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WRITER’S WEEK 2007
Once again I paid my annual visit to the most prestigious literary
festival in Europe, if not in the world.
On Wednesday 30th May Writers’ Week 2007 was
officially opened by renowned writer Joseph O ‘Connor. The
author of such masterpieces as Star Of The Sea and more recently Redemption
Falls, as well as many humorous works, complimented the Kerry
people on their organising skills, literary and artistic prowess, footballing
ability and of course . . . their great humility.
He later gave an example of Kerry wit when he told about meeting a friend
of his who was on his way to meet Carlo Gebler and Joseph was asked, “Will you
follow me up to Carlo?” Prize-winners were announced (Roddy
Doyle won the €10,000 Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award for Paula
Spencer). Pauline Scanlon who spent three years with the Sharon Shannon
Band provided music, to a packed house.
a full schedule started with a recording of Sunday
in Saint John’s Theatre where local writer Cyril Kelly regaled us with the
story of how he had been in that particular venue when it was a mortal sin
(Saint John’s was a Protestant Church at the time).
Through the day readings by Joseph O’Connor, Colm Tobin, John McGrath
(whose book of poetry
Blue Sky Day
was launched), Roger McGough, and others stimulated the literary minds of the
for thought was in plentiful supply at Amnesty
Fergal Keane, Gerard Stembridge and Zlata Filipovic. Next
by Listowel man John Mcauliffe was launched and Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion
read from his autobiography In
The Blood; A Memoir of My Childhood.
Poets, essayists and others got a chance to perform their own work at the
microphone at Poet’s
where the Master-of-ceremonies was the inimitable George Rowley.
On Friday self-taught
painter Liam O’Neill had an exhibition of his paintings in Saint John’s
Theatre. This was followed by a one-person show written and performed by Martha
It tells the, sometimes, tragic story of Isadora Duncan the
American dancer who introduced the art of modern dance.
McGough, OBE , one of Britain’s best loved poets, made an appearance in the
Listowel Arms at 1.30 and Alice Hogg and Aslison Weir “ Brought
History to Life”
in The Seanachai Centre at 4. O’clock. This was followed by
an art exhibition (the work of Maria Simonds-Gooding) titled The
Dingle Peninsul at
evening saw the launch of Shadows
On Our Doorstep, a
collection of poetry by farmer/poet P.J.Kennedy from Belturbet, Co. Cavan. (
Have you ever noticed how farmers speak in a poetic manner in everyday
conversation? Recently I heard a farmer commenting about a wet day in May,
" That's coming in the right time. A day of that would do more good in
a fortnight now than a eek of it would do in a month later on in the
year"). It is no exaggeration to say that P.J. is
a 21st century Kavanagh. Like the man from Enniskeen he can take the
banal and make it universal.
vet being called for a sick cow is portrayed in such a way that it grips the
imagination of the most urban reader.
phoned the vet:
in one quarter and travelling,
milk reduced to whey.
him to come quickly”.
she in calf?”
and strong twins suckling her”.
listened with his stethoscope,
could hear she was very ill indeed.
caught her dewless nose
With the Siberian tongs.
moaned as if to say, “ Ah, go easy.””
cow survived and his poems, in the words of Carlo Gebler, “
. . . give equal pleasure to readers who know the world the poet describes and
to readers who know nothing of that world”.
Shadows On Our Doorstep is available from www.originalwriting.com.
be hearing more of P.J.
Playwright Billy Roche brought his singing, acting and musical skills
into play when he read from his short story collection Tales
From Rainwater Pond.
morning that Cork Legend Niall Toibin unveiled a statue to the late John B.Keane
in the small square.
is at the intersection of Church Street, where John B. was born, and William
Street, where he died.
annual Literary and Historical tour, starting at 2 O’clock, took in
Gortaglanna, Knockanure, Moyvane and Lenamore. Gortaglanna
was the scene of a brutal killing by the Black-and-Tans. (Octogenarian
songwriter Dan Keane, has written a new version of The
Valley of Knocknanure
to commemorate the slaughter.) Moyvane was the birthplace of
poet, philosopher and mystic, John Moriarty, whose funeral was on the day of the
Bi-location would have come in handy because An
Audience with Melvyn Bragg
got under way in the Listowel arms at 2.30, followed by a reading by Liam Browne
and Mia Gallagher at 4 O’ clock.
