Jim McElroy and Dean Browne win poetry awards

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

Jim McElroy

Jim McElroy

 

In Saturday’s Irish Times, leading writers and critics tell us about their favourite books of the first half of the year. Alix O’Neill talks to Roisín Ingle about her funny Troubles memoir, The Troubles with Us. The biographer of Ethel Rosenberg, who was 37 and the mother of two small sons when she was executed for being a Soviet spy in New York in 1953, talks to Rosita Boland.

Reviews are Mihir Bose on To Kill A Democracy: India’s Passage to Despotism by Debasish Roy Chowdhury and John Keane and Midnight’s Border: A People’s History of Modern India by Suchitra Vijayan; Naoise Dolan on Animal by Lisa Taddeo; Declan O’Driscoll on the best new fiction in translation; Michael O’Loughlin on The Fascination of What’s Difficult: A Life of Maud Gonne by Kim Bendheim; Sarah Gilmartin on Long Players by Tom Gatti; Sinéad O’Shea on The Troubles with Us by Alix O’Neill; Patrick Kehoe on Penny Baps by Kevin Doherty; Sarah Moss on Fallen by Mel O’Doherty; and Sara Keating on the best new children’s books.

The Tangerine, a Belfast-based magazine of new writing, celebrates the launch of its tenth issue today. The magazine is in its fifth year, and publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction and artwork from Belfast and beyond. This issue includes work from writers including Louise Kennedy, Miriam Gamble, Manuela Moser, Tim MacGabhann, and Dean Fee, and interviews with Anne Carson and Mariah Garnett. You can sign up for a free ticket to tonight’s Zoom launch here or buy a copy of the issue here. The submissions window for issue eleven will open soon.

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Pascale Petit and Daljit Nagra have chosen Irish poets Jim McElroy and Dean Browne as winners of the 2021 International Book & Pamphlet Competition.

McElroy, from Co Down, won for We Are The Weather, poems developed from a group Martina Evans selected for the Poetry Ireland introductions series.

Petit said: “A harsh farmstead life is conjured with words the texture of mud and straw, blood and urine. I loved the sonic dance of vowels and consonants, as urgent as “my burst of curses rhyming the bucket”. Words for this poet are beings to roll around in. While the brutalities and charms of farm life thresh on the page, there are also tender moments, such as Unmaking His Chair – a lyrical eco-poem told backwards. A linguistic delight!”

Nagra said: “We learn the what it must feel like to be an urban child, to grow up amid the rigours of a demanding landscape with its hard-won pleasures. Occasionally we feel the power of Seamus Heaney in the way the natural world is excited through physical and sonorous language. At their best, the details are devoid of self and focus on particularising natural activity with impressive acuity.”

McElroy is based in Belfast, and grew up in the Mournes, near Katesbridge. He won the 2021 Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing and the 2020 Francis Ledwidge Poetry Award. In 2019 he was selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions, and awarded an Individual Artist Award by Arts Council NI. In 2020 he was shortlisted for the Rialto pamphlet award, Cúirt New Writing prize, was runner-up in the Fingal Poetry Prize and he was nominated for the Pushcart and Forward prizes. He has also been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize on two occasions. Recurrent themes include the natural world, climate, war, technological change and ageing.

Dean Browne was another of the four winners chosen, alongside Maya C Popa

and Anastasia Taylor-Lind, for his collection, Kitchens at Night. He was born in 1994 and raised in Tipperary. His poems have appeared widely in magazines and journals, including Banshee, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Magazine, Poetry Review, Southword, The Stinging Fly and The Tangerine. His poem, Pine Box in the Flea Market, was shortlisted for Poem of the Year in the Irish Book Awards in 2019. Having previously lived in Berlin, he now lives in Cork City.

- Pascale Petit said: “These poems are packed with exuberant images. They twist and turn in constantly surprising ways - line by line, I never know where they’ll take me next! The first read exhilarates; re-reads reveal hidden depths and subterranean passages to the magical adventures. I adored the furniture poems especially, but every poem thrills. This is gorgeous, exciting work and I’m in awe of its energy and vitality.”

Daljit Nagra said: “Quirky, kooky, dark, philosophical, absurd and always wonderful, often edged between outrageous humour and revelation, these richly imagistic poems are full of invention. Each poem treads slowly onwards inventing itself as it proceeds to celebrate the transforming powers of poetry. An original and thrilling poet whose every poem hit the mark!”

Enough

By Jim McElroy

My sweaty belly button is full of seed hay:

no more will I stook sheaves in threes,

stand these hay teepees in their own reaped sward.

I won’t sned turnips, my soaked knees roped

in the mealy jute of Sow and Weaner bags.

My stooped days are gone. Your stubbled harvest

can bristle; I won’t bend to the sod,

or gather Arran Banners, fill baskets, bag for trailers.

No longer will I stand by turnip cutters,

my bored arm numbed in its turnings,

their sliced heads filling buckets for sows, store pigs.

No more shall our cow slap her shitty tail

across my cheek, as I bend to the milking;

keep your durt, your gutter muck. No more

shall I shovel dung through groop holes

of byre walls, watch it steam on caked pats.

Farewell farm, stable, barn: this world can feed itself.

Kennys Bookshop in Galway has announced an exclusive limited edition of The Magician, the new novel by Colm Tóibín, which is released on September 23rd.

Tóibín is the award-winning Irish author of nine novels including Brooklyn and The Master. His new book tells the story of writer Thomas Mann and is set across a half-century spanning the first World War to the Cold War.

The Kennys edition is gigned and numbered by the author, with an exclusive cover, marbled endpapers and an afterword on the writing of the book by Tóibín, available only in this edition. To pre-order, click here.

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