PEN Heaney Prize launched

Books newsletter: Irish Times Eason offer is Everyone Here Is Lying by Shari Lapena, just €5.99

In The Irish Times this Saturday, Niamh Mulvey tells Niamh Donnelly about her brilliant debut novel, The Amendments. Maggie Armstrong talks to Aoife Barry about her debut story collection, Old Romantics. And there is a Q&A with Andrew Hughes about his new thriller, Emma, Disappeared.

Reviews are Karlin Lillington on Filterworld by Kyle Chayka and Code Dependent by Madhumita Murgia; Lara Marlowe on Impossible City: Paris in the Twenty-First Century by Simon Kuper; Edel Coffey on My Favourite Mistake by Marian Keyes; Claire Hennessy on the best new YA fiction; Mia Levitin on James by Percival Everett; Paul Bew on United Kingdoms: Multinational Union States in Europe and Beyond, 1800-1925 by Alvin Jackson; Niamh Jiménez on Caroline Crampton’s A Body Made of Glass; Donald Clarke on The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic by Dan De Visé; Helena Mulkerns on Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange; Lucy Sweeney Byrne on A Woman’s Story by Annie Ernaux; and Pragya Agarwal on Hagstone by Sinéad Gleeson.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason offer is Everyone Here Is Lying by Shari Lapena, just €5.99 when you buy the newspaper, a €5 saving.

On the eve of the 85th anniversary of Seamus Heaney’s birth, English PEN, Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann and the Estate of Seamus Heaney launch a new annual prize, the PEN Heaney Prize. The prize will recognise a single volume of poetry by one author, published in the UK or Ireland, of outstanding literary merit that engages with the impact of cultural or political events on human conditions or relationships.


Complementing English PEN’s PEN Pinter Prize for outstanding writers of literary merit, and the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for non-fiction, the prize is open to original English language collections and those translated into English.

The inaugural prize will be judged by poets Nick Laird, Paula Meehan and Shazea Quraishi. The three judges will be joined by Catherine Heaney, representing the Estate of Seamus Heaney, who will act as non-voting chair of the judging panel.

Heaney is recognised as one of the most important poets of his generation. Through his essays, lectures, and addresses, he also became one of the most eloquent advocates for poetry and the role of the poet in public life. He understood the power of poetry to speak and respond to certain moments and experiences in the wider world, while always mindful that poetry must never lose “its fundamentally self-delighting inventiveness.”

Submissions are now open for publishers on the English PEN website. They will close at 11.59pm on June 3rd. Poetry collections published last year and marketed to adult readers are eligible. The full criteria can be found via the link above.

A shortlist will be announced in October, with the winning volume announced in November. The winner will receive £5,000. If the winning book is translated from another language, £5,000 will also be awarded to the translator(s).

Open to writers of any nationality or geographical location, including those whose work has been translated into English, at any stage of their career, the prize recognises the diverse voices producing this kind of poetry.

Catherine Heaney said: “The Estate of Seamus Heaney and the Heaney family are delighted to partner with English PEN and Irish PEN / PEN na hÉireann on the inauguration of the PEN Heaney Prize. My father had a long association with PEN and supported the essential work it does on behalf of writers around the world. Therefore, it feels fitting that he should be honoured and remembered through this exciting joint venture, which will reward a volume of poetry that reflects PEN’s and Seamus’s shared values. We are grateful to our partners for their commitment and vision for the prize, and look forward to it becoming an important part of Seamus’s legacy.”

Booktown’s back

Ireland’s national booktown returns for its second year. The Granard Booktown Festival (April 19th-21st) returns with a stellar line-up this year. The small midlands town welcomes headliners Sinéad Gleeson, Booker Prize winner Paul Lynch and the BBC’s Fergal Keane, as well as Canadian novelist and screenwriter Patrick deWitt, game designer and creator of the bestselling video game Doom John Romero, and bestselling crime writer Patricia Gibney.

Its first artist-in-residence, Noel Monahan, a poet and writer, will also be appearing at the festival. There’s a strong showing of Irish writers, from Manchán Magan to the live recording of an episode of the Black & Irish podcast, and a publishing workshop with editors of Granta magazine, the Stinging Fly and PVA.

