Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bridport - Already!

The Bridport Prize 2009

International Creative Writing Competition for Short Stories and Poems

The Bridport Prize 2009 website is now open for entries!

The Bridport Prize is the richest open writing competition in the English language -
with £5000 first prize for a short story (of up to 5000 words); and £5000 first
prize for a poem (of up to 42 lines).

The Bridport is also known as a tremendous literary stepping stone - the first
step in the careers of writers such as: Kate Atkinson, Tobias Hill, Carol Ann Duffy
and Helen Dunmore.

Anyone can enter - so long as the work is previously unpublished. It costs £7 per
story or £6 per poem and the closing date is 30th June 2009.

Each year the prize is judged by well known writers - this year we are delighted to have

Ali Smith judging short stories and Jackie Kay judging poetry.

* I wonder how robust your short stories will have to be to get past Ali Smith - yikes!

The 2008 anthology of winning entries is available for just £12 or £15 overseas
(including postage and packing)

2006 & 2007 anthologies available for £7 or £10 overseas (limited amount)

Enter online or download an entry form

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Many Jobs...?

Rachel Fox posted about the many different things she's done in her life so far and it got me to thinking about all the different paths that I've persued over my years too. So here goes...

Tile painter: 1986. My first proper job. I worked in a studio over a tile shop with a graphic designer whose job it was to print patterns on tiles. My job was to paint in the tiny leaves and petals on the prints before the tiles were fired in a kiln. I remember the first week, dreaming every night about all the leaves I had to get just right.

Kitchen designer: 1988ish. After a draughting course, I worked in a kitchen showroom, taking the measurements that the salesmen brought in, designing a kitchen and then pricing it up, from the rough drawings that were brought back from clients. The difference between a dear kitchen and a cheap kitchen lies in the choice of doors.

Hotel room sales: 1989ish. I moved to London in 1989-90 and this was the first job I got, answering queries from travel agents booking hotel rooms for their customers... I can still remember how we answered the phones - 'Superbreak MiniHolidays....' in a sing-song sort of voice. No computers in those days, we worked off pages with small blocks that you marked off!

Press Reader: 1990 -94ish I moved on and got this unlikely job reading newspapers for a client index that was kept on a computer, so the first job I had that involved them. I really loved reading the papers in such depth, although it was knackering reading so much stuff every day. Nowadays it's done by computer. Longest job length too, I lasted until 1993/94 when my eldest son was born & I decided that Ireland might be a better option to rear him. I became very handy with a pair of scissors.

Press Reader #2: On returning to Ireland I managed to get the same job with a Dublin based employer. Not as well-paying as it had been in London, but that was the difference between the two countries at the time. I loved travelling to Dublin every day.

Litho Technician: 1995 I left the previous job to go to a well known micro-chip producer - great job, great pay, great prospects... but I was pregnant with child #2 and after maternity leave and returning to work, I got pregnant with child #3! Not much chance of me staying there :( I don't mind, the white suits we had to wear inside the room where the work was done were a real pain to put on, not to mention being hot all the time from the 22 degree temperature they kept it at (at least that's how I remember it).

Newsletter Editor: 1997 After child #3 I really wanted to go back to work, but knew that part-time was really the only option. So I worked in a local arts centre. Although the job description was Newsletter Editor, I had to muck in on reception for evening activities and it helped me to cement relationships with the writing/theatre/art community in my locale. I still have friends from that time that I cherish. I had really taken writing seriously for the first time too around this time, and a first pamphlet of poems got published too, thanks to a grant from that arts centre. Ah, God be with the days...

Receptionist/Bookkeeper: 2003-4ish. So, there were the twins, followed by the baby of the family, which meant a huge gap in proceedings. But in 2003 I got a position as a receptionist for a community organisation that worked with underpriviledged women. The supervisor recognised my potential and got me to train up as a bookkeeper. I discovered that numbers were a lot easier than I remembered and really flew at this job, until our family relocated to another town in 2005.

