Belfast’s Brian Ballard, Ciaran Carson and Michael O’Neill form a sacred artistic trinity

Ciaran Carson, Brian Ballard, Michael O'Neill, Northern Star Books, Happenstance

Ciaran Carson and Brian Ballard (© Irish Times)

Just in case you missed it on Tuesday, and given the ever-expanding (and undoubtedly unsustainable) swathes of media available for free these days at the swipe of a screen, there’s every chance a few of you did, then I’m delighted to point you in the direction of a great piece by Fionola Meredith in the Irish Times.

Happenstance is a literature-art-publishing joint venture to come out of Belfast, by the poet and writer Ciaran Carson, the painter Brian Ballard and the publisher Michael O’Neill, of hugely exciting fledgling press Northern Star Books.

The uncertainty inherent in such a project, and indeed any creative venture, is beautifully captured by Carson:

We believe that we don’t know what we’re doing until it happens. This is what it means to be a writer. You’re doomed to a life of anxiety because, if you know what you’re doing, then it won’t be any good. Each time you do it, it must be fresh.

As someone routinely confounded by grave quantities of uncertainty and doubt, I find that inspirational.

With a print run of just 30 copies, and with an asking price of about €1750 a pop, Happenstance is no ordinary book. It includes 20 of Ballard’s paintings, with corresponding/iterative/reactive writing by Carson.

While I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing it in the flesh it sounds like a phenomenal piece of work. Each painting is hand printed and every letter of the accompanying text is individually cast.

As O’Neill says, to much cheering from this quarter:

A book is still a wonderful thing. We are not Luddites but there is something about producing a book slowly and carefully that has a peace and serenity too often missing from our lives.

Slow, careful, peaceful, serene. Like an Olympic slogan for artists in the post-Internet world.

Read Fionola Meredith’s piece here

Update: Thanks to the comment by harryscraps below, here’s a link to the Northern Star Books website. I hadn’t known when writing the blog that Happenstance is the first book to be published by Northern Star.


2 thoughts on “Belfast’s Brian Ballard, Ciaran Carson and Michael O’Neill form a sacred artistic trinity

    1. Thanks for the comment, Harry. I confess that I don’t know a lot about Northern Star Books, apart from what I’ve read online in the past few weeks. But I have massive respect for anyone who approaches art, literature and publishing as they have done.

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