Claire Keegan and Martina Evans win Listowel Writers Week novel and poetry prizes

A round-up of the latest literary news and a preview of Saturday’s pages


In Saturday’s Irish Times, there is a wonderful extract by Tadhg Coakley from his new book,The Game: A Journey into the Heart of Sport; Simon Kuper lifts the lind on British politics with an extract from Chums: How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the UK; and James Vincent writes about his new book, Beyond Measure: The Hidden History of Measurement. Reviews are Diarmaid Ferriter on United Nation by Frank Connolly; Peter Murphy on Let’s Do It – The Birth of Pop By Bob Stanley; Declan O’Driscoll on the best new literature in translation; Oliver Farry on Sinostan by Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen; Jimmy Murphy on Recessional by David Mamet; Una Mannion on Constructing a Nervous System: Cultural Reckonings by Margo Jefferson; Mihir Bose on Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams; Liam Bishop on The Sidekick by Benjamin Markovits; Ellen Rowley on Joe Brady’s Dublin from 1970 to 1990. A City Transformed; Claire Hennessy on The Poet by Louisa Reid; Declan O’Driscoll on Yell Sam If You Still Can by Maylis Besserie, translated by Clíona Ní Riordáin; Sarah Gilmartin on Fight Night by Miriam Toews.

Dinner Party by Sarah Gilmartin is this weekend’s Irish Times Eason book offer. You can buy this fine debut novel by our regular new fiction critic for just €4.99, a saving of €6, when you buy your paper at any Eason store.

Claire Keegan has won the 2022 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in Irish literature, worth €20,000. Also shortlisted were: White City by Kevin Power; Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding; Nora by Nuala O’Connor; and The Raptures by Jan Carson.

Reviewing Keegan’s novel in The Irish Times, Sarah Gilmartin wrote: “To say that this new novel is long awaited is an understatement. To say that it doesn’t disappoint is another. Small Things Like These is a timely and powerful book that asks a deceptively simple question: ‘Why were the things that were closest so often the hardest to see?’”

Martina Evans has won the €10,000 Pigott Prize for Poetry at Listowel Writers Week for her latest collection, American Mules. The Irish Times poetry critic was also shortlisted in 2019 for her previous collection Now We Can Talk Openly About Men, both published by Carcanet. Originally from Cork, Evans lives in London. As well as her poetry, she has also written several acclaimed novels.

Reviewing American Mules in The Irish Times, Conor O’Callaghan wrote: “Martina Evans is that rarest of rara avis, a poet whose work is at once serious and authentically enjoyable. Evans is working now with more brio and fearlessness than ever before. American Mules is a book of splendours and will surely count among her very best.”

New Yorker cartoonist Will McPhail has won the Betty Trask Prize at the 2022 Society of Authors’ Awards for IN: The Graphic Novel – the first time a graphic novel has been named a winner of the prize. The novel is an account of a young illustrator’s struggle to find connection, praised by judges as a ‘devastating vision of contemporary loneliness’. Megan Nolan won a Betty Trask Award for her debut novel Acts of Desperation.

Enniskillen-based author Sheila Llewellyn won the inaugural Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize for Winter in Tabriz (Sceptre). Llewellyn was born in England, of Welsh heritage, and has dual British/Irish citizenship. Her first novel, Walking Wounded (2018) was shortlisted for the Society of Authors’ Paul Torday Memorial Prize.

“It started off as a radio play, back in 2012,” Llewellyn said, “and much to my surprise, it won the RTE One PJ O’Connor prize for Radio Drama. Aidan Matthews did a superb job of the production, together with Kevin Brew, so I was very fortunate to have those two taking it on. But it was bursting at the seams as a play, and I knew it would have to be a novel, but didn’t feel confident enough to take it on as my first novel. So I wrote Walking Wounded first, while I was doing my PhD at the Seamus Heaney Centre. The late Ciaran Carson encouraged me to go back to the Tabrizi work, he liked my work in general and particularly liked the theme of the dissident poets, so I owe him a lot for his encouragement.”

Judge Caroline Brothers said: “The novel stood out for the sophistication of its engagement with a country in upheaval, for its exploration of the risks and price of resistance, and for its honesty about being a foreigner with an escape route from someone else’s history. It is a novel that takes no easy fictional solutions, but speaks hard-won truths about the way seismic change reverberates upon even the least political of lives.’

Kerry-based author Jamie O’Connell won the runner-up prize for his debut novel Diving for Pearls. Debut novelist David Annand won the McKitterick prize for Peterdown; 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize-winner Kanya D’Almeida won the ALCS Tom-Gallon Award for I Cleaned The---.

