Mountains to Sea festival highlights revealed

Irish Times Poetry Now Award judges named

Some of the highlights of next year's Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival, which runs from March 21st to March 25th, have been announced this week as tickets went on sale for the main events.

Ali Smith, Baileys Prize-winning, Man Booker-shortlisted author of Autumn, Winter and How to be Both, will be in conversation with Sinéad Gleeson on March 21st. US poet Robert Pinsky will be in conversation with Olivia O’Leary on March 23rd. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: author Gail Honeyman will be talking to Eithne Shortall on March 24th. On the same day, Wounds author Fergal Keane and Éamon de Valera biographer David McCullagh will consider the lives of people who were contemporaries and adversaries in the War of Independence and Civil War. And Adrian Dunbar directs Anna Nygh, Orla Charlton, Frank McCusker and Stanley Townsend in TS Eliot’s The Waste Land with composition by Nick Roth, DLR’s musician in residence.

The festival’s new programmer Liz Kelly said: “Storytelling and literature help us make sense of a world whose tectonic plates of power and culture are shifting rapidly. As Jean Rhys put it ‘reading makes immigrants of us all, it takes us away from home but more importantly, it finds homes for us everywhere’. Stories are excellent at crossing borders. With that in mind, for the 10th Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival, we bring together writers who have been shaped and who in turn have shaped their work around the journeys they’ve made and the cities they call home.” Box-office: 01 231 2929.

Fran Brearton, professor of modern poetry at Queen's University Belfast; John McAuliffe, poet, critic and director of University of Manchester's Centre for New Writing; and Gerry Smyth, poetry editor of The Irish Times, have been announced as The Irish Times Poetry Now Award judges. The award will be presented on March 24th at Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival to the author of the best collection of poems in English published by an Irish poet in the previous year. Previous winners include Catriona O'Reilly, Theo Dorgan, Sinéad Morrissey, Dennis O'Driscoll, Michael Longley, Harry Clifton and Seamus Heaney.


Theo Dorgan will judge the Shine/Strong Poetry Award for the best first collection of poems published by an Irish poet in the previous year. Previous winners include Breda Wall Ryan, Caoilinn Hughes and Tara Bergin. The award will be presented at Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival on March 25th at a reading by the shortlisted nominees.

Margaretta D'Arcy has donated her papers and those of her late husband and playwright John Arden to NUI Galway. The archive throws new light on two pivotal but under-researched figures of 20th and 21st century Irish and British theatre. It also features strongly the activism of both Arden and D'Arcy.

Sarah Perry's follow-up to her acclaimed bestseller The Essex Serpent is inspired by a neglected Irish gothic masterpiece, Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer, about a scholar who sold his soul to the devil for 150 extra years of life, and searches the world for someone who will take over the pact.

Perry’s Melmoth will be published by Serpent’s Tail next October. Publisher Hannah Westland said: “It is impossible to describe just how breathtaking, moving and haunting Melmoth is. I have never read anything quite like it.”

The Essex Serpent has sold 450,000 copies and was the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016 as well as being listed for several other prizes. A TV dramatisation is in development by the makers of Love, Nina, Top of the Lake.

Waterstones Book of the Year for 2017 is La Belle Sauvage, Philip Pullman's first instalment of the Book of Dust, a companion series to His Dark Materials. Publishe din October, it has already sold almost 200,000 copies. Managing director James Daunt said: "Booksellers influence readers, and are guided in turn by the enthusiasms of their customers. It is the happy warp and weft of our profession, and very few books indeed excite this process quite like La Belle Sauvage."