Announcing the Jack Harte Bursary recipient for 2017 December 13 2016
Last week we were delighted to award Henrietta McKervey the Jack Harte Bursary at a celebratory evening with IWC members and friends, on Thursday 8 December at the Irish Writers Centre. This is the third year of the Bursary which is presented in association with Annaghmakerrig at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and offers writers a two-week fully resourced residency in spring 2017. The award was named in Jack Harte's honour as the unsung hero of the literary scene; he has been instrumental in the establishment of the Irish Writers' Union and, later, the Irish Writers Centre. Liz Nugent was the first recipient of the award in 2015 and Sarah Moore Fitzgerald was the 2016 recipient.
Henrietta McKervey is a fiction writer and design and advertising copywriter. She has published two novels: What Becomes of Us (Hachette, 2015) and The Heart of Everything (Hachette, 2016). She has a MFA in Creative Writing from UCD and has been described by Éilís Ní Dhuibhne as:
‘a novelist in the early stages of her career, brimming over with promise. She has wit, imagination, and an understanding of human beings, which are the hallmark of the true novelist. In addition she has the drive and perseverance every serious writer needs.’
On receipt of the bursary Henrietta commented:
'The Jack Harte Bursary will have a huge impact for me as an individual – the time and space to work on a book without the demands of what passes for ordinary life getting in the way is a wonderful opportunity. But what I think makes this award particularly special is that it’s not created as an acknowledgment of previous work; a book already written. Instead, every year the IWC makes an investment in a new project, something as yet unwritten (or at the very least, unfinished). It seems to me that the world generally has come to lack faith in the power of ideas. That the IWC continues to show its faith in the future of writing in Ireland, in the importance of continuing creativity and ideas, is what makes this award special.'
Beyond words November 28 2016
Recently we were thrilled to launch our 25th anniversary anthology, Beyond the Centre: Writers in their own words, at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on 16 November. We were even more delighted when Carlo Gébler agreed to help us launch the anthology, little did we know that his speech would be a tribute not only to the Centre — but to the writers who comprise such a vital part of it. Read on for Carlo's full speech.
"In 1978 the New Review, literary magazine, English, held a symposium on the state of fiction: 56 writers supplied replies to a questionnaire. The respondents varied in age from mid-twenties to mid-sixties and they gave very different but very detailed replies. Peter Vansittart (1920 – 2008), 1st published novel 1942, 688 copies sold, described himself as, ‘fairly hopeful’ about being a writer. Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn, confessed he’d eschewed the novel in 1972, when his 5th had earned him £600 on the grounds, and I quote, ‘it is not possible to bring up a young family of four on this sort of earning, and it is not possible to hold down any sort of regular journalistic engagement if one is to take three months off every year to write a novel’. You should be so lucky some perhaps thought, then, and even now.
Jeremy Brooks revealed his last novel Smith as Hero (1964), took three years to write, enjoyed good reviews, but only earned £1200 in total, so he gave up fiction for journalism. Francis King, sometime British Council employee, revealed that in order to support himself and novel writing: he worked as a reader for Weidenfeld & Nicolson, wrote a weekly fiction round-up for the Sunday Telegraph, a television column for the Listener, and took lodgers in to his house in Brighton with meals, which he cooked himself, included in the rent. Penelope Fitzgerald described how the managing director of Duckworth, Colin Haycroft wondered if an advance of £200 on her first novel The Golden Child (1977) was acceptable to which she replied, to him, ‘No, but I haven’t the courage to say no.’
So that was Albion. Thirty years later, different polity, we find, when we read Beyond the Centre, this marvellous collection of essays about literary culture now, and particularly Catherine Phil McCarthy, Jack Harte and Peter Sirr’s essays, those challenges as politicians would doubtless call them, encountered by writers, well, they haven’t gone away, have they? As several of the writers whose work is contained herein testify it is difficult, very difficult to make a living as a writer. Or, to put it another way, there simply ain’t enough cake to go round: not for writers, and not for the Irish Writers Centre either. This gruesome economic truth runs through the essays in this collection like Bundoran runs through a stick of Bundoran rock. And by the way, yes, I bought some Bundoran rock recently and I know of what I speak.
