Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Patrick and Katherine Fellowship in poetry

We received the following press release from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Associate Professor of English at Trinity College Dublin, which may be of interest:
The Patrick and Katherine Fellowship in poetry for 2009 has been awarded to Janice Fitzpatrick Simmons. The Fellowship is given annually under the terms of the will of Patrick Kavanagh's widow Katherine.
Katherine Kavanagh set up a Trust to help Irish poets who are in need of assistance. She wrote in her will, 'In the light of certain conversations that I had with my late husband I am of the opinion that poets can best benefit from grants, bursaries, loans or any manner of financial assistance during their "middle years ," that is to say that period of their creative life when they have established that they are capable of work of merit and before they are too old to reap the full benefit of such assistance.'
The award is made to a poet who has published a substantial body of work over time. Applicants are asked to submit evidence of age, of citizenship, and of income, along with copies of published work.
Janice Fitzpatrick is an Irish poet born in Boston, who has published five collections, including Settler, The Bowsprit and most recently Saint Michael in Peril of the Sea (Salmon, 2009). Her 'poems of pilgrimage and of physicality' question the engagements between humans and landscape, between people at odds with themselves and each other. In her work, human figures are rarely alone; their scenes and encounters are observed and captured in a language often plain, but strongly suggestive and full of feeling.
A former Assistant Director of the Robert Frost Place in New Hampshire, Janice Fitzpatrick was co-founder, with her late husband James Simmons (who died in 2001), and Director of the Poets' House/Teach na h éigse, located in Falcarragh, County Donegal. She also taught an MA in poetry at Waterford Institute of Technology. She now lives in Donegal.

Monday, November 23, 2009

John Banville and Seamus Heaney Reading at the Centre

Photograph Stephanie Joy © 2009
John Banville and Seamus Heaney

A group of hardy souls braved the worst rain on record to venture out to the IWC for one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the Centre’s calendar: a reading by two of Ireland’s best-loved writers, Seamus Heaney and John Banville.

The reputations of both Banville and Heaney are so well-known that they don’t need to be described here, suffice to say that they lived up to the high expectations of the audience. John Banville read from his most recent novel, the wildly popular The Infinities, choosing a moving and amusing excerpt dealing with childhood memories, while Seamus Heaney treated us to a preview of his soon-to-be published translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, which describes a journey into the Underworld, and, sticking with a similar theme, read from his 1991 book Seeing Things, a collection of poetry which draws parallels between Greek mythology and day-to-day life.

Of course the evening wouldn’t have been complete without some mention of Ireland’s devastating exit from the World Cup Qualifiers, and the IWC’s treasurer Catherine Phil MacCarthy touched upon this painful subject, but also reminded the audience that Irish writers win the literary equivalent of the World Cup on a regular basis, citing Colum McCann winning the US National Book Award for Fiction for Let the Great World Spin on Wednesday night.

Many friends of the Centre turned out for the evening, including writers Nessa O’Mahony, Celine Dé Freine, Desmond Traynor, Padraig J. Daly, Paddy Bushe and Michael O’Loughlin. John Kearns from the Irish Translators’ and Interpreters’ Association, Brendan Nolan, writer and Communications Officer of the Irish Writers’ Union and special guest, the Bulgarian Ambassador, his Excellency Emil Yalnazov where also in attendance.

This event was part of a series of benefit readings, hosted by John F Deane and featuring popular Irish writers including Gabriel Rosentock, Claire Kilroy and Áine Ni Ghlinn. The final reading, with Peter Sirr, Enda Wiley and Hugo Hamilton will take place on the 10th of December. (click here for details>>>)

Photograph Stephanie Joy © 2009
John F. Deane, John Banville, Seamus Heaney, Catherine Phil MacCarthy, and Joe McCain.

Photograph Stephanie Joy © 2009
John F. Deane and Jack Harte

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book Club Reads All Names Have Been Changed

-The Parnell Square Readers Read All Names Have Been Changed-

The first meeting of our book club comprised of a gathering of us interns here at the Irish Writers’ Centre. High up on the fourth floor, in a little room usually given over to poetry workshops, we sat around tables, books on desk, expectant and ready to rock ‘n’ roll. We uncapped and uncorked a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white, passed around a plate of biscuits and waited to see if anyone else would show up. The Parnell Square Readers is open to the public. We encourage people to come and join us. But after a while of giddy munching, chattering and sipping amongst ourselves, it was clear that no one else would show up. Ah well, work in progress.

Every now and then a faint tremor of boardroom-type etiquette swept through the room, but with our collective will we quickly dispelled the ever-present seduction of formality, hierarchy and interpersonal competitiveness that usually haunt these types of things. I shivered and swore to myself that, ‘if this thing gets ridiculous, I’m outta here’.

