Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

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Jennifer Johnston reading

June 04, 2010 By: Blog Team Category: 2010, novels

Thursday 3rd June at 5pm, Jennifer Johnston reading in St. John’s Theatre and Arts Centre

For a memorable hour this afternoon Jennifer Johnston held her audience enthralled with her witty ‘off the cuff’ remarks, family anecdotes and readings from her work.
Although she spoke a great deal about her family she emphasised that her novels are not about them – despite what they believe!

Jennifer read two VIVID extracts from her novel “Truth or Fiction“. This was followed by a Question and Answer session during which we learnt that one of her literary influences is E.M. Forster, despite the facte that “he wrote some awful passages.”

We also learnt that a film of her novel “Two Moons” is in the planning stages. Gabriel Byrne has written the script and wants to play the part of the angel. Jennifer confessed to being unsure about that as she visualised Danny de Vito in the role.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to hear her.

Pauline Fayne

RECAP of Listowel Writers’ Week 2009

June 03, 2010 By: Laura Category: 2009, creative writing, events, historical, journalism, memoir, novels, painters & paintings, participants, photographs, poem, poems, poet, poetry, poets, Reflections, short story, songwriting, Speaker, storytelling, theatrical plays

RECAP of Listowel Writers’ Week 2009

“Poet’s Life” by Laura Jean Zito (Photos and text) laurajeanzito@gmail.com

“Where’s your husband?” yelled the man exiting the theatre, St. John’s Church, in the main square in Listowel, Ireland.

“Do I care, if Gabriel Byrne’s about?” retorted a woman as I passed her.

Gabriel Byrne himself had expressed surprise as to just what an object of female adoration he was regarded here in Listowel, where he opened the 39th Annual Writers Week Wednesday, May 27th, 2009. Inside the theatre he had been reciting a poem he penned for the “Sunday Miscellany” program that is aired on RTE radio every Sunday morning. His oratory the night before for the opening night ceremonies made less reference to writing and more to film, as he recounted an amusing anecdote about a cab driver in Dublin who, upon recognizing him, pitched his own script about a cocaine dealer that he insisted Gabriel would be perfect for, along with fellow “gang” members Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell. “And what about Stephen Rea?” he asked. You can see this speech on You Tube.

Gabriel talked about how the only reference to 39 that came to mind was the film and recent play from John Buchan’s novel, “The 39 Steps,” about the archetypal “man who knew too much” that had launched Hitchcock’s career in 1935 and spawned several remakes, including a 2008 BBC television production.

Gabriel delighted the crowd by reminding them of the warm welcome he never forgot when he had first come to Listowel many years ago, cast as the lead in “Dev,” by GP Gallivan and directed by Peter Sheridan of the Projects Theatre in Dublin. Later I heard Gabriel elaborate on an RTE radio interview that his love affair with Listowel was deepened by an actual “romantic liaison,” as he put it, set in the town here. He went on to say how honored he felt to be asked to return to open the world-renowned literary festival on this eve when the winners of so many important literary competitions would be announced.

In his Intro, Michael Lynch had already pointed out that 2009 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bryan MacMahon, Writers’ Week founder, along with John B. Keane. John B’s play

“Sive” was enjoying via the Listowel Players the 50th anniversary of its first staging in 1959, a year before it won the All Ireland finals. 2009 also marks the 30th anniversary of the last taping of an episode of the Reardons, in which Gabriel Byrne got his start as a sheep farmer before appearing on Bracken, and the morrow would bring with it the performance of “Sive” in St. John’s Theatre on the seventh anniversary to the day of John B.’s death.

Another writer died this year, beloved by many, David Marcus, an Irish Jewish writer and editor of fiction and poetry who hailed from Cork. The ee cummings poem he loved the most that Niall MacMonagle read at his funeral, “what if a much of a which of a wind” was shared with the audience by Colm Toibin, President of the Festival.

The Euro 15,000.00 Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award was taken by Joseph O’Neill for “Netherland,” a book that Barak Obama himself was quoted in the NY Times to have said was, “wonderful,” (without specifically pinpointing what appealed to him.) Seamus Heaney’s wife even made a copy of “Netherland,” her 09 anniversary gift to her husband, adding to its aura.