Now: These essays aren’t only about economics of course. This is an eclectic collection. The contributors have chosen to approach their brief from many different angles, not just the financial one and the book is the stronger for its breadth but it is, if any in power chose to read it, a bracing read because what would be born in on them is that the rewards for making literature are meagre. However, this is not artefact simply of complaint. There are complaints, yes, and the Irish state, its political elite and its arts bureaucrats get a quite a roasting, and fair enough, but this is also emphatically a book that celebrates collaboration, communal activity, solidarity between like minded souls and describes what people have done by pulling together.
Orwell wrote a marvellous essay on Dickens. It was inside the collection Inside the Whale. I love Orwell and in this essay I was particularly captivated by this, which I think Lisa McInerney, because of her contribution on culture and class in this collection, might particularly like:
‘If you hate violence and don’t believe in politics, the only major remedy remaining is education. Perhaps society is past praying for, but there's always hope for the individual human being, if you can catch him young enough. This belief partly accounts for Dickens preoccupation with childhood.’
I personally don’t believe in violence and I despair of politics and our politicians, so all I have left is education. That is, actually, all I believe in and that is indeed, in the widest sense what the Irish Writers Centre offers, as these essays also attest. You’re probably now thinking, What’s he talking about, the classes, the courses? Well, yes and no. They are educational and they are a core part of the Centres activities. The Irish Writers Centre has helped writing by teaching people to write better and in the process has helped writers by employing them to teach people to write better. Hooray. But I’m not talking about just that kind of educational endeavour, the pedagogical variety.
So am I talking about the huge number of happenings, events, readings, and the way the Centre has acted as an impresario for cultural activity, literary mostly, and that is in and off it self a jolly good thing. Again, yes and no. These are great. They introduce to readers writers and the work of writers they might not know. Fabulous. What’s not to like? And it is educational.
But the kind of education I’m talking about is the wider, deeper, fuller variety, the kind that raises consciousness, the kind that transforms actual thinking patterns and enables thereby, what hasn’t been thought before to be thought and then enacted, put in to practice, actualised.
And the basis and enabler of this consciousness raising is the utterly unpredictable but incredibly liberating, stimulating intellectual miscegenation that occurs by virtue of the Centre being a centre. Because it’s a centre people go to it. They bring ideas, literatures, attitudes, habits and social practices. They meet other people, talk, interact, blah blah, and all this psychic material gets mixed up, and then it gets churned around and then it gets broken down and then and then it reforms in to something not previously considered or imagined and then hey presto something new has arrived. This has been going on since the Centre started. Obviously a lot of what’s been made is written but there’s a lot more than texts made there and, moreover, we can name these things. The list is long, I’ll just list a few examples (don’t take it personally if you’re left out) the Liffey Project, the Bloomsday thingamajig, the Dublin Writers Festival, the UNESCO designation of Dublin as a ‘City of Literature, and a host of trade or industrial organizations and bodies. Other bodies were involved but the Centre was of some service in the case of these and more and these are the kind of educational outcomes that I believe in. I believe in things, programmes, rituals, whatever, that go out in to the world and change it for the better as all of the things that have come out of the Centre have done and I believe these things in turn, have an educational remit because they, in turn, all raise consciousness. You see, I have a thesis. There is a virtuous circle.
The world, at the moment, is not a happy place. We live in a mad world and we, writers, artists, what ever you want to call us, we have a job. Our job, to paraphrase Mencken is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, or so I believe, and we do that by raising consciousness also in what ever way we can and the Centre’s function is, in every way, to enable that, and it has, and it does. It’s been doing it brilliantly for the last quarter century, as the essays attest, and I believe there is every certainty, given the people in charge, Valerie Bistany et al, I believe that there is every certainty that it will continue to fulfil this vital function. And in that endeavour it will certainly have my absolute and unqualified support."
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Beyond the Centre: Writers in their own words is available now from New Island Books, just in time for Christmas!
Novel Fair: Walking on Eggshells October 06 2016
The deadline for Novel Fair 2017 is a mere two weeks away. With that in mind Catriona Lally reflects on her experiences of the Fair and how her novel Eggshells developed as a result of this.
It was at a launch at the Irish Writers Centre and I just happened to see a poster for the Novel Fair. I looked it up and thought that it would be a brilliant deadline; a novel can be the kind of thing that just sits on your computer for years. I really need some kind of structure and deadline to get anything done, so aiming for October and then for February to have it finished was fantastic.
