Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

Blogging Listowel's Literary Scene


June 06, 2010 By: Laura Category: 2008, creative writing, events, historical, journalism, memoir, novels, organisers, painters & paintings, participants, photographs, poet, poetry, poets, Reflections, short story, Speaker, theatrical plays

Listowel Writers’ Week 2008 “Writing by Feale”Photos and Text by Laura Jean Zito

Seamus Heaney opened the festivities of the Listowel Writers’ Week 2008. And what a draw he is! Of course, the house was packed to the rafters and out onto the streets as he read from his latest volume, “District and Circle.” He presided over the awards, the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award going to Anne Enright for “The Gathering,” her novel about a dysfunctional family that also won the Man Booker Prize in 07. The author, TV director and producer and mother from Wicklow County took the distinction over Joseph O’Connor’s “Redemption Falls,” James Ryan’s “South of the Border,” David Park’s “The Truth Commissioner,” and Julia Kelly’s “With My Lazy Eye.”

Nuala O Faolain, who died a few weeks before on May 9,was given a wonderful tribute by her many friends in attendance. Just last year I took this pic of her here in Listowel, where she was teaching a workshop, and was judge for the MemoirPrize, set up in her honor. She awarded it to Jennifer Farrell as the inaugural recipient. I remember when we met at Barnes & Noble in Bryn Mawr a few years back now as she was signing “Are you Somebody?” She was the somebody who validated so many people’s personal experiences with her example, including my own.

The doting audience got the real prizes, the living presence of these important authors among them, just milling about the Listowel Arms, always the setting for the hub of Writers’ Week, having conversations left and right as the evening wore on. I remember the first time I came here, and Bryan McMahon stopped me in the street and said, “Never feel shy!”I promised I wouldn’t and then he hired me to fill in for a lecturer that had failed to show up!

Cliodhna Ni Anluain topped off the morning with the annual Sunday Miscellany event for which she is famous as the RTE Radio program’s producer, and editor of several of its anthologies in book form. Another one is due out in October featuring 2006-20008 excerpts from Seamus Heaney, Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, and Joseph O’Connor, mixing anecdotal tales and topical treatises with their compatriots in a potpourri of texts for readers to savour.

Readers got readings galore as the day progressed. I entered the hushed ballroom of the Arms, and was drawn to sit by an artist, sketching John Banville as he spoke about identities in a new global and technological synthesis of culture that we are all subject to of late.

I found his simple old-fashioned method of depiction refreshing. So few people draw or paint from life anymore. As a photographer I find it much more interesting than sketching from photos, where one’s viewpoint is already formed. So often I am disappointed at art galleries lately where artists just seem to be copying information from photographs rather than creating something completely different. Seems techno tools cause laziness!

Gemma Billington’s expansive Kerry landscapes display none of those downfalls. On exhibition at the St. John’s Theatre I enjoyed them with a glass of wine, and that was something I could identify with. They were amorphous, undetailed, foggy, vibrant in color, suggestions of fences and rooftops scratched into the fields of hue. Her favorite was “Through the Gap,” she said about the gap between Southand North Kerry, or the gap between one level of consciousness and a higher one. Or was that a stroke to the festival organizers and attendees? After her vernissage, Joe Murphy made the customary announcements in customary good humor, and then introduced Martin Lynch, who put on a one-man

show, “The Humours of the Troubles,” about the North, of course.

Julien Gough read next, writing from two points of view, in “The Orphan and the Mob,” a prologue to his novel “Jude: Level One.” He won the BBC Short Story Competition with this first person and third person perspective, about a guy who had two penises apparently. Having it both ways? Losing identity? Deliberately? Seems to be the theme this year. Defining identity and its importance in the larger scheme of things.

In the audience I met my flat –mate, an English teacher from Sydney, who invited me for an apple tart and a glass of Merlot at the Arms. She speaks fluent French and Italian, is 67 and has the body of a teenager, running a mile every morning. She told me she’d whispered in Julian Gough’s ear he had to take responsibility for his characters. He didn’t like that and immediately got up from the signing table, flicking the ankle length thin silver scarf over his shoulder as he departed.

