Packed to full capacity, the prize-giving ceremony saw Writers’ Week off to an enigmatic start. Following singing by Claire Keane (Voice of Kerry Winner 2011) and harp by Aoife Ni Argain (Senior All Ireland harpist), President Michael D. Higgins gave a lively, positive speech about the powerful impact of the written and spoken word.
‘Listowel (Writers’ Week) is special…Literature is about living, life; an Irishness we can be proud of. Irish people love narrative and this weekend enables us to be truly Irish, European like we want to be. Writers Week is a great landmark in our literary calendar.’
Higgins went on to congratulate the festival on its continuing spirit of excellence and all-encompassing attitude.
‘Year after year, Poet Laureates, best-selling authors, new poetic voices and a strange new breed of individuals who want to attend workshops in pursuit of improving their writing will all come together. And when those new writers achieve eminence, they will return. Writers’ Week is a sharing of talent, a lively exchange and celebration of creativity which defines our lives and our future.’
Referencing various points in Irish history, Higgins spoke of the continuing importance of Irish writers, applauding the fact that ‘our writers don’t say, what I have to give is lesser because I’m from a small island. They write, recording and shaping our pasts and our futures.’
Following Michael D. Higgins, Colm Toibín (president of Writers’ Week) spoke about the creative process; how it is a strange mix of loneliness and idleness, hard work and uncertainty.
‘How does a novel, story, poem begin? It begins with an idea; a character, scene, something that you saw, heard, noticed, something overheard. Then it moves into a rhythm. But the rhythm cannot be forced; otherwise you have a dreadful first page. You have to wait. But you can only wait once; as soon as the rhythm starts, you have to work.‘
‘It is our job as writers to stay in the shadows where we belong, making substance of our dreams. Now, ideas can make a difference more than ever. The example we give might make a difference in Ireland, might make a difference to the society we live in. Writers’ Week seeks to make the connection between word and audience, the shadows and society.”
As festival chairman Sean Lyons stated; ‘if there was a one-word poem for Colm Toibín, it would be ‘Eloquence.’
The evening moved on to the prize-giving, honouring various literary landmarks from the John B Keane Lifetime Achievement Award (Anthony Cronin) to the coveted Kerry Group Irish Novel of 2012 (Christine Dwyer Hickey) to encouraging young school children to begin their literary journeys with the Kerry County Council Creative Writing for Youth awards.
You can read the full list of prize-winners here.