Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Airborne: Poetry from Ireland anthology on iBooks

The new Dedalus Press anthology, Airborne: Poetry from Ireland, is now available for the iPad via Apple's iBooks.

Edited by Pat Boran and featuring over 150 pages of poetry from more than two dozen poets, together with a small selection of audio clips of  poets reading their work, Airborne is the first such anthology from an Irish poetry publisher and will be an ideal introduction to contemporary Irish poetry for the student and general reader alike.

Among the poets whose work features in Airborne are: Leland Bardwell, Paddy Bushe, Theo Dorgan, Paul Perry, Mary Noonan, Macdara Woods. For further information, visit the iBooks store.


IRISH POETRY HAS LONG OCCUPIED an enviable place on the international literary stage, with a reputation one might expect from a much larger country and, indeed, community of writers. The strength of the oral tradition here is said to part of the explanation, as is the inherently bilingual nature of the Irish psyche, in which two official languages, Irish (or Gaeilge) and English, interact and overlap, notwithstanding the disparity between the numbers using each on a daily basis. Whatever the reason, there is undoubtedly a strong oral dimension to Irish life and an admiration and respect for verbal dexterity in all its forms. Poetry, as is often remarked upon by visitors, appears in national newspapers, is given airtime on national radio and is very much part of the national conversation; our current President is a published poet, and the Republic's first President Douglas Hyde (1938-45), was a celebrated translator and scholar of Irish poetry. For many, in Ireland and farther afield, poetry is often seen as the national art form.
The present anthology draws on recent publications by more than two dozen poets associated with one of the country's most energetic and outward-looking imprints, the Dedalus Press. It is intended as a general introduction to contemporary poetry from Ireland. For students or regular readers of Irish poetry, it will be seen to contain both familiar and new names; for newcomers to the subject, it will provide what I hope is an approachable and accessible point of departure for further explorations. Suggestions for some further reading will be found in Section 3, as will links to the website of the publisher where you'll find details further links to organisations and agencies charged with the promotion of Irish poetry and writing in general. As the Dedalus Press is an English language publisher, links to presses whose speciality is the Irish language are also included.
Irish poetry is very much a living tradition. Visitors to Ireland may be interested to know that poetry readings and gatherings of all kinds and sizes take place throughout the country (not just in the main cities) more or less all year round, often as part of local literary programmes but also at multi-disciplinary arts festivals on a considerably larger scale. These public (and often free) events are a wonderful way to make first contact with contemporary Irish poetry, to encounter it as song and praise and communication in a way which is often difficult to appreciate if all of one's previous interactions were through textbooks.
To that end we've set up the AudioRoom podcast, available on iTunes, presenting readings and talks given at the launches of new Dedalus books, or, as we like to say, "opening the intimate room of poetry to everyone". Described in The Irish Times as "An invaluable new dimension on the Irish studies front", AudioRoom: New Writing from Ireland is another accessible way to get your bearings in the busy and diverse world of contemporary Irish poetry. (We've inserted a couple of small audio samples here and there through the text.)
Dedalus Press is one of a number of small presses in Ireland that, with the support of An Chomhairle Ealaíon / The Arts Council, publishes contemporary Irish poetry. At Dedalus we think of that mission as being equally about supporting writers as they continue to develop and about enabling new writers to reach an audience for the first time, about responding to readers already within reach and about reaching out to those all over the world who, as digital communications continues to change our lives, might well be in the seat next to us in the intimate room of poetry.
Though we've published all sorts of anthologies over the quarter century we've been working for Irish poets, Airborne: Poetry from Ireland is something of a new departure for us, an anthology with no direct counterpart in the physical world. In that sense, too, the work is airborne, ether-borne, one might say, finding its way through the world by an almost magical process, as all good poetry does. If you enjoy the work you find here, maybe you'd consider posting a response to it on your favourite social media account or blog. We are all, in one way or another, ambassadors for the things we like and believe important in the world. Hence our motto: Poetry Matters: Spread the Word.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cork City Libraries host launch of 2 new titles

A large and enthusiastic crowd turned out on Monday 14th May at Cork City Library on Grand Parade when the library played host to the launch of two new books by Cork-based poets, The Fado House by Mary Noonan, a native of the city who works in the Department of French at UCC, and The Place Inside by Matthew Geden, a poet born in the English midlands and resident for more than twenty years now in County Cork where he runs the much-loved Kinsale Bookshop and is a founding member of Cork's annual SoundEye Poetry Festival.