Civil Servant: 2006. I only lasted four months at this, as I was juggling six kids, studying for a degree coupled with a two hour commute to Dublin... I loved the job, but just couldn't keep everything going... so something had to give.

Telephone customer representative: late 2006. Part time hours in the evening meant that I could sort of juggle this one around, but it was more of a stop-gap to earn sponduligs to pay the fat red man at Christmas.

Administration Assistant: 2007... again only lasted four months at this job. I loved the work, but everything started to fall apart at home again, so I naturally caved again.

2009 - I have a couple of CW classes on the go, which might help pay for the children's books going back to school in September (if I don't need to plug any financial gaps before then), but not a lot else. I am looking for something, but I think most employers see my CV as being a bit patchy/higgledy piggledy these days... So that makes about eleven or twelve jobs, if you count the current position... no, these are not really the sort of thing that you write down when you're young and say, 'When I grow up, I want to be...'

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BeatBearing - A novel new instrument

I caught this on the BBC NI News last night and was fascinated by the idea:

"A video of a new musical instrument created by a Queen’s University Belfast student has attracted over one million hits on the internet.

PhD student Peter Bennett (26) from Stevenage, England, made the video to demonstrate the BeatBearing - his electronic musical instrument that uses ball bearings to create different drum patterns.

The initial demonstration of the prototype has now been viewed more than one million times on internet video site YouTube.

The BeatBearing has been created as part of research into the use of ‘tangible interfaces’ for new musical instruments. The research is being led by Sile O’Modhrain within the renowned Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) at Queen’s.

The BeatBearing is an example of minimalist modern design created from chrome, transparent Perspex and computer graphics.

It acts as a rhythm sequencer - a red line sweeps across the grid, playing a sound whenever a ball bearing is encountered, “like an updated version of the old piano-roll”, according to Bennett.

Peter is currently studying for a PhD in the SARC at Queen’s and the BeatBearing is just one of many interesting projects in the department."

Report from QUB Press release; more info from Peter Bennett's website.

Isn't it amazing what you can do a PhD in these days?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Carson in the Guardian

Many thanks to Ms Baroque for this link to an interview with Ciaran Carson, at home as the photograph shows, beside a great lick of a fire.

I've enjoyed the interview immensely, as I had the honour and pleasure of working with him last spring in a series of classes on translation. In the interview he talks about growing up in Belfast as a member of an Irish speaking family in the 40s. He also mentions that lovely word 'capall;' Irish for horse, which he had us so in love with when we all tried our hand at a translation of a poem, 'Malairt,' (loosely rendered The Swap) by Séan Ó Ríordáin (think I might have posted that on PFFA during April...).

How we struggled with that one, trying it out in English: I always got the feeling there was something in the original that we weren't rendering, and Prof Carson did say that a lot of it had to do with the word 'capall' as well as the word 'bron,' (loosely given as sorrow). Because the words sound the way they do, they have a different association in your mind, a wider feeling of the horseness of horse, or the sorrowfulness of sorrow, but if you're used to thinking of it in Irish first, there must be a strangeness about the English word... anyway.

Not content with that, we also had a close look at Baudelaire's poem 'Correspondances' a poem that seemed to be so much more than it's component parts and that almost yielded a larger meaning to you before slipping away. I also heard Prof Carson describing how he tackled his translation of Dante's Inferno; to him it's about the rhythm as much as anything: he spoke of how Dante composed his poem whilst walking from place to place in Italy - but I digress a little.

I love what Carson says about words: 'Heft. They have heft...and they've got a life of their own.' This ties into an article by Hannah Brooks-Motl, I've been reading about reading poems, particularly the poems that emanate from the 'elliptical' school of poetry in the US (and now elsewhere). The article from The Dark Horse, Summer 2008 is the sort of thing that I like to read over and over again, thinking about other things that connect into the idea of how we read poems, and how the elliptical style of poetry, where poem that don't necessarily connect up in the mind of the reader have been considered difficult to interpret.