Mid-October is the deadline to submit the novel and you then have three months to complete it so that you’re ready for the Fair in February. My thinking was – worst case scenario I wouldn’t get picked but I would still have a completed novel that I could send out to publishers myself.
But then, after being selected as a finalist, we had a prep day two weeks before the Fair, and it was just brilliant to get feedback from the judges about what had worked, what was strong/weak but, in particular, on how to pitch the novel. That was the hard part for me, I really struggled to sum up the novel. ‘Where does your novel sit on the shelf?’ was the question that threw me the most as the agents and publishers want to know very quickly what’s your story and what your book is really about. They also want to know your influences as well, who your favourite writers are, etc. so they can see where you might fit in.
Within each breakout group the other writers would try and come up with a sentence or two to help with your pitch, and the camaraderie was lovely. At this stage you’re all in it together and our novels were all so different. In my group there were two crime novels and another literary fiction novel so it really does seem that the Novel Fair has this nice mix of genres.
A previous winner, Kevin Curran, came along to the prep day and told us what to expect which was helpful in pointing out things that I hadn’t thought about. I was focused on writing the novel and hadn’t thought beyond that! We were also encouraged to think about longevity. Publishers and agents want to know if you have something else in the pipeline and Kevin had all of us warned that on the day most people would probably ask ‘what’s next?’. Even if you haven’t started writing it, you’re encouraged to tell them what you’re working on next.
The prep day was practical as well. Sarah Davis-Goff, one of the judges, asked us how much we thought the average debut author’s advance was. We’re all thinking in the tens of thousands and she reveals it’s more like €1,000. There were gasps from people. That was helpful to hear; there’s often talk about massive author deals but you have to think realistically – maybe don’t give up the day job just yet!
Exhilarating is probably the best word to describe the Fair. It can be exhausting because you’re ‘on’ the whole time – it’s your baby that you’re selling – and it’s intense too. I was very nervous for the first pitch but once it’s over you think ‘oh, okay’ and you see that the publishers and agents are humans too!
Some of them were very honest and said that my book wouldn’t suit their list fairly early in the conversation which is great – you don’t want to be led on. Most importantly the agents and publishers are simply interested in books, so even if the novel doesn’t suit them you can still chat away about literature and writing.
Novel Fair: an opportunity worth travelling 5,000 kms for! August 23 2016
With the deadline for Novel Fair 2017 approaching we spoke to Mairéad Rooney—all the way from Canada—to get some inside tips! A two-time Novel Fair winner Mairéad chatted about her writing process and whether her experience of the Fair changed the second time around.
Tell us about when you first came across the Novel Fair…
In 2012 I had just finished my novel and had reached the what-next moment. So I submitted to the 2012 Novel Fair and a few literary agents. But there were no bites. As it turned out the manuscript was not ready and the only thing to do was edit. I spent a year reworking the words and then submitted to the 2013 Novel Fair. That time I was lucky and got the call.
- What was your writing process/routine for the first Fair?
At the time I was writing first thing in the morning. And if some days I could not write, I read around the subject of writing. Though a lot of time, I didn’t do either! When I got the call from the Novel Fair in 2013, it was a real boost and, in preparation, I concentrated on editing the first 10,000 words.
- What was it like to receive the call telling you that your submission was successful?
Getting the call was great, a tiny taste of success! The manuscript was finished so there was no mad rush.
- You’ve participated in two Novel Fairs so can we assume you enjoyed the first time so much that you came back for round 2?!
I don't know if enjoy is the right word! Both Novel Fairs were a bit nerve-wrecking. But they are a unique opportunity for a writer to have a one-to-one conversation with several agents and publishers – and all in one day!
- You travelled from Canada for the Novel Fair this time. Did you plan to participate in the Fair again whilst you were living there or was it a last minute decision?
I wrote my second novel in Canada which took me three years. When it was finished I submitted it for the 2016 Novel Fair, but without any expectations. I just threw my hat in the ring.
- As a writer, what have you gained from the experience?
The first time I ever sat with an agent or a publisher was at the Novel Fair. A lot of the agents/publishers shared their thoughts on the current market, and also on what types of novels they were seeking. Some made a comment, negative or positive, on my pitch/CV/story so all of that is useful for the future of my writing.
