Loose Leaves


A fresh slant for O’Brien weekend

The theme of this year’s Kate O’Brien Weekend, the 28th since the annual event began in 1984, is “Tell it Slant”, taken from the Emily Dickinson poem that begins: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” The weekend, which commemorates one of Limerick’s most distinguished writers (below), will take place in the city’s Belltable Arts Centre on Friday and Saturday, February 24th and 25th, before moving to the newly renovated theatre in Mary Immaculate College on Sunday, when the Kate O’Brien Lecture, already sold out, will be given by Seamus Heaney at noon.

On Saturday, there is a promising line-up of speakers, including the novelist John Boyne, the Irish Timescolumnist Frank McNally and the novelist and journalist Susie Boyt, a daughter of Lucian Freud. Boyne, whose novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamaswas made into an award-winning film and was recently voted Ireland’s all-time-favourite Bisto Children’s Book of the Year, will talk about his most recent book, The Absolutist, in a paper called Hidden in the Trenches: Conscientious Objectors and Clandestine Romance.

There will be a musical element on Friday evening, when the contralto Sarah Ellen Murphy performs songs written especially for the event, and on Sunday morning, when John Horgan presents music from O’Brien’s era. For details, and a look at how the O’Brien weekend, now funded by the Arts Council and Limerick City Council, has evolved, see kateobrienweekend.com.

Harry Clifton on the influence of Europe

The poet Harry Clifton (who reviews two new books by Thomas Kinsella on page 13, opposite) will next week give his second public lecture since being appointed Ireland Professor of Poetry in 2010. As part of his effort “to refocus the image of Irish poetry as something that wants deep down to secede from the modern world”, the lecture, The Unforged Conscience: Europe in Irish Poetry,will examine the impact that closer contact with the force field of European poetry has had on recent generations of Irish poets.

The public talk will take place on Wednesday, February 22nd, at the Swift Theatre, Trinity College Dublin, at 7pm. Admission is free, but places should be reserved by emailing Niamh McCabe at irelandchairofpoetry@gmail.com.

Spring into season’s readings on the square

A spring lunchtime programme of free readings is under way at the Irish Writers’ Centre on Parnell Square in Dublin. It alternates between poets (in association with Poetry Ireland) and prose writers, who will read from their work at 1pm each Friday. Coming up next, on the 24th, is the novelist and screenwriter Shane Connaughton, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the script of My Left Foot. Readers in March will be the poets Geraldine Mitchell (2nd), Paul Perry (16th) and Denise Blake (30th), and the prose writers Anne Sharpe (9th) and Mary Costello (23rd). See writerscentre.ieor call 01-8721302 for details.

Irish-based novel gets Barnes Noble nod

There’s a buzz building across the pond about Malarky,the debut novel of Irish-Canadian writer Anakana Schofield, which has been selected by US bookseller Barnes Noble as a summer BN Discover Great New Writers pick. Writers previously selected for this promotion include Colum McCann and Cormac McCarthy.

Malarky,to be published next month by Biblioasis, is set in Mayo and Dublin and tells the story of a middle-aged woman, Philomena, and her attempts to come to terms with her son’s homosexuality, her husband’s infidelities, and a loss that causes untold grief.