Words are tied to experience: all the words you've ever heard have complex connections made all the way back to your early childhood and beyond, possibly even in the womb. It is childhood that usually serves as a rich repository for the poems that I try to write now; poems and stories about potatoes, about cows and calves, but I also keep coming back to growing up along the north side of the bordern as an outsider, and trying to make sense of the occupation and strife of the 70s too.

I think that we all keep a huge hinterland of knowledge that we use when we read poems that aren't opaque, that don't yield meaning straight away. Putting things together in a manner that doesn't seem to make sense, forces the reader to use their own synaptic connections between their knowledge stores: it is in all of us to want to try and divine a pattern and smooth the bumps of our own interpretation and reading. That is what I think gives me pleasure when reading poetry. Well, that and a whole pile of other things like rhythm as well as all the poetic panoply of devices there are. Oh, and time.

Above all though, what really helps me is when I hear a poet talk about their work, and read it; or indeed as Prof Carson often did in class, sing and play his flute for us, as he must have done in the Guardian interview. It allows you a rich layering when you hear how someone has lived, what their interests were and how they are always trying to hear things in a new way, using the language of now, overlaid by the language of the past. As Carson says: 'language, when explored with humility, is always deeper and more accurate than what the author thought he had in mind.' Carson may have never left Belfast other than for visiting other places, but in his mind he has roamed the wide world over.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Poems celebrating Obama's Election

The inauguration ceremony for the 44th President of the USA takes place on Tuesday, 20th January 2009.

It's a very tough time for someone whose campaign was so full of hope and promise to be taking office, in terms of both domestic and foreign policy.

So, it's perhaps a good time to re-savour the elation of his election, captured in these poems featured on the Over The Edge blog. Well worth a read, as the contributors list is as follows: Gary King, Eva Bourke, Susan Millar DuMars, Dave Lordan, Aidan Hynes, Maureen-Eilish Purcell, Gemma Marren, Michael Conneely, Desmond Swords, Marie Cadden, Susan Lindsay, Kevin Carmody, Deirdre Kearney, Gary Beck, Eileen Byrne, Rosanna Guneratne, Steve Ely, Lucie Kantorova, Kevin Higgins & Trisha McKeon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Elizabeth Baines: Author and Roman Bonus Victus

We are so delighted to welcome Elizabeth Baines today, author of Balancing on the Edge of the World, a scintillating debut collection of short stories. In honour of this being the first stage of a virtual tour of blogs, I decided to experiment with Roman cookery and have a feast. The menu is… erm, different: but the fish sauce is par excellence (if I do say so myself). I might add that any Latin mistakes are all mine! Welcome Elizabeth, please do pull up a couch and recline away there! Have a heartwarming cup of wine.

Thank you, Barbara! May I say how great it is to be virtually here in Ireland, and most especially to be invited to a Roman feast! Let's just hope I'm not too distracted by my appetite and also manage keep a clear head…

Gustatio: milk fed snails fried in oil, boiled fungi served with pepper and fish sauce…

Milk-fed snails! Madame (or should I say Domina?), you are spoiling us!

You just wouldn't believe how difficult it is to get snails to drink milk...

Anne Enright describes her writing process as 'writing sentences.' I believe what she means is that the writing comes first, the editing and worrying about how/what you're saying come second. How would you describe your writing process: do you have to fight hard from the coalescing of an idea to the final cut?

Hm (hang on while I get my drinking cup and find my best lounging position): Yes, I'd say there's a stage in writing a piece of fiction, usually an initial stage, when it can seem to 'come' without your having to think about it in any very conscious way. It's as if you're 'hearing' the sentences and seeing the images on a screen which somehow miraculously has been presented to you. It just 'happens' to you, as it were. (And when you're 'blocked' it's as if you know there's something there, but you've not yet been shown it and can't yet 'hear' it!) I guess this is why people talk about 'inspiration' and also why people ask writers where they 'get their ideas from', as if the ideas are just out there waiting to be picked up or tuned into. In fact, of course, it's coming from you, but at this stage in a largely subconscious way. It's what I call the 'dreaming' stage of writing, and yes, I do consider it the important and real one, because this, I find, is when I get the rhythms – and in some ways rhythm is the most important thing in prose, in creating a 'voice' – and also the associations and connections which I'd be less likely to come up with were I thinking more logically. So this, I would say, is what always characterizes my first draft. Often when I go back after that less conscious stage, and look at what I've written, I am amazed by meanings I wasn't aware of earlier. Of course, the editing stage can also show up the fact that you haven't made sense, but I do also think you need to allow for the fact that you don't always see straight away, on the logical, editorial level, the things which your subconscious has spied (so always be prepared to put back things you've cut, is my advice)

