Dah Duit (Hi) and welcome

Irish President pays tribute to Seamus Heaney during museum visit

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has visited the museum dedicated to the poet Seamus Heaney in Bellaghy.

President Higgins, a long-time friend of the late poet, toured the exhibition at HomePlace, which celebrates the life and literature of the Nobel Laureate, in the company of Marie Heaney and Councillor Dominic Molloy from Mid Ulster District Council.
Over 70 guests, among them members of the wider Heaney family, gathered at the arts and literary centre to welcome the President and his wife, Sabina, as well as to experience a musical performance of ‘Slieve Gallion Braes’ and a poetry reading by the acclaimed actor Ian McElhinney.
Addressing the audience, President Higgins said: “The beautiful line ‘Our shadows moved on the wall’ from Séamus’ poem ‘Keeping Going’ came to mind as soon as I entered this place.
“All around us is the memory, the shadows of Séamus as both the poet and the man. This is a place that belongs to Séamus - a place that echoes with his words and with the memories of those who knew and were influenced by him”.
“Here in HomePlace we are again reminded of the great reach and depth of Seamus’ reputation and impact. But we are also, in ways that are both uplifting and poignant, reminded that Seamus was first and foremost a son of Bellaghy. It is here that Seamus found the beat to which his poetry moved and the inspiration for his great work.”
Cllr Molloy said the visit was "a truly historic occasion" for HomePlace and for Mid Ulster.
“In the seven years since his inauguration, President Higgins has more than earned the title ‘Champion of Creativity’ and here in Bellaghy, in this place where we celebrate the life and literature of one of Ireland’s greatest writers, we not only have the privilege of helping to preserve the legacy of Seamus Heaney, but also to contribute to the development of the ‘creative communities’ of which the Uachtaráin is a passionate advocate,” he said.
Seamus Heaney's son Michael said the family was delighted that the President visited “not just in his official capacity, but as a personal friend and as a poet”.

On Saturday the Mr Higgins and his wife visited the Ulster-American Folk Park in Omagh.

Yeats was always old

Trinity Pays Tribute to Tom Murphy

The acclaimed playwright Tom Murphy had a longstanding relationship with Trinity.
Trinity has paid tribute to the acclaimed Irish playwright Tom Murphy, who has died aged 83.
Nicholas Grene, an emeritus professor of English Literature in Trinity and the author of The Theatre of Tom Murphy, said Murphy was not “only a great talent but a man of immense charm”.
“It was the daring of Tom Murphy’s imagination that was outstanding for me, his willingness to follow wherever the idea took him – a man who insanely wants to sing like the tenor Beniamino Gigli, a senile woman telling over and over an unfinished story about a laughing contest. Who but Tom Murphy could even have thought of such a subject for a play, much less turn them into two of the theatrical masterpieces of our time?”
Following news of his death, plaudits have come from the literary world and beyond to honour Murphy, who for decades produced plays, from the The Gigli Concert to a The House, that probed the depths of Ireland’s society and its people.
On social media, Trinity marked his death by re-sharing its online exhibition, launched in October 2017, of Murphy’s literary archives, from drafts of plays to correspondence with theatres, that together tell the story of the writer’s life. The exhibition, which was co-curated by Greene, included interviews about Murphy’s work with Garry Hynes, Fintan O’Toole and Colm Tóibín.
In an email statement to The University Times, Jane Maxwell, the Principal Curator in Trinity’s Library, said Murphy “is rightly acclaimed among Ireland’s most magnificent playwrights, tackling subjects which have are becoming ever more resonant; issues such as toxic masculinity and the distorting impact of social disassociation are increasingly relevant in modern-day Ireland”.
“The ongoing importance of a nation’s cultural output is supported by the survival of the authors’ literary archival material”, she said, stressing the value of Trinity’s two-decades-long relationship with Murphy.
In 1998, Murphy was awarded an honorary degree by Trinity, and in 2001 College announced that it had acquired a large portion of Murphy’s literary archives.

Speaking last year, as the online exhibition was announced, Trinity’s Chief Librarian and College Archivist Helen Shenton said: “We are very proud of this important collection which will play a significant part in future Irish literary scholarship. Tom Murphy’s collection joins Trinity’s other world renowned holdings of literary archives of famous Irish writers including Jennifer Johnston, John Banville, John B Keane and Leland Bardwell.”

Ireland's thriving literary magazine scene:

Ireland's thriving literary magazine scene: space for tradition and experimentation
Both online-only formats and print journals provide vital platforms for new and developing writers

