideologies: it’s all too late. Nothing can be as it was.

They say, something will befall this man. He’ll be tamed, impeached, denied, assassinated. I dreamt a bawling bug-eyed goblin running the president through with little knives, air escaping flesh in low, sulphurous farts, I dreamt a harlequin-sleeved puppeteer snipping at the strings and heard the hollow clatter of wooden limbs on an empty stage, I dreamt all this and more. But the phials are open now, poison is in the air, and we can’t put it back. We must breathe it. We must live it. We won’t all survive it.

There are songwriters and poets who tell us what’s happening, but Leonard stood beside us while we endured it. No more. One man says, build walls, drain swamps, lock down. Leonard said this:

‘I said, Mother I’m frightened,
the thunder and the lightning,
I’ll never come through this alone.
She said, I’ll be with you,
my shawl wrapped around you
my hand on your head when you go.
And the night came on.
it was very calm.
I wanted the night to go on and on
but she said, go back.
Go back to the world.’

Only, I can’t go back.
Exit, crying.

[i] It was common practice for a person about to take their own life to write a letter of explanation for his crime. The intended recipient was usually a family member or close acquaintance. Suicide notes, as they were known, fell out of favour in the twenties when rates of reported felo de se reached epidemic proportions. Incidences remain high today, but there is no evidence that any words of explication are appended to the deed.



Fish Books

Fish Anthology 2017

Fish Anthology 2017

Dead Souls has the magic surplus of meaning that characterises fine examples of the form – Neel Mukherjee
I was looking for terrific writing of course – something Fish attracts in spades, and I was richly rewarded right across the spectrum – Vanessa Gebbie
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Fish Anthology 2016

The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.

Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco

Sunrise Sunset

€12  (incl. p&p)   Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Read Irish Times review by Claire Looby Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination.  An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, […]

Fish Anthology 2015

Fish Anthology 2015

How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
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Fish Anthology 2014

Fish Anthology 2014

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Ruth Padel

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Fish Anthology 2010

The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.


Fish Anthology 2009 – Ten Pint Ted

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Fish Anthology 2007

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Fish Anthology 2006 – Grandmother, Girl, Wolf and Other Stories

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All the King’s Horses – Anthology of Historical Short Stories

Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber


Fish Anthology 2005 – The Mountains of Mars and Other Stories

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Fish Anthology 2004 – Spoonface and Other Stories

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Feathers & Cigarettes

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– Pat McCabe


Franklin’s Grace

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Asylum 1928

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Five O’Clock Shadow

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From the Bering Strait

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Scrap Magic

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Dog Day

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The Stranger

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The Fish Garden

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12 Miles Out – a novel by Nick Wright

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A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.


Altergeist – a novel by Tim Booth

You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.


Small City Blues numbers 1 to 51 – a novel by Martin Kelleher

A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.


The Woman Who Swallowed the Book of Kells – Collection of Short Stories by Ian Wild

Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?


News & Articles

Short Story Prize 2017/18: Results, Long & Short-lists

17th March 2018
  Winners Short-list Long-list     The Ten Winners: Selected by judge Billy O’Callaghan to be published in the Fish Anthology 2018   First: Clippings by Helen Chambers (England) Is awarded €3,000, one thousand of which is for travel to the launch of the Fish Anthology 2018, and a short story workshop at the West Cork […]

Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco- REVIEW

16th March 2018
  Reviewed by Mia Gallagher   7th February 2018 Let’s get the declaration of interest out of the way: I first encountered Tina Pisco at the 2008 West Cork Literary Festival where I heard her read a flash piece. It was knife-sharp; darkly incantatory. Some years later I recommended Pisco to Spolia – an online literary journal in […]

Chief Editor at Fish Wins Bridport Poetry Prize

23rd November 2017
Mary-Jane Holmes Wins Bridport Poetry Prize Mary-Jane Holmes, chief editor at Fish has added the prestigious Bridport Prize for Poetry to her gathering tally of prizes. Read more. Competition Judge Lemn Sissy wrote –  “The winning poem is ‘Siren Call’.  I am drawn to a bleak coastal town. I am drawn by sound. It is like a short […]

Fish Anthology 2017 – LAUNCH

8th July 2017
The West Cork Literary Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Clem Cairns of Fish Publishing started and grew the festival into one of Ireland’s biggest literary events. The Fish Anthology launch has been a major event at the Festival since its inception in 1997. This year, Mia Gallagher, author and Fish winner (2005) will be launching the […]

Poetry Results 2017

23rd May 2017
We are pleased to announce the winners plus short and long lists for the 2017 Fish Poetry Contest, and would like to congratulate the poets for being selected from a pool of 1,305.  Ten Winning Poems (chosen by Jo Shapcott) to be published in 2017 Fish Anthology Short List Long List   Judge Jo Shapcott has […]

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