Cork City Librarian Liam Roynane began the evening with a warm introduction, and he and Senior Executive Librarian Eamonn Kirwan and library staff couldn't have been more welcoming or accommodating, their hosting of the event a model of how a library can be both a place of reference and refuge and, at the same time, a facilitator and champion of the living tradition.

If you're in the Cork area, the books should be available from any of Cork's lively and well-stocked bookshops; alternatively you'll find them online at all the usual outlets, including the Dedalus website, Amazon, etc. 

Below, Mary Noonan and Matthew Geden at Cork City Library, Grand Parade, Cork, at their launch of their respective books. Photos 2 and 3 reproduced with the permission of Cork City Libraries.

Interview with Mary Noonan, author of The Fado House

Vanessa Quigg talks to Mary Noonan whose debut collection of poems, The Fado House, is published in May 2012 by Dedalus Press

An academic in French at the University of Cork, Mary Noonan is about to launch her debut collection of poems, The Fado House, the product of over a decade of writing. Inspired, in her own words, by ‘the stuff of the average life, relationships, loss, memory – and travel’, the collection won the Listowel Poetry Collection Prize in 2010 and has been described as having ‘an intense musicality and a determinedly outward look’.  She caught up with Poetry Matters to tell us more about the collection, Bing Crosby, and why good poetry can only happen on A4 paper.

Could you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write The Fado House?
The Fado House was written over a ten-year period, so I’d have to say that many people, places and things inspired it!  But really, the stuff of the average life, relationships, loss, memory – and travel. I’ve always been inspired to write when travelling, as if my mind is on holiday, and free to dream and invent.

Have your academic interests fuelled your more creative writing?
I try to keep the poetry in a separate compartment from the academic work, as I feel they are so different. Yet, my work in French studies has always centred on drama and theatre, and I guess I’ve always loved poetry that is dramatic in some way, poetry that is highly inventive, that invents other worlds, and where the poet is not afraid to ‘try on’ roles or personas that are not those of her everyday life.

Your work has been described as having an 'intense musicality'; where would you say this came from?
Well, I sing like a crow, and I can’t play a musical instrument! But my parents loved to sing around the house – music from the old Hollywood musicals, Bing Crosby, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. My mother loved opera, and had a lot of records of operatic music. My father adores John McCormack, and any good tenor. They were both fascinated by the singing voice, I would say.

Which other contemporary Irish writers do you admire?
I like the poetry of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin very much. And that of Matthew Sweeney. They both have that quality of strangeness I like. Further afield, I love contemporary American poetry – Sharon Olds and C.K. Williams, and the Canadian poet Karen Solie. In the UK,  I admire the work of Jen Hadfield, the young writer who lives in the Shetland Islands. And I adore the poetry of French poet Valérie Rouzeau, she plays so much with the sounds of words.

Could you tell us a little about your method of writing?
I don’t really have a method. But I do have fetishes! For example, I can’t compose a poem on a small piece of paper, it has to be A4. And I always write first, and usually second and third drafts by hand. For me, once I go to the computer, the first nudging of the image, word or phrase that’s propelling the poem, is over. From then on, it’s work on the shape and on the language, and I can do that on a keyboard.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future of your poetic career?
I just want to get better. A first collection is the beginning. There is so much to learn, from other poets, from reading their work. I’d like to try some formal writing – sonnets, villanelles, sestinas – and then to cast them off! I hope I will have the courage to take risks when the time comes, to know where tradition ends, and the individual poet begins.

What about some advice for aspiring Irish poets?
My advice is to be simultaneously very easy and very hard on yourself – it’s a difficult tightrope act! An overly critical internal judge will cripple your writing. So, switch off the critic. Don’t try to be poetic. Listen to the sounds of the words or phrases rattling about at the front of your brain. But once the writing is there, you need to get tough, to be as rigorously exact as possible. In tandem with your writing practice, read, read, read poetry. There is no other way. You will not grow as a poet unless you read poetry, lots of it.

The Fado House by Mary Noonan is published on 14 May 2012 by Dedalus Press and is available on the Dedalus website, at Amazon and through all good bookshops.