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RECAP OF LISTOWEL WRITERS’ WEEK 2007

June 07, 2010 By: Laura Category: 2007, creative writing, events, historical, journalism, memoir, novels, organisers, painters & paintings, participants, photographs, poem, poems, poet, poetry, poets, short story, Song, songwriting, Speaker, storytelling, theatrical plays, workshop

Hi everyone. Since I couldn’t get to Listowel this year I decided to spend the time organizing articles I had written or started to write about previous years, and present them to you here as recaps, in that we are all getting older and prone to forgetting…I look forward to any and all accounts of whatever I missd this year…I am sure it was great as always….Thanks to our blogmasters Patrick Stack and Paul O’Mahoney for making this possible…

Listowel “Master” Pieces June, 2007

Text and Photos by Laura Jean Zito laurajeanzito@gmail.com

John B. Keane, Ireland’s leading playwright, looking over my portfolio, remarked, ”Photograph the farmers in Connemara. They’re a dyin’ breed.” As Ireland changes rapidly with the spread of EU money, and developments crop up everywhere, the farming population does seem endangered. The characters that abounded arefewer and farther between, pubs abandon that homey, homely look for the spiffed up, sanitary look of the new millenium. All the more valuable then, the words caught by John B. and transcribed to immortality in his twenty-seven plays and numerous prose works. And all the more endearing the John B. Keane Pub in his hometown Listowel, his original typewriter adorning the windowsill, a bunch of books toppled over on shelf above, and the framed photos, posters and other mementoes of his life strewn about the walls in loving haphazardness.Listowel’s mayor Anthony Curtin declared emphatically, ”He put us on the map,” as the statue of John B. was unveiled June 2nd, cast in bronze by sculptors Seamus and James Connolly, of Kilbaha, who had done the Richard Harris sculpture in Kilkee.

“The best debt of gratitude you can give an actor is a job, and boy did he give us jobs!” mused Niall Toibin, famous comedian and John B.’s favorite Bull McCabe.

“Several generations of thespians owe an enormous debt of gratitude to John B.”
Politician Jimmy Deenihan lauded his old friend, then John B.’s daughter and Chairperson of Listowel Writers Week Joanna Keane O’ Flynn declared, “Here John B. has a bird’s eye view of his town, thanks to the idiosyncrasies of our one-way system.” John B. loved the human touch and his hometown Listowel. This heritage town in County Kerry cleverly encourages pedestrian traffic by making motoring inconvenient. From the Small Square, John B. heads toward St. John’s Theatre, the centerpiece of a large mainmarket square bordered on one side by the town’s only hotel, the Listowel Arms. He strolls down the street with his hand outstretched, this day greeting all the town, local and national public dignitaries, literary celebs from far and wide, wife Mary and son Billy who run his famous literary pub, two other sons, Conor and John, cousins, grand-children and other family members, inspiring one and all to

reach out and touch him back.

John B. initiated Listowel Writers Week 37 years ago with Bryan MacMahon, Tim Daneher, Nora Relihan, and others. Bryan MacMahon, writer of an award-winning novel, “The Master,” and locally known as the “Master,” a position in reality he shared with John B., wrote plays centered more on society’s intellectual dialogues, while John B. chose to preserve the organic tones of the working classes. ”The Street,” a collection of John B.’s poems by Mercier Press, was launched at Listowel Writers Week in 2003, on the first anniversary of his death, and dozens of other books have launched during the festival, including Billy Keane’s “The Last Of the Heroes.”

Joseph O’Connor opened Writers Week this year with an Awards party at which he

announced Roddy Doyle as the winner of the hefty 10,000 Euro Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award for “Paula Spencer.” Joe, author of the popular ”The Secret World of the Irish Male,” ”The Irish Male at Home and Abroad,” and “Sweet Liberty: Travels in Irish America,” is back from a residency at the New York Public Library. Thursday morning, the five short-listed novelists gave readings, and he read from his new novel, ”Redemption Falls.”

“Lunchtime Theatre,” another Listowel tradition, offered “Bookworms,” a unique take on word-play by the Beehive Theatre. Characters dressed as worms gave a captivating performance showing just how playful words can be.

Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate since 1999, who, calling himself ”town-crier, can-opener and flag-waver for poetry,” co-founded the Poetry Archive, was followed by Gerard Donovan.

