Cúirt launches diversity initiative; Joelle Taylor wins TS Eliot Prize; Lynn Buckle shortlisted

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

Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan. Photograph: Alan Betson

Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan. Photograph: Alan Betson


Saturday’s reviews in The Irish Times are Susan McKay on On Bloody Sunday by Julieann Campbell; Mia Levitin on To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara; Catherine Taylor on the best new translated fiction; Estelle Birdy on I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home by Jami Attenberg; Jane Casey on Breaking Point by Edel Coffey; Rachel Andrews on Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine by Anna Della Subin; Harry White on Nikolay Myaskovsky: A Composer and His Times by Patrick Zuk; Daniel Geary on How Civil Wars Start by Barbara F Walter; Matthew Shipsey on Roopa Farooki’s Everything is True; and Sarah Gilmartin on Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason book offer is Acts of Desperation, the acclaimed debut novel by Megan Nolan, which you can buy for €4.99, a saving of €6.

Cúirt International Festival of Literature and National University of Ireland, Galway have launched Breaking Ground Ireland, a landmark project showcasing and celebrating 80 writers and illustrators from ethnic minority backgrounds, including Irish Traveller writers, from the island of Ireland, to better reflect the breadth and diversity of writing talent.

The project will run in collaboration with Speaking Volumes, the UK-based literature organisation specialising in the promotion of underrepresented voices to reach diverse audiences and finding ways to present the work of writers. The Irish Writers Centre will also be a key partner.

Visibility is an important step on the path to building a career as a writer and the project aims to provide meaningful opportunities for writers who have not benefited from traditional platforms, and support change growth in Ireland’s literature sector.

A key outcome will be a booklet, in print and digital format, showcasing writers at every stage of their careers from emerging and early-career to established voices. The booklet will raise the profile of 80 contemporary Irish authors from under-represented, culturally diverse backgrounds and aims to be a valuable resource nationally and internationally.

The booklet will be distributed to organisations around Ireland including publishers, editors, festivals, arts organisations and local authorities, and will launch at Cúirt International Festival of Literature, from April 6th-10th.

Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe said: “Breaking Ground Ireland is a welcome and promising initiative to spotlight literary talent, foster creative community, and celebrate the rich plurivocity of stories that enliven contemporary Ireland.”

Sebastian Barry said: “What a joy, an inspiration, and a revelation it has been to read and experience in recent years the revolutionary work of Oein deBhairduin, Rosaleen McDonagh, Yan Ge, Melatu Uche Okorie, among others. These might once have been designated ‘marginal’ voices. Now they are central, restoring the ground of Irish literature, erecting graceful, healing, urgent structures of words. Any expansion in this area will be only a boon and a wondrous harvest for Irish literature.”

Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan said: “I am so excited to see the writing that will come out of the Breaking Ground Ireland initiative, spearheaded by Cúirt and run in collaboration with Speaking Volumes. In an environment where diversity can often be a box-ticking exercise, it’s great to see a major Irish festival working with another organisation that specialises in getting underrepresented voices heard, to create paid opportunities for writers from ethnic minority backgrounds.

“Committing to supporting 80 artists through this initiative will make a real impact on the Irish literary landscape, enabling the sector and its audiences to read works by writers that are creating brilliant new work in this country. The programme understands that the combination of visibility, tangible results, and paid work is what artists need to thrive. I can’t wait to see the publication produced from this initiative, to read wonderful new writing but also to use it as a resource to expand my network of brilliant writers.”

Lisa McInerney said: “Breaking Ground Ireland is such an exciting initiative. It’s essential that writers feel like their perspectives and stories matter, and this is a practical, positive and dynamic way of supporting writers from underrepresented backgrounds, who don’t always enjoy access to traditional publishing platforms. I’m so looking forward to what comes from it, and the fuller, more inclusive vision of Ireland we’ll all be able to take inspiration from.”

Adiba Jaigirdar said: “Despite Ireland’s amazing contributions to literature, there has always been a lack of ethnic minority voices from Ireland. It’s especially been noticeable now with globalisation and Ireland’s growing multicultural identity. It’s really amazing to see a project like Breaking Grounds Ireland coming to the fore, and shining a light on those voices that have been left out of the narrative for a long time. I hope that this will give many more opportunities to ethnic minority authors in Ireland, and help budding new writers feel like they have a space here.”

The winner of the 2021 TS Eliot Prize is Joelle Taylor for C+nto & Othered Poems, published by The Westbourne Press.

Chair of judges Glyn Maxwell said: “Every book on the shortlist had a strong claim on the award. We found it extremely hard to choose between ten superb collections. The arguments towards the end were passionate and thoughtful, but the choice of the judging panel is Joelle Taylor’s C+nto and Othered Poems, a blazing book of rage and light, a grand opera of liberation from the shadows of indifference and oppression.”

Maxwell, Caroline Bird and Zafffar Kunial chose the winner from a shortlist which included Irish poet Victoria Kennefick. Taylor’s prize money is £25,000 and each shortlisted poet will receive £1,500.

