Strange Times, Strange Tellers: An Experimental Fiction Showcase

Experimental fiction workshop leader and poet Dave Lordan will MC a showcase of experimental fiction from his workshop at the Irish Writers Centre.

‘EXPERIMENTAL FICTION’: it’s a curious and a somewhat problematic term. How, one thinks, would Joyce or Calvino react to the term ‘experimental fiction’?

Then again, it’s hard to think of another term to describe a sub genre that allows for both a single workshop and a single reading environment for drama, audio and dance, short fiction and flash fiction, interactive fictions and fictions of chance.

Well, that’s what will happen on Thursday, 3rd of April at Toner’s Pub, Baggot Street, when experimental fiction workshop leader Dave Lordan leads Charlene Putney, Ray Treacy, Roisin O’Donnell, Morgan McKnight, Nadia Gativa, Tracy Hanna, Paul McGee, Jane Murray, Roisin Kennedy Foley, Andrew Devine-Rattigan and Sydney Weinberg through a night of readings.

A Q&A session will conclude the showcase of experimental fiction.

Irish Writers’ Centre Announces winners of Novel Fair 2014

The Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair will take place at the Irish Writers’ Centre, Parnell Sq.

THE IRISH WRITERS’ CENTRE has announced its shortlist of 12 winners for this year’s Novel Fair, which will take place on February 22nd at the Irish Writers’ Centre. Now in its third year, the Novel Fair aims to introduce up-and-coming writers to top publishers and literary agents, giving novelists the opportunity to bypass the slush pile, pitch their ideas and place their synopsis and sample chapters directly into the hands of publishers and agents.

Kept under wraps during the selection process, the judging panel can now revealed as Rachel Pierce, owner/editor owner of Verba Editing House; Anthony Glavin, editor and writer; and Sarah Davis-Goff, publisher and founder of Tramp Press. Since the October 16th deadline, the judges have read through every page of the 306 synopses and opening chapters received and have had the unenviable task of whittling it down to a winning twelve.

Judge Anthony Glavin described their final selection as “A rich cornucopia of hugely promising premises, plots, characters, insights and outcomes for a dozen novels across all genres, all underpinned by original, engaging, well-executed writing.  Not to be missed!”

This year’s winners are Evan Cody, Simon Fay, Alan Gorevan, Geraldine Hogan, Rachael Kelly, Caitriona Lally, Bláthnaid Nolan, David O’Brien, Nathan O’Donnell, Lisa Parker, Grey Phelan and Áine Tierney. The work chosen includes literary fiction, children’s fiction, historical fiction, SciFi, thriller and crime. One of the winners will travel home to Kilkenny all the way from New Zealand to take part. For another, it’s her first win after making the long list in two previous years, with a different novel submitted each time!

The Novel Fair presents a unique opportunity to gain face time with some of the most influential people in Irish publishing, and could truly kick-start a literary career for this year’s winners. Attendees of last year’s Fair included representatives from Penguin Ireland, Hachette Ireland, Transworld Ireland, Picador, New Island, O’Brien Press, Lilliput Press, Liberties Press, Curtis Brown, The Book Bureau, Marianne Gunne O’Connor Literary Agency, Jonathan Williams Literary Agency and Lisa Richards Agency.

Launched in 2011, the Novel Fair has seen an ever-growing number of novels originally submitted to the competition hit the shelves of retailers. Last year, alone, saw previous Novel Fair winners enter in publication: Niamh Boyce (The Herbalist), Janet E. Cameron (Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World), Ian Flitcroft (The Reluctant Cannibals), Kevin Curran (Beatsploitation) and A.W. Timmons (Here In No Place). Daniel Seery’s A Model Partner is due to hit bookshelves in March.

Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair competition winners:

Colm by Evan Cody
Wolf by Simon Fay
Botox For Dancers by David Flitton
Out of Nowhere by Alan Gorevan
Stolen Sister by Geraldine Hogan
The Edge of Heaven
 by Rachael Kelly
by Caitriona Lally
The Shadow of Darcy Anne 
by Blathnaid Nolan
Letters to Lucy 
by Nathan O’Donnell
Dawn in Temper 
by Lisa Parker
North to Midnight 
by Grey Phelan
The Silver Girl 
by Aine Tierney

Highly Commended:

Summer of Stan by Anthony Brophy
Railway Park by Erica Coughlan
Child of the Slums by Aisling Cronin
Rising by Brian Kirk
Essex Road by Guy Le Jeune
Jesus of the Lavatory by Donall Mac Lochlainn
Loyalties by Niall McCann
Happy-Cry with my Brilliant Life by Paul McCarrick
Tider by Sinead O’Hart
Statistical Anomalies in the Probability of Love by Tara Sparling

News: Carcanet poets Caoilinn Hughes & Tara Bergin to launch début poetry collections at the Irish Writers Centre onThursday 6th February

Caoilinn Hughes will launch Gathering Evidence, her début collections of poems, published by Carcanet Press, on Thursday 6th February.

