New voices on poetry shortlist


LooseLeaves/Sadbh The inclusion of two first-time authors and the non-appearance of two of the country's major poets are the distinguishing features of the shortlist for The Irish Times Poetry Now Award, which was announced this week.

The five poets on the shortlist are Paul Durcan, The Art of Life (Harvill); Alan Gillis, Somebody Somewhere (Gallery); Medbh McGuckian, The Book of the Angel (Gallery); Dorothy Molloy, Hare Soup (Faber); and Peter Sirr, Nonetheless (Gallery ) - the newcomers being Gillis and the late Dorothy Molloy. Sadly, Molloy, who died after a short and sudden illness last year, didn't live to see publication of her first collection, which went on to enjoy huge critical success. Her inclusion on this prestigious list by judges Simon Armitage, Selina Guinness and Colm Tóibín is yet another posthumous endorsement. The list could also be read as a triumph for Irish publisher Gallery, with three of its titles included; British publishers Faber and Harvill contribute one collection each.

The surprise big names not to make the final line-up are Michael Longley (Snow Water) and John Montague (Drunken Sailor).

The winner, who will receive €5,000, will be announced on March 31st, the first day of the Poetry Now festival in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

It was an adventurous and varied shortlist, said festival director John McAuliffe. Commenting on the inclusion of two new voices, he said it was terrific to see the judges recognise the work of new writers, rather than just settling for established reputations.

Meanwhile, those participating in this year's festival include Margaret Atwood, Valerio Magrelli, C.K. Williams, Simon Armitage, Claude Esteban, John Montague, Lavinia Greenlaw, Conor O'Callaghan, Maurice Riordan, Kate Clanchy, Rody Gorman, and Nick Laird.

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Tsunami effort

The book world, like so many other sectors, has been moved by the tsunami tragedy; the poetry collection featured on Weekend 13 being one example - but it is not the only one. It is hoped that more than €100,000 will be raised from Moments: Short Stories by Irish Women Writers in Aid of the South-East Asia Tsunami Disaster, which will be published in April.

Announcing the venture, CLÉ, the Irish Book Publishers' Association, said it would be a cross-industry initiative with employees from a number of publishing houses giving of their time and expertise.The writers involved include Maeve Binchy, Deirdre Purcell, Patricia Scanlan, Sheila O'Flanagan, Catherine Dunne, Kate Thompson, Julie Parsons, Sarah Webb, June Considine, Patricia O'Reilly, Denise Deegan, Pauline McLynn and Suzanne Power,with more expected to come on stream.

Proceeds from the book will go to GOAL.

Double top

Andrea Levy pulled off quite a coup in London this week when her book, Small Island, a tale of post-war immigration to Britain, won the £30,000 Whitbread Book of the Year Award, having previously already won the Orange Prize for women's fiction. "A great, great story", which represented a slice of life of the West Indian diaspora, is how Whitbread judge Trevor McDonald described it.

Laois writer-in-residence

Laois has a new writer-in-residence, Jean O'Brien, who will hold the post for the next six months. O'Brien is the author of three collections of poetry, and her fourth, Dangerous Dresses, will be published by Bradshaw Books this year.