Thursday morning O’Neill read from his tome, followed by others.

David Park, although a Protestant from Belfast, by developing the Sinn Fein character in his novel, “The Truth Commissioner”, noted that he developed sympathies he didn’t know he had. To paraphrase, he said something like ‘Truth is relative to whoever is considering it.’ When you seek out truth some of it is probably going to be damaging to one’s own political point of view. When his teenage daughter asked him “Are the troubles coming back in?” he said “No,” as the groundswell against the atrocities had grown so big that it was hard to conceive such a notion. He failed to mention the most recent atrocities, those of the night previous, in which an innocent Catholic man was beaten to death by eight Protestants, who then targeted the dead man’s son.

The themes of love and death seemed to carry all through the festival, right up to the reading of Colm Toibin from his recent novel, “Brooklyn.” He drew inspiration for the novel’s main character, a female emigrant to Brooklyn from Wexford in the fifties, from a woman who came to visit at his house after his father died when Colm was 12. She spoke about her one daughter who had also died, and another who had emigrated to Brooklyn, a word that then took on mythical proportion.

After was heard a witty interview by Billy Keane of George Kimball,


American sports writer for the Boston Herald, who now writes the “America At Large” column for the Irish Times. He read excerpts from his best-seller 2008 boxing classic, “Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing.”

Rebecca Miller, the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and photographer Inge Morath, read from her first novel, “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” published in 2008, currently being filmed. She won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for a screenplay adaptation of her own short story collection “Personal Velocity.” She also directed Daniel Day Lewis, her husband, in her film “The Ballad of Jack & Rose.” The film is screened in the Festival’s film club in its nightly screenings at the Classic Cinema.

“All About Eve” was performed by the Classic Revival Theatre fromDublin in a remake of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s classic directed by Pegeen Coleman.

After a spectacular recitation of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” byConor Lovett of the Gare St. Lazare Players, I was filled with admiration for the actor’s talent at interpreting the text as well as expressing it. This performance is not to be missed.

Other theatre pieces in the nightly lineup of plays included a treatise on incest that is bounding continents, “On Raftery’s Hill” written byMarina Carr and performed by the Allen Little Theatre from County Kildare.

Also noteworthy, I found Ballinrobe’s Benny McDonnell’s

“Bondi Beach Boy Blue,” about attaining goals in the sports world, and other worlds, as two hurling teens hurl themselves Australia to represent Kilkenny.

After a wonderful art exhibition opening reception at the St. John’sTheatre of splendidly painted landscapes by ,

Joanna Keane O’Flynn, the daughter of Ireland’s most celebrated playwright,

John B. Keane, introduced John Montague, who announced it was his birthday. The audience received the presents of many of his poems read aloud by himself, and then his books readily signed thereafter.

Dermot Bolger, famous for his plays, poetry volumes and nine novels, as well as his associations with Trinity College and the Abbey Theatre, rounded things out on Sunday, the final day of the Festival.

The last word was had by Carol Drinkwater, known as Helen Herriot in the BBC’s “All Creatures Great and Small.” She wrote a best-selling award-winning children’s novel, “The Haunted School.” She is filming a documentary series around the Mediterranean Basin with UNESCO about the history and culture of the Olive Tree, based on her series of memoirs.

Most everyone could be found after at the “Healing Party” in John B’s Pub, anannual tradition to top off the oratory on the last day of Writers’ Week. The last

night was filled till the wee hours with memorable melodies, several by James Sheehan of the Dubliners,

sung and strummed by the Listowel Arms Hotel stayers and savourers of every last crumb of culture of the 2009 festival.

Certainly this all bodes well for the life of the Listowel Writers’ Week and for the celebrations of its 2010 40th Annual.

