Saturday evening, second to last event in the Cork Spring Literary festival was: electric, funny, revealing, intense and fun.
I’d been across McCurtain Street grabbing a bite between events with Nuala Ní Chonchúir (Chinese waiter told me they had no tofu, but both Nuala and her husband’s meals came with tofu – curious). Nuala was enjoying the literary festival, in town ahead of her reading at O’Bheal Monday night (21 Feb at the Long Valley, Cork).
I rushed into the festival venue at the last minute, after my tofu-free dinner, and grabbed the last seat in the corner. The Douglas Vance room at the Metropole was packed – its fullest night of all, I think. Pat Cotter (Poet and Director of both Festival and Munster Literature Centre) remarked on the turn out. It was fantastic to see a poetry even so well attended.
Gerry Murphy was already on stage when I ran in. He’s as hilarious and irreverent in person as you think he’d be from reading his material. In pauses during readings, most writers and poets sip on water; Gerry sipped on a long neck bottle of beer. It was also my first time hearing the word “clitoris” used in a poem, but I don’t get out much.
I was seated behind Conal Creedon. I stared at the back of his head while Gerry read, noticing that his hair was perfectly coiffed. I’m a fidgeter by nature, and kept rustling the pages of my program, crossing and uncrossing my legs, knocking the back of Conal’s seat. Eventually, he got up and stood at the back of the room. As the Irish say, I was morto (that’s short for “mortified”, for you non-Irish.)
I was shocked into not fidgeting for several minutes when Gerry all of a sudden asked, “Is Lory Manrique-Hyland here?” I waved at him from way back in my corner (behind Conal Creedon’s empty chair). He went on to tell the audience that I’d thrown a chicken leg at him, in some sort of Cuban Voodoo ritual. (Like there’s room for that sort of thing in the back of the Boqueria tapas bar.) I’d read the night before from my novel Revolutions, set mainly in Cuba, and I must’ve made him fearful. Fortunately, Gerry doesn’t hold a grudge, and dedicated this poem to me: Memories of ‘El Jefe’ and the Cuban Revolution (from his latest poetry collection My Flirtation with International Socialism, Dedalus Press, Dublin, Ireland, 2010).
For the record, the greasy chicken bone popped out from between my fingers and landed on his lap like a tiny harpoon.
Next up was Dave Lordan, who did not drink beer (on stage). He started with a popular poem, The Boy in the Ring. His reading, of this and all his poems, was powerful. His voice was clear and projection fantastic. His background in performance poetry showed. Though restrained in the setting and confines of a literary festival stage, he maintained a powerful presence. Other poems which stood out for me were one about his alcoholic Uncle who’d stay up all night drinking tea when he was trying to kick the booze (unsuccessfully, by the way); and another delivered in the voice of a crazed, fascist town committee member. I also liked his reading of Da, the Melodeon, written for Pat Cotter. His poetry is both “pure Irish” and universal. It’s exciting to hear and watch.
Last up was Julijana Velichkovska, a Macedonian poet, writer, artist and translator. Julijana has a gorgeous voice, like the ringing of a bell. Wonderfully, she read poems in both her native tongue and in English. I don’t know what Macedonian looks like on the printed page (Slavic, I believe), but the sound of it is lovely. Her poetry was full of energy– both pent up sexual energy and the energy of resistance. She has a unique take on love. A highlights in her reading included Fuck Off, Disney. I agree, Julijana! She ended her last poem singing the words “Just Dance,” which left everyone laughing and clapping.
We broke for a 20 minute drinking and book buying frenzy before the last event of the festival started at 9. When I stood for the break, I noticed Conal Creedon still standing at the back of the room. He was pleasant to me that evening, but I bet he won’t sit near me again.
Lory Manrique-Hyland blogs at http://motherblogging.blogspot.com
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