Word for Word: the literary month ahead

Feminist debate at Dublin Writers’ Festival: Louise Lowe. Photograph: Alan Betson

Feminist debate at Dublin Writers’ Festival: Louise Lowe. Photograph: Alan Betson


The festival season gets into full swing next month, beginning with Strokestown Poetry Festival, which runs from Friday until next Sunday in the Co Roscommon town. This year’s event includes readings by Vona Groarke, Macdara Woods, Iggy McGovern, Sarah Clancy, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Rita Ann Higgins and Alice Lyons, a talk on Oliver Goldsmith by Michael Griffin, a comic poetry evening with Eleanor Tiernan, and a musical performance by We Banjo 3. See strokestownpoetry.org.

The Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend also runs from Friday until next Sunday in and around Dugort, on the writer’s beloved Achill Island. This year the weekend is focusing on the work of the American painter Robert Henri, who worked on Achill 100 years ago. The event will also celebrate the contribution to literature of the Achill- born poet John F Deane, to mark his 70th birthday.There will be lectures, discussions, literary walks and poetry readings in various venues, featuring, among others, Harry Clifton, James Harpur, Fiona Sampson, Jan Wagner and Deane himself, as well as a writing seminar with Eva Bourke and Gerard Smyth. See achilltourism.com/artsweekend.html.


The following weekend (Friday and Saturday, May 10th and 11th) it’s the turn of the John Hewitt Spring Festival , which takes place in the Londonderry Arms Hotel, in Carnlough, Co Antrim. The theme this year is “living among strangers”, so the guests will be considering aspects of place and location through readings, discussions, debates and lectures. Anyone “interested in literature and the arts, in migration, integration, tolerance and peaceful coexistence” is welcome to join guests including the broadcaster and writer Sarfraz Manzoor, the novelist, screenwriter and chess columnist Ronan Bennett and the novelist Louise Doughty. See johnhewittsociety.org.


Dublin Writers’ Festival , which this year runs from Monday, May 20th, until Sunday, May 26th, is a big event in the literary calendar . There are many intriguing events to choose from, and the guests include the venerable American writer James Salter; the gazillion-selling Dan Da Vinci Code Brown; the feminist Caitlin Moran, whose How to Be a Woman brightened up 2011 no end; the writer, activist and cultural historian Rebecca Solnit; the philosopher John Gray; the much-lauded Bosnian-American writer Aleksandar Hemon; Kevin Powers and Ben Fountain, both of whom have been inspired by the war in Iraq; and Thomas Keneally, who will be looking back at his 50-year career.

There will also be a collaboration between the poet Anthony Cronin and the musician Dónal Lunny called RMS Titanic ; 33 Revolutions Per Minute , an exploration of protest music with author Dorian Lynskey; and an event to mark the publication of 50 Shades of Feminism that will bring together the book’s coeditor Rachel Holmes and contributor Shami Chakrabarti, as well as the theatremaker Louise Lowe and the journalist Una Mullally to explore feminism today. See dublinwritersfestival.com.

Listowel Writers’ Week runs from May 29th to June 2nd, which eagle-eyed readers will have noticed is not a week but five days. But never mind, they are full of goodies, including readings by the writer and visual artist Audrey Niffenegger (whose The Time Traveler’s Wife was a bestseller) ; the novelist Nadeem Aslam; the writer and film-maker Rebecca Miller; Andrew Miller, author of Pure ; and Emma Donoghue. There’s also a forum on the Irish-American short story. See writersweek.ie.