Dah Duit (Hi) and welcome

Literary figures to gather in Limerick for International Poetry Festival

One of the pre-eminent figures of Irish Literature will participate in this year’s Cuisle Limerick City International Poetry Festival from 24-26th October.
October 14, 2013 (FPRC) -- Poet, novelist, biographer, critic, commentator and arts activist, Anthony Cronin will join other established Irish and international poets at next week’s festival which includes lunchtime and evening readings, screenings of poetry films, an open mic session, a tribute to departed poets, a varied programme for schools, and the ‘Young Poet of the Year Award’.

Funded by Limerick City Council Arts Office and The Arts Council, Cuisle 2013 will feature lunchtime readings at the Hunt Museum by Ron Carey (Thursday) and Kerrie O'Brien (Friday).

The evening performances at 69 O’Connell St (formerly the Belltable) will feature Anthony Cronin, Biddy Jenkinson, Macdara Woods, Hugh Maxton, David Wheatley, Adam Wyeth, and Limerick’s own Jo Slade. The Schools’ Programme will feature readings by Biddy Jenkinson, David Wheatley, John Davies (Brighton), as well as master classes by Veronika Dintinjana (Ljubljana) and Tim Cunningham (Limerick).

This year the festival’s network of poetic exchanges, which already includes Slovenia and the UK, has been extended to Italy with the arrival of Marco Viscomi, nominated by Cuisle’s sister-festival in Umbria (Riflessi DiVersi).

In addition, the yearly poetry anthology ‘The Stony Thursday Book’, edited this year by Paddy Bushe, will be launched at the festival.

“The Cuisle Limerick City International Poetry Festival is dedicated to poetry in all its forms and varieties, featuring the best of local, national, and international poets,” explained Sheila Deegan, City Arts Officer.

Ms. Deegan continued: “For 19 years, Cuisle has helped to establish Limerick a centre for poetry not only in this country, but throughout Europe and beyond. Cuisle is the pulse that brings life to language, and creates friendships through verse between all peoples. All of this is wrapped up in the warm tradition of Cuisle, providing a very special atmosphere that festival guests have come to love. If you’re within a pigeon’s flight of Limerick, or need some poetry in your life, pay a visit to the City for Cuisle.”

Ms. Deegan also expressed her delighted that Anthony Cronin will be participating in next week’s festival. “Anthony is the writer who persuaded Charles Haughey to found Aosdána and support struggling writers, composers and artists with the annuity known as the Cnuas. He has received the Martin Toonder Award for his stellar contributions to Irish Literature, which include the memorable long poem RMS Titanic and, most recently, his collection The Fall. Along with the late lamented Seamus Heaney, he is one of only six members of Aosdána who have been elevated to the status of Saoi,” she concluded.

The Cuisle Limerick City International Poetry Festival will be formally launched on Wednesday 23 October and will run from 24 – 26th October (Thursday, Friday, Saturday). Further information is available from www.cuisle.org or The Arts Service, Limerick City Council: 00 353-61-407421 or ciaran@cuisle.org. For specific information regarding Schools’ Programme or Young Poet of the Year Award contact Bertha McCullagh 085 759 3265 or bertha@cuisle.org

UI to host American Conference for Irish Studies

Amy Mattson 

The University of Iowa will host the American Conference for Irish Studies Thursday Oct. 10 through Saturday Oct. 12 at the Iowa Memorial Union. The conference begins at 5 p.m. Thursday and concludes at 7 p.m. Saturday. All members of the public are welcome.
Registration is required, and will remain open until the start of the conference. There is an attendance fee.
Stephanie Rains of the National University of Ireland at Maynooth and Matthew Jockers of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln will give keynote addresses. Rains will explore Edwardian Ireland’s lower middle class, and Jockers will discuss Ireland as it appears through the digital lens of American and European literature.
Scheduled sessions draw upon Irish literature to explore themes such as psychology and mental health, women, masculinity, and child labor. A special reading will be given at the Samuel L. Becker Communications Studies Building to honor the late poet Seamus Heaney.
A full schedule of events and registration information can be found here.
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to attend this event, or would like more information, contact Lecturer Thomas Keegan in advance at 319-335-0324 or at thomas-keegan@uiowa.edu.