- What advice would you give to a writer hoping to submit their work for the fair?
Work on the manuscript. Edit, edit, and edit again. Then pray for a bit of luck. Lots of luck!
I Am Dublin: The Last Gig by Fionnuala O'Connor March 31 2016
Our final winning entry for the I Am Dublin flash fiction competition was submitted by Fionnuala O’Connor. She has been writing short stories since the 1980s albeit with a gap of about fifteen years. She was born in Dublin and has lived there most of her life, moving in 2004 to Bray.
Dermot takes his saxophone out of its case. It is as beautiful as ever. He hasn’t played for a year, since before he came here.
He puts it to his lips .
This audience looks unresponsive, slumped in their seats, and some asleep even. He’s played a fair few weddings in his time where half the guests were comatose before the band came on. The South City Jazz Band it was called. Originally Jimmy wanted “The Jimmy Devlin Jazz Quintet” but that got shot down pretty quick. Jimmy liked to think of it as “his” band even though he was only the vocalist. The rest of them would have to put him in his box. Dermot used to say to him
“Get back in your cage Jimmy you’re only a canary”
Still, to be fair to him, it was Jimmy who got them together in the first place and he organised most of their gigs.
A woman shouts “stop that noise!”
They got a bit of heckling in the old days too, played some rowdy Pubs . Jimmy could give as good as he got. One time some young gougers started throwing things and big Dan had to come out from behind his drums.
That was before they got a bit of a name for themselves. They had quite a following..
Yes he knows they weren’t masters of jazz, just a bunch of Dublin lads playing in their spare time. Some Music Journalist, as he called himself, once had a go at them for being “not authentic”. Well who’s to say what’s authentic? They loved the music and they played it as well as they could so feck him anyway.
Dermot pauses, then tries Summertime, always popular.
His fingers feel clumsy and slow.
Something is not right. Is it him or the instrument? The tone is wrong. Maybe it’s just that he misses having the others around him.
The old woman shouts again.
He stops. He puts the sax down.
“Just out of practice” he says to himself.
Carefully he places the saxophone back in its case, walks out of the big room with his head down, past the carers and the nurse who had encouraged him to perform today.
He won’t be taking it out again.
I Am Dublin: Killing JB by Laurence Keogh March 29 2016
The recent I am Dublin Flash Fiction Competition was a great success with wonderful talent being showcased. In our third instalment of winning entries you can read Laurence Keogh's entry Killing JB below. Laurence Keogh has lived in Dublin most of his life and is fascinated by its history. He works in marketing and the last book he read was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
I was close enough now – we had stopped at the pedestrian crossing on Abbey Street – to see that his parmesan was of the superior sort. It had that rough, unhewn underside that holds a oily sheen. It would be a pleasure to grate such a cheese, to see it melt onto pasta. It would have that aroma of rich fruit cake. There would be a crunch as your teeth met those tiny deposits of salt crystals in its interior.
Towards the end of his life, the playwright Moliere ate nothing but Parmesan. He believed it had miraculous health-giving qualities; his deathbed was covered in it. The story was a literary one - but too grim to use as an opening conversational gambit. As we approached the Ha’penny Bridge, however, I remembered a particular village mentioned in the Decameron. It is a vision of paradise. Here, says Boccaccio, there is a mountain consisting entirely of grated parmesan. The villagers do nothing but make macaroni. They cook it in chicken stock. They roll it down the mountain so it’s well coated in cheese. And then they eat it. I turned to Banville as the countdown to the green pedestrian lights began. I smiled. I nodded towards the cheese.
‘So, John’, I said, ‘what’s the plan for the Parmesan?’.
I Am Dublin: Joy by Sinead Flynn March 24 2016 2 Comments
In the second post of our showcase of the I am Dublin Flash Fiction Competition winners we have the pleasure of reading Sinead Flynn's winning entry. From County Meath, Sinéad has enjoyed living in Phibsborough for the past few years. She teaches singing, drama and English language to a variety of wonderful people. Apart from writing Sinéad loves mythology and animals – especially dogs.
Mick surveyed the anxious faces of his three children with the most disapproving grimace he could muster.
‘Lads I’m very disappointed in ye.’
Katie and Shane lowered their heads while Keith stared wide eyed at the two guards standing to his left.