Usually I will begin a story with an image, or sometimes a phrase, which intrigues me, and a vague situation. I will know that the image/phrase and the situation are connected in some deep thematic way, although not necessarily how – that's the point of writing: to find out how. In 'Daniel Smith Disappears off the Face of the Earth', for instance, I had the idea of a teenage boy walking home alone at night and the image of the cold planet hurtling through the universe; in 'The Way to Behave', I had the scenario of a wronged and vengeful wife and also the image of the elder tree with all its witchy associations (and was therefore dismayed when the image of the tree was dropped in the abridgement for a BBC broadcast of the story – though of course I completely understood the restrictions which broadcast must impose). With these stories, and nearly all of the others in the book, this was enough to trigger me haring off into the 'dream'. I say 'haring off' but then I very often have a couple of false starts – sometimes a few – because the first line or so always has to feel absolutely right for me to carry on without hesitation (although of course, even when I've thought it was absolutely right at this stage, I may go back and change it afterwards).

The more conscious editing stage is, as you imply, more like work. I'd say the level of struggle – ie, how well-formed the story is after the first draft – depends very much on the story, or more accurately on your prior relationship with the material of the story, the amount of time you have already mulled it over and consciously given it a meaning. Most of the stories in Balancing didn't give me much of a struggle, and had only two drafts. I hasten to say it's not always like that, and I should also say that the process isn't quite as simple as I've made it sound. Even when I'm writing a first draft and going with the 'dreaming', that editing faculty is still coming into play to some extent: really, it's as if there are two of me, and the 'dreaming' one is leading the way, but the 'editing' one is there hovering at her shoulder and reining her in to some extent as she goes along (and then pushes her out of the way and takes over for the proper editing phase). (You see, I don't need Roman wine to make me sound bonkers!)

Mensae Primae: Baked dormice, stuffed with pork and pine nuts; roast hare, stuffed with chicken livers and boiled brains…

Barbara, yum!

The dormice are quite a delicacy. But it's very hard to get them to wake up...

Stories like 'A Glossary of Bread,' and 'Leaf Memory,' show that you are willing to experiment with the traditional methods of storytelling: one uses dictionary & etymological definitions; another uses early childhood memories. How useful do you find the process of renewing the short story in this manner?

Erm… sorry, just swallowing. Now the wine is making you flatter me, Barbara: I must say I don't see myself as doing anything so grand as renewing the short story! All I'm doing, I have to say, is telling things the way I see them. And I simply couldn't tell them the way I see them if didn't use the modes I do.

'A Glossary of Bread' is the story of a girI coping with an itinerant childhood and a mysterious but strict and bad-tempered father. The story takes the structure of a dictionary and is built around definitions, drawn from different editions of dictionaries, of the different kinds of bread she encounters as they move around the country. To me this structure is indispensable, essential, and indeed came to me right at the start – it is the story – because it carries in a very concrete way the meaning, ie the idea that situations and indeed meanings which can seem rigid, laid down in stone, are in fact questionable and subject to change. 'Leaf Memory' consists of the splicing of two narratives, the protagonist's first-person memory of being pushed in a pram by her grandmother interwoven with the starker (and italicized) authorized family version of her grandmother's life. As far as I was concerned, this was the only way to tell this story: it was both the way that 'came to me' and it was the way that, when I thought about it editorially, best conveyed the impact of the difference between two dynamic but clashing realities or versions of the truth. In fact, this story – and much of my work generally – is about the fact that the ways in which we tell stories, the modes we use to tell them, can very much affect their meanings.