Novelist Edna O'Brien

Edna O'Brien has been called the doyenne of Irish Literature, with around twenty novels, numerous plays, screenplays and poetry anthologies to her name. She came to prominence in 1960 with her novel The Country Girls – which was regarded as scandalous in Ireland and was both banned and publically burned. O’Brien has now written a memoir – entitled Country Girl in which she describes her Irish childhood, her unhappy marriage to an older man and her life in London in the Swinging Sixties. She said many times that she would never write a memoir, so I wondered what had prompted her to do it now.

 EO'B: What prompted me, I think, was age. I was in my 78th year when I began it, two and a half years ago. It occurred to me one day that many people have written about me and have assumed a narrative about my life which is not accurate. And I thought only I know, not just the facts of my life... they can be researched...but only I know the impact that the narrative of my life has had on me. Only i know what I feel. A journalist, whether well intentioned or maliciously intentioned, can impose an idea. And I felt that I had been regarded in some quarters - forgive the word - as somewhat glamorous and had led this Mata Hari type existence...ha-ha.

 TE: A lot of that stems from your first novel, The Country Girls - and it was regarded as somewhat scandalous - had you become a bit of a traitor in a way to your Irish origins?

 EO'B: Well, I'd become a bit of a rebel. And, indeed when I wrote my first book - it's laughable now, Tim...it was banned and six of my books were banned in fact. And it had its little pathetic parochial burning in the grounds of the chapel where I come from - a beautiful but backward place. There's been no tradition of writing there...and far more there had been no tradition of a woman writing. So - the fact that I was a woman, and wrote what seemed to be in a confidential tone of voice...not so much a novel, as just telling things as fact...well, people took that very personally and they felt that I had either mocked or, more importantly, humiliated or betrayed them. In those days the Catholic Church in Ireland was vigilant..unbelievably so. I personally had betrayed them even though it was not what I thought. The Country Girls is an elegy to my own land. Because I love my own land...

 TE: You write about one or two love affairs - and you write openly about your unhappy marriage, and movingly about the separation from your children. You convey the passion of love affairs, but you keep the gossippers happy - you've got a list of famous people - you crossed paths with big names and you mention an affair with Robert Mitchum.

 EO'B: Robert Mitchum - who wouldn't? What woman wouldn't. I saw an old film of his the other day and I looked at his face and I thought., 'Ah yes I remember that face'. He wasn't ostensibly vain....that was during what I call the 'giddy season'...it lasted only about 18 months but because the parties were every Saturday - they were a fixture, like football matches - people could come and they brought other people. It's true, I would look up and I would see Lee Marvin or Judy Garland arriving...or someone else...so i got the name and the reputation for these very exciting parties. Roger Vadim and Jane Fonda were there and indeed Marlon Brando came....but I met him privately at Leslie Caron's, he drove me home and insisted on coming in. He was indeed a magic - no, that's not the right word. He was magnetic. Nothing he did was not not arresting....everything about him. His whole body, his animal like body. Hands. Face. Eyes. Everything he did you saw. You noticed. He was also a charmer...full of stories.

 TE: But, you didn't fall for him?

 EO'B: I didn't. There are two types of men for me - the brother figures like Richard Burton or Marlon Brando or whoever who can beguile one with stories and feel totally enchanted by. It's like a magic garden. And there are others who are more formidable if not to say unattainable and they're the ones I fell in love with.

 TE: But was Robert Mitchum someone you could talk to?