Presently a New Yorker, Gerard won the Kerry Group prize in 2004 with

“Schopenhauer’s Telescope” and his latest novel, “Julius Winsome,” made this year’s short-list.

Next up William Palmer, winner of the 2006 Collections Prize, launched a published version of the poems,”The Island Rescue.”

Colm Toibin, president of Writer’s Week and 2005 winner of the IMPAC Dublin

Literary Award for his novel,”The Master,” read from his latest, about a mother’s response to her paedophilic priest son. All this in just the first afternoon!

Thursday evening began with an Amnesty International Event. Gerard Stembridge, co-writer with Dermot Morgan of “RTE’s “Scrap Saturday,” defined the relationship of the artist to Amnesty International. Fergal Keane, BAFTA recipient, “Reporter of the Year”, Independent columnist and author of the ‘95 Orwell prize-winner “Season of Blood,” is known for no-holds-barred, emotionally charged reporting from Northern Ireland to Rwanda. The slate was completed by Zlata Filipovic, whose ”Stolen Voices, Young People’s War Diaries From World War I to Iraq,” travelling across the globe at the speed of translation, is an outcome of her own 1993 bestselling teenage diary of war-torn Sarajevo. John McAuliffe, a native Listowellian who directs “Poetry Now” at Dun Laoghaire and the Creative Writing Program at the University of Manchester, launched “Next Door,” his second collection, at the Plaza, the original theatre in town.

Anyone who has seen the latest movie reviews here and abroad can hardly have failed to notice the clean sweep of interest by “Once,” a small-budget film by ex-Frames bass-player John Carney that won the Audience Award at Sundance and

boosted musician and Frames-bandleader-turned actor Glen Hansard into an overnight Boy Wonder. Much later that night he was sitting on the floor of the Listowel Arms Hotel, surrounded by a bevy of young international friends that were enrolled in his songwriting workshop. Writers Week was started to hold workshops giving newbies a chance to interact with already successful writers. Monika, an Eastern European long-time associate of Glen’s, exclaimed, “Though he’s long been one of Ireland’s most popular rock-stars, he’s as down-to earth as can be!”

Looming symbolically behind him was the beautiful skylight of the Listowel Arms Hotel, always the setting for the Festival, most especially late at night for drinking bouts without no end in sight where one can really get down to the nitty-gritty with

literati around the bar. That’s where I was later that night after the Paddy McCabe “cabaret” ”Radio Butty,” in which Paddy as performer mercilessly poked fun at everyone who refuses to poke it at themselves. This show, loosely based on radio shows of the fifties, had little acts, like Peter Trant doing a ”Guy Noir” ala

Garrison Keeler, and a “Bruce Lee is My Best Friend”riff, parodying the one we all know whose claim to fame is being convinced they know someone famous. Niall Toner and friend Joe made ridiculously frenzied rock ‘n roll expressions while strumming their guitars to famous 50’s songs and singing at super low volume for hilarious effect. Paddy’s brilliance was especially brought to light by his ownmagnanimous way of reading from his works, such as “Breakfast on Pluto,” and “Butcher Boy,” to a backdrop projection of Peter Trant’s newly photoshopped slides of olde Ireland, and set off with an array of technological gadgetry and a statue of John Wayne with an oversized head. Back at the Arms, Marie Shanahan, from Best of Irish, taking Gerry Stembridge’s workshop in sitcom writing, decided that Peter Trant looked exactly like George Clooney as he bought us drinks, especially when he laughed, so we proceeded to amuse him as much as we could. A young admirer to our left broke out his guitar to serenade Marie, who though

Irish, hails from Nice. She detailed an extensive international itinerary of her diurnal routine marketing fish to gourmet restaurants. As her sit-com will be about fishmongering, I proferred up, “A Plaice in the Sun,” but maybe they didn’t see the Montgomery Clift/ Elizabeth Taylor version of “An American Tragedy.” Marie threw out “I’m Your Sole Mate,” and Sean baited us with ”Cod in the Middle.” Fits of laughter ensued when I hatched ”Deep Trout.”