‘How many times have I said Mrs O’Reilly’s garden is out of bounds for ye and that bloody dog? Look at the trouble you’ve caused…’
‘But Da we didn’t kick the ball in on purpose. Mrs O’Reilly has it in for us!’ Shane protested.
‘But you shouldn’t have gone in without permission. You should’ve rung her doorbell.’
‘Yeah but…’ Katie had made several attempts to argue their case but the small, grey room and the presence of the guards made her tongue-tied.
‘No buts! Ye didn’t have permission and why the hell was Max running free? You know the rules. He has to be tied or on the lead.’
‘He wanted to play football too!’ Keith piped up.
‘Really? I never knew dogs could talk! When did he tell yis this?’
‘Da’, Katie steadied herself, ‘It was an accident. We can fix up the flowerbeds and pay for the clothes Max chewed with our pocket money.’
‘Your pocket money? You’ll be lucky to get anymore of that! And what about Mrs O? She’s furious! She said if she sees Max again she’ll have him taken away.’
‘No Da’, Keith sobbed.
Katie wanted to run home to protect Max but she knew the doors were locked and she’d never get past the woman at the front desk.
Shane always the calmest shook his head. ‘Da it won’t happen again. We’ll be careful with Max from now on. We’ll say sorry to Mrs O’Reilly. I still have Christmas money so I’ll give it to her for the clothes.’
‘Good man yourself! Be polite with the aul bat. And tell Max not to be goin’ near aul women’s underwear in future!’
They all laughed. With that a guard stepped forward. ‘Visiting time is over’.
‘Okay guard. Right lads…’
Mick stared at each of them. ‘See ye soon.’
He stepped forward but his handcuffs got in the way of a hug. ‘Love ye lads… and lassie’, he winked at Katie. ‘Take care, be good’.
‘See ya soon Da’.
They waved as two guards led Mick back to his cell.
I Am Dublin: Liffey. If He. Dares by Louise Cole March 22 2016
Following the success of our recent showcase of the I am Dublin Flash Fiction Competition with Five Lamps Festival we will be posting each of the four winning entries here for the enjoyment of all.
Entrants were encouraged to channel their inner Anna Livia Plurabelle and to seek inspiration in the charm of our fair city – cracks and all. Our first author is Louise G. Cole, she performs at the Word Corner Café in the Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, and at pop up shows in the West with the Hermit Collective. She also blogs about writing. Read her winning entry below.
Liffey. If He. Dares.
I make him tremble. The thought of me: I have causality. He is drawn to me. Torn.
More than a tremor. A convulsive shudder and shake. Rock and roll. Slips and slides. Wants to hide. Looks up into the emptiness above, and then down, into my soul, the inviting deepness of me.
Vulnerability bows those broad shoulders, venerable boulders. Hairy, leery atop the worn elbows of a charity shop find three winters ago. Now, he quakes. Shivers. Shows respect for the force that I am.
He doesn’t know I have herons upstream, grey and spike beaked, and herrings grey and quick finned down, streaming into the ocean. Screaming there on the Halfpenny Bridge, gulls and pigeons swoop hopefully low. He has no crumbs left, just a belly full of Costabucks caffeine threatening to reappear with the vodka naggin he quaffed in the gents, quickly and in secret for expediency of effect.
And affected, he thinks not to change his mind. He might exchange it for someone else’s, some bright Trinity student with the world at his feet, disaffected youth with attitude.
Only a vestigial self is his now. Hardly anything remains as I slosh another wave of desperation over him. A splash, a dash, a lash of brackish water, my best. His test: to take a deep breath and step into the unknown.
Beyond is the constant hum of the Luas trammeling the city, black cabs crashing bus lanes, beggars asking for change in ten tongues, shoppers tossing litter in the gutters, nutters tripping sean nós for the tourists, blaggers posing for selfies with the selfish passing by. Passersby. They pass him by.
Pulsing blue lights make this place take on the dark night, play the Dark Knight to his Marvel hero, marvellous heroics at my feet, Siren.
Glad tidings, riptides, tidy, tied. Can you hear me calling him? All he has to do is step forward, tip forward. Jump, fly, soar, score.
He can sleep in my bed forever and a day. Slide into the black mud, red blood flowing. Sink to my depths, I will welcome him here, caress the stress from that brow. Now.
