Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sunnerful Wunnerful

unnnnnnngh, yahhhh baby - that'sa waya lakit. Sunnerful wunnerful allllllday long. Me'n'ma fokpoppet livin it larj'n'shiny alllll de way back. Zippinstyleeee! yahhh'allll know whymeean, ohhhhh that an alarm clock?

Sez Toibin to Cronin...

Photo: ranelagh arts festival

Tony meets Toby! Beside the Saoi! Scalder Central! Or, in the words of one Father Jack Hackett, "Feck!"

Due to a prior commitment, last night I missed out on the chance to hear these two literary worthies and fellow Enniscorthy natives, Anthony Cronin and Colm Toibin, going at it in a conversational stylee for Ranelagh Arts Festival. I'm kicking myself just a tad - but then, should I be? I'd welcome comment from anybody who attended? Were they in the zone or was it just a drone?

As well as shared upbringings in the shadow of Vinegar Hill, both writers have unique prespectives on the Soldiers of Destiny which might have delivered some interesting insights on Bertie's current difficulties, were they so inclined.

However, I'm guessing the meat and spuds of the evening must surely have been the relative viewpoints of two writers who between them have pretty much witnessed firsthand the remarkable development of Irish writing in the international context.

Cronin, as the elder, has been there, done that and written well about it in Dead as Doornails - a must-read for anybody interested in the long-disappeared Dublin of quarehawks like Behan, Kavanagh, Donleavy, na gCopaleen etc. It was one of those books that was the perfect match for a scalding coffee in the 'lofty clattery cafe' back when I was trying my best to be a bohemian student, i.e wearing secondhand clothes a lot.

A while back I came across a copy of his Personal Anthology, a book of poems selected by Cronin for the Irish Independent newspaper column of the same name that he contributed over several years. It's an interesting touchstone of poems selected 'on the simple basis of personal liking' in Cronin's own words.

As well as writing prolifically, including poetry, non-fiction, biography, plays and criticism, he was also a founder member of Aosdana. Not to mention, his role as arts advisor to Charles Haughey, who introduced the tax-free status which artists can still acquire in Ireland. So, not too shabby for a boy from Slaney Street!

Not much needs to be said about Colm Toibin. The IMPAC winner has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice and has had a prolific and successful career as a journalist, editor and critic as well as serving up a fine, pared back prose from a well of emotional intensity. My current favourite of his books is The South, a skilfully drawn portrait of one artist's life, from Wexford to Spain and back again. His website, while currently a little out of date, features a good selection of interviews and essays.


Earlier in the same evening (Sep 26th) Toibin was also to be found launching a new publication, The Dublin Review Reader, featuring essays, travel writing, memoir, reportage and criticism from the past pages of The Dublin Review and edited by Brendan Barrington. Coincidentally, the latest edition of this fine journal features Toibin writing 'en memoir' on his "Brush With The Law', detailing various assignations relating to the workings of the courts while in his role as editor of Magill magazine (in a Dublin where certain civil liberties were still woefully inadequate). For me, the interesting aspect of his article is the relationship and effect of his journalistic findings on the development of his fictional characters. So that's how you do it then ;-)

Anyway, an opportunity to witness the combination of a couple of writers, each well worth a listen on their own. Were you there? If so, please let me know what you thought.

For my part, I promise my next entry will be about something I actually managed to experience. Or even a poem!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Muldoonia, Muldoonia! So good etc....

Well now. Smashing tidings from that Apple of Bigness on the Hudson with the news that Paul Muldoon is henceforth to man the poetry pumps at that vessel of literary bigness itself, The New Yorker! It's a magazine apparently? (I jest, of course).

We're all giggling like schoolchildren here at the prospect of the telecaster-wielding troubadour getting his mitts on one of the choicest (or at least most visible) positions in literativille.

Not only a poet exemplar, but a scholar of the highest rigour and abilities, his editorial credentials are soundly proven and this, coupled with his inherent sense of creative play, should make for an interesting sojourn in Times Square. (Sorry about the gushing tone, but he's a fan of poetry and I'm a fan of Muldoon). Times Square - now there's an inspirational address.

There's a short article and some discussion on the appointment over on the Guardian arts blog.

Muldoon, recently seen wielding his axe around the country (mightier than the sword apparently) will replace longserving Poetry Editor Alice Quinn, herself a recent-ish visitor when she gave the keynote address at PNO7 in Dun Laoghaire last March.

MacNeice would be proud.

Miss July gets Frank

Congrats too to Miranda July on winning this years Frank O'Connor Short Story Competition (including a cool 35k!) with her collection, entitled No One Belongs Here More Than You. Check out the quirk factor of her promo website for the book here. This is one kerfunky lady who's making a pretty good job of whatever creative endeavour she turns her hand to, be it movies, visual art, music, writing or (to quote my inner teen) 'whatever'. Very much the "Renaissance Wan" of the mo, then. Spotted recently at the Electric Picnic, nice to know she's still willing to get down with the (slightly aging) kids too!

So, yet another book spliced on to my 'to read' list. Much debate this year about the shortlisted authors for this prize. Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times was less than flattering and perhaps she has a point. However, awards of this nature elicit much debate and that, I guess, is the real pay-off for readers?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Enright makes Booker shortlist!

Congrats to Anne Enright on making the shortlist for this years Man Booker Prize. In the face of tough competition, her latest book The Gathering is now among elegant company as one of the chosen six finalists.

I'll have to reserve judgement on the book, as I haven't yet read it, but I've enjoyed much of Enright's previous work. Particularly memorable is the short story 'Honey' which won the lucrative Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award in 2004, marking the centenary of Bloomsday. The story is available online here in the Irish Times archive (but only to suscribers, alas).

There's also an excellent recent interview with Enright over at the Book Depository. (Its a good place to shop too!)

Best of luck on October 16, Anne ( here's hoping you do a bit better than fellow Brayhead Fionn Regan at the Mercury Music Prize). Never mind Fionn, keep the Underwood clicking.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Poetry Ireland website update

The Poetry Ireland website has just been re-designed in fine style. It is now much easier to get around and includes some tasty new features such as a forum and integrated calendar of events. Also included are a media archive, with audio and video from past events.

Of course, you can still download the latest issue of Poetry Ireland News from the site ANNNNND in the longer term, the entire back catalogue of Poetry Ireland Review, (more than ninety issues to date!) is to be made available online to subscribers in the form of a searchable archive. Well 'Yay' says I!

Well done again to the good PI folks (and their designers) for what looks like an excellent and well thought through upgrade.