And it would have meant very tight scheduling if one tried to fit in a
meeting with author Irvine Welsh at 5 O’clock. His first novel Trainspotting
was described as, “ the fastest-selling and most shoplifted novel in British
missed the lecture by Alain de Botton in Saint John’s Theatre at 6 30. and
later Frank Pig says
because I was making preparations.
‘til I tell you.
have told you before, about when I first became interested in
storytelling. It was when my, visually impaired, mother was given a radio by the
National Council For The Blind in 1959. Once a week, on
The Rambling House, the Seanachai of all Seanachais, Eamon Kelly came
into our humble kitchen.
Occasionally, in later years, people who didn’t know any better, would
describe me as a storyteller. It must have gone to my head because this year I
submitted a story to the International Storytelling
Competition dedicated to the memory of the above-mentioned Eamon Kelly.
got into the final, which was held at 9.30.
no self respecting Seanachai (even one as amateur as yours truly) would be seen
without the traditional garb of the Irish storyteller. It’s not the sort of
clobber you can purchase in Saville Row or from sartorial purveyors on the high
Being a man of modest means, who was doing his small bit to keep the art
of storytelling alive, I thought that some native drapery merchant would sponsor
my outfit. I approached many but I am sorry to say that not one supplier on the
Island of Saints and Scholars donated as much as a bootlace. (I even contacted
the County Secretary of the GAA in Wicklow asking for a shirt in the county
colours but I wasn’t even granted the courtesy of a refusal. I was ignored.)
But, a number of offshore benefactors came to the rescue.
Because of the nature of my act a number of shirt changes was necessary,
but not just any shirt. It had to be a Grandad shirt. Those garments were very
kindly sponsored by;
And of course the waistcoat.
collector of waistcoats who wants to be known only as “The
donated a period waistcoat.
In the past no true Irishman would be seen bareheaded unless he was in
bed or in the Church (some of them slept in both places). As the aforementioned
Eamon Kelly used to say, “There was respect for the brain then”. The
necessary Fedora was provided by Treasured
The top half of me was now period.
Men of my father’s era wore a two-and-a-half-inch wide leather belt
with a rectangular brass buckle. In the Beano
and the Dandy
misbehaving juniors were punished with the slipper but in rural Ireland the male
parent’s belt was the “correction tool” of choice. My father was a kind
man and (apart from the occasional “larrup” on the backs of the legs for
severe mischief) I escaped. So, as a tribute to Tim Lennon (no mean story teller
himself) long gone to his reward, I decided I would wear an appropriate leather
belt on stage. But where would I get one? Susan McKenzie, Director of The
in Kentucky “gave me a belt”. She can be found at www.theinnerbailey.com
won a prize but didn’t come first.
I missed a reading by Gisele Scanlon, “Allergic
a reading by Giles Foden and “A
Treasury of Poets”.
omissions weren’t through laziness or apathy; I couldn’t miss the Dan Keane
children’s poetry event in Finuge This is a poetry competition for children
where the next generation of literati are judged by the critical eye and ear of
Dan who was born in 1919. There had been children’s events all week but to my
mind this was the highlight. It was an open competition but not surprisingly
Kerry schools shone; particularly pupils from Drumcluck National School. There
is a healthy crop of young poets in the Kingdom.
The Irish Network of Dramatic Arts, from West London, presented Big
by John B.Keane, in saint John’s Theatre on Sunday night.
morning as “the road to Abbeyfeale” brought me further
from the culture capital, I hoped that the Great Creator would leave me here to
repeat the experience in 2008.
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