Sarah Gilmartin

Reading the mission statements of Irish literary journals, a common theme emerges: the desire to offer writers the space to develop ideas that may not otherwise find a platform. From the more established titles such as Dublin Review, Crannóg and The Stinging Fly, which published its first issue 20 years ago this month, to more recent outlets like The Bohemyth, Banshee and gorse, fostering talent new and old is the backbone of “the little magazine”.
A vibrant journal scene with a roots-up feel to it has developed in Ireland in the past decade. There are currently in the region of 30 publications across print and online media seeking submissions multiple times a year. This has coincided with a growing enthusiasm for creative writing in general, with all of the major colleges in Ireland and many other cultural organisations offering programmes ranging from evening courses for beginners to two-year MFAs (Master of Fine Arts).
It is also reflected in the contemporary culture of literary festivals where Irish and international authors go “on the circuit” to promote and discuss their work. Barely a month goes by in Ireland without some major literary event taking place, giving authors the chance to connect with readers and their peers.
But while festivals look for new launches and big names to draw in the crowds, literary magazines are often focused on an earlier stage of a writer’s career. Speaking to The Irish Times some years ago, the former Stinging Fly editor Thomas Morris praised Irish journals for their open submissions policy that sought out writing from new voices in contrast to the “invite-only” attitude that prevailed in the UK.
Morris’s successor at The Stinging Fly is the Mayo writer Sally Rooney, whose debut novel Conversations with Friends received rave reviews at home and abroad when it published last summer. With her first issue as editor forthcoming this summer, has she considered a change of approach for the magazine?
“For the moment I’m just excited about finding new work,” she says. “In the first few weeks of the role, I was worried I didn’t have a personal ‘vision’ for the magazine, but in the time I’ve spent reading submissions I’ve grown more comfortable with that – I think the important thing for me is not to impose any particular shape or style, but to let great writing come to the surface, and focus on supporting and developing it in whatever way I can.”
Ireland doesn’t have a rich tradition of journals for Rooney to look to, though the few titles that existed are still revered by those in the business today. Established in 1923, Seamus O’Sullivan’s The Dublin Magazine ran for 35 years and published writing from the likes of Samuel Beckett, Blanaid Salkeld and Austin Clarke. The first incarnation of Poetry Ireland Review, edited by David Marcus, was published in 1941. Seán O’Faoláin published the first issue of his seminal magazine The Bell a year earlier. A mix of literature and social commentary with an unorthodox liberal stance for the era, the list of contributors to the first edition is an editor’s dream: Elizabeth Bowen, Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O’Brien, Jack B Yeats and Frank O’Connor.
Of the group, O’Brien was the emerging author – his first column as Myles na gCopaleen appeared later that same year in The Irish Times – though he was no stranger to the possibilities of literary magazines. Six years earlier he had published with his friends in UCD a magazine called Blather, which as the title suggests anticipated the style of his later writing.
Whereas O’Faoláin had his pick of authors for The Bell, the number of literary journals in operation at the moment means the homegrown talent is spread thinner. In a small country, might this mean there’s not enough to go around? Rooney believes that a strong journal culture is a positive thing for all magazines: “I’m enthusiastic about new journals springing up, exploring new perspectives, experimenting with form and contributing to the broader literary culture. I think The Stinging Fly’s reputation for finding and nurturing new talent is well-established, and as long as I can keep that up we’ll be okay. So, no pressure then.”
Dublin Review editor Brendan Barrington says that the number of “strong submissions” the quarterly publication receives seems higher than ever. “Ditto the number of new writers we’re publishing, even though there are more well-established Irish journals now than at any time since we started in 2000. It’s encouraging to see that new journals generally seem to be hanging on, rather than fading away after an issue or two.” While fiction remains fairly dominant in Irish journals, a fact that is mirrored in the wider literary landscape, he says that Dublin Review “feels a bit less alone in our commitment to writerly non-fiction”.
Wider audiences
Barrington’s counterpart in the online literary journal The Dublin Review of Books, Enda O’Doherty, has had recent success in this area. “Two of our writers who have recently achieved very impressive figures internationally for their essays are the novelist Kevin Power, writing about Martin Amis and Oscar Wilde, and Dr Seamus O’Mahony on worrying trends in medical practice,” he says. “Both essays have done particularly well in the US.”
The online format has helped increase readership figures at drb, which has seen a consistent rise in the numbers of hits per article since their first issue in spring 2007. “If the quality is high enough a website article published here can be read in significant numbers all over the world, and not just by the Irish diaspora,” O’Doherty says. “This enables an Irish writer or critic to reach a much wider audience than would be likely in a traditional print journal.”
While a number of the older print journals are still publishing exciting new writing – among them Ireland’s longest standing journal Cyphers, The Honest Ulsterman and the Galway-based publication Crannóg, which gets more than 1000 submissions for each of its three yearly issues – the explosion of digital media in the last decade has allowed new outlets to flourish.
Though now disbanded, Elizabeth Reapy’s Wordlegs (2009 - 2014) is frequently mentioned by those involved in the scene as one of the forerunners of its time. Reapy, whose debut novel Red Dirt won the Newcomer of the Year at the 2016 Irish Book Awards, established the journal after finishing an MA in creative writing.
“Looking around at my chances for publication, I felt like there was a space for brand new writers like me, somewhere less established, less experienced, and on the new medium at the time – the internet,” she says. “It was inexpensive to set up and became a creative project for me and Cathal Sherlock. He was doing the art and tech work, I was doing the editorial and marketing side. Or, as my Dad put it, ‘If you can’t make the team, become the manager.’”
Claire Hennessy, who co-edits Banshee, credits Wordlegs as being one of the first Irish outlets to tap into the potential of online publishing. As Wordlegswas winding down, Banshee was gearing up for its first issue, which came out in autumn 2015. Top of the agenda for Hennessy and her co-editors Eimear Ryan and Laura Jane Cassidy was to pay authors for their work and make a dent in “a culture that saw mostly men in decision-making roles”. Three years since they founded the magazine, Hennessy says both concerns still exist but that there’s more attention paid to them.
