Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Me and Tommy Tiernan and Unidentified Lady at the Ropes Unravelled launch, Cúirt

When you've attended the opening; heard approximately 32 writers read from their work; facilitated 3 separate workshops (2 in a prison); introduced two readers; read at the launch of a lit mag; judged a poetry slam; and chatted until well past your bedtime with various wonderful writers (all while 8 months+ pregnant), it's kind of hard to pick your highlights...

I had a brilliant time as Writer in Residence at Cúirt. Despite crushing tiredness, I managed to enjoy every single thing I did and my only regret was that I couldn't physically manage to do more.

The opening night was jam-packed with local and international artists, and Mary Cloake, Director of the Arts Council, gave a rousing speech in which she urged us, during these recessionary times to be positive: 'In the arts, we are absolutley fantastic!' she said.
At that same event, Ciarán O'Rourke claimed his Lena Maguire/Cúirt New Writing Prize of €1000 for his poem 'Swim'. I had chosen this poem, as judge, from hundreds of pieces of work submitted and it stood out because of its poignancy, surefooted-ness and craft. It turns out Ciarán O'Rourke is a 17-year-old Leaving Cert student from Dublin. Wow!

Later that same evening we were treated to Joseph O'Neill and Timothy O'Grady, who wrote I Could Read the Sky some years back - a firm favourite of mine. Timothy read some moving and scary bits from his American travel book Divine Magnetic Lands. Joseph read from Netherland, about which he said: 'Novel writing is about deception - you lie as little as you can.' He said it took him years to write the book and it afforded him a chance to use the details of his 'utterly useless childhood' in Holland. I noted he was wearing scruffy Converse with no laces (his wife works for Vogue in New York!) but, according to Sunday's Style mag, no one should wear anything else!

Wednesday morning I taught a short fiction workshop to 11 enthused writers at Galway Arts Centre. The time was too short, as per, but we enjoyed ourselves and ran over a bit.

I went home afterwards to rest before my foray to Castlerea Prison on Thursday where I met with two different sets of men, who either write or have an interest in things cultural.
We read our work to each other, talked about writing, inspiration, bi-polar disease, politics, Ireland, prison, eel-fishing (!) and poetry.
One of the men had written a brilliant poem backwards and, their English teacher, B, got a mirror so that we could read it.
Another man played On Raglan Road on the mouth organ for us and it was very moving and beautiful. Kavanagh's words always remind me of my sister, Nessa, so I was fighting back tears.
Yet another man read from his travel memoir which was very well written and interesting, set as it was in South America.
All in all, it was a very relaxed and stimulating few hours and if B can arrange it, I'll be going back again for a longer session.

After Castlerea, we made a mad dash back to Galway for the launch of Ropes Unravelled, at the Town Hall Theatre. It was launched, typically irreverently, by comedian Tommy Tiernan. To launch the journal, he decided to critique one of the contributor's poems with the help of the audience. And whose poem did he choose? Séamus Heaney's. It was hilarious and bold in a way only Tommy can get away with. I read from my story 'Cowboy and Nelly' and it was all very jolly.

I'll have more from Cúirt anon!


Aidan said...

That sounds like a really interesting week.
I wanted to hear Joseph O'Neill read in Amsterdam in March but unfortunately it was sold out. "Netherland" is a great novel and given that I live in Holland the local details were very amusing.
"I Could Read the Sky" is a very memorable book too, I haven't seen the same idea again since, the photographs were an essential psrt of the novel.
The prison visit sounds very interesting too. Were you intimidated by the environment at all?

BarbaraS said...

Only Tommy Tiernan could get away with doing something like that to Famous Seamus!

Sounds like you've had a very productive time Nuala. I hope the tiredness isn't too bad. Are you taking iron? Spatone is very good, it's liquid and doesn't block you up :) or interfere with your veggie status.

Not long to go now...!

Tania Hershman said...

It sounds like a wonderful time, good on you for doing everything you did, I would have been exhausted and I'm no 8+ anything!

Liz said...

Great write-up, Nuala. Love the variety of events - you must have really had a ball.


Hi Aidan - it was great. I suppose I was intimidated before I went - not knowing what it would be like. Despite the security checks, endless gates to go through etc, there's a very calm atmosphere their and B, the teacher, is very calm too. SO any nerves disappeared almost instantnly. The men were lovely - polite, respectful, full of questions and opinions.


B - I am taking iron: Ferrum. It's working grand for me.


Tania & Liz - yes, it was fab. And I would have found it exhausting, pregnant or not. At least I couldn't drink, so I had no hangovers to contend with, as many others had!

Totalfeckineejit said...

Fer fex sake WRW,sit down put yeer feet up and have someone get ye a sup o tae and a biscuit.If noones volunteering I'll send down Jimmy the Butler in the post.Top work though,prison visit a great idea :)


I could sleep standing up, TFE. Send Jimmy round - might teach a thing or two to that lazy fecker butler of mine...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...


Apparently Barack is reading Netherland! Cue a large increase in sales. Wouldn't you just love it?
See here:

ropes said...

"Unidentified Lady" is Dr. Julia Carlson, course co-ordinator of NUIG's MA in Literature and Publishing :D


Thank you!