Known for celebrating the accomplishments of debut writers and celebrating new books as well as the current bestsellers, Writers Week offered a selection of launches at this year’s festival. I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Mary Noonan’s first collection The Fado House (Dedalus Press) and Barry Cassin’s I’ve Never had a Proper Job (Liberties Press).
Sean Lyons, festival chairman, launched Corkonian poet Mary Noonan’s first collection which won the Writers Week poetry collection prize in 2010, applauding the ‘incredibly diverse range of subjects that brings us through a tapestry of emotion.’ Referring back to Michael D Higgins’ opening speech, Sean spoke of the ‘how important it is to create, to be given something created out of love, like this book’ saying that ‘to comment on it is an incredible honour’.
Mary’s poetry is indeed diverse; covering everything from a swallow’s flight to getting drunk in a restaurant, the 1956 emigration train, to a race meeting. crossing from Lisbon and France to the Irish countryside, traversing the past and present. A particularly stunning poem was Lone Patrol, a poem based on her father’s memories of the racehorses at a 1940s race track.
After reading a selection of poems, Mary thanked the support she’d received from Writers Week saying, ‘I got a leg up from Listowel; winning the prize certainly helped and they’ve given me a lot of support.”
The second book, I’ve Never Had a Proper Job by Barry Cassin was launched by Minister Jimmy Deenihan and Sean O’Keefe – the Managing Director of Liberties Press. Sean said of publishing the book, ‘There are few enough rewards being a publisher in these times but once in a while a manuscript crosses your desk which you read in one sitting…that’s what happened in this case. It’s a wonderful autobiography of very full life and also a moving account of Ireland in the second half of the last century.
Minister Jimmy Deenihan said ‘This is an important book; it’s really a history of Irish theatre over past seventy years – and also a very personal book. It gives true feeling of what it was like living in those times, and also lots of insight into his parents and their influence as well as his family relationships.’
Barry Cressin took the floor, relating a brief overview of his life, family and career. He expressed a particularly warm feeling towards Listowel; its people, welcome and in particular John B Keane; a man who played an instrumental role in Barry’s career and is mentioned fondly in his autobiography.
‘My connection to Listowel goes back a very long way… life comes, life goes, it’s like the sea, you get waves of success and you get the other sort…I had the honour of producing the first productions of John B’’s plays/ Doing those plays of John B’s was an immensely exciting period in Dublin and for me particularly.’ And this sense of importance continues; Barry currently has part in a Neil Jordan’s Byzantium. He joked; ‘old actors don’t retire. People stop giving them work ‘.
A family man, John related some warm and humorous stories regarding his wife and children. He also discussed his changing attitudes to age. Now 87, Barry closed the launch with the immortal and humbling words…
‘I’m 87, but please don’t applaud; I did absolutely nothing to achieve it, I just didn’t die! It’s a pleasure to be here at Writers week, though I feel like a sort of fraud to be among the real writers.’