There will also be trad music in local pubs during the weekend, making for a perfect weekend getaway.

Ondaatje Prize longlist

Irish writers Sheila Armstrong and Diarmuid Hester have been longlisted for the £10,000 Royal Society of Literature (RSL) Ondaatje Prize. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the prize, which was instituted in 2004 to celebrate outstanding works of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that best evoke the spirit of a place.

Armstrong has been longlisted for her debut novel, Falling Animals, set in her native Sligo; Hester for Nothing Ever Just Disappears, a travelogue celebrating the history of queer spaces in 20th-century subculture, from Josephine Baker’s Paris to EM Forster’s Cambridge.

“Place has always been important to me as a writer, and I’ve loved the brilliant variety of its imaginative reflections in the longlist,” says Francis Spufford, who judged the prize alongside Jan Carson and Xiaolu Guo. They whittled down 194 entries in selecting their longlist of 14 authors.

Carson said: “Judging the RSL Ondaatje Prize has been a fantastic opportunity to discover some wonderful writers I’d never previously encountered. I’ve spent my winter in glorious hibernation, reading an incredible range of thought-provoking, wise and timely books. I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time.”

The 2024 RSL Ondaatje longlist is:

The Britannias – Alice Albinia; Falling Animals – Sheila Armstrong; Thunderclap – Laura Cumming; Local Interest – Emily Hasler; Nothing Ever Just Disappears – Diarmuid Hester; Enter Ghost – Isabella Hammad; In Search of Berlin – John Kampfner; A Flat Place – Noreen Masud; Cuddy – Benjamin Myers; No Man’s Land – David Nash; Fassbinder, Thousands of Mirrors – Ian Penman; Wandering Souls – Cecile Pin; Two Lights – James Roberts; and Elowen – William Henry Searle.

The shortlist will be announced on April 26th, with the winner announced on May 14th. Last year’s winner was Anthony Anaxagorou for Heritage Aesthetics (Granta Poetry). Previous recipients have included Aida Edemariam, Ruth Gilligan, Alan Johnson, Hisham Matar, Pascale Petit, Roger Robinson, Francis Spufford, Edmund de Waal and Louisa Waugh.

Booker winners in conversation

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) will celebrate some of Ireland’s greatest living writers with a series of readings and conversations featuring four Booker Prize winners. The series will commence on April 23rd, with current Booker Prize winner Paul Lynch in conversation with fellow novelist Belinda McKeon.

The full series comprises:

Tuesday, April 23rd: 2023 Booker winner Paul Lynch in conversation with Belinda McKeon on Prophet Song.

Tuesday, May 7th: 2005 Booker winner John Banville in conversation with Claire Kilroy on The Sea.

Tuesday, May 14th: 2007 Booker winner Anne Enright in conversation with Nuala O’Connor on The Gathering.

Thursday, June 6th: 1993 Booker winner Roddy Doyle in conversation with Rob Doyle on Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.

The series is curated by literary programmer Alan Hayes. The events will take place at the National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, and each will commence at 6.30pm.

Series curator Alan Hayes said: “Literature is rightfully regarded internationally as Ireland’s greatest artform, and it is no surprise that Ireland continues to punch above its weight. The National Library of Ireland is the living repository of Irish writing in both languages, it is the bedrock of our culture and is at the heart of our society. Thus, it is a pleasure to work with Dr Audrey Whitty and her dynamic team as we celebrate these groundbreaking books and authors that have such pride of place, not only in Ireland but internationally.”

Tickets can be booked through the NLI website. Tickets are free, but places are limited, so interested parties are encouraged to book early.


The Society of Authors has published the results of its recen survey of writers, illustrators and translators on the impact of generative AI on creative careers.

Translators and illustrators in particular are already feeling the direct impact of generative AI on their work and ability to make their work pay, followed by writers of non-fiction, journalists, content creators and others.