Later outside, I asked for his autograph I had missed, and he signed with tongue in cheek the polaroid his father had given me as we chatted there, that he took of an orange sunset, “To Laura Jean Zito, We will always have our memories of those sweet Morocco nights…..Love, Julian” Maybe the teacher was right, but the organizers were giving out about her remarks to him. All stroking, no poking for them, I guess. The American hostess, our mutual landlady, had already gotten wind of it through her grapevine by the time I got home after midnight. The Australian said through the wine, “When going to the opera, expect the Italians to have the best parts.” She doesn’t understand why everyone wants so badly to homogenize. Why they are building a highway through the hill of Tara? Why Julien is pissing on the past, writing about orphans without identities pissing on monuments of historical figures from generations back as they make their way to traditional celebrations? It annoyed her that the young Irish girls in the audience were laughing along with him, and that she felt they didn’t know what they were laughing at.

Our landlady, on the other hand, doesn’t go to the literary events, calling them incestuous. She seems lonely and needs attention as I type. I was writing to my sweetie about everything that was going on, my only chance being after midnight since every day at Listowel is so jam-packed with events. I was trying to find another love poem to send him.

After that glass of wine earlier with the teacher from Sydney I had met Galway poetess Caroline Lynch at the Arms. Turned out she knew Elizabeth Spires,

had been her protégé of sorts, as we discovered when I sought her advice about which poem I should send my new amour for flirts. She recognized the lines of the one he sent me as Elizabeth’s “In Heaven It Is Always Autumn” in seconds, and then I revealed that my heartthrob had studied under her at Vassar. She didn’t have any love poems of her own in her repertoire that I could send off though…not yet, anyway…Off we went to her launch at the Plaza for her new book “Lost in the GaelTeacht.”

Later that evening, at St. John’s Theatre, I saw “The Faith Healer,” by Brian Friel, performed by members of AC Productions, also about point of view. Friel’s intriguing play, some say his most transcendant, is built on four monologues by three characters, the husband, Frank Hardy, his wife, Grace Hardy, and his agent, Teddy. Each monologue is a different view of the same life path. By not meeting up on stage, the characters reinforce the isolation that each human’s mental and emotional life must by definition abide, despite all effort to be connected to each other. I got curious and discovered that Ralph Fiennes had made this part his own and was said to be remarkable in it.

Here is a still from another drama I saw during the lunchtime theatre agenda at

St. John’s. Can anyone tell me which one it is? O.K. Admittedly, Listowel Writers Week is known for its late nights, where people might stay up in the lobby of the Arms till five in the morning, singing and reading aloud and playing the piano and all sorts of special performances taking place…all with great quantities of alcohol imbibed by almost all…

Points of view abounded in the Film Club’s offering of Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There,” in which Bob Dylan tells his life story through the renderings of a variety of characters, most touchingly Cate Blanchett.

Saturday David McWilliams spoke about an altogether different point of view,how important it is for Ireland to wake up and sniff out its own genetic progeny in whatever country they emigrated to and grant them Irish passports, before the offspring of Chinese immigrants get granted more rights in Ireland than someone who is actually Irish by blood. He has many important economic points to make and I will have a look at his books, “The Pope’s Children,” “Follow the Money,” and “The Generation Game,” which he obligingly signed for all those interested.

Paddy Bushe, living locally in Kerry after years in Australia, read from his recently published, “To Ring In Silence: New and Selected Poems” in which he had translated his own poems from his previous collections as well as classic Irish poems.

poems. He has won the Listowel Writers Week Poetry Prize, the Strokestown Poetry Prize and the Michael Hartnett Award, among others. He’s known for setting up poetry workshops in foreign locales for all those interested in combining their writing desires with gadding about the planet.

Weeshie Fogarty launched “The Essential Gabriel Fitzmaurice” at the Plaza.