By 2:30, Cliodhna Ni Anluain at our table needed a lift to her B&B. She had been up early that morning, making a taping of live Listowel readers for the “Sunday Miscellany” broadcast of RTE Radio1, an annual Writers Week event and much coveted possibility to hear oneself on the radio. “What a marvelous time I had here in Listowel!” she said as we agreed how very Joycian the whole experience was, what with musical interludes tucked into every nuance. Indeed, the following night the performance at St. John’s was just that, an elucidation of the songs to which Joyce referred in “Ullyses,” “Finnegans Wake,” “Dubliners,” “A Portrait of the Artist” and “Chamber Music.” Joyce was a highly accomplished singer and pianist, like his father, and made as much reference to songs of his day as to literature in his works. (Pictures coming)

Friday morning, for lunchtime theatre, American Martha Furey had not only done

all the staging, costuming and props for her wonderful memoir of Isadora Duncan, which she performed so exquisitely, but she had also written the piece. Quel imagination! She has a series of one-person plays she performs and wrote, Georgia O’Keefe, Emily Dickinson, several more. You feel you are in the same room with Isadora as she looks over the substance of her life. Martha lives now in Cork, but is ready to travel with her one-woman shows anywhere on the planet.

Her brilliant performance compensated the disappointment of missing the much-hailed poet Roger McGough, who helped write the Beatles “Yellow Submarine.” Roger’s entertaining style was still the talk on Sunday.

This year, the abundance of performances overlapping in time, so that one cannot see it all, makes me think, ”The poor chaps taking workshops, they are missing everything!” Perhaps the workshops should be held the week previous, though they are always sold out well in advance. I also had to pass on History-Brought-To-Life with Alice Hogge and Alison Weir to get to veteran Listowel art exhibitor Maria Simonds-Gooding’s show of landscapes of Dingle at the Seanchai Literary

and Cultural Center, writers’ museum extraordinaire. We discovered our mutual interest in the Sinai Desert. She sold a piece of hers to the Metropolitan Museum through a curious story. She had done an etching at the Santa Katerina Monastery, given it to the monks, where it was seen and admired by chance by the Met’s curator passing-through! I convinced several of her lovely friends, such asBrigitte Downey,(”Diaries of a Cultured Cat,”) into hurrying along to the Esther Perel presentation of her new book, ”Mating in Captivity- Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic.” They said they knew how already, been-there-done-that, but upon the suggestion that people-watching-who-else-might-be-attending might be the real draw, they readily agreed and off we sauntered to the packed hotel ballroom. Esther had her audience in rapt attention.

Hailing from her New York family therapist practice, she said, “This is my first time in Ireland, and I never realized the interest here would be so high!” When Writers Week first began, she would never have gotten a platform with her subject matter, which I might sum up as “The only good sex is bad sex.” Judging by audience reaction, times have certainly changed! I can still remember when my brother got slapped for mentioning the word birth-control in a pub to a girl in Roscommon.

Positively gleaming in a silky linen pale pink suit that complemented her thick naturally blonde hair, the intrepid Madeleine O’Sullivan, original chairperson and now a permanent director of the Festival, launched at the Boys’ School the memoir of George Rowley, also one of the founding organizers. She put together, with

teacher Margaret Broderick, a splendid exhibition of articles, arranged year by year for all 37 years of the festival. ”We stayed up every night for three weeks straight to find all the most interesting stories!” laughed Madeleine. Madeleine was one of the first people to have the foresight to see that the Listowel Writers Week would take on an international persona, quoted in 1984 saying, “Now is the time to move beyond the native, towards the creation of an international festival of literature in all the languages, a celebration of the living word in all its forms, a polyglot panorama of international imagination.”

After the evening Joyce event, back at the Arms, some people invited me to their table to sing-along to Beatles songs with their friend on guitar. Paul McNeive turned out to be a great second choice to Glen Hansard, whose late-night Frames concert that night at St. John’s sold out two months previously. Paul made it to the top ten in an English American Idol with his band, the Savills. (www.partynearthepark.co.uk) Clio whispered that he was actually a real-estate mogul from Dublin who had helicoptered them all there, although in his jeans and wailing Oasis tunes, he seemed more like his look-alike, Bono.

On Saturday Neil Beasley, an artist and musician (www.myspace.com/zeppoed) and grandson to Maureen Beasley, the well-known poet and organizer of WritersWeek since its inception, accompanied me to the unveiling of the new statue of John B. Keane in the Small Square. Joanna Keane O’Flynn spoke about her father’senduring legacy and thanked everyone for taking the time to honor him, quipping “Time is the new money.” When Neil Toibin went to lift the velvet cloth, the crowd

pressed forward, swarming instantly within inches of the statue, as if a giant magnet were pulling them in closer to hear his story. Snaps were taken in the general mayhem, and John B. himself would have loved the sheer havoc of it all, the lack of pomp and circumstance that would have put a rigid artificiality on to the celebration. Children especially abounded, playing accordians and fending off impending rain with bright smiles.

