Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Anne Enright Story

For those of you who may have missed it at the weekend, there's a new short story by Anne Enright entitled Caravan available to read online over at the Guardian website.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Paper Capers!

Total and Utter Chaos! Bedlam! Rí Rá agus Rúile Búile...
...and then some!

I was back at the Pavilion Theatre on Saturday last for Paper World, a gem of a show by Mimirichi, a touring company of Ukrainian clowns (I kid you not!) who created a blithely manic world for a rowdy and appreciative audience of adults and children. Paper World is part of the inaugural Flip Flop International Children's Theatre Festival at the Pavilion and bodes well for the future.

Large paper backdrops literally set the scene (paper courtesy of Datapac, Enniscorthy and The Event Guide and props of all scales and sizes were fashioned ad hoc from the same material. These were utilised with immense creativity (and abandon) to frame a delightfully surreal narrative, flipping from shadow play to mime to slapstick to dance to football(!) and far, far beyond. Audience participation was irreverantly pursued and consistently effective, with children baying in delight as parents were randomly and skilfully tomfooled into proceedings both on and off the stage.

The adults and children in our group enjoyed it immensely - with only the very youngest becoming uncomfortable on occasion, as the anarchy approached tipping point. After the show, the majority of children spilling out of the theatre seemed to bear their own malleable souvenir stash of semi-destroyed newsheet as testament to a show which, no doubt, continued to riot in young imaginations all the way home.

Flip Flop is running for the rest of the week with equally charming shows by Corona la Balance from Denmark and Ireland's own Monkeyshine Theatre, with their show GrimmJamm which gets down and delerious with some favourite Grimm Brothers tales.

It's perfect timing to start building that Halloween vibe, so grab a young relative (gently, of course) and get thee down to the Pavilion, while the lunacy prevails! Nyam Nyam!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Patrick Chapman Launch

Photo: No Keats, just Chapman and Cashman

Nice to see a good turnout for the launch of Patrick Chapman's poetry collection "Breaking Hearts and Traffic Lights" at Waterstone's in Dawson Street on Thursday.

The collection is published by Salmon Poetry and includes work from previous chapbooks from Lapwing Press along with new and previously uncollected poems. And it's pretty good stuff!

Seamus Cashman (founder of Wolfhound Press, among other myriad credits) did the launch honours, with a very entertaining and interesting introductory speech. Referencing American poet Jane Kenyon, he talked about the obligation of poetry to be a communication, not only personal reflection and as a medium to 'keep places, people and things alive". This led to a look at the role of the poem in a world where it is increasingly difficult to 'be quiet" and went on to praise the value of honesty in poetry, whereby truths may emerge even long after a poem has come into being - "Better a fumbling at truth than a slickly packaged lie".

Cashman also referenced Máighréad Medb, for the performance aspects of her poetry and the excitement of it's rock'n'roll, profane qualities - with similar traits to be seen in Chapman's work. We were reminded also of Eavan Boland's praise for Chapman's first collection 'Jazztown' and how highly praise from Boland should be valued, as a critic not prone to casual endorsements!

Then it was on to the reading, with Chapman reading Cobain, Eidolan ( a type of ghost, apparently), Cicatrice, Tunisia, Winter 1998 and many others, perhaps favouring the more recent poems in the collection just a little. Some of the featured poems are already published online and can be accessed via Patrick's website here.

So, an enjoyable launch for some excellent work from 'one of the very best modern irish poets'. (That's the cover blurb talking there, but I tend to concur). Patrick's work constantly exhibits a sharp, insightful mix of play, passion and perspective. Throughout his work there's a pared back honesty on display which continues to gleam through this urbane and mature collection.

One good thing about attending these launches is the chance to catch up with old acquaintances and perhaps make some new ones. It was a pleasure to finally meet Philip Casey, Patrick's colleague over at the Irish Literary Revival, whose novel The Fabulists is generously available to read there, along with a number of other out of print titles from Irish writers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Autumn Haiku

In turning leaves
I hear another writer read
the wood from the trees.

© PJ Nolan October 2007

Man Booker Woman!

Well now, there's a turn-up for the Booker! Congratulations to Anne Enright on her well-deserved win. Genuine surprise and joy is infectious and there's definitely a spring in the step round here this bright, clear autumn day.

You can view Enright's post-awards BBC interview here.

Much discussion, online and elsewhere, about the perceived merits or otherwise of the judges' decision. Quite a few fans of Nicola Barker's Darkmans seem particularly disappointed. However, I guess that's the nature of these competitions.

There's a somewhat churlish article over on the Guardian Arts blog, whose writer isn't a fan of the winner. And much of the criticism seems to be aimed at the 'familiar' nature of the subject matter. My own take is that it can be seen as all the braver to head back upstream into familiar territory (well-travelled for good reason) in order to attempt to prise core truths from abeyant material by.....wait for it....the writing?

You might also enjoy a short interview from before the announcement by Sinead Gleeson with Enright over on her Sigla blog.

I'm delighted by the judges' choice. I hope many, many more people read The Gathering as a result and increase their enjoyment of, and appetite for, fine writing.

Anyways, Well done Anne.

In the words of the poet "G'wan ye good thing!".