And of course not all of the stories in the book stretch the conventional short story form. I'm more than happy to use conventional forms if they suit the purpose. 'The Shooting Script', for instance: as the story of a conman and the plot twists he engineers to keep ahead of those he's conning, it fell naturally for me into a traditional satirical and linear-narrative mode. I must say I rarely use the omniscient mode, which generally seems to me to carry outdated authorial certainties about the characters, but I found it was just right for 'Compass and Torch', for watching from an objective vantage point the emotional struggle between a camping father and son who hardly know each other and are failing to acknowledge their own emotions, who have less grip on their situation than any casual observer, and less instinctual understanding than the wild ponies watching them prepare to camp.

Mensae secundae: dates with almonds and honey; yoghurt flavoured with pepper and fish sauce (must use it up somehow!)…
What a perfectly unusual and inspired combination, Barbara…

Erm, yes... err, thanks! ( I knew two gallons of fish sauce was far too much.)

How do you know when a story is 'finished': how long might you typically work on one?

As I've said, most of the stories in Balancing gelled very quickly and were written in a week at the most, some of them in just a couple of days or so. But as I've also said, it's not always like that, and 'A Glossary of Bread' caused me a deal more trouble. As I say, what I had this time was the structure (including the idea of bread), which I knew was all-important, and the notion of a family setup, but only the vaguest, and so little sense of how the two fitted together that I couldn't even make a start. Each attempt I made to write the story failed. I must have had two or three tries over a period of two years, and each time I put it away, thinking maybe it was a dud, until it pressed on my consciousness again. Looking back, though, I'm not sure if, for this particular story, it was to do with my relationship to the material or simply a matter of focus and concentration. I do have other, abandoned stories from that particular period, which was a time of quite mad busy-ness; I was doing a lot of teaching, I was editing, producing and marketing a print short-story magazine, metropolitan, and it was the start of my most prolific period as a radio playwright – I kept getting radio commissions, and how do you turn that down, especially when your kids need new trainers? It's interesting perhaps that the story finally gelled when at last I had the chance to give up other things and concentrate on prose once more. So I guess for me it's a case of needing lots of time and few distractions, because the main essential ingredient for the process of bringing a story to fruition, I'd say, is focus. I do really envy people who manage to do other things (and earn decent livings!) while somehow focusing on their writing and doing it successfully.

I do now have more time to focus, yet, interestingly, some of the stories in the new series I'm writing are requiring far more drafts than previous ones, and sometimes I'll return to a story after setting it aside for weeks. I'm finding the process even more of an exploration than ever before, and it truly is a question of my relationship to the material.

And that moment when I know a story is 'finished'? Well, on the deep level it's definitely the moment that I suddenly spy the final connection which brings the story together, lights up all the rest. With some of the stories in Balancing it could be as early as when I was haring towards the end of the first draft, in which case the editing stage felt more like mere titivating, putting a coat on the thing and brushing it down. However, I can sometimes get to the end and know that I haven't really found it – not the real ending – even when the whole thing is already brushed down and looking spotless. What I do then is put the story aside and wait for the real ending to come to me, sideways, which it usually does over the next day or so.

And talking of finishing: really, Barbara, I couldn't manage another thing – not even another date! Thank you so much for having me; what a generous host you have been, and what a great time I've had on this feast of a blog!

Not as much as I've enjoyed your thoughtful answers: it's always a great pleasure to get a sneak peek behind the writer's practice and it is clear you've thought deeply about your own methods – it gives great hope to those who aspire. Elizabeth, the pleasure was truly all mine!