All inquiries can be directed to info@writersweek.ie or by calling 011 353 68 21074

“Poet’s Life” Copyright 2009 Laura Jean Zito All Rights Reserved For use of any photos and/or text contact laurajeanzito@gmail.com


Video footage from Listowel Writers’ Week 2009

March 06, 2010 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: participants, poem, poems, poet, poetry, Song

Gabriel Byrne & taxi driver

George Rowley sings

Pauline Fayne reads “Carol

John McCarthy reads

Two doves mating

Sean Lyons: winner of Strokestown poetry competion 2009 performed

June 11, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: events, historical, organisers, participants, poem, poet, preparations

Historic records will say Michael Lynch introduced Gabriel Byrne who opened Listowel Writers’ Week 2009.

But those of us who were there know another story…

Before 745 pm, the room was jammers. People were turned away at the door. It was Sean Lyons from Kerry, winner @Strokestown International Poetry Festival 2009 of

The Percy French Prize for witty – possibly topical – verse

who was first to speak. The vital, warm-up act, stilling the crowd.

And with what did Sean Lyons, member of Listowel Writers’ Week (organising) Committee strive to quell the cacophony of conversation in Listowel Arms Hotel ballroom?

A gong? A shout? Tinkling of a glass?

No.

A poem… no ordinary poem… his winning poem from 2009 Strokestown Poetry Festival. [Even that didn't shut the crowd up.]

Thank you Sean. We are privileged to publish it here, in all its glory…

A middle aged man goes shopping for trousers

I went shopping for trousers the other day.
Though I’m not getting any taller
The waist band on the present slacks
Is definitely getting smaller.
I don’t like shopping as a rule
I find shop assistants snotty
And I feel a tad embarrassed
When they measure my once taut botty.
‘Does Sir dress to the left or right?’
One asked me like a riddle.
When you get to my age, son, I said
‘You leave it in the middle.’
‘Upstairs, sir,’ he remarked,
‘Is for the more ample figure.’
And as I climbed the cursed steps,
I swear I heard him snigger.
I made a super human effort
To hold my beer belly gut in
But even I could not deny
The pressure on the upper button.
The salesman here was another one,
With muscles trim and hard
I cursed again the Mayo cuisine,
The black pudding fried in lard.
I cursed as well the drinking days
When with other knaves and fools,
Instead of running around racing tracks

We vegetated on high stools.
We drank our pints and placed our bets on the races on the telly
Totally oblivious to the time bombs
I was placing in my belly.
Time bombs yes, you heard me right
That clung to my hips like rubber
And reappeared in middle age
As great big blobs of blubber.
By now my face was turning puce
From holding in my breath
When the salesman produced his inch tape
And gave my pride the kiss of death.
‘A forty two sir, I suppose,
Could do you at a pinch.’
With bravery above the call,
I sucked in another inch
But the inch tape doesn’t lie.
It’s much more honest than me
The salesman did a final check,
‘We’ll say a forty three.’
‘A forty three it is,’ says he,
I didn’t say a meg.
He muttered then as he rubbed his chin,
‘We’ll take six inches off the leg.’
The trousers bought, the next dread thought,
Was more than I could bear.
Through gritted teeth, I asked me man:
‘Where’s the underwear?’
That grin again, it crossed his chin,
With the tiniest of flickers.
‘Would Sir prefer the traditional style,
Or this season’s thongs and knickers?’
‘I’ll try the thongs,’ says I, ‘bedad.’
His face paled with the shock.
He handed me a piesheen of silk,
Thin as the second hand of a clock.
”What’s that?’ I cried as I looked down,
At the sliver in his hand.
‘It gives support in work and sport,
For today’s more active man.’
‘Where I come from, young man I said,
We ate butter and drink milk.
And our smalls are made of cotton blend,
Not lace or puncy silk.
And this is more of it as well,
Like miles and pounds and punts
If the Lisbon Treaty’s ever passed,
They’ll ban string vests and Y fronts.
And one thing more,’ I said,
My voice was getting louder.
‘You can keep your under arm deodorant,
I’ll stick with talcum powder.
It served me well in courting days,
Like hair spray and nylon ankle stockings
And I don’t have to take your guff
Or your not so gentle mockings.
So, take your trousers, sir,’ I said,
‘And your fancy fol der dols,
No garment from this shop,
Will ever chafe my walls.’
And with that, I turned my back,
And went down the stairs again,
My heart was light, I was right
Because inside I know I’m thin
But self delusion soon gave way
I realised with dread
I’d gone straight from baby fat
To bloody middle age spread.
The lads were right, their inch tapes true,
No lies, no tittle tattle.
As I left the store, I knew for sure.
The bulge had won the battle.

