Muse of Yeats festival; Seamus Heaney exhibition; Anakana Schofield shortlisted

Colm Tóibín at Trinity; literary elite in Ballsbridge; Irish Culture abroad for 2016

The inaugural Muse Of Yeats festival takes place on October 10th and 11th in the surroundings of Rossnaree House in Slane, Co Meath. It is organised by and features contributions from living descendants of Maud Gonne.  The festival’s host and curator Aisling Law, left, is Gonne’s great-granddaughter

The inaugural Muse Of Yeats festival takes place on October 10th and 11th in the surroundings of Rossnaree House in Slane, Co Meath. It is organised by and features contributions from living descendants of Maud Gonne. The festival’s host and curator Aisling Law, left, is Gonne’s great-granddaughter


A Second Troy

The inaugural Muse Of Yeats festival takes place this weekend, October 10th and 11th, in the surroundings of Rossnaree House in Slane, County Meath. Marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of WB Yeats, the event is organised by and features contributions from living descendants of the real life ‘Muse of Yeats’, Maude Gonne.

The festival’s host and curator Aisling Law is Gonne’s great-granddaughter, with other family members including the sculptor Imogen Stuart offering reminiscences. The programme of events includes poetry readings and discussions by renowned Yeatsian scholars, authors and artists. Yeats and Gonne’s intertwined lives will be explored through theatre, music and a unique exhibition of previously unseen artwork by Gonne from the family’s archive.

Ticket prices start at €30 for a day ticket, up to €70 for the full weekend, which includes “a great feast” on Saturday evening. A limited number of tickets are available here.

College Green exhibition to honour Heaney

A major international exhibition celebrating the life and work of Seamus Heaney is planned for display at the new Cultural and Heritage Centre within Bank of Ireland’s College Green complex. The inaugural exhibition, announced this week by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys and Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher, is planned for 2017.

Curated by the National Library of Ireland (NLI), it will celebrate the life and work of the Nobel Prize-winning poet. The exhibition will draw on the writer’s extensive literary archive, which was donated to the NLI in 2011, and on archives held by Emory University. It will feature Heaney’s original manuscripts as well as letters, unpublished works, diary entries, photographs, broadsides and multi-media recordings.

The Heaney exhibition will be the first housed in the new Cultural Centre, and is expected to run for several years. The free, public exhibition will be curated for the NLI by Professor Geraldine Higgins, director of Irish studies at Emory University, who also curated Emory’s acclaimed exhibition, Seamus Heaney: The Music of What Happens in 2014.

The public exhibition space was announced by Bank of Ireland in 2014 and is available to the State for a period of 10 years. Recognised as important heritage buildings which have played a significant role in the country’s history, the new centre will be utilised for the staging of exhibitions and other cultural events that will be open to the public.

Book sales rise in Ireland

There have been strong sales for books in Ireland in 2015, according to the latest Nielsen Bookscan statistics. The Irish Consumer Market (ICM) has seen sales for the year up to September 5th of €63.5 million (up 6.1 per cent on 2014) and 5.8 million units (up 0.7 per cent). Fiction is up 6.5 per cent with sales of €16.7 million (by volume, down 3.4 per cent to 1.6 million). Non-fiction is up by 3.6 per cent with sales of €25.8 million (down 1.2 per cent in volume to 1.8 million). Children’s literature has continued to grow, with value up 9.3 per cent to €20.7 million and volume up 5.4 per cent to 2.3 million.

The new figures coincide with the launch of the annual Books Are My Bag celebrations across the UK and Ireland. From Thursday, October 8th - Saturday, October 10th, bookshops will host events, parties, live illustrations and author readings as publishing kicks off its crucial Christmas season. Today sees the publication of 503 hardback books. Referred to as “Super Thursday” by those in the industry, this figure amounts to twice as many books published in an average week.

Authors publishing new work today include Bill Bryson, Steve Coogan, Martina Cole, Chris Evans, Sir Tom Jones, Andrew Marr and Terry Wogan. Cookery books include new volumes from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Nigella Lawson, James Martin and Gordon Ramsay. Also published will be children’s books by Eoin Colfer, Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Pharrell Williams and James Patterson. A Grayson Perry limited edition canvas tote will be on sale exclusively in bookshops to mark the festivities.

Irish author shortlisted for $100,000 award

Anakana Schofield has been shortlisted for Canada’s 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her second novel Martin John. Recently published in the US, the novel will launch in Europe in the spring. Schofield is an Irish-Canadian writer, whose debut novel Malarky won the First Novel Award and the Debut-Litzer Prize for Fiction in 2013. The Scotiabank Giller Prize was established in 1994 in honour of the late Canadian journalist Doris Giller. It aims to highlight the very best in Canadian fiction, with $100,000 awarded annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English. A further award of $10,000 is given to each of the finalists. The winner is announced at a televised ceremony on November 10th. The other finalists are: André Alexis, Fifteen Dogs (Coach House Books); Samuel Archibald, Arvida (Biblioasis), translated by Donald Winkler; Rachel Cusk, Outline (Harper Perennial); and Heather O’Neill, Daydreams of Angels (HarperCollins).

Psychic story wins BBC award

Former Rough Guides editor Jonathan Buckley has won the BBC National Short Story Award 2015 for his story Briar Road. This is the first time the Brighton-based author was shortlisted, which he described as “a huge and delightful surprise”. Buckley was presented with the prize of £15,000 by this year’s chair of judges Allan Little at a ceremony in the BBC’s Radio Theatre in London earlier this week. Mark Haddon was selected as the runner-up and received £3,000 for his story Bunny. The three other shortlisted authors (Frances Leviston, Hilary Mantel and Jeremy Page) received £500. Buckley’s winning story focuses on a moment in the life of a family who have turned to a spiritualist after their teenage daughter disappears.

