Blog Archives

Hennessy Nominees Announced & New Home For New Irish Writing

The nominees for this year’s Hennessy Literary Awards have been announced: Hennessy Nominees Announced & New Home For New Irish Writing. Hearty congratulations to all nominees!

The winners will be announced on February 24th.

The article also reveals exciting news about New Irish Writing: the hugely influential and popular writing page has moved to The Irish Times.

Blog Awards Ireland 2013: The shortlist!

More excitement in my house this weekend: Wait til I tell you has made the Blog Awards Ireland 2013 shortlist!


I’m also delighted that the following writerly friends join me on the shortlist:

Best of luck to all the other shortlistees for the next stage of the competition: the Finalist List, to be published on September 29th.

Here are the other blogs in the Arts and Culture category. Do check them out and subscribe to any that grab you!

A real gold blend: Thomas Hardy, Jon Lord, Jeremy Irons

I completely love the internet. (I suppose I wouldn’t be much of a blogger if I didn’t.) Just this morning, it presented me with a little piece of joy: Thomas Hardy’s poem Afterwards read by the actor Jeremy Irons, with music and performance by Jon Lord, formerly of Deep Purple, and images by YouTube user AntPDC. The clip is here, and the full text of the poem is here.

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

The recording is a real gem of blended media. At the risk of indulging in hyperbole, I’m not sure how the piece could be better. Irons’ sonorous, seductive voice, Hardy’s sensuous, nature-steeped word-picture, the deep beauty of the original photography by AntPDC and Lord’s soothing, flowing piano are simply a perfect combination.

Hardy’s poem is also a joy to experience on its own. I’ve always loved the dusky, musky, earthy world of Hardy’s poems. (During Wind and Rain is another lifelong favourite of mine, with its “creeping moss” and “rotten rose”.)

One of the things about Afterwards that tickles my fancy are the little insights it gives us into how the English language has changed, even in the relatively short time since the poem was first published (1917). A lovely example is Hardy’s use of the phrase “at last” in the first line of verse four:

“If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last…”

In Hardy’s day, “at last” was used simply to mean “at the end”. That usage is now all but obsolete and we now use it to mean “after a long wait”, with overtones of irritation and relief. Despite how this line sounds to our 2013 ears, we can safely assume that Hardy was not waiting impatiently for his own death. I love how the line shows the effects of time on language usage, with the resulting unintended humour.

My thanks go to Irish playwright and novelist John Mac Kenna, who alerted me to the recording.

Jon Lord, musician

Jon Lord, musician

Good Friday, a 400-year-old poet, and a bit of heavy metal

I was reminded today of a poem I had not read in years (thank you, Twitter): Goodfriday, 1613. Riding Westward by John Donne. Today, Good Friday, is the 400th anniversary of the poem’s composition.

Now it’s not too often that 400-year-old poets crop up on Twitter, let alone one who has been a favourite of mine since secondary school, so to celebrate both that and the anniversary, I hunted out a gift from a long-time friend:

donne book 1

Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s No Man is an Island, a selection of Donne’s prose printed by The Folio Society of London. As the picture shows, it comes in its own lovely box, and the cover features those lines of Donne that have become part of the English language (and, curiously, Metallica songs):

donne book 2

Bizarrely (to me at any rate), when my friend gave me the book, and I thanked her for remembering that Donne was a favourite of mine, she replied, “I didn’t know that – I just thought it’d be your kind of thing”. Ever since then I have fantasised that Donne and I have some kind of connection across the centuries. (You have to be a bit deluded to be a writer.)

As favourite artists tend to do, Donne seems to have been there at other key stages throughout my life, too. I first discovered him thanks to the Leaving Certificate English syllabus in school. All the talk of “metaphysical poets” (a much-disputed label, incidentally) and “conceits” could have put anyone off Donne for life. Thankfully, the work shone through and made a lasting impression.

Later, it seemed to our teenage selves an epic meeting of minds when my boyfriend and I discovered a shared love of Donne’s The Good-Morrow:

If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.”

(You may be feeling faintly queasy now, but this is powerful stuff when you’re 17.)

In terms of popularity, Donne’s work seems to have come full circle. King James I was just one of Donne’s contemporaries who admired the writer’s work, describing his sermons as like “ye peace of God, they passed all understanding”. After falling out of favour for a while, Donne experienced a resurgence in the twentieth century, and has become an established presence in English Literature syllabi the world over.

John Donne was a highly capable, ambitious man who understood how to create and manage his own reputation. I wonder what he would have thought if he had known that 400 years later, people who had never heard of him (and angry, long-haired heavy metal types) would still be quoting his lines.


John Donne, 1572 – 1631

Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 – a look back

www13 logo

Phew! Another Waterford Writers’ Weekend has been and gone.

I was delighted to make it to five events over the weekend. Here’s an overview in pictures.

soc media panel

Event: Making Social Media Work for You

Speakers (l-r): Orla Shanaghy, Catherine Ryan-Howard, Derbhile Graham (chair), Derek Flynn

Venue: Greyfriars Gallery

self pub panel

Event: Self-Publishing

Speakers (l-r): Hazel Gaynor, Catherine Ryan-Howard (chair), Sheena Lambert

Venue: Sabai restaurant

blogging panel

Event: To Blog or Not to Blog

Speakers (l-r): Hazel Gaynor, Mark Graham, Anna Carey, Mona Wise

Venue: Waterford Medieval Museum

short stories panel

Event: Writing Winning Short Stories

Speakers (l-r): Vanessa O’Loughlin (chair and festival curator), Declan Meade, Clem Cairns

Venue: Greyfriars Gallery

m grehan launch

Event: “Love is the Easy Bit” by Mary Grehan book launch

Speakers (l-r): Caroline Senior, Managing Director of Garter Lane Arts Centre, author Mary Grehan

Venue: Garter Lane Arts Centre

The festival organisers really hit it out of the park this year. One of them told me that their aim with the programme was to focus on the writers. They certainly achieved this aim with a line-up of events that covered a huge range of the skills that today’s writers need, or at least need to be aware of: social media, self-publishing, blogging, how to approach writing competitions, breaking into journalism, and more.

The panel discussion format was used for most of the events I attended. This worked very well. With the best intentions in the world, the audience can start to get a bit glassy-eyed at events where a single person speaks for an hour or more. With panel discussions, on the other hand, there is a variety of faces and voices to sustain your attention, the discussion is naturally more varied and dynamic, and there is a chairperson to keep it all together, move things along when required, field audience questions, and make sure everyone gets their say.

A highlight for me was the final event of the weekend, which was held last night in Garter Lane Arts Centre. It was the launch of Mary Grehan‘s novel, Love is the Easy Bit. Mary is a huge success story: she is the only new author to be signed by Penguin Ireland in the last 18 months. We are very proud of her here in Waterford and delighted to bask in her reflected glory.

The format of the launch was interesting. We all took our seats in the theatre auditorium and Mary gave an excellent reading. She was then interviewed on stage, which was highly entertaining and interesting. Lastly, there were questions from the audience by means of a roving microphone.

The organisers of Waterford Writers’ Weekend have set the bar very high for themselves if they are to make next year’s festival as good as or better than this one. But they are a bunch of highly motivated, organised and ambitious folk. I’m looking forward to WWW14 already!

PS. Needless to say, there were lots of other events over the weekend that I didn’t make it to. If anyone out there wants to contribute something about any of those other events, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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