“Our timing has been fortunate and zeitgeist-friendly. Gender has been a big issue for Irish literature in the last few years, prompted particularly by our Laureate Emeritus Anne Enright, Tramp Press founders Lisa Coen and Sarah Davis-Goff, and the Waking The Feminists movement. It’s become an infinitely more legitimate topic of discussion, which is very pleasing. The literary world is still terribly male and prone to dismissing women, but it’s changing, slowly.”
In an essay in the most recent issue of the The Honest Ulsterman, UCD PhD student Laura Loftus outlined how key literary periodicals in 80s and 90s Ireland contributed to the mainstream marginalisation of women poets. “My research analyses journals of the era as part of a larger thesis that looks at how the Irish literary community was built on a system of male literary inheritance and homosocial bonding,” she says. Women poets of the era found outlets through alternative networks such as writers’ workshops run by the Women’s Education Bureau, feminist presses like Attic Press and Arlen House, and Jessie Lendennie’s The Salmon poetry journal, “with the premise being that the situation improved from this period onwards, however marginally”.
Gender imbalance
The issue of representation of Irish female poets has garnered recent attention following the Fired! initiative that was set up as a response to the gender imbalance in both poetic and critical contributions in The Cambridge Companion To Irish Poets (2017) edited by Gerard Dawe.
The internet has proved a powerful tool for those looking to rectify the issue. Contemporary Irish poet Christine Murray runs a blog, Poethead, that indexes women poets from Ireland and abroad and offers a forum for their writing. “I am inundated with women poets from every country and operating a waiting list,” she says. “When I began indexing nearly 10 years ago I had to cajole poets, so it’s a huge change. If we create the platforms, they tend to submit.”
Murray notes a fairer gender balance nowadays and credits contemporary literary journals with helping to achieve this. “We have Eavan Boland editing Poetry Ireland Review, we have journals like Banshee and The Stinging Flygiving a platform to women poets,” she says. “But in terms of cultural and academic visibility this is not being rendered in the canon. The issue is largely cultural, how we perceive the authority of the poet.”
The writer Paula McGrath, who features in the current issue of gorse, concurs. “I was doing gender counts in poetry magazines back as far as the early 90s, and it was as bad as everything you’ve heard,” she says. “The male-female ratio is better now, but still unacceptable. I’ve reluctantly come to accept that we need quotas, everywhere: government, company boards, the media, conferences, theatre. Everywhere. Including literary magazines. When there’s parity, we can have the conversation about removing quotas.”
As someone who both subscribes to literary journals and writes for them, the poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa says the “diverse cluster” of publications around at the moment has had a significant influence on her own developing sensibility.
“Where the presence of journals like gorse encouraged me to experiment in my work, The Stinging Fly allowed me to explore fragmented prose, and The Dublin Review encouraged a rigor of style and thought,” she says. “I have always felt that my very female voice is welcomed in the pages of literary journals, although I would dearly love to see a broader range of ethnicity represented. I feel that it’s beyond time to focus on publishing more diverse Irish voices.”
The experimental ethos of journals means that they are still far ahead of mainstream publishing when it comes to diversity and gender. The writer Belinda McKeon puts this in part down to their size and scope. “There’s an awareness which maybe has been quicker to put into practice on the more microcosmic publishing enterprise that is a quarterly or yearly journal or magazine. But also, the editors, staff and interns on the smaller journals especially are themselves less usually the ‘typical publishing white person from out of Harvard’, and so the published work reflects that.”
Based in New York, McKeon regularly reads The Paris Review and Stonecutter, a magazine edited by Irishwoman Katie Raissian from her home in Brooklyn. “Online journals like Literary Hub, Electric Literature and Catapult are sites I keep an eye on most days,” she says. “But there are many others that a middle-aged person like me hasn’t even heard of because she wastes precious hours reading another New Yorker short story instead.”
Is there a noticeable difference in the journal culture in New York? “There are several bookstores which stock pretty much every literary journal and put them out on the shelves, facing forward, to be browsed through. That’s something I love about journal culture here – that it’s huge, but also accessible in that way to readers.”
Readership figures
While writers and others involved in literary circles are an obvious market for Irish journals, the wider reading public can have less interest or knowledge about such publications. Bob Johnston of the Gutter Book Shops in Dublin sells The Stinging Fly, The Dublin Review, Granta and the annual Winter Papers. He says sales are steady but not amazing: “The Stinging Fly is definitely the strongest and would regularly show up in our monthly bestsellers when a new edition is published. Half of our sales are to locals interested in Irish literary fiction, with the other half selling to tourists interested in discovering new Irish writing.”
Johnston says the distribution models for many journals make them difficult to stock. “We have to make a profit on every sale so we don’t set up small direct accounts. I’d love to see more journals embracing supply via wholesalers as it really is the best way to get them into a wide range of bookshops, but I’m aware that production costs on journals can be very tight and many of them are cautious of giving the discounts necessary for a wholesale approach.”
Reaching a wide audience doesn’t seem to be the driving impulse behind most journals in operation at the moment, who exist first and foremost as a space to encourage writers. While Hennessy thinks the idea of a literary journal targeting a mass audience is “slightly mad”, the team at Banshee are always interested in “readability”. The magazine’s influences are a mix of high and popular culture, with the reader kept in mind throughout.
When it comes to spreading the word about journals, Hennessy says collaborative events work well to spark interest. “What we have found brilliant over the past few years are events where several Irish and Northern Irish journals get together and share work to an audience. It’s a wonderful way of offering a taster of what lit-journal culture has to offer and making this available to people who mightn’t be as inclined to attend a single-issue launch. There’s a camaraderie in lit-journal-land that lends itself to this. More of this kind of thing would be terrific.”