McPhail said: “I cannot begin to describe how much this award means to me. I probably should be able to describe it, being an author and all, but if you’ve read my book then you’ll know that I do most of my describing through drawings of people looking all sad at each other. Being nominated alongside these wonderful authors was already a surreal dream and the fact that IN was picked as the first graphic novel to win this award is the honour of a lifetime. My only worry is that I’m now too happy to draw sad people.”

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The Poetry Jukebox, located by the WB Yeats Memorial in St Stephens Green, is being launched on June 9th. The Jukebox, which gives space to poetry amid the bustle of Dublin city life, is part of the Poetry as Commemoration project, led by creative producer, Dr Catherine Wilsdon. These sound installations are like a gramophone or a speaking-trumpet that bring poetry into public spaces, allowing us to encounter poems in a totally new way - you walk by, press a button and hear a poem. The 20 commemorative poems on the jukebox reflect on the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the establishment of the Free State and the Civil War. The project invites communities to turn to poetry as a way of understanding more completely the challenges of the past and the possibilities of the future. More information at poetryascommemoration.ie

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The UCD Festival 2022 will take place on Saturday, June 11th with over 140 events taking place across the university’s Belfield campus. The literary events as part of this year’s programme have been curated by RTÉ's Rick O’Shea and amongst the programme highlights, writer and director Mark O’Halloran will be hosting a masterclass in writing for stage and screen. There will be a talk on “Remote Relationships” featuring Sara Baume author of Seven Steeples and Audrey Magee author of The Colony. “James Joyce Remembered,” will be a panel discussion with Hugh Campbell, Margaret Kelleher, Helen Solterer and Lucy Collins reflecting on the writer and the city, a hundred year’s on from Ulysses. Curated by poet Fióna Bolger, the “Re(ad)Writing” event will be an opportunity to hear readings from emerging and established poets. All events are free but early registration is advised, see ucd.ie/festival

After a successful Irish tour in 2017 and again in 2019, as well as 10 sold-out seasons at the Irish Arts Center in New York, Muldoon’s Picnic returns for four dates nationwide in August.

An omnium-gatherum of poetry, prose and music, Muldoon’s Picnic is a cabaret-style evening hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon. On Wednesday, August 10th, kicking off the Irish tour from the Lime Tree Theatre stage in Limerick, Paul Muldoon and house band Rogue Oliphant will be joined by Kevin Barry, Vona Groarke, Lisa Lambe, and members of Horslips.

An Grianán Theatre in Donegal on Friday 12th will host Maurice Riordan, Duke Special, Hannah Sullivan and Claire Keegan. Saturday 13th at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast features Roddy Doyle, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Zoë Conway and John McIntyre. Sunday 14th on the Abbey Theatre’s Peacock stage, Muldoon will be joined by Iarla Ó Lionáird, Nick Laird and Zadie Smith. For further information on all events see poetryireland.ie

Au-dela de la Mer, the French translation of Paul Lynch’s novel Beyond the Sea, has won France’s Prix Gens de Mer, a prize dedicated entirely to maritime fiction and non-fiction. The ceremony is in Saint-Malo this weekend at the Etonnants Voyageurs book festival. “It should be said that my translator, Marina Boraso, is the true winner of this award as they are her words on the page,” Lynch said. “Without translators, who are poorly paid, and the work of Sinéad MacAodha and Literature Ireland, which provides grants, Irish writers would have no voice beyond the English language. I feel very fortunate to have Marina translate my work!”

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The Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast has announced the shortlist for their 2022 Poetry Prize for a First Collection, supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies: The Time Being, by John FitzGerald (Gallery Books, 2021); Aurora Town, by Annie Katchinska (Broken Sleep, 2021); Eat Or We Both Starve, by Victoria Kennefick (Carcanet, 2021); Honorifics, by Cynthia Miller (Nine Arches Press, 2021); The Important Things, by Audrey Molloy (Gallery Books, 2021); and Deltas, by Leonie Rushforth (Proto-type, 2021).

The prize is awarded to a writer whose first full collection has been published in the preceding year, by a UK or Ireland-based publisher. The winning writer receives £5,000 and is invited to participate in the Seamus Heaney Centre’s busy calendar of literary events. This year’s judges are poets Nick Laird, Stephen Sexton and Jess Traynor. Laird, chair of the judging panel, said: “The Seamus Heaney First Collection Poetry Prize is a highlight of the Seamus Heaney Centre’s year, and this year we saw a wonderful range and variety of debuts. We were impressed by the imagination and daring of the shortlisted books, and look forward to what the shortlisted writers do next.”

The winner will be announced at the Award Night readings in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast in July.

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The Belfast-based publisher, The Irish Pages Press/Cló An Mhíl Bhuí, has been named as the British Book Awards Small Publisher of the Year 2022 (Island of Ireland) at an awards ceremony in London lastrweek.

