Category Archives: Cork Spring Literary Festival

Gerry Murphy, Dave Lordan & Julijana Velichkovska by Lory Manrique-Hyland

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 
You can also follow her on twitter: @lorymanrique
or Facebook: facebook.com/ManriqueHyland

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James Harpur, Tomas Lieske and William Wall

The next event saw three excellent poets come together to deliver two hours of literary joy.

First to read was James Harpur, a poet with four collections of poetry published by Anvil Press, who has won a number of awards, including the 2009 Michael Hartnett Award and the British National Poetry Competition. George Szirtes described one of Harpur’s readings as ‘beautiful … melancholy, monastic, mystical, like prayers shaped out of despair with the hearsay of some small light just over the horizon’. This certainly describes the effect of his poetry as his poetry spilled out into the crowd.

From the hypnotic use of repetition (“unless it was the swish of scythes/ the swish of scythes”) to the mastery of closing lines (“So I might rise like Adam, ribs intact” – Ode to an Osteopath), Harpur’s poetry tantalised, beguiled and unnerved (“There’s one night that awaits us all/ And only one road that leads there/ It won’t take long to say a prayer /And then you can hurry on your way”) the audience. My particular favourite was The Leper’s Squint – a poem based on a type of letterbox built into a cathedral wall so that lepers could reach through to receive blessings: “On the North wall, a wide dark slit/ I picture fingers poking in like shoots.”

You can read samples of Harpur’s poems on his website, here.

Next to read was Tomas Lieske, a poet who describes himself as a late starter, having debuted at the age of 38 with poetry published in the literary journals Tirade and De Revisor. Since then, he has written several novels, receiving the Libris Literature Prize for Franklin (2001) and the VSB Poetry Award for his collection of poetry Hoe je geliefde te herkennen (How to Recognize Your Lover, 2006).

From the outset, it was clear that magic, myth, and chance play a central role in Lieske’s universe. From the celestial images in A Caravan of Salt, where a train of camels disappeared and “emerged into swaying starships”, to the “wordless dream-balloon speech” of The Eggshell, every word in Lieske’s poetry contains a wealth of possibilities. We were also treated to the fabulously titled “The Blushing Beast” and a reading of the poem that Tomas donated to the blog earlier in the month, How to Recognise your Lover.

To finish the evening, William Wall regaled us with an array of poems and the fabulously witty story I Bought a Heart which had the audience roaring with laughter.

The author of four novels, two collections of poetry and a volume of short fiction, William’s 2005 novel This Is The Country was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. A collection of poetry entitled Black Ice is scheduled for publication by Salmon in Summer 2011 and his next collection “The Ghost estate” will be launched on April 21st in the Farmgate Cafe, Cork (a date for your diaries).

Starting his reading with the claim that “it turns out that they lied to us…as a kid I was told that Ireland was defined by its language and landscape – but it turned out its the property market”, Wall set the scene for the darkly comic delights to follow.

From the hilarious to the haunting, Wall brought the audience through a journey of realism; half-finished housing estates, where “if you lived there, you’d be home by now,” nightmarish supermarkets, pulling us through the “police state of mind” and “fruit psychosis”. We were treated to love poems (“if you can call them Valentine’s poems, my wife Liz is doubtful”) which interspersed the mundane with beautifully touching lines such as “I am crazy with you/ after thirty years of the same” and “I love your sleepy head.” The end goal? To make us laugh and marvel at our own foibles.

And laugh we most certainly did as Wall launched into I bought a heart which proved to be the perfect end to a fabulous evening – I  spoil it for you, but I do recommend you get hold of a copy and read it for yourself.

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The Cork Spring Literary Festival Blog has officially launched

Welcome to the Cork Spring Literary Festival blog – my name is Elizabeth Rose Murray and I’ll be bringing you lots of pre-festival information over the next few weeks, including event updates, interviews and guest posts from many of the festival’s writers.

There has been a fabulous response from the 2011 writers, with some amazing contributions – from poems and essays to novel excerpts and short stories – so check back to make sure you’re not missing out.

When the festival kicks off on Feb 16th, I’ll be covering each of the events – including the haiku workshop with Gabriel Rosenstock. This is a definite festival highlight as far as I’m concerned. I was brought up on Basho and love haiku – but there’s so much to learn about its subtlety, that I’m feeling somewhat phased. I can’t wait to share some of the knowledge that Gabriel, a master of the art form, will impart (note: there are only a few places available on the workshop so make sure you book soon if you want to attend).

In previous years, the Cork Spring Literary Festival was called ‘Éigse’ (an Irish word meaning a gathering of poets and writers). Although the name has changed, the essence remains the same – as the list of writers involved in this year’s festival proves.

If you’ve still not familiarised yourself with the fabulous programme, you can download a pdf version here. You can also stay up to date with all the latest fringe events and author announcements on the Cork Spring Festival Facebook page.

And if you want to know more about the writers themselves, you can find links to their websites and facebook accounts in the blogroll on the right of the screen.

The first guest post will be added to the blog tomorrow – a piece entitled “How does an author get invited to literary festival?” by poet and Programme Director Patrick Cotter.

So whether you’re an aspiring writer, an events organiser or just an inquisitive soul, check back here tomorrow to get the low down on the work that goes into creating a successful festival.



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Festival information coming soon

The 2011 Cork Spring Literary Festival runs from February 16th – 19th.

Please check back for the most up to date information on festival events, as well as festival coverage.

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