Belinda McKeon: I first read Rebecca Schiff’s stories in n+1, Ottessa Moshfegh in the The Paris Review, Kate Zambreno in Tin House. Stonecutterdid an interview with Knausgaard long before he was the darling of the New York literary scene. Journals here are great for discoveries, no less than the Irish ones.

Gavin Corbett: Pretty much everything in gorse. Susan Tomaselli has great taste, casts her net widely, and is a great editor. In The Stinging Fly, an early Aiden O’Reilly story led me to his website, where I discovered much more of his excellent work. Also Sally Rooney – her talent was obvious from the beginning. The first time I read Nicole Flattery, again in The Fly, I was captivated – the voice, the word choice, the oddest dramaturgical line. I thought, my god, she could be the Irish Miranda July. Or the Irish Miranda off Miranda.
EM Reapy: North Korea by Sara Baume in The Penny Dreadful stands out in my memory. I remember reading it and being so blown away by her layering that I wrote it out by hand immediately afterwards to see how she’d done it. Another vivid and more recent piece was Frog Bookshop by Bernard O’Rourke in November’s The Bohemyth journal. I’m still reeling from it.
Sally Rooney: I first encountered Nicole Flattery’s work through The Stinging Fly, and I’m forever grateful I did. And it was through Granta and Poetry Ireland Review that I was introduced to the poetry of Stephen Sexton. I very often find writing in magazines worth getting excited about.
Bob Johnston: I loved the special New Irish Writing edition of Grantapublished in 2016, not least because we sold it by the bucketful, but it’s also where I first read work by Lucy Caldwell and Sally Rooney. Also The Stinging Fly where I first read a story by Kevin Barry and was completely blown away.
Paula McGrath: My favourite discovery was neither a piece nor an author, but an editor: Susan Tomaselli, whom I happened upon online in 3:AM Magazine, pre gorse. I was wowed by how well-read she was and by her thoughtful and original writing, and I more or less stalked her until she let me write a review for gorse blog.

Doireann Ní Ghíofa: I was deeply struck by Sarah Byrne’s poem Gin in Poetry Ireland Review, and Dawn Watson’s Bird on the School Path in The Moth. In terms of prose, I admired both Kevin Breathnach’s Tunnel Vision in The Dublin Review and Darragh McCausland’s Two Gromits in gorse.

Print journals
1. Banshee http://bansheelit.tumblr.com/
2. Crannog http://www.crannogmagazine.com/
3. Cyphers https://www.cyphers.ie/
4. The Dublin Review https://thedublinreview.com/
5. The Dublin Review of Books https://www.drb.ie/
6. Gorse http://gorse.ie/
7. The Honest Ulsterman http://humag.co/
8. Irish Pages https://irishpages.org/
9. The Moth http://www.themothmagazine.com/
10. The Penny Dreadful http://thepennydreadful.org/
11. Poetry Bus Magazine http://thepoetrybusmag.wixsite.com/change
12. Poetry Ireland Review http://www.poetryireland.ie/
13. Skylight 47 https://skylight47poetry.wordpress.com/
14. The Stinging Fly https://stingingfly.org/
15. Tangerine https://thetangerinemagazine.com/
16. The Well Review http://www.thewellreview.com/
17. Winter Papers http://winterpapers.com/

Online journals
1. A New Ulster https://sites.google.com/site/anewulster/
2. Bare Hands Poetry http://barehandspoetry.tumblr.com/
3. The Bohemyth https://thebohemyth.com/
4. Crossways https://crosswaysmagazine.com/
5. The Galway Review https://thegalwayreview.com/
6. Irish Literary Review http://irishliteraryreview.com/
7. Number Eleven Magazine http://numberelevenmagazine.com/
8. Silver Streams https://www.silverstreamsjournal.com/
9. The South Circular http://www.thesouthcircular.com/
10. Southword http://www.munsterlit.ie/Southword/swhome.html
11. Tales from the Forest https://talesfromtheforest.net/
12. The Weary Blues http://thewearyblues.org/

College journals
1. The HCE Review (UCD) https://hcereview.com/
2. The Ogham Stone (UL) https://theoghamstoneul.com/
3. The Quarryman (UCC) https://www.facebook.com/quarrymanjournal/
4. Icarus (Trinity) http://www.icarusmagazine.com/
5. Ropes (NUI Galway) https://ropesgalway.wordpress.com/


The James Joyce Centre presents The Legacy of the Little Magazine with Susan Tomaselli (gorse), Declan Meade (The Stinging Fly), Tara McEvoy (The Tangerine) and Laura Cassidy (Banshee). June 14th at 6:30pm, €15 , Belvedere House, Great Denmark Street. Supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature

Cork poet Liam Ó Muirthile dead at 68

Writer ‘pushed the boundaries of Irish language literature through his dynamic prose’
Mark Hilliard

The death has been announced of the poet and writer Liam Ó Muirthile.
Mr Ó Muirthile was born in Cork City in 1950. His first collection of poetry, Tine Chnámh, written in 1984, received the Irish-American Cultural Institute’s literary award and the Oireachtas prize for poetry.
He also received the Butler Award in 1996 for his novel Ar Bhruach na Laoi, and both the Arts Council Prize and Gradam Chló Iar-Chonnacht for his third collection of poems, Walking Time agus Dánta eile.
In a statement on his death, the Arts Council described the Aosdána member and former Irish Times columnist as a writer of “great diversity and breadth”.
Chair Sheila Pratschke said Mr O’Muirthile “pushed the boundaries of Irish language literature through his dynamic prose, poetry and his writing for the stage”.
“Widely read and translated, his work made an enormous impact on our cultural landscape. From the launch of the acclaimed poetry publication Inntithrough his long and varied career, O’Muirthile was a powerful advocate for the language and literature, and his presence will be badly missed,” she said.
Mr Ó Muirthile, who mastered the Irish language in school and in Irish speaking region of West Kerry, had also written for the stage.
Amharclann de hÍde produced his play Tine Chnámh in the Project Theatre in Dublin in 1993. His play Fear an Tae was produced in the Andrew’s Lane Theatre, Dublin in 1995, and Liodán na hAbhann was staged in the Crypt Theatre in Dublin Castle in 2000.
He wrote a weekly column, An Peann Coitianta, for The Irish Times between 1989 and 2003.
His published works included: Tine Chnámh (1984), An Peann Coitianta(1991), Dialann Bóthair (1992), Ar Bhruach na Laoi (1995), An Peann Coitianta 2 (1997), Liodán na hAbhann (1999), Fear an Tae (1999), Walking Time agus Dánta Eile (2000), Gaothán (2000), An Seileitleán (2004), Sister Elizabeth ag Eitilt (2005), Ar an bPeann (Winter 2005), Dánta Déanta(Winter 2005), ÁÉÍÓÚ (Spring 2006).
Translations of various Ó Muirthile poems are in the following publications: An Tonn Gheal/The Bright Wave, Dermot Bolger (editor), Jumping Off Shadows, Selected Contemporary Irish Poets, Greg Delanty & Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill (editors), Introductions, Modern Poetry in Translation, Series Three, No.1,(Bernard O’Donoghue) and Anthologie de la poésie Irlandaise du xxe siècle, Jean-Yves Masson (editor).