After the unveiling, we chilled out at St. John’s to the comedy of Nualas founder

Anne Gildea. (I think that’s her on the left, in front of the Listowel Arms having a chat with Seamus Hosey from RTE). Anne, cited by the NY Times as “wackily original,” was ridiculously funny in a most bawdy sort of way. She thoroughly shocked an eighty-year old woman in the front row by grabbing her crotch in mockery of American rappers who do the same on stage. ”What is that all about?” she cried out. ”Maybe I should do it more like this?” as she began stroking herself. Most of the audience burst into laughter.

On a more serious note, Melvyn Bragg, author with Norman Jewison of the screenplay, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and President of the National Campaign for the Arts, went over the content of his latest book, ”Twelve Books That Changed the World,” to an SRO audience soaking up his wisdom.

Then, two first novel launches, Liam Browne, program director of the Dublin Writers’ Festival, with ”The Emigrant’s Farewell” and Mia Gallagher, a short-story writer and stage performer, with ”Hellfire.”

Two readings followed, by Irvine Welsh, famous for “Trainspotting” and a Monday column in the Daily Telegraph, and by Alain de Botton, author of “The Art of Travel,” ”How Proust Can Change Your Life,” ”Status Anxiety,” ”Essays in Love,” ”The Architecture of Happiness,” and presenter of a TV series to go with his “Consolations of Philosophy.”

Psychology was the theme of the evening’s show, Paddy McCabe’s“Frank Pig Says Hello,” with its portrayal of the macabre demise of a disturbed Irish youth of the 60’s into a pit of violence and insanity. Abstractly weaving life’s phases, two actors assumed multiple roles in a difficult, fantastic work of art.

Back at the hotel the storytelling competition, dedicated to Eamon Kelly, was wrapping up with announcements of winners. I met Neil’s cousin, named Kevin Barry, after the famous rebel song, at a songfest out back with the friends of Glen Hansard. He offered to lend me an extra memory card for my camera for Sunday’s events. On the way out, 3:00 AM again, George Rowley called out across the asphalt, “Be sure to be at the “Healing Party” tomorrow at John B.’s at noon!”

Marie had insisted I see the Sunday lunchtime theatre “Allergic to Beckett” “Because,” she said, “it’s absolutely crying laughing funny.” Hopefully some other time, some other place. John B’s at noon was definitely the right time and the rightplace. Despite the packed bar, I found a high window ledge with room to move to get a few photos. Marie found her way there too after the play. One famouscrooner or bard after another got up to sing or recite in a steady stream, with Billy playing Maitre D’. Surely the super verve that the statue unveiling had brought to town had affected this gathering with enthusiasm that exuded from every ear and throat. Old farmers whipped up witty anecdotes, young girls sung sweet ballads,

crumpled poems were grabbed out of pockets and emoted with extra emphasis and melodies streamed out of tin pipes in a potpourri of relaxed bon vivance which everyone was welcome to share. I looked around with thirsty eyes at the chaotic scene. How much faith the people had in each other to proscribe a dogmatic approach that would only serve to suppress this natural creative juice!

Speaking of juice, I ran quickly out on my cards so skipped out to the Arms to fetch the extra card Kevin Barry promised to loan me. Sure enough, the concierge had it! Only in Listowel, where the artistic urge is a given is the need so well-understood! I stopped in for a moment at the Seanchai Center to get a pic of Giles Foden reading from his novel, “The Last King of Scotland.” By his narrative, the Oscar-winning filmscript followed closely his novel’s text.

At St. John’s, the tribute to Poetry Ireland head Michael Hartnett, to whom this

year’s festival was dedicated, had a reading by Katie Donovan, editor of “Ireland’s Women,Writings Past and Present,” but the lure of John B.’s drew me back there. On my way up the street, I ran in to John from Templeglantine and told him about the “Healing Party.” He was thrilled to find out, exclaiming later, “It was one of the best afternoons of my life!”

