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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


George Kimball mentions Listowel Writers’ Week in an obituary

August 06, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, historical, journalism, participants

‘.. .This summer I was invited to read at a literary festival, the Listowel Writers Week in Ireland. Another of the invitees was the novelist and director Rebecca Miller, who in addition to being Daniel Day-Lewis’ wife is also Arthur Miller’s daughter. One morning at our hotel there I read her the offending passage from Meyers’ book.

“That’s absurd,” she said. “I’m sure my father never believed that. A View from the Bridge and On the Waterfront were always going to be two separate plays. One had nothing to do with the other.”

I know I told Benn about that conversation when I returned from Europe. But now it occurs to be that I never got a chance to tell Budd, who would have, I suspect, found it comforting…’

Read the whole piece here, in “The Sweet Science“. This is the first time I’ve read George Kimball in the flesh, his latest column.

I must say he’s every bit a wonderful writer as he is a person. Brings back memories of having breakfast with him @LWW2009…

Tony Guerin launched this book

June 04, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: creative writing, events, novels, organisers, photographs, storytelling

Tony Guerins novel

Tony Guerin's novel

At 1330 on Saturday 30 May, straight after Rebecca Miller read from her new novel, Tony Guerin‘s novel was launched by Billy Keane.

Billy Keane looked so relaxed, sounded so fluent, that he seemed a different man from the one who’d been in the ring with George Kimball.

Billy was speaking to his people, in his way, about his kind of book.

I’d watched a long line of people queue to have their “Tomorrow is another day” signed by Tony Guerin, including…

Bryan McMahon’s son read from Tony’s book. So did a young woman who said “my father died before J B Keane“. She may have been Bryan McMahon’s daughter. (I couldn’t catch her name

She described Tony Guerin as having “a massive heart” for the generosity he’s shown her father.

Rebecca Miller reads from her novel

May 30, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events, novels

The large, though not yet packed out, crowd is buzzing in anticipation of Rebecca Miller‘s arrival. For the first time this festival, both Paul O’Mahony and I are at the same event. This is entirely unplanned – but will afford two different impressions of the same happening which is both useful and interesting, adding a contrast in impressions to the contrast in styles already evident from our posts as it were.
The two older ladies seated to my left – I’ve strategically positioned myself on the outside seat near some wall sockets – are deep in conversation. A few minutes ago one of them asked what I was doing and wanted to know what a blog was and how to access it. She told me she wrote her first page of memoir at the 1970 Writers’ Week festival (the year I started first year at St. Michael’s College), and talked of her admiration for Archbishop Simms. I nodded sagely in an endeavour to hide my stygian ignorance of who Archbishop Simms was, the name ringing some very faint bells at the disant edge of memory in my head.
It’s now 10 past and something appears to be happening at last – Miss Miller (for I presume it is she) and a member of the committee – a large woman in a white dress and whiter hair whose face I know but whose name escapes me – have taken their seats at the top table. The podium remains, as yet – should I say “unmanned” (seems a trifle sexist in the circumstances) or “unpersonned” (sounds wrong somehow)?

Miss Miller begins her talk on her book “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee“.
Marigold Village has everything from sex therapist to herbalist (she drops the h) to tennis courts. Having never read any of Miss Miller’s work, my initial impressions are of a fast-paced style reminiscent of what? Perhaps of film narrative.

Listen to extract 1

She explains that as the book progresses Pippa gradually becomes overwhelmed by her past. She then reads a section from the middle of the book.

Extract 2 from Rebecca Miller’s reading

Extract 3 of Rebecca Miller’s reading

The reading goes on for some time – my mind wanders a little, despite the pleasant tone of her soft American accent. I look up to my right to see the large screen displaying a close-up of Ms Miller as she reads. My eye is drawn inexorably toward her gorgeous cleavage… She is a stunningly attractive woman, tall, svelte, cultured, natural.

There is time for 4 or 5 questions from the audience at the end of the reading as follows:

Question 1

Question 2

Questions 3 and 4

Question 5

And then the queue for the book-signing. I purchase two – one for my wife Ana, and the other for myself. When it comes my turn, I tell Ms Miller truthfully that I’ve been “converted”, having never read any of her work – I realise later that this is her first novel! I ask her to write “For Patrick Stack” on the second book. Patrick? she queries. I spell Patrick. She writes it. I repeat “Stack” – do I detect a hesitation (or is it my over-active and increasingly fevered imagination at work?)? I spell S-T-A-C-K. She writes it and finishes the dedication. Meanwhile the large woman in the white dress has come in through the open door and taken the seat to her left. I look at her badge and realise, of course, she’s Marian Relihan. I earnestly thank Ms Miller again, with a slight bow of my already bowed and hatted head and bolt for the door.

In anticipation of Rebecca Miller

May 30, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: events

I’m seated in the reception area of the Listowel Arms Hotel blogging. With 20 minutes to go people are beginning to go in to the large conference room where Rebecca Miller will be doing her thing. Jeremy Gould has just arrived and is frantically trying to locate Paul O’Mahony who has his recharger which he ungently needs. Jeremy rushes off again.

What’ll we do on this blog after Writers’ Week ends on Sunday?

May 30, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: blogs, connections, events, participants

Many people are asking this question.

“Will that be it? Will you just go away? Move on? Or what?”

How do I know. We haven’t even seriously discussion the afterlife. God only knows.

But there won’t be an end. There will be an end of the beginning.

There is too much material to plumb.

Breakfast with George Kimball, a spontaneous, surprise, unplanned event threw up enough connection to keep me going to Christmas.

How’s this…

(1) Boston & Limerick – the links thru the Boston Maraton, Southill Estate in a rough part of Limerick and Dan Doyle (pro boxing promotor, J P McManus, cops & kids training together, George Foreman, baseball in Southill field, 200 kids to feed with apples, Adare Dunraven Arms…

(2) A commercial idea for George Rowley to consider…

(3) The possiblity of Paul O’Mahony meeting Kevin Hough (Limerick) today, for the first time in 42 years… We grew up in adjacent houses…

(4) Lemon marmalade… none of us had ever tasted it. I think Sue Kimball intends to take some home in her handbag. I photographed a packet of it for the blog – so the can all get to know it exists… Those of you in USA can think of importing it… We all need ideas these days, eh

I’m so glad everyone’s gone off and I have time to reflect my way into the day.

How, when where and with what am I going to interview Rebecca Miller (1962-). She’s on at 1200.

My son Benjamin O’Mahony, the student actor @Drama Centre, London, England, played in two of Arthur Miller’s plays. I better do a good interview for him.


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