Book news round-up: Aniqah Choudhri wins The Moth Poetry Prize

A preview of Saturday’s books pages and the latest literary news

Emilie Pine's debut novel draws on her experience of infertility and loss. She talks to Catherine Conroy in the Magazine in The Irish Times tomorrow. In Weekend Review, you can read an extract from Pandemonium: Power, Politics and Ireland's Pandemic  by Jack Horgan-Jones and  Hugh O'Connell; and retired garda Willie McGee tells Conor Gallagher about his book detailing investigations of major scams. Reviews are Catriona Crowe on Bessborough by Deirdre Finnerty; Daniel Geary on The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order by Gary Gerstle; Declan Hughes on the best new crime fiction; Niall McGarrigle on Poguemahone by Patrick McCabe; Mary O'Donnell on Very Cold People by Sarah Manguso; Brian Maye on Agoraphobia by Graham Caveney; Helen Cullen on The Candy House by Jennifer Egan; Felix Larkin on The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler by Kathryn S Olmsted; Sara Keating on children's books; Bernard O'Donoghue on John McAuliffe's Selected Poems; and Sarah Gilmartin on Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel.

Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell is this week’s Irish Times Eason offer. You can buy it for just €4.99, a saving of €6, with your newspaper.


Aniqah Choudhri’s poem The Unloving Ground was announced as the winner of The Moth Poetry Prize last night at a special Poetry Ireland event online, at which all four shortlisted poets’ work was celebrated.


Choudhri, a British Muslim poet from Manchester who works as a freelance journalist, has been published in the Hippocrates Anthology for Poetry and Medicine, the Bristol Short Story Anthology and the Lightship Anthology, as well as The Independent, The Tribune magazine and i-D.

The prize, which is solely sponsored by the publishers of The Moth, is one of the world’s most valuable prizes for a single unpublished poem, with over €10,000 in prize money.

Each year a single poet is asked to judge the prize blind, and this year the judge was Warsan Shire, “a poet of the highest order, with a compassionate heart, and a limitless mind”, according to Benjamin Zephaniah.

Shire described Choudhri’s The Unloving Ground as “a lush, gorgeous poem – one that indulges all of the senses, a heartbreaking poem, an unrequited love poem, a poem for a home that does not want you”.

“Judging The Moth Poetry Prize,” she said, “was a beautiful experience. I’ve come away changed – inspired and hopeful.”

The other three shortlisted poems – Hotel Petroleum by Mark Fiddes, Small Moon Curve by Roz Goddard and Chase Street by Heather Treseler – were each awarded €1,000. Poems by a further eight poets – Sylvie Baumgartel, Laurie Bolger, Simon Costello, Christina Hutchins, Jasmine Ledesma, Daniella C Ndubuisi-Ike, Othuke Umukoro and Anna Woodford – received commendations.

The current issue of The Moth, featuring all four shortlisted poems, can be purchased at

The Irish Writers Centre has launched an ambitious new five-year strategy. Coinciding with the centre’s fourth decade as the home for writers in Ireland, it maps out a vision and ambition to provide ongoing opportunities for writers to develop t and join an engaged and diverse community of like-minded people.

One of the key objectives is to ensure that anyone who writes or who wishes to do so, whatever their age or stage, background or lived experience, knows and enjoys the support of the centre. The organisation also plans to extend its work with the professional writing community, deepening their engagement with them as they work to advance their creative and career potential.

The centre’s five strategic goals are to:

Support professional writers to advance their craft and career with confidence and resilience

Enhance opportunities for people across all communities to explore and participate in creative writing

Cultivate an engaged community of writers and the strategic alliances that support our ambitions

Secure the places and spaces that best enable our work across the island of Ireland

Ensure its future as an organisation with the knowledge, imagination and resources to thrive sustainably

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, said: “I am heartened to see the ambitious plan that the Irish Writers Centre has put forward to support the vibrant community of writers in Ireland. As a country, one of our greatest outputs is the innovative work of our writers. Irish writing is treasured both at home and abroad and resources like the Irish Writers Centre are crucial in ensuring that anyone here who wishes to grow in their creative writing is embraced and connected to a thriving, growing network.”