First one up, All Names Have Been Changed by Claire Kilroy. So here, transcribed from our Dictaphone recording of our round-table discussion, and presented in a heavily edited and dramatic format, is our opinions, insights, praise and criticism of the book
—Well, what did you think?
—Where’s the wine?
—I mean did you think Glynn was realistic?
—Oh, let’s not start talking about realism already
—It was slow to start off
—Yes, I found that too
—I wouldn’t have read past page fifty if it wasn’t something that I had to do for this
—I’m glad I stuck with it though.
—Yeah, it really takes off after the description of the bonfire on Halloween
—Yeah, that was great.
—Really well done
—You could see her skill as a writer then, once she allowed herself the time to stick with a scene for more than a page. I really liked—
—No the red, pass the red, the red! I don’t drink white in the evenings.
—The reported speech at the beginning really bugged me though
—What about the picture of Dublin it gives?
—Grim, wet, full of strife and disappointment, not like today!
—I mean, there’s more than just the pubs today.
—Well, that’s what I think anyways.
—And what about all the use of allusion?
—The way the name of every chapter comes from something else like a song or a poem of a novel?
—Yeah, that, and references to Joyce and Beckett
—I guess it’s in keeping with the characters and their world.
—Give us a Jammy Dodger.
—Has anyone read her other books?
—No, but I’d like to now.
—Does anyone want to say anything about the characters? What about the narrative voice. Written by a female, Declan, a male protagonist, did it work? Did you believe you were in a young man’s head?
—And what about this obsession theme, the myth, the cult of personality. Does it hold up? I made a note around page forty which says, here, hang on, where is it?
—Is that heater on? Is anyone else cold?
—Yes, here it is, ‘If this character is obsessional shouldn’t there be more?’
—It’s hard to write about a great writer I think
—It’s all the unsaid things in this novel that I liked. Here’s a famous Irish writer, whose obviously hit-rock bottom, sitting amongst the damp and lost and ambitious, I think its quite touching, this picture of a pathetic genius, who, you can imagine, if he pulled himself through, could again be great. But when we meet him, he is his furthest from greatness. That’s what I like. You meet him when writing isn’t working for him and because of that he’s reckless, self-destructive. I think she pulled it off.
—Yeah, but the tortured genius? The Blake references? His demons?
—But it was well written!
—I liked Giz. The description of his brain, ‘like grey chewed gum’. He was interesting.
—Yeah, and the photo of him from his Communion on the stolen televisions! Brilliant.
—What is that, Pinot Noir? Oh yeah, that’s juicy! Gimme a biccy? Why don’t we have crackers and cheese at this?
—Does she deal with the heroin epidemic in the 80s in Dublin that the sleeve talks about?
—Implicitly, yes, its there in the background. The beating Giz gets at the end.
—I guess I was expecting more.
—Doesn’t Giz mug Declan with a syringe?
—Yeah, kinda, but not really. Did she even need it? Even in the background?
—What’s that man doing on the building over there?
—Over there, out the window. On the building. Over there!
—Oh yeah. I don’t know. Looks like he’s drilling.
—What are we reading next week? Banville?
—What about the ending?
—I thought it was a fantasy or a dream.
—Oh, it was terrible! I couldn’t believe she tacked that on!
—It wasn’t that bad.
—What about the other characters. We haven’t talked about them. I thought Aisling was interesting. But Faye, she didn’t really figure at all, did she?
—But what about the ending. What did you—

Tape ends.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Excitement about IWC's publishing day

From Inspiration to Publication, our one-day publishing seminar, took place last Saturday on a cold sunny November day. Around forty people showed up to hear our industry professionals talk and our illustrious reading room was packed. A buzz of excitement was in the air.

After teas and coffees and an opening address, the seminar started with two PowerPoint presentations, one given by Stephen Boylan and the other by Sarah Bannon. Boylan works as a buyer for Easons and he discussed current market trends (such as DIY books and teen fiction) and the importance of book jackets, among other things. Bannon, who is the Head of Literature at the Arts Council, explained how to apply for literary bursaries. She went over the application form with detailed instructions.

In the afternoon two editors, Declan Meade from The Stinging Fly Press and Catriona O'Reilly from Poetry Ireland Review, took the podium to answer the attendees' questions about what makes a poem or short story publishable. The format of the discussion was an informal Q&A session which allowed people to get an insight into the editing process. Both guest speakers talked about the importance of writing a good cover letter and the need to read other people's work in order to improve one's own craft.

The final speakers of the day were Dermot Bolger and Abie Philman Bowman. Bolger, a renowed author, entertained the crowd with personal stories of his rise to fame. His words were inspiring and he gave excellent tips on how to sustain a writer's life. Being a comedian and a journalist, Phibin Bowman gave some humourous advice on doing your own publicity and ways to manipulate the media.

The whole day was a great success, thanks to our speakers and participants. IWC plans on doing a similar event with literary agents in the new year.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A new book by Ellen Gunning will be launched on Tuesday November 10th at The Irish Writers’ Centre. "Capital Women of Influence" is based on a radio series of the same name which was written and presented by Ellen and broadcast during the summer on 103.2 Dublin City FM. The book focuses on thirteen successful women from a cross-section of Irish life. Elected Senator, Ivana Bacik and charity founder, Christina Noble, are just two of the influential women profiled in the book.

“All of these women have achieved status and influence and respect in different fields of endeavour. All have different backgrounds, but all share a number of traits in common. They are all passionate about what they do. They all work much longer hours that the standard nine to five. They are all supremely organised, in their business and home lives. They get all things done. They all see opportunities, not obstacles. They are all great talkers, and they enthuse as they talk. They are all generous in giving credit to others who helped them along the way: teachers, family members, influencers, past employers and friends. They are all, undoubtedly, high achievers.They are also genuinely nice people. It really is a pleasure to have a cuppa and a chat with them. These women all have incredible energy levels, amazing ability and great personalities. I am fascinated and inspired by each and every one of them. I hope you will be too.”

- Capital Women of Influence, Preface extract

The book will be launched by Senator David Norris at 6.30pm and will be followed by a wine reception.