 EO'B: Oh, he was full of conversation - about the chain gang he was on, the drugs he took. He was very dismissive of Hollywood. He thought acting was a mug's game. He was somone who had so much going on inside him - in his psyche. So much turbulence. No, he was talkative - someone with so much going on inside his psyche, so much turbulence and wildness and talent that you wondered if he got any sleep at night. Such talent.

 This is an extract from an interview with the award winning Irish author, Edna O’Brien - In Conversation with Tim Ecott.
 Tim Ecott 
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/uk/news/2013_10_07/Irish-novelist-Edna-OBrien-literature5990/

Eimear McBride

Nine years after it was first rejected by publishers for being too experimental, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, the debut novel by Irish author Eimear McBride, has been shortlisted today for a prestigious new literary prize that specifically rewards innovation.

The other five shortlisted titles for the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, out of 123 submitted, are Man Booker Prize favourite Harvest by Jim Crace; Red or Dead by David Peace; Artful by Ali Smith; Exodus by Lars Iyer; and Tapestry by Philip Terry.

The annual prize of £10,000 is for “fiction that breaks the mould and opens up new possibilities for the novel form ... a book that is genuinely novel, and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterises the genre at its best”.
McBride’s novel, published by Galley Beggar Press, certainly fits the bill. While the themes may be familiar – emigration, family, religion – it is written in a stream of consciousness style that eschews grammar and prepositions. Narrated by the unnamed “Girl”, it is the story of her dysfunctional family life, with a violent mother, a father who abandons her, an unwell brother and predatory uncle.
McBride was born in Liverpool to Irish parents, before moving with her family at the age of 14 first to Sligo, and then to Mayo. At 17, she left for London, and now lives with her husband and daughter in Norwich, which is where she found her small. local publisher.
Sinéad Gleeson, who interviewed the author earlier this year in The Irish Times and reviews the novel in this Saturday’s Weekend Review, described it as “exceptional” and the author’s voice as “utterly compelling and unique ... McBride stands out among her contemporaries because of the extraordinary risks she takes with language.”

Author Nicola Barker, one of the judges, said of A Girl is a Half-formed Thing: “Imagine being repeatedly slapped in the face, only quite lightly to begin with, by a delicate little hand wearing a large and ornate signet ring. You want to turn away, to lash out, to resist, but the little hand is so dogged, so persistent, and the ring has caught your eye, somehow, and you just want to study it, to focus in on it, because you know that it is strange and special and very beautiful. But as the little hand continues to slap it becomes more painful and your cheeks gradually start to sting and to redden. Is it a pleasurable feeling? No. Well, yes. Is it startling? Certainly. And afterwards? When it’s all finally over? The devastating bruises, spreading and flowering across your flesh in their terrible palate of blue, green, black, purple...
“A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is at once the slap and the gasp after the slap. It is, in a single word, breathtaking.”
The Goldsmiths Prize winner will be announced on November 13th.

Wake remembers late poet, celebrates new Irish studies minor

Poets, literary experts and writers mourned the death of Irish poet Seamus Heaney in August, believing it to be the end of a literary era. The faculty of OU’s expository writing and English departments, however, believe it to be a new beginning.
Heaney, the winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, died after a career lasting more than 45 years. He is most widely known for his translation of “Beowulf” and several collections of poetry.
While his death was a blow to the academic world, it coincided with the announcement of OU’s new Irish studies minor.
OU expository writing director George Cusack and English professor Ronald Schleifer decided to celebrate the new minor while commemorating Heaney with an Irish wake, a ceremony associated with death.
“It was really a coincidence that the wake for Seamus Heaney also became a launch event for the Irish studies minor,” Cusack said. “When Heaney passed away this past August, it seemed appropriate to hold an event to mark his passing.”
While the event was planned within the last month, the same cannot be said about the Irish studies minor.
“The minor has been in the works for around two years now,” Cusack said.
Cusack and Schleifer, co-founders of the Irish studies minor, received approval to enroll students in the Irish studies minor this fall.
The Irish studies minor may be under the English department, but the minor itself is interdisciplinary, with approved courses in English, history and expository writing, Cusack said.
Courses with an Irish emphasis include an expository writing course, “The Irish Question,” and “History of Ireland,” Cusack said. However, many other departments have shown interest in being a part of the program, including sociology, political science, and anthropology.
Schleifer said expository writing faculty members are excited to announce the new Irish studies minor. In the words of Seamus Heaney, “If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.”
At the wake, OU faculty from different departments read excerpts of Heaney’s pieces, including selections from Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.
Stephen Regan, professor and director of The Centre for Poetry and Poetics at Durham University, spoke at the event about Heaney’s style and significance as an Irish poet. He cited some of Heaney’s works, such as “Digging,” “The Tollund Man” and “Casualty.”
Regan also discussed some of his favorites pieces and lines from Heaney’s works, sharing his interpretation of Heaney’s words that often referenced his experiences as a child in northern Ireland.