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fortright Enright on View

Booker nominee Anne Enright featured in a pre-awards television special on last night's RTE Arts programme The View.

Presenter John Kelly spoke to the writer for about 25 minutes, covering topics such as her early life, time spent as a writer/producer in RTE and the difficulties of maintaining a writing life while a parent of young children. A revealing and intimate portrait emerged, albeit with a certain amount of professional discretion.

Some interesting topics included her perceived 'masculine style'. Enright spoke about how punditry can be a necessity for a working writer, in order to keep body and soul together (the downside being a requirement for female writers to slot into certain expectations). Also interesting were her comments relating to the publishing stature and perceptions of 'women writers' in an Irish context and how that differs from roles in the UK and US literary marketplaces.

You can watch the interview online here. The winner will be announced tonight, Tuesday 16th October at an awards ceremony at Guildhall, London. Good Luck, Anne!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Barry wins Rooney!

Further good news from The Stinging Fly Press with the announcement that Kevin Barry was named last night as the recipient of the 2007 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

The Rooney Prize, established in 1976, is awarded annually to a writer under the age of forty who has produced a significant body of work. Previous winners include Anne Enright, Colum McCann, Claire Keegan, Claire Kilroy, Nick Laird and Philip O Ceallaigh. Good company, Kevin!

The writer was presented with the 10,000 euro prize last night at a special reception in the Provost's house at Trinity College.

Acording to Declan Meade, Stinging Fly editor, the new paperback edition of There Are Little Kingdoms has been sent to the printers and will be in shops by the end of October.

In the meantime, there are still copies of the previous paperback edition to be found, both in shops and, I believe, from the Stinging Fly website. Also a small number of the limited casebound edition left (from the original 100 signed and numbered copies). Christmas is coming, folks - could be a nice pressie for somebody?

As per my earlier post, you can read a new story from Kevin in the current issue of West47.

Well done that man!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'Flux' on West47

One of my poems, Flux is featured in the current (October-December 2007) issue of West47. You can read it here. I hope you like it.

West47 is the online literary journal of the Galway Arts Centre and I feel quite privileged by inclusion in this issue, which features some top quality writing. There's some fine poetry, including an elegant, evocative snapshot Love in a Run-down Street from Philip Quirke. Also a somewhat scatalogical take on the local Poetry Slam phenomenon from Pete Mullineaux, resident MC of Galway Arts Centre's monthly Poetry Slams, as well as a widely published poet in his own right.

Other gems include an excerpt from a new play, The Avenue, by Christian O'Reilly (who, coincidentally, also wrote Is This About Sex? as reviewed below) plus a new story from Kevin Barry. Barry's first collection of stories, There Are Little Kingdoms, was published earlier in 2007 and is somewhat of a phenomenon itself, in that the first paperback edition, from The Stinging Fly Press, sold out in record time and a second edition is printing now!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rough Sex Scores OK!

Great Craic at the Pavilion Theatre last night, with the opening night of Is This About Sex? from Rough Magic as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Somewhat of a post-tiger bedroom farce, this comes across as a well-written (and directed) study in questions of identity, masculinity, fidelity and, for at least one character, food as a sex substitute. With the main character drawn to cross-dressing and much talk of cavemen and cunnilingus, one might expect this production to be a nudging titillator for the chattering classes and so it proves to be - to a point. The humour is pretty upfront, especially early in the play, serving to eyeball a few taboos that aren't really taboos any more, but which get more lip-service (!) in public than in the workaday bedroom lingo of lovers' lives.

In the programme notes, the playwright Christian O'Reilly offers his view that the sexual revolution in ireland is quite a few steps behind our UK counterparts, which may be why the play received a somewhat quizzical approach at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. That may be true, but I wouldn't burden this production with any heavy responsibility for moving our collective arse very far along that slippery road. It's more of an after-dinner yarn, and a funny one at that - with some very comic throwaways in the script.

Solid performances all round, particularly from Darragh Kelly as 'would-be woman' Daniel, and a very strong comic turn from Rory Nolan (he of the mugging Meteor ads?) - no relation BTW! The 'guys' have great material to get their teeth into; covering the aforementioned caveman schtick, the self-doubt of an overly-generous male, the performance-obsessed, competitive lover - all well-observed insights into the Platonic Cave of Irish masculinity. The female characters seem less successfully drawn, although Hilary O'Shaughnessy brings a tender, funny femininity to her role as Cathy and Ali White attempts to invest her character, Kay, with real depth as she deals with a spluttering attempt at an affair, sexual confusion as well as fitting in a decent lunch! Ruth Hegarty plays an insistent role as Kay's interfering friend Angela.

It's definitely the 'good laugh' that's at least part of the writer's stated intentions, but I couldn't find the eventual segue from bed-hop to personal enlightenment wholly convincing. Well worth the ticket though - and if you make it along tonight (Oct 2nd) you can take advantage of a post-show discussion with the writer as well as director Lynne Parker, who's done an excellent job in staging this genuinely entertaining piece.

Setting a fine precedent for the inclusion of the Pavilion in the Festival as a whole, it was gratifying to see a well-deserved full house - including at least one Booker nominee ;-) - to mark the occasion! Is This About Sex? runs at the Pavilion until 13th October.