LAUNCHING their début collections back on home turf, New Zealand- based poet Caoilinn Hughes and North Yorkshire- based poet Tara Bergin will read in the Irish Writers Centre on Thursday 6th February at 6:30pm.

Caoilinn Hughes- who yours truly interviewed as part of last year’s Poetry Ireland Introductions series– will read from Gathering Evidence, which netted her the 2012 Patrick Kavanagh Award. According to her publisher, Gathering Evidence “traces the parallels between scientific exploration and poetic venturing: ‘Gathering the data and deciphering / inference is how I stay alive’.”

Dublin native Tara Bergin will read from This Is Yarrow, which poet and critic John McAuliffe described as “…primarily a book of monologues, establishing voices whose skewed attitudes invite an engaged critical response from the reader. The monologues are sometimes reminiscent of Paul Durcan and at other times Sylvia Plath and they can be very cutting and funny at the expense of their speakers.”

Caoilinn Hughes was born in Galway, Ireland. With BA and MA degrees from the Queen’s University of Belfast, she moved to New Zealand and enrolled in a Ph.D. at Victoria University of Wellington. A selection of poems from her first book, Gathering Evidence (Carcanet) won the 2012 Patrick Kavanagh Award, the 2013 Cúirt New Writing Prize, the 2012 STA Travel Writing Prize and the 2013 Trócaire / Poetry Ireland Competition.

Tara Bergin was born and grew up in Dublin. She moved to England in 2002. In 2012 she completed her PhD research at Newcastle University on Ted Hughes’s translations of János Pilinszky. Her poems have appeared in New Poetries V and her début collection This is Yarrow was published by Carcanet Press.

Books 2014: New poetry titles to look out for in the new year

The new year in poetry promises exciting débuts from fresh talents as well as old hands turning in new directions

Vona Groarke’s X will be published by The Gallery Press in February.

THE GALLERY PRESS will publish a rich varied selection of new collections throughout 2014. Manchester- based Longford native Vona Groarke‘s eagerly awaited sixth collection of poems, entitled X, is already generating considerable excitement, not least among the Poetry Book Society, who have made X their Poetry Book Society recommendation for Spring 2014. X is described as “a book of honesty and poise: its lustrous detail and exacting truths make this a groundbreaking publication from a poet hailed in Poetry Ireland Review as ‘among the best Irish poets writing today’.”

Other titles from the Meath publisher include From Elsewhere (March), a new collection of poems from Ciaran Carson, the ever- prolific Belfast poet who doesn’t seem to sleep; the late Pearse Hutchinson‘s poems will be appear in the spring; Gallery Press founder and publisher Peter Fallon will publish Strong, My Love in April, which will be his first collection since 2007’s The Company of Horses

Also returning with new work is Limerick poet Sean Lysaght, whose sixth collection is tentatively titled Carnival Masks. The inspiration for the working title came from a poem in which Lysaght describes a journey back to his home in Co. Mayo, after several months spent in Italy, and tidying away a pair of masks that the poet and his wife bought at the Carnevale di Viareggio, held every February in the Tuscan city of Viareggio, Italy.

According to Lysaght, the collection has “…a calendar structure: many poems with references to the natural world can be connected to a particular time of year. The first poem is called ‘Skylarks in January’, then there’s a February piece, a March piece, and so on. The calendar pattern is not absolutely strict, and there are other poems in the book as well, but it allowed me a way of organising an array of material, and of connecting poems about Mayo with poems set in Italy, where my wife and I spent a winter about four years ago.”

Doire Press

DOIRE PRESS are likely to be still celebrating, following Adam White’s appearance on the shortlist for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, this year. However, the Connemara- based publisher will publish the début collection of poems from Dimitra Xidousthe Dublin- based Greek- Canadian poet and co- founder / co- editor of The Pickled Body. Entitled Keeping Bees, Xidous’ first collection will no doubt feature poems that have featured in the Bridport and Over the Edge Emerging Writer prizes,  as well as work that is due to appear in The New Planet Cabaret and the Spring 2014 edition of The Stinging Fly, in which she will be a featured poet.

BLOODAXE have two Irish poets on their list for 2014: Harry Clifton‘s The Holding Centre: Selected Poems 1974-2004 will appear in February.

Louis de Paor’s The Brindled Cat and the Nightingale’s Tongue will appear in a bi- lingual edition from Bloodaxe

Interestingly, a bi- lingual selection of Louis de Paor’s poems will feature in The Brindled Cat and the Nightingale’s Tongue, a book which de Paor worked on with a trio translators, consisting of  Kevin Anderson, Biddy Jenkinson and Mary O’Donoghue. According to Bloodaxe, “the translations have eschewed the modern fashion for so-called “versions”, producing English translations which are as close as possible to the original Irish poems without sacrificing their tone, energy, clarity and lightness of touch.”