Eventually everyone ended up in the pub’s back garden in the orangy afternoon

with four virtuosos fiddlin’ up a storm. One had spilled something on his shirt, taken it off and hung it to dry on a clothesline right through the middle of the crowd. The sun shone through it light blue like an extra cloud in the sky wafting just over the headline of the players and audience. Like a surreal dancer in the sky.

I jumped next door for a moment to the Mermaid, to the Poetry Corner Open Mic, because I promised Dan Griffin to hear his recitation of a poem he wrote at John B.’s funeral about hands. About how nothing is being made by hand anymore. About the blacksmith’s hand and the letter-writer’s hand. And the poker player’s hand and the surgeon’s hand. But that the best hand was the hand that stretched out to greet you.

John Sexton was reading “The Green Owl,” for which Katie Donovan awarded him as winner of the Poetry Competition 700 Euros and a slim volume to be published and launched at next year’s Festival!

Now for the grand finale event, John B. Keane’s “Big Maggie” at St. John’s. Years ago at the Abbey Theatre, Brenda Fricker, (Christy Brown’s mother in the film, “My Left Foot,”) gave a more sympathetic interpretation. Susan Cummins, a Shakespearean actress from Cork, noted for performing Keane’s women, portrayed Big Maggie more like a psychopathic control-freak than an overbearing mother. How times have changed!

After the play I returned to John B.’s for one more pint of Guinness to finish off the festival. I found George Rowley in there talking up a storm with Denis Costello, a music critic and classical guitarist who had toured with Nora Relihan, due to arrive in NYC to pick up an award of his own from the New York Film Festival for his Arts and Entertainment show on RTE radio. We kept it up till they kicked us out, then headed over to the Arms to have “a cup of coffee.” The concierge bought that and let us in, even though it was way after hours. The “craic” was fantastic once again and we were up till the wee hours with the other stragglers having too much fun to go home. One thing was clear to me, the writers of Listowel are sure not “a dyin’ breed”.

“Listowel Master Pieces” Copyright 2007 Laura Jean Zito All Rights Reserved For use of any photos and/or text contact laurajeanzito@gmail.com

Audio Recordings from Listowel Kerry 2010

June 05, 2010 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: 2010, audio podcast

Paul O’Mahony (omaniblog) has recorded six short pieces of audio. They offer a flavour of Listowel Writers’ Week 2010

They are each AudioBoos (max 5 mins):

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


Joseph O’Connor gets ready for Listowel 2010

May 24, 2010 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: 2010

An article in yesterday’s Sunday Independent newspaper tells the story of Joseph O’Connor’s connections with Listowel Writers’ Week.

“… Joseph O’Connor‘s new novel ‘Ghost Light’ goes on sale next weekend. He will be signing copies at Eason’s, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1, at 12.30pm on Saturday, May 29. He will also give a reading at Listowel Writers’ Week on June 4.”

Is Joseph on Twitter? I must check…

I find his website or blog but, oh dear, that’s a different Joseph O’Connor – an NLP guy. Must have a more careful look…
This is what Google gives me first for Joseph O’Connor – but it’s not up to date…
This is what Wikipedia offers – but it’s not up to date either
This is what RTE offers – bang up to date podcast.

I don’t think Joseph O’Connor is on Twitter – so I can’t contact him and ask him if he’d be generous enough to write a few words for this blog… Pity. But I’ll not miss him in Listowel.

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

LWW Takes a Great Leap Forward for 2010

January 20, 2010 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: 2010, blogs, connections, events, historical, organisers, preparations, Reflections, starting up

Today Listowel Writers’ Week joined the new world. The Festival published its revamped website, which looks great.

But it had a good website last year.

The great leap forward is the simultaneous launch of its Facebook page and Twitter identity. This change is significant. It’s just in time for the 40th anniversary of LWW Literary Festival. I’ve immediately sent a request to be admitted as a Facebook Friend.

In my opinion, it would have been better if the Festival set up its Facebook presence differently – made it possible to become a “Facebook Fan” of Writers’ Week. But the big step it to get out where the public is.

The Festival is in Listowel for a few days every year, but there is a whole world of people who can’t make it to Listowel. There are so many who would be interested to know what’s going on. This Facebook presence give everyone a chance of linking up with the spirit of Listowel Writers’ Week. John B Keane and Bryan McMahon would have approved. They always wanted the Festival to break the boundaries of the parochial.