Centre chair Breda Brown said: “In the past few years, we have warmly welcomed new entrants to the writing scene, observed new and increased publishing and professional development opportunities, as well as welcomed the growth of peer organisations and literary festivals. All have sustained a focused spotlight on writing from Ireland and created a real sense of optimism and opportunity for those already writing or interested in writing. It’s therefore timely that the Irish Writers Centre is unveiling a new five-year strategy that maps our vision for an energised and supportive literary ecosystem that places writers and their ambitions at its core.”

Valerie Bistany, director of the centre, said: “True to its founding vision in 1991, the Irish Writers Centre is the go-to home for writers to develop their craft and meet other writers. Thirty-one years later, we continue to cherish the beginner and emerging writer, while also recognising that a writer’s career is not secured by publication alone. As the Irish Writers Centre becomes increasingly developmental in the supports offered, our new strategy embraces the role that we wish to play in uplifting authors in the challenging art of maintaining their professional careers.”


One Day/ Lá Dá Raibh, written and narrated by Louis de Paor, has won the gold medal in the culture and arts documentary category of the New York Festival awards.

The second edition of the Belfield Literary Review will be launched at 6pm on Monday, May 2nd at MoLI. It features work by Adrian Duncan, Danny Denton, Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Sydney Weinberg, Jess McKinney, Nathan O’Donnell, Beth Alvarado, Christodoulos Makris, and many more.

Meg Mason, Maggie Shipstead, Elif Shafak, Lisa Allen-Agostini, Louise Erdrich and Ruth Ozeki have been shortlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction, the annual £30,000 award which honours “outstanding, ambitious, original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world”. None has been shortlisted before although Shafak was longlisted in 2008 and 2013.


An American Emmy-winning production company has acquired rights for Irish author Domhnall O’Donoghue’s debut novel, Sister Agatha: The World’s Oldest Serial Killer, about a 118-year-old Irish nun determined to be the oldest person in the world, even if it means killing her four older rivals.

Pink Spear, the film and television production company of Irish-American Colleen Bradford Krantz, won a regional Emmy for the documentary West by Orphan Train.

“Sister Agatha has so many elements that viewers are craving right now,” Krantz said. “It not only has this wonderful older nun going about a seemingly evil plan, which provides a lot of laughs in itself, but it also involves these wonderful international locations – which should allow us to feel as though we are travelling alongside her to a small village in Africa or the city of Venice. The resulting meeting of cultures has a great folksy appeal and the kind of open-hearted empathy that made Ted Lasso work.”

O’Donoghue, who appeared in Ros na Rún for nine seasons, said: “I started mywriting career as a screenwriter, and when I penned Sister Agatha, I hoped that my naughty nun would make it to the screen one day! I’m thrilled that Colleen and her wonderful company feel the same.

“Since the arrival of the pandemic, our senior citizens have rightly been placed

centre stage; the way we rallied together to protect them from COVID emphasised how much we value and respect those of a particular vintage. And that commitment perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the book. Sister Agatha might be 118 years old, but she refuses to believe that life has a Best Before date – there’s always time for one more adventure!”

O’Donoghue’s most recent novels, Colin and the Concubine and Crazy for You, are published by Mercier Press.


The 2022 British Association of Irish Studies Book Prize has been won by Richard Kirkland for Irish London: A Cultural History 1850-1916 (Bloomsbury). Read our reviewby Enda Delaney.


UCD’s Poetry as Commemoration initiative, in partnership with Poetry Ireland, has commissioned ten poets to write a poem, in English or Irish, inspired by documents from the War of Independence and the Civil War. Using material from various archives as creative inspiration for new work, writers will reflect not only the events of the past but engage creatively with imagined futures too.

The commissioned poets are Aifric Mac Aodha, Chiamaka Enyi Amadi, Bebe Ashley, Martina Evans, Seán Hewitt, Paul Muldoon, Nithy Kasa, Victoria Kennefick, Padraig Regan, Stephen Sexton.

Poems will be published in Spring 2023 as a limited fine press edition by The Salvage Press. Recordings of the work will be made available through the Irish Poetry Reading Archive and Poetry Jukebox installations.

The selection committee included Dr. Lucy Collins (UCD School of English, Drama & Film), Paul McVeigh (Writer), Dr. Julie Morrissy (Writer & Academic), Niamh O’Donnell (Former Director of Poetry Ireland), and Kimberly Reyes (Writer).