What other blogs & newspapers have to say about Writers’ Week afterwards #listww09

June 01, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: blogs, connections, events

The Kingdom article: Omaba’s current read is tops at Listowel festival
By Anne Lucey

Megan Wynne’s blog post about missing Listowel this year

Kerryman.ie article which highlights children @Writers’ Week

Kerryman.ie focus on Gabriel Byrne…

The Irish Times article reflecting on Writers’ Week

Irish Independent, mainly about horseracing during Writers’ Week

California Chronicle article about Writers’ Week…

Timesonline article about Joseph O’Neill worth including here…

Peter Murphy’s blog (author of “John the Revelator”): mentions that this blog featured him

Montana Gael blog, the second one I found, says…

Here’s the first one I found…

It’s from

Cullinagh stables is located in the beautiful County Waterford countryside on the banks of the River Dawn in Southern Ireland…

Meet the bloggers at Lynch’s Bakery and Cafe

May 30, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events, journalism, participants, poems, poetry, poets

We’re in Lynch’s Bakery and Cafe. Lynn Roberts, winner of this year’s Poetry Collection competition has just come in and sat down at Paul O’Mahony‘s invitation. Jeremy Gould is seated to my left with Phillip Byrne (a concrete poet). The room is reasonably full.
Earlier, Cathy Desmond, a music teacher based in Ennis, wandered in, having just arrived for the weekend. She had a choice of going to see “6 yachts tied up on pier” (her words) in Galway no doubt ogled over by thousands of land-lubbers (my words), the Iniscealtra festival in Mountshannon, Clare, or Writers’ Week. She opted for Writers’ week. She rushes off after a few minutes to catch as much culture as possible in the limited time left.
Mary Lavery Carrig comes in. The funeral of a local Sister passes – she was a great age, Sister Anne was, Mary tells us.
Ronan Tynan has just arrived and sits down. Paul stops recording to give his full attention to the growing assembly of poets – a couple of more and the current stanza of poets will have become a canto of poets.

Kay Donnelly, another writer, arrives – and sits. I met Kay yesterday – she’s based in Waterford.I catch the end of a story Paul is recounting that involves de Valera, poets and Poland. It’s taken from a play he (Paul) is writing in his head.
The discussion swings around to how good the story Gabriel Byrne told at the opening on Wednesday {LINK to POST}. I remark that his piece for Sunday Miscellany (to be broadcast tomorrow morning at 9.10am on RTE Radio 1) was brilliantly written.
The head Librarian from Mayo, whose first name is Austen (or is that Austin?), makes his appearance. I miss the critical bits of the conversation that ensues due to Jeremy and Kay mentioning the 6 degrees of separation theory. Headage payments comes up when Pat McCannon (from Meath) wanders in and gives Paul a copy of a story he wrote for the Special Olympics about his son Niall 12 years ago. Niall played on the basketball team for Ireland at the Special Olympics. The piece was published because of that he tells us. Pat’s grandfather wrote the song “The turf man from Ardee” – Kay knows it.

It’s the 100th anniversary of Brian MacMahon‘s birth, somebody comments and wonders why there isn’t a special event to commemorate it.

One of the multiple interweaving mini-conversations involves spelling. There is too much emphasis on spelling Kay says. Spelling wasn’t standardized until the 1700s (?) I remark.
Mary’s second boy is 13 today – he’s playing football right now.
I learn that Mary Lavery Carrig is a descendent of Sir John Lavery whose painting of Lady Lavery was on one of the old Irish currency notes.
Pauline Frayne and Teri Murray arrive in and sit at the next table.
I spy a gorgeous painting on Jeremy’s laptop and enquire about it. Jeremy tells me he took it at the exhibition in the Lartigue – he bemoans the fact that there was nobody there, as it’s a beautiful space.
Mary reads the first poem from her new collection which she wrote for her son, into Paul’s mobile, for subsequent upload.
Mary tells me that John Sheehan wrote the piece her sons played at the launch of her book yesterday – it’s called “The Marino Waltz” – and was used in the Peat Briquette (of Bord na Mona – not Boomtown Rats – fame) advert on TV.
More than an hour has passed already and it’s time to separate. Teri Murray is kind enough to read one of her poems into my mobile phone for posting on the blog. I’ll be posting it here as soon as I can get an amr to wav or mp3 converter.