The Twitter move is dramatic.
Once you go on Twitter, you have to engage. People follow you, and you can’t afford to ignore them – it damages your reputation if you offer nothing to your followers. You have to tweet. People can see how serious you are about sharing, linking, engaging… Twitter is a medium which exposes a lot of your soul.
As soon as I got alerted to @writersweek on Twitter, I followed. I urge you all to do the same. Nothing will do more to raise the profile of LWW, all round the world, than a really good presence on Twitter.

It’s still not clear to me what this blog’s plan for LWW2010 is to be.
We are completely independent of the Festival Committee. We love the Festival. We’d love the Committee to love us, but we have no right to expect it. During 2009 Festival, the organising committee were civil to us. But if they liked anything we did, they didn’t let us know.

I have huge emotional attachment to Listowel Writers’ Week Festival.
It would be wonderful to continue to blog it again. I am completely convinced that all Festivals that are any good should be blogged. It’s all about making the hard work of organising the Festival visible to the audience of the future. All valuable Festivals deserve to be out there, reaching round the globe.

We’ve heard a lot about the Irish Diaspora, what about the Listowel Writers’ Week Diaspora?

This is surely a day for celebration. May the Fesitival of the Future be a credit to the joyful spirit of its founders…

John B Keane by Mattie Lennon

July 15, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, historical, photographs, poem, storytelling

John B. Keane By Mattie Lennon (August 2007)

“He’ll be elected all right if he gets the Jewish vote in Lyreacrompane”.

One of the many memorable quotes of the late John B.

John B. Keane was born in Listowel on Saturday 28th July 1928. He was fourth in a family of five boys and four girls. Those who knew him in later life were surprised to learn that he didn’t speak until he was three.

As a child, living in the town, he had a great love of the countryside. In “Self-Portrait ” he says, “Always as a small boy I had a longing to go to the mountains, particularly on sunny mornings when the air was fragrant and the skies were blue”.

Towards the end of his life I interviewed him for my radio programme, “The Story and The Song”.

He told me about how he was dispatched “on the Creamery lorry” to his relatives in the Stacks Mountains during the summer holidays.

” . . . I was dropped off at the Ivy Bridge which for me was to turn out a magic bridge, because the minute I crossed over that bridge I became a new man. I began to know something about country people. And they had a beautiful language, all of their own; half Irish, half English . . . and when that was fused with the language of Elizabeth . . . it became a beautiful language altogether, with great range. You’d never be stuck for a phrase or a word. It’s such a beautiful language. I was never as happy as when I was up there. If I hadn’t crossed the Ivy Bridge on that day long ago . . . I wouldn’t have been a writer”.

He met and observed some very interesting characters in the Stacks. He told a story about a German named Karl Gutthind who acted as technical advisor to Bord na Mona and,

“When the second World War came he left for Germany. The Russians, I’m sure, must have been surprised at his Lyreacrompane accent and wondered what strange business a Stacksmountainman might have in Stalingrad. He gave me a small flashlight which I swapped a week later for ten Woodbines . . . “

Writing was to become his life. One early experience would probably have turned a lesser person against the pen. During an elocution class in school each pupil was asked to recite a poem. John B. recited “Church Street” which was his own composition. When asked who wrote it he replied,

I did Father“. ” . . . there followed the worst beating of all and ejection from the class”.

During school holidays he worked at many jobs from fowl-buying to toiling on a farm in Wicklow.

He wrote a one-act play, “The Ghost of Patrick Drury” which was performed on the top floor of the Carnegie Library, Church Street, Listowel.

After leaving school he worked as a Chemist’s Assistant in his native town for five years. When he said that he wanted to be a writer and that he was going to England his boss pointed out a fact that John B. was to fully agree with later in life, ” It’s as easy to write here as there”.

It was about this time that, with Stan Kennedy, he started a local Newspaper, The Listowel Leader. The first edition sold 960 copies. There was no second edition simply because the Editorial, in the first edition, told the truth about some local Councillors.

Prior to the 1951 General Election he set up a fictitious political party, the Independent Coulogeous Party, complete with a fictitious candidate, Tom Doodle, who appeared in Listowel.

(It’s a long story but if enough readers petition the Editor I may be permitted to tell it in a future edition)

During Writers’ week 2007 a life-size statue of John B. was unveiled in the small Square, Listowel by his friend Niall Toibin. (John B’s son, Billy, told me, with true Keane solemnity, that “the statue moves at night”

And this year a limestone monument by Kerry Sculptor, Padraig Tarrant was unveiled in the European Garden by Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker.

