Ireland’s Best Loved Poem


I rarely reblog, but happy to make an exception for this excellent post about RTE’ current project, Ireland’s Best Loved Poem.

Originally posted on Top of the Tent:

At the weekend, RTE, the Irish national broadcaster announced the shortlist of 10 for their ‘Best Loved Poem of Ireland’ (of the last 100 years) competition. Members of the public nominated their ‘best loved’ poem online and a jury of Irish poetry aficionados cut the suggestions down to the final list shown below. You can now vote to influence the final choice of ‘A Poem for Ireland’ on the RTE Poetry website and the winner will be announced on Friday 13th March. It seems to be perfectly timed for the last weekend before St Patrick’s Day, but there’s something else about timing that bothers me slightly with regard to how ‘fair’ such a competition can possibly be.

The ‘last 100 years’ – mmm, if we count back that takes us to 1915. Well, there’s no poem from that year on the list – it starts the year after with W…

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On Valentine’s Day, five great love poems by Irish writers

A post about Seamus Heaney’s favourite love poem a couple of Valentine’s Days ago (before Heaney’s all too untimely passing) received a bit of interest at the time, and a steady flow of visitors to the blog ever since.

I forwarded the belief then that Irish writers might not be perfectly disposed to the art of the love poem, an art form which requires perhaps a loss of inhibition more straightforwardly associated with the English Romantics.

With the Irish writer (to risk accusations of grand generalisation) so much an outsider already – in themes or in actuality – would any have dared to write the line “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” except as a parody? Letting go of all inhibitions and declaring such undying love is to risk ridicule and excommunication from whatever small parish has not already disowned you.

But how naive and wrong could I have been? Irish poets do, of course, write love poems. They just do it in ways markedly different to summer’s days or red, red roses.

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For JK Rowling, read Shane Hegarty: children’s fantasy series could get €10m big screen deal

I wrote this blog first thing Sunday morning, and only getting back to edit/publish now, four and a half days later. Such is the way of things in the land of the one real job, the two young kids and the three hour daily commute.

Anyway, Shane Hegarty, the erstwhile Irish Times arts and culture journalist, is set for the big time if a report in last weekend’s Sunday Times is on the money.

And the report was certainly “on the money” in one way, with literary agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor quoted as saying the film rights for Hegarty’s much heralded Darkmouth series could run into “eight figures”.

The first instalment of Darkmouth was published last week. (Review by John Connolly, fellow Irish Times-ian turned big-time writer, in Hegarty’s alma mater here).

The hero of the book is Finn, and the book’s fantastic cover blurb is “He was born to save the world. Unfortunately”.

(Aside: I’m not sure whether the similarities with Irish mythology end at the name. Finn is a 12-year-old boy faced with saving his town from monsters salivating over the taste of human flesh. Finn McCool/Fionn Mac Cumhaill and Na Fianna got up to a lot of far-fetched and hair-raising stuff, but I’m pretty sure I would have heard this one before now.)

“Darkmouth is not Harry Potter,” Gunn O’Connor told the paper, but the level of interest surrounding the series would suggest that Hollywood believes it can plough a similar furrow. At this point, only the rights for the first film adaptation have been sold. Alcon Entertainment are the purchasers, with the film possibly going into production in 2016 and the finished product set to be distributed by Warner Bros.

Book 2 of Darkmouth is published by HarperCollins this summer, with 3 and 4 to follow over the next two years.

More info on Darkmouth from the HarperCollins website here.

gorse, the journal of the innovative, the exploratory and the under-appreciated, opens submissions for new issues

gorse, the literary journal launched in Dublin a year ago, has opened a month-long window for submissions for its fourth and fifth editions, which will be published this coming September and February 2016 respectively.

Categorised into essays, fiction and poetry, gorse, at first glance, might appear formulaic, but only until you look under the hood. It will never do anything less than surprise, and it will challenge and provoke and maybe even infuriate too.

Edited and published by the esteemed Susan Tomaselli, gorse features “longform narrative essays, original fiction and interviews … is an exploration of the art of words … is interested in the potential of literature, in literature where lines between fiction, memoir and history blur, in the unconventional and the under recognised.”

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Almost 50 years after its inception, New Irish Writing finds a new home and fresh energy in the Irish Times

New Irish Writing will make a welcome return to the national newsstands next weekend, when it makes its debut in the pages of the Irish Times.

The newspaper reported the development on Saturday morning in a comprehensive history of the New Irish Writing concept by its editor of a quarter of a century, Ciaran Carty.

The development marks the latest “transfer” of New Irish Writing, which was founded as a weekly page in the Irish Press by David Marcus in the late 1960s before spending 23 years in the Sunday Tribune stable before that paper’s demise in 2011. After an unconvincing stint in the Irish Independent, it has now moved to the Irish Times, where the first selections will appear in next Saturday’s weekend edition.

Hennessy remains the title sponsor, having been associated with New Irish Writing since backing the first New Irish Writing awards ceremony in 1971.

The list of Irish writers who have seen early (or often their first) stories and poems appear in print thanks to New Irish Writing is almost all-encompassing – Joseph O’Connor, Colum McCann, Dermot Healy, Michael Harding, Patrick McCabe, Deirdre Madden, Sebastian Barry, John Boyne, Frank McGuinness, Desmond Hogan, Neil Jordan, Anne Enright and Mary Costello are among those whose fledgling careers were given impetus by publication in New Irish Writing pages.

It is anticipated that the Irish Times will be a particularly fruitful home – the Saturday edition of the paper is probably the most culturally significant edition of any Irish media outlet, and is certain to mark a major improvement on the format in the Irish Independent, where New Irish Writing was jaded and peripheral, suffering from sloppy subediting and an unattractive midweek supplement format that undoubtedly limited its reach.

The new page will appear in the Irish Times on the last Saturday of each month and submissions are welcome from novice or emerging Irish writers, or writers living in ireland. With no fee required, it will be no easy task for Carty to sift through the volume of submissions he’s sure to receive each month, but such inclusiveness is to be admired.

All pieces selected for publication will receive €130 for prose and €65 for poetry, and published authors will also then be eligible for the annual Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards at year-end, in which prizes will be presented in three categories: First Fiction, for writers publishing their first story; Emerging Fiction, for writers who have yet to publish a book; and Emerging Poetry, for first-time poets or poets still awaiting the publication of their first collection.

More details, including where to send your submissions, are available from the Irish Times website here

Perfect three-minute literature: The rise and rise of Sara Baume

Sara Baume
Sara Baume (Pic: The Stinging Fly).

Choppy seas throw up a crop of bones in winter. I’m no good at anatomy. I can tell fish from birds but mammal skeletons are harder to differentiate once broken down and scoured clean by salt and sand and water

Thus begins Sara Baume’s compelling, intensely moving spoken word essay aired on RTE Radio 1’s Arena this week.

The concept of the perfect three-minute pop song is well-documented, but Baume’s reflection on life and art and legacy was perfect three-minute literature in aural form. Continue reading

Poet Peter Sirr on the poem as sonic event

Peter Sirr (Pic via

Renowned Irish poet Peter Sirr was an interesting guest with Sean Rocks on RTE Radio 1’s Arena earlier this week.

More than three decades after his debut book, Peter was talking about his ninth collection of poetry, The Rooms, which was published recently by The Gallery Press.

And he had some interesting things to say about poetry technique, in which he suggests that rhythm is the most important thing. Continue reading