Monday, 16 February 2015

Cork Spring Literary Festival

Got down to Cork by half nine on the Friday (driving rain, high sided vehicles) so missed the reading by Douglas Dunn and Peter Fallen, which was by all accounts moving. 

Greatly enjoyed Liz Berry, a poet from The Black Country. Her collection of that name honours the thick accent from that area. I used to say my g's that way but the guts of it fell away somewhere in the Irish Sea. Passionate and tender. She's reading at the Poetry Now festival next month with Dalgit Nagra, who I believe nudged her into writing with her mother tongue. She's also running a workshop there. Highly recommended and my highlight of the festival.

Liz was followed by Don Share, a Memphis poet who has written about willfully losing his own southern accent to replace it with a more worldly NY one. Also the editor of Poetry magazine and a fine, astute poet. He was teaching a masterclass all week and the survivors were relishing it - full immersion. 


A feast of poetry. By the end I was drowning in words.

2:30pm a Southword Magazine Showcase.
Patrick Cotter, the engine of Munster Literature Centre and the festival explained some of the history of the online magazine then we had readings from a selection of recently published poets including Graham Allen, Roisin Kelly, Marie Naughton, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Colette Olney, John W Sexton and Michael Sheehan. You can read poems from all of them on the website.
Doireann Ní Ghríofa

First the winner of the Gregory O'Donoghue Prize was announced, the first Irish poet in 4 years, judged by Matthew Sweeney
Patrick Cotterthe director of the centre gave us some information about the competition. It's one of the main financing sources for the various undertakings of the centre, including the Southword magazine. More than 50% of the entries are from the USA. There are hundreds of MFA courses taught there which appears to be raising the bar somewhat. (Although I think there's a fair amount of same-y poetry written there to please their tutors. Discuss...) There were about 1,400 entries.

The winner, Breda Wall Ryan read her winning poem Self Portrait in the Convex Bulge of a Hare's Eye, a dense and worthy winner from her brand new, hot off the press debut collection In a Hare's Eye from Doire Press. We were lucky enough to have rush releases of the book in Cork so I have my copy now.

This was followed by the pre-booked readings, a selection of poets who are regularly published in periodicals but have yet to publish a complete collection. Forty poets applied. More info on the selected poets here.
Jane Clarke read some assured poems from her forth-coming collection from Bloodaxe Books. 
Stephen Connolly read some poems including a series of short poems on the Northern Ireland public transport system.

Andrew Eaton was another poet living in Belfast. 

Roisin Kelly read a poem with a memorable last line on having weed for breakfast.

Paul McMahon who I saw read at Poetry Ireland Introductions, with an impressive publishing record including winning the Ballymaloe poetry prize. He finished with a strong poem Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, March 16th

Jennifer Matthews, the organising heart of the centre, introducing the next readings. 

Tom French read some lovely poems inspired by the Ordinance Survey maps and family and local history research in the Co Meath public library system.
David Wheatley read some poems in the Doric dialect of Aberdeen. I did recognise most of the words but it was tough keeping up. 

Emily Berry read some poems from her collection Dear Boy. She was, I think, nervous but I've been told the poems off the page are very good. 
She was followed by a Canadian, Newfoundland poet Michael Crummery who was witty and touching.

Leanne O'Sullivan gave a generous introduction to poets Lavinia Greenlaw and Jo Shapcott who as long time professionals finished the festival off in style.

Lovely to meet up with other friends, old and new from the Poetry world including Alice Lyons, curator of Poetry Now, Eleanor Hooker from Dromineer festival, Aifric McGinchy, Victoria Kennefick the winner, along with Virginia Astley won the Fool For Poetry Competition and launched her chapbook White Whale, Billy Ramsell, Paula Cunningham, Caleb Brennan, Kevin Conroy, Paul Casey and Michael Farry.

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