(left)Billy Keane with father’s statute

The following is by no means a comprehensive list of his works but it gives an idea of his prolific output:

Sive (first staged 1959)

Sharon’s Grave (1960)

The Highest House on the Mountain (1961)

No More in Dust (1961)

Many Young Men of Twenty (1961)

Hut 42 (1962)

The Man from Clare (1962)

Seven Irish Plays (1967)

The Year of the Hiker

The Field (adapted later as a film of the same name starring actor Richard Harris)

Big Maggie

Moll

The Crazy Wall

The Buds of Ballybunion

The Chastitute

Faoiseamh

The Matchmaker

Novels

The Bodhran Makers

Durango

The Contractors

A High Meadow

Letters of a successful T.D

Essays

Love Bites

Owl Sandwiches

I was always fond of quoting from his works and once when I was spouting a piece from “The Chastitute” the motley gathering listening to me shooting my mouth off thought I was making a boastful autobiographical utterance. The line in question was, ” I was seduced by a sixty-two year old deserted wife when I was fifteen. After that auspicious beginning I never looked back”.

While he could be hot-headed in matters such as Gaelic football, in the area of understanding the shortcomings of others and forgiveness he was out on his own. Didn’t one of his Characters in “The Bodhran Makers” point out that no man should be penalised because he had an industrious penis? He laughed heartily when a person, who hadn’t seen “Sive” condemned it on the grounds that, “‘Tis all about bastards isn’t it?”

During Writer’s Week 2002 I walked behind the coffin of this, the humblest of men, who only wanted to be remembered as..” . . the player who scored the winning point in the North Kerry Intermediate Football Final against Duagh in 1951“.

I was moved to take up my pen and make a feeble effort to commemorate him:

JOHN. B.

By Mattie Lennon.

Chorus

Before you went you told us not to cry.

On that sad night.

“Let the show go on” you said and then “goodbye”.

We shouldn’t question why you had to die

Before you went you told us not to cry

As Writer’s Week had opened,

For it’s thirty-second year,

Where poet and peasant mingle

To absorb Listowel’s good cheer.

A cloud crossed hill and valley

From Carnsore to Malin Head,

As news went ’round our island

“The great John. B. is dead”

Chorus.

He who walked with King and beggar

Will lift his pen no more,

To bring out the hidden Ireland

Like no one did before.

He banished inhibitions

To put insight in their stead.

The world stage is brighter

But The “Kingdom’s King” is dead.

The dialogue of two Bococs

Is known in every town.

Now the Ivy Bridge links Broadway

To the hills of Renagown.

While men of twenty emigrate

And Sharon’s Grave is read,

Or a Chastitute ‘s forlorn

His memory won’t be dead.

Chorus.

They stepped out from the pages

Of The Man From Clare and Sive

To walk behind his coffin

Each character alive.

His Soul, with One-Way Ticket

To The Highest House has sped,

And this world has lost a genius;

The great John. B. is dead.

Chorus.

Copyright Mattie Lennon 2002

(Put to music by John Hoban.)

Kerry County Library on line…

June 08, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections

It was about 0035, in J B Keane’s pub on the Thursday morning, when I met Patti Ann O’Leary.

She told me about www.kerrycolib.ie, said it was full of local history. So I looked…

It’s a treasure trove, and who works there?

None other than Michael Lynch, chairman of Writers’ Week.

Wheels within wheels…

Poem composed & performed in J B Keane’s pub

June 08, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: creative writing, poem

For once I have the chosen seat,
the stool beside the bar.
I see the wake, the bodhrán drum,
the Sacred Heart, the flame on fire.
In John B Keane’s I trawl the room
for writers on the prowl.
I see them with their lips aloud,
and close both eyes, to hear
a symphony of singing voice,
a choir of accents down from hills.
They thrill the light in Listowel night,
evangelise the whole.
Another Guinness for my thirst,
another witness be not cursed.

J B Keane meets Mattie Keane on Grafton Street, Dublin

June 06, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections

One of the great results of publishing this blog is that it’s given a platform on which people can share stories, inspired by the experience of Listowel Writers’ Week. We are delighted to have received this one by email from Mattie Lennon.

Mattie Lennon By Mattie Lennon.