Some of his work was translated and featured among German, French, Italian, Hungarian and Romanian collections.

Sarah Crossan: ‘I really think poetry and arts can transform life’

The Children’s Laureate looks forward to sharing the power of poems

If it weren’t for a cheeky schoolboy, Ireland’s newly crowned Children’s Laureate Sarah Crossan might never have become a professional writer, let alone the nation’s new advocate for children’s literature. Crossan was working as an English teacher and, in one lesson, she told her pupils to follow their dreams and believe in themselves. “A kid put up his hand and said, ‘Have you always wanted to be a teacher?’” she says. “And it was like someone punched me in the face.”
Crossan found herself telling the class that she’d thought about being a writer but had never found the time. The boy wasn’t impressed. “He sat back in his chair and said, ‘I think you have a cheek telling us to live our dreams when you’ve never even tried to live yours.’ Normally I would have disciplined him, but he had a point. And on the back of that comment I applied to do a Master’s degree and went back to university to do creative writing.”
Crossan continued to work as a teacher during and after her postgraduate studies, and began writing fiction in verse while teaching in a school in America, where, she says, the verse novel is more firmly established. Her first novel, The Weight of Water, was published in 2011 and was shortlisted for multiple awards; her 2016 novel One won the CILIP Carnegie Medal and CBI Book of the Year Award. As Laureate, she’s following in the footsteps of groundbreaking Irish writers and artists such as Siobhan Parkinson, Eoin Colfer, Niamh Sharkey and outgoing laureate PJ Lynch and, like all the previous laureates, she’s going to put her own stamp on the role. “We Are the Poets is the theme,” she says. “And what that means for me is bringing poetry into the lives of children in a way that’s not confrontational, that’s a fun experience.”
She’s seen for herself that young readers will embrace poetry – if they’re given the chance. “Poetry is the one area where young people still feel that they have to understand it before they’re allowed to have an emotional reaction to it,” she says, pointing out that this attitude often comes from adults. “One thing I do anyway as part of my job is speaking to teachers a lot. And many of them talk about the trauma of poetry at school. How many people hated poetry at school and how many of them are now English teachers bringing this into the classroom? I want to work with teachers and give them the confidence to teach poetry in a way that’s fun and brings pleasure not just to the students but also the teachers.”

 Schools programme
And she has plenty of ideas of how to do all this during her two-year stint as laureate. “I want to create resource packs for schools,” she says. “I want to work with Irish poets and performance poets across the world, getting them into communities where children are more vulnerable.” The schools programme won’t kick off until the new academic year in September, but Crossan hopes to reach young potential readers before then. “We want to have a social media campaign where we get well-known figures in Irish culture to recite their favourite poems and talk about poetry, whether it’s about being inspired or being damaged by a terrible teacher.” She hopes to curate “a poetry festival for young people where we have activity stations where they can do fun things with poetry, performance poets, poetry installations. We haven’t got all of the finer details yet – but we’ve got two years.”
Crossan spent her childhood in Dublin before her family moved to the UK, where she went to secondary school and university. After her spell in America, she returned to the UK, where she still lives. She is adamant that the physical distance will be irrelevant when it comes to her laureateship. “I’m over roughly once a month anyway,” she says. “Because I don’t live here and because it’s really important for me to feel a part of the Irish community, I’ve really tried to come over as much as possible.” As someone whose Twitter bio reads “Irish writer, English accent”, this sense of Irishness means a lot to her. “One of the reasons I was so emotional when I was told about this laureateship was because I’ve spent my whole life trying to prove I’m Irish, trying to hold on to that despite people trying to pull it away from me all the time.”
Having grown up in a working-class immigrant community, she’s keen to work with children on the margins. “When you have a decent education and you come from a family that values education, you don’t appreciate the psychological barriers some children have to education and the arts. They completely think this stuff isn’t about them.” Crossan has visited private schools where, she says, the children are already invested in literature and have already enjoyed multiple author visits. “I’m not sure of the value of those visits . . . I’m interested in reaching vulnerable children, children who are homeless or refugee children. What better work can you do?”

 Fear of pretension
As someone who writes fiction in verse and who is encouraging young people to embrace poetry, does Crossan consider herself a poet, a novelist who writes poetry, or simply a writer? “I don’t consider myself to be any of these things!” she laughs. “I’m starting to call myself a poet and take ownership of that in a way I haven’t before. I think it’s important that I do because I can’t tell children that they’re poets if I don’t believe I’m a poet myself. Poet is the one word that people are afraid to use because it sounds pretentious. If you painted in watercolours you’d say you were a painter, but for some reason that word poet has an arrogance attached to it. It sounds lofty but it shouldn’t, and one of the things I want to do is allow people to use that word and not be afraid to use it. Because if you start to believe it about yourself you start to create it.”
And this is the heart of Crossan’s inclusive vision. “Once you say the words ‘I am a poet’ or ‘we are the poets’ then young people will start to believe and start to write poetry,” she says. “Take ownership of it. Don’t let academics and snobs take it away from you and tell you it belongs in schools and universities and books and it doesn’t belong to you. Because I was you and I didn’t think poetry belonged to me and it took me a long time to discover it, and when I did it opened a whole world for me. I really think poetry and the arts can transform life. And no one should be excluded from that.”