Poetry readings in John B Keane’s pub

May 29, 2009 By: jeremy Category: poems, poetry, video

Just came across these on YouTube. Whoever put them up, thanks and hope you don’t mind we’ve featured them here. If you look closely at the first one, you can make out Gabriel Byrne and John B’s son, Billy, watching intently.

The second one is hysterical!

Gabriel Byrne and John B’s Stick

May 28, 2009 By: jeremy Category: participants, photographs

So there we were, interviewing Joseph O’Neill (bear with us on the audio snippets, we’re working to get them up asap) when who should walk past but actor Gabriel Byrne – who opened the festival last night.

Gabriel Byrne with John B Keane's walking stick

In his hand he had a walking stick. But not just any stick. This one belonged to no other than Listowel deity John B Keane and had just been handed to Gabriel by John’s son, Billy.

For a second there was quiet, as everyone comprehended the enormity of this gift. Then Gabriel reminisced about evenings past spent in John B’s pub supping pints with the great man.

Gabriel Byrne in conversation with Joseph O'Neill

Notes from Sunday Miscellany at St. John’s Theatre

May 28, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events, participants, photographs, workshop

I begin to worry that I’ve left it too late when I see the long queue snake out around the old Protestant Church that is now St. John’s Theatre. I relax in the bright sunshine and have an impromptu conversation with a novelist called Ann(e) whose second name escapes me, and a nice Scottish gentleman who tells us that it’s his first time in Listowel. His wife, on the other hand, has been coming for four years and is at a workshop elsewhere in town.

Once inside the old building, I manage to get a seat near enough to the back where I feel comfortable. There is confusion with a woman two seats down keeping seats for friends who have already arrived and are seated at the far end of the row!

The audience hushes and the guitarist (Redmond O’Toole) and violinist (Elizabeth Cooney) play us in with some beautiful classical music. The guitarist is holding his instrument like a cello – only later do I notice that it has a black plastic spike just like a cello, sticking out the base to hold it steady on the floor between his knees. Beside them on stage are a box player and an accordionist, father and son we are told at the end Seamus and [didn't catch the name] Begley.

A la mujer a mi lado no le gusta que tecleo durante la música y me lo ha dicho, – que le distrae – lo que es una mentira: el ruido no es del tecleo sino de los botones de mi chaqueta que dan contra el laptop. I could have done without that as it makes me self-conscious.

Cyril Kelly begins with a journey into the imagination sparking off memories many and varied in the massed audience with an evocative visit to his primary school days at the feet of the master himself, Brian MacMahon.

Joseph O’Neill, novelist reads two of his poems. The first entitled The Eleventh Year of Marriage, wanders in and out of what is and isn’t leaving my mind’s eye cross-eyed and confused – perhaps that is the intention. The second is about golfing with his father in Ballybunion where he escaped to from the prison of Aughanish where he worked, beginning and ending with bats.

The recording of Joseph Murphy is interrupted by a hammering sound coming from outside the old walls at the back. The builders are making their presence felt. The audience bursts into laughter and is transformed for a moment into thousands of mud-flatted geese on the Shannon.

One Christine Dwyer-Hickey reads a fond piece on driving from Inchicore to Listowel with Michael Hartnett – “a virtuous man”.

John Montague recounts his argument with Ted Hughes Poet Laureate in the Listowel Arms.

Gabriel Byrne remembers going to the cinema to see his first ever picture with his grandmother.

Oh what gorgeous flights into memory these touchstones from the past, these literary giants long gone to the summer lands, bring.


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