I will swallow his shallow salt lake of grief, his tears, his fears.
Who cares? I do. I will take him to my heart, beating, fleeting, waiting. All he has to do is step my way. Just do it.
Compass Lines: Days by Karl Whitney & Philip Terry March 21 2016
Compass Lines is a writers’ exchange project aiming to establish links between writers and communities in the North and South of Ireland, while additionally examining relationships between the East and West of these islands, through workshops, public discussions, and the commissioning of new collaborative writing.
Compass Lines aims to encourage artistic fusion and integrate a sometimes fragmented audience, geographically and otherwise, through the strategy of combining writers with various concerns and backgrounds. Eschewing their comfort zones and usual patterns of working presents a diversion and a challenge to the writers, and a way of instigating discussions about ideas of process and place that reside in contemporary writing and which are often ignored through traditional views of literature.
Developed by poet, editor and curator Christodoulos Makris in collaboration with the Irish Writers Centre as producing organisation, and with the participation of the Crescent Arts Centre as partner venue, Compass Lines will comprise a series of enterprises, alternately in Dublin and in Belfast, each with the participation of two writers – one with connections to the north of Ireland and one to the south.
Each enterprise consists of three strands, community connection, discussion and new writing which will be specially developed collaborative pieces involving pairs of writers associated with the north and south of Ireland. The first Compass Lines event was on Wednesday 2 March 2016, the first in this series of collaborative pieces is available below.
Days travelling to Ennis.
Days coming events cast their shadows over.
Days when you buy a new pet.
Days walking in Tolleymore.
Days wondering whose thoughts you’re chewing.
Days when you feel as if you had been eaten and spewed.
Days when you bury a pet in the garden.
Days eating orangepeels.
Nights walking home from the 49N.
Nights lit sharply by the moon’s glow.
Some nights you remember, and others you forget. I remember:
Nights, restless nights, spent wheezing ‘til dawn.
Afternoons cycling along the tow-path.
Afternoons making kits.
Afternoons when you believe others’ eyes.
Afternoons watching cartoons after school.
Afternoons following lessons mechanically.
Afternoons walking vaguely through Spanish streets.
Afternoons when you arrive back at Aldergrove Airport, and it is raining.
Hours spent listening to David Bowie records.
Moments watching The Man Who Fell To Earth.
Moments daydreaming in class, gazing out the window, then being brought back to earth by an incomprehensible question.
Moments when you wonder how you got here and where you’re going.
Moments when you realise your coach leaves in an hour for some scrubland desert town.
Moments choosing what to eat at the ‘Say When’ casino in McDermitt, Nevada.
Those moments of possibility that show themselves while writing, or reading, or talking.
Moments dancing with your girlfriend in the kitchen.
Moments that surprise you with their intensity.
Moments hoovering: losing oneself, zen-like in the task.
Moments when you can’t remember if you locked the front door.
Days when you can’t remember what day it is.
Days when you still can’t remember what day it is.
Days when you no longer care what day it is.
Days filled with thoughts of other days.
Hours sitting at a desk in an office: typing, transcribing, redrafting.
Lunch hours when it’s raining out and you sit there with a sandwich, reading Species of Spaces.
Hours without conversation when you’re kept going by the anxious thrum of your thoughts.
Hours awake (there are more of these).
Hours asleep (fewer).
Hours between flights at Chicago O’Hare. You can see the city’s skyline, but don’t have enough time to reach it.
Hours when you have to be somewhere.
Hours when you don’t.
Nights when you spend more time awake than you do asleep.
Afternoons when you’re tired from lack of sleep.
Mornings when you wake to find a cow’s head poking through your window.
Mornings when you wake to find a horse’s head next to you in bed.
Mornings watching Homes Under the Hammer.
Mornings cycling along the seafront.
Mornings sitting on buses, in traffic, watching pedestrians overtake you.
Mornings are like nights, but brighter; in fact, they’re more like days, light-wise.
But mornings can be dark during winter, that’s true.
Moments when things happen quickly.
Moments when time stands still.
Moments thinking up titles of essays you’ll never write, like “Joyce or U2?”
Moments when you notice the rifle trained on your car.
Dull afternoons at the Bibliothèque Nationale lit by the desk lamps’ glow.
Afternoons at the cinema.
