Tuesday, 19 April 2011

CÚIRT 2011 AFTERS - mostly short fiction

I haven't much time to blog properly and I should be writing now, not doing this but however...I just wanted to say a few words about Cúirt. I got to some events and one convivial evening in the Meyrick's Bar.

Writer Órfhlaith Foyle with Juno
Firstly, I read at the ROPES launch on Thursday, which was very nice. The current MA in Publishing students have done a lovely job on the design of this year's journal. Though I do wonder who made the decision to centre the poems on the page - that looks so wrong to me. They didn't do it with my poem, thankfully. But only, I reckon, because the poem is set out in a way that doesn't allow it. The launch itself was very friendly and relaxed and the editors were there, steering it all along. (They get younger and more impossibly beautiful and stylish each year. Seriously, these kids look like models. Who knew the world of publishing was where all the beautiful people flocked...)

Editorial beauties, ROPES
I read four poems and then Thomas Lux, from Georgia in the USA, read. Lux was a last minute bonus - one of the editors invited him when he met him at the festival; Lux read on Wednesday night at Cúirt. There was wine, there were poets. A lovely afternoon.

Finn, Nuala, Juno and poet/film-maker, Paul Casey

Poet Thomas Lux
I had to miss Friday altogether because I had no babysitter but I spent Saturday in and around the Town Hall with fellow writer Órfhlaith Foyle. We browsed for ages in Charlie Byrne's Book Shop in the foyer - an annual treat - and bought the requisite clutch of books.

We went to the Granta Panel on the Irish Short Story, chaired by Anne Enright and featuring Philip Ó Ceallaigh, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne and Kevin Barry.  Anne opened by quoting a fridge magnet: 'Do one thing that frightens you every day', by way of saying that it frightened her to edit the Granta anthology. She said she doesn't believe in the canon, preferring to disturb ideas of it. She also said that it is hard to talk about the Irish short story without 'getting lost in a bog of cliché' and that it is 'a living, organic tradition' and should be treated as such.

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne had very interesting things to say, as always. She said that the short story is 'harmonious, close to poetry. It is about loss, and imagery ties the story together, like in a poem.' I don't know if it was Éilís or Anne who made the salient point that one changes as one writes a novel, whereas the short story is often written quickly. 'Distress goes into a novel.' It sounds like Anne, now that I write the quote!

They talked a bit about the novel VS the short story and, selfishly, I wanted them to go on more as that is where my head is firmly at just now. Philip is the only one of the three who has not written a novel and he was a little tetchy about this feeling that the novel is 'The Thing'. Understandably so. It's a stance that irritates me intensely. It misunderstands that the short story is an incredible genre all of its own - not a test piece for writing novels. He stated that some stories can be told in a short space - they just don't need the excess of the novel. Valid point.

Kevin Barry posited that the novella will come into its own with the growing popularity of the Kindle. Wouldn't that be lovely? I adore novellas. He also said that for him the novel was a place of experiment and that stories feel more natural and organic to him.

There was quite a debate about Frank O'Connor's assertion that all short stories are about loneliness and 'submerged populations'. Anne doesn't buy this at all, but the others seemed to agree with it more or less. Philip said that short stories are about individuals, and therefore the loneliness. Anne had to agree! Anne just doesn't think the short story is about loneliness in any formal sense because its scope can be so wide, but concluded she has no good answer to her own disagreement with O'Connor.

This post is getting rather long (and I HATE long posts) so I will conclude briefly: all of them write most of their work straight onto the computer. Anne Enright never knows the ending of her stories before she begins as she likes to be surprised (yay! me too!). All of the writers like that language is valued for its own sake in the Irish short story tradition.

It was a good panel. Anne Enright is a very calm, agreeable, able moderator. She will admit if she is 'wrong' or values someone else's POV. I like that. She doesn't put herself over as God-like and infallible, eventhough she has huge knowledge. All in all, a very enjoyable event.

On Saturday night, we also went to hear Irish woman Valerie Hemingway talk about her life with Hem and her marriage to his son Gregory, with poet and broadcaster Vincent Woods. An enchanting, adventurous, clever woman of 70. I want to be like her when I grow up. She was a delight to listen to and to meet afterwards.

I met so many great people over the few days, I wish I'd had more time with all of them: writers Kathleen Murray, Stephen Murray, Adam Wyeth and Paula, Seán Mackel, Rita Ann Higgins, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Jack Harte, Ted and Annie Deppe etc. etc. etc. There's always next year!


Kar said...

Oh Nu it sounds fascinating and wonderful and I’m raging to have missed it all. I love the photos too! How old are you again? you like as young as your children ;-)


Tania Hershman said...

Oh, it sounds wonderful, what heaven to just listen to talks about short stories and poetry, I do miss Ireland! And isn't Juno growing fast, blimey, she's gorgeous...!

Padhraig Nolan said...

Thanks for that Nuala. Very interesting. Sounds like there was a good dynamic to that panel.


Kar - ha ha! So my plan to grow old gracefully is working ;)


Tania - it was great, a good panel. They remained focussed - you know the way these things can wander...Anne was a good moderator.


PJ - there was a good dynamic. Though sparks flew too! - mostly over the novel vs short story issue.

Emily said...

Nuala, that sounds like a BLISSFUL evening!!

Sarah Salway said...

Interesting about the theme of the short story as loneliness. The way it reads is this is universal human condition - maybe so, and in a novel this is masked by additional characters. Sounds like a proper good debate.


Emily - I was in my element. Cúirt is in my top two favourite festivals. (The Frank O'Connor is the other.)


Sarah - I would tend to agree with Frank O'C. If I do an overview of my own short stories, they invariably deal with loners/lonely/marginalised people.

Anonymous said...

Fab report Nuala, thanks for that! Would've loved to have been at that panel. Be very interesting to see a resurgence in novellas - Philip O Ceallaigh has some fairly long stories (50 pages plus) in his collections, and then you have Claire Keegan's Foster, so maybe they're on their way back.


Hi Eimear - I think a lot of writers are writing novellas but can't get them published. Such a lovely form. I wonder how that Paris novella prize went? I must google it.

Jacinta said...

Wow this sounds amazing Nuala—thanks for the report. I really wish I'd been there. ps. agree with previous comment that you look gorge in that pic!