FABER‘s list of new poetry books for 2014 includes a typical mix of commissioned translations, an opportunity to revise the poetry of authors with considerable work under their belt, as well as new work from emerging talents.

Too often dismissed as too didactic and a political poet in an age of political apathy, Tom Paulin‘s New Selected Poems (May) comes at a time when there is a severe lack of well- written, well- executed political poetry. One only has to read Paulin’s current Selected Poems, 1972 – 1990 to find a poet whose gift for wrapping the demotic tones of his native Ulster around technically skilled, enviably crafted poems. Paulin’s New Selected Poems is a welcome opportunity to revise four decades worth of work, including poems from Walking a Line (1994), The Wind Dog (1999) and last year’s Love’s Bonfire.

American poet August Kleinzahler

Once described by Allen Ginsberg as “A loner, a genius.”, New Jersey- born, San Francisco- based poet August Kleinzahler is undoubtedly one of foremost American poets currently writing. The wider availability of Kleinzahler’s collections on this side of the Atlantic, including 1995’s Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow, 2000’s Green Sees Things in Waves, 2004’s excellent The Strange Hours That Travellers Keep and 2008’s Sleeping it Off in Rapid City: New and Selected Poems, have seen the oft described “pugilist” poet’s stock rise considerably.

Kleinzahler’s latest collection, Hotel Oneira, will no doubt feature the collision course of registers, the unpredictable cadences and the savvy, street poetry that have characterised Kleinzahler’s best work. Writing in the Irish Times, John McAuliffe has described Hotel Oneira as a collection “…with spiky portraits (and self-portraits) alongside the American landscapes that have become his speciality, moving easily and mysteriously between domestic close-ups of the weather and noodling riffs on the state of the modern world.”

At a reading that Kleinzahler was giving and which I attended, a compere- who claimed to be an expert in Kleinzahler’s work and spent more than ten minutes introducing and explaining Kleinzahler’s work to us mere mortals in the audience- made the unfortunate mistake of continually referring to August Kleinzahler as “Awgoooost” Kleinzahler, rather than pronouncing Kleinzahler’s forename as one would pronounce the month of the same name. Perhaps- perhaps- Kleinzahler’s new collection will be appreciated to the point where even experts in his oeuvre can pronounce his name.

While we may have to wait a while for a new collection from Simon Armitage, the Yorkshire poet’s translation of The Last Days of Troy (May), commissioned by the Royal Exchange for performance in April 2014. A retelling of The Iliad, there’s no doubt that Armitage will freshen up the classical text as he has done with his engaging translations of The Odyssey, Sir Gawain and The Green Knight and The Death of King Arthur.

Lavinia Greenlaw’s A Double Sorrow: Troilus and Criseyde

On the note of translations, versions, imitations and all that, Lavinia Greenlaw‘s A Double Sorrow (February), which takes its title from the opening line of Chaucher’s Troilus and Criseyde- of which A Double Sorrow is a retelling- and which is neither translation nor version; rather, Greenlaw’s retelling takes the form of seven- line vignettes.

Twelve years on from his Collected PoemsHugo Williams returns in April with I Knew the Bride, his first collection of poems since 2006’s excellent West End Final, which, no doubt, will explore his parents’ theatrical vocations and his portraits of London in the 50’s, all shot through with the ironic bite and sardonic humour that we’ve come to expect from Williams.

Due in February, Tony Martinez de las Rivas‘ début collection, Terror (February), promises poems that are “…political, social, theological, historical and personal, the poems in this debut collection work closely with the reader, asking questions of us and encouraging us never to settle for inadequate answers.” Rivas was previously featured in Faber’s New Poets series.

Dedalus Press’ If You Ever Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song

THE BIG WIN for poetry in 2014, however, is undoubtedly Dedalus Press‘ If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song (February), which has been chosen as the One City: One Book title for 2014. Supported by Dublin City Council and led by Dublin City Public libraries,  the award- winning initiative has been a resounding success.

First published in 1969, James Plunkett’s Strumpet City was given a new lease of life, this year. The very fact that Plunkett’s masterpiece topped the Irish bestsellers list, thereby introducing a whole new generation to Plunkett’s great novel, was testament not only to the power of fresh ideas within Dublin City Council (yes, they do exist), but also the willingness to support Irish books of which we as readers have, perhaps, under- appreciated the significance.

Edited by Dedalus Press publisher Pat Boran and Gerard Smyth, the Irish Times’ Poetry Editor, If Ever You Go takes its title from Patrick Kavanagh’s poem ‘If You Ever Go to Dublin Town’ (If ever you go to Dublin town / In a hundred years or so / Inquire for me in Baggot Street 
/ And what I was like to know).

