I'm going to a lot of these things lately! This time the launch was for a publication entitled Best of Irish Poetry 2007, an imprint by SouthWord Editions part of the Munster Literary Centre in Cork. The launch in question was held last week, hosted by Poetry Ireland upstairs in the Unitarian Church just off St. Stephen's Green West, Dublin.
What exactly do you call a large gathering of poets anyway? This launch featured around nine poets who came to read from the Best of... giving the audience a great flavour of its contents. I must confess I already bought the imprint back in February and was well acquainted with the contents.
As I sat back in the pew contemplating stained glass illuminations featuring Discovery, Truth, Inspiration, Love and Work, I relished my glass of complimentary red wine and privately toasted the circumstances I found myself in.
Proceedings were opened with Poetry Ireland's acting Director, Jane O'Hanlon, and she introduced Pat Cotter of the Munster Literary Centre who spoke eloquently about how anthologies can allow access to poetry in a way that perhaps a single collection may not afford. Pat also raised the point that the Best of... can be seen to be a reclaiming of the shaping of the Irish canon: from an Irish perspective, rather than one defined by critics further abroad.
Best of Irish Poetry 2007, edited by Maurice Riordan and Colm Breathnach, represents a cherry picking of the best of Irish poetry published in respected journals both inside and outside Ireland published in the last twelve months. Pat Cotter explained that this anthology is set to become an annual event (something to aim for, maybe?) and its aims are to help promote and raise awareness of our contemporary writers in an accessible manner. Indeed, accessible is one very good way of describing the poetry contained, and made even more so by the readings that took place last night.
John F. Deane kicked off the readings: his poem, Towards a Conversion was received very well, and I thought the reading also added to my understanding of this beautiful poem. Other poems that stood out for me were Katie Donovan's Buying a Body and Peggie Gallagher's Letter to my Children. There was also a strong representation in Irish, from Dairenna Ni Chinneide's Fuascailt and Gabriel Rosenstock's Imram thar m'eolas.
Afterwards in closing, Pat Cotter spoke of the need to support poetry more than ever, by buying and how quickly poetry books disappear from stock in bookshops. This is not because they are flying out the door in people's shopping bags - but because bookshops don't want them on their shelves as long as they used to. That story sounds sadly familiar. Pat also raised the point about touring circuits for poets. When their publication comes out, there is a ready made tour-circuit on which they can promote their work, raising awareness of the work.
I have to say, that I had a great evening and it was worth being wrecked in work next day - magic! As to Best of Irish Poetry 2007's availability, I bought mine in February in Easons. I have looked on Amazon, but can't find it.