Friday kicked off to great excitement as Pat Kenny from Newstalk came to Listowel to host his show live from The Seanchaí Centre. First to be interviewed was Mary Keane (wife of the late JB Keane), who was warm and humorous as ever. Mary spoke of how she had arrived back from Dublin at 2am that morning, having travelled there the previous evening for the premiere of JB Keane’s Moll at The Gaiety Theatre. Paul Durcan spoke of the warm welcome he always received at Listowel and recounted an amusing incident of earlier that morning. When staying in Listowel he would visit an unnamed local shop to buy his morning paper, and where he was usually greeted by a rather ‘glum’ looking man. Today, however, the man was smiling, and when Paul asked him why, the man said it was because of the sunshine, and the women walking around with short skirts and low cut tops. This caused much laughter and Pat said, “Well, we know what rocks his boat then.” Paul continued by saying that everybody in Listowel probably knows who this man is, and from now on he’ll probably be known as ‘Glum.’ (Laughter)
Multi award-winning Louise Doughty was interviewed at The Arms Hotel by our own Anne O’Neill, who has an MA in Creative Writing. Louise spoke of how, as a child, she put together her own version of a novel, which she called Billy Mustang, based on one of John Wayne’s horses (her father being a big fan of John Wayne).
A very engaging speaker, she read from her latest novel Appletree Yard. The novel came about as the result of a strong vision she had one day of a woman standing on a
witness stand, about to tell a lie that would change the course of her life forever. For her research, she spent many hours in courtrooms, observing barristers and courtroom dramas. She used a wonderful anology to describe what struck her during the enormous amounts of time she spent observing barristers in real life courtroom dramas. She compared two competing barristers to two novelists, each one putting across their version of a particular narrative; the jury being the literary critics, who then chose the best novel.
She also spoke of how writing is a craft as well as an art, and that you have to learn to use the language of fiction, just as you would a foreign language. She’s now working on her eighth novel.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather as Listowel Writers’ Week’s hugely popular Poetry Without Pints was hosted once again by John McGrath on the steps in
front of Listowel Castle. A huge crowd gathered to read their poems, and as time was of the essence, the participants were asked to read only one poem per person. There was much laughter and good humour, and it was a great opportunity for poets who had an interest in performing their work in an informal setting, to do so to a friendly and appreciative audience.
The first of our Poetry in association with Poetry Ireland events kicked off on Friday afternoon at The Arms Hotel. Anne Enright interviewed Belfast’s inaugural Poet Laureate, and winner of the prestigious TS Eliot Prize for poetry, Sinéad Morrissey.
Anne opened by saying that by the time she got to the end of Parallax, she was feeling this is good! This is really good! Not just ‘good for a chick from Belfast,’ but this is as good as anything she had ever read. Anne said that when she gets that kind of door opening in her head into complete talent such as this, she has to ask herself the question, ‘where is she from? not just what townland… not where her people are buried… or what tradition she adheres to, but what category does she fall into. She realised of course that Sinéad Morrissey’s work defies categorisation for one distinct reason: she works where life and language meet, and she make poems.
Anne asked Sinéad to start by reading a poem. Sinéad read the first poem in her recent anthology Parallax – 1801, which is in the voice of Dorothy Wordsworth and is three separate journal entries. Sinéad commented that she was overwhelmed by Dorothy Wordsworth’s work. However, she went on to say that she’s not overwhelmed by the Romantics, finding them overblown and self indulgent, but there was something in these journal entries which she found brilliant. Dorothy kept the journal to give her brother poetic material.
This hugely engaging interview took place over an hour and there was a Q&A at the end. I will post a full and separate Blog dedicated to it in the days to come.
The next Poetry Ireland Event took place at St John’s Theatre, and was a tribute to Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, in a special Poetry Aloud event. Gifted, young
award-winning students read from the poet’s best-loved work. Poetry Aloud is jointly delivered by Poetry Ireland and the National Library of Ireland, and was established 21 years ago by Niall MacMonagle, who hosted the event. The readers and poems were as follows:
Niamh Ní Chubháin – The Given Note & St. Kevin and the Blackbird
Treasa Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh – Digging & The Conway Stewart
Gabriel Galway – Postscript & Ballinahinch Lake
Eoin Griffin – Clearances (When all the others are away at Mass) & The Forge
Ciara Murphy – Blackberry Picking & Follower
Grace Kelly Murphy – Midnight Anvil & A Kite for Michael and Christopher
Niall O hAnnagáin – Midterm Break and A Call
It was very moving to see these young 5th year students reading our Nobel Laureate’s work. All of them, without exception, performed beautifully and with passion, many from memory. It is a credit to Niall McMonagle to have created, and who continues, this marvellous initiative. Joanna Keane O’Flynn thanked Maureen Kennelly and Poetry Ireland afterwards.
The Seanchaí Centre was the venue for the joint Irish/Scottish initiative by Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaelteacht, Jimmy Deenihan, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the great North Kerry writer Maurice Walsh, best known for his short story The Quiet Man. When Minister Deenihan visited the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2011, he met Dairmaid Gunn, a nephew of Scottish novelist, critic and dramatist Neil Gunn. Gunn was a life-long friend of Maurice Walsh and arguably the most influential Scottish fiction writer of the first half of the 20th century.
Minister Deenihan was joined by Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Culture Secretary, Gobnait O’Riordan, Director of the University of Limerick Library, Dairmaid Gunn, nephew of Neil Gunn and Manus Walsh, grandson of Maurice.
The venue was packed to capacity as Minister Deenihan spoke of the rich cultural and literary links between Ireland and Scotland and said he hoped they would continue to be strong well into the future.
The New Writers’ Salon, held in Scribes Coffee House on Church Street, returned to Listowel Writers’ Week for the second year running. Once again it was a great
success and hosted by Noel O’Regan. The Salon runs over two nights and features a mixture of award-winning poets and prose writers who have yet to have their first book published. Friday night was Prose night and featured: Rita Jacob, Ferdia Lennon, Danielle McLaughlin and Thomas Morris. We congratulate Danielle, who was recently shortlisted for the Davy Byrnes Award.