Afternoons doing nothing.
Nights in Norway when it doesn’t look like night.
Hours spent walking around Dublin while Molly’s with yer man.
Hours tapped out on the clocks around the city. Who winds them?
Hours before you’ll be back in Eccles Street. You may as well have a sandwich.
Hours watching the Liffey ebb in and out, a throwaway little remarked upon.
Hours writing letters to your aunt, asking questions about the city you left.
The hours you’ve spent on this stretch of the North Circular Road, which lacks a tram service.
Hours you spent thinking, Bloom.
Hours you spent writing Bloom.
Hours walking the streets of Dublin on an empty stomach.
Hours surrounded by coffined thoughts.
Hours walking barefoot on the strand.
Hours in Trieste listening to the babble.
Mornings listening to the soft flop of porter gushing in the pub cellar.
Moments with your nose whiteflattened against the window pane.
Moments remembering the voices of the dead.
Days of rage.
Days when you look at the rising waters and think: this can’t last.
Days walking down Broadway.
Days when you sit on the slow train, looking out across the Meadowlands.
Days spent talking about the 1960s.
Days when you can’t tell wrong from right.
Days you spend as a maths teacher in New Mexico thinking about the Weather Underground.
Afternoons when you put everything off until the following morning.
Hours spent catching up with what you put off yesterday afternoon.
Hours you wasted trying to think of what to write next.
Hours that you can’t account for. What happened between the
Hours of ten and eleven on the morning of the twenty-seventh of February 2013?
Hours that you spent playing guitar.
Hours copying cassettes at double speed on a hi-fi.
Hours spent reading the NME.
Hours browsing through racks of CDs and piles of records.
Hours clearing the attic, throwing out the stuff you accumulated over the years.
Days listening to Joy Division.
Days listening to Warsaw because you’ve run out of Joy Division.
Days listening for signs of Joy Division in New Order.
Mornings when the wind whips wheelie bins along the road.
Mornings when you should have left the house ten minutes ago.
Mornings when your ears are ringing from last night’s gig.
Mornings when the afternoon creeps up on you.
Mornings when the night stays with you, as you piece together your half-remembered dreams.
Mornings spent avoiding the news.
Mornings watching oddly scheduled American sitcoms.
Mornings when the streets are empty and the city seems uninhabited.
Moments you have met before in a dream.
Moments spent thinking of things you’d like to have done, but can no longer do, like visit Seamus Heaney or go drinking with Brendan Behan.
Moments soaking conkers in vinegar to try and make them tougher.
Moments when you find out that soaking conkers in vinegar is pretty useless.
Moments when you swim without armbands for the first time.
Nights in the summer that never really get dark.
Nights when you watch the blinking lights of aircraft circling the city.
Nights worrying if the bogeyman is going to come and get you.
Afternoons when you’re anxious about your deadline.
Hours at airports, anxiously waiting for your flight.
Hours when you wish you hadn’t stayed up all night.
Hours and hours and hours and hours and hours that you can’t account for.
Mornings: routine, unconsciously timetabled.
Mornings when you wake up feeling old.
Mornings that make you think of other mornings.
Mornings grinding coffee, making porridge, taking vitamins.
Mornings when routine collapses, and you’re resigned to being late, so you have another cup of coffee.
Days on the wagon.
Days when my father returns from a trip to Dublin with Bewley’s fudge.
Days chasing ghosts.
About the Authors:
Philip Terry is currently Director of the Centre for Creative Writing at the University of Essex. Among his books are the lipogrammatic novel The Book of Bachelors, the edited story collection Ovid Metamorphosed, a translation of Raymond Queneau’s last book of poems Elementary Morality, and the poetry volumes Oulipoems,Oulipoems 2, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, andAdvanced Immorality. His novel tapestry was shortlisted for the 2013 Goldsmith’s Prize. Dante’s Inferno, which relocates Dante’s action to current day Essex, was published in 2014, as well as a translation of Georges Perec’s I Remember.
Karl Whitney is a writer of non-fiction whose first book, Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin was published by Penguin in 2014. In 2013 he received the John Heygate award for travel writing. He has a BA in English and History from University College Dublin, an MA in Modernism from University of East Anglia, and a PhD in History from University College Dublin. He is a Research Associate at the UCD Humanities Institute.