Recognized abroad

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 19, 2017

Writer finds audience in Ireland

BURLINGTON — A Lawrence County writer’s work is seeing international publication and recognition.
Ron Houchin, of Burlington, retired from teaching English, literature and creative writing at Fairland High School in 2001.
His poem, “Playing in the Cemetery,” has recently been chosen for publication in a new textbook in Ireland.
Houchin describes the work, which first appeared in Poetry Ireland Review No. 78, as proposing “the idea of a game of soccer between the moon and the trees.”
He said he was contacted by the textbook publisher after they saw his work in the poetry review.
Houchin said, in 1990,  he started going to Ireland on regular basis in the summers.
He started his trips on Ohio Arts Council Fellowship for teachers in the arts.
After applying, he said he got a call from the director of the program, who also wanted to know if he would be interested in teaching one-on-one sessions with young Irish writers, a paid opportunity he said he was eager to pursue.
In total, Houchin has written eight books of poetry and one collection of short stories.
In June, he will be releasing a young adult horror novel, “The Devil’s Trill,” through Mainstreet Rag publishing in North Carolina.
The work is based on a musical work from violinist Giuseppe Tartini.
“He had a dream the devil came to him and played music,” Houchin said. “When he woke up, he wrote the music down.”
Houchin’s latest book, Planet of Best Love Songs, is soon to be released from Irish publisher Salmon Poetry.
“It’s a collection of poems, thinking of all the things we love and think we understand — family members, significant others,” he said. “And the things we don’t understand. There’s a strange tension between the two.”
Houchin also shares the answer to what he says is the question of “How does a hillbilly wind up being published by an Irish publisher?”
He said he was doing workshops in the country in the 1990s and was doing a reading in a pub.
“A lady came in, looking every bit the Celtic goddess, led by two golden retrievers,” he said.
She turned out to be Jessie Lendennin, the head of Poetry Ireland Review, who had already published some of his work in their magazine.
“She said ‘I like what you read. Can you send me a copy of your book?’” Houchin said.
Ever prepared, to the amusement of his friends, he had a manuscript ready to give her.
Houchin, who will be taking his 27th trip to Ireland in May to do more readings, said he has ancestors from the country.
“It’s about eight generations back, through my mother’s side in the Fuller family,” he said.
He said he has a passion for all things Ireland, from the people to its history, but especially its appreciation of culture.
“There’s a saying that at any time, there’s a standing army of 40,000 poets in Ireland,” he said. “They really care about the arts there.”


Playing in the Cemetery
By Ron Houchin

There’s a game between moon
and trees. Through whole
winters, elms and maples reach for
the light, and it is magnified by their fingers.
They hold it up pretending it can spin.
For hours they let it believe
There’s no such thing as sun.
Each time the wind pulls a cloud tarp
from the playing field, the match is
on then between blue light
and long limbs. Together they point
to the frailest names on tombstones:
P’s worn to backward c’s and all
the dates losing time. I understand
the changing players, some of the rules,
but how does anything above ground win?