Both The Irish Pages Press, and Irish Pages: A Journal of Contemporary Writing, are published by the non-profit Irish Pages Ltd, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The Arts Council of Ireland, and Foras na Gaeilge.

Based on the city’s Ormeau Road, the journal Irish Pages (founded in 2002) has grown in strength and ambition in recent years, expanding from a twice-yearly literary publication to a publisher of non-fiction, memoir and poetry titles from established, emergent and new writers, under its new imprint The Irish Pages Press, launched in 2018.

Judges praised all aspects of The Irish Pages Press operation, saying, “Belfast-based but increasingly active in Scotland too, it excels on design and production and is an important champion of Celtic voices. Direct website sales increased during bookshop closures, and marketing and publicity give it a literary profile that belies its small size.”

Both the journal and press are edited by poet and essayist Chris Agee (Founder and General Editor), along with a small group of acclaimed poets including the Scottish Editor Kathleen Jamie (Scotland’s “Makar”, or poet laureate) and Scottish Gaelic Editor Meg Bateman.

Agee said, “While aware of the irony that an all-island Irish press based in Belfast has won under the rubric of ‘British’, the Editors strongly welcome this acknowledgment of our 2021-2022 book-publishing programme, which joins the publication of our long-standing journal Irish Pages. Of our last eight books – both poetry and non-fiction -- two are from English authors, two from Scottish authors, and four from Irish authors. This is the first time, in fact, that a press based in Northern Ireland has first been shortlisted and then won any of the three relevant British Book Awards for publishers.”

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Patrick Gale, one of Britain’s finest contemporary novelists, will be doing an event at the Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar, Dublin, on Monday, June 6th, from 6pm to 7.30pm for his latest book, Mother’s Boy. Tickets are free and available via The Gutter Bookshop or Eventbrite.

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Scholastic UK has announced a two-book deal with Emmy-nominated producer Triona Campbell. Described as Ready Player One meets Black Mirror, her debut YA novel, A Game of Life or Death is a contemporary thriller with a speculative twist, and will be released in February 2023. Scholastic’s Lauren Fortune bought World Rights at auction from Campbell’s agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor.

Campbell is a three-time Emmy-nominated producer of transmedia, film and TV projects. She is the creator of Ireland’s first TV series on videogames Gamer Mode (RTÉ) and a producer on UK teen drama Sofia’s Diary (Channel 5 / Sony Pictures Television). Campbell said: “I couldn’t ask for a better home for my books. A Game of Life or Death is a story that has real relevance for the world we live in. Readers can expect a thriller about power, survival, love and also hope.”

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The Summer 2022 issue of the quarterly journal Studies contains a special sub-section on sovereignty. The four articles relate to a workshop entitled “The meaning of sovereignty in a transnational world” which took place on St Patrick’s Day at the European University Institute’s Robert Schuman Centre, Florence: https://www.eui.eu/events?id=539821

The authors are: Giovanni Giorgini (University of Bologna): The Strife About Sovereignty; Susan Meld Shell (Boston College): Sovereignty and its Limits: Some Kantian Lessons; Ronan McCrea (University College London): Democratic Backsliding and the Unravelling of the EU Legal Order; and Michael Sanfey (Robert Schuman Centre, EUI): Sovereignty and Culture.

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To celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Ulysses, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin are welcoming over 300 Joyceans from around the world to the city he situated so durably and resoundingly on the literary map. The event taking place between June 12-18 will see academics, authors, film makers and composers share their Joycean research and creative projects as the world takes stock of a hundred years of Ulysses.

A public programme will start on Monday, June 13th with author Mark O’Connell talking about living with Joyce in Dublin and how to make every day a Bloomsday. Later that day composer Roger Doyle will discuss his piece ‘Finnegans Wake: Suite of Affections’ with renowned Joycean Vincent Deane.

Bloomsday itself, June 16, will be marked by a free public talk delivered by author Eimear McBride on ‘Joyce, Joy and Enjoying Ulysses Still’. This will be followed by a discussion between novelists Nuala O’Connor and Mary Morrissy entitled ‘Reimagining Nora’. Earlier in the day there will be a preview screening of a major new documentary entitled ‘Arena: James Joyce’s Ulysses’. This will be followed by a Q&A with the director Adam Low and producer Martin Rosenbaum.

Dr Sam Slote, Associate Professor, School of English, Trinity and one of the organisers of the symposium said: “David Bowie once said that the thing he admired about John Lennon was how he made the avant-garde accessible to a wider audience. The same would be true of Bowie himself and also of James Joyce and Ulysses. Despite its fearsome reputation, Ulysses is a book enjoyed by many people all over the world, and not despite of Joyce’s stylistic innovations but because of them. Joyce uses his mastery of language to express the complexities of human emotion and psychology. His novel is not just for the professors, but for everyone, not just for Dubliners but the world.”

The full programme is available here.