Taylor is an award-winning poet, playwright and author who has published four collections of poetry: Ska Tissue (Mother Foucault Press, 2011), The Woman Who Was Not There (Burning Eye Books, 2014) and Songs My Enemy Taught Me (Out-Spoken Press, 2017). She founded SLAMbassadors, the UK’s national youth slam championships, for the Poetry Society in 2001 and was its Artistic Director and National Coach until 2018. She is the host of London’s premier night of poetry and music, Out-Spoken, currently resident at the Southbank. She has published three plays and a collection of short stories, The Night Alphabet, will be published in 2021. As an educator she has lead workshops and residencies in schools, prisons, youth centres, refugee groups, and other settings.

Last year’s winner was Bhanu Kapil’s How to Wash a Heart and the judges were Lavinia Greenlaw, Mona Arshi and Andrew McMillan.

Lynn Buckle’s What Willow Says, (époque press), a paean to trees and boglands while celebrating deafness, is one of four books to make this year’s Barbellion Prize shortlist.

This unique award, founded by Jake Goldsmith, is the only international prize aimed at amplifying the voices of chronically ill and disabled authors, while also judging the works on their literary merit. Its name is a tribute to the English diarist WNP Barbellion, who wrote eloquently on his life with multiple sclerosis in Journal of a Disappointed Man, before his death in 1919.

This year’s shortlist reflects the competition’s broad scope, being open to all genres in fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, or critical non-fiction, in English or in translation. Last year’s prize was awarded to US author Riva Lehrer for her memoir Golem Girl, published by Virago.

Also shortlisted are Khairani Barokka’s second poetry collection, Ultimatum Orangutan (published by Nine Arches Press), an exploration of colonialism, environmental injustice, and the body. A Still Life: A Memoir by Josie George (Bloomsbury) tells of the recalibration of a restrained life. Ely Percy’s Duck Feet (Monstrous Regiment) is a coming-of-age YA tale. Beauty, humour, kindness, and positivity thread through the books on this outstanding shortlist. The winner will be announced next month by judges Eleanor Franzen, Jake Goldsmith, and Karl Knights.

The ninth annual Pigott Poetry Prize, awarded for the best book of new poetry by an Irish poet published between February 1st last year and this, is now open for submissions. The winner will receive the country’s largest poetry prize of €12,000 and the two shortlisted finalists each receive €1,000. Closing date for receipt of collections is February 1st.

Sponsor Mark Pigott said: “It is a blessing to be able to support this wonderful literary award and recognise the leading poets of Ireland and showcase the beauty, diversity and strength of Irish poetry.”

This year’s adjudicators are pets Maura Dooley and Mark Waldron. A shortlist of three books will be revealed in March and the winner will be announced at the leremony of Listowel Writers’ Week on June 1st.

Festival chairperson Catherine Moylan said: “We are delighted to celebrate Irish poetry and shine a light on talented poets through the generous Pigott Poetry Prize. We are very grateful to Mark Pigott and his family for this award.”


The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University (NSSA), won last year by Lucy Caldwell, and BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University (YWA) are now both open for submissions. www.bbc.co.uk/nssa

Award-winning novelist, journalist and broadcaster Elizabeth Day is chair of the judging panel for the NSSA, an award that has enriched both the careers of writers and the wider literary landscape since its launch 17 years ago. Day has written five novels and two non-fiction books, is the host of chart-topping podcast How to Fail, and presents Radio 4’s flagship books programme, Open Book.

She said: “I’m so delighted and honoured to be the Chair of this year’s BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University. As a novelist who has occasionally dabbled in short stories, I know only too well how challenging the form can be. The best short story writers combine an economy of expression with a breadth of vision that leaves an indelible impression on the reader, and in this category I’d include the work of George Saunders, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Julian Barnes, Jon McGregor, Helen Simpson and of course the late, great Raymond Carver. I’m so excited about immersing myself in the submissions and seeing what today’s short story writers have to say. I’m looking forward to being moved, entertained and provoked - and for the story itself to live on in my mind long after the final page has been turned. For me, the power of a brilliant short story resonates far beyond its word count.”


Good Housekeeping and the Women’s Prize for Fiction have announced the shortlist for Futures, a one-off campaign which aims to highlight the next generation of female authors. Among those included is Naoise Dolan for Exciting Times.

Coinciding with GH’s centenary, the initiative was open to women writers aged 35 and under, living in Britain or Ireland, who have published at least one novel. The Futures judges were chaired by Women’s Prize for Fiction founder Kate Mosse; and included novelist Sara Collins.

The other authors chosen from over 100 nominations were: Jessica Andrews for ‘Saltwater’; Natasha Brown for ‘Assembly’; Candice Carty-Williams for ‘Queenie’; Eliza Clark for ‘Boy Parts’; Abigail Dean for ‘Girl A’; Stacey Halls for ‘Mrs England’; Sairish Hussain for ‘The Family Tree’; Daisy Johnson for ‘Sisters’; and Chibundu Onuzo for ‘Sankofa’

Readers will now also have the chance to choose one overall winner, to be announced in GH’s December 2022 issue.


Granta is to publish The Night Interns by Austin Duffy this August. It is the third novel by Duffy, who is a practising medical oncologist based in Dublin. It follows his debut Ten Days and This Living and Immortal Thing, which was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year and runner-up for the McKitterick Prize. His new novel follows three surgical interns who struggle to cope with an influx of patients during their night shifts with barely any support from senior colleagues.

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