Seamus Heaney wasn’t anti-Catholic, but he saw Irish Catholicism as a thing of the past

The late poet’s attitude to his faith goes some way to explaining why he was adored by the liberal, secular elite

By Mary O'Regan on Thursday, 3 October 2013

When I was a university student, the most reckless students that I knew took large quantities of cocaine and drove while drunk. But there was one dangerous exploit that they avoided: they never uttered a word against Seamus Heaney, either in their essays or to the faces of our professors. To do so was to risk disapproval of a deadly kind. You did not want to risk your university degree for comments against the man treated like the Messiah of Irish literature. 
Heaney was a guest lecturer at my university, and one day, I plucked up the courage to ask him, “What advice would you give new writers writing in a postmodern climate?” Heaney looked at me with a perplexed expression and said in front of a packed lecture hall, “Postmodernism? That’s a fashion of literary criticism.” He waved his hands from side to side and dismissed my question. None of the English literature faculty who had staked their careers on postmodernism interjected. They smiled and simpered under his every word. 
It begs the question: why was Heaney so adored? Even if his poetry lifts you to new heights, as it does me, the absolute adulation is suspect. It mystifies many why Heaney, an Irish Catholic, who wrote about Catholicism, was continuously exalted by the liberal, secular elite. 
Dare I unravel the mystery: Was it because Heaney wrote as though Catholicism was an institution that belonged to the past? Heaney’s catalogue of poetry records the clash between new and old Ireland, the time before electric light and the time after. But alongside gas lamps, did Heaney relegate Catholicism as something that would recede into the background of Irish history? Was it this approach that won him the favour of the secular establishment?
Let us be clear, Heaney was not an anti-Catholic poet. He did not write to discourage others from the faith. Heaney was part of the age group that came into its own in the 1960s. He painted himself as being an observer of a religion that died out with his parents’ generation. 
Take the poem, When all the others were away at Mass. Heaney describes the experience of being at his mother’s deathbed. While the poet watches his mother die, the parish priest recites the prayers for the dying, but Heaney does not join in, instead he remembers his favourite memory of his mother, which was when they peeled potatoes while the rest of the family were away at Mass. The implicit message is that he would prefer to remember preparing food with her, than pray for her soul, “So, when the parish priest at her bedside went hammer and thongs at the prayers for the dying… I remembered her head bent towards my head.”
In time, it will be realised that this adulation of Heaney was the very toxin that inhibited him. Heaney was never challenged to excel beyond his great achievements, when he clearly had phenomenal talent. Not all his poems are of equal quality, and some are superior to others. There has not been a thoroughly honest comparison between Heaney and another Irish poet who lived and breathed that harsh rural, farming life. One such poet would be Patrick Kavanagh. It is telling that so few know of Patrick Kavanagh, a poet who bared his Catholic soul for everyone to see. 
In our times, Kavanagh will never know Heaney’s popularity and I question if it is partly because he wrote about being inside the faith, not outside it, and as though the faith was a living reality?

James Joyce with his grandson in Paris