Les bons pauvres ne savent pas que leur office est d’exercer Notre gererosite.
The poor don’t know that their function in life is to exercise our generosity. (Jean-Paul Sarte)

The first time I met the late John B.Keane was in Grafton Street, in Dublin. He was being ushered Brown-Thomas-ward by his spouse. And cooperating fully: unusual for a husband. I accosted him to say thanks for his prompt reply when I had written to him shortly before requesting information for an article I was writing….

We were about thirty seconds into the conversation when an adult male with a lacerated face, and looking very much the worse for wear, approached me. The polystyrene cup in his outstretched hand proclaimed that he would not be offended by a donation.

I contributed 20p (I think). Ireland’s best-known playwright turned his back, (I’m sure he picked up the gesture in the Stacks Mountains as a young fellow) extracted a substantial amount and gave to the needy.

I then thought that a man, who had written about everything from cornerboys to the aphrodisiac properties of goat’s milk, could enlighten me on an enigma, which I had been pondering for decades.

You see, dear reader, if I were talking to you on a public thoroughfare anywhere in the world, and a beggar was in the vicinity, he would ignore you, as if he was a politician, and you were a voter after an election. But he would home in on me. I don’t know why. Maybe, contrary to popular opinion, I have a kind face. Come to think of it, that’s not the reason. Because I have, on many occasions, been approached from the rear.

Many a time in a foreign city my wife thought I was being mugged. When, in fact, it was just a local with broken, or no, English who had decided to ask Mattie Lennon for a small amount of whatever the prevailing currency was. Maybe those people have knowledge of Phrenology and the shape of my weather-beaten head, even when viewed from behind, reveals the fact that I am a soft touch.

However, a foreman gave a more practical explanation to the boss, on a building site where I was employed many years ago. The site was contiguous to a leafy street in what is now fashionable Dublin 4. Those from the less affluent section of society used to ferret me out there. Pointing a toil-worn, gnarled, forefinger at me, the straight-talking foreman, Matt Fagen, explained the situation to the builder, Peter Ewing, a mild mannered, pipe-smoking, kindly Scot:

“Every tinker an’ tramp in Dublin is coming to this house, an’ all because o’ dat hoor……because dat hoor is here…an’ they know he’s one o’ themselves”.

I was relating this to John B. adding, ” I seem to attract them”.
To which he promptly replied;” (calling on the founder of his religion). You do”.
The reason for his rapid expression of agreement was standing at my elbow in the person of yet another of our marginalized brethren with outstretched hand.
So, the best-known Kerryman since Kitchener left me none the wiser as to why complete strangers mistake me for Saint Francis of Assisi.

And salutations such as “hello” or “Good morning” are replaced by “How are ye fixed?”, “Are you carrying” and, in the old days, “Have you a pound you wouldn’t be usin’ “?

I do not begrudge the odd contribution to the less well off and I am not complaining that I am often singled out as if I was the only alms-giver. Come to think of it, it is, I suppose, a kind of a compliment.

Sometimes I say ; “I was just going to ask you”, but I always give something and I don’t agree with Jack Nicholson who says; ” The only way to avoid people who come up to you wanting stuff all the time is to ask first. It freaks them out”. Those unfortunate people are bad enough without freaking them out.

Of course there are times when it is permissible not to meet each request with a contribution. I recall an occasion in the distant, pre-decimal days when a man who believed that, at all times, even the most meager of funds should be shared, approached my late father for five pounds. When asked ; ” Would fifty shillings be any use to you?” he conceded that yes, half a loaf would be better than no bread. Lennon Senior replied; “Right. The next fiver I find I’ll give you half of it”.

Of course, none of us know the day or the hour we’ll be reduced to begging. In the meantime, I often thought of begging as an experiment. But I wouldn’t have what it takes. Not even the most high powered advertising by Building Societies and other financial establishments can restore my confidence, to ask for money in any shape or form, which was irreparably damaged when I asked a Blessington shopkeeper for a loan of a pound nearly forty years ago.

He said: “I’d give you anything son….but its agin the rule o’ the house“. I wonder was he a pessimist. It has been said that you should always borrow from a pessimist; he doesn’t expect it back.

Well recently I was in a restaurant when a work colleague texted me asking to borrow a small amount of money……he was seated two tables away.

As JFK said in his inaugural speech: ” If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich“.

I don’t know about the rich but I have learned one thing about the poor; BEGGARS CAN BE CHOOSERS.


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