Sunday, 28 April 2013


So, for me, Cúirt is over for another year. I'm partly sad, partly glad - recovery can begin. Cúirt is a very social festival and I'm not used to the late nights, but they are great fun, of course.

Actor reading Julian Gough's story in St Nicholas's
I started my Cúirt at Vincent Woods interview with Edna O'Brien. It was too dark in the Town Hall theatre to take notes but the interview will actually be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 on Arts Tonight tomorrow the 29th April, at 10pm. Vincent is a good, warm interviewer and Edna is a very fluent speaker; she spoke about her life and particularly the influence of her homeplace and family in Co. Clare on her writing. She was charming, regal, witty.

I am writing an essay on her at the moment for a plenary I am giving at the AEDEI conference in Spain next month, so I have been immersed in Edna interviews lately online etc. I didn't learn anything new on Thursday night but it is always a pleasure to listen to her. Did somebody once say that if we didn't have Edna O'Brien we would have to invent her? She is our grand dame of letters, for sure.

Crowd at Galway Stories literary walk/reading, St Nicholas's
The next event I attended was the Arena live recording at the Nun's Island Theatre; it was broadcast Friday evening and you can listen to it here for a week or so. There was no way of knowing who was going to feature and I was thrilled when I got there to find that two of the guests were Paula Meehan and Sharon Olds, two of my favourite poets/women. Seán Rocks asked about the American-Irish poetic relationship. Paula said that 'from Emily Dickinson to Bob Dylan' American poetry has always provided 'huge nourishment' to Irish poets. She said she particularly likes Alicia Ostriker.

Sharon said that for her Irish poetry is both 'an ancestor from the past and a sister-brother from the present'. She also said 'Poetry is about going below while singing above.' I love that. Seán asked her about the tag 'confessional'; Sharon said she feels her poems are more 'accusational'. She said, 'No one would choose to be in the family of a family poet' and that when she writes she is 'resting' from herself. She also said that when she edits what she has written she 'tries to take out half of the adjectives and a third of the self pity.'

A local, sweet-voiced singer, Stacey Nolan, sang two songs at the Arena event. She may be Galway's answer to Gillian Welch. Writer and film-maker Conor Montague read from his story 'Eat the Swans' which features in the new Galway Stories anthology from Doire Press - a visceral, shocking story that will not suit the squeamish reader/listener.
Juno McLoughlin at Alan McMonagle's book launch, Town Hall Theatre
From there we went directly to the launch of the Galway Stories anthology which took the form of a literary walk with stop-offs for readings. It rained - of course - but Jim Mullarkey entertained a huge crowd outside McCambridge's; an actor read from Julian Gough's story in Saint Nicholas's Cathedral; Olaf Tyransen did the honours outside Neachtain's Pub, and finally we all piled into Monroe's Tavern where Kernan Andrews from the Galway Advertiser did the official launch. Congrats to Lisa Frank and John Walsh of Doire Press for a great idea, well executed.

Later I went to Paula Meehan and Sharon Olds's excellent reading at the Town Hall. They are a great poetry pairing and Paula was in fine, lively reading form. Sharon has a more subdued style in comparison but she is utterly convincing and sincere. It was a great evening. Down to the festival club after in the Meyrick Hotel where I enjoyed chatting to the very affable American writer Ben Marcus, as well as Mary Costello, Declan Meade, and many others.

Alan McMonagle signing Psychotic Episodes
Midday on Saturday saw my fellow member of The Peers, Alan McMonagle's, launch. Psychotic Episodes is his second short story collection and it comes from the inimitable Arlen House. Pat McMahon did the launch speech and also being launched was Aideen Henry's newest book, Hugging Thistles.

We went back to our hotel for a swim/rest and later for a walk on the prom in Salthill, where I used to bring my kids a lot when I lived in the city. My parents brought us on holidays there in the 70s and 80s. A special place. Then I went to Ron Rash and Claire Keegan at the Town Hall. Burning Bright, Ron's Frank O'Connor Award winning collection, is one of my all-time favourites. He read a harrowing drowning story from the new collection. In the Q&A he said that each story and novel of his is sparked by an image. He then follows that image, believing it will lead him to the story (he does not plan - yay!)

Claire Keegan read from Foster, that wonderful section where the child is brought home from a wake by an inquisitive neighbour. Claire is an original thinker which always comes across in her Q&A responses - she is unpredictable, sparky, interesting. There is never a rehearsed, sound-bytey quality to her answers. She is our Edna of the future but in her own particular maverick way.

I spent the evening in the Meyrick again enjoying the great conversation of Ron Rash (yes!), the lovely Richard Burns of Nantucket (a Cúirt stalwart), young London-based Irish writer Danny Denton, Mike McCormack, who is just back from a US book tour, Declan Meade, Mary Costello, and Martin Dyar who is now running the Strokestown Poetry Festival which is on next weekend. And I'll be there for the first time - whoop!

So, that was my Cúirt. I hate to think of all I missed due to fatigue/needing to eat/clashing events etc. I managed to meet the lovely Michael Harding and I got him to sign his memoir for my Ma. She will love it. I also met friends from near and far which, at the end of it all, is what good literary festivals are all about: the old friends and the new, the old books and the new, and all that great chat that makes going back to the desk alone both easier and important.

Next stop Strokestown :)


Words A Day said...

thanks for the update, definitely not missing it next year :)


Cheers, Niamh. Yes, it is totally worth the visit and vast amount of money spent on books while there.