Friday, March 23, 2012

Irish Writers' Centre Authors Read at Anam Cara

We had a great night last Wednesday, 21 March. As part of the Irish Writers' Centre Peregrine Readings series, Ita Daly (in the middle), Frank Ronan (on the right), and Peter Cunningham (on the left) read excerpts from their work -- Ita from a memoir in progress, Frank from a short story, and Peter from one of the novels of his Momument series. A lively question-and-answer conversation followed the readings, giving the enthusiastic audience a chance to learn m0re about the writers and their creative processes, some of which is included below.

We are extremely grateful to the Irish Writers' Centre and the Irish Arts Council for including Anam Cara, now for the fourth time, in this incredible reading series.

Ita Daly:
Ita Daly was born in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim and later moved to Dublin. She has published five novels, one collection of short stories and two books for children. Her latest work is a re-telling of Irish Myths and Legends commissioned by Oxford University Press. She has won two Hennessy Literary Awards and an Irish Times Short Story Award. Her last novel, Unholy Ghosts, was long listed for the Impact Award.Her work has been translated into Swedish, Danish, Japanese, Italian and German and her short stories have appeared in magazines in Ireland, England and America. Ita is a member of Aosdána.

Frank Ronan:
Born 1963 in New Ross, County Wexford, Frank Ronan is a novelist. He also writes a monthly column for Gardens Illustrated magazine. His novels have won numerous prizes including the 1989 Irish Times/Aer Lingus prize. His works include the novels The Men Who loved Evelyn Cotton (1989), Picnic in Eden (1991), The Better Angel (1993), Dixie Chicken (1994), Lovely (1995), Home (2002) and a collection of short stories Handsome Men Are Slightly Sunburnt (1996).

Peter Cunningham:
Peter Cunningham grew up in Waterford and was educated at Waterpark School, Glenstal Abbey School and University College Dublin. He worked as an accountant and a trader of commodities until 1986 when his first novel was published. Titled Noble Lord, it was a thriller, written under the pseudonym Peter Lauder. A further four thrillers followed. In 1993, a novel, Who Trespass Against Us dealt with the unexpected death of a child. Four subsequent novels, known as the Monument novels, are set in Monument, a fictionalized version of Cunningham's hometown Waterford. They are: Tapes of the River Delta, Consequences of the Heart, Love in One Edition and The Sea and the Silence. Peter is a member of Aosdána.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ireland's Writers Return Home for Inspiration

The following was sent to us by Michael Downend (, a former writer-in-residence and workshop leader:

(CNN) -- As you drink a pint of Guinness or eat your corned beef and cabbage at the local Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day, consider the far-flung corners of Ireland where inspiration flourishes.

"The Irish landscape isn't always straightforward; its many layers of stone walls and hedgerows and its constantly changing light mean that it unfolds slowly as you walk, cycle or drive by," says Etain O'Carroll, co-author of Lonely Planet's 2012 Ireland guidebook.

"Our mercurial weather also gives it an ethereal quality," says O'Carroll. "The dappled light and scurrying clouds, mists and rain showers mean you often catch no more than a tantalizing glimpse of a view. You've got to be patient and let the landscape reveal itself in its own time, and when it does you feel like you might be the only one to have ever seen it in quite the same way."

CNN asked a handful of Irish poets, novelists and playwrights about the spots that inspire them in their mother country. Here are a few of our writers' favorite places.

Ancient ruins amid a magnificent landscape

Although she was born and raised in County Monaghan, Mary O'Donnell's poetry and prose is inspired by the rough and wild landscape of the Burren, a region in County Clare where Ireland's ancient people managed to survive for centuries. O'Donnell is also fascinated by megalithic tombs, which is why she wrote a poem about Burren's Poulnabrone Dolmen, one of Ireland's most famous ancient monuments. Built more than 5000 years ago, the Neolithic/Bronze Age tomb housed remains and burial items such as pottery, jewelry and an ax.

"The world of nature is vitally important to me, and in the Burren in County Clare one finds a wild majesty and magnificent landscape that is still unspoiled, despite the many visitors the area attracts," says O'Donnell, author of "Storm over Belfast," "The Ark Builders " and "The Place of Miracles." "I am (also) enormously interested in megalithic tombs so this dolmen at Poulnabrone really grabbed me. The fact that my then 15-year-old daughter couldn't give a hoot about it made the visit all the more interesting, in a way. It set me thinking about how there are times in our lives when we need prescribed culture and there are times when we absolutely don't."

For the visitor: There are many ancient ruins to explore in the Burren through guided walks and tours.

Returning to a literary hometown

Although he now lives in England, poet John McAuliffe often returns to his childhood home in Listowel to visit family and to recharge his writing. On the surface a typical North Kerry market town, Listowel has a literary tradition inspired by the playwright John B. Keane and fiction writer Bryan MacMahon. Keane ran a pub where writer Michael Hartnett and other writers and townspeople would gather, now operated by his widow and son.

To a young boy, Keane and MacMahon both seemed of the town and outside it. "They were after something penetrating, subtle and comprehending when they wrote, unsentimentally, about the town's hinterland of farming villages and about the positive impact of modernity on old hierarchies: wised-up insiders with a natural sympathy for the outsider," says McAuliffe, co-director of the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester, editor of "The Manchester Review" and author of "Of All Places."

For the visitor: "When I'm at home I walk Market Street, past John B's (pub) and into the redesigned town square where the terrific converted church, St. John's, hosts theater and music every week," says McAuliffe. "I walk past the Listowel Arms Hotel -- where Charles Stuart Parnell made his last public address -- under Listowel Castle, whose ruin is now attached to an interactive museum, which documents and celebrates the work of John B. (Keane), (Bryan) MacMahon and other writers from the area."