The next stage of Elizabeth's tour takes place at Me and My Big Mouth Scott Pack's blog on the 21st of January 2009. Each week Elizabeth will visit all through the blogosphere on her Cyclone Tour until the 18th of March.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Poetry Ireland News

Poetry Ireland have their latest roundup of events, news and competition titbits. There's a bit about the judging panel for the Strokestown Poetry Competition (John F Deane, Joe Woods, Penelope Shuttle and Máire Ní Annracháin); closing date 22nd January.

If you click here you can download it yourself (it's a pretty quick download), and have a browse through it. Do have a look at the winning poem from the Ledwidge competition, 'Scooter'; it was written by Catherine Ann Cullen; a fellow Doghouse poet, whose collection 'A Bone in my Throat,' was launched in the same year as my own: 2007. Hugh O'Donnell is another Doghouse poet (from the same year), whose article on Poetry Aloud, the national children's poetry reading competition is a lovely inspiration.

It seems we are often out of the Doghouse these days ;) (okay enough puns for today!).

Today I Shall Be Mostly...

...stuffing dormice. Virtual ones of course!

Elizabeth Baines is visiting with me tomorrow. I thought, since it was the first leg of her Virtual Cyclone tour with Balancing On The Edge Of The World, I really ought to mark the ocasion with something special.

So we will be 'enjoying' a Roman style feast.

Before she gets here, I want to briefly talk about her debut collection of short stories. Right from the off, with the opening story, 'Condensed Metaphysics,' I was hooked. How can you set a story in a pizza parlour, with several people in various stages of drunkenness and still make it a story about humanity, and all our vices and virtues - but one that doesn't preach at you?

You can if you're Elizabeth Baines. This is the way she works: she makes the ordinary (the things, the attitudes, the way that people think) that you or I would pass right on by seem quite extraordinary. She does this by simply showing how characters really are, without apology.

If you read and re-read her work (yes, it really does bear re-reading), there are so many layers to it that each time there is a new freshness to each of her stories. 'Balancing On The Edge Of The World' really is a fulsome collection of short stories, each story fully realised and full of new ways to appreciate our human traits.

I'd better stop myself now... I mustn't let the fish sauce (an important element of tomorrow's meal) spoil!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mick Imlah

Just as the TS Eliot poetry prize is to be announced, Mick Imlah, author of one of the short-listed books, The Lost Leader, has passed away. The Guardian carry the story.

I have mentioned before how hard it was to get Imlah's book, last year, but how much it was worth the wait: a little like himself making the reading public wait so long for his follow up to his first collection, Birthmarks.

When you look at the actual collection titles, you do wonder. Very sad news indeed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Intimacy of Radio

I did another interview on local radio recently with Harry Lee of Dundalk FM. Before you scoff at the idea of local radio, think of this: through internet technology, this community station (and many, many others) are available to a much wider audience than they are through the wavelength restrictions imposed by their license conditions.

Anyhoo, through the generous help of the wonderful qarrtsiluni, I've been able to get hosting for a recording that I made on Wednesday. To hear the interview/reading click on that link just there. I hope you enjoy the discussion of poetry, life in general and the Irish economic downturn!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Iota - New Year, New Ways

Iota magazine changed hands across the summer and is about to be relaunched with a bumper issue 83/84. Overall editor is Nigel McLoughlin, (his fourth collection is Dissonances which I mentioned here before).

Iota are also launching a major poetry competition with Tim Turnbull as judge

The details are as follows:

Closing date is 30th November 2009

1st Prize £2000
2nd Prize £1000
3rd Prize £500
+ ten supplementary prizes.

Now, doesn't that sound pretty cool? Go and visit Iota's new website, and for goodness sake take out a subscription: I reckon it'll be well worth it!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Week 'Til Landfall, folks!

Forgive me for the hurricane/cyclone allusions, but it's a week today until the devastatingly talented Elizabeth Baines (I am allowed use 'ly' words on this occasion) glides towards land over Dundalk bay, or more precisely the land of Cuchulainn & the Tain legends (seriously, he did come from these parts). She has agreed to talk about writing and specifically one or two of her killer short stories in Balancing On The Edge Of The World.