Irish culture abroad in 2016

An operatic version of The Dead and an international tour of Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half Formed Thing are among the literary highlights of Culture Ireland’s 2016 programme of events. Part of the 2016 centenary celebrations, I am Ireland was launched last week by Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

The Corn Exchange Theatre will take its adaptation of McBride’s novel on tour in the UK and US. Other international endeavours include an Irish Writers Abroad programme, which sees Irish writers travel throughout the world to attend festivals including the Harbourfront Writers Festival in Toronto and Hay-On-Wye. From Paul Muldoon and Paul Murray at the Sydney Writers’ Festival to John Boyne at the Auckland Writers’ Festival in New Zealand, the programme is geared at getting international audiences to engage with Irish authors during the historic year ahead.

The John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will be home to a series of events, including a “Laureates event” with Anne Enright and Paula Meehan; Eavan Boland in conversation with Colm Tóibín; an Irish language event with Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Louis de Paor, Iarla Ó’Lionáird and Ronan Browne; and an evening with Colum McCann.

Other noteworthy happenings include a trip to Paris for the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival; special supports for the translation of 1916 related literature through the Irish Literature Exchange; and an expanded version of the annual Irish Book Day at Solas Nua in Washington next March. The full programme is available at

Tóibín at Trinity

Colm Tóibín will speak at Trinity College on Friday, October 16th about his recent book on Elizabeth Bishop. Interviewed by Dr Pádraic Whyte, Tóibín will discuss the American poet’s legacy and her influence on him as a writer. Billed as particularly suitable to Leaving Cert pupils studying Bishop, the event takes place from 6.30pm in the Thomas Davis Theatre, Arts Building. A selection of Bishop’s poems will be read by the Irish actress Cathy Belton. On Elizabeth Bishop sees Tóibín explore the work and life of one of his most important literary influences through Bishop’s poetry, prose, letters, and biography. Tickets cost €12/€10 students and can be purchased here.

Charity libraries from Bord Gáis

Bord Gáis returns with its annual charity initiative that aims to bring reading to the public. The Donate a Library programme will give seven organisations books and library equipment valued at €1,500 each. The public is asked to nominate worthy causes by logging on to The judging panel this year consists of charity advocacy group The Wheel, Sinead Desmond from the Ireland AM and this year’s Donate a Library ambassador, Lisa Duffy. This fourth year of the programme will see the twentieth library donated, with nationwide recipients including aged care facilities, schools, parish centres and support groups. Nominations are open now until Friday, December 18th and successful organisations will be notified in early 2016.

Digital reading at Trinity

Plans for a “21st century research library” are underway at Trinity College Dublin. A new programme announced this week aims to move the library beyond the digitisation of content to become a digital entity in its own right. Among the initiatives outlined are the development of physical and virtual exhibitions of library treasures, an enhancement of facilities to allow for greater global access to collections and an expansion of services to enhance online learning.

A programme of public talks for 2015 and 2016 accompanies the new strategy. Highlights include an interview with author John Banville, a discussion on The Future of Monographs in a World of Open Access led by Professor Geoffrey Crossick, and a light installation projected onto the 1937 Reading Room of the names and portraits of Trinity students, staff and alumni who died in the First World War.

Other plans include a study of virtual and physical interactions with the library and a heat-mapping survey of how people use the collections. The college’s library has over six million printed volumes, with collections reflecting over 400 years of research. Every year over 750,000 people visit the Book of Kells and the Long Room, in addition to two million virtual visitors.

Fish competitions

This year’s Fish Young-Adult Unpublished Novel Prize will be judged by Louise O’Neill. Entrants should submit the first chapter, or up to 5,000 words, of their novel before Friday, October 30th. Open to writers of all ages, submissions are €20, with the winner receiving the prize of publication. Kevin Barry will judge the popular Fish Short Story Prize, which closes for submissions on Monday, November 30th. The 10 best stories will be published in the 2016 Fish Anthology. First prize is €3,000; second gets a week’s residence at Anam Cara Writers Retreat in Bantry, County Cork and €300, with a third prize of €300. The word limit is 5,000 and submissions are €20. Further details on how to enter at

Poetry at Books Upstairs

The Double Shot autumn poetry series hosted by Jessica Traynor, Dave Lordan and Angela Carr tales place on Wednesday, October 14th at Books Upstairs on D’Olier Street, Dublin 2. Presented in conjunction with the Galway-based Over the Edge, the event features Galway poets Kevin Higgins and Mary Madec, along with emerging poet and Hennessy Award winner Simon Lewis. From 6.30pm, entry is €6, with tickets available here.

Literary elite in Ballsbridge

One to watch out for in December is the Abroad Writers’ Conference, running from Saturday, December 12th - Saturday, December 19th. A summit of professional and award-winning authors, this is the first of the AWC’s conferences to take place in Dublin and includes authors such as John Banville, Kevin Barry, John Boyne, Mary Costello and Medbh McGuckian.

Among the three-day workshops on offer are the San Francisco-based Irish writer Ethel Rohan’s Brilliance of Brevity class in both fiction and non-fiction; Man Booker finalist Michele Roberts’s masterclass on fiction; and the British poet Ruth Padel on writing poetry. Key speakers at dinners throughout the week-long conference include Jeff Kleinman, literary agent at the Folio Literary Management; Declan Meade of The Stinging Fly Magazine and Press; and Leah Maines, director at Finishing Line Press.

Taking place at Butler’s Townhouse in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, the accommodation for the week costs $2,250 for a shared twin room or $3,250 for a single room. Dinners with the authors are on a first-come basis. A four-course dinner including wine is $75. Spaces are limited and must be reserved in advance. More information here.

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