A Letter from Dublin

Ann Fallon

Dublin's longstanding reputation as a literary hub in Europe drew particularly large crowds of visitors this summer. The literary season began in May with the International Literature Festival, which attracted writers such as Alastair Grey, Alexander McCall Smith, and Irvine Welsh alongside some of Ireland’s finest contemporary writers, Deirdre Madden, Dermot Bolger, Anne Enright and Paul Muldoon.

In June the Howth Literary Arts Festival ran a series of interviews with writers such as Richard Ford, Anne Enright, John Banville and Roddy Doyle. The diversity of activities and readings held throughout means that there was plenty to do and see for every age group.

Bloomsday, of course, is a phenomenon in Dublin and is fast becoming Bloom’s week. At any time of any day close to the 16th of June, eruptions of costumed characters spill out into the city streets in bowler hats, straw hats or long dresses, strolling, singing, performing and generally divesting themselves of all inhibitions around the sites where Joyce wandered over a hundred years ago. The focus for this wonderful week is the Dublin James Joyce Centre, located very close to Joyce’s old school, Belvedere House. The Centre provides year round literary events, mostly but not exclusively on Joyce and its worthwhile subscribing to their website if you plan to be in Dublin for a couple of days.

‘An Evening with Susan Howe’ was one of the highlights of the summer and took place in June in the beautiful surroundings of Belvedere House. Howe’s readings of her poetry are animated by her knowledge of theatre and by a controlled playfulness with sound and silence. Influences such as Emily Dickinson and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake seemed to me to be audible, but synthesised into her own unique work. The setting, the poetry, the performance and her generosity with the audience made it one of the most memorable nights of poetry for me.

Senator David Norris, one of Ireland’s most beloved politicians and Joyceans, interviewed Stephen Fry about his engagement with Joyce’s work. Fry is of course a wonderful comedian and I had previously enjoyed his readings of Chekov’s short stories and had high hopes. However the combined insights of Fry and Norris into Joyce’s work surpassed these expectations and they received a heartfelt standing ovation from the audience.

In early September a unique night of poetry was staged at the National Concert Hall. 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of W B Yeats and celebratory events have taken place all over the country. For Dublin this was the night dedicated to his poetry and music and was hosted by biographer and critic Roy Foster. On stage were Eavan Boland, John Montigue, Sebastian Barry, John Banville, musicians, singers and many more. Most of our living poets appeared to be either on stage or in the audience and Foster brought us through the career and development of Yeats with an easy facility while the music turned what might have been a good night into a wonderful celebration. To mark the night Poetry Ireland have produced a special ‘Yeats’ issue of the Poetry Ireland Review with articles and reviews of Yeats’s work by Richard Murphy, Colm Toibin, Margaret Atwood, Frank McGuinness, Neil Jordan, Thomas Kinsella, Medbh McGuckian, Rita Ann Higgins, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Paul Muldoon, Gerald Dawe, Fintan O’Toole and many more. Apart from the miracle of having so many leading writers on stage together it was the full appreciation of the audience, which continues to make the twenty-first century Dublin such a welcoming and appreciative city for writers.

 

ANN FALLON is co-editor of the Anna Livia Review, reviewing new poetry from around the world, including work by Ben Mazer, Philip Nikolayev, George Szirtes, Katia Kapovich, and Jeet Thayil. She is a Contributing Editor to The Battersea Review.