According to Dublin City Libraries, If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song “…includes writing by both historical and contemporary figures, among them Swift, Synge, Yeats, Joyce, Kavanagh and Ó Direáin as well as Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Dermot Bolger, Paula Meehan, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Derek Mahon. There are songs and ballads from the city’s colonial past, verses by leaders of the 1916 Rising, and portraits of the modern city with its Spire and Luas tram, its Celtic Tiger ‘prosperity’ and its post-Celtic Tiger challenges.”

In a country which looks as if it is about to overdose on a lethal concoction short stories and flash fiction, it is finally good to see Irish poetry featured on the same platform as prose.

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Publishing News: Books Ireland to be given a new lease of life by Wordwell Books

Back on the ladder: Books Ireland, recently acquired by Wordwell Books, has been given a new lease of life.

Back on the ladder: Books Ireland, recently acquired by Wordwell Books, has been given a new lease of life.

IMPASSIONED RESPONSES to the recent closure of Books Ireland flooded the letters pages of the Irish Timesas well as triggering an online campaign through social media, all of which was done in a spirited attempt to save the long- running Irish title from ceasing publication.

Since then, Wordwell Books Ltd have taken up the reins at Books Ireland. Wordwell, which also publishes History Ireland and Archaeology Ireland, as well as specialist books, have been trading for over 25 years.

In 2015, Books Ireland will celebrate its 40th year in print. Speaking ahead of the magazine’s landmark anniversary, Una MacConville, Publishing Manager at Wordwell Books, is optimistic about Wordwell’s recent acquisition of Books Ireland. 

“Wordwell are proud to follow in the footsteps of Jeremy Addis, one of those (largely invisible) people who, through his long-standing commitment to Books Ireland, have contributed significantly to Irish culture for more than 30 years. We have been attempting to do this with History Ireland and Archaeology Ireland and now we look forward to doing it with Books Ireland.”

Books Ireland Mk II

MacConville has confirmed that Books Ireland Mk II will “reflect the ‘world of books’ in Ireland, encompassing a wide coverage of this medium, including reading, writing, making, printing and selling books.”

The material changes to Books Ireland will include:

  1. An increase in the number of pages from 24 to 36, and
  2. Trading as a bi-monthly magazine, which will published in during March/April, May/June, July/August, September/October and November /December of 2014.

Under the editorship of Tony Canavan, who has worked with Jeremy Addis on Books Ireland for many years, MacConville believes that the newly rebranded Books Ireland will provide good- quality thought and rigorous critical analysis from authoritative reviewers in a wide range of genres and modes. MacConville, however, hopes that Books Ireland will be inclusive towards new readers and that the magazine will appeal to a broader audience beyond the niche audience for which it previously catered.

“Books Ireland will aim to be an authoritative vehicle for all matters relating to books—recruiting reviewers and writers who know their subject and have a standing in the area. We will be encouraging our writers to be honest, thoughtful and measured. Our reviews and articles will be substantial enough to be taken seriously, as they should be, but not too wordy or academic.”

One wonders how previous readers and contributors to Books Ireland feel about the acquisition by Wordwell. Leading the charge both in the letters pages of the Irish Times and through an online, social media campaign was Hugh McFadden, former Irish Press journalist and Books Ireland reviewer.

“I’m happy that Books Ireland has been saved and I am quite hopeful, now, about its future. I believe that the new owners, Nick Maxwell and Una MacConville, are very suitable and that their experience in running History Ireland and Archaeology Ireland equips them well to run Books Ireland. And Tony Canavan is a good choice to edit the magazine, as he has been working with Jeremy Addis for some years as an assistant publisher and as a contributor/ reviewer. So, overall, things are looking up for the magazine.”

Print And Be Damned

It is difficult, of course, for print publishers to stay afloat during the current economic climate. Print publishing, especially for niche publishers such as poetry publishers or trade magazine publishers, have struggled to keep printing, with 2013 claiming casualties such as Noel King’s Doghouse and Chris Hamilton- Emery’s Salt, the latter of which announced, earlier this year, that it was to cease publishing single- author collections of poetry and instead focus on poetry anthologies and fiction.

MacConville is no doubt about the challenges ahead for print publishers and sees it as a time for those in publishing and in the arts to stand united and support each other’s endeavours. “We are going to need the support of book readers and writers, makers and sellers. So if anybody wants to be a subscriber, take out an advert, write reviews or grant-aid this important magazine we will be only too pleased. Book publishers will benefit enormously from this initiative.”

All enquiries to Una MacConville (,

Publishing Manager, Books Ireland, Wordwell Ltd,
Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin 18.

T: 00353 86 8175530;  E:

Editorial matters will be dealt with by Tony Canavan, the new editor.


Books for review can be sent immediately to: 

Tony Canavan, Editor, Books Ireland, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin 18.