A historic horse fair

Dublin-born and bred writer Nessa O'Mahony [one of Anam Cara's first writers-in-residence] has always been inspired by Western Ireland, where her mother's family comes from. Her mother shared stories about her life growing up in Ballinasloe, in East Galway, with nine brothers and sisters. Those stories have crept into O'Mahoney's work.

"It seemed a form of rural Eden very distant to my own upbringing in a concrete and pebble-dash Dublin suburb in the 1960s," says O'Mahony, whose books include a novel, "In Sight of Home," " and two books of poetry, Bar Talk" and "Trapping a Ghost." "She had such freedom, and such fun and 'divilment,' as people used to say. We've returned to Ballinasloe frequently, though these days it's usually for a family funeral. But I'm still absorbed by how alive she [my mother] comes there, and how incredibly detailed her memories of a very happy past are. And I'm still inspired by her to write poems."

For the visitor: The Ballinasloe Horse Fair and Festival in October, one of the oldest in Europe, dates back at least to the 1700s and attracts thousands of visitors, traders and Irish Travellers (members of Ireland's nomadic community). Elsewhere in East Galway, William Butler Yeats spent time in the 1920s at Thoor Ballyle, a 16th century Norman tower that served as a summer home and inspiration for his poem "The Tower."

An inspiration to Jane Austen

Novelist and playwright Belinda McKeon grew up on a farm in County Longford, a region that barely merits a mention in some of Ireland's tour books. Yet amidst the ordinary midland landscape dotted with nondescript schools, restaurants and gas stations is a literary tourist's dream.

In Edgeworthstown, the local nursing home seemed like nothing special. But for a time, it had been the house of celebrated novelist Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849). It's where she lived almost all her life, where she wrote "Castle Rackrent," received Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth as visitors, wrote criticisms of the absentee landlord system and where Jane Austen sent Edgeworth a first edition of her novel "Emma." Thomas LeFroy, believed to be the inspiration for Austen's Mr. Darcy character in "Pride & Prejudice," lived in nearby Carriglas Manor.

Growing up in Longford, with its ordinary life on top of extraordinary history, "made me look sideways at everything," says McKeon, whose debut novel, "Solace," was published last year. "That's the way people look at things where I'm from: sideways. Never believing the first version of anything. Always wondering, always doubting, always looking forward to dissecting it afterwards."

For the visitor: Longford is known for Edgeworth, Carriglas, its fishing and the Corlea Trackway, a bog road that was built in 148 B.C.

Inspiration at the ocean's edge

Born and raised in the town that inspired William Butler Yeats, short story writer Elaine Garvey heads to Sligo and the beach north of town to think and inspire her writing. "There's one in North Sligo called Streedagh that's usually almost empty and you can walk on the strand almost every day, no matter if the tide is in or out," says Garvey, whose work has appeared in the The Dublin Review and a collection called "Scéalta."

"I take my shoes off, leave them at the rocks and walk with my feet at the edge of the water -- unless it's snowing. I get my feet into the sand and have the sound and smell of the Atlantic all around me. It will always, always feel like home. If you walk the full length of the beach and back, you have clean feet and a very clear head by the end."

For the visitor: Sligo Town celebrates Yeats with the Yeats Memorial Building and the Yeats International Festival starting in late July with three weeks of poetry, music and other events.

Saturday, March 17, 2012



And another blessing, in the Irish tradition of conferring hopes on the one being blessed with the word may, this from John O'Donohue:


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

The Youtube link is of John O'Donohue reading "Beannacht" during his last interview, which was with Krista Tippett, an Anam Cara writer-in-residence, on her NPR programme "Speaking of Faith."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book about Beara -- Free Upload on Kindle

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, John Dwyer's lastest book Klondike House - Memories of an Irish Country Childhood is FREE to upload on Kindle on March 15, 16 and 17. The paperback will follow in another four weeks.

Klondike House on
Klondike House on

For those who have retreated to Anam Cara, John's homeplace is about 500 yards down the road to Castletownbere from here, and he has a section and pictures on the cascades. description:

"The eldest of six children, John Dwyer recounts his memories of a rural childhood on the remote but beautiful Beara Peninsula in West Cork, Ireland. Complemented by a series of childhood photographs, his stories are told in vivid and colourful prose.
He describes the hard but happy work of saving the hay, cutting the turf, shearing the sheep, and digging the potatoes. His humour comes to the fore in the stories of a rampaging sheep and an innocent hobby that nearly caused a local outcry. His account of his own family connections with America and especially Butte, Montana are a microcosm of all Irish-American stories of immigration.

"Sprinkled with a selection of fitting works by some of Ireland's best-known poets such as Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh and Paul Muldoon, this gem of a book is a chronicle of the simple but happy life of an Irish farmer boy."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Poetry Manuscript Competition 2012

Bradshaw Books is pleased to announce the return of the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition 2012.

The aim of this competition is to give emerging writers the opportunity to publish their first collection of poetry.

For more information, go to:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Short Fiction Competition

Win a Fabulous Break at Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat!

"If you write short stories or you've always wanted to learn how, this is the competition for you!

"For the second year running, Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat have teamed up with to offer a fabulous prize to one lucky - and talented - writer.

"Write us a 250-word short fiction piece, and you could win a place in the Anam Cara "Short Fiction: So Much More Than It Seems..." workshop retreat led by Vanessa Gebbie, award-winning short story writer, scheduled for the week of 9-15 June 2012.

"Anam Cara is set in beautiful countryside on the Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork, so our theme is A Garden of Eden."

(For more details, see or