Beyond the Breakwater by Catherine Foley: a humble memoir

An unpretentious account of simpler times in Waterford and Ring of the 1960s and 1970s
Manchán Magan

Sat, May 19, 2018, 06:00

Pat McCabe has a lot to answer for. The class messer of Irish literature has altered forever how we read rural Irish memoirs. His evisceration of the central tropes of the genre (hopscotch on the street, the sick mother, singsongs with aunties, treats of lemonade, First Holy Communion, the allure of Kennedy’s Camelot) has made us suspect now of books that reveal overt traces of innocence and earnestness. We wonder when the veneer will be stripped back to reveal a darker truth. And this is the least appropriate way to approach the sincerity and earnestness of Catherine Foley’s new memoir, Beyond the Breakwater: Memories of Home.
Foley, a former staff journalist and social columnist with this newspaper, has written a warm-hearted collection of simple memories in simple language of a simpler time. Their tone is reminiscent of RTÉ’s Sunday Miscellany, which Foley has been a regular contributor to for many years: nostalgic recollections of playing shop; of make-believe tea parties; of staying home sick from school; of a mouse in the house; of watching Daniel Boone’s wild-west adventures on television; of the Pope’s Visit; of first jobs, first crushes and the inevitable, car-chasing family mongrel, who gets knocked down in the end.
And, just like Sunday Miscellany, there are occasional glimpses at something deeper, lucid surprises that resonate and spark reflection in the reader, like her description of the strangeness of the nuns she encountered at school: “the sound of their beads striking their keys made little irregular clicks that sounded like beetles when they moved” and the smell of their clothing “imbued with a rich mix of soap, starch, sweat, camphor balls, polish, incense and old refectory aromas”.
Foley’s writing steps up a notch from the prosaic for these occasional sections of perspicacity, to reveal an ease with words gained over decades as a journalist and, perhaps, from the cellular inheritance of her uncle, the writer, Dónal Foley.
Compassionate insight
While the book can seem like a sequence of writing exercises, meandering from a childhood in Waterford city and the Ring Gaeltacht to young adulthood and her years working in Dublin, there is a reassurance and compassion to her insight that is nourishing. Foley demonstrates the same qualities that she attributes to her mother’s amateur art pottering: “there is a certain timeless energy, a stillness, and an innocence in every picture”.
She brings moments alive that are familiar and yet seem oddly exotic, such as her maternal grandfather, a retired merchant seaman and Suir river pilot, in braces, starched collars, and black trousers “voluminously wide like a mariner’s should be” and fingers nicotine-stained from Player’s Navy Cut, “splicing and knotting ropes and sculpting small bits of wood”. She conveys the gulf between them by describing his era as “a time when semaphore was still in use, when the chapel bell marking the time had a central place in daily lives.”
Occasional chapters veer into poetry or a travel account or a history lesson about an element of Waterford heritage, such as the cod fishing industry of the 18th and 19th century. And there are a few pure Pat-McCabian moments, like when she describes the infatuation she felt for a statue of the Virgin Mary as a child, recalling her longing to be able to lie down beside the large plaster figure and cuddle her: “To me she was like a giant-sized doll… I’d wrap my arms around her and… kiss her fervently on the cheeks”.
Although the book purports to be an account of two worlds, the English-speaking realm of Waterford city where she spent her early years and the Gaeltacht of Ring where she grew up and still lives, there is surprisingly little insight about the Irish language in these pages, the focus is primarily on personal reminiscence.
And, as you’d expect from a writer of such sincerity, some of the most affecting passages are those dealing with her parents’ decline in old age. A nostalgic account of a summer fishing lobsters with her father contrasts poignantly with a later memory of him frail and weak at the screening of the first TG4 documentary that she produced with her sister, RoseAnn. Likewise, the memories of helping to wash and dress her parents and care for them in their final years are captured with heart-warming compassion.
Beyond the Breakwater is an unusually intimate and humble book – an unpretentious account of what may, perhaps, have been a simpler life in the 1960s and 1970s.

Making an extraordinary man ordinary

My Fair Ladies, Bewley's Cafe Theatre, until May 26
Katy Hayes

George Bernard Shaw has an enduring presence in cultural life. His plays get frequent revivals: Pygmalion and You Never can Tell have both had recent outings on the Abbey stage; Man and Superman was recently at the Royal National Theatre in London. The Royal Irish Academy published a significant critical study last year, Judging Shaw, by Fintan O'Toole. Though best known as a playwright, Shaw was a prolific commentator, critic, essayist, and political activist. He lived to be 94 and his output was vast. He won the Nobel prize for Literature and also an Academy Award for the film script of Pygmalion.
Veteran of the Irish stage Des Keogh returns with this one-man show about Shaw's life. The play follows the format of a public lecture to a crowd somewhere in Ireland in the 1940s. Keogh made the decision to engage with the great playwright not through his work, but rather through his relationships with various women. The story starts when he lost his virginity aged 29 with a woman named Jenny Patterson, a friend of his mother's who was 15 years his senior.
Like his contemporary William Butler Yeats, Shaw admired women and liked their company. He had a string of quasi-romantic, quasi-sexual affairs, several with actresses: Florence Farr; Ellen Terry; Mrs Patrick Campbell. Part of the dynamic here is the playwright wooing talent for his plays - there is a detailed account of his seducing Ellen Terry to perform the lead in his play Candida. But these charismatic actresses cast an enduring spell over him.
Alongside these affairs, Shaw had a stable and sexless marriage to the Irish heiress Charlotte Payne-Townshend, who seemed willing to put up with his philandering. Charlotte's money enabled him to give up his role as a working critic, and concentrate on his creative output.
Keogh is one of Ireland's finest comic performers. Here, he is carefully styled to look just like Shaw, in a three-piece, brown-squared tweed suit, and signature beard. Under Patrick Talbot's direction, the version of George Bernard Shaw we get here is terribly ordinary. Only rarely do we see a flash of Keogh's extensive comedic talents. It's there during an extract from Pygmalion, where Keogh performs all the parts: Eliza, Mrs Higgins and Freddie. This a highlight of the show. We also get a blast of Keogh the comedian in a mimicry of Yeats's sonorous tone and during a satirical passage about the poet's interest in the "bonging" noise of the esoteric musical instrument, the psaltery. In choosing to concentrate on the ordinary life of Shaw, to make him a man with mixed success with the ladies, rather than an intellectual giant, Keogh opens up a route into the humanity of his subject, so long celebrated for his cerebral qualities. But that isn't necessarily what we want. We are interested in Shaw because of his status as a colossus of Irish and British theatre. In humanising him, Keogh has demythologised him. Intimacy is definitely gained, but at the loss of intellectual excitement.

