Loose Leaves


Speaking of poetry captured in time

The venerable Claddagh label is best known for traditional music, but it also has an extraordinary history of literary spoken-word recordings. One of the earliest of these was The Northern Muse, commissioned by Claddagh’s then director, Paddy Moloney, which featured Seamus Heaney and John Montague reading from their work. It was Montague’s collection Death of a Chieftain that gave Moloney’s group The Chieftains its name. Subsequently, in 1973, Claddagh released a recording of Montague reading The Rough Field, with incidental music by The Chieftains.

Now Montague and Moloney have been reunited for The Wild Dog Rose, an album of Montague poems alternating with musical pieces featuring Moloney and fellow Chieftains Kevin Conneff, Sean Keane and Matt Molloy, together with James Galway and Veronica McSwiney. As Ciaran Carson writes in a sleeve note, “The Wild Dog Rose renegotiates that concept of an extended dialogue between words and music . . . with the hindsight of experience.”

At the same time Claddagh is also releasing a remarkable trio of poetic albums: Michael Hartnett’s The Blink of an Eye: A Life in Verse, recorded in 1990; Derek Mahon reading his Selected Poems 1960-2005; and arguably the greatest interpreter of Samuel Beckett, Jack McGowran, reading the master’s poems in 1972. All match great voices to great poems.

Martina Devlin takes VS Pritchett prize

The author and columnist Martina Devlin has won the Royal Society of Literature’s 2012 VS Pritchett Memorial Prize, worth £1,000 (€1,250), awarded for the best unpublished short story of the year in the UK. “I’m thrilled to win anything in which VS Pritchett’s name appears in the same sentence as mine,” says Devlin. “The winning piece is called Singing Dumb and is about a young girl in a rural community minding her three-year-old brother, who, unfortunately, is run over by a car.” The story will be published in Prospect and the RSL Review after the award ceremony in London on November 5th.

Another Irish writer in the frame for a substantial British story prize is Julian Gough, the novelist and former frontman of Toasted Heretic. Gough’s story The iHole is on the shortlist for the BBC International Short Story Award, which is open to anyone writing in English and offers a first prize of £15,000. Gough describes the story as a dark comedy, set in the future, when a company brings out the latest must-have consumer device: a portable black hole.

Others on the shortlist of 10 include the Booker-shortlisted Deborah Levy (see review, opposite page) and writers from South Africa, Korea and the US.

“Im ridiculously happy . . . If the Booker Prize is the literary equivalent of an Olympic gold in the marathon, then this is like qualifying for the 100m final,” says Gough. The prize ceremony takes place in London next Tuesday.

Thursday is poetry day all around the country

Next Thursday is All-Ireland Poetry Day, and events are scheduled in every county across the island, in hospitals, schools, workplaces and libraries. In the southeast, for example, Waterford Healing Arts Trust will host Waiting List, a free lunchtime reading by Shirley McClure in the church of Waterford Regional Hospital at 1.15pm. McClure, who was encouraged by her surgeon to write about her experience of breast cancer, has recently published her debut collection, Who’s Counting? Fellow poet Katie Donovan, who launched the book, called it the work of “a refreshing new voice in Irish poetry”. For information about All-Ireland Poetry Day events elsewhere, see poetryireland.ie.