Elizabeth and I will be having a Roman styled dinner, where we quaff words as well as wine and our apparel may well be derived from the most luxurious peplos you can imagine, although I may just go for a roomy chiton to hide all that post-Christmas gluttony. Mustn't forget my stola either!

We'll be hearing directly from a writer whose work has been described as "Almost ethereal in its strangeness [with] great energy at its heart." Brendan O'Keefe, Literary Review. Woo ha!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Oh bugger

Some poems come easier than others. Usually they come after about three or four aborted attempts, when you've stopped thinking about what it is that you were trying to put into a poem. That doesn't make them any less hard-earned though. I seem to remember Richard Hugo talking about this in his book, The Triggering Town. That book is a collection of essays on poetry and is well worth getting. I remember buying Strunk & White at the same time... gosh, four years ago now, oh dearie me, how much poetry water has flowed past the bridge now, eh?

Well, tomorrow I'm on Dundalk FM again , Wednesday 7th January, talking about the Bursary I won and maybe reading a few poems, at 10:45 To listen via the internet, click on this link, and then click on the second 'Click Here' in the second paragraph.

I would give you the link directly but blogger is playing silly buggers. I will try and record it later on, if I can... I might pop in a poem tomorrow when I'm not feeling so critical.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sixty Years since The Second Sex

It is sixty years since Simone de Beauvoir's book, The Second Sex, was originally published. This book became seminal in feminism, because of the attempt to define woman as she is rather than as the Other, or counterpart, to men. It's combination of existentialism and feminism, as well as discussion of sexuality contributed to the growth of feminism and the (still continuing) search for equality in society.

It's original 'rushed' translation by Howard Parshley meant that the message did not survive completely intact. Apparently Parshley had a limited understanding of French and existentialist philosophy; his expertise was in sexual reproduction; not really a good basis for rendering something so complex as Beauvoir's book.

The Second Sex came about from Beauvoir's attempt to write about herself. After writing that she was a woman, Beauvoir realised that she needed to define 'woman.' The rest, as that awful cliche says, is history (herstory, ourstory?).

I remember reading from my mother's copy a long time ago, on the cusp of womanhood. I don't remember much though I like to think I absorbed some of it by osmosis... (obviously not enough, if I had six children - ah!). I'm very intrigued by whispers of the new translation coming from Cape (Random House), but I can't determine how soon this new translation will be forthcoming, if indeed it has been published. If you have good French, apparently reading it in the original is the most illuminating method of discovering The Second Sex. In the meantime, Happy Anniversary year, Simone & The Second Sex.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Random 2008 Book List

I went upstairs this morning to look for a book that I need to complete something, and found myself absorbed by looking through some other books that I acquired across last year (yes, I can now call it last year). So I wrote them down:

Me & The Dead, Katy Evans Bush; accomplished debut collection from Salt.

More About the Song, Rachel Fox; another debut, from a very interesting writer.

New Room Windows, Greagoir O Duill; first English collection from a charming and erudite Irish writer, Doghouse Books.

Down the Sunlit Hall, Eileen Sheehan; breathtaking second collection, Doghouse Books.

Time Gentlemen, Please, Kevin Higgins; second collection from well-known Galwegian poet, Salmon.

Big Pink Umbrella, Susan Millar DuMars; another accomplished first collection, Salmon.

Torching the Brown River, Lorna Shaughnessy; and another... Salmon.

The Glass Swarm, Peter Bennet, Flambard Press Poetry; think this was a Poetry Book Society Choice - must renew that oul subscription.

The Company of Horses, Peter Fallon; the editor of Gallery Press himself, some cracking poems in this.

Dissonances, Nigel McLouglin; a fabulous fourth collection from Bluechrome, some real magic in this.

Thornfield: Poems by the Thornfield Poets; think I mentioned this elsewhere, but it's a good reader for what's contemporary in poetry (by Irish Women) right now - Salmon.

The Bees, Sally Evans; a Diehard publication, this is a virtuoso collection of cantos written in terza rima - not something everyone tries and my children really enjoyed the beautiful illustrations that accompany the text.