Poetry as Commemoration is an initiative of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive at UCD Library. It is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 programme. Project Partners include Poetry Ireland, Arts Council Northern Ireland, and Quotidian Ltd. Visit for more information.

Poet Of The Troubles, a photographic tribute to the late Irish poet Pádriac Fiacc by the internationally renowned Irish photographer John Minihan, will be showcased at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, London from April 28th to May 31st. This Saturday, April 30th, at 3pm, Minihan will give an illustrated talk, Beckett and The Wake, in which he will speak about his encounters with one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, Samuel Beckett; and discuss his Fiacc exhibition. Entry £5.


The programme line-up for Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2022, the world’s largest celebration of crime fiction, has been announced.

Curated by festival chair and award-winning crime writer Denise Mina, the 2022 programme features familiar faces including Rev Richard Coles, Frankie Boyle, Bella Mackie, Charlie Higson and Rosemary Shrager, alongside crime fiction titans such as Ann Cleeves, Lynda La Plante, Adele Parks, Michael Connolly, Val McDermid, Mick Herron, Sophie Hannah, and Abir Mukherjee among others. It runs from July 21-24 in the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate.


The Culture Date with Dublin 8 festival will return on Saturday May 14th and Sunday 15th. The event now in its fourth year celebrates the postal district of D8 as one of Ireland’s top cultural destinations. On Saturday, May 14th, at 1 pm, the festival will pay special tribute to the recently deceased Dublin 8 native and Irish poet Thomas Kinsella with a free concert celebrating his work in Goldenbridge Cemetery. The event will feature readings by actors Mary Murray, Una Crawford O’Brien and the spoken word poet Emmet Kirwan followed by a performance by harpist Valerie Armstrong. That evening, The Guinness Choir will be hosting a special ticketed performance of their Sing Again concert in St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 7 pm.


Trinity College Dublin has announced two new Honorary Fellows. The first is the internationally renowned author, Sebastian Barry. A Trinity graduate, he read English and Latin from 1973 to 1977, and served as Writer Fellow in 1995-6. He began his career writing fiction and poetry, but it was as a dramatist that he first came to prominence with a series of plays, mostly staged at the Abbey Theatre. It is for his novels that he is now best known. The Secret Scripture (2008), shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, won the James Black Tait Memorial Prize in 2009, and in its French translation the Cezam Prix Littéraire CE in 2010.

The second is Máirín Nic Eoin, a world-leading scholar of modern Irish language literature. Professor Emerita of Irish in DCU (Dublin City University), she is the author of many seminally important works, including three monographs which are milestones in modern Irish literary criticism (An litríocht réigiúnach 1982, B’ait leo bean 1998, Trén bhfearann breac 2005), and editor of many volumes of conference proceedings and of the works of several modern Irish poets and writers.


The tenth edition of the Borris House Festival of Writing & Ideas has announced its line up for the gathering which takes place from June 10th to 12th.

Highlights include musicians Laurie Anderson, John Issely (Dire Straits), Colin Greenwood (Radiohead), Cormac Begley and Philip King. Actors and film directors are well represented: Lenny Abrahamson, Ruth Wilson, Stephen Frears, Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Sharon Horgan, Jeremy Irons, Sinead Cusack, Nick Broomfield and David Puttnam.

Investigative or conflict journalists (many coming straight from Ukraine) include: Ben Anderson, Anne Applebaum, Catherine Belton, Luke Harding, Sally Hayden, Oliver Bullough, Mary Fitzgerald, Lindsey Hilsum, Misha Glenny, Patrick Radden Keefe, and Ed Vulliamy. Exceptional thinkers such as Margaret MacMillan, Roy Foster, Fintan O’Toole, Mary Robinson, Gabrielle Walker will explore global rights and wrongs.

And some speakers to relish because they will take us wild places: Elizabeth Boyle who mixes medieval history with heavy metal, Dolly Alderton’s exhilarating wit and life lessons, Max Porter’s portrayal of Francis Bacon, Jay Rayner talking about his last supper (and, apparently, playing jazz piano), Chelsea and Everton footballer Pat Nevin on being a weirdo, Paul Muldoon’s project with Paul McCartney, marine scientist Finn van der Aar’s world, the trans world of Travis Alabanza, Han TIernan and Shon Faye, and bad boy of fiction DBC Pierre.