Gabriel is known for leading historical tours about the local area. Until I have time to develop the actual film I shot of Seamus Heaney strolling about the Square with Gabriel, a Listowel native, here is the only pic I have digitally from the Healing Party at John B’s in 2007. There’s that technology, taking over again, just like John Banville said!O.K. It was after another very late night! That’s why it’s called a healing party after all! There is a lot more to expound about Writers’ Week 2008 but I will beg off until I have developed all the film. Please return again here and I will update this article with more pics and text! For more about Listowel Writers’ Week in general, please read my recap of Listowel Writers’ Week 2007 and 2009 on this blogsite,

“Writing By Feale” Copyright 2008 Laura Jean Zito All Rights Reserved For use of any photos and/or text contact

Winners read: John Banville

June 05, 2010 By: Patrick Stack Category: 2010, novels, video

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My take on Writers’ Week 2008

May 18, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: historical, participants, workshop

I thought I’d republish the report I wrote on my experience of Writers’ Week 2008 here. The original was posted on my writer’s blog on 11 June 2008. I’ve inserted it below verbatim:


I’ve been so busy since Writers’ week that I haven’t had a chance to post anything at all let alone anything on Writers’ Week 2008. Despite the late hour, I can’t hold back any longer.

I signed up for the Writing a Novel workshop with Carlo Gébler which proved to be a real treat. I found Carlo to be sharp as a needle, concise, precise and funny (in the best sense of the word) and learned an enormous amount in the intense 12 hours we had with him. It was money really well spent. Now it’s up to me to do the (enormous amount of) work necessary to write my novel.

I also got to perform some poetry during the 4 days as follows:

  1. At “Poets’ Corner” on Thursday 29 May 2008 in the Kingdom Bar MCd by the inimitable George Rowley, I had the the privilege of performing “Resurrection” to a packed and highly appreciative audience among which were Rosaleen who was in my Writing a Novel workshop, and Michelene all the way from Mayo. We were also treated to the masterly tin whistle of Barney McKenna of The Dubliners, the wonderful Freddy White, and many poets of all shapes and hues.
  2. At the “Healing Session” in J.B. Keane’s pub on Sunday 01 June. The pub is now run by Billy Keane, J.B’s son. Billy and I were in the same class in St. Michael’s College, Listowel all through our secondary school days. Billy did me the honour of a short introduction to my performance of “Full Moon over America” which I thoroughly enjoyed as there was no microphone to impede me.
  3. I couldn’t miss the Maureen Beasley Memorial poetry event on the Sunday evening in The Mermaids Bar. I knew Maureen who was a very kind person, and who intervened on my behalf the last time I was at Writers’ Week in the mid 1980s when an officious member of the Writers’ Week Committee of the female sex who shall remain nameless (she knows damn well who she is) tried to stop me from performing a couple of poems in Broderick’s Bar (there are little Hitlers everywhere). I performed “Embrace” in Maureen’s memory.

I managed to get to two readings – Pat Boran‘s, and John Banville‘s which was interesting and controversial. Pat’s reading was very moving so much so I saw several members of the packed audience in tears, and I wasn’t far off myself either. Having never read any of John Banville, I was curious to hear him read. He read from his as yet unfinished forthcoming novel contrary to the advice of his publisher as he said by way of a preface to same. I managed to keep my concentration for the entire reading which lasted about 20 minutes and was struck by the acuity and beauty of the language. There followed the usual question and answer session, which finished with a very stupid question by some Unitedstatesian woman about the importance of setting. Having replied that setting was entirely unimportant (as the story could in effect be set anywhere), John then stated that “travel narrows the mind” to gasps from the audience. Well, they were asking for it!

On a more personal note, the few days proved very significant as acquaintance was renewed with Billy Keane after all of 32 years, and with Pat Boran after around 20 years (we can’t decide exactly when was the last time we met). I spent a couple of hours in the company of John F. Deane, Pat Boran and Noel King while they plied themselves with the black stuff and I with sparkling water (I was driving). I also received news of the death of a friend from my University days – the poet Pádraig McGrane whom I hadn’t seen since the early 1980s – which proved to be a shock. I can’t get Páric out of my mind and am trying (vainly for now) to write him a worthy poem.



I finished the poem for Pádraig a few months later.

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