In 1937, W.H. Auden (b. York) and Louis MacNeice (b. Belfast), published their co-authored Letters from Iceland, “the most unorthodox travel book ever written” (Daily Mail). Less an account of their actual journey undertaken the previous year, than a mock-heroic model of collaborative practice, Auden describes Letters from Iceland as a “collage”—“a form that’s large enough to swim in.” Playful in spirit and parodic in intention, these verse epistles, absurd tourist notes and personal correspondence combine to produce a non-fictional text that refracts the poets’ anxieties about the imminent collapse of Europe. In a foreword to the 1965 edition, W.H. Auden explained: “though writing in a ‘holiday’ spirit, its authors were all the time conscious of a threatening horizon to their picnic—world-wide unemployment, Hitler growing every day more powerful and a world-war more inevitable.” This panel seeks to remodel, and reflect on, the conditions of this collaboration.
Creative non-fiction is a true story, well told. The key is learning how to persuade readers that what interests you should also interest them. Using field notes and exercises, you will explore the ideas that underpin the desire to write, focus on the skills needed to bring the text alive, and discuss what publishing opportunities exist for your work. Participants will share and discuss their own works-in-progress, and will be encouraged to try out fresh approaches during the course.
Molly Skrine learned young how best to negotiate the eugenic politics of the Anglo-Irish drawing room. “Being attractive was essential, a passport to freedom and adventure. . . I always knew how to flatter and yearn. . .” Femininity among the gentry combined the decorative, conversational and managerial arts in equal measure, and was frequently competitive: “we vied with each other in the forcing of bulbs”. As fearless at the dinner table as on the hunting field, Molly appears to have performed as her class demanded, using her wit to entertain “the chaps” and to establish intimacy with their wives and sisters, while noticing the self-delusion and fantasy that sustained her class without pursuit of trade or income. At 18, she published the first of 11 novels under the pseudonym MJ Farrell. Later she’d describe a Farrell novel as “seventy thousand words through which the cry of hounds reverberates continually”, though this is to dismiss the complexity of their sexual politics. With the £7 advance, she threw a cocktail party at the Shelbourne and bought the dresses denied to her by her austere mother.
In October 1969 Angela Carter discarded her wedding ring in an ashtray at Tokyo airport before boarding her flight home. She had spent a fortnight with Sozo Araki, an aspiring writer and pinball addict, in the “palpably illicit” bedrooms of Tokyo’s love hotels. She relished the mirrored ceilings and the unabashed laughter of the maid who delivered them towels. In later life she’d recall how Sozo’s face had been lurking inside her consciousness, “as an idea that now found a perfect visual expression.
The New Irish Poets is a landmark anthology of the newest generation of Irish writers now making their mark in poetry at the start of the 21st century.
Selina Guinness’s lively selection covers over 30 poets of all ages from all parts of Ireland who’ve produced first collections over the past ten years, offering rare insights into how the freshest writing talents have responded to a period of profound social, cultural and political change in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.
Dynamic and confident in their diverse voices – whether conversational, caustic or solemn in tone – these poets open up the world to unexpected horizons, unsuspected pleasures and surprising conclusions. The book supplies a new measure for Ireland in the coming times.
The New Irish Poets features all of the prominent new poets who’ve received major awards and international critical recognition as well as giving a platform to less well-known new writers published by small presses. Illustrated with photographs and helpful editorial commentaries, the book includes a parallel-text selection of poems by three new Irish-language poets.
Nearly half the writers are women, and there’s a broad mix of young and old, ranging from Fergus Allen, now in his 80s – but who made his début ten years ago – to the youngest, Leanne O’Sullivan, who was only 21 when this anthology appeared: her first collection Waiting for Her Clothes was published by Bloodaxe at the same time.
With its wide-ranging, up-to-the-minute selections, The New Irish Poets bears witness to the amazing growth and flowering of contemporary Irish poetry over the past decade. The poets featured are: Fergus Allen, Jean Bleakney, Colette Bryce, Anthony Caleshu, Yvonne Cullen, Paula Cunningham, Celia de Fréine (Irish poems with English translations), Katie Donovan, Leontia Flynn, Tom French, Sam Gardiner, Paul Grattan, Vona Groarke, Kerry Hardie, Nick Laird, John McAuliffe, Cathal McCabe, Gearóid Mac Lochlainn (Irish poems with English translations), Dorothy Molloy, Martin Mooney, Sinéad Morrissey, Michael Murphy, Colette Ni Ghallchóir (Irish poems with English translations), Conor O’Callaghan, Mary O’Donoghue, Caitríona O’Reilly, Leanne O’Sullivan, Justin Quinn, John Redmond, Maurice Riordan, Aidan Rooney-Céspedes, David Wheatley and Vincent Woods.
“The first night, it was raining so hard that I had to pull in on the Featherbed and wait for it to ease off, even though I was already late and not at all sure how I would find Glenasmole Community Centre in the warren of roads that lay below me in the dark. Yet as I crawled down the flooded boreen, grateful for the burnt-out cars that marked out verge from bog, I felt full of the joyful conviction that I would succeed in my mission: to pass the REPS course that would make me a farmer, if only on paper. The most important thing I had found out since becoming caretaker of my late uncle’s flock of 57 ewes and herd of 14 cattle was that the state agricultural agency Teagasc, for a modest annual fee, would suffer to answer the enquiries of a Big House ingénue. It was Teagasc who advised me that twenty hours’ instruction on the maintenance of hedgerows, farm safety, fertilizer usage and drainage schemes was all that stood between me, my certificate, and the monthly paycheque, issued in Brussels, for entering the Rural Environment Protection Scheme. But while I was confident that I could pass the course, I had to acknowledge that much of a sheep was still a mystery to me, and quite what suckler cows were for, or, more to the point, how they generated any income in their steady mooch from mart to abattoir with only the occasional calf squeezed out every other year, remained an unsolvable riddle.”
“Herodotus was…a Greek Carian, an ethnic half-breed. Such people who grow up amid different cultures, as a blend of different bloodlines, have their worldview determined by such concepts as border, distance, difference, diversity. We encounter the widest array of human types among them, from fanatical, fierce sectarians, to passive, apathetic provincials, to open, receptive wanderers – citizens of the world. It depends on how their blood got mixed, what spirits settled in it.”
Ryszard Kapuscinski, Travels with Herodotus
Interview with Arundhati Roy, International Literary Festival, Dublin. 11th June 2017. Photo credit: Michael Nolan Photography.