Sunday, May 28, 2017

Exciting News: New Director of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature

We are on the cusp of June and I'm surprised to discover that I haven’t blogged in a full six months! Don’t consign me to the netherworld of dormant Blogspot sites just yet though – I have some valid excuses! It’s been a roller coaster of vicissitudes since the turn of the year, replete with health scares, the tragic loss of an old friend, and our two boys catching horrible flu viruses (we are all fine again, thankfully) but also with bright new career and extra-curricular opportunities. In March I was invited to be the Guest Editor of the next couple of issues of The Weary Blues - a neat online journal of literature and art founded by writer and digital humanities scholar, James O'Sullivan of New Binary Press. I’m thoroughly enjoying the range of themes and vibrant voices in all the work I’ve received to date. While our window for submissions for Issue 8 just closed last Friday (26 May), don’t worry if you missed this submission period as it will reopen for issue 9 anon. Keep an eye out here and on The Weary Blues website for further details soon.

Another development I'm excited to report relates to my professional life. After lovingly attending the Cúirt International Festival of Literature as an audience member for many years, (since I first came to Galway to study for my BA back in the early 1990s….oops am I giving away my age now?), the planets have aligned, and last month I was appointed Programme Director of the very same festival. Cúirt has brought many joyful memories over the years, of hearing great authors read their work and interact with other writers, and then of getting to meet them in person as they signed books (see pic below), or spying literary luminaries such as J.M. Coetzee sauntering down Eglinton street in the afternoon during the festival week.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tobias Wolff at the 2016
Cúirt International Festival of Literature
It is an honour to be appointed to this post and I’m already imagining new generative possibilities for the festival, engaging themes, potential collaborations and interesting pairings of writers and interviewers, etc. (The Connaught Tribune published a short piece about my experience as an arts curator and recent appointment to Cúirt last month here.)
So maybe now I can somewhat justify the citadel of books that is our home with evidence of my sprees in Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, Kennys and the Book Depository overflowing in every nook and cranny of our house! My husband – also a bibliophile, but not as much of a book hoarder as me – is uncommonly forgiving and, thankfully, a great assembler of bookcases! Watch this space for gradual announcements of highlights for Cúirt 2018 (23-29 April) which I may be able to sneakily share with you on the QT over the coming months….!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Busy this November - Harp Studies, Winter Warmer Weekend and History Ireland

November is hurtling past this year with loads happening! Normally, around this time, I’d be digging out my cosy socks, slippers, books to be read and reaching for the hot chocolate. This year, however, I’m not quite ready to hibernate! Perhaps all the unanticipated sunny weather we were blessed with in October has energized us more than usual for the short days of November.

The discussion around the 1916 centenary has gained momentum again in the final two months of the year. Last month I highlighted the poetic contributions of some of the leaders of the 1916 Rising in a talk about revolutionary poetry from Ireland and around the world at Galway City Museum. The event drew a lively audience and a vibrant post-talk discussion ensued. It was fascinating to hear Ndrek Gjini talk about his friend and fellow Albanian, the writer, Visar Zhiti and how prisoners memorised  lines from Zhiti's poems, then how the poet himself, not allowed pen and paper in prison for twelve years, wrote furiously from memory upon his release. Thanks again to Ndrek for joining me in this presentation and thanks to everyone who attended and made the occasion a memorable one. 


Still on the theme of 1916, I’m delighted to have an article entitled ‘Summoning her children to which flag?’ in the current November/December issue of History Ireland magazine.



Focusing on the subject of flags flown during the Rising, my piece questions why the popular national flag at the time – the green harp flag – was not flown above the GPO. It addresses these issues by demonstrating that the tricolor came into increasing use at this time while the green harp flag accrued associations with the pro-Home Rule Parnellites and the British army recruitment drive for World War I. You can read my article online here.


Also in the realm of Irish cultural history, I am very pleased to have contributed a chapter to Harp Studies: perspectives on the Irish harp, the new book just released by Four Courts press, edited by Sandra Joyce and Helen Lawlor. Harp Studies brings together a diverse array of scholarship in a burgeoning field of enquiry. Taking an expansive view of the harp through history and music, the essays in this book individually engage with the variety of ways in which the harp has been interpreted and implicated in Irish culture, politics and music from the 9th century to the present day. 

Harp Studies: perspectives on the Irish harp 


Themes explored include iconography, reception history, diaspora, identity, spirituality and politics. My own chapter, entitled 'Tempering the stereotypes of Irishness abroad: the Irish harp as golden lever of temperance and respectability', explores some uses of harp iconography among Irish emmigrants in the nineteenth century and how the term 'harp' went on to become something of an ethnic slur for Irish Catholics in the latter half of the century. Harp Studies will be launched in both Dublin and Limerick - in Dublin at the Irish Traditional Music Archives on Tuesday, 29 November at 6pm by Nicholas Carolan and on Wednesday, 30 November at 5pm by Prof. Paul McCutcheon in the foyer of the Irish World Academy Building, University of Limerick. All are welcome to attend both launches and the book is available to order from Four Courts press.



Onto the glorious subject of poetry now... Last month my poem 'Birthing' was published in Issue 8 of the online journal, The Irish Literary Review and you can read it in the 'Poetry' section here. This month, I was honoured to receive an invite to perform my poetry at the fourth annual Winter Warmer Festival - a weekend of poetry - in Cork, which takes place next weekend on Friday, 25th and Saturday, 26th November. With a fantastic line up this year, as always, 22+ poets will read/perform over two days. The programme will also feature a selection of films from the Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film competition, Poetry in Performance Art, Poetry with Music and a closed-mic set for ten local poets. It all takes place at the Kino Cinema on Washington Street and all events are free of charge with donations gratefully accepted. Check out the full programme here. Hope to see you in Cork next weekend!