A quarter of illustrators (26%) and over a third of translators (36%) have already lost work due to generative AI. Over a third of illustrators (37%) and over four in 10 translators (43%) say the income from their work has decreased in value because of generative AI. Almost all of respondents (94%) want credit and compensation and to be asked for consent (95%) when their work is used to develop generative AI systems or to enable AI-generated output. Almost all respondents (95%) call for government to introduce safeguards and regulation to ensure compliance with these measures of consent, compensation and transparency.

The society is holding an EGM on May 2nd at which it will invite members to vote on a resolution to assert that they do not consent to the use of their works to develop AI systems.


Prof Paul Perry has announced the establishment of the UCD Mary Lavin Centre for Creative Writing this week at UCD.

The centre represents a significant literary and cultural endeavour within the College of Arts and Humanities in UCD.

As its new director, Perry says that the Mary Lavin Centre for Creative Writing will enhance UCD’s visibility and reputation for research, teaching and the promotion of creative writing, and will place creative writing at the forefront of practice-led arts research in the university. The centre will also build on a well-established commitment by the UCD School of English, Drama and Film to fostering and supporting new writing.

The university has long been associated with some of Ireland’s greatest writers, including James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Anthony Cronin, John McGahern, Neil Jordan, Conor McPherson, Marina Carr, Colm Tóibín, Emma Donoghue and Maeve Binchy. The centre’s members will include acknowledged experts and world leaders in the novel, life writing, non-fiction, and poetry. Individually they already make very significant contributions to writing and include Booker Prize-winning novelist Anne Enright, Professor of Creative Writing, and novelists Paula McGrath, Sarah Moss and Declan Hughes as well as poets Ian Davidson, Eireann Lorsung and Jonathan Creasy.

The centre publishes the literary journal Belfield Literary Review, hosts a reading series at MoLI, as well as running a BA in English with Creative Writing, and MA, MFA and PhD programmes. Postdocs, funded by the IRC and SFI, and Enterprise Partnership Postdoctoral Fellowships with Poetry Ireland and the UCD/ACI Writer in Residence are all housed within the centre.

The centre also hosts lectures and workshops with the Ireland Professor of Poetry and the Laureate for Irish Fiction in conjunction with the Irish Arts Council.

In her will Lavin bequeathed to UCD library her archive of literary manuscripts, including drafts of her short stories, and handwritten and typescript documents. This acquisition from the Lavin estate consolidates that very special collection and now sits beside literary archives from Maeve Binchy, Frank McGuinness, Edna O’Brien and Patrick Kavanagh.


Jan Brierton, whose poetry collection, Everybody Is A Poem: Mid-life in Rhymes, made the top 10 in the paperback non-fiction charts, marks Poetry Day Ireland with a live poetry gig on Wednesday, April 24th, at 6.30pm, in Books Upstairs on D’Olier Street, Dublin, along with special guest, actor and writer Emmet Kirwan.


Audiobooks are now available on Spotify for premium subscribers in Ireland. Spotify users in Ireland will now get monthly access to 15 hours of audiobooks from a catalogue of over 250,000 books.


In a deal with Ciarán Medlar at BDO Ireland, Michael McLoughlin, publisher at Sandycove, has acquired world rights to Johnny Sexton’s autobiography, Obsessed, which will be published in October.

McLoughlin said: “It is a great honour to publish Johnny’s autobiography. He is one of the best rugby, in fact sportspeople, Ireland has ever produced. His leadership and drive to be the best he can be both on and off the field will make this a riveting read.”

Sexton said: “I am very pleased to be working with the Penguin team again. In this book I will openly share my personal story and aim to give a full & honest insight into my life on and off the rugby pitch - one which I hope that readers will enjoy.”


Palestinian poet, Marwan Makhoul and his English translator, Rapahel Cohen, will be in Ireland from April 25th-29th. Makhoul’s Arabic poetry is being translated into Irish for the first time by IMRAM - Féile Litríochta Gaeilge in association with Poetry Ireland (and with support from Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann). He will read at a welcome reception at the James Joyce Centre, Dublin, on the 26th. He will then travel to Cork to headline the Cork World Book Festival on the 27th.