Book it now...

Theatre Upstairs, Dublin,
 until May 26
This new play by Amy de Bhrún juxtaposes — across 100 years — the life of Limerick-born, early aviatrix Lady Mary Heath with another Mary, a woman trapped in an abusive relationship in present-day Dublin.

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin,  May 15–19
The tragedy of the doomed, iceberg-bound ‘Titanic’ has proved a rich subject for stage and screen. This musical, which won five Tony awards on its maiden outing on Broadway in 1997, opens in Ireland for the very first time.

Project Arts Centre, Dublin,

 May 16 & 17
Liz Roche Company revives this 2016 multi-media dance show which engages with the debate surrounding the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Tours to Dún Laoghaire, May 22; Sligo, May 24.
Seeing the world through Lolita's eyes
Review: Dolores, The Chocolate Factory, until May 13
Do you remember that Lolita's name in the novel by Vladimir Nabokov is actually Dolores Haze? Her mother calls her Lo, and Humbert Humbert extrapolates from that the Lolita nickname, which has become synonymous with the idea of a sexually precocious teen.
Junk Ensemble's new production for Dublin Dance Festival is a brilliant interference with the legacy of Nabokov's best-known work. Dolores is played by four performers: Julie Koenig and Deirdre Griffin are gingham-shorted all-American sporty girls; their dance reflects the roughness of puberty and its agony. Erin Thornton plays a quiet, more interior Dolores, who reads and observes. In the novel, Dolores dies in childbirth while still a teen. Here, Dolores grows to be an adult who is both damaged and vengeful, a persona wonderfully created by performance artist Amanda Coogan. All four women at one point wear the same striped dress. The splitting and fracturing of the character is a highly effective way of representing this vulnerable person. Mikel Murfi has the tricky job of playing Humbert Humbert; he manages to be simultaneously dangerous and pathetic, caught in a fug of bewildered sleaze.
Concept, choreography and direction are by Junk Ensemble's Jessica Kennedy and Megan Kennedy. This is a wonderfully put together 75 minutes. Though it has the abstract quality of a dance show, it also has a compelling and mesmerising narrative. The audience is split into two, and led through the space in separate groups. Intriguing design by Valerie Reid creates a variety of sections: a bedroom, a car, a motel room. Highlights of the show include: the confrontation between an older Dolores and Humbert Humbert; an aerial section using a harness, which alters your perspective on matters; the athletic dancing of Koenig and Griffin; the final baton section. The show is a string of highlights.
And afterwards, one thing is sure: you will remember Lolita's name. She was called Dolores.

‘I think the Irish are Spaniards who got lost’

Ian Gibson has lived in Spain for decades and is best known for his work on the poet Federico García Lorca

