Poetry collection chosen as Dublin’s 2014 One City One Book

Pick is a departure and first time a novel has not been picked for the project

Fri, Sep 13, 2013, 17:47

A new collection of poetry, songs and ballads exploring Dublin life from colonialism to the present day has been chosen as the 2014 Dublin: One City One Book title.

Each year since 2006 Dublin City Council has encouraged people to read a work of literature strongly connected to the city. Previous titles include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor and, on the centenary of the Lockout, Strumpet City by James Plunkett.

Next year’s choice will mark a departure for the project. “It’s the first time we haven’t done a novel,” said Jane Alger, director of Dublin UNESCO City of Literature. It’s also the first time the title hasn’t been an established text. If Ever You Go: a map of Dublin in poetry and song is due to be published by Dedalus in late January or early February.

“The book itself is an absolute celebration of the city,” said Gerry Smyth, who co-edited the collection with Pat Boran. Mr Smyth, former managing editor with The Irish Times, added that the various works reach into many Dublin communities. “I think most of the poems are either set in a particular location or refer to a particular location,” he said.

They include writing by 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, poems by leaders of the 1916 Rising, as well as portraits of the modern city, Celtic Tiger ‘prosperity’ and post-crash Dublin.

The book is arranged street by street, allowing readers to navigate the city through its poetry. “One of the things we want to do is encourage people to open their minds to poetry,” Ms Alger said. “Poetry can capture people’s emotions; it can be really evocative and can really mean something to people”

She said If Ever You Go also lended itself well to special events, like public readings and walks. In previous years readings have taken place in text-specific locations or spots of relevance to the authors. In 2012, when the book was Dubliners, a reading took place in Belvedere College, James Joyce’s old school.

Ms Alger said readers could expect similar style events throughout April 2014 as well as a few surprises when the full programme is launched in March.

The publishers meanwhile will no doubt hope their book enjoys the success of Strumpet City which sold out in many shops and is on its way to becoming the most borrowed book in Irish libraries this year.

Buying Winkles

Paula Meehan

My mother would spare me sixpence and say,

‘Hurry up now and don’t be talking to strange

men on the way.’ I’d dash from the ghosts

on the stairs where the bulb had blown

out into Gardiner Street, all relief.

A bonus if the moon was in the strip of sky

between the tall houses, or stars out,

but even in rain I was happy – the winkles

would be wet and glisten blue like little

night skies themselves. I’d hold the tanner tight

and jump every crack in the pavement,

I’d wave up to women at sills or those

lingering in doorways and weave a glad path through

men heading out for the night.

She’d be sitting outside the Rosebowl Bar

on an orange-crate, a pram loaded

with pails of winkles before her.

When the bar doors swung open they’d leak

the smell of men together with drink

and I’d see light in golden mirrors.

I envied each soul in the hot interior.

I’d ask her again to show me the right way

to do it. She’d take a pin from her shawl –

‘Open the eyelid. So. Stick it in

till you feel a grip, then slither him out.

Gently, mind.’ The sweetest extra winkle

that brought the sea to me.

‘Tell yer Ma I picked them fresh this morning.’

I’d bear the newspaper twists

bulging fat with winkles

proudly home, like torches.

(From Mysteries of the Home. Dedalus Press, 2012)