The Enthusiast Field Guide to Poetry; this book is very entertaining, well worth the read; from Quercus.

Europa, Moniza Alvi; another Poetry Book Society choice; grim and disturbing reading, but still a worthy choice.

Smoke & Skin, Aoife Casby & Celeste Auge; a dual chapbook featuring two Galway based poets, showcasing their work, Lapwing.

Tornadoes for the Weathergirl, Celeste Auge; a pamphlet of poetry from Invincible Poetry Pamphlet Press.

Paris Stories, Mavis Gallant; recommended by WRW, I'm still reading this, slowly and with savour.

William Hazlitt: The First Modern Man, Duncan Wu; I'll be making my mind up about this soon, OUP.

Hungry For Home: Leaving the Blaskets, Cole Moreton; I'll be honest, this is a gorgeous book - I reviewed it for Verbal Magazine, August issue; even got an interview with Cole!

Slipping Letters Beneath the Sea, Joseph Horgan; another Doghouse poet who won the Patrick Kavanagh in 2005 with the ms that makes up the most of this book about the immi/emigration from/to Ireland. Chilling and startling, and very, very relevant now, given that our 'Celtic Tiger has turned into a Deflated Baboon' (The Guardian, today).

The Canals of Memory, Aine Moynhan; another worthy Doghouse poet whose bilinguality peppers this collection.

The Collected Poems of Geoffrey Holloway; from Arrowhead Press, I am still working through this brilliant resource.

Brace: A New Generation in Short Fiction; from Comma Press, this is a good reader and has some lovely imagistic resonances in the way that the stories reverberate off each other. A notable introduction by the editor, Jim Hinks and a story by a writer who lives locally, Jaki Mc Carrick.

On Form, Angela Leighton; for the early chapter on form itself, a spectacular book and a resource I'll use over and over again, from OUP.

Sister Morphine, Catherine Eisner; another unusual fiction book from risk-takers Salt.

Veronica Forrest-Thomson & Language Poetry, Alison Mark; this should be treated as a companion book to:

The Collected Poems of Veronica Forrest-Thomson; both interesting books, one sheds light on the other's poetry and VFT is overlooked, but hopefully going to get plenty of attention in the future.

Thow in the Vowels, Rita Ann Higgins; since Rita Ann chose a poem of mine to be placed in the Feile Filiochta Competition, I thought it only fair that I purchase and read one of her books - very enjoyable poetry that will have a second relevance in these straitened times.

Letters of Ted Hughes, edited by Christopher Reid; I loved this book from Faber, another valuable resource, I reckon.

The Lost Leader, Mick Imlah; I had terrible trouble trying to get hold of this - it took me three trips to Dublin to finally get hold of this tome from Faber.

Selected Poems of Michael Longley; had to get hold of this when I'd been working with him last year.

Selected Poetry of John Hewitt, ed. Longley & Frank Ormsby; one I'd had on the wishlist for ages, this Blackstaff number was enjoyable for reading the poet of whom Heaney has referred to as the 'Daddy of us all,' with reference to NI poets.

Tattoo: Tatu, Nuala Ni Chonchuir; another worthy solo debut collection from Arlen Press. Nuala is known for her short stories, but her poetry is equally worth reading.

Walk the Blue Fields, Claire Keegan; I've been singing the praises of these short stories to all my classes - justifiably so: they are so, so good, from Faber.

Buzz, Templar Poetry anthology; the pick of the crop of 08's competition entries, a good read of what's up and coming in poetry.

Consorting With Angels, Deryn Rees Jones; despite the title, this is a valuable resource, examining women's poetry from the more recent side of the 20th century, from Bloodaxe.

I can see that it's mostly poetry; no surprises there. Now I'm looking forward to getting my hands on some more poetry this year: especially looking forward to seeing what comes from the Salt stable, amongst many publishers that I'm watching - and the poets; well interesting times ahead for us, I think. Now, back to trying to find that book I was looking for!