Guy Hedgecoe

 Ian Gibson has spent the last four decades living and working in Spain, so it’s rather ironic that as he sits down in a bar in central Madrid with The Irish Times, the icy drizzle outside is more reminiscent of his native Dublin than his adopted home.
A few days earlier, the writer had attended an event in the capital which highlighted the cultural ties that bind Spain and Ireland: Loco por Lorca (Crazy about Lorca), a celebration of the 120th anniversary of the birth of poet Federico García Lorca, with funding from the Arts Council of Ireland, support from the Irish Embassy and performances by Spanish and Irish musicians.
“I think the Irish are Spaniards who got lost,” Gibson told one Spanish newspaper recently and he roars with laughter as he is reminded of the quote, even though he stands by it.
Now 78, he is energetic, warm company and his cosmopolitan intellect is apparent as he peppers his speech with Spanish phrases whose English translation escapes him, along with the occasional Italian aphorism and French book title.
“I’m still a Dubliner, obviously, and I’m Irish, but because I’ve got Spanish nationality, this enables me to speak with the freedom that other Hispanists perhaps can’t,” he says. Gibson has been a Spanish citizen since 1984. “I can say what I want because I pay my taxes here,” he adds.
A portrait of Federico Garcia Lorca hangs from a wall in a restaurant near Granada. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
That freedom to speak and write his mind about cultural and political issues has made him a well-known public figure in Spain. But Gibson is known above all for his work on Lorca, the multi-talented genius who was Spain’s greatest poet of the 20th century and its most famous casualty of the country’s civil war.
 of dictator-to-be Francisco Franco near the southern city of Granada was the subject of Gibson’s painstakingly researched first book, El Asesinato de García Lorca (The Assassination of García Lorca), originally published in France in 1971 due to the strict censorship in place in Spain at the time.
By 1975, with Franco dead and his début a success, Spain was beckoning for Gibson, who had taught at Queen’s University in Belfast and then in London. He and his family made the move, allowing him to write a full biography of Lorca, which is still seen as the definitive account. He has remained in the country ever since, based mainly in Madrid, but for a time in a small town in Andalusia.
More biographies – of Salvador Dalí, Antonio Machado and Luis Buñuel – followed, along with other non-fiction and fiction, mostly written in Spanish. But it is Lorca who is most closely associated with the Irishman – and who continues to haunt him.
 “He reaches into the very depths of my soul,” Gibson says. “And I knew that when I came across my very first poem of his.”
That encounter took place when Gibson, a teenager from a Methodist family, was in a Dublin bookshop when he happened upon a copy of Lorca’s Gypsy Ballads, the opening lines of which he recites, in Spanish, from memory: “The moon came into the forge / With her bustle of nards. / The little boy stares and stares at her / The boy keeps staring at the moon…”
“I’m still fascinated by that poem. How do you explain that?” asks Gibson, who partly answers his own question by pointing to the earthy, “telluric” quality of Lorca’s verse, which he says was also in much of the Irish literature he read as a young man.
“When you’re 18 and interested in literature and trying to find your way, suddenly you come across a poem which can sort of change you, change the direction of your life. And I can see now that’s what happened to me.”
Sixty years later, Gibson’s professional relationship with the Andalusian poet appears, finally, to have come to an end, with the publication in April this year of an expanded and updated edition of his first book.
“You’ve no idea the relief I’m feeling having done this,” he says. “Here I am in 2018, coming up to 80, it’s horrifying to think how many years I have invested in all of this. I didn’t want to die without revising the book, it was a moral obligation.”
But while Gibson’s exhaustive work is done, the hunt for Lorca – or his remains, at least – continues. Efforts to find the poet’s body, believed to lie in an unmarked grave alongside three other men murdered with him on the outskirts of Granada, have so far been unsuccessful. However, recently investigators have expressed renewed hope that the bodies lie in a spot near the one first identified by Gibson.
Lorca is just one of more than 100,000 victims of Franco from the civil war and its aftermath who are believed to lie in unmarked graves. Spain’s failure to give them and one of its greatest cultural figures a decent burial clearly riles Gibson, who accuses the country of “behaving disgracefully with regard to its dead”.
The conservative Popular Party (PP) of prime minister Mariano Rajoy has resisted efforts to deal with the legacy of the Franco era. The government also eliminated state funding for a civil organisation dedicated to finding mass graves and identifying victims.
“Any normal human being understands that if you’ve got a grandfather out there who’s been shot and buried [in a mass grave] you’d want to recover the bones of your grandfather and give him a decent burial, for God’s sake,” Gibson says. “The ancient Greeks knew that, everybody knows that. But apparently [the Spanish right] doesn’t.”
Spaniards are famously sensitive to outsiders’ views of their country and such outspokenness raises hackles among certain sections of society. The right-wing revisionist historian Pío Moa has labelled the Irishman “a sower of hatred”. By contrast, leftist newspaper El Diario praised Gibson as “a Don Quixote tilting at forgetfulness” and he is part of an illustrious line of Irish, British and American writers – including Gerald Brenan, Hugh Thomas, Gabriel Jackson and Paul Preston – who have skilfully explained Spain not just to the outside world, but to the country itself.
Gibson’s enormous affection for Spain is evident, as is his frustration at the country’s recent problems which have followed those years of modernisation when it became a major partner in the European Union.
“This country could be a paradise on earth, it’s got absolutely everything in its favour,” he says with a sigh as he contemplates the ongoing Catalan crisis and the torrent of corruption tainting the political class. “If they could only see that and talk and listen more. Spaniards are very bad at listening.”
With Lorca now behind him, Gibson’s restlessness is evident as he looks ahead to new challenges, which include rereading Proust and Balzac in French.
“When you’re a biographer you do a hell of a lot of reading around your chosen subject, but it doesn’t leave a lot of time in the evening for other stuff,” he says. “So I feel terribly under-read. What I want to do now is to read and read and read. Write something yes, but read and read and read…”

Irish Lit

Yeats International Summer School scholarships
The Irish Writers Centre is delighted to be partnering this summer with the Yeats International Summer School which will take place in Sligo between 19–27 July. The Irish Writers Centre has three scholarships worth €650 each to offer writers for the summer school (two for writers from NI and one for a writer from the ROI). This is a wonderful opportunity for writers from across the country. Deadline for applications is Friday 25 May 2018 at 5pm. Find out more information here.

Competitions & submission calls
Dublin Book Festival call for submissions
The Dublin Book Festival invites publishers and authors to submit ideas for this year’s festival by 11th May.  Full details here.

Bennington Review
The Bennington Review is accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, flash fiction and non-fiction until 15th May.

Bealtaine Festival panel event
The Irish Writers Centre is hosting a panel event with the Bealtaine Festival to celebrate artists lives’. On Wednesday 9 May, Roddy Doyle, Joanna Banks, Rhona Clarke and Abigail O’Brien will come together with Chair Cliodhna Ní Anluain to discuss the milestones, challenges and choices made by them as artists. This event is free but should be booked in advance.
Book launch: The Proverb Zoo
Armel Dagorn’s new book of short stories, The Proverb Zoo, will be launched in Cork at Waterstones on 8th May at 6.30pm, and in Dublin at Books Upstairs on 10th May at 6.30pm.  One of the stories  from the collection was originally featured here at HeadStuff in 2015, and we love to see our writers go on to do great things!  Look out for a review of the book here in the coming weeks.
ILF Dublin

International Literature Festival Dublin is drawing closer and closer!  Don’t miss writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Roddy Doyle and Maggie O’Farrell.  A full list of events can be found here.